Archive | July 21st, 2013

Editorial: The killing of Lee Rigby

NOVANEWS

Proletarian issue 54 (June 2013)

What is needed is a united working-class struggle against imperialism.
The killing of the young soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, south-east London, on 22 May has

exposed once again one of the big lies of contemporary bourgeois politics – namely, that imperialism’s

bestial wars of aggression (be they in Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali or wherever) are somehow necessary to

keep us ‘safe from terrorism’ here in Britain.Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, it is

almost a surreal exercise in doublespeak to hear the weasel words that are currently being delivered

up for public consumption by the likes of David Cameron and Boris Johnson today, just as they were

by the likes of Tony Blair before them, and to contrast their hysteria and hyperbole with the sobering

 warnings delivered up for their consumption by their intelligence services from the very start of the

so-called ‘war on terror’.

In truth, the ruling class finds such desperate acts a small, even at times highly useful, price to pay

in the service of their wider strategic objectives. Especially as such misguided actions so often play

into their hands in any case – helping to cover their tracks as they battle to control key sources of

fossil fuels, minerals and resources, to control the transportation routes for these resources, and

to complete their encirclement of China, Russia, or any other countries that they take as their strategic

adversaries.

We can understand the grief of Lee Rigby’s family and friends – it is the same grief as that experienced

by countless millions of parents, wives, husbands, siblings, children and others at the loss of their loved

ones in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yugoslavia and every one of the innumerable countries to which

imperialism has stretched, and continues to stretch, its bloody hand of aggression.

Cynical imperialist use of cannon fodder

Rigby’s death is indeed a tragedy for his family and friends. But he is not the completely innocent victim that is being cynically portrayed by the corporate media and bourgeois politicians. He was not merely a ‘drummer boy’; he was also a machine gunner, who ‘saw action’ in Helmand province, scene of some of the most intense and bitter fighting between US and British occupation troops and the patriotic Afghan resistance.

It is, however, a tragedy that, as in all imperialist wars that have ever been fought, the price is paid by young working-class men and mere boys. In Rigby’s case, he was the son of a cleaner and the stepson of a supermarket worker – sent to do the bosses’ bidding, against the interests of himself and his class.

As with the Christmas Day football reputedly played between British and German troops in the trenches of World War I, whose centenary will be ‘celebrated’ next year amidst an orgy of jingoism and chauvinism, there is something almost poignant in the reflection that both Rigby and one of his alleged killers were both reported to have been passionate supporters of Manchester United.

Who is responsible for the carnage?

How much more poignantly did Norman Bethune, the great Canadian communist and surgeon, writing in China in 1939, sum this up in his brilliant article, ‘Wounds’:

Any more? Four Japanese prisoners. Bring them in. In this community of pain, there are no enemies. Cut away that bloodstained uniform. Stop that haemorrhage. Lay them beside the others. Why, they’re alike as brothers! Are these soldiers professional man-killers? No, these are amateurs-in-arms. Workman’s hands. These are workers-in-uniform …

What is the cause of this cruelty, this stupidity? A million workmen come from Japan to kill or mutilate a million Chinese workmen. Why should the Japanese worker attack his brother worker, who is forced merely to defend himself? Will the Japanese worker benefit by the death of the Chinese? No, how can he gain? 

Then, in God’s name, who will gain? Who is responsible for sending these Japanese workmen on this murderous mission? Who will profit from it? How was it possible to persuade the Japanese workman to attack the Chinese workman – his brother in poverty, his companion in misery?

Is it possible that a few rich men, a small class of men, have persuaded a million men to attack, and attempt to destroy, another million men as poor as they? So that these rich may be richer still? Terrible thought! How did they persuade these poor men to come to China? By telling them the truth? 

No, they would never have come if they had known the truth. Did they dare to tell these workmen that the rich only wanted cheaper raw materials, more markets and more profit? No, they told them that this brutal war was ‘The destiny of the race’, it was for the ‘Glory of the emperor’, it was for the ‘Honour of the state’, it was for their ‘King and country’.

False. False as hell!

The agents of a criminal war of aggression, such as this, must be looked for like the agents of other crimes, such as murder, among those who are likely to benefit from those crimes. Will the 80 million workers of Japan, the poor farmers, the unemployed industrial workers – will they gain? In the entire history of the wars of aggression, from the conquest of Mexico by Spain, the capture of India by England, the rape of Ethiopia by Italy, have the workers of those ‘victorious’ countries ever been known to benefit? 

No, these never benefit by such wars. Does the Japanese workman benefit by the natural resources of even his own country ..? Long ago he ceased to possess that natural wealth. It belongs to the rich, the ruling class. The millions who work those mines live in poverty. So how is he likely to benefit by the armed robbery of the gold, silver, iron, coal and oil from China? Will not the rich owners of the one retain for their own profit the wealth of the other? Have they not always done so? …

Are wars of aggression, wars for the conquest of colonies, then, just big business? Yes, it would seem so, however much the perpetrators of such national crimes seek to hide their true purpose under banners of high-sounding abstractions and ideals. They make war to capture markets by murder; raw materials by rape. They find it cheaper to steal than to exchange; easier to butcher than to buy. 

This is the secret of war. This is the secret of all wars. Profit. Business. Profit. Blood money.

Behind all stands that terrible, implacable God of Business and Blood, whose name is Profit. Money, like an insatiable Moloch, demands its interest, its return, and will stop at nothing, not even the murder of millions, to satisfy its greed. Behind the army stand the militarists. Behind the militarists stand finance capital and the capitalist. Brothers in blood; companions in crime.

What do these enemies of the human race look like? Do they wear on their foreheads a sign so that they may be told, shunned and condemned as criminals? No. On the contrary. They are the respectable ones. They are honoured. They call themselves, and are called, gentlemen. 

What a travesty on the name, Gentlemen! They are the pillars of the state, of the church, of society. They support private and public charity out of the excess of their wealth. They endow institutions. In their private lives they are kind and considerate. They obey the law, their law, the law of property. 

But there is one sign by which these gentle gunmen can be told. Threaten a reduction on the profit of their money and the beast in them awakes with a snarl. They become ruthless as savages, brutal as madmen, remorseless as executioners. 

Such men as these must perish if the human race is to continue. There can be no permanent peace in the world while they live. Such an organisation of human society as permits them to exist must be abolished.

These men make the wounds.

Our tasks in Britain

Whilst we fully support the heroic Afghan resistance, and all those forces fighting arms in hand, or by whatever means, against imperialist occupation and aggression around the world, we have to be clear as to what our tasks are at this stage of our struggle in Britain.

We have to build a genuine communist party in struggle, one able to mobilise all sections of the working class from whatever background; and one that will be capable of frustrating the imperialist war machine at home by an active strategy of non-cooperation.

If we refuse to fight in imperialist wars for profit or help with their logistics; if we refuse to broadcast imperialist propagandain support of such wars; if we refuse to make or transport munitions or supplies, then the British war effort will collapse.

This means supporting those courageous soldiers, like Joe Glenton and Ben Griffin, who have already taken this step. Two of the conditions for membership laid down by the Communist International in 1919 are highly instructive in this regard:

A particularly marked and clear attitude on the question of the colonies and oppressed nations is necessary on the part of the communist parties of those countries whose bourgeoisies are in possession of colonies and oppress other nations. 

Every party that wishes to belong to the Communist International has the obligation of exposing the dodges of its ‘own’ imperialists in the colonies, of supporting every liberation movement in the colonies not only in words but in deeds, of demanding that their imperialist compatriots should be thrown out of the colonies, of cultivating in the hearts of the workers in their own country a truly fraternal relationship to the working population in the colonies and to the oppressed nations, and of carrying out systematic propaganda among their own country’s troops against any oppression of colonial peoples …

Every party that wishes to belong to the Communist International has the obligation to give unconditional support to every soviet republic in its struggle against the forces of counter-revolution. The communist parties must carry out clear propaganda to prevent the transport of war material to the enemies of the soviet republics. They must also carry out legal or illegal propaganda, etc, with every means at their disposal among troops sent to stifle workers’ republics.” (Emphasis added)

Individualist actions, such as the killing of Lee Rigby, hinder, and do not help, the furtherance of such noble tasks.

Moreover, by further dividing the working class, by fanning the flames of racism and islamophobia (reported incidents have increased ten-fold in the last few days), by breathing new life into fascist outfits such as the English Defence League (EDL) and the British National Party (BNP), and, most especially, by handing to the state on a plate the perfect excuse for the introduction of yet more repressive legislation, and the further erosion of democratic rights, such actions in fact serve a deeply reactionary purpose.

It is by no means coincidental that the apologists for such actions, and the milieu in which the alleged perpetrators moved, a lurid web of honey-trap operations, fronted by deceptive demagogues, often self-described as ‘preachers’, is precisely the one that has also spawned so much of the counter-revolutionary terrorists and rats of Libya, Syria and elsewhere, whose gruesome atrocities are aided, abetted, lauded and funded by the likes of Cameron, William Hague, and Britain’s various military and intelligence services.

Viewed against this background, it should therefore come as little surprise to thinking workers that the two alleged assailants were long since ‘known to the intelligence services’ and that at least one of them had been approached to work for MI5. The New York Times reported “a growing sense that inquiries into Mr Rigby’s death are likely to delve into the murky world of the security agencies and their dealings with islamic extremists”.

The international working-class movement has long experience of agents provocateur and of ‘false-flag’ operations. In the vicious climate of reaction that has been stirred up, we should be on our guard.

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Cyprus: another domino goes flying

Proletarian

issue 54 (June 2013)

Once again, the masses are in want because they have produced too much. Cyprus is furnishing yet more evidence that the capitalists are unable to control their system or to direct their misbegotten

gains in a useful way. As the economic crisis spirals us ever deeper into poverty and war, the world’s

workers are increasingly being faced with a clear choice: socialism or barbarism.

As we have explained previously, a crisis of overproduction such as the present one tends to expressitself in the financial sphere because when the glut of commodities cannot be sold, the producers very

often find themselves unable to pay their debts, and in particular their bank loans.

Banks therefore suffer severe losses due to bad debt. While these losses are borne initially by the banks’

shareholders, they are often so severe that shareholder capital is insufficient to cover them and the losses

are then passed on to depositors. Unless, of course, there is a rescue in the form of a large capital injection.

 

But who will provide the necessary capital injection? In Britain’s case, the money came from the government,

who now seek to recover the losses from taxpayers. However, in many countries, losses have been

such that national governments are unable to cover them. This has been the case with the rescues of

Ireland, Portugal, Greece and the Spanish banks, where application had to be made to European funds

such as the European Stability Mechanism, or to the European Central Bank (ECB), or to the IMF – all of

whom are entitled to, and do, put conditions on their bailout loans, involving – at the very least – the

imposition of harsh austerity on the people of the countries concerned.

In the case of Cyprus, whose banking sector has been badly burnt by bad debts in Greece and a burst

property bubble at home, 17bn were needed to rescue the banks, which the Cypriot government proposed

to supply, appealing to the ECB for a loan to enable it to do so. However, the Europeans have been unwilling

to come to the rescue unless at least 10bn of the rescue funds are provided by raiding the accounts

of ordinary bank customers.

As originally conceived, the banks were supposed to ‘tax’ even those customers holding under 100,000 – an amount that is supposed to be insured and guaranteed for every EU bank customer. In the end, after mass protests, the Cypriot parliament refused to approve the original proposals. What was then decided was that the customer contribution to the banks’ losses should be borne exclusively by those holding over 100,000 who will have to sacrifice a significant percentage of their holdings.

The current plan is closer to what one would wish to see in an orderly bank resolution. Laiki Bank is to be split into good and bad banks. Deposits of less than €100,000 in the bank and assets worth €9bn – the sum owed to the central bank as part of its liquidity support – will be transferred to Bank of Cyprus. The remainder will be wound down. Those with claims to deposits in excess of €100,000 will obtain whatever the value of the bad bank’s assets turns out to be.

Meanwhile, savers at the Bank of Cyprus with deposits of more than €100,000 will have their accounts frozen and suffer a ‘haircut’ of still unknown size. That reduction in value is likely to be large: perhaps 40 percent. Finally, temporary exchange controls are to be imposed.” (‘Cyprus adds to Europe’s confusion’ by Martin Wolf, Financial Times, 27 March 2013)

It is now thought that depositor losses at the Bank of Cyprus could reach as high as 60 percent.

This is the first time that a eurozone bank has had to pass on its losses to depositors, which hardly inspires confidence in the banking system. One interesting consequence of this new departure is, in Britain, a rush of applications to open accounts at the Nationwide, which is still a building society and not a bank.

Cyprus – an exceptional case?

It would be a disaster for European banking if depositors from around the world were to remove their money for fear of losing it. Because of this, the European bourgeoisie is at pains to find excuses for the raid on depositors that has taken place in Cyprus, and to present this as a very ‘exceptional’ case that will not be repeated.

The first excuse is that most of the depositors are Russians who use their accounts for illegal money laundering; and the second is that Cyprus ‘irresponsibly’ allowed its banking sector to grow way beyond what is sustainable for a small country.

Let us look at each of these excuses in turn.

Money laundering

Allegations have been flying that those suffering the haircuts are Russian gangsters using Cyprus’s lax banking laws for money laundering purposes. But there is absolutely no evidence to support this exculpatory accusation.

Even if one supposed that Cyprus’s banking regime did facilitate some degree of money laundering (which is unproven), this would not be true of the vast majority of depositors, who are pensioners living off their savings and bona fide businessmen, many of them relatively small traders, using Cypriot banks to facilitate perfectly legitimate international business transactions.

It is true that Russians have been favouring Cyprus as a staging post for financial transactions, but quite untrue that the majority of them are gangsters. In 2011, the then Russian president, Medvedev, on a state visit, mentioned that Russian investment through Cyprus exceeded $50bn. In May 2010 alone, for instance, $18.7bn was paid into Cypriot banks from Russian sources – the overwhelming majority, if not all, of them entirely legitimate. In addition, there are some 60,000 Russian citizens living in Cyprus, who account for 40 percent of property purchases on the island.

The reason for Russians favouring Cyprus for banking purposes is not to conceal illegal transactions. It has to do with historic difficulties faced by Russian banks in the immediate aftermath of the 1991 counter-revolution in the Soviet Union, when the Russian economy was in a chaotic state.

Cyprus at that time was offering very favourable terms for offshore banking, including low rates of tax and easy immigration facilities, and these facilities became even more attractive when Greek Cyprus joined the European Union.

Another reason for Russian eyes to turn towards Cyprus when seeking offshore banking facilities was their countries’ historic links. The Soviet Union supported the island’s five-year struggle to free itself from British colonial rule (from 1955 until it won its independence in 1960).

Of course, when Cyprus is demanding help from the ECB, which derives its finances in the last analysis from the European taxpayer, it is facile to say: ‘Why should European taxpayer money be used to pay debts to Russians?’ However, this in turn raises the question ‘Why should Russians give their business to European banks?’ One assumes that in future they are much less likely to do so – which will cause far more problems to the European banks than to the Russians!

Unsustainably large banking sector

Cyprus’s bank assets are approximately seven times its GDP. However, this is on the face of it of no particular importance.

Luxemburg’s bank assets are 22 times its GDP, and even Malta’s are eight times larger than GDP, while Britain’s are four times larger. After all, there is no reason why one could not ask a pauper to guard a million-pound stash. It only becomes important if one expects the pauper to make good any losses to that stash – ie, if it is stolen. But by what right should anybody have any such expectations?

On the contrary, one might argue that if the pauper were injured when trying to guard the stash from theft, the owner of the stash should compensate him. In Cyprus, many innocent Cypriots, using the country’s banks for the most normal domestic purposes, have lost out because these same banks were being used as offshore facilities by not only Russians but also to a very considerable extent by many other nationalities, including British and other Europeans.

Ordinary small Cypriot businessmen have seen their businesses collapse, and farmers have seen their animals starve to death, all because they have been prevented from withdrawing money from their bank accounts to pay their bills. Yet no bourgeois hack or politician has suggested that these ordinary Cypriot citizens should be compensated.

Capital flight

It is notable that very many of the international clients of Cyprus’s banking system took the precaution of removing their money once it became apparent that the banks were afflicted.

Reuters write that “At least €3.6bn … was removed in two weeks by big depositors … documents … detail transfers of €100,000 or more from the Bank of Cyprus and Laiki Bank in the two weeks before Cyprus closed its banks on 16 March …

Reuters analysed 129 companies that each transferred €5m or more over the two-week period, collectively accounting for €1.9bn. Of those companies, 95 could be traced.

Out of that group, 34 have links to Russia, five have links to Ukraine and two to Kazakhstan. The remainder comprise companies from Cyprus and other countries including tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands and the Dutch Antilles.” (‘Bank documents portray Cyprus as Russia’s favourite haven’ by Stephen Grey, Michele Kambas and Douglas Busvine, Reuters, 15 May 2013)

Interestingly, while Reuters used this information to suggest that it was mainly Russians involved in Cypriot banking, the figures make it clear that although Russian companies figure significantly, they still only represented a minority of those removing their money ahead of the collapse.

Furthermore, “Some 18 percent of the deposits held in Cypriot banks by residents of other Eurozone countries were pulled out in February, according to figures from the Bank of Cyprus. Such deposits in Cyprus had fallen 41 percent since last June to €3.9bn.” (‘Scramble to find Cypriot cash escape route’ by Michael Stothard and Courtney Weaver, Financial Times, 31 March 2013)

The family of Cyprus’s President Anastasiades is also suspected of having used inside information to get their money out quick.

The president’s family has come under scrutiny following the publication in Haravghi, the Cyprus communist party newspaper, of a list of more than 100 companies and three individual account holders who pulled more than €500m from Laiki in the two weeks before Cyprus agreed on 15 March to a ‘haircut’ of bank deposits as part of a proposed bailout by the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

A company controlled by the Loutsios family, which owns two car dealerships in Cyprus, emptied two accounts containing €21m on 12 and 13 March according to the list. Antis and Katia Loutsios had earlier cleaned out two personal accounts on 3 and 4 March holding another €6m. Mr Anasiasiades’ daughter Else, a partner in the family law firm, is married to Yannos Loutsios, the couple’s son.” (‘Cyprus leader invites family firm probe’ by Kerin Hope and Roman Olearchyk, Financial Times, 3 April 2013)

Why did Russia not step in to rescue Cyprus?

In an attempt to avoid having to haircut depositors, the Cypriot government did appeal to Russia for assistance.

On 19 March, Michalis Sarris, the finance minister, flew to Moscow to offer Russia trade preferences in the energy sector, gas exploration rights and controlling shares in Cyprus’s banks in return for a five-year extension of a 2011 Russian bailout loan of 2.5bn and an additional 5bn of support. However, “Two days later, he left Moscow empty-handed.

The above-quoted article goes on to comment: “To many western observers, Moscow’s unwillingness to take Sarris’ initial offer appears to be a huge strategic blunder. It seems inexplicable that Cyprus’s most heavily invested economic partner – and the largest source of foreign deposits in the island’s banks – would refuse a deal on such apparently favourable terms. All the more confusing is Moscow’s apparent decision not to solidify its strategic foothold, given Russia’s geopolitical ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean [ie, its need to establish a friendly port for its military naval vessels].” (‘Why Moscow is playing the long game on the island of Aphrodite’ by Yuri M Zhukov, Foreign Affairs, 29 March 2013)

It is clear, however, that any money that Moscow might supply (on top of the 2.5bn it supplied two years ago) would simply go to shore up the EU’s banking system, with most of the money ending up in the hands of non-Russians. Just as the EU doesn’t want to pay up for the benefit of Russians, Russia doesn’t want to pay up for the benefit of the EU.

As far as Cyprus’s Russian depositors are concerned, Zhukov (quoted above) believes that the Russian government is now anxious to encourage them to stop using offshore banking facilities now that perfectly good ones have been set up at home. Zhukov explains: “In December 2012, President Vladimir Putin declared ‘deoffshorisation’ as a central policy priority … Russia … has over 20 special economic zones, which offer tax benefits on investment and business income. So far, however, most of these zones have had trouble attracting investment … But the EU’s growing opposition to Russian investment has created a new opportunity to lure capital back into Russia.

This is a major concern to the Russian government, which is at present faced with a flight of capital (€63bn in 2011 and €44.5 in 2012) that it no doubt considers could be put to better use providing employment at home.

Furthermore, if Russia were to provide 5bn out of the 17bn that is needed, then it is reasonable to suppose that it will still be the European Central Bank and the IMF in charge of the situation – both of whom can be relied upon to ignore Russian interests. They have made it clear that Cyprus will not be allowed to continue its tax haven services, when this is in fact Cyprus’s major employer and generator of GDP. That being so, Cyprus’s ability to repay any loans is going to be minimal.

As for the acquisition of energy rights, “The Russian gas and oil giants Gazprom and Rosneft … were reluctant to negotiate investment in offshore tenders under such a compressed time frame, before seismic survey work could be completed.

The price of the bailout

Quite apart from the closure of the Laiki Bank, with the loss of 250 jobs, and the loss of depositors’ money, the ECB/IMF knights in shining armour ‘rescuing’ Cyprus are demanding “the abolition of index-linked wage increases, and the first privatisations of state organisations, including the telecoms and electricity utilities and the ports of Larnaca and Limassol.”(‘Cyprus finance minister quits after Troika talks’ by Kerin Hope, Financial Times, 2 April 2013)

It would be amusing if the buyer of either or both of those ports turned out to be Russian!

However, for Greek Cyprus, loss of its tax haven business is a disaster. This business was developed after the Turkish invasion of 1974, when the consequent partition of Cyprus left the Greek part of the island bereft of its agricultural and industrial base. Its only thriving business was tourism, which wasn’t enough.

Offshore banking proved its lifeline, which is why it offered such advantageous terms to depositors. That lifeline has now been snatched away, with the inevitable result that Cyprus will sink if nothing is done to stop it. “[W]ith many economists now estimating that the Cypriot economy will contract 5 percent to 10 percent this year, it could well be that depositors will have to take a bigger loss so that the bank can free up cash to protect its rapidly deteriorating loan book.”(‘In Cyprus, big losses expected on deposits’ by Landon Thomas Jr, New York Times, 27 March 2013)

As a result, “Nicosia is now an eerie place, deserted streets with people glued to their television sets for the latest news … There is total desperation. The smiles have gone. Nothing like this has ever happened before. Where do we go next? … There are gas reserves off our coast giving some hope, but ‘they’ might take them away too.”(‘Cyprus finds not all nations are equal’ by Christopher Pissarides, Financial Times, 28 March 2013)

Europe pays the price for its disloyalty

There are already significant signs that European banks have been irretrievably damaged by the Cyprus debacle. If the European Union wasn’t prepared to protect depositors in Cyprus, how can investors assume that it will be ready to protect depositors anywhere else?

The way Cyprus has been treated by its Eurozone partners shows that far from the currency bloc acting as a partnership of equals, it is a disjointed group of countries where the national interests of the big nations stand higher than the interests of the whole. Meanwhile, the haphazard decision-making in the eurogroup continues.

Following the Cyprus agreement, the chairman of the group declared that this would be a template for the future. Panic spread in the eurozone, the value of the euro dropped, and then the denial came, on the same day … Cyprus is a ‘special case’, apparently. We wait to hear what is special about it.”(Ibid)

As ever, the bourgeoisie in times of crisis are trying to save themselves not only at the expense of the working class but also at the expense of each other. Let the weakest go to the wall so the strongest can survive.

If one’s world outlook is confined within the capitalist box, then this logic makes perfect sense – except that even the strong in Europe will be adversely affected by the damage they are causing to the European banking system, and Cyprus will end up dragging down the whole of Europe anyway.

What is necessary is to think outside the capitalist box about the sheer irrationality of the masses increasingly suffering want at a time of ‘excessive abundance’. This irrationality is the inevitable consequence of trying to move forward with an antiquated economic system that is no longer fit for purpose and has been a liability for humanity for over a century.

The alternative to capitalism is economic planning that matches the resources available to the needs of the masses of the people, abolishing the whole concept of profit as the motivator of production. The Soviet Union proved that, notwithstanding capitalist encirclement and hostility, economic planning produces results which appear totally miraculous by comparison with what can be achieved under capitalism. And it will be recalled that these miraculous results were achieved in the 1930s, when the whole capitalist world was mired in catastrophic crisis.

Let communists redouble their efforts: they hold in their hands the only possible solution to recurring capitalist crisis and all the misery and war that this inflicts. It is time to make sure that this message is heard clearly by the masses everywhere, who will sooner or later take up the weapon of Marxism and become their own liberators.

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The 22nd International Communist Seminar, Brussels. 31 May 2013 – 2 June 2013

LALKARONLINE

“The attacks on democratic rights and freedom in the world capitalist crisis. Strategies and actions in response”

The above seminar was held near Brussels, Belgium, on the above dates. Fifty-two communist and workers’ parties from 43 countries participated in its deliberations. The CPGB-ML was represented by Harpal Brar and Ella Rule. After considerable discussion, General Conclusions on the seminar theme were agreed upon and have been signed by the majority of the parties that participated in the seminar. The delegates also passed resolutions expressing solidarity with Cuba, on the developments in Latin America, on the attacks on democratic rights in the European Union and on the war in Syria.

The fourth paragraph of the resolution on Syria read: ” We … support the absolute right of the Syrian people, who suffer from subversive attacks and terrorist actions supported by imperialism and the reactionary regimes of the region, to determine their political path and leadership without any foreign interference. We declare complete and unreserved solidarity with the people of Syria .” The CPGB-ML proposed an amendment to add at the end of this resolution the words “led by the Ba’athist regime of Bashar al-Assad“, but this amendment was not accepted. The reports, resolutions and general conclusions of this seminar can be accessed at its website www.icseminar.org.

Harpal Brar made a presentation on behalf of the CPGB-ML which is as follows:

Dear Comrades

On behalf of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), I express my sincere thanks to the organisers of the Seminar, the PTB, for inviting us to present our views to this important gathering. I would also like to thank the interpreters for their hard work and the kitchen staff who have served us tirelessly during the past 3 days. While greeting the delegates assembled here on behalf of my Party, I wish the Seminar great success.

Dear comrades, we are in the midst of the deepest crisis of capitalism since the late 1920s. Like all capitalist crises, this is a crisis of overproduction, notwithstanding the fact that it had made itself most forcefully felt in the financial sphere. This is to be expected since the feverish speculation in stock markets, bonds, derivatives etc is merely a reflection of the lack of profitable opportunities in the productive sphere.

After the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank in the US, there was a near meltdown of the imperialist financial system, with large banks in all the centres of imperialism staring bankruptcy in the face. To save the financial system, imperialist governments poured gargantuan sums of money into rescuing the banks. But while this temporarily staved off ruin for those establishments, it failed to cure the problem, merely transforming the banking crisis into a sovereign debt crisis, so that now many governments are facing bankruptcy.

As a result, various governments have been forced to resort to extreme measures of fiscal austerity, attacking working-class living standards through a combination of cuts in social spending, job losses and tax rises. The entire exercise is an attempt to save capitalism by transferring hundreds upon hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth from the working class to the robber barons of finance capital. Even the most dim-witted among the working class are beginning to sense what a total racket monopoly capitalism is.

While the banks have apparently returned to profitability, they are now refusing to loan money to some of the governments that are in trouble (except on extortionate terms) on the grounds of the shaky creditworthiness of these governments. And on top of this, the austerity measures that have been implemented, far from reducing sovereign budget deficits, are merely serving to exacerbate the problem, since they have inevitably resulted in high unemployment, with its consequent loss of tax revenues and increase in unemployment payments.

There is a debate going on between the Keynesian and the monetarist factions of monopoly capitalism, with the former calling for growth and the latter for continuing austerity. But the truth is that none of these factions has any solutions to the problem inherent in capitalism, namely, the crises of overproduction, which is a consequence of the contradiction between social productive forces and private appropriation.

In fact, capitalism today finds itself in the same dilemma as the person in the famous Chinese fable, who was dying of thirst but the only drink he had to hand was a cup full of poison. He died if he drank it; he died if he didn’t.

Faced with this dilemma, each imperialist country is doing what it has always done when faced with similar situations in the past – it is intensifying its attacks on the working class at home and on the oppressed peoples abroad, while trying to outmanoeuvre its rivals and competitors. This is leading to the intensification of the contradiction between labour and capital in the imperialist countries, between a tiny group of imperialist exploiting nations and the vast masses of the oppressed countries on a world scale, and between the various competing imperialist powers.

Confining myself to the situation in Britain, dear comrades, there is a rising tide of anger among layers of the working class. However, the resistance of the working class to attacks on it has so far been muted because of the suffocating grip of social democracy on the working class through the trade-union leadership.

It is just the same in the anti-war movement, which is controlled, through their agents, by the same people who are attacking working people at home and waging war on oppressed peoples abroad.

Through its own ‘left-wing’ luminaries, as well as through its Trotskyite and revisionist servitors, the Labour party – the same party that waged wars against Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan while in power and continues to support imperialist wars in opposition – controls the anti-war movement. It is not therefore surprising that this movement has been run into the ground and, from being able to mobilise 2 million people to demonstrate against the war in Iraq, can now mobilise no more than a few hundred.

And yet the Trotskyites and revisionists want workers to believe that the Labour party is the party of the working class and can be used as an instrument for ushering in socialism in Britain!

We, on the other hand, are firmly of the view that the Labour Party, right from its inception, has been, now is, and shall always remain, a bloodthirsty party of imperialism, which attacks working people at home and wages wars on oppressed peoples abroad. It is a conduit for purveying bourgeois ideology in the working-class movement. Our Party continues to insist that the working class, if it is to come within striking distance of its real enemies, must get rid of all illusions in the Labour Party.

Further, our Party is of the view that it is equally important to fight against the opportunists of the revisionist and Trotskyist variety who, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, continue to foster illusions in this party of imperialism. We continue to insist, with Lenin: “That the fight against imperialism is a sham and a fraud unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism” ( Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism).

At a time when the opportunist leadership of the anti-war movement in Britain – composed of ‘left’ social democrats, revisionists and Trotskyists – is doing its best to support, albeit slyly and surreptitiously, imperialist predatory wars against the oppressed people, our Party takes to the anti-war movement the message of solidarity with the victims of aggression by our own bourgeoisie, for we are convinced that: ” the revolutionary movement in the advanced countries would actually be a sheer fraud if, in their struggle against capital, the workers of Europe and America were not closely and completely united with hundreds upon hundreds of millions of ‘colonial’ slaves who are oppressed by capital” (V I Lenin, Second Congress of the Communist International, 1920). In this context, it is so very important to support countries such as the DPRK, which are under constant threat of war by imperialism and which at great cost confront US imperialism every day on the world’s most militarised border.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the east European socialist countries, the imperialist bourgeoisie was triumphalist, claiming that Marxism Leninism was dead. The present crisis has been a rude shock to it, demonstrating as it does that the case for socialism has never been greater. Capitalism, far from being eternal, is decadent, parasitic and moribund; it is the chief obstacle to the forward progress of humanity and is the cause of the misery of the overwhelming majority.

Our party is doing its best to bring ideological and theoretical clarity into the working-class movement. We are doing our best to build a proper Communist Party capable of connecting itself with the broad masses of the working class and leading it in its struggle for socialism through the overthrow of capitalism.

The working-class movement in Europe has gone through a period of several decades during which there was almost no resistance to capitalism. This state of affairs came about through a combination of the prosperity created by the special conditions that followed the second world war and the degeneration and demoralisation brought to our movement by Khrushchevite revisionism. As a result, the working-class movement appeared to have reached a permanent dead end.

However, as Marx once observed, “In developments of [great] magnitude, twenty years are no more than a day, though later on days may come again in which twenty years are embodied.

Looking at the unfolding crisis of imperialism, we would not be surprised if, in the not-too-distant future, we are witness to days in which four decades are embodied.

The defeat of the imperialist predatory wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the rising tide of militancy among the European working class are proof enough of this assertion.

Comrades, ours is a very small party and we do not claim to be the movers and shakers of the working-class movement in Britain. We are doing our very best to develop our party and connect it with the working class. We are having a fair amount of success; however, we have a long way to go. All the same, it is our assertion that we are the only party in Britain calling itself communist, which, while firmly adhering to the tenets of Marxism-Leninism and refusing to be diverted by the latest political fashion and allurements of easy success through adopting opportunist stances, is growing and attracting young and serious workers. In the not too distance future, we hope to reach the position that was occupied in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s by the the old Comunist Party of Great Britain.

There are half a dozen parties in this conference hall which have achieved commendable electoral support in their respective countries. We congratulate these parties and are envious of their successes. I hasten to add, however, that it is important to remember that elections under the conditions of capitalism, as Engels pointed out a long while ago, are an instrument of rule of the bourgeoisie. These elections have a momentum of their own and induce a tendency in the working-class parties taking part in them to compromise on principle for the sake of securing the votes of the electors who generally, especially at the present time, stand to the right of the communist parties. For instance, there is a temptation not to refer to the achievements of socialist construction in the USSR and to avoid mentioning the name of the person, Joseph Stalin, under whose leadership these earth-shaking developments took place.

I conclude my remarks by saying that communist parties all over the world have a duty to cooperate with each other. There is an urgent need to build an inclusive international communist movement that does not resort to bans and exclusions to stifle debate, nor strive to perpetuate the schisms and sectarianism brought into the movement by Khrushchevite revisionism.

Long live Marxism-Leninism!

Long live Proletarian Internationalism!

Death to Imperialism!

Posted in PoliticsComments Off on The 22nd International Communist Seminar, Brussels. 31 May 2013 – 2 June 2013

Interview with René González of the Miami 5

LALKARONLINE

by Fernando Ravsberg,

Before returning to Cuba, René González spent 12 years in prison for having infiltrated anti Castro groups in Miami.

On 12 September 1998 the FBI uncovered a Cuban spy ring operating in Miami for the purpose of keeping an eye on anti-Castro groups. Several members of the ring agreed deals with the prosecution and received reduced sentences but 5 agents refused to do so and their sentences were much worse, and included a life sentence.

One of these 5 Cubans was the pilot René Gonzalez who has recently been released from US prisons after 14 years in captivity. He agreed to talk about his life as an agent, his activities in the US and his time in prison.

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Q: Why did you agree to go to the US as a spy?

I am a Cuban of my generation and I grew up under the threat of terrorism against Cuba. I remember the kidnapping of fishermen, who were often murdered by terrorist groups from Miami. I was among the million people who attended the funeral of the Barbados martyrs after the Cuban airliner in which they were travelling was bombed. So when I was asked to do this, I didn’t hesitate. I felt it was my duty as a patriot.

Q: Is it ethical to go and spy in another country?

I think it is ethical to defend oneself when one is attacked, and that is what I went there to do. We have been attacked by the world’s strongest power over a period of many years, and we have the right to defend ourselves, on condition of not harming the north-American people. We never went to hurt anybody over there. All we did was to exercise our right of self defence.

Q: Living that double life you must have got to know good people as well. Didn’t you feel you were betraying them?

The human factor is complicated. In all those groups there are some good people who also believe in what they are doing but are manipulated or are prejudiced. One recognises them, and learns who has human qualities and who hasn’t. You realise that many of these people, had things been different, would have stayed with us, and you treat them with the affection they deserve.

I don’t want to name anybody in order not to get anyone over there into trouble but I got to know people who had been officers in Batista’s army, who are old now, who even today treat me as their son, and I treat them as my fathers.

Q: What sort of information were you looking for? Why were some of you working in a military base?

There was a comrade working in a military base who passed on information available publicly – he had no access to classified information, and never looked for any either. He put together all possible public information that he could find about the Cayo Hueso base because this base could have been a centre of possible aggression against Cuba.

Q: And what were the rest of you doing?

Gerardo was the one who was coordinating our activities. I infiltrated various groups such as Hermanos al Rescate, Democracia, Comando de Liberacion Unido and others. I had dealings with a lot of groups because anybody who needed a little aeroplane also needed a pilot and I was available.

Q: On the subject of Hermanos al Rescate, Gerardo was accused of being responsible for the death of its four pilots. Were you involved in that?

We had nothing to do with it. I would say that the main prosecution trick for politicising the trial was to trump up the charge relating to Hermanos de Rescate. They couldn’t accuse Gerardo of murder, only of conspiring to murder, which of course involved his combining with other persons (in this case supposedly the Cuban government) to commit murder, the illegal killing of a person outside Cuban territory. Not one of these allegations could be proved.

Q: In that case why were the sentences so harsh ?

That goes beyond the trial. It was a question of punishing Cuba. I would say it was vengeance for all Cuba’s resistance. The US government’s obsession is sick and leads to the irrational policies of the last 50 years.

The sentences were irrational, a consequence of the prosecution’s subordination to the terrorists who control Miami. The FBI chief himself boasted of being in with these elements.

Q: If that was the case, why did the Cuban government provide to the FBI the information which led to your capture?

Garcia Márquez was the conduit for an invitation to be issued in 1998 to two FBI officers, to whom cooperation was offered in the fight against terrorism. A file was handed over to them, but it was not this that led to our arrest. From the evidence it can be deduced that we were already being investigated.

Moreover I believe that, speaking ethically, the struggle against terrorism ought to have united our respective governments regardless of ideological differences. I agree with cooperating with whatever other government.

Q: They offered to negotiate with you ? Why didn’t you accept?

Of course. They even offered us good deals. One was given a 5-year sentence on the same charge as Antonio Guerrero, and could have faced life imprisonment. It would have been easy to accept it.

But you have to debase yourself as a person. When the US prosecutors offer you a deal they tell you that if you don’t lie on the stand and if you don’t do what they tell you, you are going to die in prison. You have to decide whether you will lie for them or not.

You are not unaware of the fact that you are being used as a tool to raise an accusation against your country and to harm it, in order to build a case against Cuba. One Cuban agent agreed to everything the prosecution wanted against Fidel and the Cuban government, and against Raul. I would have been used to strengthen the accusation.

So we are talking about two very important issues : your human dignity and the defence of Cuba. We were sent on a mission that could have cost us our lives, not just prison, and we went to defend the Cuban people.

Q: How were you treated in prison ?

While we were on trial we were put into solitary confinement in the prison’s punishment cell and kept there for 17 months. Really they treated us very harshly. Our families were treated very badly. I was prohibited from seeing my daughters. Medical care was awful. They tried to break us but we had sufficient moral courage.

Once you leave Miami the political aspect fades and you are just another prisoner. A lot depends on the security level of the prison. It is criminal that Gerardo is in a maximum security prison because those prisons are very violent with regular very dangerous confrontations between gangs.

I was lucky because they put me in a medium security prison in the geographic area of the eastern US where gangs are not so common and there is a much reduced level of violence.

Q: Do you agree that the proposal to exchange your comrades for Alan Gross is fair ?

I don’t know if the word ‘exchange’ is appropriate. Nobody wants to use it. The politics are complicated. But I think it would be fair. 6 families can benefit. I don’t believe in a unilateral benefit for one side only. That seems absurd and arrogant.

I have nothing against Mr Gross. I think political prisoners should be treated with some leniency if their crime is not atrocious because they have different motivations for which I have a certain respect. I would be in favour of the matter being settled and above all that the two governments should sit down and work out all the problems they have with each other.

Q: Why didn’t they exchange you in the same way they did the Russian spies? Wayne Smith, who was a US ambassador here, says that Cuba awakes in the US government the same response as the full moon awakes in a werewolf.

Cuba has broken the pattern of US domination of the American continent that until the triumph of our Revolution could never even be questioned. That is the reason for the rage. Cuba is hated for Girón (Bay of Pigs), for the October crisis (Cuban missile crisis), for existing and for being an example.

Posted in InterviewComments Off on Interview with René González of the Miami 5

Free political prisoners

novanews
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birmingham republican

Red Youth and Birmingham CPGB-ML supported the call of West Mids PSC to support a demo to raise awareness of the plight of political prisoner’s. The purpose was to raise the profile of Irish and Palestinian political prisoner’s in particular. Despite West Mids PSC declaring its support for the rally, it seems on the day the weather got the better of them. Perhaps a BBQ took precedence, or maybe some other vital work, like verbal masturbation at some University/college Professor’s house… maybe they were too busy spreading rumours of anti-semitism to other ultra-left, trotskyite groups who make out they are anti-racist/anti-imperialist. Either way, true anti-imperialists staged an excellent march and rally. Shame on those who profess their devotion to the liberation of the Palestinians but declare actual Palestinian revolutionaries and fighters against imperialism to be anti-semitic. These people whistle loud but are never seen out in Birmingham unless its a state-sponsored/TUC love-in.

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Posted in Campaigns, UKComments Off on Free political prisoners

Bloody Revolutions Fail: Now Is The Time For Peace

NOVANEWS

Every violent revolution in history has been a failure…Its time for a new strategy.

Peaceful Revolution

Peaceful Revolution

By Jared Bachman

Every violent revolution in history has been a failure.

I understand that you’re probably doubting that. Many Americans have been misled to believe in successful revolutions in history. The American Revolution is considered a success by many. We’re often told that the brave rebels stood up to the unethical king across the ocean. It can be easy to nitpick through revolutions and say that one was a good one and that was a bad one, but have they really lived up to the dreams of their promoters? More importantly, did they really help the world become a better place?

Promised Land

What is it that all revolutions have promised? 

While the methodology might have changed, the promises have been similar. The most important of these promises is a more peaceful world.

The average person does not fight a revolution hoping to kill. The sociopaths in our world are few and far between. There is no revolution fought on the concept of violence. The revolutions have always been a “means to an end.”

The leaders of every revolution insist that the solution will come after the violence. Some of the leaders promoted specific plans. Others didn’t have to promote any plan. There is a similarity between them all though. The changes in their revolution can only commence after the complete disconnection with their current system.

Their promised land can only come after the violence.

Their is an implied promise within all of this. All revolutions are made out to be the final revolution.

People are misled to believe that their revolution is going to be the last. Naturally, the majority isn’t thinking the rest of life is going to be butterflies and flowers but they always think the world is going to get better.

The World Today

Has the world gotten better?

We’re still using the same political methods that have been around for thousands of years. The number of people dying in war isn’t going down. In fact, now countries are in the position to kill hundreds of millions of people with the press of a few buttons. It’s arguable that the world has gotten worse.

The politicians of today have taken the principled stances of the past and destroyed them. I’m not a believer in the US Constitution but even that has been riddled with exceptions to the rules. These are promises that were made by the revolutionaries. These revolutionaries are not the first to make promises that their systems couldn’t keep. It’s happened every time throughout history.

There is no way to know whether the original revolutionaries really believed their promises would last but I firmly believe they did. I believe revolutionaries don’t put their life on the line to make small temporary changes. I believe they do it to make a true difference in history. Sadly, they can’t make their changes permanent alone.

That is why I’ve written this article for you. I hope to help the revolutionaries of tomorrow make a permanent difference in history.

The Peaceful Revolution

Violent revolutions have always failed. They promised peace through war. That just doesn’t happen. Peace will never come from a short-term escalation of the violence. It’s an attempt to build a peaceful world on a foundation of violence. Escalating violence is never justifiable. 

I feel the anger. I understand the urge to start fighting for the things you’ve been promised; but the revolution you want so badly won’t come in the matter of a few years. National revolutions can happen in a year. Millions of people can die and everyone can be worse off. A few years later, the violence that justified the revolution is used to justify the nation’s “protection.”

You may not be able to stop a violent revolution but you are capable of not participating in the violence.

You may be called a coward; but remember, the ones refusing to kill are always called cowards. Protect yourself if you have to but never give in to the voices telling you to escalate, because those are the voices that you’re fighting against.

The peaceful revolution is not going to take a year. That’s because it’s not a national revolution. It’s going to be a revolution in the way individuals live their lives. People will finally learn not to use the escalation of violence for their own personal gain. It’s a revolution that could take generations to complete but it’s a revolution that can finally bring the long-lasting peace that everyone is actually looking for.

Posted in USAComments Off on Bloody Revolutions Fail: Now Is The Time For Peace

U.S. imperialism and the coup in Egypt

NOVANEWS
Need for revolutionary leadership

By Mazda Majidi

Massive protest in Egypt, July 1

Egypt’s unfinished revolution is going through rapid developments. A dizzying array of class forces are engaged in a struggle whose outcome will determine the fate of the country. The military’s removal of Mohamed Morsi followed days of mass protests demanding that he step down from the presidency. The huge protests, numbering in the millions, were by some accounts even larger than the ones that led to the overthrow of U.S. client Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

On July 3, the army’s top commander, Gen. Abdul Fatah Saeed al-Sisi, removed Morsi from power and appointed Hazem Al Beblawi as interim prime minister. Beblawi has since formed a cabinet that will serve until the next elections. He has also promoted al-Sisi to first deputy prime minister in addition to keeping him in his post as defense minister. Among other noteworthy members of Beblawi’s cabinet is Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who will serve under the interim president, Adly Mansour.

Given the long history of U.S. invasions, occupations and other forms of intervention in the region, one must ask whether this was a U.S.-engineered coup. To answer this question, it is helpful to take a broad look at variations over time in the strength of U.S. influence in the Middle East and North Africa.

U.S. role in the Middle East and North Africa

In the period immediately following the overthrow of the Soviet Union in 1991, U.S. imperialism saw its path to global dominance unimpeded. From the end of WWII through the 1970s, many formerly colonized countries around the world had won their independence through national liberation movements, often with significant support from the socialist bloc. Now, U.S. imperialist strategists thought, there was nothing stopping the U.S. from bringing those countries back into its sphere of influence.

But the Iraq war showed the limits of U.S. power even after the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. What Washington expected to be a “cakewalk” occupation of Iraq in 2003 turned into an eight-year war, with the outcome anything but a resounding victory for the U.S. To prevent a catastrophic defeat, the U.S. was forced to strike deals and form alliances with forces that had been fighting against its occupation. And the end result was far from what imperialism had hoped for: a client regime similar to the Gulf monarchies.

Today, the Iraqi government is playing a significant role in supporting the Assad government in Syria, in opposition to the U.S.-supported rebels. Baghdad is also signing large oil contracts with China, not handing all the mega-deals to Exxon-Mobil and other oil giants. This is not what the U.S. government had envisioned for post-occupation Iraq.

After 12 years of occupation, the U.S. position in Afghanistan is certainly not that of a confident victor that has crushed the resistance of a poor country with limited resources. In Afghanistan, as in Iraq, the U.S. is not seeking an outright victory, which is out of reach, but avoidance of the appearance of defeat. Repeated overtures to what the U.S. hopes are the more conciliatory elements of the Taliban are evidence of the U.S. challenge.

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have once again shattered the myth that the U.S. Empire is invincible. And this has had reverberations far beyond the region. Even client states on whose loyalty Washington could once count on are now more willing to go their own way sometimes. While not severing their subservient ties to the U.S., some of these client states are jockeying for regional influence, competing against other states. At times they are out of synch with the U.S. They see no reason to perfectly align their policies with those of U.S. imperialism. Whether or not the U.S. will get its way is now a question, not a foregone conclusion.

Hence, we see Turkey, a member of NATO, willing to mix it up with Israel, attempting to regain some of the lost influence of the days of the Ottoman Empire. Similarly, we see reactionary Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar competing for influence in Egypt and within Syria’s right-wing opposition. The recent election of Ahmad Assi Jarba as the leader of the opposition Syrian National Council, for example, is seen as a victory for Saudi Arabia and a defeat for Qatar, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar are both U.S. client states.

It is in this context that we should analyze the U.S. role in Egypt. Contrary to what has at times been stated, there is no indication that the July 3 military takeover in Egypt was a U.S. initiative. Reported phone contacts between Egypt’s top military commander, General Al-Sisi, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in the week preceding the coup were more likely Sisi reassuring Hegel that the military had matters under control, not an exchange of operational plans.

Morsi and the U.S.

There is no question that, in his one year in power as president, Mohamed Morsi worked well with the U.S. Morsi played a key role in brokering a truce between Israel and Hamas in late 2012, when Israel and the U.S. were in desperate need of a graceful way out of the conflict, after their latest massacre of Palestinians in Gaza.

In the conflict in Syria, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were solidly behind the U.S. effort to overthrow the Syrian state. In addition to making statements like: “The Egyptian people and the army are supporting the Syrian uprising,” on June 15, Morsi broke diplomatic relations with Syria and shut down the Syrian embassy in Cairo. Morsi even encouraged Egyptians to go to Syria to be martyred in the fight against Syrian troops.

Regarding domestic affairs, the Brotherhood’s single most decisive act was passing a constitution that was strongly opposed by all secular forces. The constitution trampled the rights of women and laid the basis for the oppression of religious minorities—10 percent of Egypt’s population of 85 million are Christians. Far from creating a consensus of the wide array of forces that overthrew the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship, the Brotherhood codified its own reactionary social policies into the constitution. And Morsi did nothing to challenge or destabilize Egypt’s capitalist economy and the stranglehold of international financial institutions over it.

So Washington would have had no incentive to orchestrate a military coup to overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood. All indications are that Morsi’s removal was the initiative of the Egyptian military, which saw an opportunity to take advantage of mass uprisings against Morsi to promote their own agenda. Washington could live with Morsi, but it obviously has no problems with Egypt’s military—a military it has propped up with at least $1.3 billion a year.

Like all observers of the Egyptian revolution, from the left and the right, the U.S. cannot predict the future, given the dynamic process of class struggle unfolding in Egypt. But the developments following July 3 have been as promising for the U.S. as they have been troubling for revolutionaries. The U.S. hopes, as do the Egyptian generals, that the removal of Morsi will usher in a period of reestablishing control, moving towards the repression of the mass movement.

Since the military removed the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Morsi from power on July 3, supporters have staged protests and sit-ins in many cities across Egypt. On July 16, seven supporters of ousted president Morsi were killed by the police. A week earlier, on July 9, as 1,000 people protested outside the Republican Guard headquarters, over 50 protesters were killed by the security forces. An estimated 99 Brotherhood supporters have been killed to date. The Brotherhood has called for an uprising against the military.

The bloody military repression of the Brotherhood supporters is to be strongly condemned by all progressive forces. The repression may be directly pointed at the Brotherhood today, but the violent repression may well expand to many other forces in the months to come. There is no question that the military would like nothing more than to crush the mass movement in all its manifestations, send people home and return things to the days of the Mubarak regime, albeit without the person of Mubarak and with some superficial reforms.

International reaction

Reaction of various states to the military removal of Morsi has been mixed and confusing. The United States and the European Union have expressed the formally required concerns and encouraged a swift return to democracy, while refusing to call it a coup or condemn the repression. Diplomatic language aside, they have been essentially supportive of Egypt’s military. Saudi Arabia and most Gulf monarchies have been equally supportive.

Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, has been enthusiastically supportive of the overthrow of the Brotherhood, given Morsi’s overt support for the Syrian rebels and the fact that Syria’s Brotherhood is one of the main forces that receives Western (and Gulf Arab) support. On this issue, independent Syria and one of the key funders of its opposition rebels, Saudi Arabia, have the same position. Unlike Saudi Arabia and others, Qatar, another reactionary Gulf monarchy, which has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood both in Egypt and Syria, has condemned the coup.

Turkey has taken the strongest position on condemnation of the “unacceptable coup.” In his July 19 statements, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan chided the West: “Those who extol democracy when they meet with us, saying ‘one must not compromise on democracy’, we want to see their backbone.” Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has a history quite distinct from that of the Muslim Brotherhood and lacks an ideology with regional Islamic aspirations. However, similar to the Brotherhood, the AKP serves the class role of providing a religious, pseudo-independent façade for a capitalist client state, but one of which the military is not supportive.

If not U.S.-engineered, what motivated the coup?

It is not that the military wants to rule directly. What al-Sisi and other military commanders want to do is to channel mass protests in a direction that is safe for the system. The leadership of individuals like ElBaradei, the former head of the IAEA and a person of international prominence, is an acceptable alternative for the military, as is the case for various other “democratic” politicians and technocrats.

But the fact is that a capitalist politician will not be able to resolve the fundamental problems of society. Egypt’s debt is a staggering 88 percent of its GDP—that is, 88 percent of the value of all the goods and services produced in the country for an entire year. The problem is not that Morsi mismanaged the economy. Mubarak’s regime was already deeply in debt and the economy already in dire straits. With the collapse in tourism revenues and significant capital flight over the past two years, it is not good management that can solve the problems of society for the working class.

It will take a revolutionary path, led by socialists, to solve the contradictions society faces. What could begin to address the economic problems would be the refusal to pay the international financial institutions, and expropriation of capital to benefit Egypt’s working class. And that is not something that the “right” person elected to office can do. Large loans from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies will not fundamentally change the state of affairs.

There are several possibilities for the course of future developments. It is possible that the crisis for the ruling class will continue. Elections could go forward and whichever capitalist candidate gets elected will not be able to meet the people’s demands, no matter how democratic the elections and no matter how many political rights are enjoyed by the population. And the masses could be back in the streets. This, from a revolutionary perspective, is the best possibility, because it leaves open the possibility of the revolution advancing further.

There is also a possibility that the military and the old ruling elite can manage to re-establish the old order and repress the movement. For instance, if the Muslim Brotherhood engages in a long, intense struggle against the military, protracted civil war could be possible.

A long confrontation with the military on one side and Brotherhood supporters on the other could yield a situation where the people in the streets right now will be sidelined. And, of course, there are many other possibilities for future developments, as class struggle is a dynamic process.

Lessons of the struggle in Egypt

Revolutionary socialists, struggling to make the working class the ruling class, must always learn the appropriate lessons from each revolutionary movement, in victory and in defeat. We can learn many lessons from the Egyptian revolution. But the key lesson is that we should strive to make sure that the vanguard party already exists by the time a revolutionary situation comes around.

The vanguard party, a party with skills and consciousness that can exercise its leadership, must already have been formed through struggle because by the time a revolutionary situation occurs, there is usually not enough time. Building a revolutionary working-class party is the task of revolutionary socialists not just during revolutionary times, but most critically during non-revolutionary periods.

In Egypt, extreme repression under the Mubarak dictatorship made the formation of a revolutionary vanguard party extremely difficult, if not impossible. However, Egypt has now gone through over two years of revolutionary upheaval with the possibility of this period extending into the future. The continuation of the revolutionary period could make possible the forging of a revolutionary party that will bring fuse together the struggle of the masses with a working-class program.

It is possible that revolutionary alternatives could form within the lower ranks of the military, either the lower ranks of the officer corps or the rank and file or both. There have been many such examples in history, none more relevant than the Free Officers movement in Egypt itself. The Free Officers took power in 1952, led a nationalist revolution that became a beacon of hope for oppressed people around the world, and, under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser, nationalized the Suez Canal. As long as the Egyptian masses remain active in the streets, the possibilities for revolutionary achievement are endless.

 

Posted in EgyptComments Off on U.S. imperialism and the coup in Egypt

Look who is training terrorist !

NOVANEWS
Posted by Nahida the Exiled Palestinian
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Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Look who is training terrorist !

Creeping protectionism – futile struggles to escape crisis

LALKARONLINE

This month’s news has featured yet more attempts by western imperialism to suppress its Chinese competitors, this time by slapping big import tariffs on the $27 billion worth of solar panels China sells to Europe each year. The EU’s trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht, announced on Tuesday 4 June that he was imposing an 11.8% tariff on Chinese solar panels, which would rise to 47.6% in early August if the dispute had not been settled by negotiation before that time.

Solar panel prices have fallen by three-quarters over the last four years and China, which has captured 80% of the European market, is accused of dumping them. This is an entirely spurious accusation designed to justify European protectionism. ‘Dumping’ occurs when the exporting country sells goods in the importing country at a price lower than at home, or, if there is no home market, at below the price at which they are sold in a third country or, failing that, below the cost of production. Currently the world supply of solar panels far outstrips the world demand. When supply outstrips demand, it is generally the producers with the lowest costs of production that survive, as buyers will invariably choose the products that represent the best value for money. The less efficient go to the wall. This is what is happening to both European and US producers of solar panels, simply because their products are not as competitive. Just because a competitor is able to sell cheaper, it does not mean it is dumping.

Were it not for the crisis of overproduction, the concept of ‘dumping’ would be confined to the process of deliberately selling goods below their market price in order deliberately to destroy the businesses of small competitors who cannot afford to take the losses that would arise from selling at that price. This is not, however, what is happening in this case. China relies heavily on its exports of solar panels, which represent over 6% of its exports to Europe, to a value totalling in 2011 some 21bn euros, and is simply desperate to sell as much as it can, having already been undermined in the US market by the imposition of 30% tariffs.

” Many Chinese solar companies are already struggling. Suntech Power Holdings, based in Wuxi, was once the world’s biggest solar panel producer but recently was forced to put its main operating subsidiary into bankruptcy. Other solar panel companies are trying to avoid similar fates. In Suntech’s case, the bankrupt operating unit has been turned over to a local government to manage while in receivership, and that government has been trying to protect jobs ” (Keith Bradsher and Melissa Eddy, ‘China divides Europe in fight against tariffs, New York Times, 28 May 2013)

And this of course has led its European rivals to try to protect themselves with tariffs, since they too are being suffocated by overproduction, with some two dozen US and European solar panel producers having gone out of business or significantly reduced production in the last three years.

However, even within Europe there are those countries, possibly even the majority, who do not want to jeopardise their exports to China for the sake of the European solar panel industry. After all, China is the EU’s second-biggest trading partner, taking EU imports worth $212 billion last year and exporting $334 billion. Countries which export successfully to China, like Germany, which has some 99,000 workers employed in the solar panel industry, would rather lose those jobs than the estimated one million German jobs dependent on exports to China.

For the time being China has in turn, in response to tariffs imposed on other commodities in its export markets, announced anti-dumping investigations on imports of steel tubes, chemicals and wine from the EU. The EU, and indeed the US, have much more reason than China to avoid anybody taking too close a look at their export practices. In circumstances of overproduction, market prices may well fall below the costs of production of less competitive enterprises, of which there are very many in the imperialist countries. They are therefore far more vulnerable to accusations of ‘dumping’ than their more competitive Chinese counterparts. Be that as it may, negotiations are being arranged post haste. We note in passing that the EU’s trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht, who announced the tariff on Chinese solar panels, is a 50% owner of a wine-producing estate in Tuscany …

Why protectionism?

Both the US and the EU feel the temptation to take measures to hamper Chinese competition in any spheres in which China is able to produce much more cheaply than its western competitors, and thus put them out of business, while still making a profit. It is ironic that in the name of free trade western imperialism has on a grand scale destroyed the economies of oppressed countries the world over by underselling local producers, yet it is now crying buckets when China doses it with its own medicine. Of course, if Chinese competition does drive a producer out of business in the EU or the US, it does mean loss of jobs for those employed in the enterprises in question. It is therefore easy for western imperialists to mobilise public opinion for the support of restrictive practices in the name of ‘saving jobs’.

Under conditions of capitalism, however, trade barriers do not in the ultimate analysis save jobs. All such tariffs end up doing is to reduce the volume of world trade through a combination of increasing costs of production in the targeted countries, thus reducing their ability to export, and adversely affecting the exports of the countries imposing tariffs through the medium of reducing the ability of the victims of tariffs to pay for their imports. Besides, the imposition of tariff barriers by one country cannot but end up in the imposition of retaliatory tariffs by its opponents. That such a beggar-thy-neighbour course of action can only result in disaster for all sides was amply seen in practice after 1930 when the US, with the intention of protecting its internal producers from foreign competition, raised tariffs on an extremely broad swath of imports by passing a notorious piece of legislation known as the Smoot-Hawley Act. The US economy was at the time severely pressed by the last major crisis of overproduction, the Great Recession, which would have caused massive problems in any event, but these were exacerbated as a result of the imposition of high tariffs. These not only had the effects mentioned above, but, in addition they triggered retaliatory action on the part of those countries whose exports faced this discrimination in the US market. Canada, for instance, which had been a major importer of US produce, turned instead to the Commonwealth, as did other Commonwealth countries to the extent that they could. It has been calculated that the US share of world exports fell from 15.6% in 1929 to 12.4% in 1932, at the same time as the volume of world trade fell 26%. 42% of this huge fall in world trade has been attributed to the overproduction crisis and 58% to the raising of trade barriers (see Peddling Protectionism, Douglas A Irwin, Princeton University Press, Princeton 2011). As can be imagined, this loss of export markets would have lost at least as many jobs as protectionism managed to save.

Proposals for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Yet the US and the EU are planning to try to pull the same stunt again in order to save their producers from competition from not only China but also India. At the G8 meeting held in Ireland on 17-18 June, they commenced discussions to create a US-EU free trade zone, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), that would be large and powerful enough to “lay down regulatory markers for the rest of the world” (Steven Erlanger, ‘Conflicting goals complicate an effort to forge a transatlantic trade deal’, New York Times,12 June 2013), i.e., to be able to dictate trade terms to the rest of the world – terms that would not be skewed by the need to take into account the sensibilities of the China, India or any of the oppressed countries. The parties hope to conclude the deal by November next year.

However, their ability to form such a bloc, much though they might think they would gain from doing so, is undermined by both internal and external factors. Internally, not all countries are going to be prepared to open up completely free trade with the US. France, for instance, was among countries standing in the way of a successful conclusion to the Doha Round of trade talks because of its unwillingness, in the interests of protecting its farmers, to open its markets to the agricultural products of oppressed countries. There will be an infinite number of special interests both in the US and in the EU which will oppose their forming a free trade area. As Steven Erlanger notes (op.cit.), ” France has already raised objections about its ‘cultural exception,’ which is aimed at protecting subsidized, domestic movies and television programs….

“At the same time, there is a range of other, probably more serious problems, including agricultural disputes over things like genetically modified food and chlorinated chicken and regulatory questions about car safety, pharmaceuticals and financial derivatives.

“New concerns about widespread American spying on Internet and telephone traffic will make existing disagreements about data privacy, an important issue in Europe, even more fractious .”

The total amount traded as between the US and the EU already stands at $1tr, but it is claimed that, if the TTIP succeeded in eliminating all tariffs and other trade barriers, US GDP could be boosted by 5% and the EU’s by 3.4%. The Bertelsmann Foundation is claiming that if the parties succeed in setting up the TTIP, ” the US would achieve the greatest growth. There, the long-term gross domestic product per capita would grow by 13.4 percent. Social welfare gains would also be achieved in the entire EU region. In all 27 member countries, real income per capita would end up almost five percent higher on average. Great Britain would show the largest increase in income, with a real increase in income of almost 10 percent per capita.

“EU member countries that would profit more than average from a far-reaching liberalization of trade include small export-oriented economies such as the Baltic States and also the crisis-ridden southern European countries, for whom imports from the US would become cheaper. In comparison to the rest of Europe, the large economies of Germany (4.7 percent) and France (2.6 percent) would benefit less than average from a comprehensive free trade agreement” (Gütersloh, ‘The US and the entire EU would significantly benefit from a transatlantic free trade agreement ‘, 17 June 2013).

At the same time, ” For the EU, a far-reaching free trade agreement would result in a significant increase in employment in the participating economies. According to the calculations, the US and Great Britain will benefit to a particularly large degree, with almost 1.1 million and 400,000 additional jobs, respectively” (ibid.)

More importantly, however, these calculations of increased GDP and jobs ultimately depend on exports outside the bloc holding up – and this is most unlikely. The Bertelsmann Foundation quite rightly concludes that countries outside the US and EU would be hurt by the TTIP:

” However, the intensification of trade relationships between the US and EU would result in these economies importing fewer goods and services from the rest of the world. Such partners would thus experience a decline in real income per capita. Traditional trading partners of the US, such as Canada (down 9.5 percent) and Mexico (down 7.2 percent) would be particularly affected. In Japan as well, long-term income per capita would be reduced by almost 6 percent. Additional losers would include developing countries, especially in Africa and central Asia .” (ibid)

How can one doubt that as the deepening crisis reduces exports generally, and protectionism further damages the exports of the most efficient producers, the latter will be driven into closer cooperation and trade relations that will pointedly exclude the US and EU. In the unlikely event of the US and EU being able to pull off a genuinely free trade TTIP, the probable result will be an echo of the 1930s Smoot-Hawley disaster – an aggravation and a prolongation of the current crisis.

Posted in ChinaComments Off on Creeping protectionism – futile struggles to escape crisis

Massive Demonstrations in Brazil

LALKARONLINE

 

The month of June has been marked in Brazil by a series of massive demonstrations in Brazil’s main cities. At the heart of the protests appears to be discontent with the shoddy level of public services, especially transport, healthcare and education. The people of Brazil pay the highest rates of tax of all developing countries, equivalent to 36% of GDP, and feel that they should be getting far, far more for their money. What formally sparked the first demonstration, which took place in Sao Paolo, was a 6p rise in bus fares. This touched a raw nerve among Brazilian workers, who often have to spend a fifth of their income to pay their fares to struggle to and from work on overcrowded and poorly maintained public transport. What has really stuck in workers’ gullets as they are being stung for a very poor service is the billions that are being spent on building prestigious football stadiums. Fond though they are of football, their rage knows no bounds when confronted with the information that $3.2 billion is being paid for football stadiums in advance of the World Cup being played in Brazil next year, while public transport and public services in general are in a state of disarray. Anger over this issue is almost universal. The Washington Post of 23 June reports:

” A new poll said 75 percent of citizens support the demonstrations. Published by the weekly magazine Epoca, the survey was carried out by the respected Ibope institute, which interviewed 1,008 people across the country June 16-20. It had a margin of error of three percentage points “.

Yet the same survey discovered that: ” Despite the overwhelming support for the protests, 69 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with their lives and optimistic of the future. The nation has nearly full employment and has seen 40 million people move into its definition of middle class in the past decade  (‘Brazil calms after week of mass protests, but discontent still simmering in streets’).

Demonstrations spread like wildfire to every state in the country, with the apex being reached on 20 June when it is calculated that a million people took to the streets.

Needless to say, those participating in the demonstrations included not only people with concerns that they genuinely want to see addressed by the government, but also people who oppose the government precisely because it has been defending workers’ interests more than these people would like, even though, as it turns out, this has not been nearly enough. These people do not want a solution to the problem; they want to establish a right-wing government that will keep the working class in its place – and naturally they leap at every opportunity to exploit genuine grievances against a leftist administration in order to promote their cause. These elements have been responsible for physically assaulting communists and socialists supporting the demonstrations, and for inciting violence to force the state to intervene to suppress it, which it has done using rubber bullets and tear gas. A particular problem faced by the government is that Brazil is currently hosting a Confederations Cup football competition which has brought dozens of foreign football teams into the country as well as thousands of their supporters. Naturally it has a responsibility to protect these guests from violence being directed against them by malign elements.

As far as peaceful protests are concerned, Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, has stated quite clearly that she thinks they are justified and that in a democratic country people have an absolute right to express their dissatisfaction with the performance of government. The bus fare rises were immediately revoked, and on 21 June, Dilma went on television to announce the measures that she was proposing in order to meet the concerns of the people. She announced that she would call a meeting of governors and prefects of the country’s main cities in order to bring about a grand pact for the improvement of public services.

” The focus will be, first, the elaboration of a National Plan for Urban Transport, which will prioritise public transport. Secondly, it will earmark 100% of oil income for education. Thirdly it will immediately bring thousands of doctors from abroad in order to improve health service provisions “, announced Dilma. She also confirmed that she would like to meet with the leaders of peaceful demonstrations, and with workers’ and union leaders.

Dilma stated that she considered it necessary to breathe new life into the “old political system” and to find mechanisms to make institutions more transparent, more resistant to wrongdoing and more open to social influence.

We must make an effort“, she said, ” to ensure that citizens have mechanisms for exercising more stringent control over their representatives. We need far more efficient ways of combating corruption. The Law of Access to Information passed by my government needs to be extended to all the institutions of the republic and its federated states “, she insisted.

As far as the dispute over the World Cup was concerned, President Dilma emphasised the fact that the money invested in building the arenas was provided by loans that will be repaid by the owners or by the businesses which are going to be running the stadiums and were not being paid for out of public money. She asked that the athletes and tourists visiting the country for the Confederations Cup be warmly welcomed, just as Brazilian players are when they compete in other countries.

” I would never allow those facilities to be paid for from the public purse, to the detriment of priority sectors such as health and education. In fact we have considerably increased the resources available for health and education. And we are going to increase them still further. I am confident that the National Congress will approve the proposal I am putting forward to the effect that all royalties from the sale of oil should be earmarked for education “, she said.

Most people would seem to be reassured by these government promises. On Saturday 22 June, there were still massive demonstrations, but reduced in number to some 250,000, and since then public indignation has been showing signs of being significantly assuaged. Various tweeters have been trying to fan the flames by describing Rousseff’s promises as meaningless, but the vast majority of people would appear to be willing to give her, and her party, the chance of making good their promises, which are very specific.

Brazil is of course a capitalist country and that being the case no government, whether of the left or of the right, can entirely control its economy which is governed by forces inherent in the capitalist system of production that is anarchic in nature. What a democratic and popular government can do in a country like Brazil is to represent the interests of the national bourgeoisie and the popular masses against imperialism, facilitating greater development of capitalism within its borders and resisting imperialist looting of its resources in order to be able to provide a higher standard of living to its people generally. It can also promote reforms that benefit the popular masses in order to promote national unity against imperialism and internal comprador forces. The governments of Dilma and Lula, her predecessor, have been very successful in those aims. But so long as there is capitalism they cannot prevent capitalists profiteering at the expense of the masses – that is what capitalism is all about – and it cannot reverse the tendency of capital to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

The Economist, for example, recognises the achievements of the government, not only in improving the Brazilian economy out of all recognition, but also in doing a great deal to help the poor:

The past decade has seen the most marked sustained rise in living standards in the country’s history… ” and ” economic growth in the past decade has brought the biggest gains to those at the bottom of the heap“.

But Brazil is still suffering the effects of being a capitalist country. For instant there has recently been a “ spike in inflation, which is starting to eat into the buying power of the great majority of Brazilians who are still getting by on modest incomes, just as a big ramp-up in consumer credit in recent years has left them painfully overstretched. Bus fares have not risen for 30 months (mayors routinely freeze fares in municipal-election years, such as 2012, and in January this year the mayors of Rio and São Paulo agreed to wait until June before hiking in order to help the federal government massage the inflation figures). In fact, the rise in São Paulo’s and Rio’s bus fares comes nowhere close to matching inflation over that 30-month period. But bus fares are under government control, unlike other fast-rising costs such as those for housing and food. Perhaps they were simply chosen as a scapegoat.

“More broadly, the very middle class [this is The Economist‘s term for working class people who aren’t entirely destitute] that Brazil has created in the past decade-40m people have escaped from absolute poverty, but are still only one paycheck from falling back into it…-is developing an entirely new relationship with the government. They see further improvements in their living standards as their right and will fight tooth and nail not to fall back into poverty. And rather than being grateful for the occasional crumb thrown from rich Brazilians’ tables, they are waking up to the fact that they pay taxes and deserve something in return” (H.J. ‘The streets erupt’, 18 June 2013).

The time will come when experience will teach the masses that they need to move beyond an anti-imperialism that continues to accommodate capitalism internally to build a socialist society free of capitalist profiteering and the anarchy of production.

Posted in South AmericaComments Off on Massive Demonstrations in Brazil

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