Sunday, December 18, 2022

In the bleak mid-winter…

And it certainly will be for the millions struggling to cope in freezing temperatures with astronomical heating bills grossly inflated by the imperialist sanctions on the Russians who were one of the main suppliers of liquified natural gas to Europe before the war in Ukraine erupted this year. It won’t, however, be so bad for the rich who’ll still be rocking around the Christmas tree snorting coke and drinking themselves silly over the festive season while the rest of us are told to make the best of it, accept “the price of liberty” and blame it all on the unions, and of course, Vladimir Putin.
    Celebrating the winter solstice is a tradition that goes back thousands of years – from the Stone Age hunter-gatherers whose lives revolved around the seasons to the Roman Saturnalia when masters served their slaves in orgies of feasting and drinking in a festival in which all the rules of society could be temporarily broken.
    Though some of these traditions linger on in today’s orgy of consumer delight we are still supposedly celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the man who told his followers that it was “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. But do any of the rich believe it?
    The great and the good will make their annual obeisance to the Prince of Peace, whom they claim to worship, on his supposed birthday while ignoring his teachings for the rest of the year. The Pharisees in the Established Church will churn out the usual platitudes about the “poor and needy” while ignoring the words of their Master who drove the money-changers out of the Temple and told his followers to “go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven”. And hundreds of thousands of people across England, Scotland and Wales will remain homeless – stuck in B&Bs, sleeping in cars and sheds or tents in the street. The festive clichés of the politicians and the princes of the church are meaningless to them.
    These people tell us this is the “season of goodwill”, but little of it will be shown to the poor and down-trodden – let alone the unions locked in bitter pay struggles over the Christmas period. A wave of strikes is sweeping the country. That’s why the Tories are squealing and bleating on about new laws to ban strikes to force people to accept pittance pay.
    The miserable efforts of the bourgeois media to demonise union leaders as “wreckers” who are “holding the nation to ransom” and “trying to destroy Christmas” have not worked this time round. Public support for the nurses, posties, teachers and railway workers is growing. On the street the craven Starmer leadership faces renewed demands to stand with the striking workers while some media gurus have broken ranks to argue for a realistic response to the unions’ demands to end this new winter of discontent and give the Tories a fighting chance at the next general election.
    Communists must naturally support all efforts to strengthen working-class organisations and bring them together and build support for all the strikes over the festive season. Now the workers are talking in the only language the employers understand. We must do all that we can to speed the day to victory.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Odessa Solidarity Campaign Joint Statement

An anti-imperialist position on the crisis in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine is raging on with no end in sight. People are suffering, and fears are rising that the conflict could widen and even involve nuclear weapons. Many well-meaning people are calling for a ceasefire and negotiations.
    We all want peace, but it does no good to promote solutions that don’t take into account what led up to the war in the first place. 
    Back in 1991, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, the U.S. government promised that NATO would not expand “one inch” eastward. But since then, all 14 new NATO members have been former Soviet states or allies. Sweden and Finland are expected to join soon. Both Georgia and Ukraine, which border Russia, have asked to join. That would complete the encirclement of Russia’s western flank. It would be as if Russia were building an anti-U.S. military alliance of all South and Central American countries and was about to admit Mexico. Obviously, the U.S. would see that as an existential threat.
    When Ukraine first became an independent state in 1991, Ukraine and Russia were at peace. But in 2014, the U.S. backed a violent, right-wing coup that brought to power an anti-Russian government that openly embraced neo-Nazi, paramilitary militias hostile to Ukraine’s Russian minority.
    This new situation, which included the massacre on May 2, 2014, of at least 42 anti-coup protesters in Odessa by a fascist-led mob, was seen as gravely threatening by the heavily ethnic-Russian areas of eastern and southern Ukraine. The result was Crimea voting to rejoin Russia, which it had been part of until 1954, and Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbass region declaring themselves independent.
    Then Ukraine, Russia, Donetsk and Luhansk agreed to allow those two entities to become autonomous areas within a united Ukraine. But Ukraine never implemented the terms of those Minsk Agreements, and instead carried out a military campaign to retake the separatitst region, with the loss of some 15,000 lives.
    Meanwhile, since at least 2014, the U.S. and other NATO countries have carried out regular, massive joint military exercises with Ukraine – land, sea and air – right up to Russia’s borders.
In late 2021 and early 2022, President Putin of the Russian Federation offered to hold negotiations with the U.S. and NATO to discuss Russia’s security concerns, but the offer was ignored. This was before Russia recognized the independent republics in the Donbass. Subsequent Russian offers to negotiate also were rejected.
    By February 2022, Ukraine was intensifying its war in the Donbass, leading Russia to intervene, with the stated purpose of defending the people of the Donbass and “demilitarizing” and “de-Nazifying” Ukraine. Whether people agree with that action or not, it was anything but “unprovoked.”
    Since then, as of Sept. 18, the U.S. Department of Defense admits to providing $16.1 billion in military aid to Ukraine. Other estimates have it as high as $40 billion – not counting aid the U.S. says is coming from 50 other allied countries – ensuring that the war will continue indefinitely. What began as a conflict between Russia and Ukraine has become a proxy war by the U.S. and NATO against Russia, with Ukrainians as cannon fodder.
    It isn’t necessary to endorse the Russian intervention in order to see that the real provocations for the war were the relentless eastward expansion of NATO; the U.S. support for the right-wing, anti-Russian coup of 2014; and the continuing and expanding war by Ukraine to retake the Donbass.

This being the case, we call on all peace and antiwar activists around the world to demand:

No to all U.S./NATO support for Ukraine!
No to all U.S./NATO military actions in Ukraine!
No to all U.S./NATO sanctions against Russia!
No to NATO and all U.S. wars and occupations everywhere in the world!

  • Eduardo Artés – First Secretary & former presidential candidate, Chilean Communist Party (Proletarian Action), Santiago de Chile, Chile
  • Bahman Azad – President, U.S. Peace Council, USA
  • Ajamu Baraka – National Organizer, Black Alliance for Peace, USA
  • Sinia Benigassan – Bureau d’information Alba Granada North Africa, Tunis, Tunisia
  • Matyas Benyik – President, ATTAC Hungary Association, Budapest, Hungary
  • Prof. Dr. Horst Bischoff – Deputy Chairman, ISOR e.V., Berlin, Germany
  • Carl Boggs – Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Joachim Bonatz – Deputy Chairman, ISOR e.V.; Vice President, OKV e.V., Berlin, Germany
  • Heinrich Buecker – Coop Anti-War Cafe; Member, German Peace Council & World Beyond War, Berlin, Germany
  • Melinda Butterfield – Co-Editor, Struggle-La Lucha newspaper, USA
  • Jose Capitan – Opcion Obrera (Workers Option), Venezuela
  • Dr. Dieter Dehm – Ex-Member, German Parliament; Former Member, German Bundestag; DIE LINKE, Germany
  • Rudolf Denner – Spokesman, Presidium, OKV e.V., Berlin, Germany
  • Communist Party of Australia
  • Georg Ehmke – Lt. Colonel aD, Werder, Germany
  • Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos – Maine House of Representatives, Friendship, Maine, USA
  • Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice, Canada
  • Sara Flounders – Co-Director, International Action Center, USA
  • Frente Unido América Latina – Berlin, Germany
  • Leo Gabriel – Anthropologist, Journalist & Filmmaker, Austria
  • Bruce Gagnon – Anti-imperialist Activist, Maine, USA
  • Leonid Ilderkin – Coordinating Council, Union of Political Emigrants & Political Prisoners of Ukraine, Russia
  • International Ukraine Anti-Fascist Solidarity – UK
  • Major General Manfred Jonischkies, Retired – Member, Board of ISOR e.V., Berlin, Germany
  • Dr. Sabine Kebir – Publicist, Lecturer, Berlin, Germany
  • Ulla Klötzer & Lea Launokari – Coordinators, Women for Peace, Finland
  • Gregory Laxer – Author, “Take This War and Shove It! A most unwilling soldier 1967-1971,” Connecticut, USA
  • League of Young Communists USA
  • Jeff Mackler – National Secretary, Socialist Action, USA
  • Stephen Martin – Author at Counterpunch, Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Savvas Matsas – Ergatiko Epanastatiko Komma (EEK – Workers Revolutionary Party), Greece
  • Dimitris Mizaras – Chairman, Marxist Workers’ League of Finland
  • Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO), Canada
  • New Communist Party of Britain
  • Agneta Norberg – Former Chair, Swedish Peace Council; Women for Peace, Sweden
  • Helmut Ortgies – Member, Association of Those Persecuted by the Nazi Regime, VVN/BDA, Gß Zimmern, Germany
  • Manuel Pardo – Frente Antiimperialista Internacionalista (Internationalist Anti-Imperialist Front), Madrid, Spain
  • Party of Communists USA
  • Stephen Phiri – Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute, Zimbabwe/South Africa
  • Jesús Rodríguez-Espinoza – Editor, Orinoco Tribune, Caracas, Venezuela
  • Sungur Savran – Devrimci İşçi Partisi, (DIP – Revolutionist Workers’ Party), TurkeyJochen Scholz – Lt. Col, Ret., GEAF, Berlin, Germany
  • SOS Ukraine Resistent, Italy
  • SOS Donbass, Italy
  • Prof. Nako Stefanov – Chairman, Bulgarian National Peace Council, Bulgaria
  • John Steinbach – Coordinator, Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Committee of the National Capital Area, USA
  • United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) – USA
  • U.S. Friends of the Soviet People
  • Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, USA
  • Phil Wilayto – Editor, The Virginia Defender
  • Workers Voice Socialist Movement – Louisiana, USA

plus 420 individual endorsements from peace campaigners from all over the world

An angry winter

A wave of strikes is sweeping the country. Rising inflation and soaring heating bills have fired the resistance to austerity and now not a week passes without industrial action of one form or another over pay.
    On the left the routine calls for a “general strike” or a “united front” of workers are beginning to have more relevance as more and more working people vote to confront the employers in the fight for a living wage.
    The key to victory is unity at all levels from the rank-and-file to the union leaderships but that unity is not easy to achieve. Some years ago a number of public sector unions did combine to co-ordinate their campaigns on pensions but it broke down when one key player unilaterally reached a settlement with their employers.
    There is, of course, the TUC. But its role has been partially eroded by giant unions like Unite and Unison who have also done their best to take away what little authority the trades councils still have in a union world dominated by the mega-unions of today.
    Communists must naturally support all initiatives efforts to strengthen working class organisations and bring them together in times of struggle to build support for all strikes and to maintain solidarity to speed the day to victory.

Like a Cheshire cat

In Victorian days the grinning Cheshire cat slowly disappears until only thing left is his inane grin. These days, with Labour streets ahead of the Tories in the opinion polls, the Blairites are now strutting around bragging that they’ll soon be back in power and that it’s all down to getting rid of the Corbynistas. But this could also be illusionary.
    Labour’s victory in last week’s by-election was, therefore, hardly unexpected. With Labour 25 points ahead of the Tories in the opinion polls Labour could hardly fail to hold the City of Chester seat and that’s what they did last week when they trounced the Tories with a 13,8 per cent swing – one of the largest since the Second World War.
    But turn-out was low and the swing was well below Labour’s lead in the opinion polls. The election gurus tell us that it will still give Labour a 30 plus majority in the House of Commons at the next election. But Rishi Sunak still has plenty of time to close the gap.
    Starmer and the Blairites clearly believe that they’re going to win over a significant number of Tory voters at the next election – and indeed they may well do so in the northern “Red Wall” seats Labour lost in 2019. But Labour needs more than that to win an overall majority in parliament and to do so it needs a programme that can actually inspire people to campaign for and vote Labour when the time comes.
    There’s not much sign of that at the moment. Labour’s leaders have little to offer workers apart from meaningless platitudes about health, education and welfare and nothing at all to rally the youth, the young workers and the millions who turned to Jeremy Corbyn in the hope of change only a few years ago.
    All Sunak needs to do is get the existing Tory vote out on the day. Labour has to insopire the millions of workers sick of austerity, poor housing, and bread-line wages. Shunning the nurses and ambulance crews, the civil servants, teachers and transport and postal workers, all locked in struggle with employers over pay is a bad start. Starmer ignores them at his peril.

Monday, December 05, 2022

Useless and Dangerous

In a desperate attempt at sounding radical Sir Keir Starmer has made reform of the House of Lords his latest project. He says he wants to replace it with an elected second chamber, telling Labour peers that the public’s faith in politics had been undermined by successive Tory leaders handing out peerages to “lackeys and donors” and that this is all going to end when he’s in charge.
    We have, of course, heard this all before. In opposition Labour leaders talk about the reform or abolition of the House of Lords. They’ve done this for years. But once in power they find that they cannot afford to give up the Prime Minister’s patronage of the Upper House – that does indeed enable them to reward the “lackeys and donors” Starmer claims to despise.
    During the Blair era New Labour promised to remove all the hereditary peers from the House of Lords and replace it with some sort of elected Senate. But in the end all the happened was another minor reform that abolished the automatic right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords but allowed 92 of their number to remain to uphold the hereditary principle along with the 26 bishops who sit as “Lords Spiritual” as representatives of the Church of England.
    While rewarding your followers is an essential part and parcel of bourgeois politics the House of Lords isn’t. Bourgeois republics like the United States and France manage quite well without an appointed Upper House. Others operate without any Second House to oversee the actions of their parliaments.
    Some think the Lords exists to uphold the rights of inheritance. But these “rights” are actually upheld by the bourgeois “right to private property” which goes far beyond the old feudal concepts of inheritance by claiming that people must be allowed to use what they own as they see fit, and leave it to whom they see fit.
    The real purpose of the House of Lords is, essentially, to justify and maintain the hereditary principle which justifies the Monarchy and the Anglican church that the King heads. It’s abolition would mean that the only hereditary post left would be that of the Monarch which would inevitably then face demands for reform that could easily evolve into the sort of republicanism the bourgeoisie turned their backs on when they got rid of the Stuarts and put William of Orange on the throne during the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688.
    Just a generation before these momentous events the House of Lords had been abolished by the ‘Rump’ parliament of the fledgling Republic of England that had already abolished the monarchy and the Church of England with the deposition, trial and execution of Charles 1 in 1649. The House of Lords that was said to be “useless and dangerous to the people of England” remained closed until the Stuart restoration in 1660 and we’ve been lumbered with the Lords ever since. But it’s still useless and the sooner it goes the better.