Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Eastbourne hosts conference on Engels

The seaside resort of Eastbourne in East Sussex hosted an international conference titled Engels in Eastbourne in June. Nearly a hundred professors, experts and scholars from more than 20 universities and research institutions in more than ten countries, including the United Kingdom, China, Germany, the United States, Ireland, Spain, Romania, Denmark, Turkey and India, held in-depth discussions to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto.
The conference was co-hosted by the University of Brighton and the International Association of Marx & Engels Humanities Studies (MEIA).
The subjects discussed include Friedrich Engels' life and experiences, his contribution to the development of Marxism, the influence of Engels' theories on the development of the contemporary world, and the influence of Marxism on China's modernisation path.
"It's an incredible opportunity to have so many Chinese scholars of Marxism here in Britain and to have those dialogues and make connections at a conference," said Christian Hogsbjerg, senior lecturer in the School of Humanities & Social Science at the University of Brighton.
Terrell Carver, professor of political theory at the University of Bristol, said that he expected the conference to promote communication between Western and Chinese scholars on Marxism. "I think this is a really good occasion," Carver said.
Engels contributed substantially to Marxist theory, not least with his acute observation of workers' conditions and the exploitation by capitalists. Karl Marx and Engels co-authored The Communist Manifesto and co-founded the first proletarian party in the world to change the fate of the working class.
After the death of Marx, Engels took on the role of leading the international workers' movement, sorting out and publishing Marx's unfinished work, including Das Kapital while continuing to defend and develop the Marxist theory.  After the death of Engels, Marx's daughter, among others, threw Engels' ashes into the sea near Eastbourne.
The international conference was originally scheduled in 2020 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the philosopher's birth, but was postponed due to the Covid pandemic.
"For me, probably the most significant element is the celebration of the 175th anniversary of  the Communist Manifesto. Has there been a more epoch-making and significant publication for social revolutionaries, for social radicals, for the history of the world than that publication? How incredibly fitting that this event celebrates that and reflects on where we are now," Professor Stephen Maddison, dean of the School of Humanities & Social Science at the University of Brighton, said.
Several Chinese scholars took the stage to share their academic research results. Wang Binglin, professor of the School of Marxism at Beijing Normal University, delivered a speech titled Marxism and Chinese Modernisation at the event.
He said that Chinese modernisation not only has the common features of modernization of other countries but also has Chinese characteristics. He introduced this to foreign scholars at the conference, hoping it will help them better understand the development and practice of Marxist theory in China.
Wang Xinyan, professor of humanities and social sciences at Wuhan University, shared his findings on Engels' conception of nature and its contemporary significance.
He said that Engels not only understood the division and opposition between humans and nature, but also explored the coordination and unity of humans and nature in practice, which has outstanding significance in today's times and is an important guiding theory for Chinese moderniSation.
"This conference provides a platform for Chinese scholars to discuss with their foreign counterparts the common problems facing mankind and to provide Chinese wisdom to solve them," he said.
"As a Western politician, I can see that Marxism works and has made China great," George Pippas, a former mayor of Cambridge, said at the conference.
Pippas said he has visited China more than 20 times and was impressed by the high-speed railway technology, the high level of education, history and tradition blended beautifully with the political system, which are examples of how well Marxism works in China.

Fighting fascism in Europe!

With Tatiana Desyatova and Boris Litvinov of the CPRF  
by Theo Russell

We support the victory not of Russia, but of the world against resurgent fascism in Europe

I represented the NCP and the International Ukraine Anti-Fascist Solidarity campaign, met comrades and friends at a key-note conference in Moscow on the Ukraine crisis last month.
1 joined campaigners from Holland, France, Austria, Italy, Brazil, the Basque Country and India, who overcame the difficulties in travelling to Russia imposed by the imperialist sanctions regime, to meet in the Russian capital for the 6th annual conference of the Red Square-Molotov Club.
The Moscow conference, which ran from the 23rd to 25th May, included members of Russian parties and Russian experts, Ukrainian political emigrants, and representatives from the Donbas, as well as members of the international peace, communist, socialist and social democratic movements.
The conference was organised by the MART Corp Radio & TV agency, and the main topics were the conflict in Ukraine, political repression in Ukraine and in the NATO countries, and the issue of prisoners of war in Ukraine. But the issue which took up most debate was that of peace talks.
The conference provided an invaluable political and economic analysis of the entire global backdrop to the conflict in Ukraine and agreed on the most urgent priorities for international ant-fascist activists.
Leonid Ilderkhin, the conference organiser and member of the Molotov Club and the Union of Political Emigrants and Political Prisoners of Ukraine (UPEPPU), kicked off proceedings by saying that: “While many are calling for peace talks, this won't happen. The Istanbul 1 and Istanbul 2 talks were both wrecked by Boris Johnson.”
“However,” he continued, “it is still necessary for peace and solidarity organisations to call for an armistice and peace talks to expose the true nature the true nature of the imperialists, and to raise the real dangers of the Ukraine war moving to a more dangerous level, something the more aggressive and hawkish members of NATO would like to see.”
Larissa Shessler, Chair of the UPEPPU, shared this viewpoint, saying: “We do not support the call for the Donbas Republics and Russia to enter into ceasefire talks.” She went on to describe the almost barbaric crimes on an horrific scale committed by the Kiev regime's fascist henchmen in Ukraine since February 2022.
“You cannot imagine the level of fascism in Ukraine, this has never been seen before in Europe since 1945. After the Special Military Operation (SMO) began there has been total repression of any opposition whatsoever in Ukraine.
“All organisations, movements and parties not supporting the regime have been suppressed,” she said. “Organisers of the Immortal Regiment marches [which honour the fallen in the Second World War] in every town in Ukraine have been eliminated, they have disappeared and had no contact with their families. But the European Court of Human Rights will not accept any cases concerning anyone on the left in Ukraine.
“Even very minor people who were active in the past have been ‘removed’, such as a woman who organised the Immortal Regiment march several years ago in Zaporizhia. Thousands of political prisoners have been tortured, had no medical treatment or proper food. Over 100 in the city of Nikolaev alone.
“When Ukrainian forces retook Kherson, hundreds, thousands of people experienced repression. In Kupyansk, anyone believed to have co-operated with Russian forces was massacred. In Snihurivka, even an old woman who had received humanitarian aid was arrested and beaten.
“We can't envisage how the nature of the current regime in Ukraine can ever be changed,” Larissa concluded.
Yuri Moskovsky, an official from the Federal Agency for Management of Special Economic Zones, described the war in Ukraine as “a struggle for people's power, supported by the Russian Federation, against fascists and Nazis who are using ‘democratic’ cover”.
Moskovsky said: “The power structures in Ukraine were supported by world finance capital long before 2014. This support is continuing today in the form of troops, arms, information and Intelligence.
“Attempts to engage in negotiations will not succeed,” he said. “We see that in Ukraine there is no democracy and no space for Russian-speaking people. To agree to an armistice would give the regime hope that they will not be defeated and will only lead to a prolonging of the conflict.
“At this moment, the world is moving increasingly towards nuclear conflict. It is only by achieving the goals of the SMO will we be able to truly bring this conflict to an end.
“The prosecution of political criminals and the rulers in Ukraine must be the same justice as that given to German and Japanese fascists in 1945. However,” he warned, “the infection of fascism will always be a threat, and their example inspires those who share their views around the world.”
Leire Azcargorta, a journalist and interpreter from the Basque Country, told the meeting that in the 1986 Spanish referendum on whether to remain in NATO, the Basque and Catalan regions voted to leave NATO. "This means that if these regions had been independent, they would have left NATO."
In March this year, she said, there was a huge demonstration against NATO in the Basque capital Bilbao.
Andrea Luchitti, an Italian journalist living in the Donbas, spoke about the resurgence of fascism in Italy, with the Brothers of Italy, the descendants of the puppet fascist government under German occupation in the Second World War, now the governing party of Giorgia Meloni, and the president of the Italian senate keeping a statue of Mussolini in his house.
He said that most people in Italy are against sending weapons to the Kiev regime, with opinion polls showing 60 per cent of voters against any Italian involvement in Ukraine.
Darya Mitina of the United Communist Party of Russia (OKP) and a former elected representative in Ukraine, said that: “Today, Ukraine is the principal military entity at the service of the NATO states. Negotiations with the existing regime are not possible, peace negotiations can only take place after the destruction of the present Ukrainian regime.”
“We support the victory not of Russia, but of the world against resurgent fascism in Europe,” she said. “Everybody knows that the war will end only when the west stops sending arms to Ukraine. Hence, the main task is to end the supply of weapons.”
Vasily Koltashov from the New Society Institute, an independent Russian social science body, provided an analysis of the global political and economic contradictions and features that led eventually to the conflict in Ukraine: “The military situation in 2022 was against a backdrop of a financial crisis in the USA and failures in its system of credit. 2022 also saw a great inflation in food and energy prices causing severe economic damage to the economies of the USA and Europe, whilst there was a radical improvement in the Russian economy.
“The main basis of economic development in Russia is the sector of industry that precedes raw material extraction. Previously the European countries were using Russian oil to make diesel and other products, now they are importing diesel from India and Turkey made from Russian oil.
“This not only guarantees Russia's economic development in conditions of sanctions, but many developing countries becoming more developed, whilst de facto the so-called developed market economies are becoming less developed.
“The elites of those developed economies see in the war against Russia the solution to their economic problems. These elites truly believe that all global economic and social reforms must be blocked.
“They want to break Russia economically and militarily, so that they can then take under very strict control Asia and its resources, and then increase the pressure on China.
“This is why in conditions of the bank crisis and the possible default of the US government, in Washington there is no reduction in military or foreign expenditure, while financial support for the fascist regime in Kiev will be stepped up by the European countries and the World Bank.
“I cannot say that the highest circles of Russian bureaucracy were ready for such a sharp conflict with the Western powers. Since 2022 the global political and economic conflict has been growing.
“We must understand the roots of this conflict, which is taking place on the former territory of the Soviet Union. Those roots of this crisis are very, very deep, and lie in the needs of the Anglo-Saxon financial elites to obtain the vast natural resources of Central Asia.
“Sometimes they use economic methods, such as the US interest rate hikes, which provoke the decline of the Western economies and depression in world markets. The aim is to depress raw material prices to damage the Russian economy. And these elites don't care that in doing this they ruin their own economies.
“I'm explaining all this because we need to understand that the idea that an immediate peace in Ukraine will bring an end to the threats to Russia from the West is a Utopian one.
“At first, the fascist regime in Kiev must collapse, and together with this there must be the liberation of European nations from the influence of the USA. Only after this can we imagine that the USA, Canada and Britain can consider some progressive social and economic changes.
"So the conflict is a long one, the conflict is very deep. Most important of all is that the theoretical possibility of the defeat of Russia in this conflict will not bring any good to the European or the world economy, because a new cycle of economic growth must have at its core the economies of the BRICS countries [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa].
“These are the new, big economies that can develop the industries preceding the exploitation of raw materials, and this requires the development of social welfare states that bring about social consumption, which is the opposite model to that of the neo-liberal capitalism of the West.
“The Western middle classes cannot increase their consumption because this is only possible through more and more credits, which cannot last forever. That is why the new core of the world economy must be the BRICS countries.
“The most important aspect of fascism is that it involves the [members] of the population who are not educated masses, who are involved in nationalist, ultra-right and fascist groups who have a much better life than everybody else. There are two ways to demolish this, physical elimination through war, or long-term stagnation, as we have seen before in history.”
“The elimination of the Kiev regime will pave the way for a much better social life in all the European countries. Their choice is between the physical military elimination of the Kiev regime, or stagnation, decline and fascist regimes in Europe,” Koltashov concluded.
Sonia Van Den Ende, a journalist from the Netherlands who is on the Mitroverets death list and is unable to return home, compared the war In Syria to that in the Donbas. “The West used ISIS and Daesh nazis as proxies, and we saw 4.9 million people die during the Arab Spring movement. We saw the Azov battalion all over Mariupol, and at the Azovstal steel plant I personally saw copies of {Mein Kampf} and Nazi emblems.
“A new fascist system has been created in the West, and we need to confront this. Everyone wants peace, but we can't see how that is possible with the Kiev regime. We need to see a new Nuremberg process in Ukraine.”
Vladimir Sadkov, Chairman of the all-Russian Officers Union, called for “a united international anti-fascist front to co-ordinate international groups and parties, with the purpose of ending arms supplies, ending the violations of human rights in Ukraine, and building support for the Russian SMO”.
He described the situation at the front as “more or less equal, neither side can achieve a military victory”, adding that since the start of the SMO, 4,136 Donbas civilians have died, including 136 children.
Leonid Ilderkhin spoke on the issue of prisoners of war since the Russian intervention, highlighting the shameless attitude of the Ukrainian government and military commanders to their own troops. “Thus,” he said, “the Kiev regime demonstrates a disdainful attitude towards international laws on prisoners of war, in fact, it ignores them while its Western backers remain silent.”
Leonid pointed out that many of the Ukrainian troops at the front have been arrested, poorly trained and sent to fight. “These soldiers have no motivation to fight and thousands have simply surrendered at the first opportunity – they run to the Russian forces and say ‘please take us from the hell of Ukraine’.
“This explains why Ukrainian forces have deliberately shelled POW prisons to kill them as they are seen as ‘enemies’, since the majority of them deserted.
“In talks on the exchange of POWs, the Ukrainians do not want the return of sick or injured soldiers which would cost them to look after, instead giving priority to returning captured neo-Nazis.
“The POWs’ families are cruelly neglected. They receive no information about their loved ones, the Kiev regime says nothing about them, and many are simply reported as killed in action.”
Leonid also pointed out that: “Many Ukrainian emigrants from all over Ukraine – people who left to escape the fascist regime – have joined the Donbas and Russian armed forces. This is,” he concluded, “an inhuman and bestial regime.”
Denis Zomer, from the United Communist Party of Russia, said that in 2014 “the west decided that Banderism was the way forward in Ukraine”, and that now “the fascists’ idea is to fight to the last Ukrainian”.
“The Russian Federation,” she said, “is not fighting Ukraine, but it is fighting NATO, and NATO wants to test new weapons. The aim of this war is to destroy the Russian nation.
“The only choice for anti-fascists in Ukraine and around the world is to help normal Ukrainian people to clean their country from Nazism.”
Alexey Albu, a survivor of the Odessa Trade Union House massacre in 2014, and a leading member of Borotba the Ukrainian anti-fascist movement, commented that “many left organisations around the world are connected to imperialist structures and so-called NGOs, and they in turn Influence other organisations”.
He said that: “The role of the dollar in international trade makes the USA the main accumulator of finance capital in the world, but there are several other poles. At the centre of one pole is Russia.
“In recent years we have seen coups or coup attempts in Ukraine, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Belarus. All of these have been aimed at encircling and weakening Russia and opening-up the vast resources of the former Soviet Union to Western interests.
“We agree on the need for negotiations, but this is not possible until the West stops sending arms to Zelensky.
“We have the deepest respect for the work of our foreign comrades and their support for the anti-fascist struggle and for a democratic society in Ukraine, and we feel very much and respect this work,” Albu said.
“Those comrades cannot imagine how important their work is for anti-fascists in Ukraine and in exile. We call for this work to continue, and to involve more people and the working class of many countries.”
Elena Veduta, professor at Moscow State University Department of Strategic Planning, said that “we are at the stage of the crisis when the capitalist class seeks a military solution to the crisis”. She quoted Frederick Engels, saying that every successive war resulting from the capitalist cycle was more catastrophic than the last.
“Today we are on the edge of a world war that will draw in China. Henry Kissinger has predicted that in 10 years there will be a war between the USA and China affecting all of mankind.” She described the ruling regime in Ukraine as “savages and animals”.
“The only solution to the crisis is a planned economy with balanced and proper distribution, which produces the products needed by society. Only economic planning can defeat the globalist agenda, and Russia must take the lead in this work.”
Austrian professor Leo Gabriel, a promoter of the World Social Forum and the European Social Forum, spoke about international efforts to mobilise for a ceasefire in Ukraine.
He said there was going to be an International Summit for Peace in Ukraine to draft a Vienna Appeal for Peace, on 10th to 12th June in Vienna, which will include a condemnation of "the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine".
Messages will be received from former Austrian president Heinz Fischer, Noam Chomsky, Colombian Vice-President Francia Márquez, Guatemalan Cardinal Álvaro Leonel Ramazzini, Brazilian president Lula da Silva and former US presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, and speakers including Professor Jeffrey Sachs and Bolivian Vice-President David Choquehuanca. Other participants include Kate Hudson from UK CND and Medea Benjamin from Code Pink, as well as from many other countries.
Leo said: “The intention is to call for an immediate ceasefire. Although we know it won't happen, it is still necessary to expose the true face of NATO and to raise the danger of the conflict spreading.
In its concluding memorandum, the Red Square-Molotov Club adopted the following slogans for immediate international campaign work:
    • “We call for the rapid exchange of prisoners in Ukraine and in other conflict zones!”
    • “We condemn the Western sanctions against Russia and other countries!”
    • “We call on the governments and peoples of the European Union to resist the policy of sanctions initiated by the United States against the Russian Federation! Sanctions bring mutual harm to the EU and Russia!”
    • “We call for an end to the systematic violations by Western countries and Ukraine of the terms of the agreement to provide the world market with grain from Ukraine!”
    • “We demand an end to military assistance from the United States and their allies to the Kyiv regime!”
    • “We support the initiative of Humberto Carvalho (Brazilian Communist Party) to create the World Organisation of Anti-Fascists!”
    • “Stop NATO! Peace to the Nations! Peace to the Peoples!”

The NHS 75 years on

The National Health Service marked it 75th anniversary this week. But while the tributes pour in striking nurses, doctors and ancillary workers, overcrowded surgeries and long hospital waiting lists tell another story.
The NHS embodied the hopes and dreams of the labour movement whose campaign for free medical treatment for the masses cumulated in the opening of the health service on 5th July 1948.
A National Health Service, delivered free to all at the time of need, is an essential requirement if people are to play an active part in society.
The expectation of the working class in the post‑war period for some dramatic changes to their lives resulted in the birth of the NHS, under the post‑war Labour Government. The NHS was revered throughout the capitalist world.
It came with a price. The consultants demanded the continuation of privately paid healthcare, alongside their services to the NHS. Their demands were met.
The wealthy continued to receive their personalised healthcare; the consultants were able to continue to receive lucrative payment for this private business.
The idea of making profit from the sick continued and the NHS would be viewed by capitalists as a valuable asset later as the conditions changed.
Though the NHS was built with public taxation it was later opened up for capitalist exploitation.
The introduction of private healthcare insurance enabled the private sector to grow. Companies could use it as part of a salary package to some top employees. Others paid privately for health insurance, and later some would pay out of savings to get an earlier consultation and then have quicker access to the NHS, as waiting lists grew.
All public bodies were encouraged to obtain private finance to pay for major projects like hospitals with no exception. New hospitals were built and leased back. The conditions were set by the financiers. Rates were set for an agreed period, and then the financiers could increase their charges. This led to hospitals becoming more indebted and vulnerable to private take over.
Nevertheless the NHS has continued to serve the people through preventative medicine and medical research. Large-scale vaccination programmes protected children from whooping cough, measles and tuberculosis and more recently helped quell the Covid pandemic that threatened to bring the country to its knees in 2020. The NHS has also pioneered new treatments like Britain’s first kidney transplant in 1960 and Europe’s first liver transplant in 1968 and advanced medical research such as bionic eyes and the world’s first rapid whole genome sequencing service for seriously ill babies and children.
This week we’ve had the usual tributes from bourgeois politicians of all hues whose platitudes mask the fact that Starmer’s Labour Party looks on the Sunak government’s butchery of the NHS with the tacit approval  that allows the Tories to continue to privatise the already seriously under-funded health service.
Capitalists view health as a commodity. We, however. regard a National Health Service as a cornerstone to our society, to treat all, when needed, paid through a fair taxation system, to give good after‑care, to prevent the spread of disease and encourage and promote a healthy lifestyle. A good NHS is essential for a healthy population and essential to a socialist society and socialist economy.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Visiting Russia during sanctions and war

by Theo Russell
On a recent visit to Russia to attend an activist conference in Moscow I gained a fascinating impression of this great and civilised country during a time of war.
Just getting to Moscow was quite a challenge. I ended up flying to Helsinki, taking a bus to St Petersburg (the trains run by Russian Railways are suspended), and a train to Moscow. 
There was much talk of long delays at the border with some being questioned by Russian border staff, and the fact that Finland had just joined NATO. So there were any number of things which could have gone wrong, and it was a huge relief to actually arrive in Russia.
The other problem was being unable to use any Western cards or payment apps, which entailed relying on people living in Russia buying rail tickets for me. It wasn’t possible to buy Russian roubles in London, or even at Helsinki airport so I had to take US dollars (the easiest to exchange), and rely almost completely on cash.
The overall impression I gained was of an incredibly civilised, very modern and dynamic country. From the time I came into the outskirts of St Petersburg, on the journey to Moscow and in Moscow itself there was new building work everywhere, many impressive looking modern buildings, and the transport, road and rail infrastructure was in perfect condition - a huge contrast with Britain’s degraded infrastructure.
Unlike Europe and the US, despite the sanctions the Russian Federation has extremely low unemployment and inflation, virtually no national debt, and huge reserves of foreign currencies and gold. Russia has more than recouped the assets illegally seized by Britain and the USA.
I was in Moscow for about a week, spending most of my time in the suburbs and travelling right to the city boundaries in the north, south and east. Everywhere I went I saw new, beautifully designed flats, and even the bus stops right at the edge of the city looked very modern and clean. 
I asked many comrades “where are the poor down areas with high crime levels?" but travelling all over the city I didn’t come across a single area which wasn't pleasant, green and extremely safe. I was told that the suburb of Xovrina had been rough and dangerous 25 years ago, but was now regarded as very desirable. These comrades had no reason to paint a rosy picture.
As for the Western backed sanctions - actually supported by 30 of the UN's 193 members (including the USA’s Pacific dominions) - there was virtually no sign. In fact there are more empty shelves and missing items in UK shops, for various reasons, than in Russia. 
Even the medium sized supermarkets on housing estates (these were built in Soviet times) found all over Moscow had all the daily needs of local people and of a very high standard. One very ordinary small suburban supermarket had a freezer with different types of caviar, the most expensive costing £13.
Many Western - and British - companies still operate in Russia including KFC, Marriott hotels, Subway, Auchan and Spar supermarkets, Philips, AstraZeneca, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Carlsberg, JP Morgan, Microsoft, Spotify, Toyota, Nestle, Red Bull, Total, Unilever, Benetton and TGI Friday.
One unintended result of the Western sanctions is that the wealthy oligarchs have returned their assets to Russia, and are now investing their enormous funds in Russia.
Moscow is an incredibly green city. Even on suburban housing estates where ordinary workers live, behind the blocks of flats are large areas of greenery and children's playing areas. I spent one night in a 13th floor 1970s Soviet era flat. While parts of it could do with a makeover, it was a lovely and surprisingly large flat with an enormous main bedroom. The area outside was clean, pleasant and safe.
I don't mean here to paint a perfect picture of the situation in Russia, I'm well aware that Moscow and St Petersburg are not wholly representative of this vast country, and that there are many problems in Russia. But we have to acknowledge that it is an extremely well run country. 
I was told that most Moscow residents prefer to buy their flats. But the boom in construction of new blocks, with a far higher architectural standard than in Britain and similar to that in Germany or the Netherlands, is also a boom for property developers.
One comrade told me that mafia gangs were targeting elderly and vulnerable people to force them out of their flats, and that many migrants, mainly from the former Soviet Central Asian republics, were crowded into flats in large numbers. However that was only one person, and I didn't see any signs of corruption, gangs or criminal types, something I certainly came across in Moscow when I visited at the time of Gorbachev.
I also asked comrades about racism and racist attacks in Moscow and St Petersburg, which were sadly commonplace in the 1990s and early 2000s. All confirmed that both racism and racist attacks in the cities are virtually non existent today, a very positive piece of news. 
According to Scott Ritter, who recently visited several Russian cities, Moscow receives more government money than other cities, but he says cities such as Novosibirsk and Ekaterinburg were also flourishing, and in fact had cash to spare and were looking for new projects to fund.
In Moscow, the transport system is infinitely better, and far cheaper, than London's. A single metro ticket for the whole network costs 60p, less than a quarter of that in London and a tenth of the cash fare, but the service is far more frequent and there are no signal failures, train failures, or "shortages of drivers". I also used buses and trams which were modern and clean. 
Russia is also a surprisingly modern, hi-tech society. Few in the West realise that Russia is one of only three countries with their own internet and social media infrastructure, the others being the US and China. Here in Britain we are almost totally dependent on US platforms for our maps, e-commerce and media.
The Russian postal service has very smart looking parcel collection lockers in metro stations. There are apps to locate and instantly use cars or scooters on the streets. Yandex, the Russian equivalent of Google (with its own global maps) has very smart Chinese cars parked everywhere for instant hire. Most Russians use mobile payment apps rather than cash.
However, every metro station (in Moscow or St Petersburg) is fully staffed, including ticket offices - very useful for confused foreign visitors! All stations also have security staff and bag x-ray machines, a legacy of past terrorist bomb attacks.
One amazing discovery on my trip was the "stolovaya" restaurants, which originated in the 1920s to provide affordable meals for workers and liberate women from domestic drudgery. 
These 'canteens' can be found everywhere, with several on St Petersburg's Nevsky Prospekt and offer a huge range of very healthy and high quality food, incredibly cheap and even affordable for pensioners (I checked). Many are even open 24 hours! There are also several commercial chains modelled on the stolovayas, all equally high standard and cheap, which can be found all over Moscow. 
Although there are many Western style fast food chains, Russian fast food chains sell very healthy traditional dishes. I saw no equivalent of the fried chicken and pizza shops which saturate working class areas in Britain.
In Moscow I visited an enormous shopping centre , complete with a beautiful ice skating rink. I tried the re-branded Russian McDonalds (controversially named "Tasty - and That's It!"). The food was excellent and there were plenty of people queuing there. 
Another discovery was the currency exchange offices on which I was totally dependent. Although they close at 6pm, they are extremely safe, some with security guards at the door, very fast and professional. The rates are fixed, so no need to look around to avoid being conned.  
In general Russia is incredibly cheap. I stayed in a "2 star" hotel in the centre of St Petersburg the size of a small flat, with living room and bedroom areas, 2 TVs, kettle with tea/coffee and en suite bathroom, for £25. 
As the American journalist Scott Ritter points out "if you convert roubles into dollars it wouldn't translate to what many Americans earn, but the rouble buys four times what the dollar does. If you go to a Russian supermarket and buy a basket of shopping, what would cost you thirty dollars in the United States costs six dollars in Russia."
The train journeys to and from St Petersburg-Moscow were a great experience. Having missed my fast train to Moscow, with help from a very patient cashier I managed to rebook for a "slow" train (5h 48m for a 392 mile trip) on the same day, for only £14. It was the smoothest rail journey I've ever experienced. On the way back I took a sleeper train with my own compartment, for £65. The trains run exactly on schedule, and the staff are very smart, efficient and friendly. 
In the stations there were displays on the contribution the railways made in the Second World War in memory of Victory Day on 9th  May, and the front cover of the Russian Railways monthly magazine was the hammer and sickle flag being raised over the Reichstag in 1945.
Many people have asked me about signs that Russia was at war. In the rail and metro stations, and next to main roads, there are many posters and video signs showing the 'Z' symbol or encouraging recruitment to the military. While writing this I heard that in May alone around 13,500 people volunteered to join up.
Apart from that there were few signs, except that Google and Yandex (the Russian equivalent) maps, and navigation apps went down on a couple of evenings in Moscow. As a result I lost my way once, and a comrade who was driving me somewhere eventually gave up and ordered a taxi.
I was also aware of the Ukrainian terrorist attacks in St Petersburg and near Moscow, but there is tight security everywhere, all done politely and professionally. The night I returned to Petersburg eight drones reached Moscow, two of which landed not far from where I had spent a night. Most were brought down, and there was only superficial damage.
I spent one day in St Petersburg, a very pleasant, beautiful and proud city with a rich history, and very much a seaport city. Opposite the Moskovsky Station on Vosstaniya Square is a huge sign lit up at night, "Hero City - Leningrad". I was very lucky to be given a tour of the main sights by two comrades from the St Petersburg Communist Party (CPRF) Komsomol. If anything I found Petersburg even more friendly than Moscow.
Unlike the car park next to Helsinki Vantaa airport where I caught the bus to St Petersburg, the Petersburg bus station was the nicest I have come across in many years of international bus travel. Dating from Soviet times, it had everything a traveller needs including food and drink counters at 6.30am, souvenir shops and large plant displays.
Despite the many problems to overcome, the visit was a fascinating experience. My impression is the Russian Federation is an extremely strong and self-reliant country. It is increasingly clear that throwing every possible sanction at Russia has had very little effect, and the country, whose economic fundamentals are in far better shape than other European states or the USA, is now returning to growth.
Returning to Britain with its depressing, crumbling infrastructure, a country where there are no reasons to be optimistic about the future, I am now missing Russia and its people and would like to return there at the first opportunity. It is a country I would love to live in.

Donbas communists speak out!

Boris Litvinov with Theo Russell

By Theo Russell

“The immediate aim is the demilitarisation of Ukraine, and the removal of the current leadership of Ukraine by any means” - Boris Litvinov

On 28th  May 2023 I met with Boris Litvinov, secretary of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) District of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), in Moscow. His comments are reported below.
“We have spent eight years fighting for the Donetsk People's Republic with volunteer detachments against the Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF).
        “The Minsk and Normandy negotiations were cynically used by the Western Powers to buy time for Ukraine to build up its armed forces, and in 2021 Zelensky declared his intention to reoccupy the Donbas.
“After 17 February 2022 shelling of the Donbas by the UAF greatly increased, and on 18 February the mass evacuation of children from the war zone to the RussianFederation began.
“The UAF launched an attack with 60,000 troops, and the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s militias had to defend along a border of 476 kilometres with a force of 27,000.
“We realised that we had to defend our self-determination and independence with our lives. Faced with this situation, the Donbas republics appealed to the vice president of the Russian Federation for military assistance.
“The Kiev regime still controlled 35% of the DPR. We forget that for the UAF reoccupying all of the DPR was symbolic, as this is where the ‘Antimaidan’ movement began in 2014.
“The DPR is 96 per cent urbanised, it has a strong community spirit, and strong ties with Russia. We feel that it is a part of Russia.
“Before 1860 there was no industry in Donetsk. The Welsh engineer John Hughes was invited by the Czarist government and founded the city of Donetsk in 1870. Some of the factories he built there are still operating today.
“There is no history of conflict between the Christian, Russian Orthodox, Jewish or Buddhist communities in Donetsk, and there has always been a strong sense of unity among the population.
“During 20 years of Nazification Russophobia has spread to the whole of Ukrainian
society, from primary school education onwards, while Russophobia
“Only this month (May 2023), Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, at a meeting with Zelensky in Kiev, publicly praised the death of Russians in the current conflict, saying US support for the war in Ukraine was ‘the best money we’ve ever spent...and the Russians are dying’.
“It will take at least fifteen years for this anti-Russian mentality in Ukraine to change, requiring a complete transformation of education and the media.
        “In our view the immediate aim in the current war is the demilitarisation of Ukraine, and the removal of the current leadership of Ukraine, by any means.
“On May Day this year an exhibition was held in a park in Donetsk City on international solidarity with the Donbas republics, with photos from the UK, US, Ireland, Italy, Germany and other countries.
“At the Havana Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties in November 2022, general secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine Pyotr Simonenko stated that the current war is not a Ukrainian war, but a world war about the shape of the global order, and said that our noble task is to preserve the Russian nation.
“The plan for Western imperialism is to solve the so-called ‘Russian problem’. If Russia is eliminated, the imperialists plan to replace it with multiple states governed by fascist regimes. This is the only way in which imperialism would be able to control such a vast country.
“Today many socialists and communists around the world are together with Russia, but in future they may move in different directions, so there is a necessity for a left turn in Russia. We believe that only socialism can provide the opportunity to restructure and rebuild such a large country.
“For several years the CPRF has upheld the slogan ‘save the Russian world’ - ‘the Russian Mir’.
“At the CPRF central committee on 27th May 2023, it was decided that it was necessary to fight for a Soviet world in Russia, as well as for all other national groups of the former Soviet Union. This was the first time such a goal was stated at a CPRF CC meeting”.

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

The dreams of a war-lord

In October 1922 Mussolini’s Blackshirts marched on Rome. Within days the fascist leader had been appointed prime minister by the Italian king and was forming his first government.
Last weekend the Wagner Force, Russia’s ‘foreign legion’ marched on Moscow but within 24 hours they were back in their barracks while their boss was ignominiously packed off to Belarus under an agreement with President Putin.
   Yevgeny Prigozhin is, of course, no Duce. Benito Mussolini was already a national figure when his followers marched on the Italian capital. His fascist movement had significant backing from the Italian ruling class – including army chiefs, nationalists, business leaders and members of the royal family. They wanted an iron-fist regime that would deal with the unions, the “Reds” and the assorted socialists that they feared would lead to anarchy or a Bolshevik revolution. But they needed a front-man.
   Mussolini wasn’t even their first choice. Gabriele D’Annunzio, the fiery nationalist poet didn’t want the job. Neither did General Peppino Garibaldi – the grandson of the great Italian liberator of the 19th century. So it finally went to a turn-coat socialist – the immensely vain and ambitious Mussolini. Needless to say the future “duce” didn’t do any marching – he took the train to Rome from Milan.
    Prigozhin, an oligarch who made his fortune in the catering and entertainment industries during the worthless Yeltsin era, is neither a politician or a professional soldier. He has no support on the Russian street. He made no appeal to working people apart from a diatribe against the Ukrainian conflict that seemed to blame Putin for the war and he didn’t get any support from any sections of the Russian oligarchy or the armed forces.
   Russia’s communists closed ranks to defend the people of the Donbas when they cried out for help against Ukrainian terror. They closed ranks around country last weekend to stop the Wagner legion’s march on Moscow.
   Prigozhin’s revolt was met with glee in the Western chancelleries. They hoped for civil war or a coup that would give them and their Ukrainian pawns the victory that has so far eluded them on the battlefield. The Wagner boss certainly briefly bask in the praise of the self-styled Western gurus who told us this was the end for Putin and that a Ukrainian victory was just around the corner.
   As Putin said “they were rubbing their hands in glee as they dreamed of revenge for their failures on the front during their so-called counteroffensive, but they miscalculated”. So did Prigozhin.
   Some say Prigozhin was lashing out because his private army was going to be incorporated, against his will, into the regular Russian armed forces. Others believe he was bought off by Western intelligence.
Whatever his motives, Prigozhin’s abortive revolt objectively served imperialism. US imperialism wants regime change in Russia. They want to get rid of Putin and his national bourgeois circle and replace him with a weak and pliant regime like that of Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s that would break up the Russian Federation and open it up for plunder by the trans-national corporations.
   Every oligarch has a price. Hopefully we will soon find out whether Prigozhin was suborned by Western intelligence...