Sunday, April 24, 2022

Free Assange!

A London court issued an order to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States this week. Assange has been held in Belmarsh prison since he was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2019 for breaching bail conditions in a separate extradition case involving Sweden.
    Behind all this lies the less than hidden hand of the Americans who want to get their hands on the maverick journalist to face charges that could lead to the death penalty or a life-time in jail. The Americans have charged Assange with espionage after WikiLeaks published thousands of classified documents revealing war crimes committed by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.But Assange is an Australian who has never lived in the US and that country has no jurisdiction over him. Still that sort of thing has never bothered the country that built the concentration camp at Guantánamo or that has secret torture bases – not so secret after Wikileaks – all around the world.
    The persecution of Assange has been condemned by journalists and human rights activists across the world, who have slammed the US and British authorities for attacking press freedom by going after the WikiLeaks founder.
    The bourgeois media tell us that information technology was transforming our lives for the better. The internet, Twitter and other social networking services are hailed as forces for individual freedom of expression and valuable tools of “democracy” when they are used to foment reactionary unrest and regime change in countries that dare to stand up to imperialism. But it’s a different tune when the boot is on the other foot.
    When WikiLeaks releases embarrassing documents, when the crimes of imperialism are exposed by ‘hactivists’ for all the world to see, the internet becomes ‘irresponsible’ and the most craven bourgeois pundits start calling for censorship, government control and the prosecution of those who have dared to break the ruling class consensus.
    Russia is condemned for allegedly manipulating social media to influence elections in the heartlands of imperialism, and WikiLeaks reviled for releasing tranches of documents that expose the crimes of imperialism and the dirty work of their intelligence agencies.
    Assange’s ‘crime’ was his refusal to play the bogus ‘human rights’ game and turn a blind eye to the crimes of imperialism. He worked together with former US soldier and whistle-blower Chelsea Manning to expose atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the notorious ‘Collateral Murder’ video that shows American helicopter gun-ships mowing down innocent civilians in Baghdad under the cover of fighting ‘terrorism’.
    Assange’s defence team have until 18th May to challenge the decision and make representations to Home Secretary Priti Patel before she makes her decision on the ruling.
    WikiLeaks' chief editor Kristinn Hrafnsson said that by issuing the extradition order, the Westminster Magistrate's Court had signed Assange's death sentence. "Extraditing Assange would be a risk to his life," Hrafnsson told the crowd assembled in front of the court. "It would be equal to a death sentence. Now, Julian's life is in the hands of Priti Patel and Boris Johnson. They need to do the right thing." Let’s hope so...

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The nine lives of Boris Johnson

Some say that politicians, like cats, have nine lives. If that’s true Boris Johnson must be near his limit as he resists calls to quit after becoming first sitting prime minister to be punished for breaking law.
    This week Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were given fixed penalty notices after the police found they breached Covid laws by attending a 56th birthday party for the prime minister in the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street on 19th June 2020, when indoor social gatherings were strictly banned.
    In the great scale of things breaking the Covid lockdown rules pales into insignificance when compared with Tony Blair’s lies about “weapons of mass destruction” he used to justify British support for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Lying in the House of Commons is still, however, a serious breach of bourgeois parliamentary norms and being caught out usually leads to resignation.
    Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tells us the fines show that Johnson and Sunak had lied repeatedly about the Partygate scandal, dishonouring both their offices and the sacrifices of the British people. "They have to go" Starmer says – but he shouldn’t hold his breath waiting.
    Johnson is certainly on his way out but he’s still not dead meat. One Tory MP has called on the Prime Minister to step down. Nigel Mills, who represents Amber Valley in Derbyshire, says Johnson’s position is now untenable.
    “I think people are rightly angry that at a time when they were observing the very strictest of the rules people who were making the rules didn’t have the decency to observe them…that’s the nub of it,” Mills said.
    The maverick Tory back-bencher told BBC Radio Derby: “In all conscience I don’t think a prime minister can survive or should survive breaking the rules he put in place and he was on the TV every few nights reminding us all that we should observe…we have to have higher standards than that of people at the top. He has been fined, I don’t think his position is tenable, in my view.”
    But in the Johnson camp the Prime Minister’s supporters argue that with a major war in eastern Europe now is not the time to replace a leader – even one as fatally flawed as Boris Johnson. But this is a really shallow argument. Stomping around Western Europe to do the bidding of the White House is an easy act for most of his ministers, with the possible exception of Liz Truss, to follow. Nor will it be too much effort to face-off the electoral challenge from the totally useless Labour leader who barely registers on the campaign trail.
    Johnson’s real ace is that Rishi Sunak is in the same Partygate boat as him. One can’t go without the other. Sunak’s got enough on his plate trying to ride out the storm over his wife’s dubious tax status and he knows that any move to oust Johnson now can only scupper his own chance, perhaps his only chance, to become leader of the Conservative & Unionist Party.

Monday, April 18, 2022

States of hostility

by Ben Soton

The Shortest History of War by Gwyne Dyer. Old Street Publishing: London. Hardback: 2022; 240pp; RRP £12.99; Softback: 2nd Edition, 2022; 256pp; RRP £8.99.

Gwyne Dyer’s, by its very nature short, book covers conflict from pre-history to the present day. The author’s first fault is in his understanding of the definition of war itself by defining any form of conflict as war. According to Dyer, war originated in rivalry between rival bands our pre-historic or even pre-human ancestors. These conflicts, which often amounted to simple ambushes, were not strictly wars.
    War originated with the emergence of Bronze Age class society in the city states of Mesopotamia around the fourth millennium BC. These states had their own territories that their rulers wished to expand; whilst the specialisation that came with the development of agriculture gave birth to one of the world’s oldest professions (along with the prostitute) – the soldier. The first recorded battle between states was probably the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BC, between the Hittite and Egyptian kingdoms.
    Dwyer points out that human society is by nature egalitarian and uses anthropological evidence to back this up. This broadly conforms with Marxist theory, namely that for most of our history we lived under a system of primitive communism. Although the author falls short of using Marxist terminology, he makes several references to humanity returning to its egalitarian roots without mentioning any change in property relations. This conforms to the highly flawed ‘Whig view’ that presents history as a seemingly endlessly upwards journey from an oppressive and benighted past to a ‘"glorious present’. In fact, we now live in a less equal society than we did 50 years ago.
    The book covers changes in warfare from the first conflicts to the present day; in what could be described as ‘stones to drones’. Dwyer makes the interesting point that the story of the {Trojan Horse} is probably an analogy with some kind of early siege engine. He explains how technological developments have influenced warfare whilst pointing out that warfare remained unchanged for long periods of time.
    For instance, a Roman centurion would not have felt out of place at the Battle of Hastings and a soldier from the Thirty Years War (1618–49) would not have been out of place in the in the Napoleonic Wars, almost 300 years later.
    Dwyer must, however, be corrected for comparing what he describes as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 to the 2003 invasion of Iraq by Tony Blair and George W Bush. In 1979 Afghanistan had a people’s government that came under attack from Islamic terrorists backed by the USA. The Afghan government asked the Soviet Union for military assistance under the provisions of a treaty dating back to 1919, whilst the invasion of Iraq was an illegal act perpetrated by war criminals.
    The Shortest History of War is part of a series of books published by Penguin that give pencil sketch histories covering areas such as Democracy, The Soviet Union, China, England and Greece. Whilst the book has obvious flaws, it contains useful information and can provide the reader with added insight into the subject.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Johnson’s Easter Message

Spring is in the air and with it come soaring energy bills, tax hikes and rising inflation. This is the reality of Tory Britain under Boris Johnson.
    In the past, Labour leaders would be hammering the Government for crucifying the weak and the poor. These days we have to make do with the usual platitudes about “windfall” taxes and “energy rationing” from Starmer & Co. There’s no talk about re-nationalising the energy industry let alone restoring the old public sector and welfare state that Labour maintained until 1979.
    Rather than trying to mobilise the workers to defend the living standards of the millions Labour claims to represent, Starmer spends his time drumming more Corbynistas out of the party and supporting pro-NATO marches in the mistaken belief that this will win the people of a ‘middle England’ that only exists in the imagination of his Blairite minders.
    Rather than listening to the millions of workers in the affiliated unions that keep the Labour show on the road, Starmer prefers to heed the advice of his media gurus who conjure up childish and ineffectual campaign slogans because they believe working people are as stupid as themselves.
    Many Labour supporters, including those from the traditional right-wing of the party, rightly say that Starmer is a useless campaigner who will have to go when he loses the next general election. Under current rules that’s not due until 2025. We can’t wait that long. Starmer must go now!

Nothing new under the sun

The bourgeois lie-machine always goes into top gear in times of conflict. When Germany invaded Belgium in 1914, we were fed all sorts of stories about the bestial invaders who routinely raped nuns and used babies for bayonet practice whilst being told to take comfort in the support of the Supreme Being whose heavenly hosts intervened to stave off a British rout at the Battle of Mons. We’re now being told much the same thing about the Russian soldiers in Ukraine.
    This week the former Archbishop of Canterbury joined in the chorus. Like the Pharisees of old, Rowan Williams has denounced the Russian Orthodox Church for not condemning the Kremlin’s intervention in Ukraine.
    The Anglican churchman says there is a strong case for expelling the Russian Orthodox Church from the World Council of Churches. “When a Church is actively supporting a war of aggression, failing to condemn nakedly obvious breaches of any kind of ethical conduct in wartime, then other Churches do have the right to raise the question,” the retired cleric said. “I am still waiting for any senior member of the Orthodox hierarchy to say that the slaughter of the innocent is condemned unequivocally by all forms of Christianity.”
    When the chips are down the ruling class can always count on the Church of England. Even though Jesus, their supposed Master and the Prince of Peace, was a pacifist who called on his followers to turn the other cheek and forgive their enemies, the Anglicans never have any problem in supporting “just wars” when it suits them. They’re clearly not so happy when others do the same.

Saturday, April 02, 2022

The first step…

The Istanbul peace talks may not be the beginning of the end of the war in Ukraine. But it may perhaps, as Churchill put it be “the end of the beginning”. The Zelensky regime has at last accepted the key Russian demand for permanent neutrality but they are still refusing to recognise the independence of the Donbas republics, Crimea’s decision to join the Russian Federation or equal rights for all the people of the regions of the Ukraine.
    While the Western propaganda machine conjures up phantom victories for the Ukrainian army the reality on the field tells another story. The Ukrainians have lost control of the skies and their own coastline. Millions of Ukrainians have fled the country to escape thje fighting. Their cities are besieged and their army and their fascist legions that they say do not exist have been unable to prevent the Russians from extending their control over vast amounts of Ukrainian territory.
    Dreams of direct NATO intervention and imperialist “no-fly” zones have faded along with hopes that the Western sanctions regime would provoke the Russian oligarchs into launching an anti-Putin coup. Sooner or later the Ukrainian oligarchs who put Zelensky into office will realise the hopelessness of their position. Then their only way out will be to accept what’s on the table.
    Talk of 15 years of negotiations and a new ‘relationship’ between the Donbas and Ukraine are too little too late. The Zelinsky clique and the fascist gangs sabotaged the Minsk agreements that could have ended the crisis peacefully. They believed that the imperialists would bail them out whatever happened. That they’ve certainly been proved wrong.
    Zelensky doesn’t know Putin’s war aims. Neither does Biden or anyone else in the West. But, if nothing else, the events of the past few weeks show that Putin isn’t bluffing.
    So we can safely assume that what Russia wants are simply what Russia stated when it sent in the troops to defend the Donbas republics in the first place. A denazified and permanently neutral Ukraine; recognition of Crimea’s accession to the Russian Federation, the independence of the Donbas republics and equal rights for Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population.
    In Britain bourgeois politicians of all hues shed crocodile tears over Ukrainians fleeing the conflict while doing little to speed up their applications to seek refuge in this country. They deny the existence of the fascist militias in Ukraine and egg on the Ukrainians from the safety of their homes in the beautiful South to justify the anti-Russian sanctions regime that the Johnson government is only following to curry favour with the Biden administration.
    They can count, as always, on the support of Blairites and the fake lefters in and out of the Labour Party who pose as socialists but essentially argue that peace is only attainable on imperialist terms.
    This is the time for all communists to stand by the people of the Donbas in their fight for freedom. Now we should stand firm with all the anti-fascist forces of Ukraine fighting for an end to the Azov brigade and the other fascist gangs and a genuinely democratic Ukraine for all its peoples and at peace with all its neighbours.

Kitchen sink spies

 by Ben Soton

The Ipcress File (2002): ITV series. Sundays 6 March to 10 April 6pm on ITV1; full series available on the ITVHub (with ads) and BritBox (ad-free). Written by John Hodge. Directed by James Watkins. Stars: Joe Cole, Lucy Boynton and Tom Hollander.

Harry Palmer, the creation of Cold War espionage fiction writer Len Deighton, was an alternative to James Bond. Back in the 1960s Deighton’s novels exist as a half-way house between the pure action adventure of Bond and the rather dry psychological thrillers of John Le Carré.
    Unlike Bond, the smartly dressed, cocktail-drinking sociopath dedicated to Queen and Country, Palmer is cut from a different cloth. A working-class Londoner with a Maths degree, he reaches the rank of corporal in the British Army whereas Bond was a Commander in the Royal Navy. Instead of being a hired gun for his superiors Palmer takes to smuggling, which finds him in Colchester Military Prison.The first Palmer novel, The Ipcress File, is the subject of ITV1’s latest Sunday night drama.
    To have his sentence commuted, Palmer (played by Joe Cole) is approached by Major Dalby (played by Tom Hollander) with a view to helping British intelligence rescue a kidnapped nuclear scientist. As the story progresses Palmer’s life unravels. He had previously served in the Korean war, only to come home to find his wife had suffered a miscarriage and his marriage subsequently collapses.
    Palmer is not an obvious servant of British imperialism. His social background, with an understandable grievance, make him a security risk. In a scene featuring a conversation with Colonel Stock of the KGB he even displays a knowledge of Marxism Leninism.
    The television adaptation presents a nostalgic view of the 1960s. Most scenes show a somewhat exaggerated cleanliness along with immaculate clothing and perfectly styled hair. This, however, was an era when classical economics, normally referred to as neo-liberalism, had been suspended for the less socially vicious Keynesianism, which focused on welfare and full employment.
    The era also saw a strong labour movement and internationally the presence of the Soviet Union meant a shift in the balance of forces in favour of the working class. Increased social mobility was an additional feature of the decade, shown when fellow intelligence officer Jean Courtney (played by Lucy Boynton) develops a shine to Palmer whilst becoming bored with her upper-class fiancé.
    There are occasions when one wonders if Palmer will switch sides, which adds added suspense to the plot. But at the end of the day the story, and Palmer’s character in particular, is essentially about co-opting working class support for the Cold War against the Soviet Union. Palmer is given smart clothes, a car and access to a world he would probably never see in exchange for taking part in a war ultimately against his own class.

Friday, April 01, 2022

Nazism - Ukraine’s Deadly Disease

by Vyacheslav Tetekin
Communist Party of the Russian Federation

Today, as the military operation in Ukraine goes on, it is becoming increasingly evident that the ideological basis of the present Ukrainian government is extreme nationalism, or rather, overt Neo-Nazism. It is the continuation of the pro-fascist Bandera movement which took the side of Hitler’s Germany during its invasion of the USSR in 1941-19445. After the defeat of the Bandera movement in 1953 Nazism hunkered down. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and Ukraine’s independence Bandera Neo-Nazism reared its head again.

Creeping Nazification of Ukraine was greatly aided by the USA which after 1991 strongly encouraged extreme nationalist elements in Western Ukraine. In fact, the CIA was the most active sponsor of Bandera terrorist groups in Western Ukraine between 1945 and 1953. It is not surprising that the Neo-Nazi Banderaites, well-organised and well-trained ideologically and physically, carried out the state coup in February, 2014. After the coup Ms Victoria Nuland, the current US Under Secretary of State, admitted that the US had spent five billion dollars on preparing the coup.

Since that time the influence of Neo-Nazis on Ukraine’s political life has been steadily growing. Even the US Congress took notice of this. On 24th November 2019 forty Congress members signed a letter to the US State Department demanding that the Azov Regiment, which is part of Ukraine’s National Guard, be declared a terrorist organisation. Earlier, in 2015 and again in 2018, the US Congress officially forbade the US Defense Department to render any kind of help to the Azov regiment because of its Nazi character.

Moreover, the letter, citing FBI data, noted that the Azov regiment and Ukraine as a whole had turned into a centre of the world Neo-Nazi movement. Azov training grounds enabled Neo-Nazis from across the world to practice the use of various weapons to become the nuclei of Neo-Nazi units in their countries.

The hostilities in Ukraine brought more and more proof that Neo-Nazis are the base of the current regime. Thus, because the Kiev ruling group and its American masters were not quite sure of the reliability of the Ukrainian Armed Forces they took the precaution of embedding the units and “commissars” from Nazi battalions in the Ukrainian Army. The aim was barely disguised: if Ukrainian troops tried to retreat or surrender they were to be shot. Such incidents have already been recorded. In other words, the Nazi battalions are acting as “barrier squads” terrifying the Ukrainian troops into resisting. Exactly the way SS troops were used in Nazi Germany to control the Werhmacht (Army) units.

When hostilities started President Zelensky released Nazi extremists serving jail sentences for serious crimes, including murder and robbery, so that they could take up arms and join Nazi battalions. Kidnapping, torture, humiliation and murder of political opponents of the current regime became a daily occurrence.

After Mariupol airport was liberated torture chambers were found in the location where the Azov regiment was stationed. With utter cynicism, the torture centre was referred to as the “library” and the torture victims as “books.’ Investigators from the Donetsk People’s Republic are currently establishing the number of terror victims and the circumstances of kidnapping, torture and murder of people by members of the Nazi Azov regiment. US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has recently declared that America should not spend billions of dollars of American taxpayers’ money to provide lethal weapons to possible Nazi groups which torture innocent people, especially women and children.

Atrocities are not one-off cases, but the result of sophisticated Neo-Nazi propaganda. The world was shocked by the public statement of a Bandera doctor who told the Ukraine24 TV channel that he had instructed his subordinates to castrate captured Russian servicemen.

The use of civilians as human shields is becoming more and more widespread. After the start of the Russian military operation Ukrainian Army units and Nazi battalions started to retreat from their defence positions which they had fortified for a whole eight years. Instead, they have been setting up firing positions in residential neighbourhoods in cities and villages. Ukrainian Army manuals instruct that guns and mortars should be placed on the ground floors, civilians be kept on the second and third floors and snipers and machine guns should be positioned on floors four to five and higher. This amounts to mass seizure of fellow-citizens as hostages, something even the German Nazis did not do during the 1941-45 war.

At the same time President Zelensky banned all Centrist opposition parties. These include Opposition Platform for Life, Nashi Party, Opposition Bloc, Sharia Party, and Vladimir Saldo Bloc. However, the Nazis’ prime target is always the left-wing parties ­- always the staunchest opponents of Nazism. In Ukraine, Zelensky recently banned the Left Opposition, Union of Left Forces, the Progressive-Socialist Party of Ukraine, the Socialist Party of Ukraine and Socialists. The Communist Party of Ukraine was banned in 2015 and has been underground since.

All this shows that fraternal Ukraine is de facto controlled by US-backed Neo-Nazis. One of the main instruments of ideological brain-washing of the population is rabid Russophobia particularly aggressive in recent years. We remember that in the eight years between Hitler’s coming to power in 1933 and the start of his aggression against the USSR in 1941 the Nazis managed to change the mentality of German society so much that the nation of great philosophers, poets and musicians turned into a nation which exterminated tens of millions of people in the USSR and the occupied European countries.

Very much the same is happening in Ukraine in very much the same time-frame. While some were inclined to wave aside suggestions that Nazism is being revived in Ukraine today, after entire cities and hundreds of thousands of people have been turned into “human shields,” we can say with confidence and great regret that the contagion of Nazism has penetrated deep into the organism of Ukrainian society.