Monday, February 28, 2022

What it means to be a communist in 2022

by Theo Russell

A contribution to the joint NCP-RCPB-ML seminar held recently in London

A thorough understanding of Marxist-Leninist theory and philosophy - dialectics, a materialist, scientific and multi faceted view of the world. Thorough knowledge of the contributions of Stalin, Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and other revolutionary thinkers.
    Applying correct Marxist-Leninist positions to real day to day problems, understanding the errors of right and left revisionism, and of anarchism, and their relationship with bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideology.
    Understanding the different trends within bourgeois ideology, liberal and reactionary bourgeois ideology (e.g. in different periods the bourgeoisie moves from one to the other), and that in normal times, they are not the same as fascists (a common ultra-leftist error).
    Thus our fight with both Tories and right-wing Labour is against their upholding neo-liberal capitalism at home and imperialism abroad, but at the same time we still enjoy extensive democratic rights which have been won in battles from the English Revolution onwards. The same can be said of most advanced capitalist states. It’s important to remember that the Bolsheviks had to work secretly underground under the brutal Czarist dictatorship.
    Understanding that even under bourgeois rule, and when there is no possibility of revolutionary change, the working class can still be mobilised to make enormous gains, as in the period of the 1945 -51 post-war Labour government, that such reforms can strengthen the morale of the organised working class, but never losing sight of the need to educate the vanguard and to take up the fight to achieve socialism when the time comes.
    A thorough understanding of the bourgeois, capitalist state in the epoch of imperialism and monopoly finance capital, which rides roughshod over the rights of workers and the small bourgeoisie alike. Knowing our enemy well and understanding that bourgeois democracy is only genius democracy for the bourgeoisie. This explains why in the same breath as telling socialist countries to adopt multi-party “democracy” and the “rule of law”, the dominant capitalist states also back violent subversion and corrupt and undemocratic regimes.
    Understanding that the handful of rich capitalist states still enjoy overwhelming dominance over the world economy, allowing them to use sanctions and financial subversion as powerful weapons, but also that this domination – especially in the fields of science & technology – is on the wane.
    The ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood and to search out truth from all sources, especially communist and honest, progressive sources. This may seem obvious to communists, but it distinguishes us from those who pose as leftist or revolutionary, but who have not left behind bourgeois / petty-bourgeois thinking, and are still infected with the lies of the capitalist censored mass media.
    Understanding the need to always work in alliances, first and foremost with communists and socialists, including a non-sectarian approach and working with organisations on vitally important issues while disagreeing on other issues.
    Understanding that we can ideologically side with all sorts of strange bedfellows, such as during the Brexit referendum, and right now we would agree with both S Khan and P Patel that the Met Police have to clean out the racist and sexist pigs from their animal farm. This is something which U-Ls get into huge theoretical twists about, but which also shows the world that we share the basic norms of democracy and civilised life with the masses.
    Likewise, understanding that if and when socialism is achieved, there is no magic wand which turns the masses into revolutionaries, but that you have to work with and bring with you a very wide alliance of forces to continue the revolution.
    The ability to work in all working class and progressive organisations democratically and collectively, not imposing our ideas on others but putting forward correct positions and proposals and accepting the decision of the collective without question. Never claiming to be better than the collective or the leadership.
    Setting an example of hard work, dedication and upholding an organisation's principles, eg in a trade union working to recruit members, build branches, inform and educate members, support strike action, and never fail to join picket lines – the coal face of working class struggle; if working with the Labour Party, always turn out for canvassing and any other tasks the local branch sets.
    Never to expect too much, to be prepared to continue working for months, years and decades with possibly little or no result, but when the class is ready to move and take up the fight, to be in position where you are known and trusted by many who are not in our party, are not communists, but who know that we fight for the same goals as they do.
    There are no easy solutions to the difficult and complex problems which life throws up.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Round Two to Putin

Russia’s intervention in Ukraine will, hopefully, mark the beginning of the end of a crisis that was entirely the product of imperialist intrigue.
    In 2014 Anglo‑American and Franco‑German imperialism brought down the elected government of Ukraine. They propped up a fascist regime in Kiev that has banned communist and other left-wing movements, in pursuit of violent sectarianism that forced the Crimean republic to secede and the people of eastern Ukraine to take up the gun and proclaim their independence.
    These days the Ukrainian government is little more than a US protectorate. Its refusal to implement the Minsk accords and its endless breaches of the cease-fire agreements could only have happened with the blessing of its American mentor.
    The imperialists pose as defenders of ‘human rights’ and ‘international law’ when it suits them but ignore these lofty principles when it comes to the Palestinians under the heel of a brutal Zionist occupation.
    They talk about NATO as if it were some sort of benevolent society set up to guarantee democracy and security in Europe, when it is just another US-led military machine that has brought death and destruction to innocent Africans, Asians, Arabs and Latin Americans over the years.
    These are the people who claim to uphold what they call ‘democracy’ whilst turning a blind eye to the Ukrainian fascists that prop up the puppet government in Kiev and see themselves as the heirs to those who worked with Hitler during the German occupation in the Second World War.
    The Russian move was a timely response to the constant provocations of the Kiev government that has blocked all progress towards resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine over the last eight years. It has, however, provoked a predictable response from the imperialist camp that is now bleating on about the rights of small nations which they claim for Ukraine but deny when it comes to millions of people that they have attacked and tried to enslave over the last 70-odd years.

Question More

Sir Keir Starmer is calling for a ban on the Russia Today (RT) TV station as part of his self-appointed role as cheer-leader for imperialist aggression. The Labour leader says RT is pumping out “misinformation” and pro-Putin “propaganda” and therefore it should have its broadcasting licence withdrawn.
    Starmer first raised this demand two years ago. This time he’s got the backing of Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, who is peeved at the fact that her nationalist rival, Alex Salmond, has a regular slot on the Russian channel.
    But no-one is forced to watch RT and if anyone doesn’t like what they see they can simply switch off or over to another channel. As RT’s Afshin Rattansi says: “We should be hoping that NGOs for free speech – from [Reporters Without Borders] and Amnesty International – will be there to defend this channel against Sir Keir Starmer and the British Labour party who want to ban free speech.”

Monday, February 21, 2022

What it means to be a communist, new and revolutionary today

by Michael Chant

A keynote opening given by the leader of the RCPB-ML at a joint seminar with the NCP that was held recently in London.

Taking the topic at face value, and giving an answer in a nutshell, one could say to be a communist means seeing the face of the New in the crisis of the Old, and working for the necessary change, for the transformation of the Old into the New, with revolutionary sweep.
    Further, one cannot conceive of being a communist without membership of a communist party, a modern type of party which mobilises and organises the people to defend their own interests, collective, individual and the general interests of society.
    And, as both propositions imply, the communist party takes up the problems of the day, whether national or international, with the spirit of proletarian internationalism, in order to provide solutions and to advance the progress of society.
    But, as always, the nub of the definition centres around how the question poses itself. To be a communist is not necessarily synonymous with being new and revolutionary. It is great that in our two parties, if one wants to separate them, we share the name communist; and one has New in its name and the other Revolutionary. I think this emphasises a common aspiration. It is difficult to think of a communist party worthy of the name that is not a party of revolutionary action, and which fights for the New. It seems to us essential that this quality is present.
    Being new and revolutionary is an act of being. In contrast, when it is posed, what it means to be a communist, one is invited to think of ‘communist’ as a category, how many criteria one fulfils, what the communist positions are, and so on. It is interesting how much difference a little ‘a’ can make: from ‘to be a communist’ to ‘to be communist’. In other words, ‘to be communist’ is not a question of ideological beliefs. It is a question of action, of structures, of membership. At the same time, how can it not include being new and revolutionary, immersing oneself in the struggles of the working class and people for their rights and interests, struggles which are in defence of the rights of all, and recognising the urgency of change, having a burning flame that the New has to come into being, since the political, economic, cultural and every other kind of crisis of the Old world is causing havoc and suffering to the people wherever they are in the world. In this respect, being communist is to have an optimism, to see in the movements of the people, whether against war, whether against the anti-social offensive, that the outcome can be something positive, creative, the people mobilised and organised to speak and act in their own name and have fidelity to the ensemble of all human relationships and what they are revealing, most importantly the need for political power. This looks like it is closer to how the question poses itself, and what it means to be a communist, new and revolutionary, today.
    So, ‘today’. This is crucial, because the argument is sometimes put that a communist party can only be revolutionary when there is a ‘revolutionary’ situation. So, then, what it means to be new and revolutionary today. It is the revolutionary nature and character of the party that matters, the revolutionary culture and driving force within it. But it is true that the revolutionary actions of the communist party are not to be understood as storming Parliament or Windsor Castle with an armed people’s militia. Nor is it the answer to return to a catechism of Lenin’s words that a revolutionary situation consists of when working people do not want to live in the old way and the ruling class cannot rule in the old way. Or, one could look at it from the point of view that that situation characterises the present, with the destruction of the public authority!
    But one can characterise the issue as what does the communist party take up for solution in this period of our era. When in the 1980s the world was going through its turning point from flow to ebb of revolution, of which, for example, the coming to power of Gorbachev in the Soviet Union was an example, the conclusion could be drawn that no force could act in the old way. Tony Blair tried to convince the world that there is a Third Way, but his new type of way was not in fact new, but pro-war, anti-worker, pro-covenant thesis.
    What might be said is that what is taken up for solution today is the battle of democracy, of which the defence of the rights of all is part, and which is characterised by the people being the decision-makers versus ‘representatives’ of the people claiming to act in their name but serving a fictitious person of state. In our view, not to engage in this battle of democracy condemns you to extinction today, particularly the communists. So these are crucial fronts of struggle that affect the lives of everyone: for economic well-being, for a ban on the use of force in settling conflicts, for the protection of the environment. It is our view that people are expressing their deepest desires for something new with these demands, which can be characterised as engaging in the battle of democracy, of the necessity to establish an anti-war government.
    Just to quote from the article Era, which Hardial Bains wrote in April 1991: “The main content of the era remains the same, but the forms of struggle have to be changed so that the working people can grasp and fight for the realisation of those demands which could improve their situation, bring peace, and protect the environment. The new situation demands a new approach and solutions that working people want.” So the tasks of today present themselves with profound meaning as engaging in the battle of democracy, taking it through to the end. One could say that communists present one face to the world, not a revolutionary face and a reformist face. It is a matter of our being. The working class will emancipate the whole of humanity through revolution, through the act of emancipating itself.
    In our view, confusion arises when ‘revolution’ becomes an act of belief rather than a historical outcome of the working class and people participating in making history. In this sense, ‘revolution’ as a belief simply says that the bourgeois ruling is overthrown by force with an act of revolution, to be replaced by the proletariat ruling by force. But the state form must be changed profoundly, and it is not a question of force – it is a question of bringing into being those arrangements that empower the people to be the decision-makers. We stand with the slogan: “There Is An Alternative! One Humanity, One Struggle!”
    That is to say, people are the history makers. How can the communists mobilise and organise the working class and people to this end, with this consciousness? The communists are not in a competition to best describe the ills of capitalism and of US imperialism striving for domination in the world. Communists are striving to develop the proletarian front and to provide an alternative, so that the New can overcome the resistance of the Old and prevail.
    Not only is the history-making of the 1917 October Revolution still unfolding – but the battle of democracy from the time of the English Civil Wars has still to be brought to completion! It is not a matter of indifference whether this battle is joined or not!
    The working class must stand at the head of the struggles of the people to turn things around in their own favour, and modern definitions are needed, not catechisms. That means that organising work for the communists takes pride of place. This means advancing step by step, accomplishment by accomplishment, dealing with the state disinformation that puts a veil over the need for political power. The character of the veil is that the people are told there is no question of achieving that power for themselves, but only replacing one set of ‘representatives’ by another, left-wing versus right-wing. In this way, the conception that the people are being deprived of decision-making power gets thoroughly obscured or put off sine die [indefinitely]. We need a vantage point and a line of march to impart to the working class and people!
    So, very briefly, that is what I wanted to say on what it means to be a communist – new and revolutionary – today!

Starmer the warmonger

Sir Keir Starmer has denounced the Stop the War movement as some sort of tool of Russia in a desperate attempt to further ingratiate himself with what he thinks is the dominant section of the British ruling class. Writing in the Guardian following talks with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels the Labour leader says the anti-war movement is at best 'naive' and at worst a force bolstering those who threaten democracies while telling the Times that Labour is the “party of NATO”.
   Conjuring up the ghosts of Labour’s old right wing Starmer said “Attlee, Healey and Bevin saw communism for what it was and were prepared to stand up to its aggression,” he said. “Today’s Labour party has the same clear-eyed view of the current regime in the Kremlin. We know, as they did, that bullies only respect strength. Russian tanks sit, engines revving, on the verge of annexing Ukraine but protest placards waved here by the usual suspects condemn NATO not Moscow... to condemn NATO is to condemn the guarantee of democracy and security it brings and which our allies in eastern and central Europe are relying on as the sabre-rattling from Moscow grows ever louder”.
   The people of Serbia, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria will, no doubt, have other ideas about NATO.
Starmer may think that posing as a super-patriot will convince the ruling class of his usefulness when the time comes to get rid of Boris Johnson. He also clearly believes that there is widespread public support for wars and military interventions in Britain. He’s wrong both counts. The Tories don’t need Starmer and the people don’t want war.

Bye Bye Cressida Dick

No one will shed any tears over the departure of Dame Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police chief who was finally forced to resign after a damning indictment from the Mayor of London last week.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was "not satisfied" Dame Cressida could "root out the racism, sexism, homophobia, bullying, discrimination and misogyny that still exist" in the force or restore Londoners' trust in the Metropolitan Police.
   The Labour politician said the last straw was the Commissioner’s less than robust response to police watchdog's report into the Charing Cross cops who joked about rape, LGBT people and violence towards women on the social media. Khan said that "the response from the Commissioner wasn't up to the scale of the change required in the Met Police Service".
   It’s surprising it took so long for Khan to see through her though to be fair, Cressida Dick’s talent was in brushing aside criticism from the public the police claim to protect. . Repeated claims of misogyny and racism in the force; the dismal handling of the “spycops” scandal and the “partygate” investigation and accusations of that the Met had failed to properly investigate claims of indecent exposure by one of the force who raped and killed a woman in 2021.
None of us will miss Cressida Dick. Whether her successor will be any better remains to be seen.

Black Humour from a Dark Age

 by Ben Soton

Hurdy Gurdy by Christopher Wilson. Faber & Faber 2021. Hardback: 256pp; rrp £14.99; Paperback: 272pp; rrp £8.99;  Kindle: 208pp; £5.03.

A comedy set during a global pandemic is inevitable in an era dominated by the Covid plague. Christopher Wilson’s 2021 novel, however, is set during the much deadlier pandemic of the mid 1300s known as the ‘Great Pestilence’. We now call it the Black Death.
    The central character, Dickory, is a monk in the fictional Order of St Odo the Disfigured and the book, named after a popular medieval musical instrument, delves into many of the similarities between the two pandemics. The most obvious being the bizarre conspiracy theories that spread across the highways of medieval Europe and today’s Information Superhighway.
    European Jews were heavily scapegoated during the Black Death. In Germany, the Jews were blamed for poisoning water supplies, and many were drowned in the Rhine. Meanwhile today conspiracy theorists blame the super-rich, the Rockefeller dynasty and the Rothschilds (who just happen to be Jewish) for using the pandemic as a means to establish World domination.
    The novel takes the form of an innocent’s odyssey through plague-ridden England. After his fellow monks are wiped out by the plague, Dickory is forced to venture into the world beyond the monastery walls. Brother Dickory, who had spent most of his life confined to a monastery, discovers the outside world. For the first time in his life, he discovers the pleasures of women. He also experiences the ignorance and superstition of the age.
    He comes across a band of blind men led by a one-eyed man. These men were led to believe that the plague was spread through the eyes, hence removal of the said organs would protect you from the plague. Dickory is himself put on trial for witchcraft along with a pig whom his accusers believe to be a man in disguise.
    The message of the novel is that we live in age where human knowledge, medical and otherwise, has come a long way since the Middle Ages. Medieval medicine had changed little since Roman times and was based on the teachings of Galen (129 AD–216 AD) and his theory that ill health was caused by an imbalance in the bodies of four humours: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile.
    Science has certainly moved on since the Middle Ages – but even today there are still those who oppose science with their bizarre and dangerous conspiracy theories.

A New Era for World Trade

by John Maryon

We live in the age of state monopoly capitalism in which large corporations, with a monopoly position across a wide range of markets, have become directly connected with government apparatus. Their aim is to use the state and its elected representatives to provide the legal and political frameworks that will enable them to increase their profits. A notable sign of the potential chaos and disorder can be seen in the challenge that exists to capitalist state power by the monopoly capitalists.
    Globalisation, the internationalism of the division of labour, has developed rapidly since the turn of the millennium. It is the product of science, technology and the development of productive forces, and should be at the service of humankind. Everyone should be able to increase their skills, talents and knowledge. But globalisation when put to work by monopoly capitalism is nothing but raw imperialism. Imperialism, through its institutions, has attempted to tighten its grip on the economies of all countries, in particular those of the developing world and others they see as competitive.
    Imperialists will attempt to use extra-governmental organisations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to their advantage. They may be able to remove protective restrictions that would limit imports and deregulate internal markets in terms of trade and services. By removing any restrictions on the movement of capital and eliminating export subsidies together with import tariffs that protect the home markets, a strategy of domination becomes effective. Small, poor countries, which are not capable of competing with the rich states, are confined to becoming suppliers of cheap commodities whilst being forced to import expensive manufactured products.
    Imperialist policies have been opposed by larger developing countries such as India and Brazil – at least when their progressive governments have not been replaced by ones that are allies of the USA. The establishment of regional free-trade areas can have the effect of converting groups of countries into mere satellites of primarily US imperialism. It has not only been the developing nations that have been affected but also inter-imperialist rivalry. Japan could have produced a serious challenge to Boeing with civil aircraft and attempts are now being made to prevent Germany buying cheap gas via Nord Stream 2.
    Secret negotiations started in 2014 between the European Union and USA to form the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Provisions would have allowed for full privatisation of the NHS and a reduction in food safety standards to US levels. Also the greater use of pesticides and genetically modified foods would be approved, along with increased monitoring of the Internet. Fortunately, following consumer resistance and strong opposition negotiations came to an end in 2016 and no agreement was signed.
    The suffocating agenda of blatant interference in the affairs of sovereign nations has been condemned by People's China and Russia. An event of major importance that will have a very dramatic impact on international trade and relations was the adoption by the Chinese Government in 2013 of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This global infrastructure development strategy will boost sustainable world trade, raise nations from poverty and increase international co-operation to a new high level unseen in the past.
    The BRI was put forward by President Xi Jinping just over eight years ago. An initiative that aims to build a trade, investment and infrastructure network connecting Asia with other parts of the world, initially along the ancient Silk Road trade route. Since its inception, a total of over 173 countries and international organisations have signed more than 200 co-operative agreements with China under the BRI. Cumulative trade between China and its partners exceeds $9.2 trillion and direct investment more than $130 billion.
    The scope of the mutually beneficial initiative extends far and wide. In addition to its transcontinental route, a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road includes sea lanes linking China to SE Asia, the South Pacific region, the Middle East and the east coast of Africa. Further afield, a number of countries in South America, including Argentina, have signed memorandums of intent. The socialist countries are partners in the project. The BRI aims to improve co-ordination, expand economic development, extend infrastructure connectivity and strengthen financial strategies. Importantly, it will connect more people and build trust, understanding and friendship.
    A typical project has been the recently opened China–Laos high speed railway. An important transport artery that will provide direct links between the land-locked country and Chinese cities and ports, including the opportunity to run goods trains to Europe. The impact of the BRI has been to provide opportunities in many areas including, the Middle East and Africa, which have until recently been regarded as suppliers of commodities. They are empowered to embark upon independent development, free from US diktat. Syria has now joined the BRI and will have a chance to rebuild itself amidst continued aggression and sanctions from greedy immoral Western States. Syria was in ancient times a part of the original Silk Road.
    Another new and important development is the close partnership established between China and Russia. It is a win–win situation for both countries. Russia will have a guaranteed market for its oil and gas, plus important opportunities to sell high-tech products. China will be able to invest in Russia and export manufactured goods. Russia has given full support to the One China policy, and China fully supports Russian efforts to halt the eastward expansion of NATO.
    The socialist countries have been in the front-line of US interference and aggression as they resist attempts to undermine them. Countries such as Cuba have been able to avoid the capitalist crisis but have to suffer economic sanctions from the USA at a time when they are battling COVID‑19 and a loss of tourist trade. But they have a very good friend in China.
    The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), in particular, has shown the possibility of building an advanced socialist economy in the face of US-inspired sanctions. It caters for the economic, social and cultural needs of its people on the basis of self-reliance with no concessions to capitalist institutions.
    China's trade initiatives, along with mutual assistance, will play an important role in increasing the GDPs of the developing world and overcoming the effects of the Covid pandemic. The days of imperialist exploitation are surely numbered. It is the socialist countries that will be able to help the world recover, with fair trade and respect based upon full socialist principles.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Their crisis – we pay

Some Colombians say their civil war has gone on for so long that most of the fighters now have no idea what started it in the first place. That’s perhaps not surprising, given that it began in 1957. Boris Johnson, however, has no such excuse.
    Johnson’s brief premiership has been marked by a seemingly endless round of scandals. No-one can remember when they began or indeed what they are all about as the reasons all seem to blur as time goes by. Now we’re all awaiting the final stab in the back that will trigger the leadership contest that could end his political career once and for all.
    When it comes the knives will sadly be wielded by Tory backbenchers and not by Sir Keir Starmer, the supposed leader of the Opposition who until recently seemed to prefer hounding out Corbynistas from his ranks rather than rallying Labour’s supporters to challenge the austerity regime of the Johnson government.
    Although some unions are supporting the protests that will take place at the Cost of Living CrisisWe Can’t Pay demonstrations organised by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity this weekend, the whole weight of the labour movement needs to be mobilised around the campaign if it’s to have any effect on the Government.

Israel is an apartheid state

For once, Amnesty International has got it right. Amnesty has published a 280-page report detailing “Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity”, for which ​​“Israeli authorities must be held accountable”.
    The report, compiled over more than four years, analysed decades of legislation and policy that it said proved Palestinians were treated as an inferior racial group. “Israel has established and maintained an institutionalised regime of oppression and domination of the Palestinian population for the benefit of Jewish Israelis – a system of apartheid – wherever it has exercised control over Palestinians’ lives since 1948,” Amnesty said.
    “The USA, the European Union and its member states and the UK, but also those states that are in the process of strengthening their ties – such as some Arab and African states… must recognise that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid and other international crimes,” reads the report.
    Amnesty called on those actors to “use all political and diplomatic tools to ensure Israeli authorities implement the recommendations outlined in this report and review any co-operation and activities with Israel to ensure that these do not contribute to maintaining the system of apartheid”.
    It says that the UN Security Council must “impose targeted sanctions against Israeli officials implicated” and demands an arms embargo on Israel. Amnesty also called for the perpetrators of apartheid to be “brought to justice” through the International Criminal Court.
    The Palestinian BDS National Committee, the broadest Palestinian civil society coalition, has warmly welcomed the Amnesty report condemning Israel’s apartheid regime.
    Amnesty’s rigorously researched report outlines a brutal and intentional system of fragmentation, dispossession, segregation and oppression against the Palestinians Arabs in historic Palestine and around the world as refugees. This system, Amnesty concludes, meets the definition of apartheid under both the Rome Statute and the UN’s Apartheid Convention.
    Like the proverbial stopped clock that’s right twice a day, this human rights organisation that long served imperialism’s interests during the Cold War has finally got it right over Israel.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Power in the Darkness

by Ben Soton

Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages by Dan Jones. Hardback: Apollo (Sept 2021), 720pp; RRP £25; Softback: Apollo (April 2022), 736pp; RRP £12; Kindle: Apollo (Sept 2021), 832pp; £0.99.

Dan Jones is a journalist best known for producing television series such as Secrets of Great British Castles and Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty, and writing popular histories about the Crusades, the Templars and the Wars of the Roses.
    His latest romp through history, which hit the bookshelves last year, covers a thousand-year period from the last days of the Roman Empire to the European conquest of the Americas. The 600-page work is divided into four sections entitled: Imperium (410 – 750AD), Dominion (750–1215AD), Rebirth (1215–1347AD) and Revolution (1347 – 1527AD).
    Feudalism, a complex system based on obligations and duties, was the dominant economic system in Europe at the least throughout the Middle Ages. A system highly skewed in favour of the those at the top, who demanded obligations from those below them and seldom honoured theirs.
    The period covered by Jones, however, begins with a European economy dominated by slavery, the basis of the Roman economy that stretched from Palestine to Scotland and spanned both sides of the Mediterranean, and ends with the early stages of capitalism.
    The author takes a linear approach through, with a focus on particular groups and institutions. These include Romans, Franks, Monks, Mongols and Navigators. Arguably the book focus is primarily on Europe and the Middle East, although a chapter on the Mongols is included as their Empire covered the immense area from Seoul in Korea to the gates of Budapest.
    It was during the Medieval Crusades that the notion of a world divided into distinct civilisations emerged. Most notably the concept of a Christian West and an Islamic East, which became the basis of the reactionary ‘Clash of Civilisations’ theory. On a positive note, Jones rejects this theory and points out that the Crusades were simply a means of cementing the hegemony of the Catholic Church over Western Europe.
    Meanwhile, a chapter entitled {Survivors} covers the numerous rebellions that broke out in the period following the Black Death. Most notable of these was the Peasants’ Revolt in England. This was, however, part of an upturn in the class struggle that took place across Europe. There were uprisings in France, with the movement known as the Jacquerie, and Florence with the Ciompi, as well as student revolts in Bologna.
    The book ends with the sacking of Rome by the armies of the German Holy Roman Emperor Charles V; the event Jones considered to be the end of the Middle Ages.
    What is most concerning is the total lack of Marxist sources in the bibliography. I refer particularly to the works of the famed French historian Marc Bloch, who joined the resistance and was shot by the Gestapo in 1944, or British historians such AL Morton and Christopher Hill.
    Nevertheless, despite obvious flaws, the book is a useful source of reference about an important period in European and World History – the period following the Middle Ages that saw the beginning of European dominance across the globe.

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Johnson in Wonderland

Boris Johnson didn’t amount to much when he was Foreign Minister in Theresa May’s government. His seemingly trivial approach to international diplomacy led the Russians to compare him unflatteringly with his famous Victorian counterpart, calling him Britain’s “New Palmerston”. Few took him seriously and it is even said that President Sisi of Egypt walked out of a meeting with Johnson simply because the conversation did not get beyond the usual pleasantries.
    So we shouldn’t be surprise to see BoJo posing as a great statesman in Kiev in a desperate attempt to show his usefulness to the Biden administration and divert domestic attention away from the ‘partygate’ scandal. But Johnson has, not surprisingly, failed to shake off the pack of Tory back-benchers baying for his blood or attract the attention of Vladimir Putin or the man in the White House Johnson is so keen to impress.
    Johnson knows that the real reason that so many Tories are turning on him is because they believe they will never be able to restore the ‘special relationship’ that many of them think is vital for the survival of British imperialism as long as he remains at the helm.
    Johnson may think that posing as US imperialism’s chief henchman à la Blair is the way to get back into Biden’s good books. But BoJo, who is still remembered as “Britain’s Trump” in Biden’s circles, needs to do much more than this to restore Britain’s standing with the current President of the USA. Rather than wasting his time talking to a nonentity like Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, Johnson would be better off working to improve relations with Ireland by ending the impasse with the European Union over northern Ireland’s Irish Sea ‘border’. But that is something Johnson clearly cannot do.

The long and winding road

Sad to see that Ken Livingstone, who was hounded out of the Labour Party by the Blairites and Zionists, has applied to join the Greens instead. Some will argue that there was nowhere else for him to go. Others that the Greens are indeed a genuinely left alternative to Labour.
    Meanwhile, reports that Jeremy Corbyn is planning to form a new party – reports almost entirely coming from the Starmer camp that want him out anyway – have fired calls from the usual suspects for the establishment of yet another left social-democratic alternative to Labour. But, needless to say, this will go nowhere without the support of the trade union movement and the unions are simply not interested.
    Past efforts have dismally failed. Arthur Scargill, the militant miners’ leader, did his best with his Socialist Labour Party (SLP) whilst even the RMT’s money wasn’t enough to get their Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) off the ground.
    There’s no point even in standing communist candidates. It is literally divisive. The old Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) abandoned the revolutionary road when it adopted the {British Road to Socialism}. Other left electoral platforms such as Respect, the SLP and TUSC all essentially express the same theory.
    The parliamentary election system in Britain is essentially a two-party system. At this stage the main 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 Labour 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 Labour gets nearly all its members and funding from the trade unions. This is still the case.