Archive | November 8th, 2013

No cooperation with capitalist austerity!

We need to organise a mass movement of non-cooperation with the cuts, and to choose a new leadership that is ready to take on the ruling class. 

Even as suicide rates among the unemployed and benefit-dependent climb, councils are moving to implement the much-reviled bedroom tax. Thousands of families are on notice from their local authority that they will have to move if the cut to their housing benefit means that they can no longer afford the rent on their homes. Debt, poverty and homelessness will undoubtedly spiral as a result.

Equally notorious is the work of Atos, the multinational corporation whose owners get £110m per year for ‘assessing’ disabled workers. The government denies rumours of a two-thirds reduction target in the disability benefit register, but the facts speak for themselves.

Since Atos started its dirty work, the number of horror stories in the media about people who have died or been hospitalised after being declared ‘fit to work’ and having their benefits withdrawn has been rising steadily. The government has refused to compile statistics on the fate of those who have lost benefits, but it is suspected that at least half have already fallen into total destitution and thousands are thought to have died.

Slashing social provision

So far-reaching is this assault on the working class that not only the poor and vulnerable, but every single member of the working class can expect to be affected by these swingeing assaults on the system of ‘welfare’, which will blight our livesfrom the cradle to the grave!

Child benefit, educational grants, family credits, pensions, and social facilities of every kind are under attack. Libraries, youth centres and even fire stations are closing down. Education is being hammered from all sides: with falling pre-school provision, creeping privatisation of our schools and skyrocketing university fees.

Meanwhile, private contractors have been given free rein in every sector of our health service. As PFI has shown, far from introducing efficiency, they have simply burdened us with debt by taking their extortionate profits at the expense of patients.

Deaths through infection and negligence are becoming routine. The Stafford enquiry demonstrated only too well what happens in Britain’s brave new generation of ‘foundation trust’ NHS hospitals, when financial indicators are put ahead of all other considerations, staff are stretched to breaking point, safety nets are removed, and those who point out that the emperor is wearing no clothes (that patients are not being cared for adequately) are met with aggression, dismissal, and ‘gagging clauses’.

To cap it all, as social services disappear, the cost of living is going up and wages are stagnating or going down. Unemployment and underemployment are endemic. Well over 10 percent of the workforce, and 25 percent of young people, are unemployed, and many more can’t find enough work or work that pays enough to live on. Under crisis-ridden capitalism, our future is bleak indeed.

Who is to blame?

At a time of crisis, when working people are angry at being forced into hardship they have done nothing to deserve, it is vitally important that we are able to step back from the divisive propaganda that seeks to offer us convenient scapegoats and look at the situation from a class perspective.

What we are seeing in the world today is a crisis of capitalist overproduction. Such crises are built into the system of production for profit – they are as inevitable as exploitation and war while capitalism stalks the earth.

Despite what the media tell us, the problem is not one of ‘limited resources’ that are ‘unable to stretch’ far enough – whether or not ‘foreigners’ arrive on our shores.

Britain is home to the oldest and most cynical capitalist class, who have truly earned their global-pirate credentials. Our country is swimming in ill-gotten riches that have been stolen at gunpoint from Asia, Africa and Latin America, in addition to the profits sweated from British workers. Why should the arrival of a few people from the lands that have been looted prove too much of a burden to a country that has appropriated the wealth of half the world?

As all wealth is the product of our work, every new worker is capable of augmenting Britain’s wealth and our collective wellbeing. It is unemployment that turns potential workers into a burden; unemployment that has arisen because the capitalists have so impoverished the world’s people that it is now impossible for them to make profits by selling all the stockpiled goods back to the masses who made them.

The capitalists stand convicted of their utter inability to facilitate human progress and wellbeing. And by disrupting production more thoroughly than any natural disaster, their crisis brings us face to face with the urgent necessity of ejecting their entire class and bankrupt system.

Since the 2008 crash, ‘reckless bankers’ and their ‘excessive’ bonuses have become the targets of much anger, and understandably so. It is certainly easy to hate those who made so much money out of gambling with our economy, but we must be careful not to mistake a symptom for a cause.

The systemic failure of capitalism did not come about because of the greed of a few ‘rogue traders’. The latter are most certainly cynical, amoral, and pathologically anti-social – Thatcherite, in fact – but, in the last analysis, they are merely doing what the system requires and rewards. They are, as Marx put it, the ‘personification of capital’; they act as they must while capitalism survives.

No amount of regulation could have prevented the crash. Let us not forget that it was ‘sensible, regulated banking practices’ and ‘cautious lending’, much trumpeted as the ‘solution’ to our present woes, that were inevitably driven by competition into fevered speculation as production outstripped consumption and markets again began to contract following the temporary post-war boom.

There is no such thing as sane, sensible capitalism; no such thing as capitalism without crisis and collapse!

What is to be done?

Our rulers have made it clear what their plan is: if we don’t stop them, they will continue to pass the burden of their latest crisis onto the backs of the working people through austerity and war.

They want to save their fortunes and their system at our expense, and they do not care what catastrophic effects their self-preservation strategies have on the vast masses of humanity.

It is time for Britain’s workers to make an alternative plan. The career politicians of the big parties have proven themselves to be servants of the rich. Asking a Tory, LibDem or Labour MP to take care of the workers is about as sensible as asking a crocodile to look after a thirsty zebra.

If we want to stop this all-out assault, we must stop expecting the minions of the capitalist state to deliver justice and get organised to claim what is rightfully ours.

We are many and they are few

Step one is defence. Our streets and estates should be no-go zones for bailiffs! We should answer the bedroom tax and other evictions by physically protecting each other’s homes; by forming residents’ groups to stop landlords from kicking us onto the pavement.

If we want to protect our hospitals, surgeries and schools, we need to kick the profiteers out – by any means necessary. Communities must join with put-upon care workers and teachers to put effective pressure behind our demand for an end to PFI and the contracting-out of services.

Decent health care and education are incompatible with private enterprise! We should demand the abolition of private medicine, the abolition of private schooling, the abolition of tuition fees and the reinstatement of maintenance grants for students of all ages. The ruling class would be a lot more interested in the quality of our schools and hospitals if they had to use them too!

In the same way, if a library or fire station is closing down, we should join with staff and do whatever it takes to keep facilities open – running them ourselves if necessary.

Workers’ organisations should take the lead in repossessing Britain’s one million empty houses and distributing them to the homeless. We need to appropriate surplus food stocks and distribute them to the hungry – over a million British children are malnourished, while almost half of all food produced for sale in western countries is wasted between the farm and the fork – much of it thrown away by supermarkets.

We need to switch on the energy for those who are facing another winter without heating – tens of thousands of elderly people die from the cold every year in Britain while the energy monopolies are quite literally making a killing.

Workers have the creative energy to make the attacks of the capitalists totally unworkable – to redistribute the wealth we have produced until we can remake the entire economy to serve our interests. We urgently need an organisation capable of inspiring and coordinating a truly mass popular resistance against cuts and austerity – one that will bring together the organisers of local actions and forge them into a united, national fight-back. Our leaders must be selected from those who are most willing and able to do this work.

What we don’t need is yet another talking shop run by the same Labour-affiliated careerists who have been diverting and demoralising British workers for decades – not stopping the war, not stopping redundancies, not stopping privatisation andnot defending the NHS. After decades of calling for mindless, repetitious and uninspiring ‘activity’ – dead-end lobbying of MPs, futile court cases, tokenistic demonstrations and endless petition-writing – the placemen who pretend to ‘lead’ our movement need to be given the boot!

Step two is offence. Defending ourselves against austerity is an important start, but it’s not enough. It won’t change the fact that the country is spiralling into crisis at home and conflict abroad.

If we want to give our children a future free from debt, homelessness, poverty, unemployment, hunger, disease and war, we need to get rid of the parasites who are bleeding us all dry and take not just a hospital or two, but the whole British economy into our own hands.

Socialist planning is the only alternative to capitalist anarchy – and the only way to ensure a decent future for all working people.[a name=”_GoBack”][/a] It is time we forged a movement, organisation and leadership that is bold enough to put the concrete demands of workers back on the agenda.

Join us in this struggle to build a better future – for Britain and for the world.

:: No Cooperation with capitalist austerity, CPGB-ML lefalet 22 September 2013

:: Ausetrity capitalism and the racist police stateProletarian issue 55 (August 2013)

:: Government tries to destroy social housingLalkar July 2013




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Syria: Obomber loses the public debate



The war juggernaut has halted for the time being, but those who oppose the war must redouble their efforts to counter anti-Syrian propaganda and mobilise solidarity if it is to be averted altogether.
Having failed miserably in its attempts to overthrow the Syrian government through its jihadist terrorist mercenaries, US imperialism was, this August, in the final stages of preparing a direct military onslaught against the people of Syria and their lawful and popular government.By a concerted campaign, orchestrated by its political and ideological representatives, and duly assisted by its gigantic propaganda machine – a veritable host of TV and radio stations and thousands of newspapers – which spews out non-stop lies about its intended victim, the most hawkish section of the US ruling class had built up what it presumed would be an unstoppable momentum for yet another unlawful, unjust, bloody and predatory war.

This all-out attack was planned to commence on the weekend of 31 August and 1 September. Britain and France were to join in the criminal enterprise under the leadership of the United States. Prompted by US president Barack Obama, and in a headlong rush to deliver ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’, ‘human rights’ and ‘rule of law’ by cruise missiles and other deadly weapons, British prime minister Cameron hurriedly recalled parliament.

An unexpected rebuff

Things did not go to plan, however. After a lengthy debate on 29 August, parliament not only refused to sanction military assault on Syria, but refused even to agree to the principle of military action, leaving David Cameron and his supporters absolutely stunned. After the vote, a hysterical Michael Gove, education secretary and a fervent supporter of the war against Syria, was reduced to shouting “you are a disgrace” at Tory dissenters.

The surprise voting in the House of Commons reflects, in addition to the opposition of the masses to the war, deep divisions within the ruling class as to the advisability of launching yet another murderous predatory war so soon after the catastrophic Iraq and Afghan wars, which have claimed the lives of nearly 2 million innocent Iraqis and Afghans as well as thousands of soldiers from the imperialist countries, and have inflicted devastation and destruction on a colossal scale, while bleeding the imperialist treasuries dry.

The scale of the opposition to the war against Syria may be judged from the voting figures on the government side. Ten members of the government missed the crucial commons vote on Syria – including two who were busy gossiping nearby. A total of 31 Conservative MPs and 14 LibDems voted against the motion, while another 30 Tories stayed away from the chamber.

Despite being dubbed ‘traitors’, Tory rebels remained unrepentant. Tory MP Sarah Wollaston told Radio 4’s Todayprogramme that humanitarian aid to Syria should not “come in the form of cruise missiles”, adding “I think this was a good day for Parliament because this was Parliament reflecting the view, very widely held across the country, that we should not be drawn into yet another middle-eastern conflict.”

Crispin Blunt, a former justice minister, said that it was unnecessary to “put our hand on the dagger politically” alongside the US, adding that a country the size of Britain should not attempt to be “involved in every conceivable conflict that is going on”. He felt “delighted that the UK relieve ourselves of this imperial pretention”.

Senior Conservative David Davis said that the result of the commons vote was a setback for the prime minister because he failed to make the right argument about why you needed to “kill people”, adding: “The truth of the matter is when it’s a life and death issue, people must vote on their consciences.”

John Burton, a leading opponent of the war against Syria stated: “The bottom line is that sending cruise missiles into an already volatile situation stood the real risk of escalating violence, causing more suffering and indeed spreading the conflict beyond Syria’s borders.”

Richard Bacon, another senior Tory MP, said that he had voted against the government because “I was not persuaded of the case for military action and feared it would make things worse.”

Although Alan Duncan, International Development Minister, has since given barely plausible excuses for missing the commons vote, he is widely known to have been going round saying that attacking Syria would be “bonkers”.

Even John Redwood, a prominent Tory right-winger, when approached through an intermediary to visit the office of foreign secretary William Hague so as to be persuaded to vote for the resolution, pointedly told the interlocutory: “Tell him [Hague] he is wasting his time.”

Ruling class divided

The deep divisions within the British ruling class, as clearly evidenced in the commons vote, find their echo among the ideological and intellectual representatives of imperialism. This can be seen by looking at three articles from the corporate media, which represent opposing views on the question, two of which appeared in the Mail on Sunday of 1 September 2013, and one the day before in the Daily Mail.

First, the warmongering camp’s point of view. A certain Andrew Roberts, allegedly a ‘top historian’, wrote in the Mail on Sunday that by “refusing to punish a foreign dictator for his despicable use of poison gas on unarmed civilians, we have deliberately relinquished our once-cherished role as one of the world’s foremost policemen, and joined the ranks of global spectators, merely tut-tutting from the sidelines rather than taking part in defending decency.

He moaned at the emergence of a new Britain, characterised by its hideous, amoral selfishness, guilty of a “gross display of Little Englandism” in glaring contrast to “centuries of traditionally supporting the victims of monstrous oppression.Andhe added, “nothing qualifies as worse oppression than having at least 1,429 innocents slaughtered – 400 of them children – with a weapon so obscene” that the world outlawed it in 1925. He went on to lament that Britain has been afflicted since the first Gulf war with a malaise that he described as the “progressive Scandinavianisation”of the country.

All this, he opined, is the result of our “forebears” being portrayed as “racist sadists”, instead of being painted, as they should be in his view, as “upstanding, incorruptible brave and patriotic people who, at enormous personal sacrifice, brought peace and good governance to the largest empire in history.

Welcome to the most morally vacuous, pusillanimous and self-indulgent generation for half a millennium,” he concluded.

It would take little mental exertion but a very large article to refute the ignorant historian’s vacuous and immoral arguments. But since neither space nor time will allow such an indulgence, we shall confine ourselves to a few brief observations.

First, Roberts’ claim regarding Britain’s historic role as the ‘moral policeman’ and ‘defender of decency’ that brought ‘peace and good governance’ to its large empire sits uneasily with the reality of the brutal oppression, grinding poverty and thorough exploitation that was inflicted by the British ruling class on hundreds upon hundreds of millions of colonial peoples.

Ask the people of India, Ireland, China, and dozens of other countries from the Caribbean to the Middle East. No other ruling class in the world can claim the dubious distinction of being so bloodthirsty, cruel and grasping. Millions of Africans transported to the new world as slaves, millions of Indian weavers whose bones bleached the territory of Bengal soon after the establishment of British rule, millions of Irish people forced to flee their country through yet more man-made famine (but enough!) bear eloquent testimony to the benevolence of British rule.

Using chemical weapons

As to the claim that “nothing qualifies as worse oppression than having at least 1,429 innocent civilians slaughtered”by an ‘obscene’ weapon, our ignorant mercenary of imperialism (learned historian, if you please) is obviously suffering from a gross loss of memory or from feeble-mindedness.

Surely he cannot be so ignorant as not to know that between 1965 and 1975 his beloved US, which he regards as the tireless enforcer of standards of minimum decency in the world, in its dirty war against Vietnam, dropped millions of tons of incendiary napalm to the defoliate dense forests that were used as cover by the Vietnamese national-liberation fighters? The jelly-like substance ignited and stuck to the skin, burning through muscle and bone to cause horrific injuries and, usually, a hideous death.

The US also dropped 50 million tons of Agent Orange, a super-strength chemical herbicide, to destroy all plants. But poisonous dioxins seeped into the soil and water supply, entering the food chain and leading to severe health problems and disabilities for generations.

According to Ian Drury, defence correspondent of the Daily Mail, the death toll from Agent Orange in Vietnam was more than a million, and 400,000 Vietnamese children were born with birth defects as a result of their mothers’ exposure to this horrible poison. His article, entitled ‘An appalling gas attack but not the worst in history’, appeared on 31 August 2013, just one day before Roberts’ own piece was printed in the same newspaper. It is just a shame our lover of history didn’t see fit to take even a cursory glance at Drury’s information.

Moreover, during ‘Operation Menu’ the US dropped 530,000 tonnes of bombs on Cambodia – three times the amount dropped on Japan in the second world war, killing nearly a million people. Between 1969-73, rice production in Cambodia fell by 70 percent as a result of US a bombing campaign that killed 75 percent of Cambodia’s animals, destroyed much of its industrial sector and made its road network unusable.

At the end of the second world war, and out of no military necessity, the US dropped two atom bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing several hundred thousand Japanese people, along with thousands of Korean workers who had been brought there as slave labour.

Five years later, the US used chemical weapons on an extensive scale during the Korean war. More recently it has used white phosphorus and depleted uranium all over Iraq, most notably during the intense battle for Fallujah. The US’s Israeli stooges have been guilty of using similar weapons in their wars against the Palestinian and Lebanese people.

We could give many more examples of the use of these horrible weapons by the US, Britain, Japan, Germany and Italy, among others. But yet, such is our historian’s concern for upholding standards of decency that he fails to notice the elephant in the room – that it is the US which is the biggest culprit in this context. We will leave it to our readers to judge who is really guilty of being ‘morally vacuous’ and ‘pusillanimous’.

Anti-war sentiments in the corporate media

The opposing argument was put forward by Peter Hitchens, a journalist whose bourgeois credentials are as impeccable as those of Roberts. Hitchens castigated “those who seem to think that you can show mercy and pity by lobbing cruise missiles into a war zone” and those who judge our moral worthiness “by our noisy ability to bomb people for their own good”, adding that the “moral bomber is one of the scourges of our age”. 

It is important to reiterate at this point that it is not lack of intelligence that stops other commentators and politicians from grasping the truth of such statements, but the dictates of whichever section of the ruling class they happen to be affiliated to.

During the preparations for the Yugoslav and Libyan wars, when Britain’s rulers were of one mind, it was only a very few progressives who had the temerity to stand up against the warmongering propaganda and point out that the wars were notbeing fought for humanitarian reasons but for imperial ones. Their perfectly sane and reasonable arguments got no coverage in the corporate media.

In the case of Syria, over which the ruling class is now thoroughly divided, many of the former spokespeople for war are suddenly able to see the logic of truths that they previously would have been working overtime to conceal – and many more anti-war voices are allowed to be heard in the imperialist press.

Be that as it may, Hitchens’ article and others like it are exceptionally useful, since they present the case against war in places where no communist would be invited and bring it to a mass audience. As Lenin long ago pointed out, every split between the imperialists creates an opportunity for communists!

Hitchens confronted head-on the response of the ‘moral bombers’, with their twaddle about ‘appeasement’, piffle about damage to our world status (don’t these people, he asked, know what the rest of the world thinks about us since the Iraq war?), their tripe about damage to our non-existent ‘special relationship’ with the US, and their foul-mouthed and snivelling attempts to portray dissent as “disloyalty, cowardice or giving comfort to the enemy.

To those who assert that we can’t stand idly by, he asked: “What is wrong with ‘standing idly by’, if the only alternative is to do something stupid?

He even had the temerity to expose the shocking behaviour of the BBC, which, he said, had “promoted atrocity propaganda, parting with all norms of objectivity”, and hadtreated opponents of the war with a sneering contempt. “In fact, most of the media were braying for an attack, weeping loud tears for the dead of Damascus (whose killers have yet to be identified).” Hitchens reserved especial disgust for the “Warmongers Gazette, formerly known as The Times”.

As to Cameron’s arguments for the war, these were “not fit for an Eton junior debating society”, wrote Mr Hitchens, adding that “as he has been bursting to intervene in Syria for months, how can he claim that his passion is solely to do with the use of chemical weapons?

As for Cameron’s ‘intelligence’ document, I could have written it myself. It came off the internet.

Truly, he is heir to Blair. But having had one Blair already, we are at last learning the folly of indulging such fantasists.

Desperately seeking cover

Meanwhile, Max Hastings, a hard-headed defender of British imperialist interests, wrote that the commons vote was no disaster, for “it is high time Britain stopped being Uncle Sam’s poodleWhat our people like,”he wrote, “are easy victories which happen quickly and cheaply, and serve our national interest.” He added: “What we have experienced instead is a succession of wars and military interventions which … have more often involved the nation in expense, sacrifice and failure.

Citing a British former chief of staff during the 2003 Iraq war, he continued: “The Americans don’t need our troops or planes to do the fighting … They value us only to provide political cover.” (‘A disaster? No’, Daily Mail, 31 August 2013)

And, having been deprived of this political cover, Obama was left thrashing around for options. On 31 August, two days after the commons vote, without consulting John Kerry or Chuck Hagel (the secretaries of state and defence), and feeling totally isolated, Obomber asked the US congress for support for the war. But Congress was not due to meet after recess until 9 September, while Obama had to leave on 10 September for St Petersburg to attend the G20 meeting (which turned out to be far from a happy encounter for Obama or Cameron).

While the desperate president went off to try and garner what support he could at the G20, the US anti-war movement was busy using the recess to put pressure on congress. Across the country the story was the same: representatives were being inundated with calls, and the majority opposed to war was as much as 499 to 1.

Such are the divisions amongst the US ruling class over the question that while former anti-war activist John Kerry has shamelessly transformed himself into a rampant warmonger, many right-wing Republicans have come out against the war, leading to the strange phenomenon of neo-liberal Tea Party activists joining progressive anti-war demonstrations in many US cities!

Moreover, the air time and press space given to anti-war arguments, combined with the direct experience of ‘liberation’ through genocidal warfare, has led many serving soldiers and sailors to mount their own protest. Pictures have been posted on Facebook and elsewhere by US service personnel holding up signs that read: “I didn’t join the army to fight for al-Qaeda in Syria” and, even more tellingly, “I didn’t sign up to kill the poor for the rich. No war with Syria!

Meanwhile, although the leaders of Britain, France and Turkey expressed their support, Obama failed at to enlist any real help in St Petersburg. European Council president Herman Van Rompuy declared that there was “no military solution to the Syria conflict, there can only be a political solution … through the UN process”. Germany and Italy refused to participate in the war, and Ban Ki Moon, the UN secretary general, expressed a similar point of view.

President Putin of Russia strongly emphasised that any military action that was not in self-defence or sanctioned by a Security Council resolution was illegal, even if it was sanctioned by the US congress. Even Pope Francis appealed to Putin and Obama “to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution”.

Public opinion worldwide – including in the US, Britain and France – is overwhelmingly opposed to the war against Syria. The EU and even Nato do not back it. China and Russia oppose it. Iraq says that it will not allow its airspace or territory to be used for any attack, the Egyptian government is opposed, and there is overwhelming opposition amongst the Turkish masses.

In an attempt to get some desperately-needed backing, Obama made contradictory statements to win over members of Congress. To convince the congressional hawks, he promised more than limited strikes against Syria, while to win over not-so warmongering members of the legislature, he promised only token action – a “shot across the bows” of the Syrian government.

While Kerry promised that a war would bring “downstream collateral benefit”, “degrading Syrian military capacity” and thus tilting the battlefield advantage in favour of the Syrian and foreign jihadi terrorists, Obama flatly denied any such intentions, claiming that there would be no American boots on the ground and that the attack would be extremely limited and last only a couple of days. He even felt the need to pretend that no regime change or tilt of the balance of forces in Syria in favour of the rebels was intended!

Having a sinking feeling that he would lose the vote in Congress, Obama claimed that he could use his presidential prerogative to launch a war whatever the result might be. In tandem, he claimed that he might act without a Security Council resolution. This blatant attempt to flout both Congress and international law had the effect of leaving him looking totally isolated and foolish.

Face-saving reprieve

Thus finding himself cornered, Obama leapt at the Russian proposal to remove the stock of chemical weapons from Syria under international supervision, and get Syria to become a signatory to the convention banning these weapons.

Shelving the contentious Congress vote, Obama sent Secretary Kerry to meet with the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva to hammer out an agreement to that effect, with Lavrov insisting on compliance with international law by the US and opposing any use of force in defiance of it.

And this is where matters stand as we go to print. We cannot be certain whether the war against Syria has been finally averted or merely delayed. The latter is the most likely scenario. Not being able to get its way in the court of world public opinion, in the US Congress or at the Security Council, US imperialism, unless it beats a humiliating retreat from Syria, is more likely to dredge up some flimsy excuse to strike illegally and wage a devastating predatory war against this beautiful country and its dignified and cultured people.

The pretext given by the warmongers is sure to be the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government against its own people – a charge that cannot withstand the slightest scrutiny.

Why would the Syrian government use chemical weapons when its forces are inflicting decisive defeats on the bloodthirsty brutes unleashed by imperialism? Why would they use them just when a UN team is in the country investigating the use of these weapons, and that too in an area where the Syrian army is present in large numbers? Even WND (a right-wing, zionist website based in the US) expressed the view that the chemical attack was the work of the jihadis.

All the evidence points in the direction of the imperialists staging a provocation, with their proxies using sarin and other nerve gases in order to provide an excuse for going to war. If they don’t launch a war, they have little hope of saving the skin of their surrogates, who are on the verge of a complete rout, despite all the money, training and armaments that their masters have supplied them with.

Faced with this murderous war effort, British workers need to know the unvarnished truth and not be palmed off with plausible lies.

The facts

• The war presently being waged by imperialism and its stooges against the Syrian people did not simply and spontaneously erupt in March 2011, but has actually been in preparation for at least a decade.

• This war has nothing to do with humanitarianism, rule of law or democracy, which are merely catchwords that imperialism uses to hide its real aims … it is a war for domination, for booty, plunder and brigandage.

• In an effort to subvert the revolutionary movements of the people of the Middle East and the Maghreb, the combined imperialist powers of Nato first targeted Libya and overthrew its government, murdering its undisputed leader Muammar Gaddafi, and are now intent on repeating their ‘humanitarian’ blitzkrieg against Syria.

• Syria has become the target of imperialist subversion and aggression because it had the cheek to pursue independent economic and foreign policies – it opposed the war in Libya, it supported for the Iraqi resistance, it supported the liberation of Palestine and stood up to zionism, and in the pursuit of these aims it formed an anti-imperialist alliance with Iran and the Lebanese resistance movement, Hizbollah. In short, Syria is being targeted because of its position in the axis of resistancethat today stands in opposition to the zionist-imperialist axis of evil.

• In the long run, this war is directed against China and Russia – the two countries which stand in the way of the total imperialist domination of the world.

The proletariat must therefore condemn imperialism and its stooges in the most resolute terms and give its wholehearted support to the Syrian people and their leadership, who are bravely defending the independence, sovereignty, honour and dignity of their country against imperialist brigandage.

Those who claim to be socialist must take to the working masses the message of non-cooperation with imperialism’s predatory and criminal wars by refusing to play any part in moving materials, making munitions, pointing guns or broadcasting imperialism’s warmongering propaganda lies.

From the very beginning of the counter-revolutionary rebellion in Syria, inspired, funded and aided by imperialism, we in the CPGB-ML have consistently called for the defeat of imperialism and the victory of the Syrian people led by President Assad, for we are firmly 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.” (Lenin, The Second Congress of the Communist International, 1920)

We make a last-ditch appeal to our opponents in the working-class and ‘anti-war’ movement, especially those in the Stop the War Coalition (StW), to join us in explaining these facts to the people and in mobilising a mass campaign of non-cooperation. So far, StW’s leaders have deployed one shameful excuse and dishonest pretext after another to undermineBritish solidarity with the anti-imperialist Syrian government, just as they did in the case of Libya.

If they do not want their hands to be dripping with the blood of the Syrian people, this needs to change. Failure to join firmly with the axis of resistance, whatever their intentions, objectively puts them in the camp of imperialism.

No cooperation with imperialism’s wars!
Victory to the Syrian people led by the Ba’ath party and its progressive allies! 
Death to imperialism and its zionist and Arab stooges! 

:: Defeat the murderous imperialist predatory war against the Syrian people, CPGB-ML statement 29 August 2013

:: Syria – Qusayr victory puts imperialism on the spotLalkar July 2013





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100th Anniversary of the Ghadar movement


A salute to the forerunners of the Indian liberation struggle, Part 3

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Ghadar movement. By way of a tribute, Lalkaris dedicating this long article to the memory of its founders and participants – the forerunners of India’s struggle for liberation from British colonialism. What follows is an attempt to give a brief history of the Ghadar movement – its origins, motivations, vision and scope, as well as its lasting contribution to India’s freedom struggle, its legacy and continuing significance to the struggle of the Indian masses for a people’s democratic revolution as an integral part of the movement for socialism through the overthrow of capitalism. Part III of this article appears in this issue. The remainder will follow in subsequent issues.



Pacific coast Hindi Association

Meanwhile conditions had been maturing for the setting up of a revolutionary organisation of Indians then living in the US and Canada. As indicated above, a few politically-conscious individuals, such as Ramnath Puri and Taraknath Das, had been attempting to bring onto the agenda of the day the all-too-important question of putting an end to the British subjugation of India. The crying need, however, was to establish a central body with a revolutionary programme.

With this in mind, it was agreed between a few leading Indians that a meeting of workers in the sawmills be held in Portland, Oregon. Such a meeting took place some time in July 1912, attended by, among others, Sohan Singh Bhakna. It was resolved at this gathering to set up an organisation to be called the Pacific Coast Hindi Assocation (PCHA), with an office in Portland. Bhai Sohan Singh Bhakna was elected its president, Guru Datt its general secretary and Kanshi Ram its treasurer. The decision to bring out an Urdu weekly,Hindustan, failed to be implemented because of the illness of Guru Datt soon after the historic Portland meeting. The PCHA members felt frustrated and increasingly impatient. It was in the circumstances that they turned to Lala Hardayal, who was then living in San Francisco.

Lala Hardayal

First a few words about Hardayal.

Hardayal had been in America since January 1911. Before his arrival in America he had visited many other countries. He was given the post of Professor of Indian philosophy and Sanskrit at the Leyland Stanford University in February 2012, but in September of the same year he gave up his post and returned to Berkeley to take up revolutionary work. He set himself a two-fold mission: first, to bring to the attention of the American people the miserable plight of the Indian masses under British rule and to enlist their sympathy and support for the cause of Indian liberation; and second, to spread among Indian immigrants the awareness of their duty toward the cause of freedom of their motherland – India. In pursuit of these twin aims, he addressed meetings at places where Indians were working and residing.

According to contemporaries, he was the most well known revolutionary among several revolutionary societies then active in the USA, especially in San Francisco, which was the centre of these societies – working in connection with the revolutionary movements in Russia, Ireland, Japan, Turkey, China and India. Hardayal, whose lectures attracted large numbers of workers as well as intellectuals, was the great friend of, and philosopher and guide to, these societies.

His views on British rule in India, which he repeated at meeting after public meeting, may be summarised thus: that the drain of colossal amounts of India’s wealth by the British, he said, was the cause of the widespread prevalence of extreme poverty, disease and famine in India; that personal liberty in India was characterised by its total absence; and that the British government in that country was the ” worst government on the face of the earth”; that the government there practised torture as an instrument of rule, with the judiciary being thoroughly corrupt and under the thumb of the colonial administration, offering no justice to Indian litigants, especially in cases involving Indians against any British; that such a government could not be reformed, it has to be overthrown. Calling it the British vampire, rather than the British empire, he called upon his Indian audiences to help in preparing the conditions for the overthrow of the tyrannical British rule in India. He had a burning hatred of the British Raj and had been of a mind to establish a revolutionary party of Indians in America even before 1913. However, nothing of this sort materialised. His efforts were eventually to prove fruitful only after the Indians in America and Canada, through their own hard-won experience, had come to the conclusion that the freedom of India, and a revolutionary organisation dedicated to the cause of freedom, was a pre-requisite for Indians to gain respect and dignity – abroad as well as in India.

Transformation of PCHA into Gadhar Party

Responding to the call of the PCHA, Hardayal finally arrived in St John in the final week of March 1913. On 25 March, at approximately 9 p.m., he addressed a gathering of Punjabis who had come to listen to him. British rule, he said, was at the root of India’s troubles, from which there was no escape without putting an end to the British colonial subjugation of India. The task of freeing India rested on the shoulders of workers and peasants. They alone could accomplish this task, provided they were made aware of their patriotic duty. He told his audience, especially the Punjabis, that they could do a lot more for India’s freedom in a bourgeois democratic country such as America than they could in India. Hitherto, he said, the Indians had been fighting for the benefit of their enslavers and subjugators; they should, instead, form a democratic revolutionary organisation, shorn of communalism or sectarianism, and imbued with the spirit of the 1857 revolt (Ghadar). They should make preparations in America for the revolutionary overthrow of British rule in India and then proceed to India to drive out the British and establish a democratic government there, guaranteeing equality of treatment to its citizens irrespective of their religion, caste or colour.

This great scholar and orator, who inspired his listeners and instilled in them confidence in a bright future, convinced them by practical arguments to agree to his proposal to begin the publication in Urdu and Punjabi of a weekly paper for the propagation of revolutionary ideas among Indians as part of the preparations for ridding India of the jackboot of British colonial occupation. He suggested that the weekly be named Ghadar, both to honour the memory of that First War of Indian Independence and to carry forward its heritage. The Ghadar headquarters, to be called ‘Yugantar Ashram’, was to be in San Francisco. The party, after the name of its weekly, came to be called the Ghadar Party and its headquarters became popularly known as the Ghadar Ashram.

After these momentous, yet tentative, decisions, it was agreed to get the approval of the elected representatives of Indian workers labouring in the state of Oregon. Following several meetings in different towns, at which the entire plan was explained by Hardayal and three officers, a meeting of delegates was held on 21 September 1913 in Astoria, at which Hardayal summed up his proposals thus:

ŸThat the organisation be named as the Hindi Association of the Pacific Coast of America (HAPC), which subsequently came to be known as the Ghadar Party.

Ÿthat the object of the Association was to liberate India from the British yoke through armed struggle and replace it with a national government on the basis of equality and justice;

Ÿthat the party should publish a weekly organ – Ghadar – in Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi;

Ÿthat the headquarters of the organisation be in San Francisco – a port and revolutionary centre;

Ÿthat those working in the party office and on Ghadar should receive no remuneration – only an allowance for food, clothing, etc.

Ÿthat every party member should pay a dollar a month as membership fee;

Ÿthat every factory or workplace where Indians worked should have an elected committee which would be affiliated to the executive committee (EC) of the party;

Ÿthat the EC elected by the delegates should be responsible for the weekly paper and press as well as other functions;

Ÿthat the EC would elect from amongst its members a three-man Commission, to have sole responsibility for political and secret work;

that religion should be the individual concern of each member, with no discussion permitted on religious questions;

Ÿthat it should be the responsibility and bounden duty of each member to fight against slavery and support the struggle wherever it was being conducted;

Ÿthat the party bodies should be elected annually.

The above proposals were approved unanimously, to the accompaniment of thunderous applause.

The meeting then went on to elect a committee of eight, with Sohan Singh Bhakna as president, Lala Hardayal as general secretary and Pandit Kanshi Ram as treasurer. These three were also elected as members of the commission to take charge of the party’s secret and confidential work.

In response to an appeal for funds, $10,000 were collected on the spot.

1 November 1913 – the birth of Ghadar

It took a while for the organisation to get started. In the end, the first issue of the UrduGhadar appeared, after a delay of nearly 7 months, on 1 November 1913. It is to this date that the birth of the Ghadar Party proper can be traced – a date that marks the beginning of the genuinely modern phase in the struggle of the Indian people against colonialism. Continuing, and honouring the legacy of 1857, the Ghadar movement took a gigantic step forward.

Ghadar was the deadliest enemy of British imperialism and was edited by one of the foremost intellectuals of his time, Hardayal, who knew exceptionally well the intricacies of British diplomacy, as well as the hypocrisy, fraud and treachery that characterised the conduct of the British ruling class. He knew, too, how to expose the oppression and tyranny of the British Raj and its cunning mode of maintaining the subjugation of India.

The first issue of Ghadar boldly announced:

” A new epoch in the history of India opens today, 1 November 1913, because today there begins in foreign lands but in our country’s language a war against the British Raj …

“What is our name? … Ghadar (revolt, mutiny).

“In what does our work consist? In bringing about an uprising.

“Where will this uprising break out? … In India.

“When will it break out? In a few years.

“Why? Because the people can no longer bear the oppression and tyranny practised under British rule and are ready to fight and die for freedom. It is the duty of every Indian to make preparations for this uprising”.

Almost in Marxian terminology it added: “The time will soon come when rifles and blood will take the place of pens and ink”.

It looked to Germany for support of India’s liberation struggle as “…they (the Germans) and ourselves have a common enemy … Germany can draw assistance from us and [it] can render us great assistance also”.

With the appearance of Ghadar, a great change took place in the consciousness of Indian immigrants. Petty quarrels and bickering gave way to feelings of fraternal harmony and solidarity. In place of the old selfishness, there appeared a spirit of selflessness, sacrifice and an obsession to gain India’s freedom. A large number of immigrants became hardened revolutionaries, ready to sacrifice their all at the altar of India’s freedom.

The restrictive, discriminatory and racist immigration policies pursued by the governments of Canada and the US, and the behind-the-scenes role played by the British government in exacerbating these miserable conditions, acted as a spur to revolutionise thousands of Indians who, in search of a living, were wandering about from the Philippines to China, Japan, the Malay States and New Zealand, from Argentina to Panama, the US and Canada, but were welcome nowhere. Their wanderings throughout these lands served to prepare the ground for setting up the Ghadar organisation in all these and many other countries. Through their contact with workers in these countries, Punjabi peasants, former British soldiers in many cases, formed bonds of close comradeship with revolutionaries from other countries, who were also struggling against imperialism and its local stooges.

The appearance of the Ghadar weekly took Indian immigrants by storm as it truly represented their desires, aspirations and interests. Wherever it reached, Ghadar units began to be formed spontaneously. Within months of the first issue it became a household name, and, to meet the rising demand for it, new press arrangements had to be made. Though sent free of charge to anyone who desired to have it, there was no shortage of money for keeping the publication going, for readers generously donated considerable amounts of funds.

The first Punjabi edition of Ghadar appeared on 8 December 1913. Both the Urdu and Punjabi versions of the paper carried permanent features such as, for instance, an ‘Exposure Sheet’, ‘Evidence of Statistics’ and the ‘History of the Ghadar 1857’. The first two of these features were devoted to the exposure of the exploitation and naked looting of India by British imperialism, the impoverishment of its masses, and the resultant frequency of disease and famine. They also dwelt on the denial of even the most basic of liberties by the British rulers to the Indian people, hand in hand with the practice of the most repressive and tyrannical methods of rule. The third feature, relating to 1857, was hugely significant as it kept alive the heroic exploits of the first war of Indian Independence, reminding readers of the revolutionary and patriotic role of the army, which had risen against British rule and come close to toppling it, as well as focusing their minds on the unity between Hindus and Muslims during those momentous days. Had the treacherous Sikh feudal princes in particular, and some other feudal princes in general, not betrayed the people by siding with the enemy, British rule in India would have been ended a whole 90 years earlier.

Ghadar repeatedly harped on the theme of Hindu-Muslim unity. The problem, it stated, was not Hindus pitted against the Muslims, but Hindus and Muslims against the British subjugators of the Indian people.

The readership of Ghadar was by no means confined to the US and Canada: it reached all countries which were host to Indian labourers. It was regularly dispatched in large bundles ot Hong Kong, Shanghai, the Malay States, Penang, Singapore, Philippines, Siam, Argentina, Burma, Indonesia, Guyana, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

There were other papers abroad brought out by Indians conducting agitational work beforeGhadar came on the scene. But in the revolutionary spirit it inculcated, the extent of its reach, and the mass movement it helped to create, Ghadar surpassed all previous attempts. It aimed to impress on the Indian people, especially Indian soldiers in the British army, the need to rise up against British rule. It was posted in large numbers to the Punjab from many places other than the US and Canada. Although the government confiscated copies of the paper in India and all other British colonies, some copies nevertheless got through and were avidly read – in some cases collectively at public meetings.

Apart from its regular Urdu and Punjabi editions, Ghadar brought out irregular issues in Hindi, Gujarati, and one issue in Pashtu. Every issue of Ghadar (Punjabi) published one or two poems. Although rugged and lacking in poetical sophistication, these poems were written in a popular style, which appealed to the readership. A collection of 37 of these poems was published in a booklet under the title Gadar di goonj (‘The roar of revolution’). The first edition of 10,000 was sold instantly and was much appreciated by the readers. The poems in the pamphlet kept closely to the political line of Ghadar. They roused the Indians to take up the sword against their British enslavers, and roused the indignation of the masses by laying bare the miserable conditions of slavery to which British rule had subjected them. These poems chided the Indian soldiers in the British army for invading other countries at the behest of the British rulers, instead of taking possession of their own country by driving the British out of India.

D Chenchiah, a south Indian participant in the Ghadar movement, wrote of the transformative effect of the weekly Ghadar on the Indian workers in America in the following words:

” The Punjabi labourers in the USA were drawn to this movement. They themselves began to contribute articles, poems, etc… They began to address even public meetings. Many intellectuals arose out of them. They were sincere and brave. These labourers, who till recently were very ignorant and illiterate, suddenly became politically conscious, highly patriotic and intensely revolutionary. As a result, the Ghadar movement passed rapidly into their hands” (People’s Path, Jullundur, December 1966, see Josh pp. 174-5).

In addition to the three booklets of poetry, the Ghadar Party published a number of short, very popular and informative pamphlets exposing the crimes of British imperialism, its use of terror as an instrument of governance, rampant corruption in the police and the judiciary. They also subjected to merciless criticism many of the political, communal and religious organisations and institutions operating in India. Many of these pamphlets were the work of Hardayal, whose sharpest criticism was directed at the Congress Party and its leadership as a bunch of useless office and title seekers. The thrust of his argument at the time was that there was no need for any organisation other than the Ghadar Party founded on the principles of freedom and equality. Those who wanted to work for the freedom of India, he asserted, should direct their work against British rule; if not, simply shut up shop.

In his article, ‘The meaning of equality’, Hardayal castigated the hateful divisions based on caste among Hindus and emphasised the need for economic equality. “There can be no equality between master and servant”, he wrote, ” though both may be Mohammedans or Sikhs or Vaishnavites … The rich man will always rule the poor man … Without economic equality, fraternity is only a dream” (quoted in Josh at p.177).

Hardayal forced to flee the US

The activities of the Ghadar Party, its expanding influence, the enlightening role of theGhadar weekly and the trenchant articles and booklets of Hardayal threw the British authorities into a state of panic, especially as the Ghadar Party’s literature had begun to appeal to Indian soldiers. It was thus that, at the behest of the British government, the Californian authorities issued a warrant against Hardayal to deport him from America on the pretext that he was an anarchist as two years earlier he had made a speech against the Russian Tsar. Hardayal was angry that a sovereign and powerful country such as the US was taking instructions from the British embassy. On 27 March 1914 he addressed a statement to the American press which, inter alia, drew public attention “… to the despicable pro-British subservience of the United States government, which is so vivid a feature of President Wilson’s foreign policy…”.

Hardayal was correct in his assertion as it soon came to light that the warrant for his arrest had been issued at the request of Ernest Scott, Secretary of the British embassy. Hardayal, while boldly stating that his life’s ambition was to bring about a revolution in India, denied that he was an anarchist or that he had advocated the assassination of individuals. The US press accepted as correct Hardayal’s statement and condemned Hardayal’s arrest by the Californian authorities.

Hardayal, in his defence, relied on British rule in India, a booklet by W J Brayan, the then US Secretary of State. Written in 1906, Brayan’s work was a brilliantly scathing criticism of British imperialist rule in India. Branded as ‘seditious’ by the British authorities, it was nonetheless published in Britain. It was Hardayal’s contention that his attack on the British rule was no harsher than that of Brayan.

Hardayal was let out on a bail of $1,000 and ordered to present himself in court on 10 April 1914. On the advice of his Executive Committee, who believed that it was only too likely that on deportation he would be handed over to the British authorities, Hardayal jumped bail and travelled to Switzerland.

As the San Francisco Chronicle wrote at the time: ” President Wilson should be particularly gratified if Dayal is no longer within United States territory. He will be spared the unceasing taunts of having singled out this individual for deportation solely in obedience of what was virtually a demand on the part of Great Britain (12 May 1914).

Before fleeing America, Hardayal handed over the charge of his functions to his party comrades. Santokh Singh replaced him as general secretary, to whom he transferred the bank account; Harnam Singh Kotla became the editor-in-charge of Ghadar. The commission of 3 members now consisted of Bhakna, Santokh Singh and Kanshi Ram. Among others, young revolutionary Kartar SinghSurabha was appointed to the editorial board of Ghadar weekly. In all probability, Hardayal was helped by the authorities to leave the US and escaped with police connivance.

Contrary to British government expectations, the removal of Hardayal from the US did no harm to the Ghadar Party. New people came to the fore and carried on their revolutionary work of furthering the cause of Ghadar in India. Sohan Singh Bhakna quit his job and became a full-time party functionary, touring areas where Indians were concentrated, holding meetings, collecting funds, and organising new units. The leadership became more collective, with only secret and confidential work still being entrusted to the Commission of 3 persons.

Being ambitious, farsighted and serious revolutionaries, the Ghadarites did forward planning. Realising the significance of aerial warfare in the coming period, they decided that a few of their members should be sent for training in flying. Kartar Singh Sarabha was therefore sent to Germany for that purpose and, to his credit, he completed his 6-month training course in 4 months. Master Udham Singh Kasel who, having worked in the Hong Kong army, had learned the use of artillery, was deputed to teach the use of various weapons to a group of students. Harnam Singh Tundilat started to learn the art of bomb making; through an accidental explosion his right hand was so badly damaged that it had to be amputated. Thereafter his comrades gave him the nickname of Tundilat (General Stump).

The Ghadarites suffered from a burning hatred of the fact that Indian soldiers fought under the British flag and in so doing riveted India’s slavery. They exhorted Indians not to enlist in the British army and instead consider such enlistment as a badge of shame. Consequent upon this propaganda, Indians in America and Canada, stopped boasting: ” We defeated Burma, we conquered Afghanistan, we won China. They were ashamed to help British imperialism enslave other countries and had developed anti-slavery sentiment so much that they hated the British enslavers to the extreme” (from Bhakna’s Memoirs, quoted in Josh at p.192).


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Chin Peng – Malayan patriot and lifelong fighter for communism



Following a last lengthy battle with cancer, on 16 September 2013, Comrade Chin Peng, who served as the secretary-general of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) for well over six decades, passed away in a hospital in the Thai capital, Bangkok, at the age of 88.

Ironically, 16 September is Malaysia Day, marking the country’s independence from British colonial rule – independence that would not have been won in 1957 without the heroic armed struggle organised and waged by the CPM.

Yet, successive reactionary regimes in Malaysia have not only denied the communist contribution to the winning of independence; and have not only reneged on the peace agreement they signed in 1989 whereby Chin Peng should have been able to return to the land of his birth – they are still preventing his ashes from being brought home.

Although the armed struggle waged by the CPM has been to a great extent forgotten, in reporting his death, the New York Times stated:

” Mr Chin was the last surviving revolutionary leader to have successfully fought for independence from colonial rulers in Asia after World War II – a cohort that included Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Sukarno in Indonesia, Aung San in Burma (now Myanmar) and Norodom Sihanouk in Cambodia. When he finally laid down his arms in 1989, Mr Chin was called ‘the world’s senior surviving guerrilla’ .” (‘Chin Peng, Malaysian rebel, dies at 88′ by Douglas Martin, 16 September 2013)

Chin Peng was the adopted name of Ong Boon Hua, born on 21 October 1924 in the Malaysian state of Perak. His father, an immigrant from China’s Fujian province, owned a bicycle repair shop.

The young Chin Peng joined the communist youth organisation at the age of 15, inspired by the Chinese communists’ resistance against Japanese aggression, and reportedly after reading Mao Zedong’s article On Protracted War.

He soon left school and went to work for the party, which assigned him to lead three anti-Japanese organisations, for students, teachers and shop assistants. After the Japanese invaded in December 1941, he became a liaison to British armed forces. The Associated Press reported in 1989 that John Davis, a British officer, said of him: “Unusual ability, and commanded the natural respect of men without fuss or formality.”

Such was his reputation that, at the end of the war, he was personally decorated by Earl Mountbatten and was awarded the OBE – although it was rescinded shortly after when the CPM went back to war, this time against British imperialism.

As with the other oppressed peoples of the east, the Malayan communists and patriots saw the defeat of Japanese militarism as a milestone on their road towards complete emancipation. But the imperialist Labour government had other ideas. Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin had famously stated that he did not wish to preside over the dismantling of the British Empire as it would, he claimed, adversely affect the standard of living of his constituents.

It would be hard to under-estimate the importance of Malaya, and specifically of its rubber and tin, to the British Empire at that time. By 1947, Malaya was earning twice the amount of US dollars as the rest of the empire put together. Yet wages were lower in real terms than they had been even in the depths of the 1930s recession.

Accordingly, the so-called ‘Malayan Emergency’ was actually Britain’s bloodiest colonial war of the post-1945 period.

Chin Peng found himself catapulted into the leadership of that resistance. Lai Tek, the previous secretary general of the party, absconded with nearly all the party’s funds, after he was exposed as a double agent of both the Japanese and British. (He was subsequently assassinated in Bangkok.) Chin Peng was put in charge of investigating his case and was named to the post of secretary general in 1947. He was just 23 years of age.

At the height of the conflict, some 70,000 British, Australian, New Zealand, Fijian, Gurkha and other empire troops were pitted against some 10,000 guerrillas led by Chin Peng.

Still, the British were only able to contain the people’s war by means of the most brutal repression, as well as the assiduous practice of ‘divide and rule’, seeking to pit the country’s Malay, Chinese and Indian communities against each other.

One example of the imperialist brutality was exposed in the Daily Worker of the time, which printed photos of grinning squaddies holding the severed heads and hands of captured freedom fighters.

Another brutal, but extremely effective, British tactic was to herd the civilian population into so-called ‘protected villages’, in reality concentration camps, where they could not give support to the freedom fighters. Just as Mao had described the guerrilla fighter as a fish swimming in the sea of the people, so this approach might be termed as one of draining the sea. It had first been used by the British, to devastating effect, against the Afrikaner people in the Anglo-South African war of 1899-1902 and was later used by the British in Kenya and Oman, as well as by the Americans in Vietnam.

Speaking decades later about this period, during a visit to an academic conference in Australia, Chin Peng said:

” I make no apologies for seeking to replace such an odious system with a form of Marxist socialism. Colonial exploitation, irrespective of who were the masters, Japanese or British, was morally wrong .”

In 1955, as Britain prepared to grant neo-colonial independence to its stooges, Chin Peng led his party in peace talks, which floundered on the rock of the British-instigated refusal of his demand that the CPM be given legal status and allowed to participate in the country’s political life.

Faced with this refusal, Chin Peng declared: “In that case we will fight to the end.” With these words, he returned to the jungle and the people’s war continued until 1989, when a peace accord was finally signed in Thailand.

Under that agreement, Chin Peng should have had the right to return to Malaysia, but it was denied to the end, on the specious grounds that he could not prove, with original documents, that he had in fact been born in the country – documentation that had, understandably, been lost in the long years of armed struggle.

In later life, Chin Peng reflected: ” We were defeated in a sense, we did not realise our goal to set up… a people’s democracy. But we didn’t [experience] defeat in forcing the British to grant independence to Malaya. Without our struggle, I don’t think the British would grant independence to Malaya. Or it will be many years later… I don’t think we were humiliated. At least I never surrendered, and at least I feel proud, not for me, for our movement, for all those supporters. We could carry on a struggle, a military struggle for twelve years against a major power… This is the longest, the largest scale guerrilla warfare in the British Empire, in the twentieth century .”

Although the Malaysian government vindictively prevented Chin Peng’s return home, under the terms of the 1989 peace accord, he and many of his comrades were allowed to settle in self-administered villages in southern Thailand, and succeeded in gaining the respect of much of the Thai military top brass, to whom they were once bitterly opposed.

Chin Peng’s 23 September funeral was remarkable in bringing together both senior Thai generals, along with numerous former leaders and members of the Communist Party of Thailand, as well as Chin Peng’s old comrades from Malaysia and China.

Present at the funeral service were former Thai prime minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, along with former Thai military commanders General Kitti Rattanachaya and General Pisarn Wattanawongkiri.

Paying tribute, General Pisarn Wattanawongkiri said Chin Peng is the Malaysian equivalent of Ho Chin Minh, Aung San and Kusno Sosrodihardjo or Sukarno, for his ceaseless efforts during the battle for independence.

Pisarn said Chin Peng had fought ceaselessly and sacrificed a lot for the cause of the Communist Party of Malaya.

Although the Malaysian government vilified Chin Peng, Pisarn said he was a kind, honest and principled individual.

” He was like a father figure to his men and I looked up to him like a big brother. He has been like a relative of mine for the past 20 years and I will always appreciate the time that we have spent together .”

Chavalit, who was the Thai premier between 1996 and 1997, said he never viewed Chin Peng as a guerrilla, but as a friend.

Chin Peng was not someone who was fighting for personal glory or interests, but fighting for the people.

” In the hearts of many Thai people, especially the soldiers, Chin Peng was a hero, who was much admired for his dedication, perseverance and resourcefulness. Despite the insurmountable obstacles he faced, Chin Peng was never deterred, he did what he felt was right ,” Chavalit added.

A wreath was also sent by Thai princess Chulabhorn Walailak.

Also paying tribute were former secretaries general of the currently defunct Communist Party of Thailand (CPT), Thong Chamsri and Vichai Chutham.

Thong Chamsri told the Bangkok Post that it was a pity that communism had met global challenges, but he hoped the younger generation, who have experienced different types of injustice, would carry the torch.

“Successful stories can actually be seen in China and Vietnam. So if we resolve the crisis of existence or faith in communism, we could walk on the same path,” said the 90-year-old Thong.

Although the Malaysian government is to date still refusing even to allow Chin Peng’s ashes back into the country – even mobilising special security at borders and entry ports to prevent any attempt to smuggle in his remains; something that his family and comrades have stressed would in any case be in violation of the late leader’s dignity – there have been no shortage of Malaysians, across the political spectrum, who have defied threats of repression to pay their respects to an outstanding patriotic figure in their country’s history.

Indeed, there are several signs, that the high-handed attitude of the Kuala Lumpur government may succeed only, in Mao’s famous words, in lifting a rock to drop it on their own feet.

Among the first to fly to Bangkok to express condolences was opposition MP Tian Chua from the Parti Keadilan Rakyat, or People’s Justice Party, who said that Malaysia should treat the late leader fairly and with dignity.

Hanipa Maidin, an MP from the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), said that Chin Peng should be honoured as an independence fighter and other PAS leaders attended the funeral service.

Charles Santiago, MP from the Democratic Action Party (DAP), said that Chin Peng contributed to the wellbeing of Malaysia.

His armed struggle against the Japanese and British helped expedite Merdeka [freedom]for Malaya.”

Santiago had been among the first to pay his respects to the remains of Chin Peng.

He told the Star newspaper he had gone to Bangkok for a meeting with non-governmental organisations and later dropped by the temple where the late Chin Peng’s remains were, to pay his respects. He was seen kneeling and holding a joss stick at a floral dais inside the hall, where the sealed casket bearing Chin Peng’s remains was placed.

The Malaysian Chinese Association, a constituent party of the ruling Barisan National coalition, also called on their government to allow the remains of Chin Peng to be brought home.

Even Abdul Rahim, who was the director of Special Branch at the time of the peace accord, said that his government was now making itself a laughing stock in the eyes of the world, adding:

I was involved in the drafting of both agreements [the main agreement plus a supplementary one setting out the administrative details for implementation], so I know full well that under the terms of the agreements, all the agreements applied are binding on every CPM member, from the highest topmost to the bottom .

” So if you say that Chin Peng, as secretary general of the party, is the highest most member, then he qualifies to get all the privileges, advantages or whatever promises made in the agreement, which includes for him to be allowed to come back (to Malaysia). 

The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) said that it was “deeply saddened over the passing of Chin Peng, secretary-general of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). We would like to express our condolences to Chin Peng’s family and his comrades in the CPM.

” Chin Peng was a determined, resourceful anti-colonial and anti-imperialist fighter, who led the heroic struggle against the Japanese occupation and British colonisation. He played a significant role in the national liberation struggle of Malaya and he definitely has his place in the history of the independence of our country 

” Chin Peng and the CPM have been vilified in our official history with all kinds of negative labels, not unexpectedly, as history is written by the victors. But discerning Malaysians, including today’s younger generation, know that Chin Peng and his comrades took up arms in 1948 not for personal benefit but for an independent Malaya and justice for ordinary people. It is undeniable that Malaya would not have achieved independence in 1957 had there been no national liberation struggle waged against colonial rule by Chin Peng and the CPM .

” It is unfortunate that the Malaysian government has refused to recognise the contribution of CPM to the independence of our country. The Malaysian government has also failed to honour the peace accord signed by the Malaysian government, the Thai government and the CPM in 1989 by refusing to allow Chin Peng to return to his homeland even up to his death. Chin Peng had applied several times to return to the land of his birth. While many other CPM members were allowed to return, Chin Peng remained the government’s bogeyman .

” Hence, PSM calls upon our government to recognise the struggles and sacrifices of all anti-colonial figures including Chin Peng, in order to preserve a truthful account of our struggle for independence. The people of Malaysia have a right to know the true story of our anti-colonial struggle .

Chin Peng and his struggle will always be remembered, recognised and respected.”

Chin Peng’s funeral service was also a reunion for many of his old comrades, who remain proud of their struggle and indignant at the efforts of imperialism and the reactionary regime to paint Chin Peng as a brutal figure.

The Malaysian Insider reported: ” The death of Comrade No.1 brought together many of his soldiers to his wake, reminiscing about the lives they led as insurgents, with most of them never regretting having joined the struggle .

Wong Chien, 81, was one such person.

” Despite losing his right hand and going blind in one eye after spending 41 years in the jungle, he does not regret his decision in 1948 to join the Communist Party of Malaya .

The veteran, who now lives in the Thai border town of Betong, was at the Wat That Thong temple in Bangkok to bid farewell to Chin Peng today.

” Wong, who was born in Taiping, Perak, was not a personal acquaintance of Chin Peng nor did he know him very well. Wong was one of many foot soldiers who spent decades in the jungles of Malaya ….

“‘I joined the CPM and spent the next 40 years in the jungle fighting the British and Malayan forces’, he said, showing a stump of a right hand.

“‘ I lost my hand and right eye to a hand grenade thrown by the enemy forces. But it did not deter me, I was back on the frontline again after recovering from my injuries’, he recounted .

” He appeared indignant about the allegations made against Chin Peng by the Malaysian government, which described the former CPM secretary-general as a ruthless and cold-blooded murderer .

“‘ Look at my hand, what does this tell you about the Malayan security forces back then? Can I say they were also cold-blooded and ruthless?’, he asked, waving his stump .

In 1989, after the peace accord was signed between the Malaysian government and the CPM, Wong applied for permission to return to Taiping.

“‘ My application was rejected by the Malaysian authorities, as I could not produce any identification documents. I was born in 1932, my family was dirt poor; where could we find such documents ? (‘No regrets says Chin Peng’s brother in arms’ by Lee Shi-Ian, 22 September 2013)

A separate article in the same newspaper, also by Lee and published on the same day, reported:

” Chang Yuan, 72, who is also the spokesman for Chin Peng’s family, said the Malayan soldiers were equally cruel and ruthless during the decades-long conflict until the peace accord was signed in 1989 .

“‘ The Malayan forces bombed various communist strongholds during the insurgency. The bodies of communists who died during the bombings were displayed in public for all to see’, he recalled when met in Bangkok today .

“‘ Both sides were at war at the time, it was a case of survival’, Chang said, adding that while Chin Peng was ruthless with his enemies, he was warm and friendly to his comrades 

“‘ Who is Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to talk about whether Chin Peng should be allowed to return or not? Where was he during the war against the Japanese, and later, the British ?…

“‘ My elder brother was a member of the CPM and leading a guerrilla resistance against the Japanese. This was the reason the Japanese took my father away .

“‘My father was never seen again and even till today, we do not know where his body was buried’, Chang said with a tinge of sadness.

In 1969, Chang went to China as he had heard of education opportunities there. He said he first met Chin Peng while they were both in Hunan.

“‘ A radio station called Voice of the Malayan Revolution had been set up and the CPM was looking for fresh blood. I signed up and was made a supervisor in the station .’

Chang stayed in the same hostel as Chin Peng, and described him as a man who stuck to his principles and was unyielding.

“‘ He commanded everyone’s respect with his passion, determination and principles. As we were an underground movement, secrecy was of the utmost importance .

“‘But he was also warm and friendly to all his colleagues and comrades. He never lost his temper with us nor did he bully anyone

“‘ Every New Year and Chinese New Year, about 200-300 of us would gather for a reunion meal to reminisce about old times. Next year won’t be the same’, Chang reflected. ” (‘Chin Peng no worse than Malayan soldiers, claims ex-comrade’)

Comrade Chin Peng left behind a final message, which was distributed, in Bahasa Malay, Chinese and English, in a commemorative booklet entitled, In Everlasting Memory, Dare to Struggle, Dare to Sacrifice, and it was read to the funeral service by his close friends and comrades, Lee Tuck Hee and Anas Abdullah, in Chinese and Bahasa Malaya. Lee could not control his emotions as he read the contents of the letter, breaking down several times.

As Chin Peng’s last letter was read, the Internationale, the hymn of the world proletariat, was played in the background, and it is with Comrade Chin Peng’s simple and deeply moving final words that we conclude our own tribute to this great and beloved revolutionary leader:

My dear comrades, my dear compatriots,

When you read this letter, I am no more in this world.

It was my original intention to pass away quietly and let my relatives handle the funeral matters in private. However, the repercussions of erroneous media reports of me [being] in critical condition during October 2011, had persuaded me that leaving behind such a letter is desirable.

Ever since I joined the Communist Party of Malaya and eventually became its secretary-general, I have given both my spiritual and physical self in the service of the cause that my party represented, that is, to fight for a fairer and better society based on socialist ideals. Now with my passing away, it is time that my body be returned to my family .

I draw immense comfort in the fact that my two children are willing to take care of me, a father who could not give them family love, warmth and protection ever since their birth. I could only return my love to them after I had relinquished my political and public duties, ironically only at a time when I have no more life left to give to them as a father.

It was regrettable that I had to be introduced to them well advanced in their adulthood as a stranger. I have no right to ask them to understand, nor to forgive. They have no choice but to face this harsh reality. Like families of many martyrs and comrades, they too have to endure hardship and suffering not out of their own doing, but out of a consequence of our decision to challenge the cruel forces in the society, which we sought to change .

It is most unfortunate that I couldn’t, after all, pay my last respects to my parents buried in my hometown of Sitiawan, nor could I set foot on the beloved motherland that my comrades and I had fought so hard for against the aggressors and colonialists .

My comrades and I had dedicated our lives to a political cause that we believed in and had to pay whatever price there was as a result. Whatever consequences on ourselves, our family and the society, we would accept with serenity .

In the final analysis, I wish to be remembered simply as a good man who could tell the world that he had dared to spend his entire life in pursuit of his own ideals to create a better world for his people .

It is irrelevant whether I succeeded or failed, at least I did what I did. Hopefully the path I had walked on would be followed and improved upon by the young after me. It is my conviction that the flames of social justice and humanity will never die .

The author of this article had the honour of meeting Comrade Chin Peng in 1998. Lalkarand the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) extend their deepest condolences to the comrades of the Communist Party of Malaya and to Comrade Chin Peng’s family and friends on their irreplaceable loss.


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Vo Nguyen Giap: 1911-2013


Military genius and communist hero

On 4 October 2013, in a military hospital in Hanoi, where he had lived for the last few years of his life, General Vo Nguyen Giap, Vietnamese patriotic hero, staunch, loyal and devoted communist, and a man almost universally recognised as one of humanity’s greatest military geniuses of all times, sometimes referred to as the ‘Red Napoleon’, passed away at the grand age of 102 (103 according to the East Asian method of calculating age).

Despite his very advanced years, and the succession of generations in a rapidly changing Vietnamese society, General Giap’s passing was marked by an outpouring of public grief, with many hundreds of thousands of people, of all ages and from all walks of life, tearfully mourning the last surviving leader from the hero generation led by Comrade Ho Chi Minh, who had changed not only the destiny of their nation, but the history of the world, through decades of arduous armed struggle against successively Japanese, French and US imperialism.

Despite his undoubted military genius, Giap never studied in a military academy for even a single day. Rather, he was self-taught and learned on the battlefield.

He was familiar with Vietnam’s long history of resisting foreign invasions and domination. Whilst he studied that experience, he primarily learned from the extensive contemporary military writings of China’s Mao Zedong, adapting them to the concrete conditions of Vietnam. He further learned from the Vietnamese people’s great leader Ho Chi Minh, as well as from Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. His own military writings, published in an English language anthology, under the title, The military art of people’s war, rank second only to those of Mao in outlining the path of armed struggle that needs to be followed by the oppressed nations and peoples in the epoch of imperialism.

Vo Nguyen Giap was born in 1911 to an educated farming family with strong patriotic views against French colonialism, which occupied parts, then all, of Vietnam starting in the mid-1800s. His father took part in unsuccessful uprisings against French domination in the 1880s. Years later he was arrested for subversion and was killed in prison in 1919, when his son was eight. Soon afterward, one of his older sisters was arrested and eventually released due to illness brought about by prison conditions, and died weeks later when her younger brother was nine. When he was an adult, the French arrested his first wife, who also died in prison.

At around the age of 12, according to Wikipedia: ” He was expelled from school after two years for taking part in protests, and went home to his village for a while. While there, he joined the Tân Việt (New Vietnamese) Revolutionary Party, an underground group founded in 1924, which introduced him to communism. He returned to Hue and continued his political activities. He was arrested in 1930 for taking part in student protests and served 13 months in Lao Bảo Prison. He joined the Communist Party of Vietnam in 1931 .”

Giap’s name will forever be associated with the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, which even the right wing Wall Street Journal, in its obituary, described as sounding the death knell of western colonialism in Asia.

With the defeat of Japanese militarism, Ho Chi Minh had declared the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRVN) in September 1945, but, with support from Britain’s Labour government, the French had returned to reimpose their colonial rule, forcing the DRVN to declare war on France in December 1946.

A succession of skirmishes and small engagements followed. But the Viet Minh, the Vietnamese people’s armed forces, had no heavy weapons or other essential equipment for a major war until the Chinese Communist Party was victorious and declared the founding of the People’s Republic of China in October 1949.

Chinese and Soviet supplies soon began to cross the Chinese border, as did a considerable number of Chinese military instructors. Giap was soon able to launch large battles that seriously bruised the French forces.

By 1953, French generals feared the insurrection was spreading across Vietnam’s western border into Laos after a Viet Minh unit attacked French border outposts in that country. This convinced the French commander, General Henri Navarre, to establish a major military base near the small town of Dien Bien Phu, just 10 miles from the border in north-west Vietnam. He intended to interdict Vietnamese forces heading to Laos or lure them to attack a base that he considered invulnerable because of its fortifications, and the fact that it was surrounded by mountains, with a nearby former Japanese airstrip for resupply. Navarre believed Giap did not possess heavy artillery or the means to transport such tonnage up the mountains and into position.

But Navarre was wrong. Giap had artillery, but he kept it a secret until the right moment. His plan required 50,000 troops, thousands of support forces, 24 howitzers, and anti-aircraft guns, ammunition and all the other supplies needed for an army. Each howitzer weighed between three and seven tons.

The problem was how to get the howitzers up the mountains without being detected, in spite of the roadless and very difficult terrain. He decided that large teams of porters would push and haul each piece up the back side of the mountains, facing away from the base. Once there, they would tunnel and drag the howitzers to the forward slopes on the other side facing the enemy down below, and position them to cause maximum damage to various parts of the sprawling base. It was an incredible accomplishment.

The French – who numbered about 13,000 men – discovered the Viet Minh had heavy weapons on 14 March 1954, when the first shots came crashing down upon them. After two weeks of this bombardment, Giap sent in the troops. It was a tough fight, including in trenches. On 7 May, Giap sent 25,000 Viet Minh on a final assault on the remainder of the garrison and with this victory for the people’s forces, French imperialism finally lost the will to retain a colonial presence in East Asia.

On learning of Giap’s death, his Russian friend, Senior Lieutenant General Khiupenhen Anatoli Ivanovich aptly said that the victory at Dien Bien Phu could be seen as the Vietnamese equivalent of the Soviet Union’s triumph at Stalingrad.

However, the dream of national unity and full independence was still to elude the Vietnamese people for decades, as US imperialism promptly stepped into the gap vacated by France, unleashing a genocidal war in which several million Vietnamese were killed, and which ended only with the liberation of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) on 30 April 1975.

Giap played a central part in every twist and turn of that epic war of liberation. One of his greatest accomplishments was known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

This consisted of newly built trails connected to many refurbished old paths from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north, into Laos, south through Cambodia, to various exits in South Vietnam. Much of its route is covered by thick jungle foliage, hiding the traffic from the air. It was put together, constantly repaired, and sometimes diverted, because of US air strikes, between 1959 and 1975. It was clear enough by 1973, when the decisive battle for the complete liberation of South Vietnam was being prepared, for heavy trucks to travel its entire length, said to be over 600 miles.

As the Ho Chi Minh Campaign gathered momentum, on 7 April 1975, Giap signed an order that read, ” quicker, even quicker, daring, and even more daring, make use of every minute, every hour to advance to the south. Determine to fight and win.” Just over three weeks later, Vietnam was liberated and the last US aggressors fled by helicopter, their tails firmly between their legs.

Thus ended the first war, in which US imperialism, the most powerful aggressor in history, was completely and comprehensively defeated.

A great internationalist, General Giap has been deeply mourned by anti-imperialists throughout the world, especially in countries that won their liberation through armed struggle.

Mozambique President Armando Guebuza, in condolences to Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, called the General a great friend in his country’s fight for national liberation, saying that his passing is a huge loss to the Mozambican people.

Similar sentiments were expressed by the leaders of Algeria, Nicaragua and El Salvador and a personal tribute was paid by Cuban President Raul Castro, with the Cuban media highlighting Giap’s meetings with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.

Senior leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Yong Nam described the General as an excellent leader, who devoted the whole of his life to national liberation and the cause of socialism. General Giap was a close friend of the Korean people, who made many contributions to developing the relationship between Vietnam and the DPRK, Kim affirmed.

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, who participated in the armed struggle waged by the Tupamaro National Liberation Movement, extended his condolences to President Truong Tan Sang on the death of the “legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap“. He described Giap as an exceptional strategist and an inspirational figure for freedom worldwide, who had taught that the human factor is the key to victory.

According to President Mujica, the general’s military ideologies will continue to be the basis for the building of guerrilla forces in national struggles for liberation, peace and equality in Latin America.

Chea Sim, president of the Cambodia’s People Party and of the Cambodian Senate, extended deep condolences on behalf of the Cambodian party and people to the party and people of Vietnam and to General Giap’s family. He praised the general’s contributions in the fight against colonialism and imperialism and for national independence and the advancement of socialism.

According to the Vietnamese media, the Vietnamese embassy in China received more than 60 delegations who came to bid final farewell to Giap between 12-14 October.

In his note, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, Senior Lieutenant General Sun Jianguo described General Giap as an outstanding leader of the Vietnamese party, state, army and people, and a close comrade of the Chinese military and people.

Yang Yanyi of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee’s International Department expressed her sympathy over the passing of General Giap, who devoted his whole life to the causes of national liberation and construction and contributed to fostering the friendship between the two armies and peoples. ” General Giap will live forever in the hearts of Vietnamese and Chinese people,” she wrote.

In an interview with a Vietnam News Agency (VNA) correspondent in Beijing, Zhang Dewei, vice president of the China-Vietnam Friendship Association, said the Chinese people saw General Vo Nguyen Giap as a great friend, who had made many important contributions to relations between China and Vietnam.

Former Chinese Ambassador to Vietnam Qi Jianguo, recalling the three times he had met the general, said that Vo Nguyen Giap was a world-renowned general and that his name will be forever associated with the Vietnamese nation’s resistance wars against France and the US.

Wen Zhuang, a former member of a group of Chinese consultants and experts sent to assist Vietnam during the war against the French, told VNA that he had met and worked with Mr Van (General Giap’s alias) many times over 56 years. According to Wen, General Giap thoroughly grasped and realised Ho Chi Minh’s ideology, which combined Marxism-Leninism with the concrete conditions of the Vietnamese revolution. He added that in the early 1990s, General Giap attended the Asian Games in Beijing as a guest, contributing greatly to the normalisation of the Vietnam-China friendship, which had been interrupted for a number of years.

On his death, President Truong Tan Sang wrote: ” The name of General Vo Nguyen Giap, a General of the people, loved and respected by the people, will remain forever in national history.” He described the deceased as an icon of Vietnamese revolutionary heroism, who ceaselessly struggled for peace, national independence, democracy, social progress and friendship among the nations of the world .

” We pledge to, together with the whole party, people and army, build a clean and firm party, firmly defend the socialist Vietnamese motherland, and accomplish your life-long aspiration for a prosperous people and a powerful, democratic, fair and civilised country .”

On the occasion of General Giap’s 95th birthday, former party general secretary, Le Kha Phieu had written:

” General Vo Nguyen Giap is one of the most exceptional disciples of Uncle Ho. He was educated and trained by Uncle Ho when he was living and working close to him, before and during the August Revolution and the nine-year war against the French. He considered this a rare chance in his life so he made a great effort to follow the spirit, ideology, morality and lifestyle of the great leader Ho Chi Minh. During his revolutionary life, General Vo Nguyen Giap was very serious about learning and gaining experience from real life. Through such contemplation, he developed a deeper understanding of President Ho Chi Minh’s ideology and morality. Later, when our Party determined Marxism-Leninism and Ho Chi Minh’s ideology to be the foundation of its ideology and lodestar for the Vietnamese revolution, General Vo Nguyen Giap paid increasing attention to studying Ho Chi Minh Ideology in a systematic and comprehensive way and produced several valuable works…

” General Vo Nguyen Giap also pays close attention to party rectification and building an all-people’s defence strategy. On party building, General Vo Nguyen Giap always stresses that in order to make the party strong and healthy, the weapon of criticism and self-criticism must be used effectively and bureaucracy and corruption must be eliminated. On that basis, the idea of a state of the people, by the people and for the people should be reinforced and each state official should become a servant of the people, as instructed by Uncle Ho .”

At the end of his long, heroic and eventful life, General Giap could take satisfaction in the fact that a modern socialist country with the beginnings of prosperity was being built on the soil of his native land, the fruits of a long, complex and bitter struggle to which he had made an irreplaceable and immortal contribution.


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World heritage site destroyed for US Navy Base


Kang Dong Kyun, the Mayor of Ganjeong Village on Jeju Island, South Korea, has been touring Europe, visiting Dublin, London and various other English cities and Paris to draw attention to the destruction that is being wrought to an area UNESCO has declared to be one of the world’s most important sites of natural beauty, as well as to the wellbeing of the people who live in the area. Comrades from the CPGB-ML attended the meeting held in London on 15 October at the School of Oriental and African Studies where they leant that the position of the island to the south of the Korean peninsula makes it particularly suitable as a military base, and construction work is already well advanced. As Mayor Kang points out, the base is being established not for reasons of security but for the purpose of encircling China. It is to become part of Obama’s ‘Asia Pivot’ and will house nuclear submarines, Aegis missile warships and aircraft carriers. Its operations will require the presence not only of the US Navy but also of its airforce and army. The US has built a string of military bases round the world for the purpose of maintaining its military domination, invariably in small, weak countries whose people’s future is being heartlessly endangered as they will become a target should the war for which the US is preparing ultimately break out. Mayor Kang is convinced that there is a real danger that all these war preparations are for a war that could endanger the whole future of the planet and render it uninhabitable.

In the interests of steaming ahead unhindered in building this monstrosity, the propaganda machine has been going full blast trying to convince people that the presence of the base will improve their lives, but only a minority of people are taken in by this. Jeju is only a very small island (an oval shape 46×26 miles), and the presence of the base will severely disrupt people’s way of life. After assuring people some years ago that there would be no compulsory purchase of farmland, the South Korean regime has gone back on its promise and is forcing people to sell their land – and at a price well below market value. This is only one example of prevarication aimed at undermining people’s resistance. They have also been told that the naval base will not be out of bounds to local people – but it is obvious that once it is built nobody is going to be allowed on the base other than authorised military personnel.

Mayor Kang points out that the South Korean government has a long history of oppression of the Jeju islanders. They have always valued their freedom and independence and following the US occupation of South Korea after the Second World War they rose up in rebellion against the Syngman Rhee puppet government on 3 April 1948. The South Korean troops sent in to quell the rebellion succeeded in slaughtering 20% of the population in a period of little more than a year. Although subsequently there have been apologies for this massacre, still the South Korean government will not let the people live in peace but have entangled them in the US war machine.

Local people, including farmers, artists, monks and nuns, have been protesting every day for the last seven years, but their peaceful protests are regularly broken up by massive police contingents, often violently, and criminal proceedings are taken against participants who are made to pay enormous fines.

In the discussion following Mayor Kang’s presentation, we made the point that subservience to the interests of US imperialism has always been the policy of the South Korean regime. It did not suddenly take to subservience 7 years ago, but has always subjected the people to humiliation and hardship to serve the US. Most importantly Korea remains divided more than 60 years after the end of the Second World War, against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of its people. Although the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has consistently put forward proposals for the formation of a united Korea with two systems (as China has done in incorporating Hong Kong), the United States has instructed South Korea’s puppet government to keep away from reunification negotiations simply because when Korea is reunited there will be no basis for US imperialism maintaining its hold on the country as an arsenal for its 1,000 nuclear warheads supposedly to ‘protect’ South Korea from the North.

Mayor Kang said that it was his simple ambition to pass his farm on to his children to farm peacefully in beautiful surroundings as his family has done for generations.


Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes

Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes together comprise three sites that make up 18,846 hectares. It includes Geomunoreum, regarded as the finest lava tube system of caves anywhere, with its multicoloured carbonate roofs and floors, and dark-coloured lava walls; the fortress-like Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone, rising out of the ocean, a dramatic landscape; and Mount Halla, the highest in Korea, with its waterfalls, multi-shaped rock formations, and lake-filled crater. The site, of outstanding aesthetic beauty, also bears testimony to the history of the planet, its features and processes.


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Once more on the US fiscal cliff



On 17 October the US public debt hit the $17 trillion mark for the first time – $53,765 for each US citizen;$751,940 per family; $148,747 for each US taxpayer! This is 107% of GDP. Total personal debt is also over $16 trillion. It is more than obvious that these staggering amounts are nothing short of crippling. The question is when will this whole house of cards collapse?

It should be noted that the debt has been growing exponentially. In 2010 it was $14.71 trillion and only last year was $16.10 trillion. It seems that it grew by $328 billion in just one day – 17 October 2013 – beating the previous record for a one-day increase which was $238 billion that arose two years ago.

17 October was of course the first day after the resolution suspending the internecine squabbling between the Republicans controlling the House of Representatives of the US Congress and the Democrats controlling its Senate was finally passed extending the time for agreeing a budget and at the same time lifting the debt ceiling for the next three months.

2013 has been the third year running that has witnessed the US government being driven to the brink as a result of attempts by Republicans to gain electoral advantage at the expense of the Democrats by posing as favouring lower taxation at the expense of greater austerity for the poor. The lure of lower taxation, which as a matter of fact favours the big capitalists, nevertheless acts as an irresistible fly trap for millions of petty-bourgeois and labour-aristocratic Americans who have seen their living standards plummet consequent upon the economic crisis that has seen the super-rich save themselves at the expense of these sections, to say nothing of the poorest sections of the working class.

Falling living standards

According to the Financial Times, ” The typical American family now earns less in real terms than in 1989 after household incomes fell for the fifth consecutive year, highlighting how the sluggish recovery is crimping spending power even as the US Federal Reserve considers slowing its monetary stimulus. …

“According to the Census Bureau, the median household income fell from $51,100 to $51,017 in 2012, and is now 8.3 per cent below its pre-recession peak in 2007…

” Median incomes are still declining even though the economy is almost 5 per cent bigger than its pre-recession peak and more than 10 per cent larger than its trough in 2009, because most of the gains have gone to those with the highest incomes. …

“According to separate figures produced by economist Emmanuel Saez, at the University of California, Berkeley, the incomes of the top 1 per cent of the population rose by nearly 20 per cent in 2012, whereas the incomes of the other 99 per cent rose by just 1 per cent.”(Robin Harding, ‘US families feel the squeeze’, 18 September 2013).

Eduardo Porter, writing in the New York Times of 19 September 2013 (‘America’s sinking middle class’), points out that whereas over the last 25 years US GDP per person has increased 40%, typical household income is now at more or less the same level as then:

“In key respects, in fact, the standard of living of most Americans has fallen decidedly behind. Just take the cost of medical services. Health care spending per person, adjusted for inflation, has roughly doubled since 1988, to about $8,500 – pushing up health insurance premiums and eating into workers’ wages.

“The cost of going to college has been rising faster than inflation as well. About two-thirds of people with bachelor’s degrees relied on loans to get through college, up from 45 percent two decades ago. Average student debt in 2011 was $23,300.

“In contrast to people in other developed nations, who have devoted more time to leisure as they have gotten richer, Americans work about as much as they did a quarter-century ago. Despite all this toil, the net worth of the typical American family in the middle of the income distribution fell to $66,000 in 2010 – 6 percent less than in 1989 after inflation.

“Though the bursting of the housing bubble and ensuing great recession takes a big share of the blame for families’ weakening finances, it is nonetheless startling that a single financial event – only a hiccup on the road to prosperity of Americans on the top of the pile – could erase a generation worth of progress for those in the middle.

“Though the statistics may be startling, the story they tell is, unfortunately, not surprising. It is the story of America’s new normal. In the new normal the share of the nation’s income channeled to corporate profits is higher than at any time since the 1920s, while workers’ share languishes at its lowest since 1965.

“In the new normal, the real wages of workers on the factory floor are lower than they were in the early ’70s. And the richest 10 percent of Americans get over half of the income America produces.

“‘Almost all of the benefits of growth since the trough of the Great Recession have been going to those in the upper classes,’ said Timothy Smeeding, who heads the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Madison-Wisconsin. ‘Middle- and lower-income families are getting a smaller slice of a smaller economic pie as labor markets have changed drastically during our recovery.’

“This story is about three decades old.

“In 2010, the Department of Commerce published a study about what it would take for different types of families to achieve the aspirations of the middle class – which it defined as a house, a car or two in the garage, a vacation now and then, decent health care and enough savings to retire and contribute to the children’s college education.

“It concluded that the middle class has become a much more exclusive club. Even two-earner families making almost $81,000 in 2008 – substantially more than the family median of about $60,000 reported by the Census – would have a much tougher time acquiring the attributes of the middle class than in 1990.

” The incomes of these types of families actually rose by a fifth between 1990 and 2008, according to the report. They were more educated and worked more hours, on average, and had children at a later age. Still, that was no match for the 56 percent jump in the cost of housing, the 155 percent leap in out-of-pocket spending on health care and the double-digit increase in the cost of college .”

To maintain the support of the masses for the very class that is shafting them, it makes perfect sense for the US bourgeoisie, via the Republican Party, to mount a mass campaign in favour of lower taxes, for nobody benefits as much from low taxation as the super-rich! Hence the Tea Party movement.

Fury directed at ‘Obamacare’

Since Obama’s triumph at pushing through plans for universal medical insurance in the US designed to ensure that all US citizens have some form of medical cover, whatever their age or pre-existing medical conditions, the Republicans, who opposed the measure at every step, have focused their attention on trying to ensure that it is never fully implemented.

As a health measure, it is hardly radical. To gain Congressional approval it had to be trimmed down to the minimum – one result of which being that non-citizen workers, for instance, are not covered by the provisions:

” First, the Affordable Care Act, as Obamacare is still occasionally called, is nothing like as its opponents describe it. In reality it is a relatively moderate reform to the market-based US health insurance system. As Republican lawmakers know, the bill’s mechanism was taken directly from a 1993 paper by The Heritage Foundation – the best-funded conservative advocacy group in Washington. Today Heritage is spearheading opposition to the ACA. As they also know, the ACA is in crucial respects to the right of the health reform passed by Mitt Romney, their 2012 presidential nominee, when he was governor of Massachusetts. All of Obamacare’s insurance plans – whether subsidised or not – are offered by the private sector. There is no public option. On substance, the law is a victory for conservative reform.

“Nor, as it is often assumed, can Republican fury be about the size of the US government. More than half of American healthcare is already provided directly by the federal government – Medicare for retirees, Medicaid for the poorest, and the Veterans Administration for anyone who has served in the armed forces.

“In key respects, therefore, half of US healthcare looks like Canada or Britain’s National Health Service. Republicans have no plans to repeal these programmes. When the ACA passed in 2010, many of Mr Obama’s supporters were disappointed he did not simply extend Medicare to cover everyone under 65. Instead, Obamacare will subsidise broader participation in the existing private system. Hopefully a large chunk of America’s 48m uninsured will now get coverage. But if Republicans are worried about big government, they are looking in the wrong place .” (Edward Luce, ‘The Republican lost cause – bringing Barack Obama down’, Financial Times, 30 September 2013).

To mobilise the disaffected middle classes in favour of austerity, Obamacare was chosen – not because there was a lot of money to be saved, and not because the Republican Party was in principle all that upset by it, but because it was a topic on which it has already proved remarkably easy to get the middle class masses going in a self-righteous campaign about how unfair it was that hard-working Americans should have to subsidise the feckless poor.

The money behind the Tea Party

The current budget brinkmanship is just the latest development in a well-financed, broad-based assault on the health law …

“The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight….

“The groups have also sought to pressure vulnerable Republican members of Congress with scorecards keeping track of their health care votes; have burned faux ‘Obamacare cards’ on college campuses; and have distributed scripts for phone calls to Congressional offices, sample letters to editors and Twitter and Facebook offerings for followers to present as their own…

“While Freedom Partners has financed organizations that are pushing to defund the law[deprive Obamacare of funding] , like Heritage Action and Tea Party Patriots, Freedom Partners has not advocated that. A spokesman for the group, James Davis, said it was more focused on ‘educating Americans around the country on the negative impacts of Obamacare.’…

“Heritage Action, which has trained 6,000 people it calls sentinels around the country, sent them to open meetings and other events to confront their elected representatives. Its ‘Defund Obamacare Town Hall Tour,’ which began in Fayetteville, Ark., on Aug. 19 and ended 10 days later in Wilmington, Del., drew hundreds at every stop.” (Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Mike McIntire, ‘A Federal budget crisis months in the planning’, New York Times, 6 October 2013).

It would seem that the über-rich Koch brothers are wily enough to realise that their purposes are best served by ‘educating Americans’, i.e., winding them up against those worse off than themselves, and not by trying to bring about ‘defunding’ – which is what lies behind the refusal of House of Representatives Republicans to agree a budget as proposed by the president, that has already led to a 16-day government shut down and considerable damage to US Incorporated.

Dicing with death

As it was, this richly-funded anti-Obamacare took on a malign life of its own that totally lost sight of the interests of the US imperialist bourgeoisie, damaging the US economy’s fragile ‘recovery’ (which as we have seen was ‘recovery’ only for the moneybags), forcing the government to close down all its ‘non-essential’ operations for no less than 16 days, threatening damage to the US’s credit rating, postponing the ‘taper’ of quantitative easing that has the effect of diluting the value of the dollar, and drawing attention of financial markets, US imperialism’s creditors in particular, to the danger of a US default on its debts. Although in the end the Republicans were forced to back down, considerable damage to the US economy – and to the interests of the big bourgeoisie – was done; though this would have been a great deal worse if no deal had been reached. All this damage, however, has to be added to the damage to imperialist interests being caused by the sequester – also forced on the government by failure of Republicans to agree by 1 March this year the form that some $1tr of cuts over 10 years would take – the result of which is that the US military has had to bear a far greater proportion of the agreed cuts than the US bourgeoisie would have liked.

Joe Nocera of the New York Times pointed out the damage that would be caused not only to the US economy but to the world economy should the US have been forced to default on the repayment of its debts:

“The … U.S. government debt is the only risk-free asset in the world. That debt undergirds the entire world financial system – precisely because the whole world has such faith in it. There is always demand for U.S. government debt. Almost every other asset you can think of is in some way measured against it. A default would destabilize the market for Treasuries. And that, in turn, would likely destabilize every other asset.”

Of course, if US repayment was only held up on a technicality rather than because the US was insolvent, failure to pay on time would not be as catastrophic as creditors would know they would be paid – that the cheque was indeed in the post. The problem is that the US is in fact insolvent and can only keep going by borrowing more and more, so these glitches are potentially a threat to the whole financial system.

Joe Nocera continues: “Let’s move to the havoc a destabilized Treasury debt would have on the banking system. ‘The plumbing of the global financial system depends on Treasuries[i.e., US government debt] ,’ says Karen Petrou, a banking expert at Federal Financial Analytics. Remember what happened to Lehman Brothers? As the market lost faith in the company’s ability to meet its obligations, Lehman lost access to the ‘repo’ market, which is the way banks are funded on a short-term basis. Treasuries make up a great deal of the collateral in the repo market. If a default were to cause the repo market to freeze, the entire banking system would find itself in crisis. Meanwhile – more shades of Lehman Brothers – the ratings agencies would likely downgrade Treasuries, forcing money market funds to start dumping government debt.

“Painful choices would have to be made. Right now, the Treasury Department says it does not have the authority to pick and choose which creditors to pay. But, in the event of a default, it is hard to imagine that the government wouldn’t make some tough decisions about who should get paid in the short term – and who would have to wait. And, though this would infuriate millions of Americans, bondholders in China would likely get their money ahead of, say, Social Security recipients.

“‘From a purely cost-benefit analysis,’ says Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics, ‘not paying bondholders would wind up costing the U.S. much more than not paying Social Security recipients’ – because if bondholders lost faith in Treasuries, it would cost the government billions more in interest payments each year.

“During the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis, consumer confidence dropped by 22 percent. When consumer confidence falls, people are less willing to spend and businesses are less willing to hire. That’s how recessions – or depressions – begin, and that may be the most important consequence of all.” (‘Why the debt ceiling matters, 8 October 2013).

We would respectfully suggest that not paying social security cheques might well prove the most important consequence of all, the spark that sets the masses off on to a collision course with the bourgeoisie.

What now?

Interestingly stock market prices were relatively unaffected by this dire threat to the world financial system. It would seem that the bourgeoisie the world over remained convinced that another eleventh hour agreement would be reached, and they were right:

” With the Treasury Department warning that it could run out of money to pay national obligations within a day, the Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday evening, 81 to 18, to approve a proposal hammered out by the chamber’s Republican and Democratic leaders after the House on Tuesday was unable to move forward with any resolution. The House followed suit a few hours later, voting 285 to 144 to approve the Senate plan, which would fund the government through Jan. 15 and raise the debt limit through Feb. 7.

“Mr. Obama signed the bill about 12:30 a.m. Thursday.

“Most House Republicans opposed the bill, but 87 voted to support it. The breakdown showed that Republican leaders were willing to violate their informal rule against advancing bills that do not have majority Republican support in order to end the shutdown. All 198 Democrats voting supported the measure .” (Jonathan Weisman and Ashley Parker, ‘Republicans back down, ending crisis over shutdown and debt limit’, New York Times, 17 October 2013).

And the Financial Times points out: ” The compromise reopens the government until January 15, suspends the debt ceiling until February 7, and requires negotiations to reduce the budget deficit to be completed by December 13. It includes a mechanism for Republicans to voice their disapproval for an extension of the borrowing authority, though this would not have a practical effect .” (Richard McGregor and Stephanie Kirchgaessner, ‘US eleventh hour deal averts default’, 18 October 2013).

The eleventh hour agreement reached on 16 October therefore only postpones matters to the new year. During the course of the last few weeks the popularity ratings of the Republican Party have been falling heavily as the public becomes convinced that the antics of the Tea Party are threatening real damage to the US economy. There is therefore a possibility that the party’s negotiators will become more ready to reach agreement. After all, there is no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats as to the need for drastic cuts. It is not even as if one party were proposing attempting Keynesian ‘cures’ that the other was opposing – it’s austerity all the way along the line.

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Cyber spies: once more on the Snowden affair


The revelations earlier this year by Edward Snowden re the Prism programme and the spying on the whole world by the US government through its National Security Agency (NSA), see Lalkar July/August 2013 edition, have just about been dropped by most imperialist media outlets, be it newspapers or TV news programmes, as a subject worthy of reporting on. This is doubtless in the hope that we will all go back to sleep and forget the, almost, beyond belief immensity of the scale of this crime against the world. Of course most people expect the US government, and the British one come to that, to be spying on political adversaries, trade-union members, single-issue campaigners, immigrants, foreign embassies, etc., and some even believe the official line that this is indeed necessary for ‘national security!’

The penny drops, however, with most of these people when they realise that spying is carried out against every other government, supposed friends as well as declared enemies and, every individual in the USA and Britain (along with many others) who ever uses a phone or a computer! The NSA doesn’t have to do all its own spying of course: the security services of Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, together with the US, make up what has come to be known as the “Five Eyes” shared intelligence services. These five imperialist powers share most of their information with each other and pass on to some other governments what they want them to know though we would be surprised if they don’t all ‘keep some back’ from each other as every imperialist is at the end of the day a competitor. It is also quite obvious that they spy on each other in order to try and access any snippets that are ‘kept back’. Such is the honour among these scoundrels.

The knowledge, given to us by Snowden, that even this vast capability to snoop that the NSA possesses is to be extended with the building of a bigger and better establishment for finding out what we are all doing has sent shivers down quite a few spines and sent most of the internet companies, even the giants among them, scurrying to find methods of blocking the NSA probes coming through the ether in order to keep their already compromised credibility with the billions of users who are looking for secure searching and messaging options.

There are already systems that claim to be secure for searching anonymously but some of those that previously offered secure emails have stopped offering that service after seeing Lavabit, a secure email service which was used by Snowden, close down its own operations instead of complying with U.S. government demands to turn over its ‘Secure Sockets Layer private key’. This act by Lavabit has been presented by some as a brave gesture and we are not saying that bravery wasn’t involved in the decision, but in reality what choice did they have? If they don’t give the key to the NSA they are closed down, and if they do nobody uses them any more because they are no longer secure, they go out of business anyway. At least closing yourself down means that those who were running Lavabit maintain their credibility when starting up some other associated internet venture and may even do very well in future from the celebrity status they will have.

The co-founder of one anonymous search provider, Casey Oppenheim of ‘Disconnect Search’, who launched an anonymous web search engine and saw 400,000 users pass through it in the first four days said ” In comparison to search surveillance, I’d probably rather have my phone tapped or my email tracked because I’m filtering myself when I communicate with others in those ways,” adding: “Most people don’t filter their searches and don’t understand how their queries are being tracked, saved, and turned into profiles that are associated with their real names and/or their IP address .” This profiling from internet searches is a worry for many users especially in the imperialist countries where visits to pornography, gambling, political or even abortion clinic websites can obviously leave someone open to blackmail. Even the building up a profile of shopping and various other perfectly legal interests through recording sites visited can create pictures of people which, when added to lists of associates by security/police services, can give very misleading views. We already know that unwise Facebook comments made online can land people in jail for various lengths of time both here and in the US, so these are not unfounded worries.

Chris Soghoian, the principal technologist and a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, pointed out the obvious saying: “NSA or other government agencies that demand secure communications companies install backdoors” (i.e., access to view the activity of one, some or all users) “are putting them in impossible positions“. This squeezing of these smaller, specialist internet companies, who are growing rapidly as users seek security from NSA blanket information gathering, is also affecting the internet big boys who must also try to develop secure services to compete in order to keep their users with them.

This is potentially putting a large and fairly powerful section of imperialism at loggerheads with the government that is supposed to represent it. Internet companies do not have the same clout as oil or arms giants but hackles are being raised among some of the bourgeoisie, as can be seen from the activities of some of the political whores of Washington.

Jim Sensenbrenner, who is described by the Guardian online, 10 October 2013, as a “conservative Republican” and who co-authored America’s Patriot Act as well as working with George W Bush to give more power to US intelligence agencies after September 11, now complains that the NSA has overstepped the mark in collecting telephone records on all Americans, and claims it is time “to put their metadata program out of business“. He is sponsoring a bill in the House of Representatives to curb the rights of security agencies to collect information, while a similar proposal is thought to be coming from Senate judiciary committee chair Patrick Leahy, a leading Democrat. It seems that the divide on this question may be across both of the bourgeoisie parties and possibly assist a split in America’s ruling class.

But whatever internal security problems are, coming on top of the capitalist crisis within the USA, the repercussions of the Snowden revelations abroad are also having serious consequences for American diplomatic and foreign policies.

Around the world many countries are now trying to develop systems to protect themselves from imperialist spying. Mostly this is assumed to be in countries that can expect military ‘problems’ from one or more of the blood-sucking imperialists, but even in Brazil, where there is no voiced expectation of violence from the US at present, they are having to create an email system intended to shield the government from NSA spying. The country will be voting on a cyber-security bill following revelations that the US spy network had infiltrated the highest levels of Brazil’s administration. The Brazilian newspaper, O Globo, has become very vocal after the discovery that the NSA gained access to the computer files of the state-run oil giant Petrobras and had even managed to hack into President Rousseff’s personal email account. Canada’s spying agency, one of the ‘five eyes‘, was also implicated in spying on the Brazilian Ministry of Mines. This spying on the industrial/governmental institutions of a nation that you are supposed to have friendly relations with proves, if anyone needed any more proof, that the imperialist state, in its dealings with other nations, is always looking to the economic and political interests of its own bourgeoisie. Profit not national security was the reason for this crime of espionage against another state, just as it is the drive for maximum profit that leads imperialism to wage bloody and murderous wars against other nations.

And yet, this time all this is being done from a position of weakness not strength. The ruling imperialist nations are gearing up to rip each other and everyone else to pieces to try to and save their disgusting system of bloated wealth for the few and obscene poverty for the many at the other end of the scale; but every bit of real resistance that they meet at home and abroad pushes them further towards the frenzied panic where mistakes are made.

Those under direct armed attack from the imperialists and their puppets have been doing an excellent job so far but now we in the imperialist lands must step up to play our part and work for the downfall of our rulers, not through pointless marches but by stopping the production of the necessities of their wars, halting the movement of weapons and troops, without which they cannot fight their bloody wars and, eventually, overthrow this repugnant system that must be ended to save the world and give future generations the chance to know genuine peace and well being.

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Hands off Somalia!


A comment on the September attack upon Nairobi’s prestigious Westgate Mall

September witnessed a bloody attack by between ten and fifteen Al-Shabaab militants upon Nairobi’s prestigious Westgate Mall, a partly Israeli-owned complex which offers the country’s elite and well-heeled tourists the “supreme experience of shopping“. The rescue operation stretched over several days and concluded with a death toll estimated at over seventy, with many wounded and unaccounted for.

The attack appeared to have been meticulously planned, with some reports suggesting that machine guns had earlier been smuggled into the shopping centre and stashed in a shop rented for that purpose. By contrast, the response of state security was marked by incompetence and corruption, with different spokesmen unable to agree a consistent narrative as events unfolded. The collapse of three storeys of the Mall, causing many of the casualties, was at first attributed to the militants burning mattresses in order to create a diversion, then later to a suicide bomb. Unofficial reports disagreed, suggesting that in fact the collapse had been caused by the security forces firing rocket-propelled grenades indoors. Further doubt was thrown on the competence and integrity of the security forces when it emerged that, even as the siege dragged on, thousands of dollars worth of jewellery and electronic equipment was being looted by persons unknown.

This act of terror attracted a good deal of lurid media attention and handwringing. What was missing from most coverage however was any serious attempt to explain how such an event came about in the first place. The impression given was that this destruction had come out of a clear blue sky, a completely random and motiveless outrage perpetrated by evil Muslim bombers against an unsuspecting civilian population.

The moral outrage which greeted the slaughter of three or four score unfortunate Nairobi shoppers contrasted starkly with the resounding silence from the same quarters concerning the many thousands of Somali men, women and children who have died, and continue to die, as a result of over thirty years of imperialist meddling in the Horn of Africa, culminating in the current occupation and attempted break-up of Somalia by Kenyan, Ethiopian and other African forces acting shamefully on behalf of the British, US and French imperialist powers.

Kenyan invasion

Yet even in the imperialist media, glimpses of reality could not be completely avoided. Whatever may be thought about Al Shabaab’s tactics and ideology, nobody can claim to be in doubt about their motives after the very clear statements its spokesman offered in an interview with Channel 4 News. These statements had little to say about religious matters, but plenty to say about defending the unity and independence of Somalia and resisting imperialism.

“The reason we attacked is to defend our people, our country, because Kenya attacked us, they are still controlling parts of our land. We have been peaceful neighbours, but they are the ones who attacked us and we are defending ourselves. Whether you are Muslim or Christian, the law says you have to defend yourself from those who attack you… We have told the Kenyans and those who come to Kenya that we will not tolerate what Kenya is doing to us. We told them we would defend ourselves and we warned them about travelling to Kenya. Kenyans have blood on their hands. Anyone who is prepared to come to Kenya must be prepared to face the reality, and we don’t fear Europeans and Americans because we are not weak. And we are saying to the Europeans and the Americans who have been supporting those who have been attacking us, you should tell the Kenyans to stop their aggression if you want to be safe… We are saying to the British, since we believe they are helping the Kenyans, and Kenyans are their slaves, they should tell the Kenyans, they should order back the Kenyan army out of Somalia.”

Contrary to Kenyan government assertions that the illegal invasion by some 4,000 of its troops in October 2011 was triggered by a spate of cross-border abductions allegedly carried out by Al-Shabaab, a cable released by WikiLeaks makes clear that the invasion had been planned for at least the previous two years, and always had as its goal the creation of an artificial Jubaland buffer state. Whilst Kenya presents this as a defensive measure to protect its shipping and tourism from destabilisation, it should be noted that the Jubaland area sits on a large body of untapped oil, and that it is Somalia which has itself been the longstanding victim of destabilisation by imperialism and its cowardly allies. The so-called “Jubaland Initiative” is in fact part of a much wider plan to balkanize the country, just as has already started to happen with the earlier establishment of another pretend statelet in the North East, “Puntland“, under whose auspices the Canadian company Africa Oil has already begun drilling.

Unlike Uganda’s invasion of 2007, which took the precaution of covering its naked aggression with the fig leaf of UN approval and going in under the banner of the African Union Mission (Amisom), Kenya did not even bother with these niceties. Indeed, the government did not trouble to seek approval from its own parliament, as the country’s constitution requires. The government of the then prime minister Raila Odinga, Washington’s faithful friend in Nairobi, was confident that the “international community” would soon enough offer its retrospective blessing. Sure enough the invading Kenyan forces were then allowed to huddle under the Amisom umbrella, alongside forces from Uganda, Djibouti and Sierra Leone, crucially backed up by the French navy and by drones flying out of US bases in Ethiopia and Djibouti. The Kenyan forces, with much help from the West, managed to drive Al Shabaab from the important southern seaport of Kismayu, thereby helping Amisom to consolidate its grip on Mogadishu.

From the outset the puppet Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has been racked with internal dissensions, provoking Hillary Clinton to wring her hands over “people inside and outside the TFG who seek to undermine Somalia’s peace and security or to delay or even prevent the political transition”. The TFG (lately rebranded as the Somali Federal Government), whose writ barely runs beyond the confines of Mogadishu itself, with vast swathes of the rural population still looking to Al-Shabaab for leadership in resisting foreign aggression, felt its shaky “national” pretensions further challenged by the sight of Somalia’s Kenyan neighbours throwing their weight around in the south. A leaked diplomatic letter from the SFG accused the Kenyans of deviating from their supposed role as “neutral peacekeepers” by backing one Somali faction against others, arresting a senior Somali army officer and using heavy weaponry against civilians.

Kenya in fact is doing no more and no less than is intended by its paymasters in the West. By playing on clan rivalries in the region in order to annex a ” buffer state“, they are assisting the imperialist strategy of balkanising the country, the better to suck it dry of its oil and keep it weak and divided. Sure enough, in August this year the SFG was pressured into signing an agreement with the warlord Ahmed Madobe, whose Ras Kamboni militia have been acting as Kenya’s hired guns, opening the way to the invention of a clan-based Jubaland statelet.

The ICC: “a farcical pantomime

Such conflicts erupting between competing flunkeys of imperialism, in the process exposing Washington’s crass efforts at recolonising Africa, are compounded by its misfiring plans within Kenya itself. Thinking to have guaranteed the electoral triumph of Odinga’s US-friendly government by prevailing on the International Criminal Court to have his rival Uhuru Kenyatta up on charges relating to electoral violence back in 2007, the Obama administration was truly gobsmacked to see Uhuru Kenyatta sail to victory by a comfortable majority. Whereas the October 2011 invasion of Somalia had been presided over by a regime meeting Washington’s approval, the blowback from the invasion is now being handled by a government led by men whom Washington was only yesterday wanting to see banged up. The African Union, painfully aware of the key role played by Kenya in Amisom’s struggle to suppress Al-Shabaab, has hastily declared that no sitting head of state should be prosecuted by an international tribunal.

Mr Kenyatta’s response to the Westgate Mall massacre was as one would expect from the leader of a nation which has just suffered a major terror offensive, but time alone will tell with what degree of eagerness the new administration in Nairobi will warm to the counter-insurgency role Washington has reserved for the Kenyan military. The fact that, more than ten years into its life, the ICC has indicted only African suspects might make more than one African leader think twice about the wisdom of entrusting the fate of African nations to the tender mercies of the “international community“.

As Mr Kenyatta told the African Union in closed session, the ICC “has been reduced into a painfully farcical pantomime, a travesty that adds insult to the injury of victims,” adding that it “stopped being the home of justice the day it became the toy of declining imperial powers.” The United States itself refuses to ratify the ICC and holds a veto in the UNSC, hoping never to be held to account for its war crimes in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, to mention only the most recent in its long criminal history.

Somalia: a history of oppression and resistance

Shortly after gaining its independence, Somalia sought to follow a progressive path, looking to the Soviet Union for protection and embracing a socialist orientation. Sadly, the country fell prey to the blandishments of US imperialism, falling for promises of economic and military support in exchange for its assistance in 1978 in attacking progressive Ethiopia. The just rebuff suffered at the hands of Ethiopian and Cuban forces sparked an extended economic and political crisis, resulting in 1991 in the collapse of the Siad Barre government. Looking to capitalise on the resultant vacuum, Washington in 1992 sent 12,000 marines to invade. The ensuing occupation awoke the spirit of national resistance. The uprising against occupation which erupted in 1993 culminated the following year with the occupation forces being driven out at gunpoint, a massive humiliation for the US and its allies despite their overwhelmingly superior firepower.

Out of this reborn spirit of national resistance, and in the teeth of all the meddling and bullying from the Washington, Paris and London, there emerged a unifying force in the form of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). For a brief spell, from 2000 to 2006, a degree of stability and order was restored to the country. To the great relief of Mogadishu citizens the streets were cleaned again, rubbish was collected, the seaport was reopened, planes could once more fly in and out of Mogadishu International and measures were taken to curb piracy.

Stung by the refusal of Somalia to resign itself to the imposed status of a “failed state“, the West decided to punish the country from a safe distance, backing the 2007 invasion and occupation by Ethiopia, a country which had itself by now fallen back into neo-colonial tutelage, in a bloody campaign that cost countless lives.

Two years of brutal occupation also saw Somalia plunged back into yet another devastating famine. Uncle Sam is a past master at manipulating the supply of food aid to reward its friends and punish its enemies, the very practice of which the media like to accuse Al-Shabaab. A UN report says that between 2010 and 2012 at least a quarter of a million Somalis starved to death. Many of those were people fleeing the invasion and occupation of the south by Ethiopia and Amison. Drought caused the famine, but US policy multiplied the death toll, first by sponsoring the invasion which drove people from their lands and then by cutting off food aid to anywhere Al-Shabaab had influence – i.e. all over the rural areas. According to Ken Menkhaus, professor of Political Science at Davidson College in North Carolina, the US’s anti-terror laws were used to obstruct assistance from reaching famine victims in desperate need of aid. Speaking in a seminar at Helsinki University, he said humanitarian organisations suspended food aid delivery to drought-struck areas controlled by Al-Shabaab for fear of violating the USA Patriot Act.

Under the double impact of military force and engineered famine, the ICU lost ground and was driven back. Resistance did not cease, however. The role of national resistance effectively devolved to those elements of the ICU which refused the path of collaboration. The struggle was taken up in particular by the youth – or, in Arabic, “Al-Shabaab“.

When the Ethiopian occupation ended in 2009, Washington made sure there was in place an “internationally recognised” puppet government to try to keep the lid on the resistance and act in a comprador role. Whilst some elements of the ICU opted to collaborate with these puppets, others continued to take the path of resistance, notably including Al-Shabaab. The youth wing of the ICU now took up the resistance struggle, declaring war against the “transitional” government and demanding the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Somali soil. There are currently estimated to be some 25,000 such foreign troops in Somalia under the banner of Amisom.

British imperialism

Nobody should underestimate the role of Britain in all this, although its current military involvement remains shadowy. As a former colonial power it is no stranger to the practice of oppression, and as a monopoly capitalist power with an overweening need to plunder resources and dominate markets it is right up there with the US, France and Israel.

Whilst many on the left find it more comfortable to characterise British imperialism as “a poodle of America“, the reality is that British imperialism is not simply led astray by the US but actively pursues its own blood-stained agenda. Back in February 2012 David Cameron hosted an international conference in London, ostensibly to talk about “rebuilding” Somalia – code for dividing up the spoils. The conference included all the big imperialist powers, plus the UN’s Ban Ki-moon and a token representative of the puppet Somali “government”. We commented at the time that “The British spearheading of the conference is due in no small part to the aggressive manoeuvring of Britain’s own oil multinational, BP, which clearly hopes to play a major role in tapping in to Somalia’s substantial oil reserves. To aid the corporation in this ambition, the British government has worked hard to create close ties with the ‘Transitional Federal Government’. A representative from the TFG in Puntland told the Observer: ‘We have spoken to a number of UK officials, some have offered to help us with the future management of oil revenues. They will help us build our capacity to maximise future earnings from the oil industry … We need those with the necessary technical knowhow, we plan to talk to BP at the right time.'” (Proletarian, April 2012)

Nor should we fail to note that the very guns which were turned upon the hapless shoppers in Nairobi were in all likelihood an overspill from the flood of lethal weaponry poured into the hands of counterrevolutionaries in Libya and Syria, with the active assistance of the same British government which is supposedly tasked with the protection of its own citizens. How this task is furthered by first violating Somalia’s sovereignty and then furnishing its outraged citizens with the means of launching a revenge attack is a question that should be addressed to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The future for Somalia

What form Somalia’s national struggle will take going forward is as yet unclear. Some reports suggest that within Al-Shabaab itself there is tension between those whose primary focus remains the national defence of Somalia against imperialist oppression and others who are seduced by feudalist pipedreams about establishing a universal caliphate under theocratic rule. Whilst it is the case that some of the most spirited resistance to imperialism has clothed itself in mullah’s robes, recent experience in Syria and Egypt serves as a painful reminder of the limitations such feudal ideology imposes upon the struggle, leaving such movements vulnerable to manipulation by imperialism. One has only to consider the counterrevolutionary role played by Al Qaeda in Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the jihadists in the northern Sinai to understand the self-defeating perils to which this flawed ideology can expose the struggle against imperialism.

But whatever form it may take, it is certain that Somalia’s national struggle will not cease. It is the incurable crisis of monopoly capitalism which is behind Washington’s feverish efforts to reverse a hundred years of historical development and recolonise the continent of Africa. And it is the oppressed masses of the world who cannot but press forward to confound these colonial aspirations, with the full force of history at their backs.

Hands off Somalia!

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Grangemouth Fiasco

Unite abdicates leadership

The capitulation by Unite to the so-called “survival programme” bulldozed through at Grangemouth by Ineos is a black day for workers everywhere. The terms of the surrender are galling to read: a three year pay freeze, a three-year abstention from strikes, the imposition of inferior pension arrangements and a ban on fulltime union convenors.

Unite had been active in defence of a union official facing victimisation by the company, a dispute which led to the threat of strike action. And the union continued to lead from the front when faced with the ultimatum from Ineos: Desist from striking and consent to punitive new contracts, or face the summary closure of the petro-chemical plant with the loss of 800 jobs. In words at least, Unite stood firm against this intimidation, actively encouraging staff not to return the new contract consent forms to management, instructing them instead to send them unsigned to the union office. This forthright approach encouraged militants to believe that the union was serious about taking on Ineos.

But then, when Ineos called its bluff, pressing ahead with closure, Unite leaders simply folded, prepared to sign up to anything to avoid this outcome. Where only days earlier the union had been emphasizing the strength of feeling in the plant in favour of industrial action, now the official statement piously noted that “decent men and women are being asked to make sacrifices to hold on to their jobs“, but that since this sacrifice was “the clear wish of our members“, then so be it!

This cocktail of adventurism and capitulation is the last thing workers in struggle need to hear right now. It is one thing to retreat in good order and live to fight another day. It is another to go down to the wire, do a complete flip flop then cheerfully proclaim, with Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty that ” Relief will ring right round the Grangemouth community, and across Scotland today. Hundreds of jobs that would have been lost can now be saved and £300m will be invested into the plant .”

It is far from certain that even this shameful retreat, a retreat which cannot but lower the union’s credibility to an all-time low, will now suffice to slake Ineos’s insatiable hunger for profits. Whilst Alex Salmond bobs up to say that ” now we can all agree that Grangemouth has an outstanding future” and Grangemouth boss Calum MacLean smarms that ” What we have now done is given the chemicals business another 15 to 20 years on the back of new raw materials, new contracts and significant investment ,” the founder and chair of Ineos Jim Ratcliffe measures his words more carefully, claiming that Grangemouth “should have a life for many years to come, as long as we can get this gas terminal built and we can sign up gas contracts and bring gas in from America” (emphasis added). To this list of provisos should be added: so long as enough subsidy can be screwed out of British taxpayers, so long as the plentiful supply of cheap shale gas from the US remains constant in the endless flux of energy pricing, so long as the global overcapacity in the refining sector permits, and so long as (in short) a more tasty asset-stripping opportunity does not present itself some place else.

The Grangemouth complex works like this. North Sea oil is delivered to the refinery for processing. The waste products from this process are then delivered to the nearby petrochemical works, where they are used in the production of plastic and drugs. The petrochemical works only works at 60% capacity, in part because of the relatively low ethane content in North Sea oil. Ineos hopes to increase production by ending its reliance on the Forties field and piping in cheap shale gas from the US. But the petro-chemical works will have to be tooled up to deal with that kind of feedstock, and that costs a lot. If the petro-chemical works were to fail, then the refinery would likely follow suit. At the moment it generates revenue from the waste products it supplies to its petro-chemical neighbour. If that neighbouring plant closes down, the refinery will face a choice: either flare off the waste (and watch profits go up in smoke) or try to export it (and face cut-throat competition from the US). And a refinery with thinning profit margins is unlikely to prosper in a refining sector dogged globally by overcapacity. European refineries have been going down like ninepins as Asian and Middle Eastern refineries increase their market share.

These are facts of monopoly capitalist life in times of imperialist crisis. We need to understand these facts in order to understand the character of our enemy, and not pretend to ourselves that capitalism can be pressured into caring a fig about how, when or if millions of households in Scotland and the north of England are to be kept heated and lighted, let alone what standard of living its own workforce can expect to see going forward.

As Lalkar noted in an article back in 2008, “Ineos is not primarily an oil company at all, but rather a chemical business which has become the biggest company of its kind in the UK by the expedient of acquisitions and asset-stripping – as witness its annexation of Grangemouth from BP’s business empire in 2005. As the merger frenzy of imperialism intensifies, it matters less and less precisely what commodity is being produced, so long as the concentration of capital and capacity in ever fewer hands succeeds in stealing market share from rivals and screwing maximum surplus value out of the workforce. The absorption and gutting by Ineos of the unwanted operations of better-known corporate giants like BP, ICI, Unilever, Dow Chemicals and Union Carbide, using high yield bonds to finance the deals, has secured its place as the world’s third largest chemical company, employing over 16,000 workers in twenty different countries. It has an annual turnover of £22.6 billion.”

Unite informs us that the company’s sales have risen by over 50% in the past year, gross profits are up 20%, its operating profits are 56%, and it made a profit of £2bn last year. But the notion that Ineos could quite happily thrive on a marginally less obscene profit margin is just a comforting illusion. Such illusions are eagerly embraced by “left” social democracy, for they point in the direction of a reformist solution, requiring only a little regulatory tinkering. The reality however is that it is insufficient for the monopoly capitalist to make huge profits: he needs to make maximum profits – or face extinction at the hands of his no less ruthless competitors.

After the event, having signed up to what he describes as the “warts and all” agreement, McCluskey complains that ” We have a situation where a company has come along and has put down an ultimatum and we have to respond to the ultimatum. That’s not the way 21st century industrial relations should be conducted .” But that is the very essence of how crisis-period industrial relations are conducted, and rather than lament the fact it behoves unions to recognise that fact, raise their game and start conducting themselves less like auxiliaries of the Labour party and more like the organs of class resistance of which the working class are so sorely in need.

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