Monday, August 30, 2021

End of an era

Few suppose Joe Biden will lose any sleep over the concerns of his European allies who are now bleating on about America’s hasty retreat from Afghanistan, let alone the wails of their expendable Afghan servants left stranded at Kabul airport when the last US troops pull out at the end of the month.
    The last few days have been a bitter lesson in real-politik for British politicians who still talk, at least in public, about a “special relationship” with the USA, whilst there’s a growing realisation amongst the movers and shakers of the European Union (EU) that their supposed ‘super-power’ status is just another Brussels pipe-dream.
    Britain, which still has the fifth greatest economy in the world, can of course stand on its own two feet. But Johnson prefers to spout nonsense about “Global Britain” rather than take any serious steps to break the slavish dependency on the USA, scrap the £billions spent on the useless US Trident nuclear weapons system and use the money saved to develop a truly independent economy for the benefit of the millions who live here.
    Tony Blair and his kind can drivel on for as long they like about “human rights” and “imbecilic” US decisions, but no-one takes them seriously – least of all anyone who counts in America’s ruling circles. The Americans are leaving Afghanistan because they’ve lost the war. Crocodile tears are the most that the Afghans left behind to the tender mercies of the Taliban can expect.

opportunity knocks

Sharon Graham has won the election to be the next general secretary of Unite. She succeeds the 70-year-old veteran Len McCluskey, who prolonged his stay at the top table but finally stepped down this year after 10 years in office. Unite’s first woman leader received almost 5,000 more votes than her nearest rival in a three-horse race that ended this week. She will now take over from Len McCluskey as leader of the second biggest union in the country.
    As usual these days the race to the top was, in practice, confined to three full-time officers and the factions they head. Whilst all three claimed to be following in the footsteps of Len McCluskey the only one who had their old chief’s blessing was Steve Turner – and that was only grudgingly given after Len’s chosen man, Howard Beckett, dropped out when he realised he couldn’t win. Turner – the official broad left ‘United Left’ candidate – came a credible second whilst Gerard Coyne – the right-wing ‘moderate’ – was well behind in third place.
    Sharon Graham coyly says she’s “not a member of any Unite or Labour faction – other than my own supporters group”, which though technically true masks the fact that her ‘Workers Unite’ group has built up a very powerful left-leaning platform supported by some Trotskyist movements within the union and focused on grass-roots issues to get the vote out.
    Turner relied on a run-down broad left machine that simply could not cope with the demands of social media or the lock-down restrictions imposed on public work during the campaign, while Coyne mistakenly hoped that the backing of the Murdoch press and dog-whistle support from Starmer & Co would be enough to turn the tables on his ‘left’ rivals.
    Sharon Graham says: “My slogan all along has been ‘Back to the workplace’ to build the union to fight for jobs, wages and conditions.” Let’s hope she does so.

Protecting our Beautiful Blue Planet

 By John Maryon

Yuri Gagarin was amazed as he observed the natural wonders of the Earth from the Soviet spacecraft Vostok 1 on 12th April 1961. The world's first cosmonaut said " Orbiting the Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it".
    Pollution and the depletion of natural resources affect our quality of life but the greatest threat to all life on Earth comes from global warming caused by a build-up of greenhouse gases. The most important are Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide and Fluorinated Gases in addition to the presence of water vapour. These gases allow sunlight to pass through but have far less transparency to infra-red radiation reflected back from the Earth's surface. This greenhouse effect could develop into a runaway form such as is believed to have destroyed the environment on Venus causing the oceans to boil away.
    Carbon Dioxide, (CO2), released from burning fossil fuel is the major cause of global warming and climate change. The problem is being made worse by the destruction of rain forests in Brazil and other areas which retained large quantities fixed carbon. Until recently the US administration was in denial of the problem, driven by political and commercial motives. They have now rejoined the Paris Climate Accord and accepted that action has to be taken. Global temperatures have almost reached the 1.5 °C limit and urgent action is required.
    The Paris agreement to limit temperature rise allowed individual countries to set their own targets taking account of trees, soil and oceans to absorb CO2. Climate finance would be made available to enable poorer countries to adapt and switch to renewable energy.
    The New Communist Party's policy for a Planned and Integrated Energy Strategy highlights the challenges facing Britain and puts forward active measures to overcome the problems. Privatisation of energy utilities has made essential planning virtually impossible due to the desire for quick profit and short termism. We call for full public ownership of the power generating capacity and supply networks. The infrastructure does not exist for a rapid transfer to all electrical vehicles making the shift from private car and road freight to public transport and rail goods transport important. Investment is required to convert all existing diesel rail links to electric, restoring rural bus services and for the development of hydrogen engines that only exhaust water vapour as they produce power.
    A balanced and safe energy mix for electricity generation will require more investment into land and off-shore wind farms, solar power, tidal and wave energy. It may be possible in the near future to collect solar energy from space with large collectors and beam it down to Earth.
    Coal fired power stations could possibly be equipped with carbon entrapment technology. CO2 is then captured at source and transported to an underground storage area. Such power plants or a new generation of much safer nuclear units are required as base stations for those times when the sun does not shine or the wind does not blow.
    Nuclear power remains an option but it is controversial and comes with its own risks including the problems of nuclear waste storage, high decommissioning costs and possible pollution. Current proposals for joint Chinese/French ventures are in jeopardy as the government comes under increasing pressure from the US to cut investment ties with China. Energy from nuclear sources is a risky proposition due to the catastrophic events which may result due to human error, technical failure, cyber-attacks, natural disasters, war or terrorism. Reactors may be of a type that can breed fuel for nuclear weapons or to produce further energy. Future developments may include more advanced types of Reactor such as the Molten Salt unit that uses Thorium as fuel and may have certain advantages from safety and security considerations. Many now consider that Fusion will be the power source of the future.
    The New Communist Party is firmly opposed to fracking technology to extract gas from rock formations; a process which can pollute water tables and cause subsidence. Fracking increases CO2 levels by producing more fossil fuel, that was locked away, now to be burnt. During the operation there is the risk of releasing methane into the air and water systems.
    Many northern British cities still bear the scars of the Industrial Revolution. Blackened stonework on buildings being testament to the grim reality of the environmental destruction that was caused. Moths and butterflies developed into new sub-species to blend with the soot.
    Britain possess the technology to become carbon zero. The NCP calls for all new homes, schools and public sector buildings to be developed in this manner. A combination of solar power, heat pumps to upgrade ground-heat and solar heated water, along with improved levels of thermal insulation can make a big contribution. Tree planting and green spaces are essential to absorb CO2.
    It is not only climate change that causes concern. We live in an age of colossal waste and rampant pollution in which we are consuming our natural resources faster than they can be replenished. A build-up of microscopic plastic particles and nuclear waste dumping by Japan into the Pacific along with oil spills all contribute to the contamination of the seas. Fish and small mammals struggle to cope in our polluted rivers. Greater efforts should be made to make the polluter pay the price.
    One of the more obvious areas of concern is that of packaging. Plastic bags are out but but the problem goes much deeper. Most packaging includes plastic rather than card or paper. In many cases it is totally unnecessary being solely a means of making the product more attractive. It should be made a legal requirement that almost all types of packaging should be capable of being recycled. More domestic appliances are now unrepairable and often it is not possible to even replace batteries. We have become a throw away society. It is less costly to dump in developing countries than to bother with recycling. Inbuilt obsolescence, trendy fashion and dubious marketing gimmicks are the hallmarks of a capitalist market.
    We clearly cannot continue in this manner. A strong political will and the acceptance of a shared responsibility for our actions are required. The NCP calls for new policies and a new way of thinking that puts environmental issues above the greedy pursuit of profits. Communists will respect and live in harmony with the natural world including all the other creatures with which we share a common home.
    In 2019 China manufactured 80 per cent of the world's solar panels. The US instead of applauding this achievement has made attempts to wreck the industry by making unfounded allegations of human rights abuses to curb sales. It is the gas guzzling US itself that is a major cause of world pollution and shows little respect for both its own citizens or others with its permanent aggression to bomb and sanction the world.
    The New Communist Party stands with the Greens in their sincere and noble aims of protecting our planet. We also believe, however, that success involves a greater political dimension that tackles the ideological causes behind the problems. Environmental protection cannot be considered in isolation. It needs to be seen as a part of the larger class struggle.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Defend Ken Loach!

Ken Loach has been expelled from the Labour Party. Loach says he was kicked out after he refused to “disown” other victims of the Starmer purge. “I am proud to stand with the good friends and comrades victimised by the purge. There is indeed a witch hunt,” Loach said last weekend. “Starmer and his clique will never lead a party of the people. We are many, they are few. Solidarity.”
     A life-long socialist, Loach never hid his past support for Trotskyist movements and George Galloway’s Respect Party when returned to the Labour fold in 2017. But his expulsion has nothing to do with what Loach did or did not do in the past. He’s been hounded out because of his high-profile backing of Jeremy Corbyn and his principled support for the Palestinians that includes support for the boycott Israel campaign.
     Twenty MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, along with five members of the House of Lords, have signed a statement in support of the campaigning film director. Headed by Richard Burgon, the Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group, the statement said Loach was an “outstanding socialist” whose expulsion was “shameful”. Now the Zionists are demanding their heads as well. The veteran English film director has become
the latest victim of the Blairite campaign to drive all the prominent Corbynistas out of the Labour Party. He certainly won’t be the last.


Sunday, August 15, 2021

End of the road in Afghanistan

As the last American troops withdraw from Afghanistan the sectarian Taliban Muslim militia has seized nine provincial capitals in an offensive than now directly threatens what poses as the national government in Kabul. In 2001 an American-led invasion drove the Taliban out of Kabul to install a puppet regime in the “war on terror” that the imperialists launched following the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. The invasion of Iraq soon followed along with “regime change” in Libya and a less than covert bid to do the same in Syria that was thwarted by the steadfastness of the Syrian people and the timely intervention of the Russian air force.
     American forces, and those of their NATO allies including Britain, installed a puppet regime in Kabul which they said would bring prosperity and democracy to Afghanistan.
    Twenty years later the Americans and their allies are leaving with their tails between their legs while the Taliban, which is backed by Pakistani intelligence, battles it out with northern and western war-lords who can count on the support of Russia, India and Iran.
    Some 2,300 American soldiers were killed in the Afghan campaign and over 20,600 wounded. Hundreds of mercenaries called “contractors” also died at the hands of the Afghan militias and while no-one in the West bothers to accurately count the Afghan losses most observers believe that about 241,000 people were killed in the Afghan and Pakistan war zone since 2001. More than 71,000 of those killed were civilians.
    Some senior British officers and Tory politicians who really should know better are now bleating on about the “betrayal” of the Afghans, They would be better advised to heed Kipling’s words after the illusionary British victory in the Boer War: “Let us admit it fairly, as a business people should. We have had no end of a lesson: it will do us no end of good”.

Another French connection

 by Ben Soton

Baptiste Series 2, currently showing on BBC1, Sundays at 9pm; also available on BBC iPlayer. Created by: Harry Williams, Jack Williams. Written by: Harry Williams, Jack Williams, Kelly Jones, Catherine Moulton. Stars: Tchéky Karyo, Anastasia Hille, Barbara Sarafian.

BBC1 is currently screening the second and final series of Baptiste, a gripping drama in which the retired French police officer Julien Baptiste (played by Tchéky Karyo) tracks down missing persons, those whom the regular police are incapable of locating. The drama emerged from an earlier series, The Missing, originally shown in 2014, in which the main character played a prominent role. The French detective was later revived when the first Baptiste series was launched in 2019.
    In the current series the family of the British Ambassador to Hungary, Emma Chambers (played by Fiona Shaw), goes missing and she uses Baptiste to find them. The search leads them to a Hungarian far-right party and its links to an even more sinister terrorist group known as Gomorrah. In episode three a Hungarian far-right politician uses a children’s story as the basis for a speech she is about to make, showing the simplistic and childlike nature of their arguments. At face value, the programme dismisses the view that the European Union  is an oasis of enlightenment, and that Brexit Island is a bastion of ignorance.
    Episodes so far have been dominated by flash-backs between past and present. The purpose of this technique is to keep the viewer focussed but equally it can also cause confusion.
    The event that separates past and present to us is a massacre by the fascist terror group Gomorrah, in which Chambers is seriously injured and Baptiste has a nervous breakdown. As the series progresses it appears that Gomorrah is the key to the disappearance of Chambers’ family. Meanwhile, the sub-plots based around Baptiste’s chaotic personal life also feature.
    Baptiste raises the issue of why people go missing. An estimated 170,000 go missing every year, an equivalent to one person every 90 seconds. Around 70,000 of these are children, many of whom are in local authority care – known as ‘Looked After Children’.
    Previous series of Baptiste and The Missing have focussed on the global sex industry and the trafficking that accompanies it as a possible reason why many of the people, particularly women and children, disappear.
    A television series set in Hungary, involving the British ambassador with a French police officer, is a reminder that we live in an interconnected world. The Hungarian police are portrayed as incompetent, corrupt and possibly in league with the far-right. Ironically, the British police, who would normally be involved with such a high-level disappearance, are nowhere to be seen. Is this part of the BBC’s Remainer agenda, which views this country as being left isolated after Brexit?
    When it transpired that the British husband of the Hungarian extremist leader is the mastermind behind Gomorrah my fears came to light. The narrative promoted by the series is as follows: Britain has left the EU, whilst the far-right are gaining ground in Hungary. The two events are connected. The British ambassador, left disabled after a shooting, represents Britain isolated and weakened after Brexit. The saviour is a retired Frenchman, acting out of good will.
    The series is soon to reach its climax. I am anticipating a dramatic ending as well as a resolution of Baptiste’s personal problems. When watching the BBC, however, beware false narratives.

Monday, August 09, 2021

Support the Struggle of the Communist Party of Cuba!

Solidarity Resolution by Communist and Workers' Parties in Support of
the Struggle of the Communist Party of Cuba

The imperialists are becoming more blatant in their attempts to topple the socialist system in Cuba.

The recent anti-government protests in Cuba are a product of the relentless maneuvers against the country staged by the US over a long period of time to obliterate the Cuban revolution.

Since the victory of the Cuban revolution, the US has committed ceaseless acts of military intervention, subversion and sabotage as well as economic blockade against Cuba under its scheme to stifle the first socialist country in the Western hemisphere by all means.

Lately, the US, in collusion with a handful of counter-revolutionary elements in Cuba, has been doggedly resorting to psychological conspiracy warfare and tactics of social disruption in order to undermine people's faith in the Communist Party and socialist system, and create and aggravate political instability in the country.

The reality shows that “peaceful co-existence” the US advocates is only a sly trick to find an easy way of fulfilling their aggressive ambition by instilling illusions about capitalism into anti-imperialist and independent countries.

The nature of imperialism never changes.

The lessons of history testify that we can defend the gains of revolution, socialist system and people's dignity only when we do not indulge in any kind of fantasy about imperialism, but constantly intensify the struggle against it.

The US is terribly mistaken about the unyielding faith and will of the Communist Party and people of Cuba who had opened up their way to the socialist cause with their blood and have stood strong and pulled through the protracted sanctions and blockade imposed by the imperialists and all other hardships.

Communist and Workers' Parties greatly appreciate the will of the Communist Party of Cuba to protect the sovereignty and dignity of the country and defend the socialist system to the end, resolutely opposing the vicious attempts of the US to topple its system, and we express strong solidarity with the Communist Party of Cuba.

Communist and Workers' Parties oppose and condemn in the strongest terms the immoral US sanctions and blockade against Cuba and demand that all sanctions and blockade which violate the Cuban people's rights to existence and development be lifted.

Communist and Workers' Parties will consistently and actively support and encourage the struggle of the Communist Party of Cuba and the Cuban government and people to firmly defend and advance the cause of socialism.

SolidNet Parties
  1. Communist Party of Argentina
  2. Communist Party of Armenia
  3. Communist Party of Australia
  4. Communist Party of Azerbaidjan
  5. Democratic Progressive Tribune, Bahrain
  6. Communist Party of Bangladesh
  7. Workers' Party of Bangladesh
  8. Communist Party of Belarus
  9. Brazilian Communist Party
  10. Communist Party of Brazil
  11. Communist Party of Britain
  12. New Communist Party of Britain
  13. Communist Party of Bulgaria
  14. Party of the Bulgarian Communists
  15. Colombian Communist Party
  16. People's Vanguard Party, Costa Rica
  17. Socialist Workers' Party of Croatia
  18. Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia
  19. Communist Party of Denmark
  20. Communist Party in Denmark
  21. Egyptian Communist Party
  22. Unified Communist Party of Georgia
  23. German Communist Party
  24. Communist Party of Greece
  25. Hungarian Workers' Party
  26. Communist Party of India (Marxist)
  27. Communist Party of India
  28. Communist Party of Kurdistan-Iraq
  29. Communist Party of Israel
  30. Communist Party (Italy)
  31. Italian Communist Party
  32. Jordanian Communist Party
  33. Communist Party of Kazakhstan
  34. Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan
  35. Workers' Party of Korea
  36. Lao People's Revolutionary Party
  37. Lebanese Communist Party
  38. Communist Party of Malta
  39. Communist Party of Mexico
  40. Popular Socialist Party of Mexico
  41. Party of Communists of Republic of Moldova
  42. Communist Party of Norway
  43. Communist Party of Pakistan
  44. Palestinian Communist Party
  45. Party of the People, Panama
  46. Paraguayan Communist Party
  47. Peruvian Communist Party
  48. Philippine Communist Party [PKP-1930]
  49. Communist Party of Poland
  50. Portuguese Communist Party
  51. Romanian Socialist Party
  52. Communist Party of the Russian Federation
  53. Russian Communist Workers' Party
  54. Communist Party of Soviet Union
  55. Union of Communist Parties-CPSU
  56. New Communist Party of Yugoslavia
  57. Communists of Serbia
  58. Communist Party of Slovakia
  59. South African Communist Party
  60. Communist Party of Spain
  61. Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain
  62. Communist Party of Sri Lanka
  63. Communist Party of Swaziland
  64. Communist Party of Sweden
  65. Syrian Communist Party
  66. Syrian Communist Party (Unified)
  67. Communist Party of Tadjikistan
  68. Communist Party of Turkey
  69. Communist Party of Ukraine
  70. Union of Communists of Ukraine
  71. Communist Party of Uruguay
  72. Communist Party USA
  73. Communist Party of Venezuela

Other Parties 

  •  Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
  • Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist)
  • Communist Revolutionary Party of France
  • The Communist League Finland
  • Communist Party of Germany
  • Communist Party of Mauritius
  • National Socialist Party, Romania
  • Communist Party (Switzerland)
  • Socialist Workers Party, USA

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Health is not a commodity!

Secret plans to withdraw hospital care from the over-70s in the case of a catastrophic pandemic have come out this week. According to revelations in the mainstream media elderly people would be denied treatment to prevent the hospitals from being overwhelmed during a health crisis. Instead they would be placed on an “end of life pathway” reminiscent of the euphemisms used by the death doctors of the Third Reich to justify the “mercy killing” of those the Nazis deemed unfit to live.
     The strategy, drawn up in 2017 and 2018, reportedly stipulated that in a “severe” flu pandemic, the health secretary could authorise medics to prioritise some patients over others with people in nursing homes offered “end of life pathways” instead of medical assistance. Under the plan, the triaging process would be based on patients' “probability of survival” rather than clinical need.
    The Government says the proposals related to “hypothetical scenarios” and claim they were never adopted as official policy. But Age UK charity director Caroline Abrahams claims that Britain had come “perilously close” to an approach of this sort at the height of the pandemic last year.
    The Johnson government was slow to take action from the very start clearly embracing the crackpot do-nothing “herd immunity” theory that was followed by the Trump administration in the USA and the Bolsonaro regime in Brazil with disastrous consequences for millions of people left defenceless against the coronavirus plague. Though the Government did eventually yield to scientific pressure to bring in the national lockdowns that curbed the plague before the vaccines were developed some 42,000 elderly people died from Covid in care homes -- largely spread by infected arrivals discharged from hospitals to free up beds,
    Dominic Cummings maintains it is “complete nonsense” to say that the government “put a shield around care homes”. According to Johnson’s embittered former guru “the opposite happened” as the NHS “sent people with Covid back to care homes”.
    There’s going to be an independent public inquiry into the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. But it’s not going to start its proceedings until the spring of next year. We can’t wait that long.
    Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader, called for a people’s inquiry into Covid. It’s already begun with the Keep Our NHS Public campaign.
    Chaired by the human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield QC, the people’s inquiry has held nine sessions gathering evidence from expert witnesses, key workers, patients, and bereaved people. The People’s Covid Inquiry has recently published interim recommendations and it is expected to publish its final report and recommendations in the autumn.
    In the meantime it has concluded that the delay in recognising the gravity of the situation was caused by a failure of leadership and the deaths of 150,000 people, most of whom died needlessly, have been the result of incompetence. Timings of lockdowns and failure to put in place travel restrictions and quarantine contributed significantly to accelerating the spread of Covid.
    We want a health service that is free at the point of need. The service and the morale of its workers must be reinstated to the full, to guarantee the sick, young and elderly, receive the treatment and service needed, including dental, fully supported by our tax system and at no extra cost to the patients and their families. It is the workers who create the wealth by their toil and provide the funding in the form of taxes, not the bourgeoisie, who live off the backs of the workers. We will continue to fight to save our services.
    A national health service, delivered free to all at the time of need, is an essential requirement if people are to play an active part in society. The capitalists view health as a commodity. We do not.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Pay the Nurses, fund the NHS

Nurses are gearing up for a “summer of action” over pay following the Government’s derisory three per cent award that the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said amounts to a cut after inflation is taken into account. The RCN is organising demonstrations across the country and a consultative pay ballot in the run-up to its annual conference in September. Unison and the British Medical Association (BMA) are sounding out their members on future industrial action for higher pay.
    Whilst the Tories bleat that their award is higher than the initial one per cent they offered in March, it is still well short of the 12.5 per cent demand from nursing staff or the similar demands of the GMB and Unite, who also organise workers in the health sector.
    Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under attack this week after he tried to dodge being 'pinged' for self-isolation – a day after announcing that so-called vaccine passports would be required for entry to nightclubs, concerts and other large public events from September.
    Meanwhile the knives are out for Johnson following a Tory dip in the opinion polls, which his rivals say is down to Johnson’s incompetent handling of the lockdown lifting. The latest YouGov poll put the Tories down six points to 38 per cent last week, just four points over Labour, whilst the minor parties – the Liberal Democrats and the Greens – also gained three points at the expense of the Conservatives. On this basis a general election would produce a hung parliament dependent on the whims of the Scottish nationalists and Northern Ireland’s unionist parties.
    Some Tory backbenchers say that momentum is growing to ditch Johnson in favour of his Chancellor, Rishi Sunak. But this may be premature. Sunak is undoubtedly a very ambitious man – but he probably still needs a few more years in high office before reaching out for the premiership and he certainly needs to reach some sort of understanding with the Remainer grandees to secure a seamless succession.
    This should be a golden opportunity for Labour to regain lost ground by backing the health workers to the hilt. The Corbynistas have pledged full support. But all we’ve got from Sir Keir Starmer are some mealy-mouthed words about fair pay for nurses. Starmer said the three per cent offer was “not fair” – but he refuses to endorse the union claims or to say what he thinks would be “fair”.
    Millions of working people are eternally grateful for the dedication and sacrifice of the health service workers who are on the front-line in the battle against the coronavirus plague. Opinion polls show that most of them support the nurses’ demands. But far from heeding the voices on the street, Starmer would rather go down the road of the Blairites and Zionists to pursue pointless vendettas against tiny Trotskyist sects in the mistaken belief that this will give him some street-cred with northern workers and chalk-up some more brownie points with what is perceived to be the dominant wing of the ruling class.
    The entire labour movement needs to close ranks around the NHS workers’ pay campaign to force the Government to respond realistically to their just demands and to provide concrete solidarity if they are forced to take industrial action later in the year.

An anti-vaxxer’s pipedream

by Ben Soton

The Pandemic Plot (Ben Hope, Book 23) by Scott Mariani, HarperCollins, 2021.
Paperback: 400pp, rrp £7.99

The Pandemic Plot is a novel you are just as likely to see in your local Tesco as in Waterstones or WH Smith; it is, after all, in the Sunday Times’ Top Five best seller list. The title is topical in the current climate, which is why I considered it worth reading.
    The novel is one of many based around the former SAS major and theology student Ben Hope. Hope is an emotionally dysfunctional action hero with similarities to Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt. Like Dirk Pitt, Hope discovered he had a son who was conveniently hidden from him until reaching adulthood. In defence of Ben Hope and his creator, Scott Mariani, he is a more believable character as are his stories, being better paced with the plots containing stories from the past.
    Meanwhile, unlike the original action hero James Bond, who works directly for the state, Hope runs his own company based in France, the interestingly named Le Val institute. In other words, a privatised action hero who does not follow orders from anyone else.
    In the novel, Hope discovers a rogue pharmaceutical firm has been selling chemical weapons to terrorists and rogue states. The firm in question, the Galliard Group, has its origins in the First World War with attempts to create mustard gas. At this point I realised the novel was leading the reader down the conspiracy theory path.
    In reality the 1918 influenza pandemic, misleadingly called the “Spanish flu”, started in the USA and spread to Europe via American troop ships whilst Western governments have been less than covertly supporting terrorism against socialist and secular governments for decades – no conspiracy here.
    This plotline, however, is essentially a narrative of the right or even far-right. A shady corporation run by an evil genius, with no reference to capitalism as an economic system. This evil genius, or secretive cabal of individuals, needs to be brought down by a lone, slightly dysfunctional hero. Once this has been achieved the world can go back to normal; in other words, the system is basically fine, it just needs the odd bad apple removed. This narrative has similarities with the Q-Anon conspiracies that form the basis of Donald Trump’s support in the USA.
    I almost laughed aloud when the villains were defeated literally by two men and a dog, in a somewhat anti-climactic ending. Meanwhile, the novel’s epilogue contains a bizarre ‘what if’ scenario about sinister men in white coats unleashing viruses on the population. It continues with mutterings about vaccines not being much better than the actual virus. I would not be surprised if this novel became popular amongst COVID-19 conspiracists, whose actions only serve to undermine public health and function as foot soldiers for the most reactionary sections of capitalism.