Sunday, January 27, 2019

Solidarity with Venezuela

Statement of the Secretariat of the Initiative of Communist and Workers' Parties of Europe in solidarity with Venezuelan people and the CP of Venezuela

The Secretariat of the Initiative condemns the coup d'etat of the USA, their allied governments and of the Organization of American States (OAS) for the overthrow of the elected President Nicolas Maduro and for the support of the leader of the reactionary forces Juan Guaidó, who proclaimed himself president of the country with their support.
This coup d'etat is a continuation of the planned long term campaign of destabilization of the country to promote the imperialist designs in the Latin America region and to overthrow governments that are not likable to the USA-NATO and the EU, with the latter intervening in the domestic affairs of Venezuela, supporting the reactionary forces and participating the the scheme to overthrow the elected government.
Once again it is reaffirmed that the imperialist forces not only do not respect the rights and sovereignty of the peoples but also tread on every right, organize slanderous campaigns and all kinds of attacks in order to impose their wills, their interests.
We express our internationalist solidarity with the working class and the people of Venezuela and we stand by their side in their struggle against the imperialist plans in their country and in the region. We support with all our forces the CP of Venezuela and its struggle in favor of the rights and interests of the workers of the country, to abolish capitalist exploitation, for Socialism.

Secretariat of Initiative
January 25, 2019

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Battling Hillbillies


By Ray Jones

Hillbilly Elegy – a memoir of a family and culture in crisis by JD Vance (2016). William Collins, paperback, 264pp. ISBN: 879-0-00-822056-3, £9.99.

JD Vance is still in his 30s, a Yale Law School graduate, a venture capitalist and a self-confessed conservative Republican in the USA. So why should his story be of interest to us? Because, as he says, he “grew up poor” in the Rust Belt in an Ohio steel town from a family that has its roots in the south eastern Kentucky coal country.
The fact that the US steel and coal workforce have been devastated in modern times forms the backdrop to Vance’s early life. It has helped to form the culture that he describes in his fascinating, if not always pleasant, story.
Violence, drugs, unemployment and family turmoil are prominent in Vance’s account of Hillbilly culture; along with a sense of ‘honour’ that reminds one irresistibly of {The Godfather} and the Mafia.
Vance tells an anecdote of what happened when his Uncle Pet, who owned several small businesses, was called a “son-of-bitch” by a delivery driver. Pet took the insult literally as an insult to his beloved mother. When it was repeated he dragged the driver from his truck and beat him unconscious before taking an electric saw and running it up and down his body.
Uncle Pet never went to jail because the driver, who survived, was a Hillbilly too and refused to talk to the police or press charges.
Vance’s grandfather (Papaw) and particularly his grandmother (Mamaw) loomed large in his early life and came from Hillbilly ‘royalty’. This seems to mean that they were famous for resorting to extreme violence in what was seen in the community as a good cause.
Even in a violent society they were called “crazy” – a term that seems to have had an element of admiration attached.
Mamaw routinely carried a gun around and nobody messed with her. When she banned Vance from seeing “unsuitable” friends she reinforced the order by threatening to run them over in a car if he did, saying: “No-one would ever find out.”
Whilst one is reading this book you have to remind yourself sometimes that he is talking about the 1980s and ‘90s not the 1880s or even the 1930s. The adult Vance seems to reject all this of course but sometimes you wonder…
Vance claims that Mamaw and Papaw saved him from fully accepting the feeling of apathy and worthlessness that he thinks is the main reason why Hillbillies so rarely realise the ‘American Dream’ (even when he defines that only as having a nice house, a secure job and a steady family). They gave him, he thinks, some security in a family where his mother was a drug abuser with a string of partners.
The Marine Corps, he says, carried the work of his grandparents further by showing him he could achieve things he had thought impossible for him.
From his time in the Marines, where he served time in Iraq (although never at the really sharp end), he went to college with Government assistance and then to the prestigious Yale Law School to become a successful lawyer.
Sadly Vance concludes that poor whites basically just need to have the confidence to pull themselves up by their boot straps. He rejects the evidence of the economic and class roots of the problems that he himself presents. He forgets, as a previous reviewer has said, that to pull yourself up by your boot straps one must first have boots.
Because a few individuals, like Vance, with luck, talent and determination can ‘make it’ does not mean most people can. History proves otherwise.
As you may imagine, this book went down a storm with the mass media and the ruling class. It reinforces their class prejudices and never mentions the real solutions of revolution and socialism.
For others it may expose the American nightmare that workers and the Left in the USA face, and which we have echoes of in Britain.
I came across this book in my local library; perhaps it’s worth looking in yours.

Another Scottish play

By New Worker Cinema correspondent

Mary Queen of Scots (2018). Starring: Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan. Director: Josie Rourke. 124mins, Rating 15, General Release.

There are two occasions in this country’s past when I would have happily banged on the door of an army recruitment office. One is the Second World War against fascism; the other is 1588 when England was threatened by the Spanish Armada. The decision by Philip of Spain to launch the Armada was a result of the failure of English Catholics to replace Elizabeth I with her Catholic cousin, Mary Queen of Scots.
In the 16th century Protestantism was a focal point for progressive social forces, namely the emerging bourgeoisie; whilst Catholicism was the religion of the old feudal order. Although the Catholic Mary and Protestant Elizabeth were both essentially absolute monarchs, Elizabeth had the backing of England’s emerging bourgeoisie who in the next century would no longer have need of the monarchy. The victory of Mary Queen of Scots would have put a break on this sequence of events.
The film itself has a strong feminist slant, which reduces the quarrel between the two monarchs, played by Saoirse Ronan as Mary and Margot Robbie as Elizabeth, to one of two women who would have got on fine had it not been for the men around them. In Elizabeth’s case it’s William Cecil, played by Guy Pearce, who started his acting career in the Australian soap opera Neighbours. In Mary’s it’s her half-brother James Stewart, played by James McArdle. Meanwhile John Knox, the Scottish Protestant leader, played by David Tennant, incites religious fervour against Mary.
It is highly unlikely however, that these two queens would have viewed events this way. Feminism is an ideology that originated much later, in the 19th century, and it would have had little or no resonance in a period dominated by religion and where everyone’s position was attributed to the “natural order” of things.
The film contains a number of obvious historical inaccuracies. Towards the end of the film we see Elizabeth signing Mary’s death warrant in front of a group of courtiers. Elizabeth was in fact highly reluctant to sign her cousin’s death warrant. It had to be surreptitiously given to her amongst a number of other documents and the courtier who handed her the document was briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Although Mary spent 18 years of her life in exile in England under the protection of Elizabeth, much of the film concentrates on the period between her return to Scotland after her marriage to the heir to the French throne and her exile in England.
With this in mind it is widely believed that Mary would have spoken in a French accent whereas Saoirse Ronan, who is Irish, plays her with a Scottish one.
The film places some emphasis on Elizabeth’s relationship with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Elizabeth and Dudley knew each other from when they were children. Whether their relationship ever became physical can only be supposition, although this artistic licence is always an acceptable difference between a feature film and a documentary.
Interlaced with battle and stand-offs between leading characters are shots of Scotland’s mountainous and rugged scenery. This is intended to show the brutality of political and religious conflict of the time. It would have been better however, if the film had attempted to give a better insight into the conflict than a disagreement between two women that ended in tragedy. `The conflict between the two women was part of a broader Europe-wide power struggle that eventually plunged the continent into the sectarian horrors of the Thirty Years’ War as well as the beginnings of the social conflict that would engulf the British Isles in the 17th century.

Ending BBC bias

Labour has quite rightly lodged a formal complaint with the BBC about the treatment of Diane Abbott on last week’s Question Time. The Shadow Home Secretary says that the show’s presenter, Fiona Bruce, “was clearly repeating Tory propaganda that Labour were behind in the polls”; that she was interrupted more than double the number of times Tory MP Rory Stewart was; and that she was not allowed to respond to a "blatantly abusive remark" from the audience.
Labour has told the BBC: “The way she was treated on Question Time was unacceptable and fed the hostility towards her. We expect the programme to correct inaccuracies, provide a full explanation of what happened during the show's production and to apologise to Diane.”
In its heyday Question Time attracted huge audiences. Although viewers have now crashed down to an average of 2.7 million, the bourgeois media still regards the show as one the jewels in the BBC’s crown. But the programme’s only real merit in the eyes of the ruling class is it attempt to pass off bourgeois propaganda as informed debate.
None of us should be surprised at this. The British Broadcasting Corporation is one of our supposed “national treasures” whose aims are to educate, inform and entertain the public that funds it through the licence fee. Under the motto “Nation shall speak peace unto Nation” the Corporation claims to be a pillar of impartiality and a reliable source of independent news at home and abroad. That was never the case back in the 1920s when the BBC was founded and it is certainly not the case now.
During the Second World War the BBC’s policy of credible reporting easily outshone that of the Nazis. When the war ended the BBC continued to serve the ruling class and defend British imperialism. It totally failed to report a famine in Bengal that resulted in around 10 million deaths and was the result of a deliberate British imperialist policy of deprivation, and defended colonial efforts to maintain the Empire in the post-war era.
During the Cold War the BBC cashed in on its war-time prestige to broadcast sophisticated anti-communist propaganda at home and all around the world in the service of Anglo-American imperialism. At the same time the BBC pioneered the sponsorship of arts and drama to compete with commercial television and justify its licence fee.
Those days are now long gone. Although the state-owned broadcasting service still promotes some serious dramas, its news and current affairs output is just cheap, dumbed-down and third-rate bourgeois propaganda.
It consistently supported NATO aggression against Serbia, Iraq and Libya and US-led efforts for regime-change in Syria whilst turning a blind eye to routine Zionist atrocities in Gaza and the West Bank. Whilst obscure Russian, Chinese and Korean dissidents are treated like latter-day Gandhis, the regular weekend ‘Yellow Vests’ riots in France are ignored. No wonder millions are turning to Russian, Middle Eastern and American news networks as well as the social media for their news.
The only cure is to end government control over the BBC and allow the public to elect the corporation’s board members. That’s what Jeremy Corbyn says he’s going to do when Labour win the next election. Let’s make sure he does!