Friday, August 05, 2016

Leaving the EU will represent defeat for the bourgeoisie

Andy Brooks, the General Secretary of the New Communist Party of Britain, was interviewed by a member of the International Relations Bureau of the Communist Party, Turkey (KP)  the week before the European Union referendum. The interview was held at the NCP Party Centre in London on 13th June and published in the Turkish communist daily soon after. This translation in based on the text posted on the International Communist Press (ICP) website which is affiliated to the International Relations Bureau of the Communist Party, Turkey.
Andy Brooks

International Communist Press: The EU referendum in the UK is now one week away. What do you think about EU and the referendum?

Andy Brooks: We vote Leave. We oppose the EU – we have been opposed to the EU since we were formed in 1977. We believe that the EU cannot be reformed. The whole Treaty of Rome has to be torn up. We do not believe there are any positive benefits for the working class in the EU. The EU is essentially a rich men’s club, a club for big business. It exists solely to operate in the interests of the big European corporations and we believe it is dominated by Franco-German imperialism. Whatever minor benefits have come to workers because of these institutions could easily have been obtained by other means. For example, freedom of travel. Before 1914 there were no passports, no barriers. The limitations on travel are a 20th century phenomenon and freedom of travel could have been introduced anyway, as has often been said.

ICP: You said you oppose the EU and you will vote Leave. But in every election you support the Labour Party and now they campaign to stay in…

AB: We don’t believe there is a parliamentary road to socialism. We also don’t believe in standing in elections. So, since 1977 we have called on our supporters to vote Labour and our party is an affiliate of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), which is a committee formed some years ago whose leading lights were the late Tony Benn and other left social democrats including Jeremy Corbyn, now the leader of the Labour Party.
 We don’t think there is any point in standing communist candidates. It is literally divisive. The parliamentary election system in Britain is essentially a two-party system. At this stage the major progressive working class demands are for social reforms and we believe that they are best carried out by reformist parties such as the Labour Party. We see the main struggle being within that party and the trade unions, and as long as the Labour Party retains its organic links with the trade unions our policies are unlikely to change. Lenin himself said, at the time of Ramsay MacDonald in the early 1920s, that the British Labour Party was a very strange party, unlike any other social democratic party in Europe. The “strangeness” is that the Labour Party gets nearly all its members and funding from the trade unions. This is still the case.
Yes, the Labour Party supports staying in although there are some individual Labour MPs that oppose this. Just as the majority of the trade unions support staying in but there are a number of militant trade unions that oppose this, such as the railway workers unions (RMT and ASLEF) and the bakers’ union.

ICP: What are your main concerns about the EU? How did it affect the people?

AB: I am from a generation that can remember Britain before it joined the EU. Only people of my age and older can remember the era of cheap food. After we joined the Common Market one of the fears that was proved totally correct was the increased cost of living – the cost of food went up astronomically. Nowadays lots of people don’t realise that the price of food in the EU is the highest in the world. And it is artificially sustained, previously through food mountains, nowadays by paying farmers not to grow things. The previous system used in Britain and countries that weren't in the EU was subsidies. This was designed to help farmers but keep the prices down; whereas the EU, which is opposed to subsidies, operates on the principle of keeping the prices up.

ICP: There are a lot of campaigns or fronts that propose to leave the EU. What do you think of them?

AB: We don’t take part in the major campaign against the EU. But Lexit [Left Leave Campaign] is different. We have no problems with Lexit and we report their activities. It’s a very new movement. We publicise them and encourage our supporters to participate, but we have our own independent policy.

ICP: Why do you prefer this?

AB: Because the major opposition to the EU has historically been based on anti-immigration, chauvinist and racist lines. UKIP, and indeed some who pose as left wing, embrace these ideas.
            The mainstream campaign against the EU, which is being led by UKIP and Euro-sceptics within the Conservative Party, is almost entirely based on immigration fears. We have had, it’s true, a huge number of workers arrive from Eastern Europe in the last two years – it is possible that London is now the third biggest Polish city in the world after Warsaw and Chicago. Aside from Polish workers, we also have a lot from other parts of Eastern Europe.
But the issue of immigration is entirely a bogus argument and the conservative opponents of the EU have an entirely reactionary agenda. Their opposition is because they see the EU as a brake on further neoliberal policies. They also represent the section of the British ruling class that is afraid of Franco-German imperialism and believed that British imperialism’s interests are best served in alignment with US imperialism.
Historically Britain’s policy since World War II has been to seek US protection for its vast global interests whilst acting as a bridge between US imperialism and Franco-German imperialism. That policy was more or less maintained until the Blair government.

ICP: What has been changed?

AB: Blair more or less burned that bridge by aligning completely with US imperialism in the Middle East. The Cameron government actually has no close friends in Europe or America. So the Euro-sceptics, in the main from the Conservative ranks, are coming from that section which fears German and French imperialism and still believe that the interests of British imperialism are best maintained in tandem with the United States.
 We argue that Britain should have an independent foreign policy. The Euro-sceptics talk about the burden of funding the EU but they never talk about the American bases in Britain because they approve of them. So, the “independence” they talk about is not genuine independence but simply about leaving the EU. They don’t talk about independence from US imperialism. They never openly admit that British imperialism cannot stand on its own feet.

ICP: How will the exit of Britain affect the future of the EU?

AB: If Britain leaves the EU I think it will encourage most of others like Greece, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus… all those countries crucified by the Troika [the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission (EC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)]. They would see the strength of the demand in Britain for an alternative and possibly this could lead to the break-up of the EU.
 At the moment some polls put the anti-EU lobby in the lead but we just don’t know what will happen. If the EU-supporters are defeated they will pull out all the stops to reverse the result – we suspect that many manoeuvres are being planned to prevent this [Brexit] happening.

ICP: How will the exit of Britain affect politics in Britain?

AB: Well, there is no procedure for leaving the EU and the pro-EU section of the British ruling class will fight it tooth and nail. Whatever happens, I suspect that David Cameron will resign. Obviously if the vote goes against him, he will have to go. But the Conservatives only have a very small majority and it is quite possible that the Conservative government could collapse. An incoming Labour-led government would not be bound by this referendum. The leadership, Corbyn and the others who are pro-EU, may adopt the usual tactic of moving to hold another vote – we have seen this in Europe whenever the result goes against the EU, many a time. So we say that a Leave vote should be a colossal vote against the EU.

ICP: Do you think leaving the EU is a step forward on the road to socialism?

AB: Well, it may not be a step forward, but it will represent a defeat for the bourgeoisie, or at least one section of it. A step for socialism only depends on the strength and the militancy of the working class as a whole. We believe only the communists can emancipate the working class.

 ICP: Thank you very much, we really appreciate the interview.

AB: It was a pleasure, thank you very much.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Ukraine in 2016: echoes of 1930s Germany

By Theo Russell

On paper, the current Ukrainian government under prime minister Volodymyr Groysman has cleaned up its image, with two far-right, anti-semitic parties, Svoboda and the Radical Party, no longer in the coalition.
But the far right and neo-Nazi militias have been given official recognition. In 2015 84 of these battalions became part of the National Guard, the Patrol Service of Police, or under Ministry of Defence control. The interior minister, Arsen Avakov, has close ties with the Azov, Aidar and Tornado battalions.
These militias continue to run amok across Ukraine, mounting racist, anti-semitic, anti-communist and homophobic attacks, threatening and intimidating judges, and frequently kidnapping defendants when they are released by the courts.

Persecution of journalists

In May, the anonymous Mirotvorets (Peacemaker) website published 4,000 names and contact details of journalists including the New York Times, Reuters and BBC, who covered the shooting down of MH17 in July 2014. They were labelled “accomplices in terrorism” for receiving press accreditation from the Donetsk People’s Republic.
‘Peacemaker’ received support at the highest levels in Kiev for this action. One of Avakov’s top advisers, Anton Gerashchenko, said the list was published as part of the “information war” with Russia, and anyone who questioned it was a ‘separatist’, now a crime in Ukraine.
An advisor to the head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) then announced the journalists were being investigated as potential spies.
In March, the British government funded a ‘Peace-building school’ run by the Maidan Monitoring Information Centre, linked to the same “Peacemaker” website. The event, “Stepan Bandera: Myths and Reality”, sought to sanitise the image of the World War 2 Nazi collaborator.
A speaker from Ukraine’s Committee of State Ideology told the school “we should do our part to refute the myths - Soviet myths - about the fighters for the independence of Ukraine”.
Bandera was a follower of  Mykola Mikhnovs’kyi, who called for a Ukraine “free of Russians, Poles, Magyars, Romanians, and Jews”, and Dmytro Dontsov, who translated the writings of Hitler and Mussolini into Ukrainian.
He led the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which in 1939 called the German army “the army of allies”, and 1941 set up a Ukrainian Waffen-SS division, the Nachtigall Battalion. The OUN played a leading part in anti-Jewish pogroms, patrolled Jewish ghettoes, and assisted in deporting two million people to Germany.
In 1943 the OUN(B) killed 100,000 Ukrainian Poles. Between 5 and 7 million Ukrainians, including 1.5 million Jews, died under the Nazi occupation. Under the April 2015 law on ‘honouring the memory of fighters for Ukraine's independence’, it is now a crime to denigrate Bandera, the OUN or OUN(B).

UN and International Red Cross barred

Last May, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) cancelled a visit to Ukraine after being refused access to sites where the secret police (SSU) is believed to run secret prisons. The SPT’s chair Sir Malcolm Evans spoke of " numerous and serious allegations that people have been detained, and torture or ill-treatment may have occurred" at these sites.
In February, the Union of Political Emigrants and Political Prisoners of Ukraine gave evidence of the prisons to the International Red Cross which also requested access, but it too was refused by the SSU.

Silencing of the opposition

Under the May 2015 ‘de-communisation law’ the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) has been banned. The main annual holiday now marks the foundation of the OUN(B), and in 2014 the SSU was re-organised on the lines of Bandera’s fascist movement. It cannot be denied that fascist ideology is now firmly embedded in the Ukrainian state.
There are now 4,000 people charged with "separatism", a criminal offence. Many supported referendums and protests in 2014 calling for separate status for cities in the east and south such, or have simply criticised the "Anti-Terrorist Operation" in the east in which 9,000 people have died.
In May, when a court in Odessa released taxi driver Evgeni Mefedov, accused of joining a protest, it was stormed by Right Sector fascists who searched cars, (including police cars) leaving the court. The judges were terrorised into making a new charge - threatening to kill one of the fascists - and Mefedov was thrown back into prison.
In April, the senior editor of a TV station near Odessa, Elena Glishchinskaya-Romanova, was raided at 5:30am and arrested by the SSU’s "Alfa" anti-terrorist unit searching for “agitation and propaganda material”. She and her children were held at gunpoint.
Using ‘evidence’ such as materials from the Party of Regions (led by the overthrown President Victor Yanukovych) and history books, she was accused “threatening the territorial integrity of Ukraine” and jailed for two months, since then extended several times, but eventually released after an international campaign.

Assassinations, kidnappings and disappearances

In April 2015 the well-known journalist Oles Buzina was murdered, but when two neo-Nazi suspects were arrested, a huge far-right rally demanded their release. At the main suspect’s trial, the judge was threatened, her office torched, and he was freed.
In April, Andrei Sokolov, a member of the socialist Borotba (Struggle) movement , was seized by four unidentified men and driven away after being released by a court. Since then he has disappeared.
After visiting the Donbas in 2014, he drove into an AFU checkpoint and was charged with "aiding a terrorist organization". After ‘proof’ of his guilt was obtained under duress, he agreed a deal to in exchange for pleading guilty, only to be kidnapped on his release.
On July 13 Mikhail Kononovich, a parliamentary candidate the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), was attacked by neo-Nazis armed with pipes and chains.
In June, Alla Alexandrovska, 67 year-old head of the Kharkov CPU and member of the national parliament four times, was arrested and charged with separatism, 'posing a threat to a state security' and 'terrorism'. She worked with Sloboda, an organization with very moderate demands within Ukraine’s current laws. After falling ill in detention, she attended court connected to an IV tube.
As the "separatist" movement has faded away, Alexandrovska’s arrest marks a new crackdown on the ‘legal’ opposition, including the left of the Opposition Bloc, the Union of Left Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party.

UK, EU and NATO cosy up to Ukraine

The UK, European Union and NATO are forging ahead with developing ties with Ukraine, on the basis that it is “defending its territorial integrity”. A 100-strong UK military team has trained 2,000 Ukrainian troops; some may have members of the far right battalions now part of the Ukrainian army.
In March an EU-Ukraine Association Agreement was signed, and in June the EU Commission said Ukraine had met “all benchmark requirements” for a visa-free regime with the EU.
NATO has offered “Association Partnership” status to Georgia and Ukraine, already members of its ‘Partnership for Peace’ programme, at its Warsaw summit, and 1,800 NATO troops took part in the Rapid Trident military exercise in Ukraine in June.

The next stage of dictatorship

Artyom Buzila, a journalist for legal media outlets now in exile after being 11 months’ detention for ‘separatism’, recently outlined the next stage of dictatorship in Ukraine. 
“The regime is tottering: millions of people are suffering from the economic situation and price hikes, and many are tired of the police state. However, the valiant SBU keeps locking up freethinking citizens in its dungeons.
“Ending the legal opposition has become the next task of the SBU (and the Kiev regime as a whole) after finishing with the radical ‘separatists’ and while the remains of the Russian Spring were forced underground.
“Arrests, harassment – anything is possible. And meanwhile, the repression continues with no end in sight. Who will be next?”