Sunday, July 07, 2024

Enter Keir Starmer

Workers get little or nothing out of bourgeois elections. Whoever wins the ruling class will still be there living off the backs of working people in Britain and throughout the world.
The Labour Party has been dominated by its right-wing throughout its history – a right-wing that never seriously challenged imperialism when the British empire spanned the globe and to this day always seeks to serve what they believe to be the dominant wing of the ruling class.
But come election-time we do get the chance to keep the most reactionary of the mainstream parties out of office and to elect the only party that is historically and organisationally linked to the trade union movement – Labour. We also get the chance to raise popular demands that go far beyond the bourgeois agenda or the class-collaborationist policies of Sir Keir Starmer and his cronies.
This week Palestine solidarity candidates took four seats off of Labour and came close to winning a couple more. Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader hounded out because he supports the legitimate demands of the Palestinian Arabs, has held his seat as an independent. These independents can now realistically strive to build a Palestinian support lobby in Parliament with the support from some of the Greens, the Liberal-Democrats and the left social-democrats on Starmer’s back-benches. But they won’t be able to change Labour itself.
Only the organised working class through its affiliated unions that provide the massive amounts of cash that keep Labour going can do that job. And that will only happen if there’s mass rank-and-file pressure on the leadership for change.
Capitalism can never solve the problems of working people nor is it intended to. It’s a system designed to ensure that the big bourgeoisie and those that serve them live the lives of Roman emperors through exploitation. All the wealth of the capitalist world is produced by workers in factories and peasants in the fields. All they get in return is a tiny fraction of the wealth they produce.
All that “democracy” means to the bourgeoisie is manipulating the largest number of votes by the smallest number of people. Marking a cross in a ballot box every four of five years is a meaningless ritual unless it’s matched by a rising level of militancy and struggle. The Palestine solidarity campaign has reached out to millions over the past nine months through mass actions on the streets in London and up and down the country. The unions must do the same to demand higher wages, better pensions, decent and affordable housing and a free health service that can so easily be funded by taxing the rich, restoring the public sector and scrapping the Trident nuclear arms system.
The next step is real democracy – people’s democracy; democracy for the masses that will pave the way for socialism and the end of poverty, classes and exploitation. The struggle began in the 19th century and continues to this day.
We know that social democracy, of whatever trend, can never lead to socialism. But the struggles of the future can only come from a labour movement confident to lead the fight for revolutionary change. We shall not be diverted from that struggle.

Britain joins the war in Ukraine

by K Hill

While the US has brought about regime change in Ukraine with the Maidan coup in 2014, installing a thinly disguised neo-Nazi government of Banderites and corrupt politicians to loot its resources, sell its land and saddle it with massive debts thanks to dodgy IMF loans, the UK has been heavily involved in the training of their military – now the second largest European army (after Turkey) in NATO.
The UK involvement has involved everything from bringing Ukrainian commanders for "special training" in the UK, Nazi tattoos on show much to the embarrassment of the British media, to the existence of special advisors, in reality SAS and SBS units, to supervise "on the ground" the attacks on Snake Island and Kerch Bridge.
This is the real reason our British press has been so obsessed with these two "targets" over the past two years, despite their lack of strategic importance, because they are great PR and distract the British public from the grim reality of millions of dead and wounded Ukrainians over the past years.
This is a war Ukraine can't win, never could win, but a war that the UK along with the US said would be worth it because if the Ukrainians "weakened Russia" they would be rewarded with European Union and NATO membership – despite the fact that they didn't qualify, and never would. Now the EU and NATO are so weak, they may well become members simply because both are on their last legs, completely ruined by this unwinnable war along with the rest of Europe and the UK.
When offered more than reasonable terms of peace by Russia, the US sent Boris Johnson to persuade Zelensky to continue the war, while the US funded billions of dollars of "loans" Ukraine can never repay to stay in the war, knowing they would be defeated, but determined they should keep on fighting until Biden is re-elected.
The tragedy is that Ukraine could never win "the war" and the Americans knew that. Russia has more and better weapons than NATO, can produce more and better weapons than NATO can in the future, even if Europe and the UK move to a "war economy". Russia now has a bigger, better trained armed forces than NATO, although it didn't before the Americans provoked this war in 2014. In fact Russia was reducing its armed forces in order to focus more on rebuilding its economy after US sanctions and building up international relationships with other victims of American imperialism.
Sanctions have now bankrupted the West, and BRICS will make US hegemony irrelevant, but the UK's real humiliation has come with Sunak's admission that the UK won't "directly fight Russia", because it exposes the fact that we already have been secretly fighting Russia for a decade, in an unwinnable war that has exposed our complete inability to do anything but start what we cannot finish.

Monday, July 01, 2024

Last lap of the election…

It looks like curtains for Sunak on 4th July. Despite the fact that there is little enthusiasm for Keith Starmer on the street nothing the Conservatives say can shift Labour’s 20 point lead in the opinion polls. Amongst the Tory grandees the blame game has already begun with Remainers looking to the Liberal-Democrats while the die-hard racists and what’s left of their Brexit faction turn to Nigel Farage’s Reform platform. In Islington over a thousand volunteers are helping Jeremy Corbyn in his fight against the Labour machine to keep his seat in parliament and Nigel Farage managed to break the bourgeois consensus on Ukraine last week. 
To the eternal shame of the fake left Labour MPs who pose as peace campaigners while supporting NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine Farage’s repeated calls for a peace settlement
 take Russia’s legitimate demands into consideration. To the horror of Sunak and Starmer, who closed ranks to denounce Farage as an apologist for Vladimir Putin, Farage’s comments were favourably received on the street even in die-hard Tory and Labour areas. This is not surprising. Though tatty yellow and blue Ukrainian flags still fly over some Government buildings no-one on the street really cares about Zelensky these days. 

Assange: the end of a nightmare

 Seven years holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London followed by five years cooped up in a dungeon in Belmarsh. Julian Assange paid a very high price for defending journalistic freedom. Now he walks free following a plea-bargain deal with the American courts that led to his release this week. We all wish him well as he starts to rebuild his life in Australia.
The WikiLeaks founder will now fight for a pardon that Donald Trump says he will seriously consider if he returns to the White House while Assange supporters vow to continue to campaign to change the law in the United States to prevent further prosecutions against journalists.
We’ve learned many lessons from the Assange campaign whose ultimate victory was undoubtedly due to Assange’s refusal to grovel to imperialist demands and his campaign’s determination to fight for his freedom across the globe. That campaign swayed the Australian Labor government into pressing for his release. It clearly also influenced the Biden administration that is well aware that it needs to woo the liberal constituency in the United States with a show of clemency if it hopes to beat off the challenge from the Trump camp at the presidential elections in November.
The lesson learnt is to have no faith in British “justice” or the courts and constitutions of the other members of the “free world” in Europe. They will all do the bidding of their masters in Washington when the chips are down. The American whistle-blower Edward Snowden made a wiser choice when he fled to Russia in 2013...

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Round four in the election stakes

We’re passed the half-way mark in the election race. The mainstream party leaders stomp the streets to confine the debate to which one of them is better at administering the bourgeois state that the ruling class themselves pay so little to maintain while on the fringe the left-social democratic outsiders scrabble for a protest vote that has failed to take the discussion beyond the parameters set by the ruling class on NATO, Trident, Israel and the European Union.
The one exception is in London where Jeremy Corbyn is battling to keep his Islington seat in the face of a strong challenge from the official Labour candidate. The former Labour leader  has published his own manifesto calling for energy, water, rail and mail to be brought back into public control, as well as for a Green New Deal to put Britain on the path towards a sustainable future.
Corbyn may be the odds-on favourite with the bookies to keep his seat in July but he’s still five points behind Labour in his constituency. This week the chair of the Islington North Labour Party resigned after being seen campaigning on the street for Corbyn.
Though the vast majority of voters who will be siding with Labour at the general election say Jeremy Corbyn should be readmitted to the party and he has the support of most of his old constituency party this will all be rendered meaningless if he loses his seat to a Starmer stooge. 
Though well to the left of anything Starmer’s got to offer Corbyn’s left social democratic programme is, indeed, thin gruel. It doesn’t call for the complete restoration of the public sector and the mixed economy that existed when Labour was at the helm in the 1970s or for the total repeal of the Tory labour laws that have hamstrung free collective bargaining since 1979. But a Corbyn victory will be a defeat for Starmer & Co.  It will enable Corbyn to continue to expose and oppose the worst aspects of Starmerism in parliament and provide a focus for the left-social democratic opposition within the Parliamentary Labour Party. And, of course, it will mean that the people of Islington will continue to get the support and assistance of a dedicated representative who has served the locality for over 40 years. 
The NCP’s electoral policy is to vote Labour. This is not because we support the venal right‑wing policies of Starmer & Co or because we think a future Labour government can solve the problems of working people. It is simply the best possible outcome under the current circumstances. We will, however, support independent left Labour activists who have mass support, even when they come into electoral conflict with the Labour leadership. It is part of our struggle for a democratic Labour Party. We supported Ken Livingstone when he ran, and won, the London Mayoralty and we support the former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn in Islington.

With One Hand Waving Free

by Ben Soton

With One Hand Waving Free: a novel by Ken Fuller. Independently published, 2024. Pbk, 351pp, RRP: £12.99

This is the title of Ken Fuller’s latest book. Regular readers will remember him as the creator of the Red Button trilogy set in the heady days of the early 20th century. This work, however, is set in the 1970s. Roger Drummond is happily working in a bus garage when offered a managerial position in a medical supply firm Merrit &Thwaite which is thrust upon him through his socially ambitious wife.  Drummond, who also spends some of his spare time in left-wing bookshops, resembles a combination of Reginald Perrin and Citizen Smith. 
Drummond’s work for Merrit & Thwaite takes him to the Caribbean island of Arawak.  
The novel shines a light on British imperialism’s role in the Caribbean; it was in fact the slave trade that enabled the industrial revolution to take place.  Set in 1978, the 30th anniversary of the founding of the NHS we see the Callaghan Labour Government under left-wing pressure agree to fund a shipment of medical supplies.  I wonder if a Starmer Government would be susceptible to such pressure: don’t hold your breath.  Drummond’s reason for visiting the island is to oversee their delivery.
Arawak’s left-wing government, which has similarities with both Michael Manley’s Jamaica and Maurice Bishop’s Grenada is attempting to introduce healthcare to the island’s impoverished population.  On the island he witnesses attempts by US imperialism to destabilise the country and becomes involved in a passionate affair with the country’s health minister, Davinia Lee.  
 The dual role of religion is exposed in the story.  On one hand the Reverend Bassfield Thomas advocates a form of Liberation Theology and he refers to the imperialists as Pharaohs.  His followers come into open conflict with a group of Billy Graham style Evangelical Christians who object to the presence of Cuban doctors on the island and try to turn backward sections of the population against the government. 
The novel ends with a very interesting twist which readers of Fuller’s other works will understand.  However With One Hand Waving is an excellent read in its own right.  Not to say there is a possibility of a sequel.  It can be safely said that Fuller is a pioneer in the genre of the left-wing political thriller.  I hope his work continues.    

Economics for the 21st Century

by John Maryon

Socialism and Economic Cybernetics: towards a manifesto
: Dr Elena Veduta, Second Wave Publications, 2014.Pbk, 48pp, RRP £10 but £7:50 including dispatch for UK New Worker readers and €14 for readers in the European Union.

Professor Elena Veduta is a prolific author and celebrated cybernetic economist working at the Lomonosov Moscow State University as Head of the Department of Strategic Planning and Economic Policy.  The academic is also Head of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Veduta is also a true Marxist.  Her views contrast with the reactionary academics of the school of market socialism that emerged in the mid 50s as Khrushchev's revision started to undermine socialist development in the USSR.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is concerned with the development and application of computer systems to simulate human intelligence.  Cybernetics relates to the study comparison of control and communication in living and machine systems. Economic Cybernetics is defined in The Great Soviet Encyclopedia as a scientific field in which Cybernetics is used to assist economic development.  Veduta analyses the causes of the current capitalist global crisis and shows that socialist planning is necessary to overcome the failings of market driven economies. In view of the difficult and complex problems the use of AI and algorithms in the application of cybernetics is considered essential. 
The book is divided into a number of sections.  These include a full analysis of capitalist contradictions and an examination of the alternative experience in coordination of production relationships in the USSR.  An analysis for today looks at the role of Trans National Corporations and how the distribution of wealth works in their favour. The impact of protectionism as practised by the USA is also studied. 
There is no doubt that computers play an important practical role in socialist planning, particularly as economies develop and become more complex, with the need to respond quickly to vast streams of input data.  The rise of AI in which the abilities of computers may surpass human capabilities must be considered as important. Wars in the future, including economic competition, may be controlled by AI which raises important ethical questions. The author examines in detail the experiences of the USSR in the field of Economic Cybernetics in its competition with the USA.  The effects of the Belt and Road Initiative are also considered. Professor Veduta states that within the framework of chaotically organised capitalism there can be no effective management of the economy.  It is suggested that in order to preserve capitalism AI may be used as a tool, to control people, rather than it's proper use as effective management of the economy. 
This important work by Professor Voduta deals with a very complex subject in such a way that non-academics may gain an understanding of the principles involved and the importance of the subject matter.  The work also serves as an important reference for specialists in the field.  It is a necessary read for those who may wish to analyse why the Soviet Union’s awesome rise was followed by a decline and to understand the economic forces at play in the modern world.

The booklet is available at a special price of £7:50 for UK readers (£5:00 plus £2:50 postage and packing) 
and €14 including dispatch for readers in the European Union. Orders to:
NCP Lit, PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ. 

Monday, June 10, 2024

Ukraine: NATO in deep crisis as the dangers to Zelensky grow

IUAFS solidarity with Donbas
 by Theo Russell

The current direction of the war in Ukraine has created an acute crisis in Western capitals, above all in Washington, and the position of Vladimir Zelensky, the president elected on a promise to end the war in Eastern Ukraine, now hangs by a thread.
We must make clear here that this is not a war between Ukraine and Russia; this is a war forced on Russia by the NATO alliance. Ukraine is merely a proxy for NATO and is paying a horrific price for this war.
The weaknesses of the once mighty NATO alliance have been exposed: after decades of relocating factories to developing countries they have now discovered that they are no longer able to produce sufficient weapons for a major sustained war.
In contrast Russia, which Western experts love to claim has a GDP the size of Italy, has proved to be a manufacturing superpower with a highly skilled workforce and mighty technological and scientific resources.
Russia has not only increased arms production, from bullets to hypersonic missiles, by several times, but has developed and improved those weapons during the fighting in Ukraine, while maintaining growth at 3.2 per cent, according to the IMF.
Ukraine’s military have discovered that Soviet-era arms, whose designs date back to the 1980s, have proved more effective on the battlefield than the vast amounts of Western weapons supplied since 2022.
Zelensky’s presidential term officially ended on 25th  March, and Russian officials have now declared that under Ukraine’s constitution he has been replaced by the speaker of the Kiev Rada as Ukraine’s highest representative.
Zelensky has become increasingly erratic and unstable as the direction of the war has turned sharply against him. By ruling out any talks with the Russian Federation, and continuing to insist on totally unrealistic terms for peace negotiations, he has clearly become an obstacle to Washington’s requirements.
His constant demands for weapons which NATO has actually run out of, and frequent attacks on his most important allies, have done nothing to improve his chances of survival.
The growing dangers for Zelensky have now been spelt out in an extraordinary article in the Financial Times (FT) on 30 May, “US to offer Ukraine security pact as tensions rise between allies”. The FT has been a leading source of inside news on Ukraine, and is believed to have very high level contacts in Washington.
The article reports detailed and open criticism of Zelensky’s actions from “more than a dozen current and former Ukrainian officials and G7 country diplomats in Kyiv”.
The high level group of officials and diplomats questioned “the removal of top government and military officials the US had worked closely with”, including the firing of commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny in February and infrastructure minister Alexander Kubrakov, both of whom “… enjoyed close working relationships with US and EU officials”. The FT reveals that “G7 ambassadors have warned Zelensky’s government about what they see as disruptive and inexplicable moves.”
It goes on: “A senior Ukrainian official said Zelensky has grown more ‘emotional and nervous’ over the situation on the battlefield and what they say the president sees as Washington’s eagerness to start negotiations with Russia”.
Another Ukrainian official raised Zelensky’s obsession with the US-inspired “peace summit” in Switzerland on 15-16 June, which has already been abandoned by all the major players.
Zelensky is desperately clinging to the futile hope that presidents Biden and Xi will attend the summit, and asking his officials to put pressure on them. But after hearing that Biden has decided that a Democrat fund-raising dinner is more important, Zelensky publicly criticised him.
“Several members of Zelensky’s own government,” the article says, “expressed worries about Zelensky’s attacks on US officials – including Secretary of State Antony Blinken after his recent visit to Kiev. One of them spelt it out: “What do you say in America? Do not bite the hand that feeds you.”
Such veiled criticisms by very senior Ukrainian politicians do not bode well for Zelensky’s immediate future. In fact this effective group denunciation of Zelensky suggests the he has effectively outlived his usefulness to his masters in Washington.
Evidence of Zelensky’s growing instability has also come from Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who says that in late April in meetings with foreign ambassadors “he spent most of the time improvising hectically and almost hysterically to demand support for his 'peace formula' as a means of forcing Russia to its knees".
US media reports describe Zelensky screaming at his generals –  convinced he was being lied to about the fighting near Kharkov – conjuring up images of Hitler in his Berlin bunker.
Meanwhile Beijing, which has played a major neutral role in encouraging Ukraine peace talks, has explained China’s decision not to join the Swiss summit.
On 31st  May Mao Ning, a senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official, said that although China “attaches great importance to Switzerland organizing the first summit on peace in Ukraine,” the conference “needs to meet the three important elements: recognition from both Russia and Ukraine, equal participation of all parties, and fair discussion of all peace plans, otherwise the peace conference can hardly play a substantive role for restoring peace”.
Mao said this was the position “Jointly issued by China and Brazil recently, and reflects the universal concern of the international community, especially the vast developing countries based on what we have heard from various parties.
She said China “Will continue to promote talks for peace in our own way, and maintain communication with all parties.”
In March Sergey Lavrov said that president Putin “has repeatedly spoken about our readiness to start serious talks”. However both Putin and Lavrov have made it clear that any negotiations must be based on realistic proposals, and above all must recognise Russia’s fundamental security interests.
The truth is that ever since February 2014 Western leaders have blatantly lied about Ukraine and sabotaged every opportunity for peace.
They lied about a “Russian invasion” in 2014, they pushed Ukraine into starting the war by launching the Anti-Terrorist Operation, a huge military offensive to crush the anti-Maidan uprisings in eastern Ukraine, and they used the Minsk peace process to deceive Russia while arming and training Ukrainian forces.
Five days before the start of Russia’s Special Military Operation, Ukraine launched another massive offensive against the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Then in late March 2022 NATO wrecked the Ukraine-Russia peace plan, since then over 100,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed or injured.
Incredibly, these talks were initiated by Zelensky himself, who asked the then Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to contact Vladimir Putin, backed by Turkish President Erdogan and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
Schröder later told the media: “The Ukrainians did not agree to peace because they were not allowed to. They first had to ask the Americans about everything they discussed. My impression was that nothing could happen because everything was decided in Washington.”
According to senior UN official Michael von der Schulenburg, “NATO had already decided at a special summit on March 24 2022, not to support these peace negotiations”.
On April 5  2022 the Washington Post reported: “For some in NATO, it’s better for Ukrainians to keep fighting and dying than to achieve a peace that comes too soon or at too high a price for Kiev and the rest of Europe.”
The truth is that the Russian Federation did everything possible to avoid a full-scale war in Ukraine, spending eight years supporting the Minsk process plan, involving simple autonomy for the then Donetsk and Lugansk Republics, while Ukraine, with NATO’s support, broke ceasefire after ceasefire and thousands of civilians in those republics died in constant Ukrainian attacks.
The aim of the NATO alliance all along has been to force war on the Russian Federation, and now the whole world can see the terrible price which has been paid for a war which could so easily have been avoided.

More Monkey Business

by Ben Soton

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes continues the series of films made between 2011 and 2017. Simians still live within the ruins of human civilisation; whilst the remaining humans have been reduced to a feral state and have lost the power of speech.  Despite the absence of Andy Serkis, who provided much of the work behind the facial expressions in the previous films, the acting and special effects are of a high standard.   
Though the concept goes back to a 1963 French sci-fi novel the early American movies, made between 1968 and 1973,  reflected the fears of imperialism at the time including race riots, Vietnam war protests and challenges from the socialist camp.  Human civilisation has been replaced by an ape based hierarchical system akin to feudalism; ironically intended to be a parody of socialism. Also reflected in the television series that followed two fugitive astronauts and a renegade chimp continuously outwit a troop of gorilla soldiers, who mistakenly believe their society; hierarchical, backward and agrarian is superior to the human civilisation that preceded it.    
The recent franchise has similarities and differences.  At the end of the preceding film, War of the Planet of the Apes (2017) an ape called Caesar establishes an egalitarian society in which the first rule is Ape Shall Not Kill Ape. A misnomer, common to both franchises is that only humans kill their own species.  It is widely documented that chimpanzees regularly commit murder and the animal kingdom as a whole is far from benign.  Environmental issues and the frailty of human civilisation are at the heart of the recent franchise. Human civilisation is being destroyed by a deadly virus after which apes and remaining humans battle for limited resources.  However apes are not really apes but representations of the human other.  The other social system, the other race – the other part of the world.  In situations where the apes have become dominant the position is reversed.  This is reflected throughout both series of films.
Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes opens with a benign group of apes, known as the Eagle Clan, who subsist by training eagles to hunt for them.  In the opening scene, lead character Noa (played by Owen Teague) and a group friends undertake a coming-of-age ritual, to cement their position in the clan.  The Eagle Clan becomes enslaved by a more aggressive group of apes led by another Caesar (played by Kevin Durand), not to be mistaken for the Caesar in the previous film.
Caesar resembles King Louis in Kipling’s Jungle Book as he grapples to acquire lost human technology. The film centres around Noa’s attempts to free his clan and Caesar’s desire to acquire human technology.  A key to both their quests is the talking human Mae (played by Freya Allen), whose loyalties are uncertain.  As with the earlier Planet of the Apes movies, we see the triumph of hierarchy over egalitarianism. Notions of man verses nature are also prominent whilst the exploitation of the Eagle Clan by Caesar is a possible reference to colonialism. But at the end of the day it all boils down to table-turning – and if you liked the others you’ll certainly like this.

Saturday, June 08, 2024

Week two of the election race

 It’s round two of the election campaign with Labour still streets ahead of the Tories in the opinion polls despite Sunak’s best efforts to defend his record on the TV “leaders” debate between Starmer and Sunak this week. Diane Abbott has turned the tables on the Starmerites and is now, once again, the official Labour candidate in Hackney. Nigel Farage has thrown his hat into the ring in Clacton to return to the helm of his Reform Party that one pollster puts only two points behind the Conservatives. The Liberal-Democrats and the Greens are buoyed at the response they’re getting in the seats they’re hoping to bag in July.
Meanwhile seven more Labour councillors resign over Starmer’s stand on Gaza and Jeremy Corbyn’s bid to hold his seat as an independent in Islington has kicked off with the open support of two local councillors who have resigned from the Labour Party to support his campaign. Corbyn told the media that he was not aligning himself with George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain but said he would give critical support to an incoming Labour government.
The Tories remain in the doldrums. The “Red Belters” who turned to the Tories over Brexit are now returning to the Labour fold while many others in the once deep-blue Home Counties are looking to Reform, the Lib-Dems and the Greens for change. But our first-past-the-post constituency system is a tough hurdle for all the minor parties to jump. Farage’s return to centre stage will certainly boost Reform’s chances of getting into Parliament. Whether they will remains to be seen.
Buoyed by the polls Farage is talking all sorts of nonsense about Canada where a similarly named party rose like a shooting star in the 1990s to eventually become the new Conservative Party of Canada that has 118 seats in the Canadian House of Commons. His real concern is however at the prospect of a Remainer revival under Labour. Starmer’s already talking about negotiating a new deal with Brussels that could pave the way to “associate” status or even the second referendum the Remainers want. There’s no serious Brexiteers on Starmer’s front-bench and few left in the Tory ranks these days.
The bourgeoisie may be divided over Europe but they have no problem with the debate around defence, education and the health service. It, afterall, reflects the divisions within the ruling class over how much, or indeed how little, they are prepared to pay to maintain social peace in the country. What they don’t want is a public discussion that strays beyond the bourgeois consensus in favour of NATO, Britain’s nuclear arsenal and Israel.
Our task as communists is to put peace and socialism top of the agenda on the street. To demand a halt to British arms supplies to Israel and Ukraine. To expand our trade and cultural links with People’s China, end the confrontation with the Russian Federation and support the efforts of the Global South to halt the imperialist arms race that is threatening world peace all over the world.

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

On the campaign trail

This week the leaders of all the mainstream parties kicked off the election campaign in a desperate attempt to stir up some enthusiasm on the campaign trail for their manifestos that barely go beyond the usual bourgeois platitudes politicians reserve for these occasions.
The Conservatives, who are trailing badly in the opinion polls, are touting conscription and tax cuts for pensioners to win back the elderly constituency that the Tories have traditionally taken for granted in the past. Labour has confined itself to bland promises to recruit more teachers and cut hospital waiting lists while stirring up a hornets nest in London over Diane Abbott, who was eventually re-admitted to Labour’s ranks this week only to then be told that she will not be allowed to defend her Hackney seat on the Labour ticket.
Conscription is, of course, a red herring designed to capture the headlines and woo the hang’em and flog’em brigade that have now largely drifted over to the Faragist Reform Party. While national service does have some appeal amongst the older generation – particularly those who see it as some sort of penal servitude for juvenile delinquents  – it is bitterly opposed by those who would actually have to do it. But it’s not going to happen.
The Tories haven’t seriously costed the plan. Nor have they seriously consulted the military or the health service sectors that would be expected to train and employ these new recruits.
National service was abolished by a Tory government in 1960. It would need another Tory government with an overall majority to restore it – and that seems beyond their grasp at the moment. 

  No red lines for Biden

The Americans says Israel’s weekend strike in Rafah that killed scores of displaced Palestinians did not cross the “red line” President Joe Biden set two months ago. The Biden administration made clear in public on Tuesday that Israel’s despicable action would not trigger any serious reprimand from Washington.
This comes as no surprise to us. Israel’s brutal invasion of the Gaza Strip depends entirely on American funds and supplies. There can be no doubt that Netanyahu is doing the bidding of the American imperialists that the Israelis have loyally served since the 1950s.
Biden, a senile old fool who barely knows what day it is, is the front man for the most venal and aggressive sections of the American ruling class who believe that Israel is the key to imperialist control over the Middle East and the immense oil reserves that are currently being plundered by the big oil corporations of the capitalist world.
Netanyahu tells his people Israel is just "one step away from victory" but at the end of the day the decisive factor is not the guns of the imperialists and their lackeys but the will of the people. The British Empire on which “the sun never set” has long gone along with the other European colonial realms that once held sway throughout Africa and much of Asia. The French were driven out of Algeria and the Vietnamese defeated the Americans. Israel’s turn is coming.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Singing in the Rain

Rishi Sunak vowed to "fight for every vote" as he called a snap general election for July during a downpour outside Downing Street on Wednesday. He certainly needs to given the 20 point lead Labour currently has in the opinion polls.
Harold Wilson, the man who led Labour to victory four times in the 1960s and 70s, once said that a week is a long time in politics so anything can happen in the next six weeks. But at the bookies Sir Keir Starmer is the odds-on favourite to take Sunak’s place so barring a miracle it looks like curtains for Sunak on Thursday 4th July.
The Tories’ dismal performance at the local elections in May and the drubbing they got at the Blackpool South by-election doesn’t augur well for them in the future. They lost more than half the local council seats that they were defending and though Sunak tried to boost Tory morale by claiming that the seven to nine per cent swing to Labour wasn’t enough to give them an overall majority few believed him.
One of the reasons for the Tory collapse is the rise of the Faragist Reform Party. And even though Nigel Farage isn’t standing for parliament this time round his new platform will almost certainly take hundreds of thousands of votes away from the Conservatives. Few disaffected Conservatives will ever vote Labour many will turn to Reform, the Greens or the Liberal-Democrats while disaffected Labour voters – particularly in the northern “Red Belt” that went Tory over Brexit at the last election – may easily return to the fold now that Britain is out of the European Union.
Starmer’s problem will be in getting the Labour vote out given his lacklustre manifesto that barely differs from the Conservatives he claims to oppose. A few crumbs to the unions; some meaningless pledges on the health service and housing and a promise to renationalise the railways in some form. That’s all it is.
Starmer & Co stand for little apart from personal ambition and slavish support for American imperialism and what they believe to be the dominant section of the British ruling class. But unlike the Tories they face no serious challenge from within the labour movement. Labour’s army of local government jobsworths and the legion of trade union bureaucrats that run the big unions and the TUC will go along with the “New Deal” while many others on the street simply want to see the back of the Tories.
Few will turn to the left posers and the other charlatans on the fringe of the labour movement who say they are “communists” or “revolutionary socialists” while standing on utopian or left social-democratic platforms that only garner part a protest vote.
Within the Muslim community some will support George Galloway, who is defending the Rochdale seat he won for the Workers Party of Britain in February, and others who are also standing on independent pro-Palestinian platforms. This will, no doubt, draw votes away from Labour in some constituencies but whether this will cost Starmer any seats remains to be seen.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his colleague, Diane Abbott, are another matter altogether. Both are outstanding Labour MPs victimised by the Starmer clique for daring to speak up for the Palestinian Arabs. They have the support of their constituency parties. If they stand as independents we must support them.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

The old remember…

...the young people wait. The 15th May is Nakba Day. On that day in 1948 the first Arab‑Israeli war began. It has never ended. But the tragedy of the Palestinian Arabs began when British imperialism first occupied their land in 1918 and encouraged Zionist immigration through the Balfour doctrine. British imperialism sought to create a community of Zionist settlers that would prolong their occupation of Palestine indefinitely. The Zionists helped British colonialism crush the Palestine Revolt in 1936. But following the defeat of the Axis in 1945 the Zionists seized the opportunity to push for a separate state of their own. In 1948 the British colonial mandate ended and the State of Israel was proclaimed.
The first war led to the expulsion of around a million Palestinian Arabs from their homes by the Zionist regime. Those refugees and their descendants have never given up their right to return to their land. And this is the heart of the crisis that has led to five full‑scale conflicts, endless confrontation and the current war in Gaza.
The Zionists originally wanted the entire Middle East “from the Nile to the Euphrates” and Israel’s ruling clique’s still cling to the dream of turning the whole of Palestine into a “Greater Israel”. They claim to serve a mythical Zionist ideal as a bulwark against persecution. In reality they simply provide imperialism with cannon fodder for the strategic aims of American imperialism. Far from being a Zionist paradise, Israel today is one of the worst places for Jews to live, racked by continuing conflict with Palestinians and economic hardship due to its isolation and total dependency on American imperialism.
Israel is economically and politically entirely dependent on American arms and economic assistance and successive Israeli governments exist simply to serve the needs of American imperialism in the region. And those needs are to weaken and divide the Arabs to ensure that the big oil corporations can continue their exploitation and plunder of Arab oil until it eventually runs out.
At the end of the day Israel is an American protectorate that can do nothing without the say-so of Washington. The tail does not wag the dog and Israel and the American “Zionist lobby” do not dictate American foreign policy. They serve it.
The Americans say they want a “two‑state solution” that would leave Arab Jerusalem and large swathes of occupied Palestinian West Bank territory under Israeli occupation in exchange for largely underdeveloped land around the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians get a powerless, puppet regime in what’s left of the West Bank and the refugees, now millions strong, get nothing. And even these crumbs are too much for the current Israeli government which wants to keep all the occupied territories open for continued Zionist settlement.
The Americans think they call all the shots in the Middle East today. They believe that all resistance can be crushed and they hope to find willing Arab tools to do their bidding, hoist up the white flag and sign a surrender peace.
But 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 triggered the first Arab-Israeli war that has now spread across the whole world. A lasting solution must be based on the right of return of refugees and an independent Palestinian state with Israel giving up all territories seized since 1967.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Stop arming Israel!

The student occupations and tent cities that began in America have now spread like wild-fire throughout the centres of learning in the West while all over the world people are taking to the streets to demand justice for the Palestinian Arabs and an end to the carnage in Gaza. The American bourgeois media call them  “commie campus” protests. The students are branded as “anti-semitic” while in Britain the Sunak government is trying to brow-beat the college authorities into shutting down the Palestinian solidarity protests.
In the “land of the free” and the other parts of Western Europe under the American thumb the police have already been unleashed in a drive to crush the student protests. But who believes the lies of the bourgeoisie and the Zionists?
Not the youth of today who don’t even bother with the propaganda spewed out by the mainstream media these days. They’ve seen the mass graves of the victims of Zionist terror in Gaza. They know about the killing of aid workers and tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians – mainly women and children – by the Israelis who want to drive them out to make way for more Zionist settlement on stolen Arab land. They want this to stop and they want Britain to immediately cease all arms exports to Israel.
Israeli warplanes are being used in the ongoing genocide taking place in Gaza. Israel uses British weaponry, surveillance technology and military equipment to kill and enforce a system of apartheid on Palestinians. 15 per cent of components used by Israel’s American Lockheed-Martin F-35 aircraft to bomb Gaza are provided by the United Kingdom.
Any British company wanting to export military or dual use goods (that could have military or civilian use) to other countries must have a UK government licence to do so. To abide with international law, the UK’s export criteria state that arms shipments must be stopped when there is a ‘clear risk of violating international humanitarian law’.
The UK government’s own lawyers’ advice is reported to have stated that Israel has breached international humanitarian law in Gaza. But the Sunak government has failed to make this public or take any action. This stark report comes against the backdrop of mounting global concern over Israel’s breaches of international law. The UK is further shamefully providing diplomatic cover to Israel and is, therefore, complicit in the genocide.
Since 7th October over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed. 70 per cent of those have been women and children. 2.2 million people are at imminent risk of starvation, with 9 out of 10 people living on less than one meal a day.
The Palestinian solidarity movement is under attack from the Zionists and those who serve the interests of American imperialism. The Sunak government is trying to smear the anti-war movement and the student upsurge to justify curbing or even banning all public support for the Palestinian Arabs. We must send a clear message to this government that we are determined not to allow our right to protest to be taken away. We must tell them we want a halt to British arms exports to Israel and an end to the war in Gaza!

How the West was won

by Ben Soton

How The World Made the West
by Josephine Quinn; Bloomsbury Publishing 2024, 576pp, Hbk £30.

The idea of ‘Western civilisation’ distinct from the rest of the world is the basis of reactionary ideology in it’s liberal, conservative and even fascist formats.  Reactionaries would have us believe that Western values such as democracy and individualism originated in the Greco-Persian Wars of the fifth century BC.  This thinking underpins much of European imperialism’s actions over the last few hundred years.
In her recent book How the World Made the West, Josephine Quinn debunks some of these myths. She correctly points out that democracy, even in its limited form, was not unique to ancient Athens.  Many citi8es in Mesopotamia also had citizens’ assemblies, mostly made up of wealthy dignitaries.  In fact even, according to Herodotus, the Persian nobleman Otanes toyed with the idea of introducing a limited form of democracy. Quinn also points out that the position of women in ancient Athens was far worse than in contemporary Persia.          
The book, starts around 2500 BC, with the first sailing vessels and ends around 1500 AD, with the European opening up of the Americas.  Quinn’s work, which is highly readable and contains much useful information has similarities with recent works such as Peter Frankopan’s Silk Roads.  Both works place considerable emphasis on economics, namely trade, as a motor for world history whilst Marxists place prime emphasis on class struggle as the main engine of history. The author alludes to this when she points out that Roman slaves may have joined invading barbarian tribes in order to seek a more egalitarian lifestyle. Quinn’s thesis is that rather than various rival civilisations; there was one single civilisation cemented together by trade routes resulting in cultural and economic exchange.  Quinn propagates a cosmopolitan liberal view of history; in which merchants and trades are the drivers of human development. An example of this outlook can be seen in Bettany Hughes's Treasures of the World, in which the historian, whilst highly critical of socialism paints the Ottoman Empire as some sort of all you can eat food buffet.  
Not to say that trade did not play an important role in human development; the ancient Silk Road (which was actually a series of routes) was arguably the information superhighway of its day.  Nonetheless the Silk Road was a product of the pre-capitalist world; dependent on large-land based empires ruled over by absolute monarchs.  Much of the traders’ wealth was swallowed up in taxation hindering economic development beyond feudalism.   
How The World Made the West ends with the European opening up of the Americas; this enabled the overland trade routes to be circumvented. This led to the establishment of maritime European empires; where the wealth of power of traders became so great that European monarchies soon became dependent on them and hence the development of capitalism. But the only thing superior about the West was its location.

Thursday, May 09, 2024

Stand by the Palestinians!

A wave of student revolts is sweeping across the entire Western world. Tent stake-outs and occupations demanding justice for the Palestinian Arabs and an end to Israeli aggression in Gaza have sprung up in centres of learning to challenge the bourgeois consensus in support of Zionism and Israeli oppression in the Middle East.
The bourgeoisie say they stand for intellectual freedom but only when it serves their purpose. It is the freedom of the straitjacket and the dungeon. When it’s challenged they show their true face – with tear gas, truncheons and rubber bullets. They preach this freedom with their Stealth bombers, their special forces and their economic blockades against all those who dare to stand up for themselves. We see what the ruling class mean by freedom in occupied Palestine. We see it when American police and national guard move to crush the student protesters.This is one struggle and one fight. Imperialism and Zionism must be defeated.
Stand by the Palestinians! Stand by the students!

Tory blues

Another bad week for the Conservatives. They lost the Blackpool South by-election and more than half the local council seats they were defending. The swing to Labour – over 20 per cent in the Blackpool poll – confirms the findings of the pollsters over the past 12 months. But it’s not all been plain sailing for Starmer & Co.
It’s clear that one of the reasons for the Tory collapse is the rise in the Faragist Reform Party. Though still not as big a force as that of UKIP during the height of the Brexit campaign it was, nevertheless, significant to note that the Tory vote fell most heavily in those wards where Reform fielded a candidate. Though Labour has been the major beneficiary this has also helped the minor parties like the Greens and the Liberal Democrats.
Though Gaza wasn’t the central issue on the doorstep Starmer’s slavish support for Israel has cost Labour votes within the Muslim communities that his party took for granted in the past. Muslim councillors who left Labour in protest at Starmer’s refusal to condemn Israeli aggression in Gaza successfully kept their seats as “independents”. And Labour lost overall control of Oldham, where the Muslim independents stood on “Vote for Palestine” platform and Labour’s vote went down in many other areas with Muslim voters.
Turn-out is never high in local elections. The councils have little real power and on the street most people don’t even know the name of their local representatives. Even at the best of times interest in these polls rarely goes beyond the pressure groups and councillors within the locality. Nevertheless they are a barometer of voting intentions.
We can safely say that Labour is heading for a landslide victory at the next election. It is equally plain to see that Starmer intends to fight it on a manifesto that barely differs from the Conservatives he claims to oppose.
The Tories have clearly lost the confidence of their core voters while the splits within their upper echelons reflect the deep divisions over Europe and its future relationship with American imperialism. Starmer and the ageing Blairites in his clique, think that this will be enough to propel them to high office. This may be so. Whether this will be enough to keep them there is another matter altogether...

Monday, May 06, 2024

A new take on Marx

by David Matters

Modern Political Economy – A New Coursebook: Cheng Enfu; Feng Jinhua; Ma Yan; Ding Xiaoqin; Canut International publishers 2023, £42.99.

Those who have struggled through Marx’s Das Kapital will find this as a must read and study. As a coursebook it is written in accessible language and would be competent as a textbook capable of being grasped by many levels of those who wish to understand the modern world.
The book is a Marxist classic at yet one year of age. So many books purporting to defend and develop Marxism depart from our modern reality. It is not the case with this book. It provides a Marxist understanding not just of socialism but also the current capitalist system.
Unlike Marx’s Kapital it is easy to read while grasping the essentials and adding explanations on the discoveries of the economic laws that have developed over the last century and and half since Marx’s Kapital.
I would like to provide a lot of quotes of this work, but I feel that readers need the thrill of reading for themselves the fresh and innovative thoughts. The discussion of the stages of human development run throughout this masterful book. The stages of Socialism are discussed based on the realities of China.
Those who wish to teach Political Economy in any circumstance should make this book a basic text. I have read many Soviet books on political economy but have found them not up to this standard. The book is divided into sections and chapters that could form course material.
I do not see this as a should read but as a must read. Those who teach economics in our schools could do well to introduce this text. It has much clearer understanding of money, inflation price formation, value and exchange. The international monetary system and its relationships is clearly expounded.

This book is available on Amazon at £42.99 or directly from the Canut website at $59.99.

Sunday, May 05, 2024

The Ugly Americans

Last week the Americans blocked a move to grant the State of Palestine full membership of the United Nations. The State of Palestine is the autonomous authority that administers part of the Israeli occupied West Bank under agreements that the Israelis and their American masters now conveniently ignore. The motion was moved by Algeria on the 15 member UN Security Council in New York. Twelve members, including People’s China, Russia and France voted for it.  Two – Switzerland and the United Kingdom – shamefully abstained and it was vetoed by the single vote of the United States.
Robert Wood, the American deputy permanent representative to the UN, pathetically said that his country had vetoed the request because there was no unanimity amongst members as to "whether the applicant met the criteria for membership"  – though the only objection was from the United States in the first place.
"Today is a sad day," said Fu Cong, China's permanent representative to the United Nations. "Due to the veto of the United States, Palestine's application to become a full member of the United Nations was rejected, and the Palestinian people's decades-long dream was shattered”.
The Palestinians first applied for full UN membership in 2011 but they failed to secure the necessary nine out of 15 votes in the Security Council. They then went to the all-members UN General Assembly which overwhelmingly agreed to upgrade their status from "UN observer" to "non-member observer state" in November 2012. But hopes of full membership have now been dashed by American imperialism.
"Thirteen years is long enough, but relevant countries are still complaining that there is not enough time and they should not act in a hurry. Such a statement is disingenuous. Now more than ever, it is more urgent than ever to admit Palestine into full membership of the United Nations," said Fu. He said China "cannot agree with" the statement that "the Palestinian state does not have the ability to govern the country".
"The situation in Palestine has undergone many changes in the past 13 years, the most fundamental of which is the continuous expansion of [Zionist] settlements in the West Bank. The living space of Palestine as a country has been continuously squeezed, and the foundation of the two-state solution has been continuously eroded," he said.
"Relevant countries turned a blind eye to this, adopted an attitude of acquiescence or even connivance, and now they are questioning Palestine's ability to govern. This is completely gangster logic that confuses right and wrong," Fu said.
Whether Palestine meets the membership criteria stipulated in the United Nations Charter, and whether Palestine is "peace-loving", is "too much" to ask. "For the Palestinian people who have suffered from occupation, they are nothing short of rubbing salt into the wounds and are a great insult," Fu said. "The establishment of an independent state is the indisputable national right of the Palestinian people, not subject to questioning or bargaining," he added.
At the UN Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian envoy, said “the fact that this resolution did not pass will not break our will, and it will not defeat our determination”. Back in the West Bank Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the American veto that had pushed the region “ever further to the edge of the abyss” was  “unfair, unethical and unjustified”. Indeed it was. It was also, sadly, entirely predictable.

Saturday, May 04, 2024

New Horizons for Belt and Road

by John Maryon

President Xi Jinping's bold proposals, made in 2013, to launch the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) have resulted in a dramatic new chapter covering international trade, investment and cooperation. Those early intrepid travellers who made the long journey between Europe and Asia carrying eagerly sought after goods along the Great Silk Road could never have imagined the impact and extent of today's BRI. Massive Chinese investment along with technology transfer is starting to have a major impact across Eurasia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East with new airports, shipping ports, bridges, power stations, roads and railways.  Over 400,000 new jobs have been created in developing regions
and 40 million people lifted from poverty. BRI offers the opportunity for free and independent nations to escape the poverty trap and to develop without the threatening demands, sanctions and trade embargoes that are used to enforce the hegemony of American imperialism.
During the first decade People’s China has signed 232 BRI agreements with over 150 countries.  A total value of 7.2 trillion yuan investment has covered more than 3,000 joint projects.  China and its BRI partners now look forward to the challenges and exciting opportunities for the next golden decade. China is constructing road and rail links with neighbouring countries including a highway along the Wakhan Corridor into Afghanistan.  Particular emphasis is placed on international cooperation to create new routes to Europe, Turkey, the Arab world and Africa.
China is working closely with Russia and Kazakhstan to link their Corridor plans.  As alternatives to the long sea route through the vulnerable Straits of Malacca, Russia has proposed an Arctic Ocean northern sea route and plans are also being considered for a super canal linking China's Xinjiang with the Black Sea via the Caspian Sea and Central Asian river systems.
Work will continue to expand and integrate new and existing road and rail systems.  The China – Laos railway, which is having an enormous impact on trade and tourism in the region, is to be extended. Ultimately it is intended to link China's rail system to Singapore, and possibly Indonesia, via Thailand and Malaysia. A possible extension via Myanmar would enable a direct link to the Indian Ocean. The China -Europe Railway Express now reaches 200 cities in 25 European countries comprising 86 different routes. China and Russia are cooperating on further plans for high speed goods trains on new routes linking Asia with Europe and Africa.
China will support both large scale mega projects and also 'small yet smart' livelihood programmes.  Improving logistics along with simplified customs procedures will promote the opening up of cross border trade. Steps will be taken to enhance vocational training to raise skill levels of the local workforce. There have been many instances of workers, returning home to their villages, who then build their own houses using the trades they have learnt. Bringing education, jobs and opportunity to poverty hit regions will hopefully make it no longer possible for imperialist agents to recruit potential terrorists for a handful of American dollars.
Green issues and quality sustainable development are important priorities for BRI.  Fossil fuel power stations are no longer financed. The BRI International Green Coalition has been established to promote the use of solar, wind, tidal and hydroelectric power for low carbon development. China will implement a set of Green investment principles and has undertaken to provide 100,000 training opportunities for partner countries by 2030.  Assistance is being given to provide the urgently needed finance and technology to enable developing world countries to address climate change issues.
Central to advancing scientific and technical progress China will continue to stimulate innovation through action plans.Young scientists and engineers from other countries will gain valuable experience by working on joint programmes. Huawei stands ready to make 5G widely available. The application of Artificial Intelligence will become increasingly important. China stands ready to increase exchanges and dialogue with all nations to promote the orderly and secure development of AI. In 2018 Rwanda joined China's Electronic World Trade Platform which enabled coffee beans to be traded on e- commerce platforms. Direct logistics chains now enable coffee farmers to earn up to 30 yuan more per kilogram.
The Western media like to paint a gloomy picture of a slowing economy in China while predicting the demise of BRI which they hate. In fact China's economy is not only booming but is driving world growth. If American imperialism provides investment it is likely to come with strings attached, such as military bases, control of the economy and a dependent foreign policy.
China makes no such demands as it seeks peaceful cooperation, mutual prosperity and quality development. Imperialism resents BRI as it challenges their continued exploitation of the world. Hypocritically it alleges interference and permanent debt for those very countries that have broken free of American hegemony and are enjoying the win-win benefits of increased trade and infrastructure development. Important changes that will allow underdeveloped regions to overcome centuries of poverty  A developing country was having a cash flow difficulty due to Covid and a slowdown in world trade. China did not pull the plug on its loans but provided assistance to ensure stronger development and to strengthen the economy.
It is interesting to see who, for various reasons, are not in BRI. Italy joined BRI in 2019.  However following intense pressure from Brussels and Washington the coalition government caved in and withdrew in 2023. Hungary, on the other hand, has resisted pressure and looks forward to the opening of the Belgrade –  Budapest  high speed rail line in 2025,  which will reduce travel time from 8 hours to just over three hours. BYD, the Chinese electric car giant is to build a large factory in Szeged in southern Hungary. The Russian led Eurasian Economic Union is a key partner in BRI and President Vladimir Putin has said that it has become an important platform for cooperation and development under which all participating countries will benefit. Major pipelines are under construction.
India which could benefit and contribute a great deal is not a member of BRI. It has its own India-Middle-East-Europe Economic Corridor which is seen by the USA as furthering its interests against China.The two great ancient civilisations could achieve so much working together.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is also a non member. It could benefit from transport, infrastructure and industrial investment and has a highly motivated workforce.  Up till now the harsh sanctions imposed under American pressure have been factors preventing this process. South Korea is a member. Given the developing friendly relations between China, Russia and the DPRK new agreements may be expected.
BRI is a game changer for the developing world in its quest for sustainable quality development and shared prosperity. The first decade of BRI has seen a profound shift from a unipolar to a multipolar world and in this process China has been major contributor. It's success also includes an enormous increase in people to people contacts, the expanding influence of varied cultures and the arts and also the promotion of mutual understanding.  BRI has started building a Community with a Shared Future for Us All.  What amazing results will the next decade bring?

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Speak of the Devil…

 by Ben Soton

The original three Omen films, with their dramatic music and gory accidents based around the Anti-Christ figure Damien came to an end with The Final Conflict in 1981.  These films are of course based on the premise of religious belief but whatever your views on the matter I have always found them compulsive viewing.  There was of course a 2006 rehash which unlike most remakes was a success.
Arkasha Stevenson’s The First Omen is a prequel to the original films providing an interesting back story. Set in early 1970s Italy against the backdrop of student and worker protests an American noviciate, Margaret Daino, played by Nell Tiger Free, arrives in Rome prior to ordination as a nun.  On arrival she is greeted at the airport by her mentor, the rather avuncular, if not slightly creepy Cardinal Lawrence, played by Bill Nighy.  She shares a room with Luz Valez, another novitiate who patronises bars and discos in the evening and soon encourages Margaret to do the same.  The orphanage where she works is run by Sister Silva (played by the veteran Brazilian actress Sonia Braga).  These three characters are at the heart of an evil conspiracy.
Like the previous Omen films The First Omen features an array of dramatic death scenes which are a reminder of the importance of Health and Safety Regulations. The first being that of Father Harris, played by Charles Dance; who finds his head split open by a shard of falling glass.
Though the film is set against the backdrop of an Italy racked by student protests, strikes, neo-nazi violence and, of course, the Red Brigades none of the major characters play any part in this upheaval. The film is slow moving in places and at times seems like a reality TV programme set in a 1970s Italian orphanage. But behind the scenes others are doing the Devil’s work.
The First Omen sees the return of Father Brennan, played by Ralph Ineson, who came to a brutal end in the original Omen film.  Brennan was played by Patrick Troughton in the 1976 original and Pete Postlethwaite in the 2006 remake. He uncovers a conspiracy by reactionary elements with the Catholic hierarchy stating that the Church has an over-riding fear of secularism –  an obvious reference to the forces of the left who feature in scenes of street protests.  He explains how a reactionary cabal within the Church are conspiring to recreate the Anti-Christ and unleash him upon humanity as a means of bringing people back to the True Faith.      
Fr Brennan claims that there are, in fact, two churches. One made up of genuine believers and the other that simply uses faith as a means of domination and power. There is obviously much to be said about this statement and the film does not show the Catholic Church in a positive light. A large number of Christians, if not the majority, are genuine believers and have never done any harm. Others are the exact opposite. Oscar Romero, the El Salvadoran archbishop murdered by a fascist death squad, and Jimmy Savile were both Catholics. So was Francis of Assisi and General Franco. If nothing the film is a reminder, intended or otherwise, as to the lengths reactionaries will go to maintain power. But you can judge for yourself. The First Omen is out now on general release and it is expected to be streamed in the summer.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

No arms for Israel!

Lord Cameron has come back from Israel empty-handed. The Foreign Minister went there to urge restraint on the Netanyahu government following the Iranian missile and drone attacks that were, themselves, a reprisal for the Zionist bombing of the Iranian consulate in Damascus that killed eleven military advisors including two of their top generals. Though the RAF, together with the French and American air force, did most of the work in fending off the Iranian drones, Cameron got nothing in return from Netanyahu apart from demands for more Western sanctions against the Islamic Republic and unconditional NATO support for whatever revenge the rabid Zionist leader is seeking.
Though not surprising in itself – the only people Netanyahu needs to heed are the Americans – it might, nevertheless, be a step too far for the Israeli leader because Cameron was clearly speaking for Joe Biden himself when he landed in Tel Aviv this week.
Biden, or rather the shadowy cabal that pull the strings behind him, must have sanctioned the Damascus attack that started this new round of fighting. Despite subsequent White House denials it’s difficult to see why Netanyahu would have opted for such a dangerous escalation without getting the green light from his masters in Washington. Some believe the Israeli leader wants to prolong the war in Gaza to scupper American plans for a new NATO bloc in the region that would include the oil-rich Saudis – and thus considerably reduce the role of the Zionist state in the region. Others that he simply wants the war to continue to remain in office and stave off the corruption charges he will face once his immunity from prosecution is lifted. Maybe he simply miscalculated the response in Tehran and Washington.
The Zionists don’t care what the Iranians think but they are certainly concerned at what is going on in Washington. Biden, who barely knows what day it is, is just a pawn of the “deep state” – that cabal of the most venal and aggressive elements within the American ruling class is clearly divided about what to do next.
We see this openly discussed in their media. Some still believe in backing Israel to the hilt to creat the “Greater Middle East” that would break up the existing Arab states into smaller, sectarian puppet governments whose rulers would depend on American and Israeli guns for protection. Others say this is simply beyond the reach of imperialism these days and that the only way forward is to cut a deal with the feudal Arab oil princes to buy off opposition on the Arab street and impose a sophisticated surrender peace that would give the semblance of a two-state solution while reinforcing American hegemony over the entire region.
The alternative is an escalating conflict that has already drastically reduced Western traffic through the Suez Canal amid fears of another all-out Middle East war that could disrupt or even cut the oil supplies from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf that the Western world depends on.
British workers have no say in what goes on in the United States but they do have a voice in the unions and on the street. Tell the Labour and union leaders that claim to represent us that British arms to Israel must be halted. We want an end to the war in Gaza and want justice for the Palestinian Arabs. And we want it now!

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Old Town blues

by Ben Soton

The BBC’s latest Monday night drama, This Town, is actually set across two towns, or more precisely cities in the 1980s.  It covers some of the politics, music and culture of the period featuring the Handsworth riots in Birmingham as well as the IRA bombing campaigns.  Also featured are the music based sub-cultures of the period; skins, rude boys and Zulus; whilst the involvement of organised crime gives it an updated Peaky Blinders feel.
The story centres around an extended family that cuts across ethnicity, nationality although interestingly not class.  The Birmingham side of the family, mixed race British/West Indian includes Gregory Williams, a soldier in the British Army (played by Jordan Bolger) and his younger brother, (played by Levi Brown) a college student and aspiring musician Dante.  
Meanwhile the Irish-Catholic Coventry side of the family, the Quinns, include Bardon (played by Ben Rose), another college student and aspiring musician; his IRA father Eamon (played by Peter McDonald) and alcoholic mother and ex-wife Estella (played by Michelle Dockery).
The series proves that Michelle Dockery should not be seen as a type-cast actress; she can ably play a working-class alcoholic as well as an aristocrat from Downton Abbey.
It opens with a scene from the Handsworth Riots of 1980 and shows the extent of police racism of the period.  Many of the scenes are intersected with music from the era as many contemporary bands had their origins in the West Midlands.
Much of the plot centres around attempts by Dante to avoid being drawn into organised crime whilst Bardon struggles to avoid being drawn into the IRA campaign by his father.
The plot is further complicated when Gregory, Dante’s brother, is ordered by his superiors to spy on the Irish side of his family. In this sense the drama reflects bourgeois attitudes of the time that are still around – that being Irish makes you susceptible to “terrorism” and being black makes you susceptible to organised crime. To avoid this both Bardon and Dante, along with other teens form a band as a means of escape amid numerous references to the M6 as a way out of Birmingham. Needless to say the essence of the series is that of individualism versus the community.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Back to the Future

Everybody expects the Conservatives to get trounced at the local elections next month. Few doubt the outcome with Labour still at least 18 points ahead in the opinion polls and the Tories undermined by growing support for the new Faragist Reform Party. But nothing can be taken for granted these days, least of all where Labour is concerned.
Starmer says “our mission-driven government will restore pride and purpose in our country. Let’s make this a reality, together”. Meaningless platitudes that will not get the vote out.
No one knows what Labour stands for these days beyond slavish support for the United States and Israel and an economic programme that differs little from the Sunak plan that Starmer claims to oppose. Starmer may have won the blessing of the City of London and the Murdoch media empire but he’s lost hundreds of thousands of party members in the process.
These are the people Labour relied on to get their vote out. Some 200,000 have dropped out of the party under Starmer’s watch. Some were supporters of the Palestinian cause hounded out on trumped up charges of “anti-Semitism”. Others were Corbynistas who’ve simply dropped out of the party whose leader has abandoned all of Labour’s core beliefs.
Some, not many, have turned to George Galloway’s latest political slate or the alternative platforms of the assorted left that try and repeatedly fail to build an alternative “workers’ party” to replace Labour. They’ve always failed – even Arthur Scargill’s valiant attempt came to nothing – because no alternative social-democratic party can get off the ground without the support of the trade unions. And the unions, for good or bad, are still largely in the sway of Labour’s bureaucrats.
George Galloway has proved, once again, capable of tapping the protest vote amongst the Muslim community to get back into parliament. But that’s as far as it goes and that’s as far as it will ever go. Without mass support from the labour movement Galloway’s “Workers Party” will fizzle out – like Respect which died the death in 2016.
Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott are a different matter. They certainly have mass support amongst the Corbynistas that rebuilt Labour’s strength in London during the Corbyn era. That may be enough to hold their parliamentary seats at the next general election. But on its own it won’t be enough to force Starmer to let them back into the Parliamentary Labour Party let alone build a new left social-democratic platform to challenge Starmer and the old Blairite gang.
As always the battle remains on the union front. Though the Labour Party is dominated by the right wing in the parliamentary party the possibility of their defeat exists as long as Labour retains its organisational links with the trade unions that fund it.
A genuine rank-and-file movement has to be built to sweep out the opportunists and bureaucrats who have reduced the unions that once represented millions of working people into hollowed out avenues for career advancement.
The fight for a democratic Labour Party is linked to the fight for a democratic trade union movement. In the unions we must struggle to elect genuine working class leaderships, who are prepared to represent and fight for the membership against the employers and against the right wing within the movement and to campaign for the removal of all anti‑trade union legislation.