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?