Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Iron Lady

        By Andy Brooks


The Iron Lady: (12A) 104 mins. Dir: Phyllida Lloyd. General release.

MOST OF the left groaned when they heard that the movie moguls were going to give Lady Thatcher the Hollywood treatment with a star-studded cast and Meryl Streep as the leading lady herself. The Tories meanwhile sat back expecting an epic of Churchillian proportions. What they actually got was a bitter disappointment.
            Margaret Thatcher is portrayed as a half-mad old crone, shunned by her children, who holds imaginary conversations with her long dead husband, which trigger flash-backs to her long-gone days of glory.
 The film has not surprisingly been dismissed as a “disgrace” by Tory grandee Norman Tebbit and “left-wing fantasy” by her children.  The focus on Thatcher’s dementia has been criticised as a cruel invasion of the privacy of an elderly woman, with some justification. Nevertheless it’s the artistic device that the whole movie revolves around.
Though it is by no means a conventional biopic, the film does tell a story. In a sequence of scenes we see Thatcher rise from her student days at Oxford to struggle to overcome Tory male chauvinism in her quest for high office, the defeat of the miners and, of course, the Falklands War. All of this is set against a background of strikes, IRA bombings and riots on the streets, using newsreel footage from the time. 
But what does the film tell us? Well it’s the tale of how one woman overcame male prejudice to become the first woman prime minister in British history, leading the country from 1979 to 1990, only to be ignominiously dumped by her own party when her popularity slipped. The moral of the story is perhaps only in its ending.
Maverick Tory MP Enoch Powell famously said: “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs”. It was certainly true of Powell himself, who played the race card in his own failed bid for power. It’s equally true of Thatcher, Major and Blair as well as every British prime minister we’ve had over the past 100 years or so.
Thatcher may well be an icon to the ruling class. But so are all the others, Labour and Tory, who followed in her footsteps when they went to Downing Street. The great reforms of the post-war Labour Government were indeed partly due to the overwhelming demand from working people for a better life. But they were also the product of a bourgeois consensus on the need to boost production by pumping state money into ailing industries, while buying off and diverting working people down the dead-end of social democratic reform to head off the communist movement that had  massively grown throughout Europe during the struggle to defeat the Nazis.  This tactic was followed by the bourgeoisie throughout Western Europe during the Cold War.
 By the 1970s the bourgeoisie as a whole, in Britain and in Europe, were no longer prepared to pay their share in maintaining state welfare and that consensus ended. Thatcher simply represented the class the Tories serve and she did nothing that would not have been done by any other Tory leader at the time.
Margaret Thatcher led the Tories to victory three times in a row, spearheading a bourgeois offensive against the unions, the National Health Service and the welfare state, whose consequences we still live with today.
Yet in the Iron Lady the rage of the victims of the Thatcher era is used only as a backdrop to her life. But perhaps the portrayal of Thatcher as a lonely, neglected old woman symbolises more than immediately meets the eye.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Capitalist crisis and class consciousness

By Eric Trevett

IT IS NOT often that we agree with Mervyn King, the head of the Bank of England, but we concur with his appraisal that the present economic crisis  may be more profound than that of the 1930s and that there is no way of avoiding a further recession.
This dispels the argument that the last Labour government was mainly responsible for the crisis affecting Britain. The capitalist crisis is global. And the struggle for peace and socialism has to be global too.
Now that Miliband has joined the Tory-Liberal Democrat alliance in supporting the cuts, it means that the leaders of all three main political parties in Britain are in favour of reactionary politics. Along with the right-wing press they tell us that we are all in this together. “We’ve all got to do our bit to cut the nation’s debts and achieve an expanding economy. Unity between the working class and capitalist class,” we are told, “will guarantee victory.”
   It is worth noting how this unity works. The example set to us by our “betters” is very impressive. It includes massive bonus payments for the top echelons of the banking system. It includes the major private companies owing the Treasury £87 billion in unpaid taxation. Then we have company directors pushing up their salaries by 49 per cent.
            We must not forget that expenses’ fiddling is widespread among the elite. These are indeed impressive sacrifices being made by the rich compared to the “terrible workers”, “turbulent students” and outraged pensioners who have the temerity to do something to oppose cuts in services, jobs, wages and pensions and even have the guts to go on strike. Pensioners of course cannot go on strike but they can show solidarity with those who do.
In capitalist society there are two main classes: the capitalist class, which for the moment is dominant, and the working class, which is exploited, with the poorest sections being the most numerous.
            The middle stratum is not a class but is thrown and vacillating between political allegiances – between the labour movement and the capitalist class. The big mistake labour leaders make is to prioritise making concessions to what are often petty bourgeois aspirations.
It is significant that capitalism is now being identified around the world as an enemy of the people. Many individuals who have described themselves as middle class are already beginning to develop a socialist outlook.
            The way forward is to develop a radical working class programme combating privatisation and renationalising the heights of the economy. Military spending must be reduced, the arms programme cut and Britain must become a nuclear-free zone.
 And we must restore the NHS to a standard to meet the ideals it was established to achieve and free the NHS from the shackles of Private Finance Initiative contracts.
Much of this is already the policy of the Labour Representation Committee and trade union branches and organisations should be encouraged to affiliate to it. The alternative to the right-wing policies of the party leaders represents the struggle from below.
            The crisis of capitalism is a crisis of overproduction. It is not difficult to prove this, with bargain sales no longer limited to January but now on all year round. We are offered new furniture and no need to pay for a year or more. In a relatively new feature £1 bargain shops are selling goods directly from the manufacturers.  When one thinks about the mass of goods available that are not sold, the bargain sales and other incentives to buy, it gives some idea of the tremendous amount that is produced that the market cannot absorb.
            Nationally and internationally the banks made money available for all sorts of ventures and encouraged working people  to use next year’s wages to buy things on the never-never. And with mortgage repayments they ensured that millions are in debt. This means the rising unemployment levels could be quite devastating for family life.
Since 1971 the attack on municipal housing property has featured strongly. The relatively low cost of rents had served to keep the private landlord rented sector and property values down. In privatising the municipal housing stock, the curb on prices in the private sector was removed – so much so that it is now virtually impossible for working class young people and even middle strata people to get a mortgage. But the problem for first time buyers is not just how to get a mortgage but being able to guarantee their continued employment at a high wage and make enough to sustain the payments.
            In any case we think the way forward for housing is to restore municipal property at reasonable rents relating to wage levels.
The post-war period has seen rapid advancement in the techniques of production. Over the years industrial capitalism has moved from water power to steam power to electricity and now to the new technology. It is significant that for the first time investment in equipment is not matched by investment in workers. In other words, under capitalist conditions the price of labour power is falling and the competition for advances in new technology leads to a reduction in the size of the employed labour force.
This does not mean we should oppose the introduction of new technology; on the contrary we should welcome it and realise that under socialist conditions it will prove a useful source of wealth production that frees people to enjoy greater leisure time and the chance for engaging in cultural, sporting and scientific pursuits – instead of the rat race conditions we have to endure under capitalism.
This is leading to the realisation among the working class and broader sections of the population that capitalism is obsolescent. All over the world the working class is beginning to take up cudgels once again against the capitalist class and its imperialist machinations.
            Last year’s riots in London and other places were understandable but they lacked the perspective of a socialist revolution. But socialism is the only answer to the capitalist crisis for the working class.
When the crisis of capitalism becomes acute, it not only means hardship for most of the people, it also includes the drive to authoritarian government and imperialist war as the different powers and nations seek to solve their problems at the expense of their rivals.
            The aims of the temporary alliance between the United States, British and French imperialism can clearly be seen by the strategy of destabilising the Middle East, not just for the oil although that is a major factor, but also to militarise the area with bases plainly aimed against Russia.
The imperialist powers use the strategy of divide and rule. Agent provocateurs generate hatred between the tribal and religious groups to instigate war between Middle Eastern countries. They back reactionary elements with military equipment while bashing progressive or non-compliant governments with trade sanctions and even unilateral acts of war.
The imperialists’ aim is to remove these leaderships and replace them forces that will be in favour of complying with imperialist demands and allow them more direct control of the resources of the area.
The result is, apart from the destruction of tens of thousands of people’s lives, that British imperialism is guilty of consigning many British youths to their death or serious injury – who are also the victims of imperialism.
The struggle for peace is more than a plea for mercy. It is a revolutionary demand and we stress that the working class aims of peace and socialism are indivisible.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bringing alive our illustrious past

image copyright South Wales Area NUM. Photography by Martin Shakesaft

The great mining communities have long gone – destroyed by a Tory government determined to abandon the British coal-fields in favour of imported coal and nuclear energy. But their memory lives on in the memories of the mineworkers and the  photos and mementos of their struggle.
 Back in 2009 Past Pixels was launched to make images of working class struggle more widely available to a newer generation. Over the past two years it has produced collections of greeting cards reflecting the struggle of the British mining community including snapshots of the epic miners’ strike of 1984/85 and a collection of NUM enamel badges. Now the company has issued a new set using images of banners from South Wales mining communities.
South Wales Area of the NUM has given permission for the reproduction of all the banners in their possession. The first four banners reproduced are from the South Wales Area of the NUM, Tower Lodge NUM, Maerdy Lodge NUM and the Maerdy Women’s Support Group.
Each card provides a short history of the banner and another photograph, often with the banner in use. A proportion of the income from sales will be donated to the South Wales Miners’ Benevolent Fund, a registered charity.
Past Pixel cards can be ordered online at or from an increasing number of retail outlets, including the Rhondda Heritage Park where both the Maerdy Lodge and Maerdy Women’s Support Group banners are currently on display. Further information about all the cards can also be obtained  by writing directly to: Past Pixels, PO Box 798, Worcester, WR4 4BW

Friday, January 13, 2012

Scotland's Choice

DAVID Cameron’s Tory-led Coalition has decided to call the Scottish nationalists’ bluff by proposing a straight either/or referendum on independence by May 2013. The Tories say they are doing this because of pressure from major businesses, who have claimed privately that delay on the constitutional question will destabilise the Scottish economy.
North of the border most suspect that Cameron’s move is designed to forestall the Scottish National Party (SNP), whose own plans for a referendum are believed to include an option for greater fiscal autonomy, like that of the old northern Irish government, that fall short of the complete independence that the majority of Scottish voters are wary of in the current economic climate.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats, who oppose independence, favour this option that would also give the SNP, which won an overall majority in the Scottish parliament in last year’s elections, a fall-back position if the independence vote was lost.
The Tories are against giving the Scottish government any more real authority, let alone independence. But they will have to rely on Labour and the Liberal Democrats to win the argument. There’s now just one Scottish Conservative MP in the House of Commons and only 15 in the 129-seat Scottish Parliament.
The nationalists have long taken much of the Tory vote in Scotland but there are clear divisions within the ranks of the Scottish bourgeoisie on the question of outright independence. Some believe it is unattainable and others that it is undesirable at a time of global capitalist crisis. Scottish banks relied on the Bank of England to bail them out in the 2008 crash and many bankers doubt whether an independent Scotland would get an AAA credit rating these days.
Support for independence can be also found among sections of the ultra left in Scotland. But they assume far too easily that such a rearrangement of the constitutional furniture will inevitably have progressive consequences.
The degree of local autonomy won by the Scots is, in itself, no guarantee that the national traditions and culture of the Scottish people will be developed, nor will it automatically lead to the strengthening of working class power.
But the creation of national institutions in Scotland has had some positive developments. Scottish governments have developed policies, under pressure from the labour movement, that reflect more the demands of the working class for social justice. Scotland maintains free university education and personal care for the aged, frozen council tax and introduced free prescription charges and eye tests.
There can be no doubt that Scotland could, if it were carried in a referendum, hold its own as an independent state.
If and when that question is put to the Scottish electorate the New Communist Party would support a vote for independence. At our last Congress in 2009 we said: “The New Communist Party has long recognised the rights of the Scottish and Welsh nations to full national self-determination. We support Scottish and Welsh demands for the right to preserve and develop their culture and national identity. We support their right to posses and control all the physical and other resources present on their land and territorial waters.
We support the demand for genuine self-governing powers for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.
“The NCP supports the demand for the encouragement of the Welsh language, which should be raised, in practice as well as in theory, to equal standing with English throughout Wales. We likewise support demands for the encouragement of Scottish Gaelic in traditional Gaelic areas.”

Kim Jong Il

Kim Jong Il

1942 – 2011

Kim Jong Il was born on 16th  February 1942 during the Korean people’s struggle against the Japanese occupation. His father was the Korean partisan leader Kim Il Sung who led the Korean communist movement to victory against Japanese colonialism and American imperialism to build the modern socialist republic that exists in the north of the divided Korean peninsula.
Kim Jong Il grew up to be a great revolutionary and wisely led the Workers Party of Korea (WPK), the army and people for a long period, performing undying revolutionary feats on behalf of the country, the people, the times and history.
In 1960, he began to study at the politics and economics department of Kim Il Sung University and graduated four years later. Kim Jong Il started working for the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in 1964. In 1973, he was elected secretary of the committee and in February the next year, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee. Since October 1980, Kim Jong Il has been member of the Presidium of the Politburo and secretary of the Central Committee of the WPK and member of the Central Military Commission.
From 1982 to 1998, Kim was elected deputy to every Supreme People's Assembly. From December 1992 to April 1993, he was successively Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army, First Vice-Chairman and later Chairman of the National Defence Commission.
On  8th October 1997, Kim Jong Il was elected General Secretary of the WPK.
Kim Jong Il was given the honorary title "Hero of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea" in 1975 and 1982. In April 1992, he was given the title of Marshal of the DPRK. He has also received the Kim Il Sung Order three times and many other awards and honours.
Democratic Korean leader Kim Jong Il died following a heart attack on a train during a field inspection tour on 17th December. His passing was mourned by leaders of the people’s democracies, the Third World and throughout the  world communist movement while millions of Koreans attended the 25 mile, three hour funeral procession in Pyongyang on 28th December.
At the United Nations Headquarters in New York the UN’s blue and white flag flew at half mast last week to mourn the death of Kim Jong Il and a minute’s silence was observed at the UN General Assembly in respect of the Democratic Korean leader. The Cuban government decreed three days of mourning  during which all Cuban flags were  flown at half staff at public buildings and military installations.
            In Britain NCP leader Andy Brooks, together with Michael Chant and Chris Coleman of the RCPB (ML), went to the DPR Korea embassy in London to sign the book of condolences and pay their last respects to the great Korean communist leader.  

messages of condolence

Friday, January 06, 2012

Socialism is the future!

By our European Affairs correspondent

Over a hundred comrades from 78 parties, including the New Communist Party of Britain, took part in the 13th International Meeting of communist and workers’ parties in Athens last month.
 Representatives came from 59 countries, including delegations from the ruling parties of Cuba, DPR Korea, Laos, Vietnam and those that participate in government like the  South African Communist Party, the two Syrian communist parties, AKEL in Cyprus and the People’s Progressive Party of Guyana.
          The conference was hosted by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) whose resistance to the bourgeois offensive sparked off the mass struggle against the austerity programme throughout Europe. At the close of the three day event delegates joined the picket line in solidarity with steelworkers who’ve been out for over six weeks striking against short time and a 40 per cent cut in wages.
The communist response to the global capitalist crisis was, naturally, a major theme in the three days of debate in the Greek capital. The communist movement also looked at rise of racism and fascism in Europe, the way US-led imperialism was exploiting the upheavals in the Arab world and imperialist aggression all over the world.
          In his contribution NCP leader Andy Brooks said that: ”In Britain and throughout the rest of the European Union the labour movement has two options as its economic standards decline and its political and democratic rights are eroded.
          “One option for the labour movement is to remain tied to reformist ideology and continue to give its support to right-wing social democratic leadership which co-operates with and capitulates with the demands and interests of state monopoly capitalism.
          “These leaderships have no commitment to socialism, no commitment to defend the welfare state and the social wage and no commitment to renationalise the industries that have been privatised. They lead no effective fight to mobilise the people against reactionary governments. They betray, and work for the defeat of workers in struggle. They refuse to countenance any action which infringes against reactionary capitalist laws. They work to strengthen Nato and US imperialism’s military and political grip over Europe and in Britain and France the social-democratic leadership remains committed to the possession and development of vast nuclear arsenals.
“The other option is to fight to defeat the right-wing class collaborators in the unions and the social democratic movements while building the revolutionary party dedicated to the struggle that can unite and mobilise the working class behind the banner of socialism. Socialism is the only alternative that can achieve the emancipation of the working class and fulfill the people’s desire for world peace, nuclear disarmament and the elimination of the causes of war”.
In the final statement the conference strongly condemned the imperialist war of Nato and the European Union against the Libyan people and the threats and interference in the internal affairs of Syria and Iran, as well as of any other country. It considered that every foreign intervention against Iran under whatever pretext attacks the interests of the Iranian workers and their struggles for democratic freedoms, social justice and social rights.
The conference declared that only socialism can create the conditions for the eradication of wars, unemployment, hunger, misery, illiteracy, the uncertainty of hundreds of millions of people, the destruction of the environment. Only socialism creates the conditions for development according to the contemporary needs of the workers.
          “Working people, farmers, urban and rural workers, women, young people, we call on you to struggle together to put an end to this capitalist barbarity. There is hope, there is a prospect. The future belongs to socialism”.