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.