Archive | December 21st, 2013

Activist linked to Lee Rigby killer has passport confiscated: Leader of Islamic pressure group stopped at Heathrow Airport amid claims of terrorism

NOVANEWS
  • Moazzam Begg, a former Gunatanamo Bay inmate, had documents taken
  • Home Office said it was ‘not in the public interest’ for him to keep a passport
  • The department suspects he was involved in terrorist activities in Syria
  • Mr Begg’s group, CagePrisoners, has worked with Woolwich murderer Michael Adebolajo
By ROBERT VERKAIK FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY

21 December 2013

Links to killer: Moazzam Begg, was formerly held in Guantanamo Bay, and was stripped of his passport earlier this week

Links to killer: Moazzam Begg, was formerly held in Guantanamo Bay, and was stripped of his passport earlier this week

The head of an Islamic pressure group linked to one of Lee Rigby’s murderers has been stripped of his passport amid claims that he is involved in terrorism.

Moazzam Begg, a former inmate of Guantanamo Bay, was stopped at Heathrow Airport last week after returning from a visit to South Africa.

He was told that it was ‘not in  the public interest’ for him to keep his passport as the Home Office suspected him of being involved in terrorist activities following his visit to Syria last year.

The move came two days before Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale were convicted. Mr Begg’s group, CagePrisoners, had been working with Adebolajo and his family. 

The killer had gone to the charity’s East London headquarters last year to seek assistance, complaining that  he and his brother Jeremiah were being harassed by the security services.

However, as The Mail on Sunday revealed in June, MI6 paid Jeremiah thousands of pounds as part of spying operations in the Middle East.

Last night Mr Begg said he believed the Home Office was trying to discredit him after he gave evidence to an inquiry into Britain’s alleged complicity in rendition and torture – and that his passport seizure had nothing to do with the Woolwich murders.

‘I didn’t meet him [Adebolajo], it was other people at CagePrisoners who met him,’ he said. 

‘I have consistently been asking for the intelligence and security services to be held to account for complicity in torture and rendition. It is more logical that is the reason I’ve had my passport confiscated.’

Mr Begg said that he gave evidence to Sir Peter Gibson, who last week concluded that British agents had turned a ‘blind eye’ to the torture of detainees in foreign jails. 

Mr Begg told The Mail on Sunday that he was stopped after returning from South Africa to commemorate the death of Nelson Mandela. He said he was pulled to one side by two plainclothes security officials who said that ‘having a passport was not a right and that they were using Royal Prerogative powers to take it away’. 

MI6 connection: Mail on Sunday story from June

MI6 connection: Mail on Sunday story from June

A Home Office order given to Mr Begg stated that it was not in the public interest for him to have a passport as he had been assessed as being involved in terrorist activity because of his Syria visit.

But Mr Begg told The Mail on Sunday that he had visited Aleppo to investigate the rendition and torture of Syrian and other nationals, gathering evidence against the UK and America.

He said the visit had been cleared by MI5, who thanked him for telling them about it and assured him that he would have no trouble visiting Syria.

The Home Office declined to comment on an individual case, but said the Royal Prerogative power ‘disrupts individuals who seek to travel on a British passport toengage in terrorism-related or other serious criminal activity abroad which impacts on the UK’.

 

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Nasrallah raises stakes in political standoff

NOVANEWS
The Daily Star
Hezbollah supporters wave flags as they attend a ceremony in Beirut's southern suburbs, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
 

Hezbollah supporters wave flags as they attend a ceremony in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

 BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah warned Friday against forming a fait accompli Cabinet, while prodding the rival political factions to cooperate to avoid a presidential vacuum by electing a new head of state.

He also implicitly accused Saudi Arabia of seeking to destabilize Lebanon in response to what he said was the failure of Riyadh’s plans in Syria, where Hezbollah’s fighters are battling alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces against armed rebels.

Nasrallah accused Israel of being responsible for this month’s assassination of a top Hezbollah commander, Hassan Hawlo al-Lakkis, and vowed to avenge the killing.

In a televised speech at a commemoration ceremony for Lakkis held at a Hezbollah complex in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Nasrallah appeared to reject any bid to extend President Michel Sleiman’s six-year-term in office when it expires on May 25, 2014, by calling for the election of a new president.

“We in Hezbollah categorically reject a vacuum [in the presidency]. The only alternative [to a vacuum] is the election of a president for the post,” Nasrallah said via a video link.

Despite deep national divisions over the 32-month war in Syria, he said the Lebanese had “a historic chance” today and were fully capable with a Lebanese will of electing their president away from foreign influence.

“They have a margin of internal freedom which they did not have in the past because of the regional events,” Nasrallah said, referring to the ongoing war in Syria. “It is important to have a new president in May.”

Nasrallah dismissed March 14’s demand to form a neutral government as an “act of deception.” He warned against a fait accompli government and reiterated March 8 calls for the formation of a national unity Cabinet.

“We still believe in the need for forming an all-embracing national government because a neutral government is a government of deception,” he said.

The Future Movement and its March 14 allies have vowed not to join Hezbollah in a new government before the party withdraws its fighters from Syria and abides by the Baabda Declaration.

Nasrallah also implicitly accused Saudi Arabia of seeking to destabilize Lebanon over its failure in Syria.

“I am concerned that there is someone somewhere in this region who, as a result of his anger, hatred, failure and the closure of [opportunities] in his face, has reached a stage [that he is willing to] push the country toward a [military flare-up],” he said.

Nasrallah vowed Hezbollah would avenge the killing of Lakkis, saying evidence collected by the group indicated Israel was behind the assassination.

“The assassination of Hajj Hassan al-Lakkis is not a passing incident between us and the Israelis and nobody should think that,” he said. “The Israelis think Hezbollah is busy [with Syria’s war] and with the situation in Lebanon … I tell them: ‘You’re making a mistake.’”

Nasrallah also defended Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria, saying that the battle in the neighboring country was existential.

“No matter what the pressure is piled on us, we will not change our position on the Syrian crisis because the battle in Syria in our view is existential, not only for Hezbollah, but also for Syria, Lebanon and Palestine,” he said.

Nasrallah also spoke about his rivals in the March 14 coalition, saying the group had recently adopted a “very dangerous, unprecedented rhetoric,” amounting to “a declaration of war” against Hezbollah.

He was referring to a Future Movement rally in the northern city of Tripoli last Sunday during which Future and March 14 lawmakers blasted Hezbollah, accusing it of seeking to put Lebanon under Iran’s influence.

“March 14 is saying that they will never join a dialogue table with us or form a government with us … This can be understood as a declaration of war because they did not set a line of retreat,” Nasrallah said. “If this is true, then tell us. We don’t want to go to war with you … Our battle is with Israel. But no one should play with us.”

Future MP Ahmad Fatfat blasted Nasrallah, saying his remarks amounted to a declaration of war against the March 14 coalition.

“Sayyed Nasrallah’s speech is clearly very serious and in practice is a declaration of war on the March 14 parties,” Fatfat said in a TV interview. He said Nasrallah’s view of the “Tripoli declaration” as a call to war was tantamount to “a takfiri logic” by Hezbollah. “ Hezbollah has encouraged the takfiris to come to Lebanon … We are entering a very dangerous stage,” Fatfat added.

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Syria views Saudi Arabia as number one enemy

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English Ahram
Assad, Saudi King Abdullah

File Photo: Saudi King Abdullah, right, and Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, look on during a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman in Beirut on July 30, 2010. (File Photo: AP)

Syria now views Saudi Arabia as its number one enemy and accuses it of trying to destroy the country by arming jihadists and other rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.The oil-rich Gulf monarchies have sided with the opposition from the start of Syria’s conflict in March 2011, with Riyadh leading calls for the fall of Assad.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad told AFP this week that Saudi Arabia was providing unfettered support for “terrorist groups” in Syria, while other nations had reviewed their positions.

“I think that all those who supported these terrorist groups have the feeling now that they have made big mistakes,” Muqdad said in an interview on Thursday, referring to the rebels seeking to topple Assad.

“The only party who is declaring the full support to the terrorist groups, to Al-Qaeda, is Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Muqdad urged the world to press Saudi Arabia to halt its support for the rebels, to prevent what he said was “another 11 September incident”.

“I think that if the world wants to avoid another 11 September incident, they must start telling Saudi Arabia ‘enough is enough’,” he said, referring to Al-Qaeda’s 2001 attacks on the US.

Earlier this month, Assad’s government urged the United Nations to take a stand against Saudi support for Islamist groups whose influence has grown on the battlefield.

“We call on the UN Security Council to take the necessary measures to put an end to the unprecedented actions of the Saudi regime, which is supporting takfiri (Sunni extremist) terrorism tied to Al-Qaeda,” the foreign ministry said in a message to UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

It was the first time the Syrian government has appealed to the international body to take action against Riyadh.

“Saudi Arabia is not content to merely send weapons and to finance but also mobilises extremist terrorists and sends them to kill the Syrian people,” the Syrian message said.

Saudi-Syrian relations had been tense for years, long before the start of the brutal conflict that has now killed an estimated 126,000 people.

The Sunni-ruled kingdom severed diplomatic relations with Damascus following the February 2005 assassination in Beirut of Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri who had close ties with Riyadh.

Four years later, diplomatic ties resumed and Assad, who belongs to the Alawite Shiite sect, paid an official visit to Riyadh in March 2009.

Saudi King Abdullah, who rarely embarks on official visits abroad, reciprocated in October that year and made a landmark visit to Damascus to seal ties.

But relations deteriorated from the onset of the Syria war and were finally severed, with Riyadh repeatedly calling for the end of Assad’s regime.

Saudi officials have simultaneously chided the West for its reluctance to intervene militarily on the side of the armed opposition.

On Tuesday, the Saudi ambassador to Britain, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz, published in The New York Times a bluntly worded assessment of the West’s policies on Syria and Iran.

“We believe that many of the West’s policies on both Iran and Syria risk the stability and security of the Middle East,” he wrote in the commentary.

The senior diplomat said Saudi Arabia has “global responsibilities”, both political and economic, and vowed it will continue to support the rebel Free Syrian Army and opposition fighters.

“We will act to fulfil these responsibilities, with or without the support of our Western partners,” wrote the ambassador.

He also acknowledged the threat of Al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria, arguing however that the best way to counter the rise of extremists among the rebels was to support the “champions of moderation”.

Muqdad on Thursday told AFP that “Saudi Arabia should be put on the list of countries supporting terrorism.”

Outside regime circles, there is also growing animosity towards Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this month, a film which depicts the Saudi royal family in an unflattering light was screened at the Damascus opera house.

“It was important for me to show this movie,” said director Najdat Anzour of his “The King of Sands” movie, which opens with Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on the US.

“Al-Qaeda didn’t come from Mars but from Saudi Arabia, from the Wahhabi, extremist way of thinking,” Anzour told AFP.

Anzour said a Saudi cleric has issued a fatwa, Islamic decree, authorising his killing.

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The choice: abject poverty or domestic servitude

NOVANEWS
Domestic workers protesting

By Graham Peebles

They work as maids, housekeepers, cleaners. They take care of children, the elderly and the infirm for wealthy and middle class families in rich and upwardly mobile nations. They are found throughout the world: in the G20 countries and the Gulf states, Latin America (where they account for 60 per cent of internal and international migrants), and developing countries in Africa and Asia where vast numbers of poor and vulnerable live alongside the privileged few. They walk the dogs, iron the designer shirts, and collect the privately educated children from school in London and New York. They clean the homes and are on 24-hour call to comfort the elderly in Paris and Dubai, Kuwait City and Tokyo. They cook and serve in Singapore City, Delhi and Moscow.

They are the domestic workers of the world: essential employees, numbering anything between 53 and 100 million people (excluding children), 83 per cent of whom are women. And, due to a range of social and economic factors, including demographic, social and employment trends, an aging population in many regions, more women working outside the home, the decline in state provision of care, and grinding poverty in many source countries, their numbers are growing. Between the mid-1990s and 2010, there was an increase of more than 19 million domestic workers worldwide, the International Labour Organization (ILO) states. Demand is particularly strong in North America, wealthier Asian countries such as Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea, and in many Arab States.

They live outside the economic growth bubble in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, as well as India, Bangladesh and Nepal, and to a lesser degree the Horn of Africa countries of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. They constitute around 8 per cent of the total worldwide female workforce, a figure which swells up to 27 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean. But the region with the highest number of migrant domestic workers as a percentage of the total workforce is the Persian/Arabian Gulf where it is almost one in three:, and where mistreatment and abuse are widespread and labour laws for domestics are among the weakest in the world.

Legally neglected, socially maligned

Universally undervalued, domestic work is unregulated and poorly paid. In Latin America, for example, the average income is 60 per cent lower than for women employed in other areas, and often the tiny salary is not paid. Human Rights Watch (HRW) records that “unpaid wages – for months and sometimes years – are one of the most common labour abuses faced by domestic workers”. Employers withhold wages, HRW states, to prevent “workers leaving to find alternative employment”. Workers often work excessively long hours without breaks, days off or holidays, and live-in staff are considered on call 24 hours, seven days a week. They may be confined to the house of their employer for months or even years on end, making them extremely vulnerable to mistreatment. Such exploitation is particularly widespread within the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries, where the widely condemned kafala sponsorship system is employed. This creates a power imbalance between worker and employer by effectively granting ownership of the migrant to the sponsor, endorsing modern-day slavery.

Many governments do not regard domestic service as “work”, and conveniently exclude the millions providing indispensable care from national labour laws, thus offering them no protection. In Egyp,t for example, where there are 245,000 domestic workers, they are completely excluded from any legislation; Israel offers no legal framework for workers; in Lebanon, where 200,000 migrant domestics live and work, they are routinely denied their rights. In fact, only 10 per cent of domestic workers worldwide “are covered by general labour legislation to the same extent as other workers, [and] more than one quarter are completely excluded from national labour legislation” all together, according to the ILO report. And in the few countries that do provide legislative protection, enforcement is poor or non-existent. Officials often dismiss domestics’ complaints and reports of mistreatment.

In an attempt to rectify this legal injustice, in 2011 the ILO adopted the Domestic Workers Convention 189. The treaty – long overdue – offers protection to those in domestic service equivalent to workers in other sectors. The groundbreaking accord, which entered into legal force on 5 September 2013, covers the basic areas of employment, such as pay and hours of work, social security entitlement, health and safety, as well as specific issues relating to migrant work, such as withholding passports by employers. It also outlaws the deduction of agency fees from salaries, which causes many women to fall into debt bondage. The lack of legal support for domestic workers, particularly for migrants, creates opportunities for trafficking (the second most widespread and profitable organized criminal activity in the world), leading to sexual enslavement and forced labour.

Without ratification and implementation by national governments, the ILO pact means nothing. If implemented – and all pressure should be brought to bear on states to do so – domestic workers would for the first time have protection in, and recourse to, international law. To date, 10 countries have ratified the treaty, with more in the process of completion. Inevitably, governments in Asia and the Middle East (where some of the worse abuse occurs) have not signed up. There is, however, a new and powerful force active throughout the world: people power is the generic term often applied to this worldwide movement of collective action. In a positive sign of the times, The International Trade Union Confederation reports that

@@Labour leaders from more than 40 countries met in Montevideo from 26 to 28 October to establish the International Domestic Workers Federation to organize domestic workers worldwide, share strategies across regions and advocate for their rights… In the past two years, 25 countries improved legal protections for domestic workers, with many of the strongest reforms in Latin America.@@

Sri Lanka, according to Al-Jazeera, has banned its nationals under the age of 25 from working as maids in Saudi Arabia after a Sri Lankan maid was beheaded last year for allegedly killing a Saudi baby she was tasked with caring for, something she denied. Similar disputes have occurred between Indonesia and Qatar, Indonesia and Kuwait, and Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates. Last year Nepal banned women under 30 from working in Gulf countries due to abuse by employers, and the Ethiopian government, responding to wide-ranging abuse suffered by many domestic workers, has recently “banned its citizens from travelling abroad to look for work, because [according to the regime]… Ethiopians had lost their lives or undergone untold physical and psychological trauma because of illegal trafficking”, the BBC reports. While such steps reflect the concern now being shown by certain governments, the movement of migrants living in extreme poverty from countries where there are no employment opportunities is unlikely to be affected by such bans.

Vulnerable, exploited and abused

Some of the millions in domestic service throughout the world are lucky and are treated well, but very many are not. Physical, psychological and sexual abuse at the hands of employers is widespread. Domestic workers interviewed by HRW have reported a “barrage of verbal and psychological abuse as well as physical violence from their employers, ranging from slaps to severe burnings and beatings using hot irons, shoes, belts, sticks, electrical cords and other household items.” Sexual harassment and violence by recruiters and employers’ family members is also a risk.

Phally migrated from Cambodia to Malaysia in 2010. Upon arrival, according to the International Domestic Workers Network,

her passport was handed over to her Malaysian agency. Her employer [a 60 year old man] made her work at his house and his shoe shop in Ipoh, Perak, she only slept between four and six hours daily [and] was not paid her monthly salary. After two months, her employer started to rape her. He would also ask her to sit next to him and watch television and then demand to have sex with her. When she refused, he would beat her.

Such distressing accounts are commonplace. Tenaganita, a Malaysian women’s group that campaigns for the rights of migrant workers, says that up to “three million women migrant workers have been lured into the country [Malaysia]. But many now find themselves suffering the most appalling abuses and are detained in camps as undesirables”.

Within the Gulf states (including Yemen), physical abuse and barbaric mistreatment of migrant domestic workers is, it seems, endemic. Emirates 24/7 reports the barbaric story of the Saudi employer of a Sri Lankan maid who hammered 19 heated nails into her body. The nails were in her arms, legs and forehead. She said that the husband and wife couple who employed her regularly beat her up and their seven children threatened to kill her.” The chairperson of Gabriela UAE, a chapter of a Philippines women’s group working in the Gulf state, relays that “housemaids are classified like slaves”. She related the case of a young domestic worker: “The sponsor didn’t [pay] her salary for almost eight months and he was trying to rape the girl,” who in fear of her life “was sleeping with a knife under her pillow,” reports Middle East Voices.

Agents working in source countries promise legitimate well-paid employment, but all too often betray the innocent and trusting (and their impoverished families), and with their partners in the destination state, sell them into slavery.

Sreekala from India worked in Kuwait in 2010, Equal Times reports. Upon arrival the “recruitment” agent sold her for 30 dinars (105 US dollars) to an Arab man who denied her food, beat her and forced her to work “long working hours until 02.00 a.m. and locked her in the house when the employer went on holiday.” She was completely isolated and repeatedly threatened by her employer, who said: “If they killed me, they could disguise my death as a car accident or by saying that I fell over”.

In addition to women, there are hundreds of thousands of young girls employed in domestic work. The average age of children employed is between 12 and 17 years; however, some are as young as five and a “third (3.5 million) are between ages five and 11 years”. There are thought to be 175,000 under 18 year-olds working in Central America and a staggering 688,000 in Indonesia alone, ILO reports. Alarmingly, while child labour is falling in other sectors, the numbers of children in domestic work has increased, growing by 9 per cent between 2008 and 2012, according to HRW report. Many employers prefer children; they pay them less and find them easier to control and, let us add, exploit. HRW reports that in Indonesia, for example, “child domestic workers interviewed earned 0.02-0.05 dollars an hour, which was one-tenth of the normal minimum wage. National laws setting a minimum age for employment are often not enforced for domestic work, allowing employers to exploit children with no consequences.” Children in domestic employment are commonly hidden from public view and at heightened risk of abuse.

The widespread abuse suffered by domestic workers calls for the urgent enforcement of proper labour laws, the ratification of ILO Convention 189 and fundamental changes in attitudes towards women and child workers.

Driving exploitation

The poisonous feeding ground forcing millions of children and women into lives of enslavement and exploitation is inequality. It is the fundamental cause impelling parents to sell their children and the underlying social injustice driving hundreds of thousands of women away from their families and homes to take up domestic work. It is the plague of our times: it divides and separates communities and nations, instilling despondency, resentment and anger among the dispossessed, feeding complacency and arrogance among the coterie of economically privileged.

Vulnerable and easily exploited, the millions of women and children meeting the domestic needs of the economically better off are victims of a global socio-economic system that has trapped hundreds of millions into poverty and continues to fuel stellar levels of inequality.

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Free Tibet is a hoax; don’t fall for it

NOVANEWS

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On the face of it, the Free Tibet movement seems to be one of those ‘feel good’ causes nobody can argue against, like helping disabled children, or saving the rainforest. All kinds of disparate groupings, from socialists to socialites, and fascists to fashionistas can be found outside the Chinese Embassy, shouting themselves hoarse in their passion to liberate Tibet from the evil clutches of ‘neo-imperial’ China.

Why do representatives of imperialism, like George W Bush, support Free Tibet?

Many Free Tibet campaigners have also campaigned against war on Iraq and the occupation of Palestine. They see themselves as standing for justice and against tyranny, and it is a wonder that more of them are not concerned that the Free Tibet movement (and China-bashing in general) is strongly supported by those same vicious governments that led us into the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia and that have consistently supported Israel in its brutal occupation of Palestine. Is it not suspicious that Bush, Blair and Brown are all fully paid-up members of the Dalai Lama Fan Club?

  • Why do the imperialists so vociferously support Tibet’s right to self-determination when they are so opposed to it in Palestine and Iraq?
  • Why are they so concerned about ‘free speech’ in the Tibetan language when they so aggressively deny it in Arabic and English?
  • Why do they care so much about the traditional, simple, peaceful way of life in Tibet when they are engaged in raining death and destruction on the masses of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere?
  • Why has the Dalai Lama refused to utter even a word of criticism against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Free Tibet is not about supporting Tibet, it is about attacking China

Bush, Blair, Brown and Obama all cry crocodile tears over Tibet. The imperialists tell us naked lies about China and Tibet (just as they did about Iraq’s WMD). But we’ve been lied to enough that such lies shouldn’t be anything new to us.

Imperialism seeks domination, not freedom , as Lenin pointed out. The Free Tibet movement is a pawn in the imperialist game-plan to get rid of Chinese socialism and destroy China as a competitor. The well-meaning people who picket the Chinese Embassy calling for Tibetan independence are dupes of Anglo-American foreign policy.

Some facts about Tibet

  • China didn’t ‘take over’ Tibet. Tibet has been recognised as a part of China since the 13th century. It was the British who first tried to separate Tibet from China, to cement their Indian rule and steal a march on Tsarist Russia.
  • The independence movement in Tibet was the product of imperialism and Tibet’s feudal rulers, who were opposed to even the most basic democratic reforms. It is now led by theformer feudal rulers and funded by the CIA and related sources such as the National Endowment for Democracy.
  • At the time of the revolution, the People’s Liberation Army was welcomed with open arms by the masses of Tibet, who have enthusiastically taken part in the process of overthrowing the old order and building a new socialist society. They are an integral part of New China.
  • George W Bush awarded the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal in October 2007.

Life for Tibetans is not ‘hell on Earth’

The Dalai Lama claimed that, as a result of the Chinese control over Tibet, life for Tibetans was “hell on Earth”. This absurd statement does not have any basis in fact.

  • Before feudalism was abolished in 1959, life for the vast majority of Tibetans was precarious and burdened with debt (monasteries being the chief usurers). Some 95 percent of people lived like slaves, while a tiny aristocracy lived in opulent splendour. The ruling class regularly resorted to methods of extreme brutality, and every feudal manor kept special instruments for gouging out people’s eyes, pulling out tongues, hamstringing and other tortures.
  • Killing the smallest living creature is ‘forbidden’ to ‘non-violent’ Tibetan Buddhism, but, given the need to keep the peasants in line, the religious authorities drew a Jesuitical distinction between flogging rebellious peasants to death (not allowed) and flogging them to the point that they were bound to die of their injuries (permitted).
  • Before the revolution, there was not a single hospital or school in Tibet; now there are thousands. Literacy was below 10 percent; now it is above 90 percent.
  • Before the revolution, life expectancy in Tibet was around 35; now it is over 70.
  • Tibet is an autonomous region within the People’s Republic of China. The Tibetan language is thriving, and there is extensive study of Tibetan culture (all across China, not just in Tibet).

Has anyone asked the Tibetans what they want?

Contrary to the propaganda put out by the BBC and others, the majority of Tibetans don’t support secession, but want to continue to enjoy ever improving living and cultural standards as part of China. They don’t want to go back to poverty and feudal domination for the benefit of imperialism.

China has only used force in defence of the people of Tibet to counter the violence of a small minority of anti-socialist and imperialist-backed wreckers and saboteurs. In the counter-revolutionary riots, which broke out on 14 March 2008, saboteurs and wreckers attacked and set fire to schools, public buildings and shops owned by unarmed and defenceless ethnic Han Chinese and Hui Muslims. On the first day, these ‘peace-loving’ Buddhists-on-the-rampage injured 623 people and killed 18 (including five young women garment workers who were burnt alive where they worked).

Don’t be a dupe! Free Tibet is a hoax; don’t fall for it

If the US managed to split Tibet from China, it would build military bases in Tibet (officially to ‘protect’ Tibet, but in reality further to threaten China, India and Pakistan and dominate the region in the interests of imperialism).

Don’t ally yourself with the agenda of Anglo-American imperialist war-mongering foreign policy. Recognise the Free Tibet movement for what it is – an elaborate exercise in deceit.

 

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“Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”

LALKAR

This article is a reprint of the one which first appeared in the issue of LALKAR for August/September 1992

Tienanmen Square: Chinese Counter-Revolution Crushed

In the August/September 1989 issue of Lalkar we wrote an article entitled ‘Chinese Counter-Revolution Crushed’. In this article, we exposed the lies of the imperialist media, and its flunkeys in the working-class movement – the Trotskyites, Revisionists and Social-Democrats – concerning the alleged “massacre” and “bloodbath” in Tienanmen Square, Beijing, on June 3-4 of 1989, by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the allegedly innocent students demanding no more than “democracy” and an end to corruption.

We proved, by reference to unimpeachably solid imperialist sources, which cannot be suspected of entertaining any but the most hostile views towards socialism, that the Tienanmen Square incidents were nothing short of an attempted counter-revolution aimed at overthrowing the socialist system in China and replacing it with a capitalist system and a capitalist regime. We proved too, again by reference to the most impeccable ‘imperialist’ sources, that this attempt at counter- revolution was well-planned and meticulously coordinated between the local Chinese counter-revolutionaries and their imperialist masters, with the latter rendering every technical, financial, political and ideological help to the former and facilitating a minute-by-minute transmission of every word every message, every communiqué, emanating from this counter-revolutionary rabble.

In concluding that article we asked the question: “How could this counter-revolutionary rebellion have arisen in the first place?” And to this question, we provided the following answer:

“In their effort to modernise China, the Chinese leadership has been trying for nearly a decade to break into the monopoly over technology held by Western and Japanese imperialism, by offering them special economic zones and joint ventures. This, accompanied by the loosening of the centralised economic planning, the dissolution of the communes, wider pay differentials between the masses and managers and intellectuals, have disrupted the socialist economy and led to inflation, unemployment and dislocation of vast numbers of workers and peasants. These economic factors have been accompanied by an ideological relaxation and a lessening of emphasis on the teachings of Marxism-Leninism at a time when an increasing number of Chinese students studying in America and other Western countries were not simply acquiring technical and scientific expertise, but also having their heads stuffed with bourgeois ideology (at present there are 73,000 Chinese students in America and another 250,000 visitors)”.

To this we added the plea: “The Communist Party of China (CPC) must take a hard look at these economic and ideological factors, which together contributed much to produce the counter-revolutionary rebellion. It must learn the necessary lessons and put an end to those practices – economic and ideological – which led to the present crisis. We wish the Chinese working class every success in tackling these problems”.

Cde Jiang Zemin’s speech in June 1992

Exactly three years after the suppression of the Tienanmen counter-revolutionary rebellion, Comrade Jiang Zemin, General Secretary of the CPC, made a very important speech, which reveals clearly, if disturbingly, that the leadership of the CPC, far from learning correct lessons from the Tienanmen incidents, is, on the contrary, pressing full-steam ahead with the implementation of the very policies which led directly to the counter-revolutionary rebellion of June 1989 by the loosening of centralised planning and the unleashing of economic forces which lead in the direction of capitalism.

Speaking at the Central Party School, on June 9th this year, to a gathering of provincial and ministerial level cadres, who were attending a class for advanced studies, Jiang stressed that a major task for the Party committees, at both central and local levels, was “to grasp and implement in an all round way the essence of the important remarks by Deng Xiaoping and bring the enthusiasm, initiative and creativeness of all the cadres and people into full play so that they will become a great motivating force for the acceleration of the pace of reform and opening of economic development”.

The meeting, at which Jiang spoke, was presided over by Quiao Shi, who is a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC, as well as the President of the Party School, all of which adds to the importance, as well as the seriousness of Jiang’s remarks, some of which we reproduce here below.

Jiang stressed that the central idea running through Deng’s remarks is to unswervingly carry out the Party’s basic line of “making economic construction the central task and adhering to the four cardinal principles and to the reform and opening to the outside world”, in a comprehensive way, emancipate the mind, seek truth from facts, have a free hand and make bold experiments, remove various obstacles, seize the good opportunity to accelerate the pace of reform and opening, and concentrate on the promotion of economic construction. He continued that by so doing, the country will continuously and comprehensively push forward the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics, adding that this has been Deng Xiaoping’s consistent idea since the Third Plenary session of the 11th Central Committee of the Party in 1978.

This line of Deng, this “building of socialism with Chinese characteristics”, claimed Jiang, has guided China’s modernisation cause to advance along the right course of development and to achieve successes which have attracted worldwide attention. “This represents”, said Jiang “new historic contributions Deng has made to the Party, the country, the nation and the people. This is also the most important reason why China’s socialist cause can stand severe tests under the changing international situation and remain invincible. The creation of the road of building socialism with Chinese characteristics and the formation of its theory, line and policies indicate that China’s socialist cause has entered a new stage of development and that the Party has taken an unprecedented new leap in the process of cognition of the science of socialism”.

‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’

But, what is this “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”, what is the theory underpinning it, with the help of which the CPC has “taken an unprecedented new leap in the process of cognition of the science of socialism”? Jiang explains that the essence of this theory of building socialism lies in:

(a) Opening the Chinese economy to foreign capital and building a “foreign oriented economy, furthering active and effective use of foreign funds”;

(b) Reforming the economy by a further loosening of central economic planning – the very basis of socialist construction – on the plea “that reform is also a revolution and a liberalisation of the productive forces, … that for a long period in the past China implemented a system of over-centralised planned economy, which once played an important role”;

(c) Expanding commodity production and enhancing the role of the market, for, according to him a centrally planned economy “due to its defects of over-centralisation of powers and of ignoring and even rejecting of commodity economy and the role of market regulation, has become more and more unsuitable to the demands of the development of modern production. It has hampered the development of productive forces, and even rigidified the whole economy”.

Equating modernisation with the expansion of the market, Jiang goes on to say that “it is imperative to make a fundamental reform in this over-centralised planned economic system. Otherwise it will be impossible to realise the modernisation of the country”. Equating central economic planning with an obstacle to the development of productive forces, he calls for the liberation of the latter by removing the former.

In this regard, Jiang stressed the need to learn from, and follow, the experience of imperialist countries (“developed capitalist countries”) if you please, for to “accelerate the pace of reform and opening should include boldly drawing on all the achievement of the civilisation of mankind and advanced management methods of all countries including the developed capitalist countries” as if to say that the highest development of commodity products, i.e. capitalism, is also the highest achievement of “the civilisation of mankind”.

‘Attach More Importance to the Role of the Market’

Christening these reforms as the establishment of “a new socialist economic system”, and so as to not leave anyone in doubt, Jiang reveals the essence of this “socialism” in the following candid terms:

“…it is the basic task of speeding up the reform to establish a new socialist economic system as quickly as possible. The key task for establishing a new economic system is to correctly understand the question of planning and markets and the relations between them. This means attaching more importance to the role of the market in the development of resources and bringing it into fuller play under the state macro economic control”.

Referring, in language most oblique, to the fact that disputes within the CPC on the wisdom of following the bourgeois reformist path, advocated by Deng Xiaoping since the late 70s, have now been resolved in favour of Deng’s group, Jiang goes on to call for the speedy implementation of this “new socialist economic system”.

Says he: “… through more than a decade of grouping and summarising domestic and foreign experience our understanding of the establishment of a new socialist economic system has become comparatively ripe both in theory and practice, and a common understanding has further been reached inside the Chinese Communist Party. So, it is time to carry it out at fast speed”.

How is this new “socialism” to be implemented? In the following way:

(a) By separating “the functions of government from those of enterprises”;

(b) By granting “more decision-making power to enterprises”, i.e. independent of state planning bodies;

(c) By reforming “the concept of planning and transform[ing] the functions and modes of planning management” – an obscure way of calling for dismantling central economic planning (“liberating the productive forces” from “over- centralisation” if it pleases anyone); and

(d) By paying attention “to market construction and setting up a unified and complete socialist market”.

We have shown elsewhere, in our analysis of the collapse of revisionism in the former Soviet Union and in eastern Europe, that there is no such thing as socialist commodity production or a socialist market; that commodity production and communism are incompatible; that it is the historical aim and task of communism to eliminate commodity production, and hence the market; that the continued existence of commodity production in the countries which have hitherto experienced socialism had to be explained by the backwardness of the economies inherited by the revolution – in particular the existence, side by side with state property, of collective property in the form of collective farms, whereby the produce, although not the means of production, belong to the collective peasantry, and the unwillingness, at least for the time-being, of the latter to recognise any other relation with the town except the commodity relation. Only the revisionist political and economic theoreticians – the Khrushchevs, Libermans and Siks maintained otherwise. To them, only under the higher phase of communism could the market achieve its real flowering and commodity production expand to unprecedented proportions. Well, we know where that has led the once glorious USSR, namely, to the liquidation of socialism and the USSR alike.

But, Jiang assures us that “the reform in China is socialist reform and it means a revolution to the original political system which bears some shortcomings. It aims at improving and revitalising China’s socialist system. The political reform in China is not to take the road of the kind of democratic politics in western countries. Its orientation and aim are to build a kind of socialist democratic politics with Chinese characteristics, to improve the socialist legal system and to effectively guarantee the rights of the masses of people as masters of the country”.

Well, did we not get similar assurances, in language even more clear, from Mikhail Gorbachev, who wanted to “renew socialism” by “returning to Lenin, by expanding commodity production and establishing a “socialist market economy” as the only means of “liberating” the productive forces from the clutches of the “administrative command economy” instituted during the time of “Stalin’s personality cult”? And before that, did we not get coaxed by similar assurances from Nikita Khrushchev and his successors and the economic theoreticians of revisionism – Messrs Libermans, Gatovskys, Siks, et al?

Jiang urged leading cadres at all levels “to promote reform and opening to the outside world and, at the same time, crack down on criminal activity of all kinds”, forgetting that it is precisely the kind of reforms pursued by the CPC – reforms which seek to construct the market by dismantling central economic planning, reforms which unleash the forces of the capitalist market – which give rise to bourgeois corruption and criminal activity of all kinds.

It is clear, however, from Jiang’s concluding remarks, that there is opposition within the CPC to the implementation of these bourgeois reforms, this “new socialist economic system”, this “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, which is what causes him to say that “people must be on the alert for right tendencies, but mainly must guard against ‘left’ tendencies”.

He adds: “The reality of life shows that the ‘Left’ tendencies are manifested mainly by the fact that people still stick to their previous dogmatical understanding of certain Marxist principles and books, or to some unscientific and even totally distorted understanding of socialism, or to the wrong ideas and policies which overstep the primary stage of socialism and were prevailing prior to the period of reform and opening to the outside world. … Thus, they do not easily accept the correct policies of reform and opening … and they even doubt and negate reform and opening to the outside world. They hold the view that to carry out reform and opening to the outside world will lead to the capitalist road and they still use the concept of ‘taking class struggle as the key link’ to interfere with and even impair the central task of economic development”.

It is not a question of one’s wishes and good intentions. What one must do is to look at the policy of the CPC in the economic sphere, its trend and direction, its logic and the destination at which it must arrive. An honest Marxist analysis of the CPC’s economic reforms compels one to admit that, unless reversed, the implementation of this policy is bound to lead to the same kind of collapse as has already taken place in the former Soviet Union as a result of three-and-a-half decades of the pursuit of revisionist economic policy. While pursuing these policies in the economic sphere, which inexorably lead to bourgeois liberalisation and turmoil, it is pointless for Comrade Jiang to warn against right tendencies which, he quite correctly says, “are engaged in bourgeois liberalisation and even try to create political turmoil, attempting to change the socialist system and the correct orientation of reform and opening to the outside world”.

The economic reforms that the CPC has been putting into effect, at varying tempo, since the late 70s have been creating at an ever accelerated pace the economic basis for the emergence of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois elements. And when this is combined with tirades against “left” tendencies “taking class struggle as the key link”, this cannot but become a potent weapon in the hands of the emerging bourgeois elements who want to lull the vigilance of the Chinese proletariat to the danger of capitalist restoration.

Yes, socialism must prove its superiority, not only in the political, but also in the economic field. Yes, the backward China of 1949 must be transformed into a modern and model industrial state, equipped with the most up-to-date technique and a skilled and cultured people. No one in their sane mind would denounce the CPC leadership for wanting to modernise China’s economy. However, this modernisation can be either along bourgeois or proletarian lines. And, to the Chinese working class and the vast masses of China, it is vital that it be along proletarian lines, for if it is not its consequences for the 1,200 million Chinese people would be too horrendous and horrible to contemplate. One has only to look at the plight of the working class of the former USSR and of the east European countries to realise that. These are the terms in which Cde Jiang himself described the consequences for China of departing from the socialist path:

“If China does not persist in socialism in the years to come but instead chooses, as some people advocate, to return to the capitalist road – and thus once more give rise to a capitalist class by fattening it with the sweat and toil of her labouring people – then with so huge a population, so low a level of productive forces, the majority of the people can only be reduced once more to an extremely impoverished status.

“This kind of capitalism can only be primitive capitalism of the comprador type [compradors were Chinese merchant intermediaries of Western interest from the end of the 19th century]. It can only reduce the Chinese people of all nationalities once more to dual enslavement by the foreign capitalists and China’s own exploiting classes”. (Speech on the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the Peoples’ Republic of China).

We have made the above critical observation, not out of malice or hostility, or even an urge to criticise. We have done this guided by a spirit of proletarian internationalism and out of concern for the interests of the Chinese people. We end this article by yet again expressing the hope that the CPC will feel willing and able to put an end to its present economic reforms which go under the name of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, for denuded of its camouflage and verbiage it turns out to be another name for building a capitalist market economy, and calling it a “socialist market economy” does not change matters one whit. Once again we wish the Chinese working class every success in tackling these problems.

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China and Development in Africa

LALKAR

China’s economic statistics for 2006 have been published. Its growth hit 10.7% in 2006, the fourth successive year of double digit growth. Its GDP reached $2.690 trillion last year and it is expected it will overtake Germany’s $3 trillion output some time this year. Its exports were up 27% in 2006. According to Tom Stevenson writing in the Daily Telegraph of 26 January 2007 (‘China and India lay foundations for domination’), “The country is awash with cash … Its trade surplus of $177.5 billion has flooded the banking system with money, making it difficult for the government to control lending and investment. … Surplus cash is finding its way into the country’s over-heated stock exchanges. Shares in Shanghai rose by more than 100% last year. …”

Its foreign reserves stand at $1.07 trillion, no less.

All this growth – and China’s economy has grown at an average of 10% a year since 1978 – has reflected itself in a better standard of life for Chinese people, with average per capital income standing at double that of India’s – and with wealth far better distributed. China has reduced the percentage of its population living below the poverty line to 12%, compared to India’s 25% and has a far better record as far as literacy and health provision are concerned. India has 23 billionaires to China’s 8 (see The Business, 2 December 2006, ‘The Pacific ring of wealth is leaving Europe far behind’).

For growth to continue at this pace, China needs oil, as well as other minerals essential to modern industry such as copper, aluminium, iron ore, bauxite, manganese, uranium and platinum, all in short supply, for which it is competing in the world against US and European imperialism – and it is winning. It is also building up a stake in arable land around the world, to ensure a supply of food for its rapidly urbanising population, whom its depleted countryside can no longer support. For this reason, the various imperialist powers are far from happy and are busy, for instance, denouncing ‘Chinese imperialism’, especially in Africa, and its sabotage of imperialist official or unofficial sanctions against countries, such as Iran and Sudan with whom China has cordial relations. The US is filing a complaint with the WTO against China accusing it of unfairly subsidising industries such as steel, wood and paper.

China in Africa

Africa, maintained for so long in a state of incurable backwardness by western imperialism, is critical to China’s continued expansion. For the oil it needs – and finding itself largely frozen out of the Middle East thanks to western imperialism’s economic stranglehold over that region – it has turned to Angola, Nigeria and Sudan. It has also secured a contract for exploration off shore in Kenya. Meanwhile it has turned to Zimbabwe and South Africa for the supply of iron ore and platinum. In return for these vital commodities, China offers cheap and unconditional loans, as well as undertaking massive infrastructure projects at bargain prices. For instance, in Kenya it is fixing the main Nairobi/Mombasa road which somehow was left totally neglected for decades notwithstanding Kenya’s receipt of hundreds of millions of pounds in so-called western ‘aid’. In Sudan the Chinese have financed and helped build a pipeline to transport Sudanese oil to the sea at a cost of £4.2 billion – and similar massive projects have been undertaken in several other African countries:

“Last year China spent more than $10 billion in infrastructure projects in Africa, including motorways in Nigeria, a telephone network in Ghana and an aluminium smelter in Egypt” (David Robertson, ‘Miners in talks to stop China excluding them in Africa’, The Times, 29 January 2007).

At the same time trade between China and Africa, which was valued at $2 billion in 1999, has soared to $50 billion and is expected to reach $100 billion by 2010.

Howls from western imperialism

The imperialists are seeing their monopoly hold over the world’s commodities totally undermined. On the strength of that monopoly, western imperialist multinationals have been able to continue to make profits despite being in economic terms relative inefficient. Now that they can no longer hope to be able to force the oppressed countries to sell their oil and minerals at well below their value, the very survival of many western multinationals cannot but be under threat. For instance, despite paying more for their raw materials than western imperialism has been paying, both China and India are racing to produce a car that will retail at £3,000. When this is achieved, it will sound the death knell for what remains of car production in the United States and Europe. And it is not only in the car industry, but in almost everything else, where China is infinitely more ‘efficient’ than the old imperialist powers.

The protests from western imperialism do not of course identify the real source of their grief – i.e., that if they want raw materials, trade and financial links with the third world they are going to have to pay a fair price in future – instead we hear about how China is supporting oppressive regimes with poor records on human rights, and is undermining the western programme of conditionally writing off the continent’s debts. Given, however, that the worst affront to human rights is the absolute poverty which has been visited on Africa as a result of its oppression by western imperialism, to say nothing of endless civil wars and dictatorial regimes, while China is enabling African economies to grow, one has to be a total imbecile or a cretinous lackey of the western billionaire ruling class, to believe that this development is not a huge boon for the oppressed countries of the world.

Of course, the British political scene is something of a hothouse for the growing of such cretinous lackeys, who are especially rife in the Labour Party, from where they work hard to spread propaganda via the trade unions and the media throughout the working class in support of Britain and America’s hard-pressed ruling class. For example, “our” international development secretary, Hilary Benn, having first established his ‘left-wing’ credentials by criticising the World Bank for “tying financial support to African countries to ideologically driven economic policies such as privatisation”, goes on to say that Chinese money could do more harm than good:

“If countries are borrowing to the extent that their debt becomes unsustainable then that undermines all the work that has been done in trying to tackle unsustainable debt. The issue for debt is not debt per se, it’s can you afford it?…

“The other issue is governance … building accountability and responsiveness is in the end how these countries are going to develop”.

By implication the mealy-mouthed Mr Benn is clearly painting western imperialism as, on the whole, the good guys who are bringing about steady but sure improvement in people’s lives in Africa, by restricting corruption in government and insisting on democracy, while the wicked Chinese are enslaving them to debt and letting corruption run riot. This is a classic example of the way social-democracy always finds a way to side with “our” ruling class, with “our” imperialism. The Chinese are undermining the profitability of “our” imperialism, therefore the Chinese must be condemned.

Borrowing a lot of money, Mr Benn, does not per se lead to unsustainable debt. When western finance houses had a virtual monopoly of lending to Africa, they deliberately and systematically created unsustainable debt – a fact generally well known and now impossible to deny because of the revelations by John Perkins in his book Confessions of an economic hitman. John Perkins was employed by a US corporation to create economic projections for US financed projects which were deliberately inflated to forecast a level of profit far above what could reasonably be expected to materialise. Country after country in the third world were inveigled into undertaking these projects, which incidentally created a huge number of contracts benefiting US corporations. Puppet regimes who knew the figures didn’t add up were simply bribed, dissidents met untimely deaths. The policy was to bankrupt countries as a means of forcing them into dependence on the US – forcing them to vote at the UN in the way the US directed or forfeit the further loans which were the only way to ensure survival – and even that was only in the short term!

China is lending at much lower rates of interest, and on the basis of non-interference in any country’s internal affairs. Its national corporations are not motivated by profit at every turn, and quite a number of the projects are non-profit making, or even loss-making. Moreover, China is providing a guaranteed market for the commodities that are being produced and transported under its aegis. It is not perpetrating fraud or using bribery to foist disadvantageous contracts on any country. It is enabling African economies to grow at 6% per annum. It is smashing the pernicious clutch of the dead hand of western imperialism over Africa. For the vast majority of African people this presents real hope that the future is going to be a whole lot better than the past.

Local opposition to China

Of course, whenever there are big changes not everybody will be happy, and western imperialism has been combing through events with a fine tooth comb to find people who have been adversely affected by the Chinese dealings with Africa. They have found some. In Zambia, an opposition candidate, Michael Sata, in elections held recently, had tried to whip up racism against the Chinese presence in that country, taking advantage of the fact that there had been an accident leading to 18 deaths in a Chinese-owned copper mine, Chambishi, where in any event, wages, benefits and conditions of work are poor. One assumes that western imperialism will have lent a hand to support Michael Sata’s campaign, which brought demonstrators out on to the streets. Nevertheless, Michael Sata lost handsomely, showing that most Zambians, despite there being some problems, are happy with the Chinese presence. It has to be remembered that the Chambishi mine had lain abandoned for 10 years before the Chinese bought it and reopened it 8 years ago, creating employment in the area, even if conditions were not as good as when the Zambian government ran it. Even the Sunday Telegraph of 4 February 2007 (Colin Freeman, ‘Africa discovers the dark side of its new colonial master’) has to admit that “…it is easy to blame the Chinese for problems that have more to do with the former British colony’s longer-term economic woes. Unemployment, for example is 50 per cent, and 85 per cent of Zambians live below the poverty line, a point not lost on Mr Mwanawasa [the Zambian president], who insists Chinese investment offers a leg-up to prosperity after decades of post-independence mediocrity”.

There are also small businesses which have been adversely affected by cheap Chinese imports, and some resentment that the Chinese import skilled labour from China. Chinese skills are needed, however, to ensure projects are completed effectively and quickly – there are still many times more Africans employed on them than Chinese. And if some small businesses have been adversely affected, the standard of living of thousands of people has been raised by the availability of very cheap goods. Where goods produced by western imperialism dominate local markets, it is certainly the case that local industries and employment are decimated, so from that point of view the Zambians are not worse off than if western imperialism alone dominated their markets. However, the Chinese, not being driven by the profit motive to the same extent as western imperialist corporations, is better able to pay attention to local job creation, and no doubt they will do so in order better to secure their good relations with the countries in question.

What China offers Africa

China has already pledged more than $8 billion in loans to Africa this year.

“Almost every country is getting its share. Ghana said … it was close to finalising a $600m deal for a 400-megawatt hydroelectric dam. Gabon recently signed a $3bn iron ore deal with a Chinese consortium, which will help construct a railway and container port. … Zambia was promised investment of $200m for a smelter to produce 150,000 tonnes of copper. Mozambique has $2.6bn for a hydroelectric dam. Since the start of the year Egypt has seen its trade with China surge by 476% to reach nearly $2bn. Chinese investor and state agencies have spent billions on road-building in Kenya, a hydroelectric dam in Kenya and a mobile phone network in Ethiopia. …

“China is not just buying resource, it is selling a model of development. While the west focuses on political freedoms and universal rights, Beijing says the priority should be on improving living standards and national independence. The superiority of this approach, it argues, has been proved by success in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty” (Jonathan Watts, ‘The savannah comes to Beijing as China hosts its new empire’, The Guardian, 4 November 2006).

An article in the first issue of Monocle (March 2007 – Steve Bloomfield, ‘China in Africa) says “Angola was torn apart by three decades of civil war which came to an end only five years ago. Railways were bombed to pieces, roads, schools and hospitals fell into disrepair. In return to access to Angola’s oil, China has embarked on a massive programme including new roads, three new major railway lines and a massive new airport large enough to cater for 30 longhaul jets a day.” And further: “With its new-found wealth, Angola has been able to almost double its national budget in the space of a year from $13 bn to $25 bn.”

And further: “It is very different from any type of aid that western countries, the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund have ever given Africa. China is not just donating money. It is donating labour. Vast armies of Chinese workmen have moved to Africa to work on construction projects managed by Chinese firms”.

Moreover China can deliver on the political front, not only in economic terms: “It is not only that Chinese state-funded companies can outbid Western competitors for projects; Beijing can also hold out a tempting political carrot. The mainlands veto in the United Nations Security Council is a powerful card to offer a regime like that in energy-rich Sudan as it faces condemnation over Darfur. China was able to prevent cohesion at the UN over Mugabe’s moves against his own people …” (Jonathan Femby, ‘China’s new silk roads’, The Business, 1 November 2006). Needless to say, imperialism’s condemnation of Sudan and Zimbabwe is entirely hypocritical on the human rights front. Its real quarrel with these countries is that they will not bow to the will of western imperialism, and China is doing them and the progressive people of the world a great service in assisting these countries in standing up for themselves.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Daily Telegraph of 5 February (‘The West must handle with care China’s growing interest in Africa’) further develops this theme:

“In Angola, the Marxist government escaped the irksome constraints of an IMF loan – with its demands on transparency and fraud – when China’s Eximbank offered 43bn at 1.5% interest rates over 17 years and promises of more to come. It came with a ‘non-intervention’ clause, a despot’s dream. [And a dream of an oppressed country seeking to escape oppression!].

“This paved the way for China’s state oil company Sinopec to bid for oil Blocks 17 and 18, together containing reserves of 4.5bn barrels of crude Angola now provides 7% of China’s oil.

“Pity poor Shell, which had its own plans for Block 18… Shell’s chief, Jeroen van der Veer, griped about the cut-throat competition last week …

“China is playing the same game in Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and above all Nigeria, where Beijing has agreed to spend $4bn revamping the Kaduna oil refinery and building a string of factories, shopping malls and roads. For this it won the right of first refusal to four oil-exploration blocks”

How will western imperialism respond to its prey being snatched from its jaws?

It seems obvious that western imperialism will seek to put whatever pressure it can on China to moderate its activity, but actually China is well placed to resist such pressure. The obvious thing would be to try to erect or strengthen trade barriers making it difficult for China to sell its products in the USA or Europe. However, China holds one or two aces up its sleeve:

Seventy per cent of its foreign exchange reserves are held in US dollars. Its “huge purchases of US government bonds help to underwrite [the US’s] economy by holding down interest rates for homebuyers and businessmen alike. A flight by China from the dollar could send global markets into a tailspin” (Jane Macartney, op.cit.).

Both China and the US, however, are well aware that those who are losing the trade war are likely to turn to military means to try to exterminate their trade rivals – and given that the US has greater military expenditure than all the rest of the world put together, it might feel that the resort to arms is the obvious way of its difficulties. It is not for nothing that the US refuses to sign up to a no first strike policy, or that it has revived its Star Wars programme designed to make it immune from counter-attack. Moreover, remarked Ambrose Evans-Pritchard on 5 February 2007 (op cit):

“Last week the US defence department quietly launched its first military command dedicated to black Africa and the Sahara… Known as AFRICOM, it is ostensibly designed to fight Al-Qa’eda and cope with natural disasters. It is equally aimed at Beijing, a warning that the Communist regime will meet resistance if it tries to bottle up a large chunk of the world’s oil, gas, and mineral reserves – not to mention its arable land, the strategic prize a decade hence as food runs short”.

And, as if to justify aggression aimed at China, he points out that “Over 10% of America’s oil imports now come from Africa, a figure expected to rise to 25% in short order. Much of the world’s scarce uranium, platinum, chromium, cobalt and copper are to be found there.” Although he does admit: “Yet China needs the stuff too”.

He has also noticed that China is not likely to take aggression on the part of the western imperialist powers lying down, but that it is “fast building an offensive navy spearheaded by 50 attack submarines – unsettling Japan – and that has just smashed a satellite into space with a kinetic missile – unsettling America.” He might have added that China has increased its military expenditure by 14.7% and has at least 80 nuclear warheads (some people estimate 2,000). Mr Evans-Pritchard continues:

“Those wise old birds Bismarck and Disraeli prevented the last scramble for Africa escalating into conflict, soothing tempers at the Berlin Conference in 1884.

“It did not last. Europe came to the brink of war over Fashoda in 1898, and again when Kaiser Wilhelm sought to test British naval power by sending a warship into Agadir in 1911.”And of course Britain, the fading power, and Germany the upcoming one, did in the end come to blows in the First and Second World Wars.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, writing as he does for the Daily Telegraph, naturally has to side with “our” imperialism and concludes that “Rising powers [i.e., China] become dangerous …”, implying that it is China who would be the aggressor in any war that broke out between herself and the US. The facts show, however, that it is in no way in China’s interests to resort to war – circumstances have changed since the first and second world wars, when it was the old imperialist powers who favoured peace as it was they who benefited from the status quo.

Today, however, the status quo rather favours the “rising power”, and it is for the moment at least the decadent old imperialist powers who will be tempted to resort to force to try to change things.

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International speakers illustrate the battle for ideas in socialist China

Proletarian issue 57 (December 2013)
 
Report on the Fourth World Socialism Forum in Beijing.
On behalf of the CPGB-ML, Comrades Harpal Brar and Ella Rule recently attended the Fourth World Socialism Forum, organised by the World Socialism Research Centre of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), and the Centre for Contemporary World Studies of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCCPC).

The theme of this year’s forum was ‘The current situation and the development trend of world socialism and leftist thoughts’. Held on 30-31 October at the conference hall of CASS, it hosted 91 participants, including 22 from abroad.

The general consensus at the symposium was that socialism, being a far superior system to capitalism, had a bright future – indeed, the only future for humanity; that capitalism, far from being the final destination, was merely a transitional stage in the long march of humanity from primitive communism to the higher stage of communism.

There was also general agreement that imperialism, especially US imperialism, was on the decline and that socialism was on the up again after the terrible reverses suffered in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR and east European socialist countries. It was pointed out that the latest economic crisis, while undermining the legitimacy of capitalism, had served to raise high the prestige of Marxism Leninism; and that the balance of power was definitely shifting away from US imperialism and other imperialist countries and towards the socialist countries and the Brics economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The only area in which US imperialism still reigns supreme is the military. In 2013, the US spent $633bn on the military, accounting for 5 percent of its GDP, 20 percent of its government budget, and 44 percent of global military spending. But even this colossal outlay is increasingly becoming a source of weakness, since the declining economic strength of the US will not be able to cope for very much longer with this huge military burden.

The present crisis, which began in 2007, marked the beginning of the end of US hegemony – economically, ideologically and politically. Even in the military field, despite its huge arsenal of the most sophisticated weapons ever seen, the US and its junior imperialist partners have lost in the battlefield in Iraq and are losing in Afghanistan.

All in all, there was broad agreement that capitalism was a failed system, fully confirmed by the latest crisis of capitalism, which at the same time served to confirm the validity of socialism and of Marxism Leninism.

For all their generally positive reinforcement of socialism, one of the major weaknesses revealed at the symposium was a lack of clarity and agreement among the participants as to the cause of the demise of the USSR and east European socialist countries. Unless this question is satisfactorily dealt with, however, the working-class movement will not be equipped to make real progress.

Comrade Halabi from the USA, while not providing an answer to this crucial question, nevertheless emphasised the cardinal importance of so doing in the following vivid and colourful terms: “Why should the masses get on our airplane if several flights have crashed, and we cannot explain why?”

Massimo D’Alema: representing the capitalist elements

Standing out from the generally progressive and positive nature of most of the contributors, were a few whose motivations seemed to be just the opposite of the majority. A particularly renegade contribution – calculated to confuse, disorientate and demoralise the proletariat; to undermine its faith in a bright socialist future and to make it lose faith in its ability to bring about such a system – was made by Massimo D’Alema, a former Italian prime minister.

According to him, 20th-century socialism was a utopia that “belongs to the past”. “We have definitely left behind,” he said, “some of the utopias we have been pursuing in the last century, starting with the idea that the state should fully control production. An idea that has unfortunately caused inefficiencies and stagnation.”

Instead of working for the overthrow of capitalist imperialism, establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat and building socialism, Signor D’Alema advised that the left (he has given up on the proletariat) must work to “impose new rules on a global level to fight financial speculation, tax havens” and promote a “cooperative model”.

“A modern left must,” he said, “fight to impose rules to limit the predominance of finance and speculation … promote economic cooperation on an international level, to control unrestrained competition … encourage harmonious development, reducing inequalities between the extreme poverty of the many and the huge wealth of the few.” It must protect “the environment and human life”; it must “promote freedom and human rights … true democracy, enabling every citizen to be an active part of a country’s political life, regardless of his or her ideas and beliefs”.

This ‘modern left’ must work for “non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”, a “multilateral system of international relations” and a long list of other reforms.

As to the composition of this modern left, it must include, according to D’Alema, not just the communist parties but also every kind of social-democratic organisation, including, believe it or not, the Democratic Party in the US, which he described as having given a “deep turn” to American politics “after the neo-conservative season and the war in Iraq”!

If he can equate the murderous Obama regime with the politics of peace, it is clear that Signor D’Alema has lost all contact with reality. Reminding us of Tolstoy’s fool, who greeted mourners at a funeral procession with a cheery “Many happy returns of the day”, Mr D’Alema concluded with a clarion call for “refounding a new, open and representative left after the great utopias of the twentieth century” – a task which, he said, “requires less ideological vision and more pragmatism”.

Mr D’Alema certainly deserves praise for his candour (if nothing else) in so openly propagating a renegades’ charter that no genuine proletarian party with any sense or self-respect would ever accept.

Comrade Harpal: the contemporary world

Comrade Harpal, meanwhile, pointed out that the contemporary capitalist world is characterised by the deepest-ever economic crisis. He explained that, though the crisis first manifested itself in the near-meltdown of the financial edifice of imperialism, at bottom it is a crisis of overproduction.

As a result of having to rescue the failing banks, the governments themselves are now facing bankruptcy, and have thus transformed the banking crisis into a sovereign debt crisis. To make matters worse, the austerity measures taken by these governments to tackle their unsustainable debts are piling huge burdens on to the working class and broad masses of the people – and are therefore only making the overproduction crisis worse, since they are further reducing demand by lowering wages and increasing unemployment.

At the same time as attacking the working class at home, the imperialist powers are busy waging wars against the oppressed peoples abroad – from Iraq, Palestine and Libya to Afghanistan and Syria – and are gearing themselves up for even bigger wars against China and Russia.

Imperialism and war are inseparable, said Comrade Harpal, adding that the crisis of imperialism is driving it inexorably to war. Unless stopped by proletarian revolution, imperialism is bound to plunge the world into an unprecedented war of horrific proportions that will lead to the slaughter of countless millions of innocent people and to the destruction of the achievements of centuries of human labour – as well as wreaking terrible ecological damage on the planet.

The crisis is sharpening all the major contradictions in the world:

• The contradiction between labour and capital.

• The contradiction between a tiny group of imperialist countries and the oppressed nations and peoples.

• The contradiction between the imperialist powers themselves.

• The contradiction between imperialism and the remaining socialist countries.

In so doing, capitalism is driving the working class to revolution. The working class and the oppressed peoples are faced with a clear choice:

Either place yourself at the mercy of capital, eke out a wretched existence and sink lower and lower, or adopt a new weapon – this is the alternative imperialism puts before the vast masses of the proletariat. Imperialism bring the working class to revolution.”(JV Stalin, Foundations of Leninism, 1924)

The task facing the world’s communist parties is to direct the fight of the proletariat and oppressed peoples against their inhuman conditions of existence; to overthrow imperialism and to build socialism.

In order for this to be achieved, the communists must do six essential things:

1. We mustequip the working class with a thorough grasp of the science of revolution – Marxism Leninism – for, “without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement(VI Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, 1901)

We cannot hope to win this great battle if we do not have a proper understanding of our enemy, of strategy and tactics in organisation and class struggle, and of socialist construction.

2. In order to bring down capitalism, the proletariat needs a party of its own that is strong and disciplined, for, as Lenin said, “in its struggle for power the proletariat has no other weapon than organisation”. (VI Lenin, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, 1904)

United in action behind the leadership of such a party, there is no fortress the working class cannot storm!

3. We must wage an uncompromising struggle against opportunism. In the imperialist countries, that means exposing social democracy (the Labour party in Britain) and breaking its hold over the working-class movement.

These opportunists seek to divert the struggle for socialism down harmless paths and to reconcile the masses with the capitalist system.

That is why Lenin said that “the fight against imperialism is a sham and a fraud unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism”. (VI Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, 1916)

4. It is vital that we explain the reasons for the fall of the mighty Soviet Union. We must show that it was not socialism that failed, but revisionism.

The Khrushchevites undermined Soviet socialism by revising and falsifying Marxism Leninism in every essential field, from political economy to philosophy and class struggle.

We must have a clear understanding that the introduction of market socialism, which restored profit as the regulator of production and undermined central planning, served to destroy the economic foundations of socialism and paved the way for the restoration of capitalism.

5. We must fight against defeatism and scepticism in our movement. The capitalists of all countries use their control of the corporate mass media to spread lies that destroy the working class’s faith in its own abilities. We are taught to feel that it is impossible for us either to destroy the old society or to build a new one that guarantees everlasting prosperity and peace for the masses.

These lies need to be countered with a vigorous promotion of the real history of socialism so far. This propagation of the truth will show workers just what monumental gains have been delivered to them by the victories of the first waves of anti-capitalist revolution, and will give them an understanding of just how much they have to gain by joining the fight for socialism.

6. The parties of the proletariat in the imperialist countries must give their full support to the national-liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples against imperialism. We are facing the same enemy and we will only win if we fight together.

That is why Lenin said 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 that capital.” (‘The second congress of the Communist International’ by VI Lenin, 1920)

Comrade Ella: the democratic revolution in Latin America 

The thrust of Comrade Ella’s contribution was that, notwithstanding the widespread rhetoric about 21st-century socialism, the stage of the revolution in Latin America is actually democratic (anti-feudal and anti-imperialist), not socialist.

To substantiate this, she concentrated on developments in Venezuela and subjected to sharp criticism the un-Marxist theories propagated in the name of Marxism by Heinz Steffan Dieterich, a Mexican of German origin, who was very close to Chávez from 2006-11 and who is the originator of the catchphrase ‘socialism for the 21st century’.

According to Steffan, 20th-century revolutions are failed revolutions not to be emulated, for they were characterised by a ‘democratic deficit’. Clearly, he is opposed to the dictatorship of the proletariat, one of the chief functions of which is to ‘deny democracy’ to the former exploiting classes so as to stop them from returning to power.

Notwithstanding these theoretical limitations, the Venezuelan leadership has made great strides in mobilising the masses to loosen the grip of big landlord/colonialist relations of production and of imperialist domination. Comrade Rule explained that this has been possible because:

• Imperialism has been embroiled in deadly wars elsewhere, which are sapping its energy and diverting its attention away from Venezuela and other Latin-American countries to some extent. (Hugo Chávez himself acknowledged this, saying that the Venezuelan people owed a great debt to the Iraqi resistance.)

• The seizure of Venezuela’s oil wealth by the government of Chávez enabled it to finance popular policies for the benefit of the Venezuelan people.

• Most unusually for a progressive government, it has been able to retain the loyalty of the Venezuelan military.

• The involvement of China through trade and investment has helped Latin America to break the technological monopoly of imperialism.

Comrade Ella concluded by saying that once the democratic stage of the revolution is over, there is no reason why the masses should not immediately pass to the next, socialist stage of the revolution.

Visit to Hunan

On 1 November, following the conclusion of the symposium in Beijing, eleven of the foreign delegates were flown to the province of Hunan, where Chairman Mao was born and raised.

As well as addressing an impressive academic seminar on world socialist construction, our comrades were taken on a visit to Shaoshan, the birthplace of Chairman Mao, where the famous giant statue of this great revolutionary stands, along with one of his first wife, Comrade Yang Kaihui, who was murdered by Kuomintang reactionaries at the young age of just 29. They also visited the house where Chairman Mao was born and grew up, and the house of his wife’s family.

After a lunch hosted by the Shaoshan administration, they were treated to a symposium on issues of Chinese university students and education at the Hunan University of Technology, which provided them with an opportunity to interact with teacher, student and staff representatives. The day trip was concluded by a visit to the Ecological Civilisation and Livelihood Project construction along the Xiangjiang River scenic belt.

The delegates’ final day in Hunan began with a tour of the New Socialist Rural Area in Kaihui Village, Changsha County, and ended with a visit to Yuelu Academy and Orange Beach.

The visit to Hunan was extremely inspiring, for this province is the birthplace and cradle of the Great Chinese Revolution. The first branch of the CPC was established in Hunan and some of the top leaders of the party hailed from the province. It was a particularly auspicious moment to visit Hunan, as this 26 December marks the 120th anniversary of Mao’s birth, as a result of which prominent places are festooned with banners exhorting people to celebrate the occasion with enthusiasm and affection for the great leader of the Chinese people.

Return to Beijing

After returning from Hunan, our party comrades were invited to speak to some students at the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing (CUFE). It was a most humbling experience. They entered the auditorium to be greeted by about 200 enthusiastic students and a banner at the back of the hall reading: “Warmly greet Harpal Brar and Ella Rule to CUFE”.

Their brief speeches were followed by a question and answer session. It was a most enjoyable and memorable opportunity for our comrades to meet young Chinese students with a serious interest in Marxism and world politics, and a fitting end to a productive and illuminating visit.

Long live the solidarity and fraternal friendship between the Chinese and British proletariat!

THANKS

The CPGB-ML and Comrades Ella and Harpal would like to thank the World Socialism Research Centre of CASS, the Centre for Contemporary World Studies of the International Department of the CCCPC, the Zhuzhou Municipal Academy of Social Sciences, the CPC Changsha County Committee and the staff and students at CUFE for their kind invitations to our comrades and the generous and warm hospitality which they showed them.

We offer our special thanks to Professors Wang Liqiang and Li Shenming of CASS, He Anjie (Party Secretary of the CPC Zhuzhou Municipal Committee), and Liu Jianwu, Secretary of the CPC General Branch and Dean of the Hunan Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, for making our visit to Beijing and to Hunan province possible and very enjoyable.

Last, but not least, we would like warmly to thank Comrade Chan Shao of CASS and Wang Mio and her colleagues and students from CUFE for their untiring help in facilitating our comrades’ participation at the seminar at CASS and their visit to CUFE.

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Revisiting alleged 30 million famine deaths during China’s Great Leap

LALKAR

by Utsa Patnaik

Thirty years ago, a highly successful vilification campaign was launched against Mao Zedong, saying that a massive famine in which 27 to 30 million people died in China took place during the Great Leap period, 1958 to 1961, which marked the formation of the people’s communes under his leadership. The main basis of this assertion was, first, the population deficit in China during 1958 to 1961 and, second, the work of two North American demographers, A J Coale (Rapid Population Change in China 1952-1982, 1982) and Judith Banister (China’s Changing Population, 1987). No one bothered to look at the highly dubious method through which these demographers had arrived at their apocalyptic figures.

The ‘estimate’ was later widely publicised by Amartya K Sen who built an entire theory, saying that democratic freedom, especially press freedom, in India meant that famine was avoided while its absence in China explains why the world did not know that such a massive famine had taken place until as much as a quarter century later when the North American demographers painstakingly uncovered it.

The capitalist press was happy to reciprocate the compliment by repeatedly writing of “30 million famine deaths,” to the extent that a fiction was established as historical fact in readers’ minds. The London Economist had a special issue on China some years ago, which repeated the allegation of 30 million deaths in three separate articles and refused to publish the Letter to the Editor this author sent contradicting the claim. More recently, in his Introduction to the book Mao Zedong on Practice and Contradiction, which he edited and published in 2006, Slavoj Zizek also mentioned the figure of 30 millions as though it were a given fact. Well known intellectuals have to be taken seriously and the claim examined.

Two routes

There are two routes through which very large ‘famine deaths’ have been claimed – firstly, population deficit and, secondly, imputing births and deaths which did not actually take place. Looking at China’s official population data from its 1953 and 1964 censuses, we see that if the rate of population increase up to 1958 had been maintained, the population should have been 27 million higher over the period over 1959-1961 than it actually was. This population deficit is also discussed by the demographers Pravin Visaria and Leela Visaria. The population deficit was widely equated with ‘famine deaths.’ But 18 million of the people alleged to have died in a famine were not born in the first place. The decline in the birth rate from 29 in 1958 to 18 in 1961 is being counted as famine deaths. The Chinese are a highly talented people, but they have not learnt the art of dying without being born.

There is a basic responsibility that everyone, and more particularly academics, have to be clear and precise about. To say or write that “27 million people died in the famine in China” conveys to the reader that people who were actually present and alive, starved to death. But this did not actually happen and the statement that it did is false.

China had lowered it death rate sharply from 20 per thousand to 12 per thousand between 1953 and 1958. (India did not reach the latter level until over a quarter century later.) After the radical land reforms and the formation of rural cooperatives, there were mass campaigns to clean up the environment and do away with disease bearing pests while a basic rural health care system was put in place. That a dramatic reduction in the rural death rate was achieved, is not disputed by anyone.

During the early commune formation from 1958, there was a massive mobilisation of peasants for a stupendous construction effort, which completely altered for a few years the normal patterns of peasant family life. Women were drawn into the workforce, communal kitchens were established and children looked after in crèches as most of the able-bodied population moved to irrigation and other work sites during the slack season.

We find a graphic description of this period of mass mobilisation in William Hinton’sShenfan. When this author spent three weeks in China in 1983, visiting several communes – which still existed at that time – he was told every time that “we built our water conservation system during the Great Leap.” The birth rate fall from 1959 had to do with labour mobilisation, and not low nutrition since the 1958 food grain output was exceptionally good at 200 million tons (mt).

Holes in the argument

There was excess mortality compared to the 1958 level over the next three years, of a much smaller order. Let us be clear on the basic facts about what did happen: there was a run of three years of bad harvests in China – drought in some parts, floods in others, and pest attacks. Food grain output fell from the 1958 good harvest of 200 mt to 170 mt in 1959 and further to 143.5 mt in 1960, with 1961 registering a small recovery to 147 million tons. This was a one-third decline, larger than the one-quarter decline India saw during its mid-1960s drought and food crisis. Grain output drop coincided in time with the formation of the communes, and this lent itself to a fallacious causal link being argued by the academics who were inclined to do so, and they blamed the commune formation for the output decline. One can much more plausibly argue precisely the opposite – that without the egalitarian distribution that the communes practised, the impact on people of the output decline, which arose for independent reasons and would have taken place anyway, would have been far worse. Further, without the 46,000 reservoirs built with collective labour on the communes up to 1980, the effects of later droughts would have been very severe. Recovery to the 200 million ton level took place only by 1965. Throughout, however, the per capita food grain output in China even during the worst year, 1960, remained substantially above that in India.

As output declined from 1959, there was a rise in the officially measured death rate from 12 in 1958 to 14.6 in 1959, followed by a sharp rise in 1960 to 25.4 per thousand, falling the next year to 14.2 and further to 10 in 1962. While, clearly, 1960 was an abnormal year with about 8 million deaths in excess of the 1958 level, note that this peak official ‘famine’ death rate of 25.4 per thousand in China was little different from India’s 24.8 death rate in the same year which was considered quite normal and attracted no criticism. If we take the remarkably low death rate of 12 per thousand that China had achieved by 1958 as the benchmark, and calculate the deaths in excess of this over the period 1959 to 1961, it totals 11.5 million. This is the maximal estimate of possible ‘famine deaths.’ Even this order of excess deaths is puzzling given the egalitarian distribution in China, since its average grain output per head was considerably above India’s level even in the worst year, and India saw no generalised famine in the mid-1960s.

Ideological bias

Relative to China’s population, this figure of plausible excess mortality is low and it did not satisfy the academics in northern universities who have been always strongly opposed to socialised production. Coale’s and Banister’s estimates gave them the ammunition they were looking for to attack the communes. How exactly do Coale and Banister reach a figure of ‘famine deaths’ which is three times higher than the maximal plausible estimate? Examining carefully how they arrived at 30 million ‘famine deaths’ estimate, we find that the figure was manufactured by using indefensible assumptions, and has had no scholarly basis.

In the 1982 census, there was a survey on fertility covering one million persons or a mere 0.1 per cent sample of the population, who were asked about births and deaths from the early 1950s onwards. The very high total fertility rate obtained from this 1982 survey is used by them to say that millions more were actually born between the two census years, 1953 and 1964, than were officially recorded. They ignore the birth rate of 37 per thousand derived from a very much larger 1953 sample which had covered five per cent of all households and was specially designed to collect the information on births and deaths used in the official estimates. Instead, they impute birth rates of 43 to 44 per thousand to the 1950s, using the 1982 survey. There is no justification for such an arbitrary procedure of using a much later reported high fertility rate for a long distant past. We know that a distant recall period makes responses inaccurate. These imputed extra births between 1953 and 1964 total a massive 50 million but according to them did not increase by an iota the 1964 population total, 694.6 million, the official figure which they assume as correct. Thus, although all official birth and death rates are rejected by them, the official population totals are accepted. This opportunistic assumption is clearly necessary for their purpose because it allows them to assert that the same number of extra people died between 1953 and 1964, as the extra people they claim were born.

Fallacious claims

But the demographers are still not satisfied with the 50 million extra births and deaths that they have conjured up. Fitting a linear time trend to the falling death rate of the early fifties is done to say that deaths should have continued to decline steeply after 1958 and since it did not, the difference from the trend meant additional ‘famine deaths.’ Such straight-line trend fitting is a senseless procedure since the death rate necessarily shows non-linear behaviour. It cannot continue falling at the same steep rate; it has to flatten out and cannot reach zero in any population – not even the inimitable Chinese people could hope to become immortal. The final estimate of extra deaths in both authors is raised thereby to a massive 60 million, a heroic 65 per cent higher than the official total of deaths over the inter-censal period.

Having created these 60 million extra deaths at their own sweet will out of nothing, the authors then proceed to allocate them over the years 1953 to 1964, arbitrarily attributing a higher portion to the great leap years in particular. The arbitrariness is clear from the variation in their own manipulations of the figures. Coale’s allocation raises his peak death rate in 1960 to 38.8 per thousand while Banister is bolder and raises it to 44.6 compared to the official 25.4 for that year, and 30 million ‘famine deaths’ are claimed over the Great Leap years after all this smart legerdemain [sleight of hand]. Having violated every tenet of reason, these ‘academics’ may as well have allocated all their imaginary deaths to the Great Leap years and claimed that 60 million died – why hang themselves only for a lamb rather than for a sheep! Seldom have we seen basic norms of academic probity and honesty being more blatantly violated, than in this travesty of statistical ‘estimates.’ And seldom have  noted intellectuals, who might have been expected to show more common sense, shown instead more credulous naiveté and irresponsibility, by accepting without investigation and propagating such nonsensical ‘estimates,’ giving them the status of historical fact. In the process, they have libelled and continue to libel Mao Zedong, a great patriot and revolutionary. They have unwittingly confirmed the principle attributed to Goebbels – that a lie has to be a really big lie and be endlessly repeated; then it is bound to be believed.

Thirty million or three crores is not a small figure. When one million people died in Britain’s colony, Ireland, in 1846-47, the world knew about it. When three million people died in the 1943-44 Bengal famine, the fact that a famine occurred was known. Yet 30 million people are supposed to have died in China without anyone knowing at that time that a famine took place. The reason no one knew about it is simple, for a massive famine did not take place at all. The intellectuals who quote the massive famine deaths figure of 30 million today, are no doubt outstandingly clever in the small, im kleinen, but are proving themselves to be rather foolish im grossen, in the large. A person has to be very foolhardy indeed to say that 30 million people died in a famine without anyone including the foreign diplomats in China and the China-watchers abroad having the slightest inkling of it. And those who credulously believe this claim and uncritically repeat it show an even greater folly than the originators of the claim.

With thanks to People’s Democracy, Vol. XXXV, No. 26, June 26, 2011, Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

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US imperialism threatens war in Korea and targets China

LALKAR

 

Tensions remained high on the Korean peninsula throughout April, due to the massive US-led military exercises, carried out together with their south Korean puppets, aimed at rehearsing a possible invasion and occupation of the socialist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north of the peninsula, as well as a possible nuclear conflict with both the DPRK and China.

The US deployed F-22 stealth war planes to south Korea on 31 March, following two weeks of massive demonstrations of US military firepower, which had included dummy bombing raids by nuclear capable B-52 bombers and B-2 stealth bombers, all this clearly indicating US preparedness to resort to the use of nuclear weapons in the event of any conflict in the region.

B-2 bombers carry 16 B83 nuclear bombs, each with a yield of 1.2 megatons – 75 times the power of the atomic bombs the United States dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. If two B-2 bombers dropped their payloads on north Korea, they would destroy all its large and medium-sized cities.

Furthermore, US B-1 bomber pilots at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas reportedly shifted their training programmes to training for trans-Pacific flights towards targets in East Asia, instead of flights to Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Washington also upgraded a shipment of 60 F-15 fighter planes to south Korea and also sent a large number of Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) trucks. The newspaperUSA Today indicated that these trucks, used to guard against roadside bombs in US-occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, would ” offer similar protection in north Korea, should US forces need to travel on its roads” – in other words, if US forces sought to invade and occupy the DPRK.

Missile defence targets China

At the same time, the US sent three guided missile destroyers to Korean waters and announced a 50 percent increase in its anti-ballistic missile interceptor systems in Guam and Alaska. Although ostensibly defensive in nature, such missile interceptor systems could, by removing the country’s ability to meaningfully retaliate, potentially leave China at the mercy of a US nuclear first strike.

A recent article entitled ‘War with China’, published in Survival, the magazine of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a think tank patronised by and serving the UK’s military and security establishment, sets out some of the calculations in leading US circles regarding the possibility of war with the DPRK or of ‘regime change’.

Written by James Dobbins, a former US assistant secretary of state who currently holds top positions at the RAND think tank, it cites “collapse” in the DPRK as the most likely cause of a war between China and the United States, followed by conflict over Taiwan, cyber war, conflict over control of the South China Sea, and conflicts with India.

Dobbins makes clear that aggressive military operations by the United States, sending forces into the DPRK, is at the heart of any response envisaged by Washington and that it would lead to the distinct possibility of a clash with Chinese forces stationed along the China-DPRK border.

He writes: “The immediate operational concerns for United States Forces-[south]Korea/Combined Forces Command would be to secure ballistic-missile-launch and WMD[“weapons of mass destruction”] sites. If any coherent north Korean army remained, it could be necessary to neutralise its long-range artillery; it could be necessary to neutralise its long-range artillery threatening Seoul as well… While south Korea would provide sizeable forces and capabilities for these missions, they would be inadequate to deal with the scope and complexity of a complete north Korean collapse. Substantial and extended commitments of US ground forces would be required to rapidly seize and secure numerous locations, some with vast perimeters .”

Dobbins adds: “The likelihood of confrontations, accidental or otherwise, between US and Chinese forces is high in this scenario.”

US imperialism goes by the playbook

Whilst all these aggressive moves by the US to ratchet up tensions in and around Korea are claimed to be in response to actions by the DPRK, including and following from its third nuclear test in February, on 4 April, mainstream US media, including CNN and the Wall Street Journal, revealed that the Pentagon has all along been following a step-by-step plan, dubbed “the playbook“, drawn up months in advance and approved by the Obama administration earlier in the year.

The flights to South Korea by nuclear capable B-52 bombers on 8 March and 26 March, by B-2 bombers on 28 March, and by advanced F-22 Raptor fighters on 31 March were all part of this pre-arranged script, designed to demonstrate, to the DPRK in the first instance, the ability of the US military to conduct nuclear strikes at will anywhere in North East Asia.

Contrary to lying imperialist propaganda, there is absolutely nothing defensive about any such moves by the US. According to CNN, the “playbook” was drawn up by former defence secretary Leon Panetta and “supported strongly” by his replacement, Chuck Hagel. The plan was based on US intelligence assessments that “there was a low probability of a north Korean military response” – in other words, that the DPRK posed no actual threat, the very opposite of what imperialist governments and mass media have been preaching daily and incessantly for the last several months.

US officials even cynically claimed that Washington would now, following this unprecedented display of US nuclear blackmail step back, due to supposed concerns that American actions and statements “could lead to miscalculations” by the DPRK.

Yet at the same time, Defence Secretary Hagel emphasised the supposed military threat posed by the DPRK, declaring that it presented ” a real and clear danger“. The choice of words was deliberate and menacing, being an echo of the phrase “a clear and present danger” habitually used to justify past US wars of aggression.

British imperialism hitched to the war chariot

British imperialism has also given its full political backing to US imperialism’s war drive in East Asia. Prime Minister David Cameron used a 4 April visit to Scotland to claim it to be a “fact” that the DPRK has the technology to attack both the United States and the United Kingdom with a nuclear missile.

Speaking to workers in the defence industry, Cameron said: “How concerned am I about north Korea? Very concerned, it has extremely dangerous technologies in terms of nuclear and its weapons [sic]… The fact is, as I wrote in a [Daily Telegraph] newspaper article this morning, north Korea does now have missile technology that is able to reach, as they put it, the whole of the United States and if they’re able to reach the whole of the United States they can reach Europe too. They can reach us too, so that is a real concern .”

Even ruling class pundits were quick to nail Cameron’s hyperbole as outrageous lies.

James Hardy, Asia Pacific Editor of Jane’s Defence Weekly, a prestigious establishment publication, commented: ” From what we know of its existing inventory, north Korea has short and medium range missiles that could complicate a situation on the Korean Peninsula (and perhaps reach Japan), but we have not seen any evidence that it has long-range missiles that could strike the continental US, Guam or Hawaii .”

If this seasoned military analyst is correct, then the entire basis on which US imperialism, along with its allies and lackeys, is presently targeting the DPRK is completely spurious.

Mark Fitzpatrick, Director of Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament at the IISS, and a former official in the George W Bush administration, bluntly told ITN News: “North Koreadoes not have any missile capabilities that could hit Britain, and it is difficult to envision circumstances when north Korea ever would want to attack the UK, even if they could .”

Clearly, besides a craven desire to crawl before Washington, Cameron’s major motivation for his Goebbelsian ‘big lie’ is his wish to preserve the ability of British imperialism to do precisely what he accused the DPRK of contemplating, namely delivering a nuclear strike against its enemies.

Cameron used the mythical threat from the DPRK to argue for maintaining and then replacing Britain’s Trident nuclear submarines. Here he was playing politics as the Conservatives are in favour of a Trident replacement system but are presently in conflict with their Liberal Democrat coalition partners as to whether to maintain a continuous at-sea nuclear “deterrent“, given the huge costs associated with commissioning a new generation of submarines.

Cameron told his audience during a visit to one of the Royal Navy’s Vanguard-class submarines: “I strongly believe we should replace [Trident] on a like-for-like basis. … There are nuclear states and one cannot be sure how they will develop.”

Expanding on his theme, he made clear that his broader political aim is to legitimise the ongoing US aggression against the DPRK, up to and including British support and participation in a possible war. A token British military contingent has in fact been participating in the current military exercises in Korea. Around 1,000 British military servicemen lost their lives in the Korean War of 1950-53.

The Prime Minister said: ” I think the question we need to ask ourselves in the context of this debate about a nuclear deterrent, is what will a country like north Korea be like in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years .” He added: ” To me, having that nuclear deterrent is quite simply the best insurance policy you can have that you will never be subject to nuclear blackmail.”

That, of course, is precisely the conclusion that the DPRK has itself rightly drawn from more than 60 years of constant US imperialist threats of nuclear attack, fully backed by British imperialism. But coming from the mouth of a UK prime minister it reverses black and white. The issue is not what the DPRK, or any other anti-imperialist state, might, completely hypothetically do, three decades from now, but rather the very real nuclear blackmail and warmongering practised by US and British imperialism in the here and now.

Once again, the British ruling class is happily helping to serve up the lies necessary to justify military aggression by US imperialism. The parallels with the claims made by the Labour government of Tony Blair in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003 are all too obvious – you only need to substitute Cameron for Blair, Kim Jong Un for Saddam Hussein and you have another ready-made ‘dodgy dossier’ designed to make the case for war.

The only difference is that any war on the Korean peninsula would be even more devastating and destructive than the genocidal war waged against Iraq, as it could very easily turn into a nuclear conflict involving not just the DPRK, but also China and quite possibly Russia, too.

Blackmailing Beijing

It is by playing on such very real fears that US imperialism is exerting enormous pressure on China with a view to weakening or severing its historic alliance with the DPRK.

The two major parties of US imperialism are predictably singing from the same hymn sheet in this regard.

On CBS, Republican Senator, and former presidential contender, John McCain of Arizona said: “China can cut off their [the DPRK’s] economy if they want to. Chinese behaviour has been very disappointing, whether it be on cyber security, whether it be on confrontation in the South China Sea, or whether it be their failure to rein in what could be a catastrophic situation .”

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York added: “The Chinese hold a lot of cards here. They’re by nature cautious, but they’re carrying it to an extreme. It’s about time they stepped up to the plate and put a little pressure on the north Korean regime.”

Making it crystal clear how the US build up of missile defence systems is intended to blackmail Beijing, US Deputy Defence Secretary Ashton Carter declared: “If north Korea is causing the US and others to take actions which they [the Chinese] find to be the sort of thing that they do not like to see, there is an easy way to address that.”

In fact, a major US upgrade of missile defence systems in California and Alaska, targeting China, was decided by the Obama administration months ago, long before the recent upsurge in tensions with the DPRK.

Nevertheless, this same message has now been carried to Beijing by a succession of high level US visitors, in the space of two weeks, starting with Secretary of State John Kerry. Speaking in the south Korean capital Seoul before arriving in Beijing, Kerry made clear that the US would continue to deploy anti-ballistic and other strategic weapons whose main target can only be China, unless Beijing “put some teeth” into forcing the DPRK to give up its tiny arsenal of nuclear weapons.

After meeting with Chinese leaders, Kerry said the discussion had included “why we have taken the steps that we have taken” in missile defence. ” Now obviously if the threat disappears – i.e. North Korea denuclearises – the same imperative does not exist at that point of time for us to have that kind of robust forward leaning posture of defence ,” he claimed.

The US is aware that China presently accounts for an absolute majority of the DPRK’s foreign trade and supplies nearly all the country’s oil and much of its food. So long as this state of affairs continues, US-led sanctions cannot have a decisive effect on the country.

It is therefore ardently to be hoped that, in their mutual interest, and that of the working and oppressed people of the whole world, both these socialist countries would resist imperialist blackmail and attempts at ‘divide-and-rule’, and would value and safeguard their historic alliance, which was created and nurtured by such outstanding revolutionaries as Comrades Kim Il Sung, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, and which has served both countries so well, and that neither of them would say or do anything that might undermine their traditional revolutionary friendship.

In Britain, the revolutionary working class movement must give its full support to the DPRK in its courageous struggle against nuclear blackmail and threats of US-led aggression and demand:

Hands off Korea!

 

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