Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Anti-communism in Europe will not succeed

Joint Statement of the Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe

The Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe condemn the provocative and outrageous initiative of the Foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic to demand that the European Union instigate the legal persecution of all those within the EU who do not accept the so-called reactionary campaigns of rewriting of History and criminalization of communists and communism.
This is a dangerous attempt to generalize the legal persecution and other related measures which are in force in several EU countries against all those who reject the slanders against the historical experiences of socialist construction and against all those who combat the attempts to erase the decisive contribution that the communists gave in struggle for social and labour rights and for democracy in Europe and reject the distortion of the history of the 2nd World War and the unacceptable equation of communism with fascism.
It is not by chance that this initiative is being carried out in a period when working class and popular struggles are strengthening. The expansion of the anti-worker assault goes hand in hand with the expansion of anti-communist measures. The communists are the target of these attacks because they are in the front line of the struggles not only so that the workers do not bear the burden of the capitalist crisis and also because they are the only ones who hold the real solution to capitalist barbarity. The dominant class, understanding full well the impasses of the capitalist system and its irreconcilable contradictions, intensifies its persecutions, threats and crimes. However whatever measures it takes it cannot prevent the inexorable laws of social development, and the necessity of the overthrow of capital’s power. It cannot prevent the strengthening of the organization of the working class and the development of the mass struggle for socialism and communism.
We firmly declare that the anti-communist plans of the bourgeoisie will fail. The superiority of our ideology, the just cause of the working class can break even their harshest measures. We will continue in an even more determined and uncompromising manner in order to defeat the anti-people power of big capital. Anti-communist hysteria will not deceive the working class and popular forces which experience the problems of unemployment, the overturning of social, social-security and labour rights, and capitalist barbarity itself.
We appeal to all democratic, progressive and anti imperialist forces to join us in the struggle against anti-communism, a struggle which is directly connected to the fight for labour and popular rights as well as for social justice, for a world without the exploitation of man by man.

1. Communist Party of Armenia

2. Communist Party of Azerbaijan

3. Communist Party of Belarus

4. Workers' Party of Belgium

5. Communist Party of Britain

6. New Communist Party of Britain

7. Communist Party of Bulgaria

8. Party of the Bulgarian Communists

9. AKEL, Cyprus

10. Communist Party of Denmark

11. Communist Party of Estonia

12. Communist Party of Finland

13. Communist Party of Macedonia

14. German Communist Party (DKP)

15. Communist Party of Greece

16. Hungarian Communist Workers' Party

17. Communist Party of Ireland

18. Party of the Italian Communists

19. Communist Party of Kazakhstan

20. Socialist Party of Latvia

21. Communist Party of Luxembourg

22. Communist Party of Malta

23. Communist Party of Norway

24. New Communist Party of the Netherlands

25. Communist Party of Poland

26. Portuguese Communist Party

27. Romanian Communist Party

28. Communist Party of Russian Federation

29. Communist Party of Soviet Union

30. Communist Workers' Party of Russia - Party of the Communists of Russia

31. Union of CPs-CPSU

32. Party of Communists, Serbia

33. Communist Party of Slovakia

34. Communist Party of Peoples of Spain

35. Communist Party of Sweden

36. Communist Party of Turkey

37. Communist Party of Ukraine

38. Union of Communists of Ukraine

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy New Year!

Best Wishes for
and the
New Year

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Twenty Years Ago... the NEW WORKER

THE SHOPWORKERS’ union Usdaw is winning its campaign to stop stores opening the Sunday before Christmas. Few will attempt to lout the Sunday trading laws in the way they did last weekend.
At least nine local authorities have so far taken out injunctions to enforce the laws. Gateshead borough council is taking Currys, Comet, Children's World and Poundstrecher to court. Burton Group is among the stores that have decided not to open.
Garfield Davies, Usdaw's general secretary said he was "delighted that most responsible retailers recognise that they, like everybody else, have to obey the law of the land."
The stores blamed the recent blizzard and the recession for slow sales. Many retailers have had their eye on Sunday trading for a long time and shown keen interest in the long battle over Sunday trading in the DIY and furnishings sector.


Troops and tanks are in the streets of Albania's cities following two days of riots. An anti-communist rampage was signalled by the ruling Party of Labour to end the dictatorship of the proletariat and allow the establishment of anti-communist parties.
The public foundation of the Democratic Party, a nationalist front which wants a union with the Albanian minority in Yugoslavia, sparked off simultaneous attacks in the capital Tirana and in other major towns, including the port of Durres and the industrial centre of Elbasan.
Party offices were stormed and torched, cars burnt and factories attacked by reactionary gangs, who clashed with the police and army. One hundred and fifty seven will now go on trial and the new chief of police has said new measures of public order.
But President Ramiz Alia intends to press on with political reforms and multi-party elections.

What are communists for?

by Daphne Liddle
THE SIGHT of thousands of angry students on the march through towns and cities throughout England has cheered the older generation of campaigners no end. And so has the emergence of unknown numbers of mostly anonymous cyber warriors inflicting real damage on the powers of western imperialism and oppression through massive revelations of Wikileaks.
Nevertheless our current economic and political situation is gloomy. We are in an economic crisis that is very likely to turn into a double-dip, under a Con-Dem government that is using the economic crisis as an excuse for ideologically driven cuts in public services and in working class living standards (greed for power and wealth is the ideology and religion of the ruling class).
We will need more than student anger and Wikileaks audacity to make our day-to-day lives better. And this is where the Communist political perspective has a vital role to play.
The students and the progressive liberals know what they are against: the unjust wars, the cuts; the exploitation and the oppression. We know what we want to put in the place of this evil system. We know what we are for: socialism. And every now and then we need to raise our eyes and look towards our long-term perspectives and remind ourselves of what civilised society can be under the rule of the working class.
And we need to go out on the streets and the on-line networks to tell all those who are angry, disappointed, frustrated, demoralised and generally miserable under capitalism how their lives could be different, if and when we throw off capitalism and start to build socialism: to tell them it is worth fighting for.
We are for:
• A world where people come home after work at a reasonable hour with still enough time and energy to enjoy being with their families, doing sports and hobbies and there are more leisure activities than collapsing exhausted in front of the television;
• A world where no one fears to lose their job or their income; where employment is a right and all are encouraged and supported to find work that is interesting and fulfilling;
• A world where workers have a right to decent housing and rents are minimal, where no one fears the bailiffs and where homes are built with enough space for adults and children to grow and to play.
• A world where people do not have to wait until they are nearly middle-aged before they can afford to start a family because decent homes and incomes are guaranteed.
• A world where personal debt is something people read about in history books.
• A world where healthcare is guaranteed, free and supplied locally without long journeys to get treatment. And where the elderly get the same standard of treatment as younger people.
• A world where state-provided high-quality childcare is freely available so parents can choose their work patterns and where employers allow parents time off to be with their children.
• A world where education is freely available at every level throughout life, where classes are smaller and every pupil/student gets the support, attention and encouragement they need to fulfil their potential.
• A world where people have the time and the energy for generations to mix and socialise and care for each other so that children, the elderly and those in between feel valued, respected and secure.
• A world where children know their own history and culture and so can recognise and respect other people’s.
• A world where all children learn how to sing, dance and make music and can recognise and reject commercial rubbish “culture” – and recognise what is really good and original.
• A world where we have the time, the energy and can afford to go regularly to the theatre, to concerts and to the cinema.
• A world where we have time to be human, where we are not just “personnel resources” existing for the sole purpose of making money for our bosses, landlords and bank managers.
• A world where there is time to stop and smell the roses.
• A world where ordinary workers can sit in summer under shady trees drinking coffee or beer and arguing intellectual philosophical points at great length.
• A world where we can talk long slow walks at sunset along sandy beaches.

I am getting carried away. But none of these dreams is asking too much in a world where technology can provide so much and it does not take a lot of human labour to provide a decent standard of living for everyone on the planet.
And none of these dreams would harm the environment – indeed it would be much better safeguarded than it is now.
Rich people already live like this but their greed for power and wealth is denying a decent way of life to everyone else on the planet.
For the working classes in the western imperialist countries now life is one long rush to work as many hours as they can, to be at the beck-and-call of demanding bosses, and fit childcare and housework into whatever small margins of time they have left.
Late night trains and buses are crammed with weary workers on their way home; many are young mothers with toddlers in pushchairs who should have been in bed hours ago. Tired workers get irritable with each other and with their children. Housework gets neglected.
Deep debt and job and housing insecurity drive workers to seek ever longer hours while depression and stress are at epidemic levels.
Holidays are impossible. One in five children growing up in England have never been on a beach or paddled. Few inner city children have ever seen the stars properly – away from the perennial glare of neon lighting.
Cinema, concert and theatre visits are out of the question. For many workers, even if they found the time and the money they would probably fall asleep during the performance. Much easier to make do with the TV – you don’t have to dress up; it doesn’t cost anything extra and it doesn’t matter if you do fall asleep.
People struggle to make time for the elderly; grandparents feel neglected and lonely. Teenagers feel that no one has time for them, not to just sit and have a proper conversation. Everyone is alienated; society is fragmented and everyone is miserable.
And we’re living under the threat that it’s all going to get a lot worse with the cuts.
We don’t have to accept this.
We have a lot to fight for – our very humanity. The danger is that so many, with their noses to the grindstone, shackled to impossible and ever more demanding work targets, rarely get the chance to look up and be aware of what they are missing, what is being stolen from them in order to make vast profits for the bosses, bankers and landowners.
In previous generations workers worked in large factories, mines and mills. They stood next to fellow workers in the same situation as themselves. They were not alone in their misery and there was a community spirit. It was this spirit that build the trade unions and the Labour Party to fight back against the exploiters.
And it won significant improvements: shortening the working day, the old age pension, unemployment benefit, the National Health Service, state-financed higher education and welfare services.
Now these gains are steadily being taken from us because, with the passing of large scale industry in Britain that proletarian spirit of community and solidarity has been weakened. And with it the strength of the labour movement has ebbed, leaving us vulnerable to the exploiters’ greed.
We must find ways of overcoming the current isolation and alienation of workers so they do not feel alone with their debts, their exhaustion and all the impossible demands on their time and energy. We must find ways to rebuild the sense of community and solidarity – and outrage at the way they are being exploited. Maybe the internet could be used to rebuild community awareness.
In the meantime we must remember that the “impossible dream” already exists in places like Democratic Korea and Cuba. The Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe did succeed in giving workers a far better quality of life than most of them have now. And in China they are working hard to lay the economic base of a socialist society.
A socialist society is not an impossible paradise: life is not perfect there. There is still bad weather; people fall in and out of love and that is still painful; there are not unlimited resources; not everyone gets a perfect job.
But the workers of the DPR Korea and Cuba work eight hours a day, health care and education at all levels are free. Jobs and housing are secure. There is still occasional hardship but everyone faces it together.
Socialism does not end all misery and it is not perfect. But it does end the causes of misery that are linked specifically to the capitalist system and it does give workers time for leisure, for dignity and for each other – time to be human.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Twenty Years Ago... the New Worker

ONCE AGAIN a major public asset, the electricity industry, has been sold into private hands and once again the British public have been robbed and cheated at every turn of the process.
From the very beginning, when privatisation was being discussed, nuclear power stations had to be taken out of the scheme because they were too expensive for the privatised companies to want them.
Plans for new nuclear power stations were scrapped and the future of the old ones left as a burden for taxpayers. The two new major power generating companies, Powergen and National Power will be sold in February.
Their Privatisation has caused the delay of measures to reduce air pollution from power stations. The costs of having to introduce air scrubbers to clean power station emissions would have made them an unattractive buy. This will cheat the whole of north-west Europe of the possibility of cleaner air.


LECH WALESA is now President of Poland after an overwhelming victory in the second round over Stanislaw Tyminski.
Walesa won over 70 per cent of the vote while Tyminski polled just 25 per cent. Tyminski, an émigré Polish businessman from Canada used get-rich-quick slogans in an election which was dominated by smear campaigns and innuendos.
As both candidates were right-wing reactionaries it was perhaps only natural for the campaign to be quickly reduced to personalities.
Walesa takes over a ruined Poland, where the standard of living has declined by 40 per cent according to official statistics since the socialist government collapsed.
Walesa warned of the beginning of an anti-communist witch-hunt, promising a “settling of accounts for the past,” which can only mean harder times for the impoverished Polish people.

Resolution on the Cyprus Problem

The undersigned parties, which participated in the International Meeting that was held in the framework of the 21st Pancyprian Congress of AKEL in Nicosia-Cyprus, on the 25th of November 2010, having discussed the latest developments regarding the Cyprus problem and the ongoing negotiations between the leaders of the two communities, declare the following:

1. They consider the continued division of the island as illegal, unacceptable and detrimental to the people of Cyprus as a whole; Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
2. They condemn the imperialist conspiracies and interventions that leaded to the invasion and the continuing occupation of 37% of the territories of the Republic of Cyprus for 36 years by Turkey; the Cyprus problem constitutes an international problem of illegal foreign intervention, of violation of core principles of international law, of the UN Charter, of basic principles of European law and of the human rights and civil liberties of its people.
3. Calls for the immediate implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Cyprus, the termination of the occupation, the end of the settlement of the occupied area and the unacceptable status quo, the withdrawal of all Turkish troops and the reinstitution of human rights for the people of Cyprus in its entirety.
4. They condemn the continuing efforts of Turkey to alter the demographic character of the island, through the influx of settlers from mainland Turkey, and the usurpation of land and properties in the areas which are not under the control of the Republic since the 1974 invasion, in violation of international humanitarian law.
5. They express their solidarity to the Cyprus people and underline that the finding of a peaceful, just and viable solution of the Cyprus problem constitutes an urgent priority for the international community.
6. They welcome and support the ongoing substantive inter-communal negotiations taking place under the auspices of the United Nations aiming to the finding of a mutually acceptable, comprehensive solution based on the agreed framework of bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality as prescribed by the relevant UN Resolutions. A solution providing for the transformation of Cyprus into a federal state with a single sovereignty, single international personality and single citizenship.
7. They underline, that the solution must adhere to the principles of International and European law, the UN Security Council Resolutions and the High- Level Agreements between the leaders of the two communities of 1977 and 1979. The solution in Cyprus must safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all citizens, in line with international law, including the right of refugees to return to their homes and properties and the right of the families of missing persons in both communities to be informed of the fate of their loved ones.
8. Underlines that the election of Demetris Christofias to the Presidency of the Republic marked the undertaking of continued initiatives that led to the reopening of direct negotiations between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus that solely aim at finding a durable, functional and just solution of the Cyprus Problem.
9. They welcome the difficult and constant effort of President Christofias to reach a comprehensive solution, and express their strong support to his recent balanced threefold proposal namely the linking of the property issue with the territorial and settlers issue, the return of the fenced city of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants and the convention of an International Conference regarding the International aspects of the solution, once the two sides reach a range of agreement on the other issues.
10. Emphasizes the precision of the agreed framework and the need for the parties to remain committed to this framework. Categorically rejects any effort for introduction of suffocating timetables or arbitration. The Cypriot ownership of the process does not result to the exclusion of the responsibility of Turkey as occupying power.
11. Notes that despite statements and other communication maneuvering, Turkish positions remain, in substance, not supportive to the efforts for finding a solution and continue to be based on the philosophy of two states and the upgrading of the illegal regime of the occupied area. A number of proposals submitted to the negotiations do not fall within the agreed framework for a solution of bicommunal, bizonal federation. The International Meeting denounces this stance and condemns it as it constitutes an obstacle to the progress of the efforts for a solution.

12. They call on the international community as a whole, to exercise its influence on Turkey in order to abandon its current policy towards Cyprus and enable the negotiations to proceed constructively, also taking into consideration the proposal of President Christofias. It is urgent that Turkey proceeds immediately in taking concrete steps in order to reach a comprehensive solution as soon as possible.
13. They express their conviction that the two communities can live together as they have done in the past and build a peaceful, common future in a united, bicommunal, bizonal federal Cyprus; constituting a bridge of peace and multiculturalism in the Eastern Mediterranean region and setting a paradigm for the world community as a whole.

AKEL: A Force for Cyprus A Force for the People

By a New Worker correspondent
That was the slogan that greeted representatives from communist parties all over the world, including NCP leader Andy Brooks, who came to Cyprus last month to join their Cypriot comrades taking part in the 21st Congress of the Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL) that began in Nicosia on 25th November.
AKEL was founded in 1941 but it has a much longer history as it is the direct heir of the old Communist Party of Cyprus (KKK) that was established in 1926 and later banned by the British colonial authorities. Following independence in 1960 AKEL struggled to defend the island from imperialist plots that culminated in the 1974 coup organised by the reactionary Greek military junta that gave Turkey the pretext to invade and occupy northern Cyprus.
AKEL has maintained warm relations with virtually all the communist parties throughout the turbulent history of the world communist movement so it was no surprise to see that the number of fraternal delegations at this Congress was almost equal to that of the annual conference of communist and workers’ parties itself.
Over a hundred fraternal observers representing 67 parties and movements took part in the Congress and an AKEL sponsored conference on the struggle of the left and the struggles of the peoples for world peace and security against the imperialist order. Major communist parties were in the hall including delegations from People’s China, Cuba and Vietnam, the Syrian Arab Socialist Renaissance Party (Baath) as well as some parties of the European Left movement including the Dutch Socialists and the German Left. All the parliamentary parties in Greece and Cyprus were represented at the Congress and the Greek visitors included deputy premier Theodoros Pangalos from the governing social-democratic PASOK movement, Aleka Papariga from the Greek communist party (KKE), the opposition conservative New Democracy and the far-right LAOS movement.
AKEL is a mass party with nearly 15,000 members out of population of 670,000 in the free south of the island and membership has increased by 800 plus since the last Congress in 2005. The membership was reflected in the numbers of delegates taking part in the Congress. Over 1,400 full delegates including a number from AKEL overseas branches in Britain and Greece took part in the debates and votes over the long Congress weekend.
AKEL formed a left-leaning government after it won the Cyprus parliamentary elections in 2006 and its then leader, Dimitris Christofias, won the presidential race in 2008. But AKEL’s leaders stress that it is a “governing” – not a “ruling” party. Though the coalition is committed to social justice it is administering the economy rather than steering it towards socialist reform. Amongst other things this is largely because no major advances can be made while the island remains divided and occupied by Turkish forces. The end of partition and the restoration of a united republic with full rights for both the Turkish and Greek communities is the paramount objective of AKEL and its allies.
Nicosia is now the only divided capital in the world and the continuing division of the island, of course, dominated much of the Congress. The Turkish government publicly says that it will never betray the interests of the Turkish Cypriot community to obtain admission into the European Union. But everybody knows they would if that was the price to pay to join the European club and everybody also knows that Turkey’s accession is as far away as ever in these days of slump.
If the Turks were seriously concerned about the fate of the Turkish Cypriots they would have done more to preserve their community in northern Cyprus rather than seeing it evaporate over the years through immigration. Though the ethnic balance is maintained through immigration from the poorest parts of Turkey about half the original Turkish Cypriot population now live in Britain and other parts of the European Union while the rest are outnumbered by Turkish immigrants encouraged to settle since the invasion in 1974.
Turkey occupies 36 per cent of the island which is administered by “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” – a phantom state governed by Turkish Cypriot leaders and recognised by no-one apart from Turkey itself. Real power lies with the Turkish “ambassador” and the 40,000 Turkish troops based in the north. Some 200,000 Greek Cypriots were driven out of their homes after the invasion while 50,000 Turkish Cypriots were incited to move to the north.
In 2004 the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities voted on a United Nations plan to end partition. It was accepted by the Turkish Cypriots but rejected by the Greek community, largely because it met more Turkish requirements but failed to meet core Greek demands. Talks between the two communities continue but no-one expects a breakthrough unless there is a dramatic change of policy in Turkey.
Of all the predominantly Greek Cypriot parties AKEL has the best credentials for negotiating with the Turkish Cypriot community. The Cypriot communist movement has always fought against nationalism and chauvinism. The Party has Turkish Cypriot members and from the very beginning the Cypriot communist movement worked to end ethnic divisions to build united unions and a united working class. AKEL considers that the Cyprus problem should be resolved on the basis of the UN resolutions based in the framework of a bizonal and bicommunal federation with a single sovereignty, single international personality and single citizenship, with the human rights and freedoms of all Cypriots guaranteed. AKEL calls for an end to the Turkish occupation and the demilitarisation of the island and the closure of the British, Turkish and Greek bases.
The AKEL leadership does acknowledge that the current Islamic-leaning Turkish government is more realistic than the old guard parties that had dominated Turkish politics for the past 60 years. More check-points have been opened along the cease-fire line making it easier for Turkish Cypriots to look for work in the more prosperous south and making it easier for southerners and tourists to visit the north of the island.
But the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which came to power in 2002, has its own agenda that focuses on the restoration Islamic practices outlawed by General Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern secular Turkey who ruled the country from 1923 until his death in 1938. The AKP government kept Turkey out of the Iraq war and it has developed closer ties with its Arab neighbours including the Palestinians. At the same time Turkey has sought to strengthen its position as the eastern flank of Nato to establish itself as the major power in the eastern Mediterranean.
Delegates also pondered on the impact of the global slump and the actions that the AKEL-led government has to take to deal with the crisis. Though Cyprus was better placed to withstand the storm the largely tourist dependent economy has been hit by a five per cent drop in visitors which has had a knock-on effect on the property market. The government is hoping that increased tourism from Russia will fill the gap but it is also planning to curtail the civil service payroll and raise taxes on a number of products, including medicines and foodstuffs to slash the deficit and achieve the EU goal of 4.5 per cent of GDP by the end of 2011. This isn’t enough for the right-wing opposition which wants sweeping cuts in the public sector and more incentives for the market economy and the issue will be fiercely argued during next year’s parliamentary and local elections.
The Cypriot communist movement has thrived despite all the twists and turns within the communist movement. A revisionist, liquidationist trend was defeated in the late 1980s when huge parties, millions strong were collapsing in the people’s democracies of eastern Europe. AKEL has become the leading player in the Cyprus parliament working together with other democratic forces to defend working people and foster peace and reconciliation with the Turkish community. AKEL has established links with some left social-democratic parties in Europe while continuing to play an important role in the network of communist and workers parties because it has retained the ideology of Marxism-Leninism and the long-term objective for the socialist transformation of Cypriot society. There can be little doubt that AKEL will continue to defend and advance the interests of the working people of Cyprus from both the Greek and Turkish communities in the years to come.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The worker and the machine

By Eric Trevett

THE MAIN factors in the economy of class divided and exploitative societies are first the labour power of the slave in slave society, the peasant in feudal society and the worker in capitalist society. The second main feature is the process of production and the instruments and tools that are available and the personnel able to use them.
There is a relationship between these two factors and the type of society in which they develop. Generally speaking the revolutionary development of the means of production is not matched straight away by fundamental changes in society.
In all stages of the development of humanity there is conflict between the oppressed and their rulers arising from their opposed interests. That lasted for thousands of years and included violence and slave revolts – the most well-known one was led by Spartacus. These revolts were brutally suppressed. Similarly in feudal society there were peasant revolts, the most notable of which in Britain was led by Wat Tyler against the poll tax in 1381.
Under the influence of extended trade wool became an important commodity and the feudal landlords and emerging capitalists forced the peasants from the land. Huge tracts of the country were enclosed for sheep pasture and peasants were forced out at sword point to a life of destitution.
Vagrancy was considered a crime for which many were hanged. Others resettled themselves into cottage industries and the small but growing towns.
The emergent capitalist class challenged for state power with the civil war against the claimed divine right of kings and against the Catholic Church and its doctrine against usury, which was the main obstacle to the growth of trade and quests for colonisation.
Industrial methods of production, in the early stages of capitalism, caused tremendous suffering. Apart from the undermining of the cottage industries, the cotton industry, for example, employed many children as well as adults and the employers fought a rearguard to defend their right to employ children. These children suffered ill health and sometimes horrendous injuries arising from their working conditions.
In the United States the oppressive laws against black people and discrimination on race lines in the US forces were not discarded until the 1950s.
The main feature of capitalist production methods is the boom and slump cycle where so many commodities are produced that there is not enough purchasing power in the national or international markets to absorb them.
These crises, including the one that happened in the 1930s, arise essentially from the scale of overproduction. Crops were often destroyed by poisoning them so they could not be eaten to keep the price of food commodities high in saturated markets.
The major part in achieving better working conditions and better education and health provision came about through the militant activity of the trade unions. Their role in present and futures struggles is crucial. At present the battle is to defend, maintain and improve the current standard of living from a policy of cuts.
Following the 1984-5 miners’ strike in Britain the engineering industry was decimated. Literally thousands of factories in manufacturing were closed.
Throughout the capitalist period new machines have replaced older ones, increasing the production rates and making production less labour intensive. The new electronic technology has affected a number of industries in the recent past. Capitalism has changed the nature of the printing industry. The typewriter has been made obsolete and instead of umpteen drafts of statements being prepared with amendments, deletions and insertions, today these changes are completed on the computer screen and copies run off as required. This enables Cameron to target staffing levels and make cuts in the public sector.
The development and application of new technology affects both industry and commerce to the detriment of employment prospects for the working class. This now includes people who are in the middle strata, such as managers.
Robots are increasingly employed in manufacturing, especially spot welding in the car industry and it is reported that in Scotland that machines are predicted to take over cleaning work to replace jobs presently done by human cleaners.
We have reached a stage in capitalist development where industry and commerce are going to be even less labour intensive. The ruling class is trying to manipulate the education system to give more priority to those students involved in engineering, mathematics, science and technology. They want to develop a sort of elite without any understanding of the role of the organised working class and isolated from the organisations of the working class movement, especially the trade unions.
Another feature from a capitalist point of view is the advancing computer literacy of the working class, especially the youth. In the past new technology was considered to be the cause of the misery of the working class and sections of the working class opposed the introduction of new industrial machinery as in the Luddite movement, which of course was abortive.
We should welcome the introduction of new technology as it has the potential to raise living standards and to advance scientific and cultural standards as well as fulfilling people’s economic needs. But for that to happen there has to be a fundamental change in the nature of society.
What technology cannot do is to continue to expand the economic system without the boom and slump cycle. Indeed the new technology plus the anarchy of capitalist production, in which competition for markets becomes more bitter, will exacerbate this destructive cycle.
The factories of the future are likely to be much more clinical in appearance and in working conditions. They are unlikely to include large concentrations of workers as was seen in the car industry. Much of the work will be spread out at different sites and done in clinical conditions to reduce the airborne dust particles polluting the parts being assembled. In short the new technology will undermine the building of working class solidarity.
The current growing militancy in the fight against Government cuts is a welcome development. It must expand into a movement brining all workers into the struggle against the cuts through being united, with a policy of “a cut against one is a cut against all”.
The struggle to defend jobs has to be a political struggle as well. This is fundamental if the new technology is to serve the interests of the people rather than the profits of the capitalist class.
And we stress that in the absence of a Marxist-Leninist party, having mass influence in the context of a united trade union movement, the revolutionary changes that are necessitated by the new technology will not be realised. This is a problem that the labour movement and its allies must face and resolve.

Fighting for Health & Safety

Book review

By Robert Laurie

Tony O’Brien: Construction Safety Campaign: Over Twenty Years Fighting for Workplace Health and Safety London: Construction Safety Campaign, 2010 pp. 211. £10.00 plus £2.00 pp from the Construction Safety Campaign, PO Box 23844, London SE15 3EA.

AS THE title implies this book is a history of the work of the Construction Safety Campaign, an organisation established in London by rank and file building workers in 1988 with the motto: “Safety before Profits”. The 1980s saw a rapid rise in construction related deaths during the boom that saw the derelict London docks transformed into the bankers’ paradise of Canary Wharf.
Dissatisfaction with the slow response of the official union leadership sparked the launch of the campaign. At first the main construction union Ucatt was hostile to the formation of the CSC, but under pressure from branches it has become a supporter.
The campaign has focused on several issues. Apart from seeking to improve health and safety on building sites it has also assisted in the campaign to secure a pardon for the Shrewsbury building workers jailed in 1973 for fighting for their rights.
Working at great heights, collapsing trenches, cranes and walls are not the only dangers facing building workers. No less dangerous, but much slower to cause damage, are the dangers of asbestos. Once inhaled, microscopic asbestos particles slowly destroy lung tissue, condemning the sufferer to a lingering painful death.
Securing compensation through the courts is particularly difficult as the symptoms only appear years or decades after inhalation and are almost impossible to trace back to a particular incident for which a particular employer can be held responsible.
A major theme of the book is the struggle to get compensation for workers killed or injured on building sites. The book illustrates many cases of long court cases. Relatives of building site tragedies have became valuable CSC activists. Securing punishment for negligent employers has been even more of an uphill struggle. It was only in 1995 that a company director was finally jailed for corporate manslaughter.
Prevention is better than seeking compensation after a death. The CSC has been involved in campaigning for changes to the law and enforcing those laws which are on the statute book. It campaigned for a ban on asbestos imports from Canada.
Workers’ Memorial Day on the 28th April has developed as a major labour movement event thanks to the work of the campaign. Blacklisting of union activists is especially common in the construction industry, many cases are detailed here.
While this is a valuable well illustrated reference work, presenting much important information useful for any activist involved with the construction industry and other health and safety matters the format makes it hard going at times.
The largely chronological format of the book makes it difficult to keep track of individual issues that appear at different points in the book. Statistics for construction site deaths are given for 1989-2000 on page 96 and for 2003-8 on page 148 in a different format. Given this arrangement it is sad to report that the index is particularly poor.
Not only is it very incomplete (no mention of Ucatt) it seems to have been computer generated without any editing whatsoever. The bibliography simply lists periodical titles without letting the reader know which issue to consult. There is a much more helpful two-page list of sources of information.
In the capitalist media health and safety have become something of a joke with stories such a schools ordering pupils playing conkers being forced to wear goggles gaining wide currency. The Con-Dem government’s recent plan to cut the Health and Safety Executive’s funding by 35 per cent is yet another battle which the Construction Safety Campaign will doubtless play an important role.

TWENTY YEARS AGO... the New Worker

THE NATIONAL Union of Teachers has criticised the Labour Party’s new education policy because it does not promise better pay and conditions.
Unveiled this week, Labour’s election manifesto is very thin on genuine proposals. The promises on nursery places have been heard before, comments about giving education priority over tax cuts is not a commitment to more money for schools.
Proposals for a new Education Standards Council merely acquiesce to the Tory’s regular bleatings about standards.
One vice-president of an NUT association in the Midlands was very critical. “Labour should be saying that it will repeal the worst aspects of the Tory’s education reform act”, she told the New Worker.
“There’s nothing in the programme about restoring teachers’ full negotiating rights. It may already be Labour policy, but it has to be in there if Labour wants to win teachers”.


THE GORBACHOV leadership is begging for imperialist aid as the country faces famine and starvation this winter. Despite a bumper harvest Soviet citizens face starvation following the collapse of the transport and distribution network due to the dismantling of central planning and introduction of the market economy in the republics.
In the Russian Federation the anti-communist republican government passed the first measures to break up the collective farms and restore private land ownership, while leagues of descendants of former landlords and nobility are holding meetings to establish their claim to land and property confiscated after the October Revolution.
A law permitting workers’ committees to control the distribution of food and other essentials and the right to try black marketers is unlikely to be effective against the muscle of the spivs and gangsters who have mushroomed in Leningrad and Moscow.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Twenty years ago... the New Worker

THE TORY leadership battle has ended in a victory for John Major, Thatcher’s protégé. But the divisions behind the battle will not be resolved so quickly.
... Now the British public will learn that it was not “Thatcherism” they hated – there is no such thing – but capitalism. Thatcher was only the figurehead.
With or without her the Tory Government will continue its ruthless attack on the working class. Thousands of homeless will remain in bed and breakfast accommodation or in cardboard boxes on the streets.
Hospital waiting lists will grow. High interests and inflation will continue to impoverish workers.
The poll tax will also impoverish workers and force local authorities to cut vital services to the elderly, the disabled and other vulnerable members if the community.

OVER 15,000 demonstrators marched through London last Saturday to demand a peaceful solution of the Gulf crisis. People, young and old came from all over Britain to take part in the march and rally organised by the Committee to Stop the War in the Gulf.
The campaign has clearly gained in strength over the past few months. There were hundreds of banners from peace movement groups, religious organisations and political parties, many more than on September’s anti war demonstration.
Sadly the labour trade union movement’s national banners were not out in force, though a number of branch and district banners there along with some local trades councils and local Labour parties.
To enthusiastic applause Tony Benn said “Control of oil is what the whole business is all about ... we must control the international oil companies ... the resources of the world have got to be shared if there is ever to be peace”.

Friday, November 19, 2010

We're being robbed

By Theo Russell

NEW RESEARCH on how the rich and big business in Britain avoid paying their taxes provides clear evidence – if any were needed – that the Con-Dem coalition’s attack on the public sector and vital services is not due to economic necessity but is an all-out political assault on the working class.
We all know that the current budget deficit is overwhelmingly caused by the bail-out of banks, which gambled with working people’s hard-earned money, and not, as Cameron and Clegg would have us to believe, by the Labour government’s “over-spending”.
But now research shows that three-quarters of the current budget deficit could be wiped out if big businesses and the rich paid their share of taxes just like everybody else, and both New Labour and the Con-Dem coalition share the blame.
According to a recent article by George Monbiot in The Guardian, over £120 billion a year in taxes is being lost through avoidance, evasion and debts as business and the wealthy employ accountants to run rings around the system.
This is equal to 80 per cent of total income taxes, and three-quarters of the budget deficit, which the government is using to justify slashing spending and cutting tens of thousands of public sector jobs.
Twenty-five billion pounds is being lost through tax avoidance, £70 billion through tax evasion, and uncollected debts amount to £28 billion a year, according to Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK. In comparison losses due to benefit fraud – estimates range from £1.1 billion a year to £5 billion (Ian Duncan-Smith’s figure) – pale into insignificance.
But the real class politics behind the government’s plans are exposed in that far from trying to recoup these losses – as they are loudly proclaiming to do with benefit fraud – staff and funding to close these loopholes are being slashed.
Since the merger of the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise in 2005 (to create HM Revenue and Customs), staff number have fallen from 99,000 to 68,000 and will fall another 12,000 in the next four years, while spending on tax avoidance been cut by half since 2006 (£3.6 billion to £1.9 billion).
This is no accident – it is a deliberate policy. Dave Hartnett, Permanent Secretary, has told the Financial Times that the tax service plans to "adopt a less combative approach to resolving tax disputes with businesses in order to chime with the coalition's 'open for business' message".
While the wealthy and big business employ top accountants and use every scam in the book to avoid paying their share to the society that they are part of, small businesses and individuals are still being chased for every penny of tax, and the minority of corrupt benefit claimants are hounded by the tabloids.
Britain is already the most unequal society in Western Europe: it has the lowest Corporation tax of any major industrialised country, and since 1979 taxes on the rich have been slashed. Yet these very groups, much of whose wealth comes from Britain itself, are managing to escape their legal tax obligations and in many cases paying less than the basic rate of income tax.
Just two examples are Vodafone, which according to Private Eye has saved a cool £6 billion by using a Luxembourg subsidiary, and Boots, which avoided paying £86 million by relocating to a post office box in Switzerland. In Vodafone’s case the HMRC agreed to let this scam go unchallenged.
Meanwhile thousands of small businesses that cannot afford specialist accountants still have to pay their full share in taxes. These are the very companies which David Cameron expects to generate the jobs to fill the huge hole that will be created by his government’s cuts.
Monbiot describes the Con-Dem coalition’s actions as “another application of the shock doctrine… to free corporations and the very rich from their obligations to society,” and says “we are living in a country where the poor bail out the banks, while the rich keep their billions intact”.
This is the real political battle in Britain today – to expose the Con-Dem coalition’s all-out class offensive against working people and to take forward the fight to make the rich and big business pay their fair share. It affects the lives of every working person in Britain – in other words everyone not wealthy enough to live without a job or benefits.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Twenty years ago...

...this week in the New Worker

The British Medical Association has added its voice to those who are warning that many hospitals which chose to become self-governing could end up bankrupt. Hospital managers do not have enough experience to run multi-million pound businesses the BMA predicted last week. Once hospitals have chosen to go it alone, as the Government wants them to, they will not be able to fall back on the local health authorities to help them out. The Government has put considerable pressure on hospitals to opt-out of local health authority control and the Association of Health Authorities and Trusts said it expected opted-out hospitals would “thrive within the reformed NHS”. But Dr Jeremy Lee-Porter, chairperson of the BMA, warned, “We believe the sums do not add up. At the end of the line there will be bankruptcy for some. There will be winners and losers and we are afraid for those patients in an area where a hospital is unsuccessful”.

A candle-lit vigil was held in Bristol last Wednesday to Stop the War in the Gulf. About 200 people attended and stood on both sides of the city centre green holding banners saying no to war in the Gulf and toot if you agree – which encouraged car drivers to toot their horns. At a meeting to Stop the War in the Gulf in Woolwich, south London, Jeremy Corbyn MP said, “What is right and what is wrong? People talk about defending the rights of small nations. I visited Grenada, smaller than Woolwich, no threat to but the US invaded. What was the US doing in Panama. They killed 7000 people in an area nowhere near Noriega.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Twenty years ago...

...this week in the New Worker

At last after 11 years the most unpopular, anti-working class British prime minister this century faces a serious challenge to her position. But before we all break out the champagne and start painting the town red we must face the sad and sobering truth that her fact that her only real challenger is another Tory who is at least as anti-working class as she is. We must also remember she is not yet defeated. Heseltine’s decision to challenge for the Tory party leadership arises from a long and deep seated division among the Tories over British integration into the European Community. In 1986 he resigned from the Cabinet over the Westland Helicopter because he favoured a European rather than a US takeover of the ailing British firm. He is a true blue capitalist who has amassed a £50m fortune from his City publishing interests. He won his spurs in Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet as Defence Secretary by put “CND in its place”. He is not good news for peace and disarmament. His only real disagreement with Thatcher have been over the poll tax, for electoral reasons, and Europe.

The ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party, born from the former communist party whose leader Todor Zhivkov was ousted last year, is facing collapse. The reform leadership is quarrelling among themselves in their efforts to link-up with the reactionary opposition to re-introduce capitalism in Bulgaria. A splinter group even more to the right of the current socialist leaders has undermined their parliamentary position while the anti-communist Union of Democratic Forces is refusing to go into coalition unless they get the choice of ministries and the premiership.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Twenty years ago this week... the New Worker

Fifteen hundred engineering workers at the Liverpool plant of tele-communications company GPT, will strike from November 23 unless the company puts forward acceptable terms for a shorter working week. The manual workers voted about 4:1 in favour of industrial action last week, although white-collar workers voted against. Dave Gough, AEU activist told the New Worker that a major stumbling block has been the company’s refusal to accept a four and a half day week. He said the company had put forward 14 points in all, some of which were “window-dressing” while others were far more significant. The Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions has reached 1,200 agreements reducing the working week from 39 hours to 37 for over half a million workers. The CSEU has called for a strike ballot at MEM in Tysley, Birmingham, and has also given the go-ahead for strike action at Howden Sirocco in Birmingham. In the Rolls Royce aerospace group, attempts to reach a final agreement for all 20,000 manual workers stalled last week.

Those in favour of a merger have won a simple majority in the Civil and Public Service Association’s ballot. Around 55,000 or 42 per cent of CPSA’s membership voted. This is an exceptional high return in any postal ballot. The majority in favour of merger with the National Union of Civil and Public Servants was just less than 1,500. A simple majority is all that is required. NUCPS members have already voted overwhelmingly in favour of the merger. The result, announced last week, was 27,000 voted for and 6,000 against, in a 29 percent turnout of NUCPS’s 118,000 members.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Twenty Years Ago...

...this week in the New Worker

SIX MONTHS ago Hayes Shellcast in Stourbridge, West Midlands, sacked the entire workforce of 130 workers, most of them Asian, after they took strike action to stop a wage cut of up to £100 a week.
Many employers saw the current recession coming. Whatever the Government media says about pay deals reaching ten percent, in reality, employers have maintained a tight grip on wages and jobs.
Management tried to impose wage cuts and when the workers fought back the company sacked all 130 of them. There are still 80 of them outside the gates, fighting for their jobs.
Many of them have worked years for the company and say they helped it survive the slaughter of West Midlands industry.
Job centres and the Department of Social Security have deliberately helped the company by using actively seeking work rules to force unemployed workers to scab.


THE BONN regime’s police and justice department is taking an active role in the current all-German election campaign. For the second time in eight days police have ransacked Rosa-Luxembourg House, headquarters of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), in a midnight raid in Berlin last week.
The PDS, successor to the GDR’s former ruling Socialist Unity Party is accused of transferring 107 million DM abroad to escape the jurisdiction of the future united German authorities.
Even after the supposed discrediting of socialism and the expected victory of the right-wing CDU/CSU bloc lead by led by Chancellor Kohl in the 2nd December polls, it seems that Bonn cannot tolerate the existence of a party such as the PDS and will go to any lengths to obliterate it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Badges from the Miners' struggle

PAST PIXELS was launched last year to make images of working class struggle more widely available and it kicked off with a haunting collection of cards to mark the 25th anniversary of the last great miners’ struggle. Now it’s returned with another tribute to the miners by producing 18 greeting cards depicting the enamel badges of the NUM, many from the miners’ strike of 1984/5.
There is a long tradition of trade unions producing badges but there was an explosion of designs during the miners strike. They were used for a variety of purposes, including the identification of pickets, fund raising and to signify solidarity during the year-long strike.
Brian Witts, ex-Littleton Power Group NUM, produced the majestic “Enamel Badges of the National Union of Mineworkers” in 2008, which lists and illustrates over 1,200 badges. Past Pixels, with the permission of the NUM and the assistance of Brian, have reproduced this first collection of greeting cards.
These high-quality, enlarged colour images of the original badges convey much of the epic scale of the struggle of the mining communities and their supporters to defend an industry, jobs and communities.
A proportion of the price of these cards is donated to the National Justice Mineworkers Campaign (NJMC), which continues to pursue the interests of sacked miners as well as assist them with funds. Twenty five years on from the strike and ex-mineworkers and their families still receive financial help from NJMC.

The first collection of cards can be seen at A set of five greeting cards (one of each image) costs £4.00 including post and packaging. Make cheques payable to “Past Pixels” and send to Past Pixels, PO Box 798, Worcester WR4 4BW.
photo: Martin Shakeshaft

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Review: Red Sun: Travels in a Naxalite Country

By Peter Hendy

RED SUN: Travels in a Naxalite Country : Sudeep Chakravati
Penguin Books India 2009

A revolutionary war is being fought by the Communist Party of India (Maoist) (CPI-Maoist) against the Indian state. A ‘Red Corridor’ exists down a swathe of central India from Nepal in the north to Karnatka in the South covering more than a quarter of India’s land mass.
India’s Maoist movement, known as Naxalites, after a district in Naxalbari in West Bengal where they staged a peasant uprising in 1967, is now spread over fifteen of its twenty eight states and controls vast chunks of territory.
In Red Sun Chakravati provides a fascinating and detailed account of his travels into those areas most affected by the Naxalites. The purpose of his journey is to promote an understanding of a ‘phenomena’ or the spectre of revolution haunting India.
The book is directed toward the urban middle classes whom he considers to be in a state of denial and suffering from ‘mall stupor’. The journey appears potentially very dangerous and he is clearly adept at negotiating his way through mistrust and suspicion on both sides.
Chakravati is an intrepid journalist and his excellent research provides a shocking context to the war. The statistics are shocking and make for grim reading. He solemnly writes that when the statistics begin to hit the millions they almost become meaningless. Half the children in India are malnourished, one fifth of the population go hungry and three quarters don’t have access to drinking water or sanitation. Two million cases of atrocities against lower caste people are currently pending. This is in a country of 1.12 billion people. Chakravati not only exposes but is very critical of the abysmal failure of India’s political institutions and subsequent creation of an explosive political vacuum.
Gross poverty, landless peasantry, crushing exploitation, rampant corruption, injustice, inherent caste issues and nepotism are factors that fuel the upsurge in revolutionary violence and explain the emergence of liberated zones.
Chakravati has tracked India’s massive economic growth of 8 per cent but is deeply concerned about the economic, political and social disconnection that leaves the mass population of peasantry and workers India no better off than feudal sub-Saharan Africa.
He visits dirt poor villages in the mosquito filled forests of Chhattisgarah, West Bengal, Andra Pradesh, Bihar and Jarkland and attempts to interview those at the epicentre of the conflict. He meets senior police and government officials, paramilitaries, local people, those involved in self help groups and some revolutionaries. Thus he meets some intriguing individuals who express some disturbing views.
Chakravati details the historical splits, mergers and alignments of the Naxalite movement and its increasing sophistication, audacity and ingenuity. This is particularly useful given the plethora of political parties and organisations that exist in India. He is particularly disturbed by the precise details of Naxalite documents. These relate to developments in ideology, strategy, tactics and organisation as the conflict escalates and spreads to include targeted urban areas swelled by those displaced from the countryside.
He reports on the states brutal response to the revolutionary war and powers to arrest, incarcerate and kill with impunity anyone suspected of revolutionary activity. He interviews a special policeman involved in Salwa Judum, a state sponsored vigilante paramilitary organisation set up to stem and halt the armed struggle. This shadowy lawless organisation is responsible for murder, torture, rape, looting beatings, forcible displacement and marginalisation. He visits Salwa Judum villages created to remove those potentially drawn to the struggle and is repulsed. Slums smelling of, ‘...garbage, urine and faeces overpowering the aroma of cooking fires and boiled rice.’
The book contains some detailed maps that illustrate the surge of CPI (Maoist) activity over recent years and the appendix provides some contemporary documents which give a direct insight into their strategies, tactics and objectives.
However, there are some criticisms of the book. Chakravati is not a Communist and his attempt to remain objective, independent and impartial fail. He is not hostile to the Maoists but critical and dismissive of socialism. Ultimately, he believes that the only solution to India’s failings are for efficient governance, policing, justice and administration. He has his own sociological theory on how he sees India’s future. A theory involving massive gated city states ‘In-Land’ places of food and commerce and ‘Out-land’ areas of lawlessness and potential warlordism. There maybe some partial truth in this analysis but one that ignores the complexity of political power, the state and class conflict.
Chakravati is a man with a conscience and evidently is very uncomfortable with what he hears and experiences. Reference is made to the bourgeois notion of ‘governance’ and how this needs to be developed. but his ideas appear nothing but hollow, abstract and devoid of any substance. He can see clearly the anger felt by the population aligning itself with the Naxalites but remains very uncomfortable and critical of the strategies adopted. He can offer a commentary but only up to a point because he remains unpoliticised. Chakravati’s social background and no doubt privileged existence can on occasions be detected in his tone that reflects an unconscious aloofness and distance from those he is interviewing. Thus, opportunities to ask significant questions and to pursue meaningful lines of enquiry are lost.
Failure to interview Naxals or Maoist revolutionaries ‘deep’ in Naxal zones and to instead concentrate on those not directly involved like former elderly insurgents from the movement’s beginning or individuals from rival revolutionary organisations is a significant criticism.
For those without an extremely detailed geographical knowledge of India the journey can be frustrating and confusing. A few maps to aid the reader would have been helpful.
The major strength of the book lie in Chakravati’s attempt to convey this political conflict to a wider audience where reporting in the bourgeois media is often non-existent. A recommended read for those wanting to understand the revolutionary political situation and realities of life in war torn India.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: Democratic German Report?

By Andy Brooks

Stasi Hell or Workers' Paradise? by John Green and Bruni de la Motte
£3.50; Paperback; 50pp; illus; Artery Publications, London 2009

THE GERMAN Democratic Republic, with its trade-mark hammer and dividers logo, has long gone. It went the way of all the other European people’s democracies during the counter-revolutionary wave in 1989 that was inspired by traitor Gorbachov and his minions and finally ended with the destruction of the Soviet Union itself. But during its 40 years of existence the GDR overcame diplomatic isolation and economic warfare to build an equitable society, raise living standards and become the leading partner in Comecon, the Soviet counter to the Common Market.
Contrary to imperialist myth German communists never wanted the partition of Germany. Though the defeated Third Reich was divided into Allied Zones of Occupation, the Soviet Union initially expected Britain, France and the United States to keep their word and maintain the territorial integrity of the country. When the imperialists showed their true hand in introducing a separate West German currency and establishing the “Federal Republic” in their zones, the Soviets had no other option but to encourage the development of the GDR in the Soviet Zone of occupied Germany.
Hundreds of thousands of imperialist troops, armed with nuclear weapons remained in West Germany to threaten the Soviet Union and its eastern European allies while the West German authorities claimed authority over what they continued to call the “Soviet Zone” and large chunks of former German territory ceded to Poland by the Allies in 1945. The GDR was diplomatically isolated by the imperialists. That only ended in 1972 when détente led to normalisation between East and West Germany and the admission of both German states to the United Nations.
Throughout this period many British communists and progressives travelled to the GDR, no easy business during the height of the Cold War, and most returned favourably impressed at the efforts of the people’s government efforts in building socialism on German soil. Many became active campaigners in the friendship societies that encouraged tourism in the GDR. Some opted to study at centres of higher education and a few chose to live in the GDR like the co-author of this booklet.
The chief heir to the GDR’s old ruling Socialist Unity Party initially called itself the “Party of Democratic Socialism”. Now it’s simply “The Left” and its East German leaders are in a state of denial, having dumped Leninism long ago in favour of left social democracy to win a few seats in the bourgeois German parliament. British academic interest in the GDR rarely goes beyond the arcania of Cold War studies. When it does it generally focuses on social questions and never attempts to reflect the reality of life in the GDR.
That now exists only in memories of its former citizens and those who crossed the Berlin Wall. The fading books and pamphlets that the GDR published to counter the barrage of lies and abuse from West Germany and its Nato allies are mostly tucked away in personal collections or available only from specialist libraries.
This pamphlet helps redress the balance. It is, of course, a personal view based on the sympathetic experiences of the two authors but whose political stand is perhaps reflected in the reference in the opening pages to the “tyrannical rule of Stalin and the crimes perpetrated by his regime in the name of communism”.
Though it does explain the economic reasons for the building of the Berlin Wall it’s a pity the authors didn’t mention the fact that for every three East Germans lured to the West by the prospect of higher wages at least one West German went East, mainly pensioners who were more favourably treated in Democratic Germany. Nor is there any attempt to describe the problems facing the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) which united with the social-democrats in the Soviet Zone to establish the Socialist Unity Party and was subsequently banned in West Germany in 1956.
Nevertheless this pamphlet is worth buying because of what it does contain especially for the new generation that knows nothing about the history of the GDR or the East German workers’ all-round achievements during its forty years of existence.

Stasi Hell or Workers’ Paradise? can be obtained directly at £4.50 (includes £1.00 post and packing) from: Artery Publications,11 Dorset Rd, London W5 4HU

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution

By Andy Brooks

OLIVER CROMWELL, the leader of the English Revolution, died on 3rd September 1658. Cromwell, the MP for Huntingdon, was the leading Parliamentary commander during the English Civil War, which began in 1642 and ended 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. Scotland had been brought under Commonwealth control.
Royalist hopes of a counter-revolution were smashed with the defeat of their forces at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.The democratic movement born from the New Model Army, the Levellers, was crushed by Cromwell’s supporters and the most militant regiments sent to Ireland. Attempts to set up farming co-operatives by the Diggers, another group born from 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 religious movements like the Quakers who are still with us today.
Oliver Cromwell was succeeded by his son, Richard. Richard was neither a politician nor a soldier. Unable to reconcile republican generals with the demands of the rich merchants and landowners to curb the influence of the New Model Army, Richard Cromwell resigned the following year. The government collapsed and the monarchy was restored in 1660. Oliver Cromwell’s death invoked 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. All who had signed Charles Stuart’s death warrant, apart from a handful that managed to flee the country, 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.
For communists the English Revolution is a paramount importance. It influenced the thinking of the American revolutionaries. The Victorian utopian socialist and co-operator, Robert Owen, embodied some of the ideas of the Digger philosopher, Gerrard Winstanley, in his writings. Even today the question of the monarchy and the House of Lords is still unresolved.
The conflict was fought on class lines. Or as Puritan preacher Richard Baxter put it at the time:

“A very great part of the knights and gentlemen of England . . . adhered to the King . . . And most of the tenants of these gentlemen, and also most of the poorest of the people, whom the others call the rabble, did follow the gentry and were for the King. On the Parliament’s side were (besides themselves) the smaller part (as some thought) of the gentry in most of the counties, and the greatest part of the tradesmen and freeholders and the middle sort of men, especially in those corporations and counties which depend on clothing and such manufactures…Freeholders and tradesmen are the strength of religion and civility in the land; and gentlemen and beggars and servile tenants are the strength of iniquity

Cromwell’s reconquest of Ireland was condemned by the Levellers. Looking back on it Marx wrote:

The 1641-52 uprising was provoked by the colonialist policy which the English absolute monarchy pursued in Ireland, and which was continued during the English bourgeois revolution by the English bourgeoisie and the “new” nobility. The majority of the insurgents were Irish peasants led by the expropriated clan chiefs and the Catholic clergy. The Anglo-Irish nobility, descendants of the first English conquerors who had become related to the Irish clan elite and adopted many Irish customs and habits, also participated in the uprising.
In October 1642, the insurgents formed the Irish Confederation in Kilkenny. A struggle went on within it between the indigenous Irish, who stood for Ireland’s independence and action both against the Long Parliament and the English Royalists, and the Anglo-Irish aristocrats, who endeavoured to come to terms with Charles I on the condition that they would be allowed to keep their estates and receive a guarantee of freedom of worship for Catholics. The latter gained the upper hand and a treaty was signed with a representative of Charles I.
After the rout of the Royalists in England, Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of the new bourgeois republic, organised an expedition to Ireland on the pretext of suppressing a Royalist revolt there but in fact with the aim of reducing her to colonial submission and plundering the land. He hoped that by confiscating Irish lands he would solve the problem of paying the creditors of the republic, the officers and men in the army.
In 1649-52, the Irish uprising was brutally suppressed; the garrisons and population of entire towns were destroyed, the Irish were sold en masse into slavery in the West Indies, and Irish lands were confiscated and handed over to new English landlords. These actions of Cromwell and his successors did much to prepare the ground for the restoration of the monarchy in England in 1660.

Though the Stuarts came back the last of them was deposed in the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. Often said to be neither glorious nor a revolution it certainly could not have happened at all without the revolutionary upheaval during the Civil War.

Marxist historian Christopher Hill later wrote:

Nor was it a war of the rich only. All sections of society in southern and eastern England brought in their contributions to help to win the war, for in the overthrow of the old regime men saw the essential preliminary condition of social and intellectual advance. Many of those who fought for Parliament were afterwards disappointed with the achievements of the revolution, felt they had been betrayed. But they were right to fight. A victory for Charles I and his gang could only have meant the economic stagnation of England, the stabilisation of a backward feudal society in a commercial age, and yet necessitated an even bloodier struggle for liberation later. The Parliamentarians thought they were fighting God's battles. They were certainly fighting those of posterity, throwing off an intolerable incubus to further advance. The fact that the revolution might have gone further should never allow us to forget the heroism and faith and disciplined energy with which ordinary decent people responded when the Parliament's leaders freely and frankly appealed to them to support its cause.

This, perhaps, is the real significance of the “good old cause” and why it’s still relevant for us today. On the 300th anniversary of the execution of Charles Stuart and the proclamation of the republic Communist leader Harry Pollitt would say:

"When the growing capitalist class, the poor farmers and craftsmen, led by Oliver Cromwell, shattered the system of feudalism, and executed Charles I in the process, reigning monarchs and ruling nobilities everywhere saw the pattern of future history unfolding. The name of Cromwell was reviled, then, as much as Stalin’s is today, by the ruling powers of the old and doomed order of society.
"The English Revolution is ‘great’, because it broke the barriers to man’s advance. It allowed the capitalist class to open the road leading to modern large-scale industry. It permitted science to serve the needs of the new capitalist society. And, because of these developments, it provided the basis on which, for the first time, a new class, the working class, began to grow, to organise and itself to challenge the prevailing system of society".

Friday, August 06, 2010

Toxic Tea Parties

by New Worker correspondent

IMAGINE an organisation somewhere between the right wing of the Conservative Party and the British National Party, with 220,000 enrolled members, hundreds of thousands of active supporters and backed by an estimated 17-19 million people. Welcome to the Tea Parties.
Imagine a state where the police can stop and question anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant or a town where illegal immigrants are now formally “banned”. Welcome to how the immigration debate is playing out in the United States.
Imagine a society where there are uniformed and heavily armed gangs of racist extremists patrolling the streets and the border areas, seeking out and sometimes shooting people they suspect of being illegal immigrants. Welcome to the Minutemen.
Imagine a country in which 932 hate groups were active last year. Welcome to the Unites States of America in 2010.
American anti-fascist and human rights campaigner Devin Burghart recently toured Britain speaking to anti-fascists on the growth of the extreme rightwing and racist mass anti-Obama movement that has mushroomed in the United States and how American anti-fascists intend to counter it, with a mass grass-roots campaign based on the same principles as the Hope Not Hate campaign in Britain.
The speaking tour was organised by the Hope Not Hate/Searchlight anti-fascist group and the meetings, in Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester and London were chaired by Searchlight leading campaigner Matthew Collins.
Devin began by explaining differences between US and British politics. Firstly, he said, the US came into being with the original sin of racism – the slavery, especially of the southern states: “It is woven into the fabric of our culture; slavery was written into our original constitution.
“Since then, there has always been a sense of guilt among progressive political activists and a continuing effort to make up for that bad beginning.”
Secondly, he said, religion plays a far greater role in politics and life generally; the majority consider themselves to be religious and Christianity is the main religion. Religion in the United States has a political dimension that it does not have in Britain.
Thirdly, the dominance of the two-party political system creates an insurmountable barrier to aspiring third parties. Special interest groups and single-issue campaigns spend most of their efforts as pressure groups trying to influence the big two – the Democrats and the Republicans.
And that is why those two big parties both encompass a wide range of political views and are often internally divided on issues.
And fourthly, money plays a far bigger role in US politics than it does here. Each of the main parties spends many times as much on local state election campaigns than all of Britain’s political parties together spent on the last general election here.
In nationwide elections they spend billions of dollars – but all that spending brings very little change.
“The big problem is,” said Devin, “That the ultra-Right have out-campaigned the Left at grass-roots level. They have beaten the Left in the areas where they should be strongest – trade union rights, environmental issues, women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights and Native American rights; where they have been plugging their anti-immigration policies with some success.
“At the same time, like your New Labour here, the Democrats have virtually abandoned grass roots campaigning and door-to-door local work.”
The notorious racist Governor George Wallace of Alabama in the 1960s, 70s and 80s failed to get elected as President despite putting himself forward four times – but he did teach the extremist racist Right how to use the white middle class, and how to avoid overtly racist language but use a coded language instead.
The racists abandoned lynchings and cross-burnings and set out to re-invent themselves in a more acceptable form. The Ku Klux Klan took off their white sheets and put on suits and threw themselves into face-to-face campaigning – picking up on the issues that mattered to local communities. And they started to use the new media to win recruits.
Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke succeeded in being elected as Louisiana State Representative for a partial term, though he failed to be elected as State Senator.
At this point Devin recommended to the meeting the book Blood and Politics: The History of White Nationalism from the Margins to the Mainstream by Leonard Zeskind and published by McMillan, which covers the efforts of the racists and fascists to make themselves acceptable to the mainstream – much in the same way that the British National Party tried to do here.
Devin continued, saying that progressive immigration policy in recent decades has changed the US demographic and the ultra-Right has used this to create a new nativism based on anti-immigration policies. Their favourite slogan is: “We just want our country back,” though they would be hard pressed to explain just who is supposed to be taking it from them. It is a slogan that appeals to the right-wing middle-aged and elderly, nostalgic for the half-remembered days of their youth.
The events of 11th September 2001 gave a big boost to ultra-Right recruitment and there has been a remarkable growth of the Christian Right. The evangelists have turned religion into a powerful political force.
The TV evangelists, like Jerry Falwell revolutionised the organisation and the fundraising. Their campaigns target abortion rights, gay rights and the teaching of evolution. They attack women’s groups and oppose all liberal gains. And they are getting their candidates elected – with published advice sheets on how to campaign and fight elections.
They now influence national politics and divide the nation on issues such as abortion and gay rights. They have changed the electoral terrain in the mythical Middle America, by preaching to those who have hitherto been outside of politics.
They appeal mostly to the white, middle-aged and middle class. Though they put the odd plumber or other worker on their platforms, they do not really appeal to the hard-up working class.
They have taken control of school boards and banned the teaching of evolution in favour of creationism. They are changing the text books to eliminate the word “slavery” and replacing it with “triangular trade”.
They are portraying the US and its history as exclusively Christian and trying to obliterate all other kinds of thinking. Like the Taliban, they are intent on creating a militant theocracy.
It was this culture that allowed the election of Ronald Reagan and later George W Bush.
The Democrats failed to put in the grass roots work to counter this. There was a bit of a shift when Bill Clinton was elected but he never got a total majority in the Senate; Ross Perot split the Republicans. That is why Clinton could not get his health Bill through.
There was a lot of grass roots work done in the run-up to Obama’s election but this was not done so much by the Democrat Party as by all sorts of pressure groups who wanted Bush out.
And when Obama was elected the far right immediately began working on how to undermine his presidency; the far Right had a resurgence and the political scene polarised.
The extreme Right began the Tea Party movement in 2008 during the presidential election primaries as a protest against the big banking bail-outs – begun under Bush and continued under Obama.
Congressman Ron Paul invited supporters to a tea party in Boston in protest at paying taxes to bail out failing banks. He raised $6 billion in 24 hours.
Then in February 2009, just after Obama’s inauguration, Rick Santelli of CNBC news posted an invitation to a commemorative tea party at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on the website FedUpUSA.
In his rant he blamed the economic crisis on the poor, on people of colour and others he described as “losers” for the economic crisis. He blamed them for creating the housing crash by failing to keep up with their extortionate mortgages. He had the effect of making moderately well-off white people afraid of a malevolent, multicultural mob, seething uncontrolled below them
After that the Tea-Party movement mushroomed. It was supported by the Murdoch-owned Fox News channel and before long thousands of Tea Parties were happening everywhere. The movement has some 220,000 enrolled members and between 17 million and 19 million informal supporters. They have called Obama a “Nazi”, a “socialist” and many other things. They came out in droves to protest at the progress of Obama’s health bill through the legislature – even though that bill will rescue many of them from destitution as the illnesses of old age take hold.
Devin said they were like the vuvuzelas of US politics – making a cacophonous noise of racism and intolerance aimed to drown out intelligent debate and discussion. They shout down all progressive thought.
The US has several different types of right-wing groups – the Christian nationalists, the nationalist and racist supremacists and the anti-immigration groups. But they overlap; they are all demanding they “want their country back”. And they now comprise 16 to 18 per cent of American voters.
Now the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights is working to create a mass grass roots movement to do what Hope not Hate has done in Britain – to campaign door-to-door at grass roots level, taking up local issues and countering the lies put out by the racists and fascists.
This will take a lot of effort but already, among the counter-demonstrations to the Tea Party rallies, there are banners carrying the Hope not Hate logo. It is a good campaign because it appeals to a very wide spectrum. And there is now a small “Coffee Party” movement directly opposing the Tea Parties.

Monday, August 02, 2010

India's booming image shaken by massive strike wave

by Theo Russell

INDIA is being swept by a mounting wave of strikes, as anger mounts over out of control price rises. Two national strikes were held in April and another in July and a third, predicted to be the biggest ever, has been called in September.
Despite growth of eight per cent a year and a booming corporate and financial sector, living standards for workers and even many of the middle class are being steadily eroded.
India’s the economic reforms since the 1980s have transformed a semi-socialist economy into one of extreme wealth imbalance, in which hundreds of millions live in constant crisis, and according to official figures almost 200,000 farmers committed suicide between 1997 and 2008. Unlike China, the fruits of India’s growth go to business and individuals rather than being ploughed back into the country. In India only four per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) is invested in public services and infrastructure, compared to nine per cent in China.
While China is pouring billions into building infrastructure in every region of the country, India’s growth has been extremely uneven, benefiting a fortunate few in the cities while leaving millions of urban slum dwellers and the rural population, still over 70 per cent of the total, worse off than they were 30 years ago.
The technology services sector employed only 1.6 million people in 2007 out of a population of 1.15 billion, while 10 million young people enter the workforce every year.
While China announced a £382 billion in spending to boost the economy in 2009, India is effectively at the mercy of international lenders with a public debt of 82 per cent of GDP, the 11th -worst in the world.
Literacy in India has risen from 12 per cent at the end of British rule to 66 per cent in 2007, but remains well behind the world average of 84 per cent and over 93 per cent in China.
While China now has the largest network of high-speed railways in the world — 4,300 miles with speeds of up to 220 mph; the maximum train speed in India is 93 mph.

Wave of strikes

In April this year a national strike called by the Left parties over rising prices affected the whole country, and was followed by an “All-India Bandh (strike)” on 5th July, which according to the Indian press the was the biggest strike for 30 years, and probably the biggest since the Bombay textile workers’ strike of 1982.
The 5th July strike was particularly effective because although it was called by the Left parties (the CPI, CPI(M), All India Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party), the right-wing Hindu BJP also decided separately to support it, reflecting the economic hardship facing small businesses, farmers and shopkeepers. The BJP-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh trade union centre, is the largest in India, with 6.2 million members in 2002.
There are 13 recognised national trade union centres, most of which are linked to political parties. In 2002 the Congress-linked Indian National Trade Union Congress had 3.9 million members, the Hind Mazdoor Sabha, affiliated to the All India Forward Bloc (a left party) had 3.3 million members, the CPI(M)-linked Centre of Indian Trade Unions 3.2 million members, and the CPI-linked All-India Trade Union Congress 2.6 million members.
In 2004 total union membership in India was over 40 million, about 10 per cent of the total workforce and 25 per cent of wage and salary earners. However the impact of strikes is magnified by mass demonstrations and protest actions such as blocking road and rail links and persuading shops and businesses to take part.

“An unprecedented success”

The Left parties described the 5th July strike as “an unprecedented success” and said the government had “tried everything to suppress the voice of the people”.
According to the Times of India: “In many places, bandh supporters brazenly flexed their muscles as they sought to enforce the ‘people’s bandh’, “ and the strike “was like a shot fired across its bows” for the ruling Congress Party.

Almost every part of India was affected, with Chennai (Madras) the only major city to escape serious disruption. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry estimated the cost of the strike at £1.8 billion, while the London Financial Times noted that “trading volumes on the Bombay Stock Exchange plummeted”.
Two of the country’s largest Bangalore-based software exporters, Infosys and Wipro, were closed along with 11 coal mines in Orissa, hundreds of inter-city trains and flights were cancelled and government offices closed around the country. Violent clashes between police and strike supporters took place in many cities.
In Mumbai the entire force of 48,000 police were deployed and the streets were deserted. Transport companies joined the strike taking thousands of trucks off the roads, and the port was shut down.
Over 3,500 people were arrested in Mumbai and the surrounding Maharashtra state, and 4,000 more “detained”, including 33 state assembly members and four national MPs. The CPI(M) paper People’s Democracy reported that in Kolhapur a senior policeman aimed a pistol at strikers, “bringing back memories of British rule”.
In Delhi protestors blocked roads and the brand-new Metro was hit for the first time; 77,000 police officers were deployed and over 4,300 activists detained, including leaders from the BJP and Left parties.
In Bihar over 8,500 activists were arrested and the police baton charged protestors. An opinion poll of one million people in cities across northern India found over 60 per cent supporting the strike.

Economic reforms — a disaster for India’s masses

In last year’s election the Congress Party won a landslide victory pledging to maintain petrol price controls, but now they too have been removed in order to reduce the budget deficit and meet the demands of international lenders.
The latest decision to completely deregulate petrol pricing includes diesel, cooking gas and kerosene on which millions depend. It is just the latest in three decades of dismantling subsidies and price controls, often on the advice of British and American government think tanks.
In May the government increased taxes on petrol and diesel by £3.6 billion, the seventh increase since Congress returned to power in 2004, yet in the same budget it cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy by over £11 billion.
Back in 1976 the foreign oil companies were nationalised and strict price controls introduced, but now according to People’s Democracy “Burma Shell, Caltex and ESSO might have gone, but their pricing regime is back”.
Prices for staple foodstuffs have surged in recent years. Since 2008 the price of sugar has increased 73 per cent and potatoes and onions by 32 per cent. Investors are now speculating on food prices, after the government decided to allow futures trading in staple foodstuffs.
India’s subservience to corporate and financial interests has had devastating consequences for millions of farmers. In the 1980s and ‘90s India was granted IMF loans in return for assisting bio-tech companies led by Monsanto to market genetically modified crops.
Sold to farmers as “magic seeds”, they fell victim to lack of water and parasites. Farmers were left burdened with debts as the GM crops produce no viable seeds, after paying up to 1,000 times more than for normal seeds.
This reactionary government actively eased the path for the GM giants by banning traditional varieties from many government seed banks.

Rising tide of anger

It is hardly surprising when tens of millions of Indians are experiencing suffering and impoverishment due to these ruthless economic policies that there is a rising tide of anger among the country’s workers and peasant farmers.
At a “national convention of the workers” on 15th July, nine national trade union centres called yet another general strike for 7th September, the third this year, which according to AITUC general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta will be “the first time in the history of India that all the central trade unions are together”.
This time even the Indian National Trade Union Congress, affiliated to Congress, will be joining the strike, which Dasgupta predicted would be “the biggest ever workers’ strike in the country”. Even if the government acts to head off the strike by reversing its previous decisions, it will only postpone the resolution of the country’s fundamental economic problems.
Despite its rapid growth India is at the mercy of international finance, and the only solution to the problems its people face is socialism.