Sunday, August 28, 2022

Enough is indeed Enough!

Huge rallies. Halls packed with students and young workers. Platforms headed by Mick Lynch, the leader of the RMT transport union that is taking on the railway companies and the Tory government head-on over pay, and over 450,000 people signing up to a campaign to fight the cost-of-living crisis.
    Under the slogan “It’s time to turn anger into action”, speakers are calling on the labour movement to close ranks and lead the fight-back against the austerity regime. Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has shown his support for the campaign and his followers are already comparing the launch of the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign to those heady days when hundreds of thousands of people rallied to the Labour banner when Corbyn was at the helm. Whether this new campaign takes off in the same way remains to be seen.
    The RMT has thrown its weight behind the campaign. So has the Communication Workers Union (CWU), whose own battle with Royal Mail, BT and the Post Office began this month. Zara Sultana, the Corbynista Coventry MP, and a number of other prominent Corbyn supporters have also signed up. But no other Labour MP has yet come forward to join her; and Unite and Unison, the giant union that dominate the TUC, have still to show their hand.
    No-one on the left would disagree with Enough’s programme. A rise in the national minimum wage, substantial pay rises for all, increases in pensions and benefits, a return to the pre-April energy price cap, the nationalisation of the energy companies and a massive council house building programme. These are all modest demands we can all agree on – the sort of thing even Gordon Brown could endorse on a rainy day at the Stock Exchange. But we want much more than that.
    Past efforts such as the People’s Assembly have petered out because their demands were far too modest to maintain the enthusiasm and commitment needed to sustain a serious campaign to end austerity.
    The restoration of the NHS and a standard of living for working people worthy of a country whose economy is still the sixth largest in the world – all these things are possible.
    The railways along with the energy and water industries are clearly public services that should naturally be kept in public hands. But we have to campaign for the renationalisation of the entire public sector that existed in this country until 1979, to use their profits to restore the NHS and the welfare state that we once enjoyed.
    Although public ownership can fund much-needed public services it cannot, in itself, lead to socialist advance. Fascist Italy’s public sector was, for instance, second only to that of the Soviet Union before the Second World War. But Mussolini’s “Third Way” couldn’t solve Italy’s unemployment problems. It was only a prop to maintain the power of the land-owners and industrialists who propelled him to power in the first place.
    In the imperialist heartlands workers face mass unemployment and economic stagnation. But ending sanctions on Russia, cutting military expenditure and closing all foreign bases would go a long way to reversing decline.
    Stop the War and CND do next to nothing these days. So as the guns blaze in Ukraine, we have to build the resistance to the Labour leaders who crawl to the Americans and we must lead the fight-back against the union bureaucrats who defend the Ukrainian fascist regime.
    Public ownership is meaningless without a socialist agenda to empower working people and pave the way to revolutionary change. And fighting for peace goes hand-in-hand with that struggle.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Times change but nothing changes

No one should be surprised at Boris Johnson’s last days at the helm. He was, after-all, utterly useless as Prime Minister. While he had plenty of time for his lavish wedding anniversary bash he failed to turn up to emergency COBRA meetings over the heatwave. He’s done nothing to help people facing the sky-rocketing energy bills and he spends his final days in office lording it in Slovenia and Greece while the cost of living crisis worsens and the country bakes in a heat-wave not seen since the 1970s.
    Johnson is incapable of seeing himself as others see him. In Downing Street he was surrounded by hand-picked people lesser than himself that pandered to his vanity.
    When BoJo grudgingly threw in the towel in July his followers said this wasn’t the end of the story. Some said Boris, as they still called him, would rise again like a phoenix from the flames to lead the Conservatives in time for the next election. Others said he should be either appointed Secretary-General of NATO when the job comes up for grabs next year or at least be made the UK’s special emissary to the Ukraine by whoever succeeds him as Prime Minister when he finally goes in September.
    Now Johnson’s become a political pariah. He’s jeered by crowds as he arrives for the Platinum Thanksgiving service in St Paul’s Cathedral. He’s booed and heckled by British holidaymakers on his trip to the Greek coastal town of Nea Makri, one of them shouting "Get back to work you fat ponce!"
    Enoch Powell, the maverick Tory MP, once said that “all political careers end in failure” – a comment that certainly summed up his own career as he played and lost in the House of Commons in the 1960s. Powell played the racist card in a bid for Tory leadership but ended up as a sidelined Ulster Unionist MP in Northern Ireland. And while his own political life ended in failure Powell’s law is clearly not the universal rule in Parliament.
    Past Prime Ministers, with the obvious exception of Tony Blair, are still held in high esteem by their respective parties. Some like Winston Churchill, Harold Wilson and Edward Heath, retired to the back-benches. Others like James Callaghan, had second lives as elder statesmen in the House of Lords. And nowadays John Major, Gordon Brown, Mrs May and even David Cameron can walk the streets without risking the wrath an angry mob.
    The abuse Johnson is getting reflects the anger on the street over the crisis we’re in now. The ruling class want to focus that anger away from themselves. They’ll blame Johnson.
    The blame game starts with Johnson’s duplicity and incompetence and ends with some nonsense about the nature of the global economy. They’ll tell us things will get better in the hands of whoever takes his place who will inevitably be one of their own or one of their place-men like Sir Keir Starmer.
    This is their agenda. We, on the other hand, have to put the communist answer to the crisis back on ours.
    Changing the tillerman changes nothing, Changing the system through the social ownership of the means of production is the only alternative.

Murder before Evensong

by Ben Soton

Murder Before Evensong by the Reverend Richard Coles, Weidenfeld & Nicholson London 2022, Hardback: 368pp; rrp £16.99.

The Reverend Richard Coles is the archetypal rock star vicar. In the 1980s he was a member of the band The Communards; today he hosts Radio Four’s Saturday Live and has appeared on Strictly, QI and in an episode of Holby City where he played himself. He has now taken up crime fiction with his first novel Murder Before Evensong published this year.
    What could be described as Father Brown set in the 1980s; an era when the internet was in its infancy and computers and mobile phones were rare. The hero is clerical sleuth Canon Daniel Clement whose crime-solving skills emanate from his interpretation of Greek Biblical text. If you are looking for a rough and ready hard drinking Gene Hunt type you will be disappointed. Instead, you have an OCD vicar who lives with his mother and two sausage dogs.
    The book his as much a window into 1980s village life as a crime adventure. Set in the fictional Champton, somewhere in the English Midlands; dominated by both the Church and its patrons the aristocratic De Flores family. Champton is still living in the shadow of the Second World War; where it acted a base the US Air Force and a Free French hospital. The book begins with what seems a silly row about the installation of a toilet inside the church. I believe today all public buildings are required to contain such facilities. However, in a world dominated by ultra-conservative interest groups, namely the local Flower Guild such a moderate improvement creates not only opposition but opens up a whole can of worms.
    The 1980s, as were every decade in history, a time of change; for instance, there were changes in attitudes towards gays, an issue that arises in the novel. The decade coincided with the height of Coles’ music career and may well have been the period in his life when he came to terms with his own homosexuality. I speculate as whether the character of Cannon Clement, an unmarried man in his forties is in fact Coles’s alter ego. Is it just a coincidence that the author is also the owner a pair of sausage dogs? In other is Coles writing a novel with himself as the lead character. Why not?

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Princes of Persia

by Ben Soton

Persians: The Age of The Great Kings by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones. Hardback:
Wildfire: London, 2022; 448pp; rrp £25.99.

From Classical Antiquity to the early Modern Period imperial dynasties have ruled over vast tracts of land that Westerners called the Persian Empire. The most famous was the Achaemenid Empire; which is the subject of the recent book by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, Professor of Ancient History at Cardiff University. It lasted from the time of its founder Cyrus the Great in the sixth century BC to its eventual destruction at the hands the avenging Greek army of Alexander the Great in 330BC.
    Geographically it covered an area from Libya in the west to Pakistan in the East encompassing almost the entire Middle East, northern Greece and parts of central Asia. In its time it was the largest land empire the world had seem
    The book’s unique selling point is its use of Persian sources whereas previous studies were reliant on Greek texts in particular Herodotus and his work The Histories. For instance, Tom Holland’s book Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West almost exactly mirrors Herodotus; as well as being written from a largely Greek perspective. However, Llewellyn-Jones points out that the Greeks cannot be ignored as they were the first to record information in book form rather than in the form of poems and fables.
    When looking at ancient history there is always the danger of overlooking the elephant in the room – slavery. A whole chapter is devoted to the Kurtash; workers who were moved around the empire to carry out functions ranging from construction to childcare for the elite. Slavery is often overlooked in studies of the ancient world; although there is so far little evidence of slave revolts in the Achaemenid Empire. There were however numerous rebellions against Persian rule throughout the Empire’s existence; although these revolts should not be confused with modern national liberation movements
    According to the author, unlike other more recent Empires the Achaemenids did not impose Persian culture on those they ruled over. He makes comparisons with the Roman Empire and the British Empire in the nineteenth century. Interestingly he makes no mention of an even more modern empire that imposes its culture in the form of tenth-rate fast food restaurants across whole swathes of the planet.
    A significant part of the book is devoted to the Persian Court; whether powerful concubines, overbearing Queen Mothers or influential eunuchs. The fundamental weakness of the Achaemenid Empire was its lack of an orderly line of succession as was the case in European monarchies from the Medieval period. Instead, a successor would emerge from the reigning monarch’s children born from the royal harem; a system that continued in the much later Turkish Ottoman Empire. This inevitably led to instability with a power struggle taking place after the death of almost every monarch; an example being the struggle between the brothers Artaxerxes and Cyrus the Younger following the death of Darius II.
    If you have ever read poetry or eaten a kebab on the way home from a pub, or used sulphuric acid or eaten a Meze in a Greek or Turkish restaurant; these things along with the postal service and even the notion of Human Rights (with reference to the Cyrus cylinder) can be said to have originated in Persia. For these reasons the Achaemenid Empire is worth studying making this book worth reading.

Standing by the Donbas in Dublin

by New Worker correspondent

The plight of the people of the Donbas was highlighted in the Irish capital last Saturday when people took to the streets of Dublin to show support for the anti-fascist resistance in Ukraine. The protest, supported by Lawyers for Justice Ireland and a number of other movements including the Humanitarian Battalion of Ireland & England and the Russian ex-pats community’s For Our People campaign, denounced the expansion of NATO and condemned the genocide of the Donbas population by the puppet Zelensky regime. The demonstrators reminded the Irish political elite that Ireland is still a neutral country while calling for an end to the shelling of defenceless cities and the use of anti-personnel mines which kill civilians
    "We want the world to know that Ukraine is shelling its own citizens - the residents of Donbas, we want children to stop dying", said one of the participants, holding photographs of dead children in her hands.
    The protesters organised a direct connection with people in Donbas who sent their greetings straight from the front. Many with tears in their eyes thanked the participants of the protest for their support, because “someone in the world still cares and cared for last 8 years".

No to Zionist terror!

People are demonstrating on the Arab street and across the rest of the world this week in solidarity with the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who were again battered by the Israeli air force last weekend. Over three days Israel's renewed bombing killed 46 Palestinians. Over 360 others, including 151 children were injured in the terror bombings which the Zionists claimed was a pre-emptive move against the Islamic Jihad resistance movement.
    Bourgeois politicians on both sides of the Atlantic rushed to defend Zionist aggression claiming, as usual, that it was Israel’s “right to defend itself” – a right they never recognise when it comes to the Palestinians or indeed anyone else who dares to stand in the way of imperialism.
    We know the truth that every act of violence used to sustain a system of occupation, apartheid, and settler colonialism is by definition illegitimate. It is Palestinians who have the right to resist and defend themselves.
    In the occupied West Bank Israel violates international law and pursues unabatedly its expansionist policies. The Zionists continued the building of settlements and the colonising of Arab East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories. The Israelis routinely ignore the protests of the powerless “autonomous” Palestinian Authority they pretend to recognise to evict Palestinians, demolish their homes, steal their land and water and all the other resources that belong to the Palestinian people. A policy reminiscent of ethnic cleansing.
    Israel still clings to the dream of dominating the Middle East and colonising Palestine. But its petty ambitions and dreams are not the driving force of Anglo‑American imperialism.
    The tail does not wag the dog and Israel and the American “Zionist lobby” do not dictate American foreign policy. They serve it.
    In the past they provide Anglo‑American imperialism with a convenient alibi to play the role of “honest broker” in the Middle East. They enabled the feudal Arab oil princes, whose thrones are propped up by imperialist bayonets, to claim that the Arabs’ enemy is not imperialism as such but Israel and this supposedly all‑powerful “Zionist lobby”, which pulls the strings in the United States.
    The Zionists get away with it because their interests serve those of Anglo-American imperialism. Israel is in all but name part of the NATO pact, an American protectorate that helps to guard the interests of the big oil corporations that have sucked the life out of the Arab world for the past hundred years.
    We reaffirm our support for and solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle to regain their legitimate and inalienable national rights, including the right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state.
    We call for the immediate and unconditional end to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and for a comprehensive peace treaty to end the conflict in the Middle East based on past United Nations resolutions.
    The UN resolutions have provided the basis for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. First of all Israel must totally withdraw from all the occupied territories seized in 1967, including Arab East Jerusalem and Syria’s Golan Heights. The Palestinians must be allowed to establish a state of their own on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinian refugees whose homes are now in Israel must be allowed to return or, if they so wish, be paid appropriate compensation in exchange. All states in the region, including Israel, should have internationally agreed and recognised frontiers guaranteed by all the Great Powers.
    American imperialism believes it can call all the shots in the Middle East today. The imperialists, and the Arab collaborators who do their bidding, believe that all resistance can be crushed by brute force. But In the Middle East imperialist violence always leads to an equally violent resistance. Imperialism’s refusal to recognise this has led to the spiral of violence and terror that began in 1948 as a regional war, to a conflict that now spans the whole world.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Nancy Pelosi’s reckless visit to China’s Taiwan

Statement issued by Friends of Socialist China

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the provocative and war-mongering visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to China’s territory of Taiwan.
    Pelosi is a reactionary, anti-working-class imperialist politician with a long record of inveterate hostility to Socialist China and the Chinese people. Her visit to Taiwan is a major political provocation that carries with it a grave danger of leading to regional and even world war. It is a gross violation of international law and, in particular, of UN General Assembly Resolution 2758 and the clear provisions of the three joint communiques by China and the United States.
    There is only one China in the world and its sole legal government is that of the People’s Republic of China. This is an absolute and immutable fact on which there is no room for compromise. This much is recognized by 180 countries around the world, including the US, as well as by the United Nations. When and how China completes its historic goal of complete national reunification is the internal affair of the Chinese people and the Chinese people alone. No outside interference of any kind is acceptable.
    Pelosi’s visit once again makes clear to all humanity that the United States is the world’s number one rogue state. Its diatribes about a so-called ‘rules based international order’ are nothing but a fig leaf for its hegemonic behavior, its gangster-like bullying and its flagrant disregard for international law.
    The idea that Pelosi’s visit is some kind of unilateral action, for which the US administration is somehow not responsible, is ridiculous. She is constitutionally the second in line of succession to the Presidency. As Pelosi’s military aircraft landed in Taipei, the US assembled a veritable armada in waters off Taiwan’s east coast, including an aircraft carrier strike group, a guided missile cruiser and a destroyer. As Commander-in-Chief, President Biden bears full responsibility for this.
    Pelosi’s visit caps – and escalates – a series of moves by both the present US administration and its predecessor to encourage the separatist element in Taiwan, to undermine the One China principle, to escalate the militarization of the region, and to gravely threaten peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and indeed the world. This includes public remarks by Biden himself on several occasions. As President Xi Jinping solemnly pointed out to Biden in their recent telephone conversation, those who play with fire will end up getting burned. The United States bears full responsibility for its egregious actions and for all the consequences arising therefrom.
    We stand by the Chinese people, government and military in their just response to this serious infringement of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We join with the brave people of Taipei who gathered outside Pelosi’s hotel, to demand, in words that echo and resonate from Cuba to Korea and from Venezuela to Iran: “Yankee, go home!”

Organisational signatories

  • ANSWER Coalition
  • Center for Communist Studies
  • China Environment Net
  • Communist Workers League
  • Connolly Youth Movement
  • Critical Theory Workshop
  • Freedom Road Socialist Organization
  • Guerrilla History podcast
  • Geopolitical Economy Research Group
  • Goldsmiths Anti-Imperialist Society
  • Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War
  • Hampton Institute
  • Institute for Independence Studies
  • International Action Center
  • International Manifesto Group
  • Iskra Books
  • La Città Futura
  • Laika Press
  • Multipolarista
  • Network in Defense of Humanity (Quebec chapter)
  • New Communist Party of Britain
  • Party of Communists USA
  • Party for Socialism and Liberation
  • Peace, Land, and Bread
  • Pivot to Peace
  • Qiao Collective
  • Radical Education Department
  • Revolutionary Left Radio
  • Socialist Unity Party
  • The Canada Files
  • The International Journal of Critical Media Literacy
  • United National Antiwar Coalition
  • Vatan Party
  • Workers World Party

Saturday, August 06, 2022

China-bashing a tragedy for 10 Downing Street

by Ding Gang

April 7th 1840 is a day that the Chinese will not forget. On that day, the British Parliament debated issues related to China. Historians originally believed that it was that meeting that made the decision for the British to invade China. Later, a journalist investigated and found that British warships were already on their way to China at the time of the debate. The British Parliament did not pass the appropriation for the military expenses of the expedition to China until July 27th 1840, after the outbreak of war. The facts show that the Opium War was initiated by the British government.
    The reason why I thought of this is that I saw that the two candidates for the British premiership both use the "China threat theory" to denounce each other in their election campaigns in order to attract more votes. Their rhetoric is very reminiscent of the word "war" and reminds me of the Western media's portrayal of the competition with China as "an ideological war."
    The Opium Wars took place at the height of the British Empire's global expansion, a time when the greed and madness of capitalism was most fully revealed. For raw materials and markets, war was a necessary means to satisfy the Empire's lust for treasure. Empire means war. The whole world was the object of its colonial plunder, and China was certainly not an exception.
    This imperial hegemony and greed continued into the 1950s, even as late as July 1965, when then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson said " our frontier is on the Himalayas." Historians generally agree that the Suez Canal crisis of 1956 confirmed the decline of Britain as a global power. And the handover of Hong Kong to China on July 1st 1997, marked the formal end of the Empire on which "the sun never sets."
    The end of an empire is the decay of power, but the end of its spirit is often not so quick. While Britain's prime ministerial candidates claim China as a major threat, there is still a strong sense of empire left on their mind. Rishi Sunak, the former British finance minister who is running for prime minister and head of the Conservative Party, said on July 24th that he would adopt a tough policy toward China if elected as the next British prime minister. He also said that China is the "largest threat" to British and global security this century. Another Conservative rival, Liz Truss, has accused Sunak of being "weak" on China.
    Britain is now facing a serious crisis with inflation expected to hit 11 per cent by the end of the year, and the British media estimate that the biggest problem for whoever becomes prime minister will be coping with the sharpest fall in real incomes in Britain since the 1950s. That the candidates for the British prime minister would now use China as an excuse to canvass votes is a testament to their inability to lead the country out of crisis. They are more like a spiteful complainer, pouring out their incompetence on others. Instead of trying to convince the public that they can make their country rise again, they are misleading voters with their self-made fears. This is the tragedy of British politics.
    Today's China is on a completely different path from the rise of the British Empire. China's rise doesn't follow the road to imperialism. China overtook Britain and many developed countries to become the second largest economy in the world, without plunder and war. This is the essence of the "China model" – a reality that British politicians, still steeped in the psychological delusion of the British Empire, are unwilling to accept.
    Although their means of trying to contain China appear to have changed, their expansionist nature remains the same, making it impossible for them to allow China to compete with them on an equal and reasonable basis, and are resorting to more financial and economic means to contain China's peaceful global advancement. This is probably considered the last hysterical cry of the imperial psyche. The world has changed dramatically from the Opium Wars, when the British Parliament discussed how to open the gates of China, to today's UK which does everything possible to curb the legal and peaceful entry of Chinese companies and influence without a single warship to accompany them to Britain.
    British politicians who pretend not to see this change because they don't want to accept it are doomed to take this country down a dark path.

The author is a senior editor with People's Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Stand by China!

Nancy Pelosi’s controversial trip to Taiwan may have helped divert attention away from the claims coming from the Republican camp that much of her immense wealth comes from insider trading. But she was clearly speaking for the most reactionary elements of the American ruling class on both sides of the House when she embraced the puppet leaders of Taiwan to tell them that the United States will not "abandon our commitment" to the island that began following the defeat of Chiang Kai-Shek’s reactionary forces in the Chinese civil war and the establishment of the people’s government in 1949.
    US imperialism and its lackeys imposed a diplomatic and economic boycott of People’s China while Taiwan thrived under American protection. General Chiang made the island a stronghold to pose as the legitimate government of China at the United Nations until it was kicked out in 1971.
    US imperialism has long sought to make the Pacific an American lake. This seemed almost attainable following the defeat of Japan in the second world war but the American dream was shattered by the revolutionary upsurge that led to the communist victories in China and Korea.
    The American attempt to over-run the Korean peninsula was halted in 1953 and their puppets were driven out of Indo-China in the early 1970s. The Cold War against China was faltering and realistic circles were coming to the fore in Washington.
    In 1972 the American leader, Richard Nixon, made a ground-breaking visit to Beijing for talks with Chairman Mao that paved the way to normalisation. Formal diplomatic relations were established in 1979 with the United States recognising the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China.
    Kicked out of the United Nations Taiwan’s status reverted to what it always had been in reality – a breakaway Chinese province that was, in reality, a US dependency. People’s China has long sought peaceful re-unification under the principle of “one country – two systems” that applies in Hong Kong and Macau while working with General Chiang’s successors over tourism and commercial flights.
    But in recent years separatist cliques encouraged by US imperialism have come to power on the island raising the banner of an “independent” Taiwan and reviving the old American “two China’s” policy that many had hoped had been buried during the Nixon era.
    Now Nancy Pelosi and the sinister ‘deep state’ forces behind her want to turn the clock back to the dark days of confrontation. It didn’t work in the 1950s when China was still recovering from civil war. It certainly won’t work with modern China – a nuclear power that is also the second largest economy in the world.
    Sadly Liz Truss now talks about China’s “growing malign influence” and Rishi Sunak tells us that Chinese educational centres in Britain – the Confucius Institutes that promote Chinese culture and language – are the “biggest-long term threat to Britain”.
    But China isn’t a threat. It’s an open door for mutually beneficial trade. China is one of our biggest trading partners. Trade has expanded rapidly in recent years. China now accounts for over 10 per cent of UK imports compared with 2 per cent in 1999. Last year the UK imported £63.6 billion of goods from China. This accounted for 13.3 per cent of all goods imports, making China our largest importing partner. There were £18.8 billion of goods exports to China (5.8 per cent of all goods exports), making China our sixth-largest exporting partner.
    Crawling to the Americans comes as second nature to Tory politicians who believe that the interests of the ruling class are best served through the might of US imperialism. But these are not our interests. Britain needs China more than ever. The revival of the British economy can only succeed with a closer economic partnership with China. Confrontation can only lead to disaster.