Archive | May 19th, 2015

Ousted Egyptian President Morsi Given Death Sentences

NOVANEWS
Global Research
mohamed-morsi-sentenced-20-years-Egypt

Three Egyptian judges and their driver were reportedly killed on May 16 just hours after the courts announced preliminary death sentences against the ousted former President Mohamed Morsi along with 105 other people.

These capital sentences have been sent to Egypt’s grand mufti, as stipulated by national law, for legal review. The mufti’s decisions related to the death penalty sentences are non-binding. The Egyptian court will issue a binding verdict on June 2, leaving open some avenues for an appeal.

Another judge in the microbus carrying them was severely wounded. The judges were traveling from Ismailia on the Suez Canal to participate in court sessions at Arish when assailants in three vehicles fired on the victims while they were being transported.

Violence has escalated in North Sinai over the last two years since the military ouster of the Freedom and Justice Party led government of Morsi. An organization called the Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis has been accused of carrying out the attacks against natural gas installations and security personnel.

Nonetheless, high ranking officials within the current Egyptian regime have accused the Muslim Brotherhood of being involved in the attacks in North Sinai, a charge the organization has denied. On May 18, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Interim Minister of Justice, Ibrahim Al-Heneidy, said that the Muslim Brotherhood was behind the instability in the region.

“We should make a link between the escalation of terrorist activities in North Sinai and all of Egypt, leaving hundreds of police and army men and civilians dead, and the removal of Morsi and his group from power on 3 July,” said Al-Heneidy. “Egypt faced an escalation in the number and ferocity of terrorist attacks after the gang of terrorists that ruled Egypt for one year was removed from power in a popular revolution on 30 June 2013.” (Ahram Online)

Al-Heneidy continued charging that “Not only is this gang of terrorists targeting judges, but they also target civilians, policemen, military personnel, churches, schools, hospitals, police stations, electricity pylons, gas stations, oil pipelines. By perpetrating these crimes, the group and its terrorist allies aim to destabilize Egypt and spread chaos in violation of Islam and its merciful rules.”

Death Penalty Sentences Allege Prison Break and Support for Hamas

Former Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi was given the death penalty along with 105 others for a series of alleged offenses including breaking out of prison during the waning days of the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak. Between January 25 and Feb. 11 the Egyptian people rose up in rebellion against the Mubarak government and this jailbreak by Morsi and his colleagues coincided with the actions that led to the military seizing power after 18 straight days of mass demonstrations.

In addition to the criminal counts related to the escape from detention under Mubarak were charges of supporting Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement which holds nominal power in Gaza. Tunnels located on the border of Sinai and Gaza has been bombed repeatedly by the Israeli Defense Forces as well as the Egyptian military even during the tenure of President Morsi.

The current Egyptian government under former military leader Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has designated both the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas as terrorist organizations. Many of the defendants sentenced to death on May 15 were members of Hamas.

According to Ahram Online

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri said in a statement on Saturday (May 16) that the verdict was based on false information, saying that some of those Hamas members who were convicted in absentia, including martyrs Tayseer Abu-Senema and Hossam El-Sanea, were dead at the time the offences were carried out. Abu-Zuhri said that others convicted have been in the prisons of the occupation (Israel) for years, such as Hassan Salama, who has been imprisoned for 19 years.” (May 16)

This decision has been condemned by many others throughout the world for lack of due process. Amnesty International said of the death sentences that they represented a charade based on null and void procedures.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan commented on May 16 that the death sentences imposed by the Egyptian court against former President Mohamed Morsi represented a return to “ancient Egypt”. Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul that “The popularly-elected president of Egypt… has unfortunately been sentenced to death and accused the United States government of turning a blind eye to events in Egypt. (AFP)

Although the U.S. State Department has said that it does not support the death sentences, the Obama administration is continuing its aid to the Egyptian government to the tune of $1.5 billion directly every year. The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) coordinates its activities in North Africa and the Middle East with the Egyptian regime.

Egyptian Government Moves Even Closer to the West

Egypt’s government of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has become even more authoritarian and compliant with U.S. foreign policy objectives in the recent period. Egypt’s role in Yemen and Libya has sought to bolster Washington’s foreign policy objectives through Cairo’s alliance and dependence on Saudi Arabia and the GCC.

The El-Sisi administration has extended its involvement in the ongoing Saudi-GCC alliance which has been bombing Yemen since March 26. Several thousand people have been killed and the U.S. government is providing intelligence coordination and refueling of fighter jets, many of which are manufactured by the American defense industry.

In 2011, after the collapse of the Mubarak presidency, Egyptian Special Forces participated in the rebel insurgency against the Jamahiriya under Col. Muammar Gaddafi in neighboring Libya. Over the last few months Egyptian war planes have bombed Libyan territory adding to the destabilization of the country amid the chaos engineered during the last four years by Washington and Brussels.

This role for the North African state was exemplified recently by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s published recommendations for future U.S. policy in the region placing emphasis on Egypt as being a pivotal country for stability in the Middle East. The report was written by a number of functionaries of the U.S. military and intelligence establishment including Samuel Berger and Stephen Hadley, both former national security advisors, James Jeffrey, a former ambassador to Turkey and Iraq, Dennis Ross, a former White House special envoy for Middle East peace, and Robert Satloff, the director of the Institute.

The Washington Institute article argues that There is no state system in the Middle East without Egypt. No strategy designed to bolster the state system in the Middle East is possible without a functioning U.S.-Egypt relationship.

Acknowledging the violations of human rights in Egypt today, the report suggests that the only way to engage the El-Sisi government on these issues is within the context of an ongoing U.S.-Egypt relationship. The authors urge even stronger military ties between Cairo and Washington.

In a separate article related to Egypts involvement in the Saudi-GCC war against Yemen, Eric Tager, a Wagner fellow at the Washington Institute, wrote that

Entering the Yemen conflict also allows President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to fulfill his oft-stated promise to help protect Egypt’s Gulf allies, who have given Cairo approximately $23 billion since the July 2013 overthrow of Mohamed Morsi. Indeed, shortly after taking office (as president) in June 2014, Sisi declared that Gulf security was an inseparable part of [Egypt’s] national security, and he recently called for establishing a joint Arab military force to defend the Gulf from regional threats. While the Saudi-led coalition will flesh out its Yemen strategy during a major conference in Sharm al-Sheikh this weekend, Cairo has already announced preparations for further air operations against Houthi positions, and signaled that it will send ground troops and special units if necessary.

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Turmoil in Yemen

NOVANEWS

www.lalkar.org

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The Republic of Yemen, the poorest state on the Arabian peninsula, is sinking deeper into political turmoil, carrying with it the risk of an all-out conflict, drawing in both regional and big powers and adding further to the chaos and war now gripping a huge region centred on the Middle East but stretching from West Africa to Central Asia.

On 20 February, an attempt was made, with United Nations mediation and pressure, to form a new legislative body, dubbed the People’s Transitional Council, with the stated intention of preparing for a more inclusive and representative political settlement. But hopes for its success, in paving the way to a comprehensive peace and reconciliation process and preventing a slide into civil war, were generally low.

The renewed political manoeuvrings were spurred on following the take-over of the streets of the capital, Sana’a, by Houthi rebels in September last year.

The crisis worsened when negotiations on a power-sharing agreement collapsed in January. The Houthis then closed parliament and forced the US-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to step down, placing him under house arrest. At time of writing, Hadi had still not been replaced as head of state and most government ministries are also empty.

The Houthis adhere to the Zaidi offshoot of the Shiite wing of Islam and hail from the northern part of the country. Shias make up some 30 percent of Yemen’s population of 26 million and they have long complained of discrimination and marginalisation at the hands of the Sunni majority.

The Houthis are often said to be backed by Iran and more occasionally by the Lebanese Hezbollah. Their flags and banners feature slogans denouncing the United States and Israel, although, since taking control of Sana’a, they have reiterated on a number of occasions their willingness to have constructive relations with all countries, including the USA.

The Saudi Arabian dimension

And, whilst concrete details of Iranian backing for the Houthis are generally thin on the ground, what is beyond dispute is that the neighbouring Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the centre of Sunni-based extremism, has long regarded Yemen as falling within its sphere of influence. Indeed, as far back as the 1960s, Saudi Arabia fought a bloody proxy war with the then revolutionary government of Egypt’s Gamal Abdul Nasser on Yemeni soil. Nasser’s Egypt was backing a national democratic transition in the north of Yemen (at the time the south of the country was still under British colonial rule) and the Saudis were fighting to restore feudal and religious obscurantist forces to power.

On 15 February, the Saudi-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) threatened to take action against the Houthis unless the “international community”, namely the GCC’s imperialist masters, did so. This likely prompted the flurry of activity by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his special adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar.

UN intervention

Ban linked the UN action to the threat of al-Qaeda, stating: ” Yemen is collapsing before our eyes. We cannot stand by and watch. The current instability is creating conditions which are conducive to a re-emergence of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).”

Under the plan announced by Benomar, the new legislative chamber is to replace the Shura Council in the country’s two-house legislature and is supposed to be made up of delegates from traditionally unrepresented sectors of Yemeni society, including the Houthis, young people, women and people from the south of the country. However, he provided no details as to how many seats it would have or how its members would be selected. Effectively it is to operate as an upper house, with the existing lower chamber left in place.

Together with this existing House of Representatives, the transitional council is supposed to craft legislation to facilitate the country’s political transition.

This represents a significant concession by the Houthis, who had previously said that they would dissolve parliament in favour of their own revolutionary committees.

Response to UN proposals

One of the few positive responses to these reforms from among the country’s established political parties came from the Justice and Building Party. This party was formed in 2011 by some key defectors from the then ruling and now discredited General People’s Congress (GPC), following youth-led demonstrations and uprisings that threatened and ultimately helped topple its rule. The party’s founders felt that the GPC had strayed from its original, nationalist purpose and that they must take the side of the people once they had risen up.

Its president, Mohammed Abdulahoom, whilst admitting that the deal was not a major breakthrough, said that it was nevertheless, “exactly what Yemen needed“, adding: ” Political factions now have the trust and belief that they can solve their problems through dialogue and not arms and war.”

Other political forces were less positive, with those among the most opposed to the Houthis, representing religious fundamentalism or the old elite, insisting that the new council had been formed under duress.

Ali al-Jaradi, a leader of al-Islah, an Islamist party historically related to the Muslim Brotherhood, declared:

” Political factions are forced to have dialogue under terms they don’t agree on. Anyone who opposes the Houthis, even in dialogue, will be oppressed, since they are the only armed group in the country and are surrounding Sana’a with thousands of their militants .”

Whilst it is a very considerable exaggeration to suggest that the Houthis are the only armed group in the county, it is the case that, as they swept into Sana’a and extended their military presence around the country, they have faced little resistance. The Yemeni army and police have mostly remained neutral, retreating to their bases or fading away as the Houthis seized territory and government installations.

Popular support for the Houthis

One reason for the rapid advance of the Houthis has been their appeal to the Yemeni masses’ hatred of imperialism, not only emblazoning anti-US and anti-Israeli slogans on their banners, but also, for example, when, in July 2014, the Hadi government enforced an end to fuel subsidies under IMF pressure, the Houthis responded by demanding the reinstitution of the subsidies and calling for mass demonstrations against the government.

As a result, the Houthis were able to gain a considerable degree of popular sympathy “far beyond their core support base“, according to an analysis by the International Crisis Group, a pro-imperialist but perceptive think tank. It was not least due to the fact that the government was almost completely discredited among nearly all sections of the population, at least in the north of the country, that the Houthis were able to seize Sana’a with ease.

Opponents of the Houthis

The main resistance to the Houthis has to date come from some Sunni tribes and particularly from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). This notorious terrorist outfit, which, for example, claimed responsibility for the January attacks in Paris on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket, has, in recent weeks, exploited the disarray in the country to step up significantly its activities, especially in the provinces of Marib, Hadramawt and Shabwa, which are home to most of the impoverished nation’s limited energy resources and hence its wealth. Hadramawt is also the ancestral home of the bin Laden family.

AQAP also serves as the major pretext for the US imperialist interference and presence in the country. The US has long had an extensive programme of drone attacks and killings in Yemen, which have stirred massive resentment and hatred among the population. The Houthis are implacably opposed to al-Qaeda, but have also repeatedly denounced the US drone strikes, citing them as examples of imperialist aggression and violations of national sovereignty.

Hadi escape

In any event, any hope that the 20 February accord might at least bring some measure of respite to a long suffering country appeared to be shattered the next day when former President Hadi managed to escape house arrest and find refuge in Aden, the Red Sea port that is the main city in the south of the country and was the capital of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) that, in May 1990, united with its northern counterpart to form today’s Yemeni state. As Hadi is himself a southerner, many of them were pleased when he assumed the presidency, seeing it as a rebuff to perceived northern dominance. Equally, despite the diverse political and social forces involved, ranging from left wingers to fundamentalists, much southern opinion, where there is now an active secessionist movement, presently sees Hadi’s overthrow as reinforcing their subordinate status in the country.

Days before Hadi fled south, his supporters seized key buildings in Aden and a local government military commander claimed that the Houthis had “no supporters” in Aden or in other major southern cities. He added that this opposition was shared by those in favour of southern secession as well as those favouring a united Yemen.

Once he reached the safety of Aden, Hadi accused the Houthis of having staged a coup. He claimed that all the measures they had taken were “null and void” and insisted that he was still the country’s president. His stance has been endorsed by the governors of three southern provinces, Aden, Lajij and Mahra. They have also called for Yemen to become a federation of six regions.

These latest developments will certainly intensify the county’s crisis and could quite possibly be used as a pretext by US imperialism and its surrogates for escalating their foreign intervention. In the middle of February, a number of countries closed their embassies in Sana’a and evacuated their personnel. They included the US (whose diplomatic mission also housed a huge presence from the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA]), Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Amongst those countries whose embassies remain open are China, Russia, Iran and Syria.

” Recent unilateral actions disrupted the political transition process in Yemen, creating the risk that renewed violence would threaten Yemenis and the diplomatic community ,” US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, adding: “We will not hesitate to act in Yemen.”

The transition process referred to by Psaki was cooked up by the US with its stooges in the Saudi-dominated GCC, replacing the discredited regime of long-time ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh with Hadi’s equally pliant regime, installed by means of a one-man election in February 2012 and leaving large parts of the old regime intact.

Indeed, it is becoming increasingly clear that the US intends to respond to the steadily worsening fragmentation and disintegration of the Yemeni state by stepping up its military intervention, ostensibly responding to the threat posed by AQAP, but in reality with a view to bringing this strategically important nation under its complete control.

The bottom line is increased danger to the United States homeland,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, a Republican, said in comments cited by Fox News. The Houthi take-over “makes it easier for them [AQAP] to plot and plan against us,” he added, blithely ignoring the fact that of all the forces in the country, the Houthis are the most opposed to al-Qaeda. By way of contrast, none other than Yemen’s long-time US-backed ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh – himself an enthusiastic proponent of the US “war on terror” – reportedly engaged the services of AQAP last year as part of efforts to destabilise the Hadi government. AQAP carried out “assassinations and attacks against military installations” on behalf of Saleh, according to a November 2014 report by a UN Security Council committee.

Without explanation, the UN report was modified weeks later to accuse Saleh merely of support for unspecified “violent groups”.

US Admiral John Kirby recently stressed that the US would continue to act unilaterally in the country:

” We still have Special Operations forces in Yemen, we continue to conduct counter-terrorism training with Yemeni security forces, and we are still capable inside Yemen of conducting counter-terrorism operations ,” he said.

Senior US politicians are also calling for a US escalation in Yemen, following the Houthis’ advance.

” Yemen has been of strategic importance to the United States, and I fear these latest developments will create a vacuum that will ultimately benefit AQAP “, Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement, going on to claim that AQAP “continues to harbour a burning desire to attack the United States“.

The arch war criminal, Senator John McCain has called for more “boots on the ground”, demanding a region-wide military escalation against Iran and its perceived allies, including the Houthis. According to McCain, the Houthi advance demonstrated that “Iran is on the march” throughout the Middle East.

In a paper released in late January, Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a major US imperialist think tank, pointed to the strategic interests at stake for the US ruling class:

” The United States has been involved in a low-level war in Yemen for years and seems to be losing it decisively. Yemen may seem far away, but it is on the border of Saudi Arabia and a critical centre of the oil exports that feed the global economy, as well as that of the United States. Yemen is also the centre of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, arguably the most direct terrorist threat to the United States .”

Similar sentiments have been expressed by all key regional allies of the US, including Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Reflecting rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the GCC has claimed that Houthi control of Sana’a represents a grave threat to ” the security and stability of the region and the interests of its people“.

Strategic importance of Yemen

Whilst couched in terms of a struggle against al-Qaeda and the fraudulent “war on terror”, the real aim of the US in Yemen is to secure control of the strategically critical Bab al-Mandab Strait. Connecting the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, the strait facilitates the constant passage of massive commercial flows, including major sections of the world trade in grain and three million barrels of oil per day, giving Yemen a strategic significance well beyond its small size and relative lack of natural resources. As the Bab al-Mandab Strait also controls access to the Suez Canal, whoever controls the Yemeni government potentially has a chokehold on a vital part of the global economy.

Directly across the strait lies the tiny state of Djibouti, where the US Africa Command (Africom) maintains its largest military facility in Africa, Camp Lemonnier. The base serves as a central hub for US drone strikes and covert operations across the whole of the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. France also maintains major military bases in Djibouti.

” Yemen is one of the worst places on earth to cede to terrorists due to its key strategic location, including a long border with Saudi Arabia. It also dominates one of the region’s key waterways, the Bab al-Mandab Strait, which controls access to the southern Red Sea ,” noted a recent US Army War College paper, ‘The Struggle for Yemen and the Challenge of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’.

Against the background of such imperialist machinations, the masses of Yemeni people continue to eke out a miserable existence. More than half the population lives below the poverty line. Unemployment stands at around 40 percent, rising to some 60 percent among the youth. Some 60 percent of the population requires food assistance and lacks clean drinking water, while 8.6 million of the country’s population of 25 million lack access to even basic health care.

But Yemen is also significant in that the southern part of the country once formed the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), the Arab world’s only socialist state based on Marxism-Leninism and proletarian dictatorship and born from a victorious armed struggle for national independence against British imperialism. PDRY dissolved into a united Yemen as a result of the worldwide retreat of the forces of socialism and national liberation engendered by the triumph of Khrushchevite revisionism after the 20th Congress of the CPSU(B) resulting in the wholesale treachery of the renegade Gorbachev and the demise of the once glorious USSR. However, whilst the road is tortuous, the Yemeni masses will surely revive and carry forward their glorious revolutionary traditions in the course of struggle and will teach the imperialists a mighty lesson in the future.

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The mutiny at Étaples

NOVANEWS

www.lalkar.org

WORLD WAR I – 100th Anniversary

TIME FOR THE TRUTH

First edition dustcover

Last year, to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the first imperialist world war, the CPGB-ML and Stalin Society held a series of meetings. The purpose of these meetings was to refute the imperialist falsification of the meaning and essence of that war and to espouse the proletarian viewpoint and to expose the hideous reality by cutting through bourgeois lies and obfuscations. In the September and November 2014 issues of LALKAR we published the presentations made at a public meeting organised by the CPGB-ML at Saklatvala Hall in Southall on 9 August 2014 when Ella Rule, Deborah Lavin and Harpal Brar made presentations concerning various aspects of the First World War. In our last issue we reproduced the very substantial presentation on World War 1 and the Irish national-liberation movement that Keith Bennett made to the Stalin Society on 20 July 2014 to coincide with the 99th anniversary of the Irish Easter Uprising. The final article in the series is produced below, namely, the excellent presentation made by Paul Cannon on the little-known mutiny of British soldiers in France in 1917.

The events at Étaples base camp in September 1917 don’t sit comfortably alongside the fairytale stories that are presently being told in BBC dramas. Nor do they lend much support to the fantasies that are being spoon-fed to a population largely ignorant of the horrors of war.

Since the government rebranded Veterans Day as ‘Armed Forces Day’, we have witnessed the inexorable rise of Help for Heroes and various other militaristic support organisations, which pass themselves off as ‘impartial’ ‘charities’ while being used by imperialism as cheerleaders for warmongering and aggressive intervention.

To mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, there have been numerous documentaries broadcast championing the ‘defence of democracy in 1914′, and celebrating the plucky courage of British men and women who went off to ‘do their bit’ in France a century ago. All this propaganda is in stark contrast to the actual views of the men and women who suffered the horror of participating in that conflict. But, now that the last of those awkward veterans Harry Patch (a pacifist and left-winger) has died, the total white-washing and rewriting of imperialist history has moved up to a new level.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has become far easier for the imperialists and their historians to complete their project of rewriting the record of the major events that unfolded in the 20th century. At the moment, the focus of this campaign is quite clearly on the events of the first great inter-imperialist world war – a carnival of murder, slaughter and human misery’; a hell on earth where the burden of human suffering was saddled squarely upon the shoulders of the working class.

If you are inclined to sit through hours of a pontificating Dan Snow (or some other non-entity of a TV ‘historian’), however, you’d be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that the ‘Great War’ was a bloody but necessary inconvenience – interrupted by a bit of football hi-jinks at Christmas for the warring troops.

The significance of the resuscitation of WW1 lying propaganda for workers today is this: the ruling class is seeking to distract the workers from their very real grievances towards a failing capitalist system, which is in deep systemic crisis, and to palm them off with a hundred-and-one scapegoats whom they can blame for their problems – benefit scroungers, single mothers, immigrant workers, the Russian and Chinese ‘menace’, and so on .

In this way, not only are workers being fooled into blaming each other for the problems of life under capitalism, but they are also being prepared to accept the ‘inevitability’ of more wars of aggression (sorry, make that ‘necessary inconveniences interrupted by Christmas footy with the Hun’). This includes, in the final analysis, being prepared for the eventual initiation of the third inter-imperialist world war, and the inevitable call to ‘back our troops’, ‘do our duty’ and ‘fight for Queen and country’.

Our Party’s meetings and publications on the subject of the real history of World War One are a part of our own preparations for the coming conflicts. We wish to do what we can to expose the lies being peddled by media, historians and politicians alike, and to help British workers learn the important lessons of the last century of barbaric imperialist warmongering and oppression.

The monocled mutineer

The millions of men who were mobilised by imperialism in general, and by British imperialism in particular, were sent to the slaughter-house of the first inter-imperialist world war often as mere teenagers. The men who sent them were from the bourgeois ruling class, and the young conscripts fought in France for the bourgeois class interests, despite the fact that they were working people with absolutely nothing to gain from the slaughter of millions of their fellow workers.

The purpose of this presentation is not to lay out any new or revelatory material concerning the unfolding of the first world war and the uprising at Étaples; we have done no new academic research. All we propose is to lay before our readers details of events that are now nearly 100 years old; details which for most of those 100 years have been covered up and obscured.

Much of what is said about the Étaples uprising, and particularly about the role of Private Percy Toplis, is disputed – and it’s not hard to see why. After all, the British government did not officially acknowledge that a mutiny had even taken place until 1978! The sources available to us come largely from a number of books that have been written since the 1920s, and from the many interviews that were collected together from war veterans with experience of the Étaples base camp.

For those who wish to read more about this subject, there are a small number of published memoirs of officers and soldiers available. These works were not written by communists; they are a product of their time. Indeed, many of the books that have been written about mutinies in the British armed forces are by men who are in no short measure contemptuous of the working class and the soldiering ranks, and hateful towards both mutineers and those who might hold them up as heroes.

Perhaps the most contentious issue that surrounds the Étaples mutiny is the ongoing disagreement and rubbishing of a book written by William Allison and John Fairley entitled The Monocled Mutineer. This book has been subject to severe criticism, especially since it was dramatised for the BBC. This caused a furore amongst some Tories in the 1980s, who used the drama as evidence of the BBC’s alleged ‘left-wing bias’ (don’t laugh!).

The BBC drama was never repeated after its initial airings and was released on DVD only in 2012. Whatever the ‘factual’ limitations of the Monocled Mutineer television show, or of the original book version, it is well worth noting that even today, 97 years after the events at Étaples, the names of those heroic mutineers shot – those whom we know were shot dead after court martial – have yet to be officially released. In addition to these missing names are the names of any of the ‘ring-leaders’ or other persons who were referred to by the highest echelons of the British military establishment – men who may have been singled out by the investigation that was carried out by the British Secret Services immediately following the uprising.

On 3 October 1917, Field Marshal Douglas Haig (aka the Butcher of the Somme) wrote a letter to Lord Derby, in which he gave his assessment of the men who had caused so much trouble for his planned Passchendaele bloodbath, and who had thereby shown that the British working class like any other is capable of mutiny, insurrection and heroism:

“Men of this stamp are not satisfied with remaining quiet, they come from a class which like to air real or fancied grievances, and their teaching in this respect is a regrettable antidote to the spirit of devotion and duty of earlier troops.”

Many of the records of the investigations that were known to have been carried out by military authorities after the mutiny have never been seen or heard of again, while a number of documents that were known to exist appear to have ‘disappeared’. In 1978, the British government claimed that many of them had been destroyed in a fire during WW2. The remaining papers that are known to be held by the British authorities are locked down until 2017. In this context, we see no reason to take issue with Allison and Fairley’s book on supposed ‘factual’ grounds, since it stands up to scrutiny as well as any other account of the events.

It is beyond dispute that Allison and Fairley actually did speak to and interview the men whose testimonies appear in the book. Indeed, a number of the men appeared on radio shows and television with the authors in the late 1970s and early 80s. The historians and military aficionados who seek so desperately to undermine, dismiss and rubbish the accounts of the Étaples uprising, including the actions of Percy Toplis (or men like him), have no physical material evidence of their own upon which to base their criticisms.

Meanwhile, it is clear that future governments will continue to do their best to keep the truth about Étaples from coming out – in much the same way as the government of Lloyd George did everything it could to hush the news of the uprising 97 years ago.

The BEF in France

The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was the name given to the British army in France during the First World War. At two million men, it remains the largest army ever assembled and sent abroad by Britain.

These men were not only sent to hold the hundreds of miles of ‘the front’ and wage war with workers from Germany and Austria-Hungary; many hundreds of thousands of them were sent to the rear, where they supplied and maintained lines of communication that stretched all the way back to Britain. These lines of communication were responsible for supplying the front with everything it might need – using road, rail and canal transport to supply the army with vehicles, fuel, maintenance, food, equipment, supplies of all kinds and medical attention.

Along these lines of communication were numerous large transport depots, and the British also occupied and ran French ports – with enslaved colonial labour and with men drawn from British industry. Amongst the 300,000-odd workers who maintained these networks were French citizens, soldiers coming to and from leave, officers hiding from the front and having a ‘good war’ in French cafés, casinos and brothels, and a mass of new recruits being brought over from Britain for deployment and near-certain death or injury on the battlefield.

In the rear, many of men roamed as deserters, thousands were absent without permission, many hundreds escaped back to England as stowaways on boats, and still others lived in the dunes and caves along the coast, constantly hounded and chased by military police. The much-maligned Percy Toplis was one of these deserters who lived in the woods and fraternised with German and French deserters. He had served with the Medical Corps and suffered at the front lines with the rest, and, like many of his contemporaries, he came to prefer life as an outlaw to life in the trenches.

The town of Étaples, situated near the French coast, was the major base camp through which all new drafts (recruits) for the BEF passed. It encompassed thousands of men living in tents and wooden huts in a camp that had grown up on the outskirts of the town itself. In addition to the mass of British soldiers, there were colonial troops, Australians and New Zealanders in large numbers, and a large group of hospitals treating men who had been injured at the front.

Once these injured men were deemed ‘fit’, they were put into the camp for an intensive ten days of ‘training’ in what became known as the Bullring, and, once this was completed, they were duly despatched back to the front.

There are plenty of first-hand accounts of what life was like at the Étaples base camp and in the Bullring.

“At Étaples, the troops met with conditions which most remember as oppressive. Not even the most experienced or battle-weary were given respite from the war. At the ‘Bullring’, as the training grounds were called, soldiers barely discharged from hospital and men who had seen much service in the trenches were put through the same training as the latest drafts from England.

“A course in gas warfare and ten days at the Bullring was the usual programme; ten days, that is, of march and double-march across the dunes, supervised by officers and NCOs of the ‘blood and bayonet’ school.

“An officer remembers the training to have been ‘demoralising beyond measure’. Another man, newly arriving at Étaples, found the Bullring to be like ‘passing through hell for two weeks’. A corporal encountered several men returning to the front with wounds which were far from healed: ‘When I asked why they had returned in that condition they invariably replied: ‘To get away from the Bullring.”‘ (Gloden Dallas and Douglas Gill, The Unknown Army, Verso Books, London, 1985,, p.65 ).

Even the famous World War 1 poet Wilfred Owen, an officer, who was entitled to a relatively privileged lifestyle at Étaples when compared to the rank and file, wrote in appalling terms about his time there.

“I lay awake in a windy tent in the middle of a vast, dreadful encampment. It seemed neither France nor England, but a kind of paddock where the beasts were kept a few days before the shambles. I heard the revelling of the Scotch troops, who are now dead, and who knew they would be dead.

“I thought of the very strange look on all the faces in the camp; an incomprehensible look, which a man will never see in England; nor can it be seen in any battle. But only in Étaples.

“It was not despair, or terror, it was more terrible than terror, for it was a blindfold look, and without expression, like a dead rabbit’s.” (Wilfred Owen, Collected Letters, Oxford University Press, London 1967).

Officers like Owen were fortunate enough to have their own private tents, servants on hand and all manner of small, but important privileges that were denied to the ordinary soldiers. Not least, officers were allowed freely to enter Étaples town and to visit the cafés, casinos, bars and brothels in their time off. On every route into town, guards were positioned and roadblocks put in place to prevent privates and lesser men from enjoying any of these pleasures.

In addition to this, soldiers were not even allowed access to the beach to swim and bathe on their days off. To enforce this rigid system there was a large military police force. These men were known as ‘Red Caps’, and by all accounts were hated as intensely, if not more so, than the ‘enemy’. When the Étaples mutiny broke out, the Red Caps were some of the first recipients of the soldiers’ quick justice.

The only men hated as much if not more than the Red Caps at the camp were known as the ‘Canaries’, because of the yellow armbands they wore. These were the sadists who ran the Bullring training camp, and who enjoyed privileges denied the troops. Their role as stooges of the officer class earned them the undying hatred of nearly every man who wrote a memoir about his time passing through the camp.

“‘Even now, in my eightieth year,’ writes Private Notley, ‘I remember the abuse heaped on the rank and file there and wonder what comradeship means.’

“The Bullring itself was merely a set of staked out patches in the sand-hills. It was tailor made to compound the torments of the instructors. In the heat of the summer, high collars had to stay tightly buttoned, sleeves immaculately rolled down.

“The soft sand dragged at the ankles. Wet, it stained the khaki of the uniforms to the fury of the Canaries. Dry, it penetrated collar and cuff to rasp the flesh red against the coarse serge. The sand exacerbated everything … In the frightening dark of the gas chamber where the crude gas-masks were tested, there was sand to drag the feet so that escape seemed as remote as in a nightmare.

“Private David Paton of Dundee remembers this as the worst of all the trials of the Bullring. ‘You thought you would collapse and choke forever in that deep sand. If you took too long the Canaries were there to swear and send you through again’ . . . said Private Joe Perks of Dundee. ‘They had a fence at the Bullring, and often there would be rows of men tied to it no matter what the weather ” (William Allison and John Fairley, The Monocled Mutineer,, Quartet Books, London, p.610}

Field punishment

It may seem shocking to us today, but a terrifying system of field punishment was used to enforce discipline in the British army, and Field Punishment No 1, described above by Private Perks, was a common ritual.

The WW1 author and researcher Chris Baker has produced a very good online guide to field punishment amongst his other research. According to the rule book, Field Punishment Number 1 consisted of the convicted man being shackled in irons and secured to a fixed object, often a gun wheel or similar. He could only be thus fixed for up to 2 hours in 24, and not for more than 3 days in 4, or for more than 21 days in his sentence. This punishment was often known as ‘crucifixion’ and, due to its humiliating nature, was viewed by many Tommies as unfair. Field Punishment Number 2 was similar, except the man was shackled but not fixed to anything . . .

Anecdotal evidence actually suggests that this cruel form of punishment was very freely used to discipline the troops for hours on end, and it seems, from the testimonies of men who were there, to have been frequently resorted to by the bigwigs in charge at Étaples base camp. When Field Punishment Number 1 or 2 were deemed insufficient, men would be locked up and detained in large jails, which existed not only at Étaples but at many of the base camps and behind the lines.

These jails also housed men whose sentence of death at court martial had been commuted to a term of imprisonment. The sentence of death could be given for any of the following:

Sleeping at his post, casting away arms in the presence of the enemy, showing cowardice in in front of the enemy and striking a superior officer.

In addition to these were other offences, including mutiny. The two regulations regarding uprisings were as follows:

Ÿ Causing a mutiny in the forces, or endeavouring to persuade persons in HM forces to join in a mutiny, and

Ÿ Disobeying in such a manner as to show a wilful defiance of authority, a lawful command given personally by his superior officer.

The official figures are all we have to go on. How many men were murdered, done to death and despatched without the proper records will never be known. In addition to this, British imperialism has a long and distinguished record of covering over and hiding from public view its most outrageous acts of cruelty and murder, including those perpetrated against ‘its own’.

But even the official figures record that

Ÿ 5,952 officers and 298,310 other ranks were court martialled. The court martial was the procedure for dispensing military justice . . . Of those tried, 89 percent were convicted; 8 percent acquitted; the rest were either convicted without the conviction being confirmed or with it being subsequently quashed.

Ÿ Of those convicted, 30 percent were for absence without leave; 15 percent for drunkenness; 14 percent for desertion .. 11 percent for insubordination; 11 percent for loss of army property, and the remaining 19 percent for various other crimes.

Ÿ The main punishments applied were: three months detention in a military compound – 24 percent; Field Punishment Number 1 – 22 percent; Fines – 12 percent; six months detention – 10 percent; reduction in rank – 10 percent; Field Punishment Number 2 – 8 percent … 1.1 percent of those convicted were sentenced to death.

Ÿ Of these, 89 percent were reprieved and the sentence converted to a different one. 346 men were executed. Their crimes included desertion, murder, cowardice in the face of the enemy, quitting their post, striking or showing violence to their superiors, disobedience and mutiny.

One of the many testimonies that bourgeois hacks have tried to dismiss in the book by Allison and Fairley is that of Victor Silvester. In the years after, the war Victor Silvester became a well-known band leader. In later years, he appeared on radio alongside William Allison talking about his time at Étaples, but he held back a section of his statement that he found too horrifying to talk about.

He left that chapter for release after his death and Allison included it in the Monocled Mutineer. In it, Silvester recalls carrying out executions at Étaples as punishment for being caught by his superiors reading the lists of those to be shot, which hung on the wall in the headquarters. He carried out five before his nerve broke and he was committed to hospital as a nervous wreck.

His testimony is as follows:

“The first man I had to help to kill was a private in my own regiment, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, a fact which filled me with even greater shame. He was said to have fled in the face of the enemy.

“We marched to a quarry outside Étaples at first dawn. The victim was brought out from a shed and led struggling to a chair, to which he was then bound and a white handkerchief placed over his heart as our target area.

“Mortified at the sight of the poor wretch tugging at his bonds, twelve of us, on the order, raised our rifles unsteadily. Some of the men, unable to face their ordeal, had got themselves drunk overnight. They could not have aimed straight if they had tried, and, contrary to popular belief, all twelve rifles were loaded. The condemned man had also been plied with whiskey during the night, but he had remained sober through fear.

“The tears were rolling down my cheeks as he went on attempting to free himself from the ropes attaching him to the chair. I aimed blindly and when the gun smoke had cleared away we were further horrified to see that, although wounded, the intended victim was still alive. Still blindfolded, he was attempting to make a run for it still strapped to the chair. The blood was running freely from a chest wound. An officer in charge stepped forward to put the finishing touch with a revolver held to the poor man’s temple.

“He had only once cried out and that was when he shouted the one word ‘mother’. He could not have been very much older than me.” (‘The grim wartime secret of Victor Silvester’, The Guardian, 16 Aug 1978).

At the time of the execution, Silvester was 17.

Mutiny

Sunday 9 September

The uprising at Étaples began, as these things tend to, with a single spark.

On Sunday 9 September, men were gathered outdoors in the sunshine. Some were pleading with guards at the various checkpoints to be allowed into Étaples town, while others were milling about the vast camp. At three in the afternoon, military police unjustly arrested Gunner AJ Healy, who, after a beating in the prison cell was released from custody the worse for wear.

Angered by the ease with which the military police were able to brutalise their fellows, rank-and-file soldiers called a series of demonstrations. At one of these, a scuffle broke out. In the ensuing melee, a policeman named Private Reeve drew a revolver and managed to kill a corporal from the Gordon Highlanders and a girl he was said to have been talking with.

“The shooting incensed the crowd, whose wrath was concentrated on the Military Police. They withdrew from their hut, and when the officer responsible for them, Captain Strachan, the Assistant Provost-Marshal, rode up, he was stoned. Another officer, the Adjutant, Captain Guiness, also came to see what was happening and realised that the police had lost all control.

“He reported to Colonel Nason, the officer in charge of reinforcements, who immediately ordered a piquet to be collected . . . One officer and twenty-five men with rifles and bayonets but no ammunition were sent to the bridge. Nason went too and ‘seeing the serious state of affairs’, called up two further piquets of over a hundred men from three other base depots.” (Lawrence James, Mutiny, Buchan & Enright Publishers, London, 1987, p.90).

The camp adjutant, Captain Guiness, later became Major Guiness, and, in his dotage, he wrote his recollections of the affair. In these Notes on the Mutiny he recalled:

“Word of the incident went round to all the depots, and that night . . . the men poured into the town and refused to obey orders.

“One of the Staff Captains at the office of the Officer in Charge of Reinforcements, a very brave man, stood on the parapet of the bridge, with a drop of about 40ft below him, and started to harangue the men, but they disregarded him.

“Before this, he attempted to stop the men crossing the bridge by lining up a lot of officers from the camp about six deep, but the men swept them aside. They swarmed into town, raided the office of the Base Commandant, pulled him out of his chair and carried him on their shoulders through the town.”

One account of this first night of rioting actually maintains that the Commandant and his officers were paraded before the troops before being thrown over the bridge into the river!

One of those who took part in the rush on the Commandant’s office was Frank Reynolds of Leicester. He was a founder member of the Old Comrades Association, which later became the British Legion, and gave his story to Allison and Fairley. He said that:

“The Commandant was regarded as the lowest form of human existence, a craven coward, and it was generally known he was a heavy drinker, without a thought for the suffering in his own self-made concentration camp” (The Monocled Mutineer).

In Allison and Fairley’s account, the story of the first night continues:

“A group of a hundred mutineers had crashed into the midst of an officers’ meeting and summarily ordered them to their feet. ‘We were armed, but we did not require to use our weapons. The officers meekly obeyed. We bundled them outside and locked them up in the guardroom next door. We then piled brushwood and trestles round the wooden hut.’

“It was a succinct ultimatum – half an hour to give an undertaking to improve the soldier’s lot or be burned alive. It took less than ten minutes for an officer to call out a surrender to the terms stated. As Reynolds puts it: ‘Like the cowards they were, they quickly capitulated.’”

Despite all contrary evidence, the Camp Diary that was kept by the Base Commandant Brigadier Thomson dismissed the events of that first day of mutiny and recorded that all men were back in camp and tucked up by nightfall!

Of course, much of what is recorded in that diary – one of the few official accounts to have survived – is quite clearly an attempt to play down and dismiss the serious disorder that began on Sunday and lasted until the following Friday; disorder which was to effectively see Brigadier Thomson removed from Étaples and banished to a lesser posting.

In an article in the Guardian, William Allison later commented that the Commandant’s diary had attempted to make the entire week-long mutiny sound like ‘one very long, rowdy soccer match’.

Vera Brittain who was a nurse at the camp and later wrote a famous autobiography,Testament of Youth, recalled this rowdy ‘soccer match’:

” Quite who was against whom I never clearly gathered, but one party was said to be holding the bridge over the Canche . . . Obviously the village was no place for females, so for over a fortnight we were shut up within our hospitals . . . As though the ceaseless convoys did not provide us with sufficient occupation, numerous drunken and dilapidated warriors from the village battle were sent to such spare beds as we had for slight repairs. They were euphemistically known as ‘local sick’”(Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth, Seaview Books, New York 1933, p386) .

Vera might not have known what all the fuss was about, but then she probably didn’t subscribe to the left-wing press of the day. A letter published by Sylvia Pankhurst’sWorkers Dreadnought was received by a British soldier. It reads:

“[A]bout 10,000 men had a big racket at Étaples and cleared the whole place from one end to the other, and when the General asked what was wrong, they said they wanted the war stopped . . .”

Monday 10 September

By Monday morning, the unrest had been serious enough to bring two bigwigs down to the camp in the shape of Lieutenant-General Asser from Command and Major Dugdale, a senior policeman from General Headquarters. With these top brass came some 100 men from the Le Touquet Lewis Gun School, who strung out along the coast as far as Paris Plage to protect the bourgeois dining rooms and casinos.

Throughout the day, a sizeable number of riotous troops remained in Étaples town centre, holding meetings and doing all those things denied to them that hungry men do so well. They began to be joined by others from across the camp, and a sizeable number moved to the far side towards Paris Plage and gathered at the bridge over the river Canche.

“[O]n one of the bridges a piquet of British and Canadian soldiers under a captain confronted a band of seventy or eighty men who were marching from the camp towards the town, some carrying red flags and wrenched-up notice boards . . . one of the mutineers . . . call[ed] upon the piquet guard to join the mutiny.

“‘Don’t listen to the bloody officer. What you want to do is to tie a rope around his neck with a stone attached to it and throw him in the river’ . . . The speaker was a thirty-year-old corporal from a northern regiment . . . He was charged with mutiny, found guilty, sentenced to death and executed three weeks later.”

But before this particular man, and no doubt many others, could be caught and executed, it seems as though a number of meetings were held in the town at which the troops planned the way forward and formulated demands.

No documentary evidence of these proceedings exists, of course, but recollections of those who took part state that a committee was elected to present the demands of the men. Despite this testimony, many bourgeois scholars of the uprising either deny that there was any formal organisation of the mutiny, or maintain that in the absence of what Allison once wryly described as ‘the dry meat of official records’ there was no ‘proof’ of any organisation.

But in writing their book, Allison and Fairley managed to speak to a number of men who actually took part in the uprising and who gave a very different account.

“Those officers who had maintained control of the troops in their own IBD compounds, now attempted . . . to march them out for the usual training in the Bullring.

“Private Phil Chester of the Northumberland Fusiliers, living at 2 Crane Close, Cranwell Village, Sleaford, Lincolnshire, after retiring from thirty years of working at the nearby RAF College, was there:

“‘The moment you got to the Bullring, the routine was you fell out and sat on the sand until the instructors came. This particular morning when they told us to get up, nobody moved. We just kept sitting. It was truly an amazing sight to look around and see thousands and thousands of men just sitting there silently . . . . there were sergeant-majors, corporals and instructors by the hundreds, all shouting at us to get to our feet. Not a man moved . . . In the end, they got us up by promising us we could go back to camp, have a day’s rest . . .’

“Back at the camp, the sit-down troops were given a meal, and when they had finished eating they were asked ‘Any complaints?’ Phil Chester and his mates were so astonished that they celebrated by bursting through the railway-bridge pickets into Étaples . . .

“The mutineers who had not returned to the base on the Sunday night had instinctively made their way to link up with the permanent deserters who flourished in the woods around Paris Plage, most of them under the patronage and guidance of Percy Toplis . . .

“Mr William Stephens, of Elsynge Road, Wandsworth, London, a Ministry of Social Security official, school governor and Battersea Trades Council vice-president before his retirement over ten years ago, was at Paris Plage when the mutineers and the deserters joined forces on the Monday . . . He remembers seeing Toplis’s name on wanted posters in the area:

“‘If he was a villain then he was not the only one around Étaples. Maybe he, too, was tired of being humiliated, deprived, brutalised and treated like a dog. We had all got tired of being treated with less consideration than that given to the horses.’

“It was a strange council of war which convened . . . on the morning of Monday . . . The clear-headed Toplis, fresh from an overnight stay in the Hotel des Anglais, where he had posed as an officer just back from the line on leave, had to do most of the thinking for them.

“The delight of the deserters was boundless when they heard that the military police were no more. They were eager to show their gratitude, and, assured that the coast had been quite literally cleared, they offered to return to Étaples with the mutineers to take part in day two of the mutiny, under Toplis’s leadership.

“This weird, mixed bag of disaffection and desertion started marching on Étaples in the late afternoon. They were about 1,000 strong and they swung along the coast road . . . Before they got to the Canche bridge, they merged and then split up into four separate groups, each numbering over two hundred…

“Toplis felt he had a clear duty. He headed his mob straight for the detention compound and released the prisoners, about fifty of them . . . Madame Andree Dissous of Étaples remembers . . .

“‘I saw 200 or so men just march up to the compound gates, issue some threats, and the next thing the prisoners, with their shaven heads, came tumbling through the gates…’”

It is reported that as the situation deteriorated Commandant Thomson began a tour of the camp, haranguing the men to fall back into line. His car was forced to stop at a roadblock set up by Toplis and his men.

“Thomson stood up in the back, only to have his opening sentence drowned in a storm of abuse. He got as far as, ‘How dare you call yourselves soldiers, British soldiers . . ,’ when the mob closed in on his vehicle and started to rock it violently. He was forced to sit down again.

“Toplis had dressed for his part. That is to say, this was one of the few occasions when he was actually attired in a private’s uniform and not that of an officer. He held up his hand, signalling for silence from his followers. ‘What a sight it was to see the commanding officer there with tears in his eyes, begging of us to let this trouble subside,’ recalls a Lancashire fusilier, George Souter of Ardwick, ‘and appealing for us to keep up the tradition of the British Army.’

“The sight of the ashen-faced general, sitting now in the back seat, encouraged Toplis to climb on the running-board and dictate the terms for the ending of the mutiny . . . The revolt would end, he told Thomson, only when the town of Étaples was thrown open to the troops, when the Bullring had been closed, the military police removed and food and general conditions improved.”

A group from the New Zealand Rifle Brigade put similar demands to Thomson on the Monday, but for the moment the Commandant wouldn’t budge. When Thomson rose on the Tuesday morning, he set about bringing into Étaples sufficient forces to quell the uprising.

He immediately put in a request to the 9th Cavalry, but his request was refused. His diary records this as a ‘misunderstanding’, but Thomson must have felt hung out to dry. It is quite probable that his superiors were fearful of inflaming the situation and concerned about the effect of withdrawing troops from the front – particularly with the offensive at Passchendaele, so long planned by Haig, due to begin just eight days later.

Thomson’s camp diary reads:

” At 1.30pm 9th Cavalry Brigade were rung . . . no answer could be given . . . At 2.00pm Staff Captain Wells motored over to Frencq and told the OC 15th Hussars what duties would be required from them in the event of authority being given for their use . . . 4.00pm a message, telephone, was received to say GHQ would NOT authorise use of Cavalry . . . About 4.00pm men again broke through the picquets on the bridge, went through Étaples, broke through the picquet on the River Canche bridge, and went towards Paris Plage. None of the picquets made any determined effort to prevent these men.”

By Tuesday evening, faced with the refusal of GHQ to use the cavalry, and with ongoing problems controlling the bridges and picquets, Thomson conceded the demands of the troops and allowed free entry to and from Étaples until 10.00pm.

In the days that followed, order was gradually restored and troops arrived in the camp and town to take up the positions vacated by the military police and the police commander Strachan, who himself was removed.

On Wednesday, with disturbances continuing, and angered by the impunity with which orders were continuing to be disobeyed and flouted, Lieutenant-General Asser made a return visit and gave final sanction to the calling up of 400 men of the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) composed of many public schoolboys and other such ‘reliable men’.

Robert Graves, chinless author of WW1 memoir Goodbye to All That, served with this battalion and freely admitted to Bertrand Russell many years later that he and his fellows would have been happy to fire on striking munitions workers (referring to men such as the communists Willie Gallacher and Arthur MacManus who so bravely led the workers of Glasgow’s Red Clydeside in exactly such action during WW1). In addition to the HAC, the 15th Hussars were ordered into position along with one section of the machine-gun squadron.

Aftermath

During Thursday 13 and Friday 14 September, the number of battles and disturbances gradually diminished, and more than 10,000 troops were hurriedly moved out of Étaples and sent up to the front line in preparation for the Passchendaele offensive. Among their number were many of the mutineers.

Passchendaele was to serve as a mass execution for the mutineers from Étaples. For those left, and for the new arrivals into the camp on Saturday, conditions were very different from those that had prevailed a week earlier.

The men were allowed the freedom of Étaples town and bathing in the sea was permitted. Meanwhile, in the weeks that followed, the Bullring training ground was closed for good. All these concessions to the anger of the men can be considered as sensible moves from a ruling class well schooled in dissipating unrest and putting retribution off for a later date.

As these reforms were being carried out publicly, the lust for vengeance on the part of the officer class and establishment was well underway behind the scenes. A secret service agent Edwin Woodhall, who later wrote his story, was sent to Étaples to undertake an investigation along with the military and the police. All these reports, along with those of the Board of Inquiry that was set up, have never been seen again.

Woodhall, in his memoirs, relates how he spent the weeks that followed rounding up deserters and following the trail of Percy Toplis, whom he managed to capture some weeks later. Unfortunately for Woodhall, Toplis was able to escape from his imprisonment and make his way back to England, where he re-enlisted in both the army and the RAF! He was eventually caught up with by the police following a nationwide manhunt.

Sadly, Percy Toplis met a violent end. Framed for a murder in England (being the first man in English history to be found guilty in his absence), the state eventually caught up with Toplis in Penrith, where he was shot down dead in the street by plain-clothes policemen, whence he was taken to the coroner and his tongue was cut out (just for good measure).

The inquest into his death was swift, and the officers involved in his extra-judicial execution were later given awards for their ‘bravery’. The inquest delivered a verdict of justifiable homicide and Toplis was hurriedly buried in an unmarked grave in Penrith cemetery. Some of his possessions, including the monocle that he used to ‘cut a dash’ when impersonating officers, are on display to this day in Penrith Museum.

Despite the reforms undertaken at the Étaples base camp, a number of smaller uprisings and mutinies did continue to break out. Some were brutally put down and others were more sedate, but they persisted well into the period of demobilisation.

The story of Étaples and the disturbances that followed expose the myth of an army happily carrying out its duty for King and country. Yes, there was no revolutionary direction given to these struggles, but how could there have been? The British working class at that time had no revolutionary organisation. The Communist Party did not come into being until 1920, by which point the opportunity was lost.

In Russia, it was very different. Lenin and the Bolsheviks had built up a revolutionary organisation over many years and were able to direct the many strikes, mutinous actions and fraternisation behind Russian lines into a single revolutionary struggle, which culminated in the October Revolution of 1917.

A particularly gruesome battle took place just weeks after the Étaples uprising. A number of Chinese and ‘colonial labourers’ (in reality they were slave labour, brought in from across the British empire) rioted against their oppressive conditions, and British authorities moved swiftly to deal with them.

Corporal Harry Rodgers from Birmingham was one of the soldiers ordered at Boulogne to ‘kill those foul foreigners’.

“It was a wretched, pitiful business. The poor bastards had been little more than slaves, earning one penny a day compared to our shilling a day, which was bad enough. They were nearly all illiterate peasants, without the slightest notion of why they were slaving eighteen hours a day in order that one alien country might knock hell out of another.

“Our officers instructed us not to accord them even the dignity of rebels.

“We were under strict instructions to look upon them as pure rabble. If they showed face in the streets in groups of over three in number they were to be shot like rabid dogs, and they were, mainly because a feature of the massacre was the clear understanding that if we did not obey orders to kill we too could be shot.

“We had heard what was going on at Étaples, and, as we took up firing positions in groups of twenty on street corners of Boulogne, we could not help wondering if this was what was being meted out to our comrades just down the coast.”

A Glasgow private who took part in a massacre of Chinese labourers who had stormed an expensive bourgeois café called Mony’s recalled that:

“By the time we arrived, the mob was already overturning staff cars outside the restaurant. Inside, officers had overturned the marble-topped tables and were cowering and crouching behind them on their hands and knees . . .

“It was not an ennobling sight and neither was what followed. Ninety of us opened fire as ordered, and the foreigners, who had not even got as far as the restaurant door, fell dead in the gutter. How many, I don’t know. I was too appalled to look. I just wanted to get away as soon as possible.

“Even today, all those years later, I am too ashamed to dwell on the awful details of that massacre. Looking back on it all, the only slight satisfaction I get is the memory of ‘stray’ bullets ‘accidentally’ smashing through the restaurant window. The officers inside had more to fear from their own armed men then they had from the ‘rabble’.”

From this, we learn another lesson about the failure of the British working class, which lacked revolutionary leadership, to make common cause with the colonial oppressed peoples. It was not until the formation of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), with the assistance of the Third International, that serious, organised attempts were made to link up the struggles of British proletarians with those of the colonial peoples.

Mutiny and revolution

The Étaples uprising took place at a time of severe hardship for the men sent to do the bidding of their imperialist masters. In February, the bourgeois revolution in Russia had shaken the allied forces, and many hundreds of thousands of Russian troops took strike action and began to distribute the revolutionary proclamations of the Bolsheviks, who were openly agitating among the soldiers for the defeat of ‘their own’ government and the end of the war.

Sadly, with a few honourable exceptions, the British labour movement was not led by men of the Bolshevik type. Rather, our leading trade unionists and Labour members of parliament had fallen in with, and were actively advocating, the bourgeois slogan of ‘defence of the fatherland’ – along with the rest of the so-called ‘socialist’ parties of the Second International and the ruling classes with whom they were united. They had betrayed the international working class.

Given the dominance in Britain of the class-collaborationist position of the parties of the Second International, very few of the newspapers available to British workers during the war were capable of demonstrating the way out of the crisis.

Only through a firm struggle against opportunism within the British labour movement would it have been possible to take the revolutionary road towards socialist revolution. In words of Lenin:

“Social-chauvinism is advocacy of the idea of ‘defence of the fatherland’ in the present war. Further, this idea logically leads to the abandonment of the class struggle during the war, to voting war credits, etc. Actually, the social-chauvinists are pursuing an anti-proletarian, bourgeois policy; for actually, they are championing not ‘defence of the fatherland’ in the sense of fighting foreign oppression, but the ‘right’ of one or other of the ‘great’ powers to plunder colonies and to oppress other nations.

“The social-chauvinists repeat the bourgeois deception of the people that the war is being waged to protect the freedom and existence of nations, and thereby they go over to the side of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat. In the category of social-chauvinists are those who justify and embellish the governments and bourgeoisie of one of the belligerent groups of powers, as well as those who, like Kautsky, argue that the socialists of all the belligerent powers have an equal right to ‘defend the fatherland’.

“Social-chauvinism, being actually defence of the privileges, advantages, robbery and violence of one’s ‘own’ (or every) imperialist bourgeoisie, is the utter betrayal of all socialist convictions . . .

“Opportunism and social-chauvinism have the same ideological-political content: collaboration of classes instead of class struggle, renunciation of revolutionary methods of struggle, helping one’s ‘own’ government in its embarrassed situation instead of taking advantage of these embarrassments for revolution. If we take all the European countries as a whole, if we pay attention not to individuals (even the most authoritative), we will find that it is the opportunist trend that has become the chief bulwark of social-chauvinism . . .

“The bourgeois newspapers of all the belligerent countries have reported cases of fraternisation between the soldiers of the belligerent nations even in the trenches. And the issue by the military authorities (of Germany, England) of draconic orders against such fraternisation proved that the governments and the bourgeoisie attached grave importance to it.

“The fact that such cases of fraternisation have been possible even when opportunism reigns supreme in the top ranks of the social-democratic parties of western Europe, and when social-chauvinism is supported by the entire social-democratic press and by all the authorities of the Second International, shows us how possible it would be to shorten the present criminal, reactionary and slave-owners’ war and to organise a revolutionary international movement if systematic work were conducted in this direction, if only by the left-wing socialists in all the belligerent countries . . .

“Both the advocates of victory for their governments in the present war and the advocates of the slogan ‘neither victory not defeat’, equally take the standpoint of social-chauvinism. A revolutionary class cannot but wish for the defeat of its government in a reactionary war, cannot fail to see that its military reverses facilitate its overthrow.

“Only a bourgeois who believes that a war started by the governments must necessarily end as a war between governments and wants it to end as such, can regard as ‘ridiculous’ and ‘absurd’ the idea that the socialists of all the belligerent countries should wish for the defeat of all ‘their’ governments and express this wish. On the contrary, it is precisely a statement of this kind that would conform to the cherished thoughts of every class-conscious worker, and would be in line with our activities towards converting the imperialist war into civil war.

“Undoubtedly, the serious anti-war agitation that is being conducted by a section of the British, German and Russian socialists has ‘weakened the military power’ of the respective governments, but such agitation stands to the credit of the socialists. Socialists must explain to the masses that they have no other road of salvation except the revolutionary overthrow of ‘their’ governments, and that advantage must be taken of these governments’ embarrassments in the present war precisely for this purpose” (War and Socialism).

We must learn the lessons from our own history if we are not to be doomed to make the same mistakes in the future. British imperialism is doing everything it can to whip up fresh jingoism to accompany its aggressive manoeuvring, especially with regards to Russia and China.

We have yet to see exactly how the forces of international capital will line up, and in which situation we may find ourselves confronted with a third inter-imperialist world war, but we must be clear that it is the job of communists and revolutionaries to turn the inevitable riots, mutinies and uprisings against austerity and war into riots, mutinies and uprisings against capitalism – to imbue them with class-consciousness and to turn any imperialist war into a civil war here at home.

That means we must wage a determined struggle against opportunism in the labour movement; against the role of the social democrats and Trotskyites; against those who continually find new ways to put a ‘left’ spin on siding with imperialism in its wars of aggression – be those wars aimed at Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria or even Russia or China.

The fight against imperialism is a sham and a fraud unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism.

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Syria stands firm

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Image result for ASSAD PHOTO

Assad stands firm

As US imperialism carries on bombing Iraq and Syria on the pretence of “fighting Islamic State terror”, whilst in reality destroying more of Syria’s infrastructure and furthering its divide-and-rule agenda in Iraq, a deadly serious fight against IS continues to be waged by Syria herself, assisted by all the genuinely progressive forces in the country. In recent days, some of the most painful and significant developments in that fight have unfolded within the Palestinian refugee camps, in particular Yarmouk.

Joint Syrian and Palestinian forces expel IS from Yarmouk

For many years, the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria has been acknowledged as the symbolic capital of the Palestinian diaspora. Before the host country fell victim to imperialism’s proxy war against its leadership and people, the camp was home to as many as 160,000 Palestinians. Tragically, that number has now dwindled to only 18,000, thanks to the efforts of terror groups like Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) to seize the camp and transform it into a base of operations against, not Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, but Damascus.

Sad to say, a minority of Palestinian militants have been so far swayed by the influence of the reactionary Muslim Brotherhood as to throw in their lot with groups hostile to Syria, groups which sided with the struggle against the secular and progressive leadership of Assad. Such reactionary elements invited JN snipers into the camp, and flirted with IS, dragging the camp deeper into the ditch of sectarian gang warfare.

The final straw was the wholesale invasion of Yarmouk on 1 April by IS, prompting the UN to speak out against “grave crimes” committed by IS against Palestinians. The invasion, triggered by sectarian differences within the anti-Assad camp itself, demanded a response, both from the Syrian army and from the vast majority of Palestinians for whom the enemy is, not the country which gives them shelter, but Zionism and imperialism.

A week after the mass incursion of IS into the camp, PLO executive committee member Ahmed Majdalani announced a joint Syrian and PLO plan to deal with the common enemy. He noted that Damascus had been dealing with Yarmouk “with a high level of sensitivity” out of respect for its special status as the symbolic capital of the Palestinian diaspora. However, now that IS and JN had trampled on all attempts at a political solution, it was time for all the counter-terrorist forces, Palestinian and Syrian alike, to stand together. PLO official Anwar Abdul Hadi noted that

Syrian authorities are ready to support the Palestinian fighters in a number of ways, including militarily, to push ISIL out of the camp.”

Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal al-Mikdad confirmed the joint plan, noting that the “Syrian government had used all its efforts to present humanitarian and medical aid to Palestinian refugees and that it had helped them exit Yarmouk safely,” adding that “Syria and the PLO are determined to fight terrorism, which has reached Palestinian camps in Syria, notably Yarmouk.”

Imperialist media distortions

Sad to relate, the imperialist media vultures have been able to swoop on some muddled comments from PLO circles in Ramallah which appear to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the agreement with Damascus, resulting in a crop of triumphant headlines from the BBC, Al Jazeera, Newsweek and the rest of the pack proclaiming “PLO says no to Syrian pact”. The Russian news outlet Pravda noted that, within hours of the joint declaration, ” the PLO in Ramallah effectively washed its hands of the matter, saying that it refused to ‘drag our people and their camps into the hellish conflict that is taking place in Syria’. Yet some sectarian Palestinian groups bear great responsibility for the Yarmouk crisis. They were the ones who invited Jabhat al Nusra snipers into Yarmouk, leading to Syrian Army security clamp-downs on the area.” (Tim Anderson, Pravda, ‘Divided PLO unable to manage Yarmouk crisis’, 14 April, 2015).

Happily these dispiriting and vacillating comments did not faze the progressive Palestinian militias who rallied to expel the common enemy.

” Khaled Abdul Majeed, secretary general of the Palestinian militia fighting the extremists, said Palestinian fighters allied to the Syrian Army were ‘not too interested in what the PLO leadership in Ramallah had to say about not entering the fray in Yarmouk’ ” (ibid).

Palestinian reinforcements were sent from Jarmana camp, whilst the PLA and the PFLP-GC made inroads on Palestine Street. The PLA and the Druze militia came together to back Syrian forces as they moved against IS in the south. Whilst fighting continues at the time of writing, and JN terrorists are said still to infest the camp, the united front forged in the heat of battle between Damascus and the progressive Palestinian forces bodes well for the future and represents another strong link in the axis of resistance.

Islamic State’s real parents

The discovery by the PFLP of some “strange ID cards, some written in Hebrew, scrubbed and dirtied, bearing the stamp of Israel on the dead bodies of some ISIS extremists” should serve as a reminder of precisely whose interests IS serves. As News 786 reported, Majdalani hinted at Israel’s involvement when he said that ”implicating the Palestinian refugee camps in current events in Syria is aimed at attempting to liquidate the Palestinian issue and ending the refugees’ right to return home”. The rabid dogs of IS and Nusra serve Mossad and the CIA, not the Palestinian self-determination struggle. (News 786, ‘Evidence of Mossad-Israel hand in Yarmouk incidents comes to light’, 9 April, 2015).

Ever anxious to falsify the birth certificate of Islamic State, ever eager to deny paternity of this obnoxious brat, the US, UK, France and Jordan have blocked Syria’s request to add the Islamic State to the UN’s sanctions list as a separate group rather than as an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). What this seeks to obscure is the fact that IS did not evolve as a branch of AQI but was directly funded and supported by the US and its allies. A statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry noted that the motive behind this sleight of hand is “to disclaim responsibility for the growing scale of Islamic State’s (ISIL) activities and prove that it is not a new entity that has been brought into existence by the implementation of plans to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad”, thereby concocting the fiction that “the anti-Assad coalition bears no moral or political responsibility” for the creation of ISIL”(PressTV, 10 April, ‘US, Britain, France, Jordan refuse to name ISIL as separate terror group’).

It is inconvenient to admit to parentage of this monster, for example, when it is busy kidnapping 120 schoolkids in Mosul, the Iraqi city which the US is supposedly helping to ‘liberate’. According to the Times of Israel (and they should surely know), ”children aged between 12 and 15-years-old were forcibly taken away from their classrooms and loaded onto military vehicles by IS members. Local reports suggest that the children will now be made part of the Islamist organisation and trained as fighters, while those belonging to wealthy families will be released after ransom is paid to the militants” (Islamic State kidnaps 120 children in Mosul’, Times of Israel, 12 April).

Syria remains steadfast

Meanwhile, whilst imperialism gets on with its dirty tricks, Syria continues to combine a resolute military defence of her sovereignty with the quiet pursuit of a political solution to the crisis. April saw the second round of talks between Damascus and Syrian opposition groups hosted by Moscow. Qadri Jamil, the leader of the opposition Popular Front of Change and Liberation, described the Moscow talks as positive, but stressed that there still remain differences to overcome. “Overall, we can say that the conclusion is positive… We can say that we have completed more than 50 percent of the tasks.” In a subsequent article in a Lebanese paper, Syria’s deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad wrote that the negotiations had created an atmosphere of hope and optimism among all parties which are seeking to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict. He also noted that “The Syrians, with the help of Russians, are the only ones who are able to restore security and stability to the Homeland through an inter-Syrian dialogue ” (PressTV, ‘Damascus gives positive assessment of Moscow peace talks’, 11 April, 2015).

US imperialism, both directly and via its stooge network across the region, can continue to spread chaos and terror across Syria, assisted in practice by its own unacknowledged but amply funded Islamic State footsoldiers. What it cannot do is break the national unity of the vast mass of the Syrian people, now more than ever closing ranks against the deadly threat of terrorist subversion in the service of imperialism. It is the Syrians alone, supported by their friends, who have the right to decide the future of Syria, and nobody else.

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70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over fascism

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Stalin victory

37th Prague Theoretic-Political Conference on “The anti-communist disinformation about the causes, course and results of World War II; … the danger of a new rise of fascism”.

Presentation by Harpal Brar on behalf of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

On 18 April. to mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over fascism, District Committee Prague 1 of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia held an impressive conference which was attended by more than 200 people, with the participation of 10 foreign delegates from different European countries. Harpal Brar represented the CPGB-ML, and we reproduce below his contribution to the Conference.

Dear Comrades

Allow me to thank the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, District Committee Prague 1, for their kind invitation to our Party to participate in this very important event on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of victory over fascism.

” The bourgeoisie turns everything into a commodity, hence also the writing of history. It is a part of its being, of its condition for existence, to falsify all goods; it falsified the writing of history. And the best-paid historiography is that which is falsified for the purposes of the bourgeoisie.” (Engels, ‘Material for the History of Ireland’, 1870).

This shrewd observation of Engels should be kept in mind when judging:

(i) the causes of the Second World War

(ii) the events leading up to it

(iii) the role in it of the Soviet Union, on the one hand, and the imperialist camp, on the other hand, and

(iv) the results of the war.

The Second, as indeed the First, World War is inseparable from imperialism, whose product it was. Tens of millions of people were slaughtered to decide which set of bandits – the Anglo-American-French or the German-Italian-Japanese – was to get what share of the loot.

The only way out of the morass of imperialist wars is socialism; therefore the struggle against war must be inseparably connected with the struggle for the overthrow of imperialism and the establishment of socialism.

The ruling classes of the ‘democratic’ imperialist countries were complicit in the rise and strengthening of fascism. It was the crowning achievement of the Soviet people to have defeated Nazism – this monstrous product of imperialism in crisis.

The Soviet victory in the Second World War was a disaster for imperialism. If the First World War brought into existence the great and glorious Soviet Union, the end of the Second World War led to the creation of a mighty socialist bloc, stretching from the Soviet Union through eastern and central Europe to the Far East.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the bourgeoisie has gone on the rampage not only to belittle the role of the Soviet Union in defeating fascism, but also to malign the record of socialism itself. It is being asserted that the freedom of the Baltic states and east European countries only brought the subjugation of these nations to the Soviet Union. And now it is not uncommon to see the symbols of Soviet socialism and of the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet people attacked, hand-in-hand with the glorification of those who collaborated with Nazism during the War.

This is particularly true of the Baltic states, Poland and, especially, Ukraine. In the last-named country, Stefan Bandera, the notorious Nazi stooge, is honoured with statues and street names as a great fighter for national liberation – not against the Nazis but against the Soviet Union!!!

The economic crisis of 1929 made the inter-imperialist war a certainty. The law of uneven development of capitalism saw to it that some countries, notably Germany, Japan and Italy, had spurted ahead in their development, but their share in terms of markets, mineral resources, and avenues for investment was dis-proportionately small compared with the share of countries such as Britain and France. This division of resources arose at a time when the Axis powers were economically much weaker and therefore received a miniscule share of the world’s wealth. Britain and France were the strongest colonial countries; they had amassed huge colonial possessions at a time when they were economically strong. However, during the last three decades of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century their economic development fell behind that of Germany in particular. In view of this, the German ruling class felt cheated and demanded its fair share, which could only be achieved at the expense of Britain and France; and in the world of monopoly capitalism, such matters in the final analysis can only be settled by war. Hence the First World War.

The First World War, far from solving this problem, only sowed the seeds of the Second World War. Not only did the First World War fail to satisfy Germany’s attempts to obtain a ‘fair share’ of the world’s resources, but on the contrary reduced that share still further and heaped extortionate burdens on her in the form of swingeing reparations. Add the 1929 crisis to the mix and the conditions were created for the rise of the revolutionary working class movement for which the imperialist response was of course resort to fascism.

In the conditions then prevailing, it was clear that the bourgeoisie would find no way out of that crisis except through another horrendous war into which one way or another the Soviet Union would be dragged.

Soviet Union’s position on war with imperialism

 

The leadership of the Soviet Union, in this difficult situation, followed a very complicated policy, which can be summarised as follows:

1. The Soviet Union did not want to be involved in the war at all;

2. Since it was not up to the Soviet Union alone to keep itself out of the war, it was its endeavour to ensure that it should not be left to fight on its own against Nazi Germany, much less against the combined forces of imperialism;

3. Since there were genuine contra-dictions, arising from the uneven development of capitalism, between the fascist powers on the one hand and the ‘democratic’ imperialist powers on the other hand, these divisions could, and should, be exploited by the Soviet Union to safeguard the interests of the Soviet Union.

4. The Soviet Union did its best to conclude a collective security pact with the ‘democratic’ imperialist states to safeguard peace and the interests of the Soviet Union.

5. When the ‘democratic’ imperialist states refused to conclude such a pact, continuing the policy of appeasement of Nazi Germany (see the Munich Agreement signed between Hitler and British prime minister, Chamberlain) in an effort to encourage the latter to march in an eastward direction, the Soviet Union was forced to protect her interests through the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 23 August 1939, which smashed the plans of the ‘democratic’ imperialist countries to embroil the Soviet Union in a war against Nazi Germany.

6. The German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact ensured that the Soviet Union would not be fighting against Germany on her own.

Following the signing of this Pact, on 1 September 1939, Hitlerite Germany invaded Poland. On 3 September 1939, the Anglo-French ultimatum to Germany to withdraw her forces from Poland having expired, Britain and France found themselves at war with Germany. Then and since, various people on the right and the left have levelled accusations of betrayal against the Soviet leadership, especially against Stalin, asserting that Soviet actions hastened the onset of the war. On the contrary, what hastened the onset of the war was the policy of appeasement pursued by the ‘democratic’ imperialist camp in an effort to make Germany invade the Soviet Union. In levelling these accusations, this gentry forgets that long before the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact, Britain and France had, through the Munich agreement, already handed over Czechoslovakia to the Hitlerites as a down payment to direct German aggression against the Soviet Union.

7. The Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact bought the Soviet Union a valuable period of two years, which she utilised well to strengthen her economy and her defence capability.

Operation Barbarossa and bourgeois predictions of Soviet collapse

 

At 3.30 a.m. on 22 June 1941, Hitlerite Germany launched its aggression against the Soviet Union under the name of Operation Barbarossa. Almost without exception, western bourgeois statesmen and analysts predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union within weeks of the German assault. The reasons for these predictions were, first, that allegedly the Soviet army had been decapitated following the trial and execution of General Tukhachevsky and some other high-ranking officers; second, that the Bolshevik Party had, following the Moscow Trials, allegedly been denuded of its most talented leaders; third, that if France and Poland had collapsed within two weeks of German invasion, what chance was there that the Soviet Union would not do likewise? In other words, the Soviet Union was militarily and politically leaderless and militarily weak into the bargain and therefore stood no chance of prevailing over Germany.

Bourgeois predictions belied

 

By its resistance, resilience and fighting capacity, the Soviet Union amazed the entire world. The battles of Moscow (in the winter of 1941-2), Stalingrad (winter of 1942-3), Kursk (July 1943) and Berlin (April 1945) gave lie to these predictions. Each of these battles involved over a million men. The battle of Moscow alone involved 2 million men, 2,500 tanks, 1,800 aircraft and 25,000 guns. The Soviet losses in this battle were horrifying, but the Soviet army emerged with victory and thus had begun to destroy the myth of German invincibility. In this battle, according to Marshal Zhukov, the Germans lost a total of half a million soldiers, 1,300 tanks, 2,500 guns and 15,000 trucks. After the German defeat at Moscow, the strategic initiative on all sectors of the Soviet-German front began to pass to the Red Army command.

In view of the subsequent slanderous assertions by Khrushchev, as well as bourgeois commentators, that the German attack had panicked Stalin to go missing for weeks, it is worth mentioning in passing what Zhukov had to say on this question: I am often asked, said General Zhukov, where was Stalin in those fateful days? He went on to answer this question by saying that Stalin was ‘here in Moscow’ organising the forces and the means for the defeat of the enemy: “he must be given his due … with his harsh demands, he achieved, one might say, almost the impossible …” (‘Marshal Zhukov’s greatest battles’, pp.102-3).

The conclusion of the battle of Stalingrad, with the surrender on 1 February 1943 of Field Marshal Von Paulus and 23 other generals, truly mesmerised the world. Never before had such a spectacle been witnessed. The Nazi losses in Don-Volga-Stalingrad area were as follows: 1.5 million men, 3,500 tanks, 12,000 guns, 3,000 aircraft. It was a defeat ” in which the flower of the German army perished. It was against the background of this battle … that Stalin now rose to almost titanic stature in the eyes of the world” (Isaac Deutscher, Stalin – a political biography, Pelican, London 1966, p.472).

By 30 April 1945, the Red Army had stormed the Reichstag in Berlin at the same time as the Führer committed suicide. The following day the Red Army hoisted the proud red flag atop the Reichstag building.

Reasons for Soviet victory

 

Through the military trial of some of the generals and the Moscow trials, the Soviet Union had eliminated those who constituted a fifth column who would have collaborated with the invading Nazis had they been left at large. Far from decimating the Soviet military and political leadership, these trials had strengthened the Soviet armed forces’ will to fight and restored the Communist Party’s unity in the face of deadly enemies. If the Soviet High Command had indeed been decimated, how then was it that the Red Army produced such brilliant and world-renowned generals as Zhukov, Chuikov, Shtemenko, Yaramenko, Timoshenko, Vasilivesky, Sokolovsky, Rokossovsky, Koniev, Voroshilov, Budenny, Mekhlis, Kulik and many others?

The second reason for victory was socialism. Through industrialisation and collectivisation the Soviet Union had built up its economy and its defence capability. There had been much discussion in the Soviet Union about the tempo of industrialisation, with some sections of the Communist Party demanding a slower tempo of industrialisation. In his speech of 4 February 1931 to a conference of leading personnel of socialist industry, J V Stalin insisted that the tempo of industrialisation be not only maintained but, on the contrary, increased. To slacken the tempo, he maintained, would means falling behind, and those who fall behind, he added, get beaten. And “we do not want to be beaten”. Continuing he said: ” We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in 10 years. Either we do it, or we shall go under” (Collected Works, Vol. 13, pp.40-41).

Even Deutscher, with his extreme dislike of Stalin, was obliged to admit that following the Second World War these words of Stalin’s proved to be really prophetic.

The third reason for the Soviet victory was that the Soviet people were led by such a tried and tested revolutionary Party as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), headed by that giant of a revolutionary Joseph Stalin.

The fourth reason was the existence of the USSR, which was a unique institution in the history of humanity – a multinational state established by the victorious proletariat which had outlawed exploitation of one human being by another and of one nation by another. It was a free and fraternal association of dozens of nations who lived together to construct a bright future, and where injury to one was regarded as an injury to all. The peoples of this multinational state were prepared to defend their unique motherland to the last drop of their blood.

Initial reverses

 

In the first few weeks of the war, the Soviet forces suffered some reverses. This was due to three factors:

1. The surprise German attack.

2. Second, earlier Nazi mobilisation and two years of the German army’s experience in modern warfare. The Germans amassed 176 of their own divisions and hurled them against the Soviet Union. But let no-one conclude from this that there were no Soviet troops on the frontier and that the Germans simply walked in unhindered. As a result of Soviet resistance, the finest divisions of Hitler’s armies were destroyed by the Red Army. In the first four months of the war, the losses of the two sides were as follows:

Soviet losses: 350,000 killed, 378,000 missing and 1,020,000 wounded, making a total of 1,728 million.

German losses: 4.5 million killed and wounded.

In the three months of the winter 1942-3 offensive alone, the Red Army routed 112 enemy divisions, killing more than 700,000 and taking 300,000 prisoners. The outstanding encirclement and annihilation at Stalingrad of the picked German troops shall forever remain an eloquent tribute to the fearless fighting spirit of the Red Army and to its brilliant tactics.

3. Absence of a second front: as the German rear in the west was safe, owing to the absence of a second front, Germany was able to move to the eastern front no fewer than 176 of its 256 divisions. With the divisions of its fascist allies, it had nearly 240 divisions arrayed against the Soviet Union, leaving merely 90 divisions in the west for generally guard duty. Thus 80% of the Nazi armed forces were concentrated in the east – along the entire front from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea. Time and again, Churchill, with the backing of the United States, delayed the opening of the second front.

Why no second front

 

There was no second front because right up to the end of the war, Britain and the US never gave up their duplicitous desire, and attempts, to come to an understanding with Hitlerite Germany, leaving it free to concentrate its forces on the Soviet front, or, if the possibility should present itself, to march hand in hand with Nazi Germany on Moscow.

In October 1942, at the height of the Battle of Stalingrad, Churchill wrote a secret memo, whose contents came to light only in September 1949. In it, he wrote: “It would be a measureless disaster if this Russian barbarism overlaid the culture and independence of the ancient states of Europe.” In view of this, he blocked the opening of the second front.

On 23 November 1954, Churchill made a speech in Woodford, England, in which he said: ” Even before the end of the war, as Germans were surrendering, I telegraphed Lord Montgomery, directing him to stack German arms so that they could be issued again to German soldiers to block Russian advance.” Churchill’s boast on this score proved to be an embarrassment even in imperialist circles. Be it said in passing, these plots of Churchill’s had the full backing of Attlee and Bevin – the leading lights of the allegedly socialist Labour Party.

By March 1945, realising the game was up, the Nazis tried to effect a last-minute reversal of alliances. So on the night of 23 April 1945, in the cellar of the Swedish consulate in the old Hanseatic port of Lübeck, Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden held a secret meeting with Heinrich Himmler, SS chief, who signed a document of surrender to Britain and the US on the assumption that the latter two countries would now take over the eastern front and march on Moscow. Nothing came of it because, by the time of Himmler’s meeting with Count Bernadotte, Hitler’s fate in the bunker was sealed by the advance of the Red Army.

Earlier still, in the autumn of 1944, Churchill, with full American knowledge, entered into negotiations with Kesselring, the German commander in Italy, for a separate peace. Stalin came to know of it and questioned Churchill on it. Churchill was obliged to tender an apology, which Stalin accepted.

Within a few weeks of the defeat of Germany, Churchill instructed the war cabinet to draw up a contingency plan for an attack on the Soviet Union so as to eliminate it. The plan involved the use of US, British and 100,000 defeated Nazi soldiers. The plan was opposed by Sir Alan Brooke, chief of the Imperial General Staff, and therefore nothing came of it.

So much then for the anti-fascist credentials of the British and American ruling classes.

 

D-Day landings

The long-delayed second front was opened on 6 June 1944. By this time it was clear that the Red Army was in a position to defeat the Nazis single-handedly. The purpose of these landings was not so much to defeat Germany as to prevent the Soviet Union from liberating the whole of Europe on its own and to rescue as many places as possible from coming under the influence of the Soviet Union and the onset of socialism.

 

The role of Stalin

It is impossible to write anything serious and meaningful about the Soviet war effort and its contribution to smashing German fascism while refusing to recognise the crucial role played by Stalin. Yet precisely this is being attempted by the bourgeoisie and its hangers-on everywhere. The truth is that Stalin’s leadership throughout, in particular during the war, was nothing short of inspirational. Although the credit for the victory must correctly be given to the Soviet armed forces and the heroic efforts of the Soviet people, no narrative of these fateful years is complete without a fulsome tribute to the undisputed leader of the CPSU(B), the Soviet people and the Supreme Commander of the Soviet forces – Joseph Stalin. Even a renegade like Gorbachev was obliged, apropos the Soviet victory in the Second World War, to admit that: ” A factor in the achievement of victory was the tremendous political will, purposefulness and persistence, ability to organise and discipline people, displayed in the war years by Joseph Stalin” (‘Report at the Festive Meeting on the 70th anniversary of the Great October Revolution’, held in Moscow on 2 November 1987, p.25).

Here is what Isaac Deutscher has to say in this regard: ” On 24 June 1945 Stalin stood at the top of the Lenin Mausoleum and reviewed a great victory parade of the Red Army which marked the fourth anniversary of Hitler’s attack. By Stalin’s side stood Marshall Zhukov, his deputy, the victor of Moscow, Stalingrad and Berlin. The troops that marched past him were led by Marshall Rokossovsky. As they marched, rode, and galloped across Red Square, regiments of infantry, cavalry, and tanks swept the mud of its pavement – it was a day of torrential rain – with innumerable banners and standards of Hitler’s army. At the Mausoleum they threw the banners at Stalin’s feet. The allegorical scene was strangely imaginative . . .

” The next day Stalin received the tribute of Moscow for the defence of the city in 1941. The day after he was acclaimed as ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’ and given the title of Generalissimo .”

In “these days of undreamt-of triumph and glory“, continues Deutscher, ” Stalin stood in the full blaze of popular recognition and gratitude. These feelings were spontaneous, genuine, not engineered by official propagandists. Overworked slogans about the ‘achievements of the Stalinist era’ now conveyed fresh meaning not only to young people, but to sceptics and malcontents of the older generation ” (ibid, p534).

Conclusion

The victory over fascism came at a terrible price. 50 million died; of these 12 million were exterminated in fascist concentration camps. On top of this another 95 million were left invalids. The Soviet Union lost 27 million, of whom 7.5 million were soldiers. A third of Soviet territory and economic resources were laid waste. 1,710 towns and 70,000 villages were completely destroyed. 6 million homes and buildings were ripped apart. 31,800 industrial plants were stripped bare. 98,000 collective farms were broken and their livestock, totalling 64 million animals, destroyed or taken to Germany.

This is the price paid by the Soviet Union in a war waged by imperialism to prolong its outmoded existence.

By comparison, the US lost 300,000 lives and the British empire 353,652, of whom British losses came to 224,723 and an additional 60,000 civilians.

It goes to the credit of Soviet socialism that within 3 years after such a devastating war, the Soviet economy had been restored to its pre-war level. And in the following 3 years, it had doubled in size.

In the course of the war, the Soviet armed forces destroyed 560 German divisions and another 100 divisions belonging to German satellites. In comparison, the American and British forces together destroyed no more than 176 German divisions.

Germany lost 10 million men in the war against the USSR, accounting for three-quarters of its losses in the Second World War.

The victories of the Red Army in the Battles of Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk and Berlin shall forever remain an eloquent tribute to the Soviet people, to the socialist system, to the CPSU(B) and to Joseph Stalin. Humanity at large shall never fail to express its gratitude for the contribution of the Soviet Union in the defeat of fascism.

The Soviet Union, alas, is no more, thanks to the treachery of Khruschevite revisionism. The present, worst-ever economic crisis of capitalism is driving the various imperialist powers to war as the only solution to their problems. Wars from Yugoslavia, through the Middle East and North Africa, and now Ukraine, are reminiscent of the Nazi hordes of yore. While remembering, and paying tribute, to the great sacrifices of the Soviet Union, and ordinary people in several countries, including those in the imperialist countries, in the fight against fascism, progressive humanity must wage a determined struggle against the present-day and coming imperialist wars, remembering that the struggle against imperialism and for socialism is inseparable from the struggle against war and fascism.

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US police killings continue unabated

NOVANEWS

www.lalkar.org

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Racism is as American as apple pie. United struggle by the working class will end it.

The murder of Michael Brown, a young black man, in Ferguson, Missouri by a white policeman on 9 August 2014, and the exoneration of his killer by the US ‘justice’ system, touched off a powerful wave of protests on the part of the local, mostly black, community, which then spread across the cities of the USA.

These protests were met from the very first by a highly militarised police force, using tear gas, plastic bullets, and even live bullets as weapons of first response, while dressed as though they were on the front line in some occupied country. In fact, Ferguson was indeed placed under occupation, with curfews, armed outposts on strategic street corners and armoured cars driving at speed around the city, with the be-goggled ‘GI Joe’ look-alikes manning heavy-calibre machine guns sitting menacingly on top.

As the protests raged across the USA, with some wonderful examples of internationalist solidarity and unity in a number of places around the world, the US police continued to give us further examples of their willingness to kill black people at will, without any fear of punishment.

“I can’t breathe”

During this same period, on 17 July 2014, in New York, Eric Garner was wrestled to the ground by police and held in a chokehold that had supposedly been banned in the NY police department since 1993 – although in 2013 alone, New York City received 233 allegations of police chokeholds being used.

Eric Garner’s ‘crime’ was selling ‘loose’ cigarettes on the street. A witness filmed his unprovoked murder and captured Mr Garner’s last words: “I can’t breathe!” Once again, there was no punishment. Yet another grand jury backed police violence against the black community. In fact, it is the witness who now faces prosecution for filming the police murder.

Just a few months later, on 22 November, a 12-year-old child, Tamir Rice, was shot dead by a policeman in Cleveland, Ohio – this time within two seconds of the patrol car pulling up! Once again, the murder was filmed, but this time by a surveillance camera with no sound. The officer who carried out the murder claimed he gave a proper warning to the boy, who then supposedly went for the toy gun in his waistband, this could not possibly have happened in the incredibly short time between him getting out of his car and shooting Tamir.

Actually, the officer must have had the gun in his hand while the car was still in motion, as events happened at such speed. The officer, Tim Loehmann, had two years previously quit his job with a suburban police force after his supervisors determined that he had had a “dangerous loss of composure” during firearms training and was emotionally unprepared to cope with the stresses of the job. The Cleveland police now admit that they did not review Loehmann’s previous personnel file during background checks carried out at the time of his hiring.

The racial make-up of Cleveland is 53 percent black and 37 percent white, while its police department, numbering 1,551 persons, is worse than the reverse of that, with just 25 percent of its officers being black. The figures for Ferguson are even more striking.

‘Skid row’ savagery

Incidents of abuse and physical harm to poor people by US police occur daily, and another filmed killing of an unarmed black man occurred on 1 March 2015 in Los Angeles. A black man known locally as ‘Africa’, and later named as Charly ‘Africa’ Leundeu Keunang, was targeted by police – apparently as a suspect for a robbery. Africa, who had been living for some time on San Pedro Street, in an area nicknamed Skid Row because of the extremely high level of homeless people existing there, was filmed having an altercation with some of LA’s finest.

The video starts with Africa swinging his arms at four police officers who have him surrounded. One officer then drops his nightstick and punches Africa until he sinks to the floor. The cop then stands over his victim and two more police officers are seen to arrive. A woman passing by picks up the nightstick and waves it at the officers while saying something inaudible. Two of the cops then wrestle her to the ground and put her in handcuffs.

Meanwhile, the remaining officers carry on with their abuse of Africa, who is still on the ground but attempting to get up. The film picks up the buzzing of a taser, and the police admit that this was used, but have said that weapon had proved “ineffective”. Africa reaches his hand out towards the cops who are causing him so much torment. Five shots later, he lies dead – posthumously accused of trying to snatch a cop’s gun.

The protests and demonstrations at racist police violence and murder continue in towns and cities across the United States. Such has been the strength of feeling that the department of justice was forced to write a report on policing in Ferguson.

This report, although at the time of writing of this article is not officially published yet, seemingly backs up the complaints of black residents in large measure. According to US media, it has revealed that a black motorist who is pulled over is twice as likely to be searched as a white motorist, even though searches of white drivers are more likely to turn up drugs or other contraband. Moreover, minor, largely discretionary charges such as disturbing the peace and jaywalking are brought almost exclusively against blacks. When whites are charged with these crimes, they are 68 percent more likely to have their cases dismissed.

Resignations have followed the leaks of this report – as if a few older, relatively high-up city officials taking their pensions early is going to convince anyone that the US police leopard has changed, or is even thinking about changing, its spots!

As if to underline the point that no one believes that there is any appetite to change the ‘style’ of policing in the US by those who rule – and reflecting the righteous, pent-up fury of the oppressed masses – two policemen were shot at a rally outside Ferguson police department on Wednesday 11 March, neither fatally. A 20-year-old man, Jeffrey L Williams, has been charged with the shootings.

Various people try to excuse the obviously racist mindset of the US law-‘upholding’ organisations and establishment by citing the existence of black police officers, some of whom have also engaged in acts of brutality. These excuses are easily dismissed.

That some black people may choose to join the organisations that have been a part of their own oppression is not unusual, and can best be understood as people trying to escape their own bad situation by individualistic means – the route of least resistance. Moreover, where a black police officer uses violence, especially against a white person, he is far more likely to be found guilty of the offence and punished than is his white counterpart.

Racism – American DNA

So why is this institutionalised racism so prevalent in the USA? After all, the current president is black – surely that proves that racism is at least on the way to being vanquished?

To answer the second question first, the US imperialists are not stupid. It was quite timely for them to run a black man for president, especially considering how his predecessor George W Bush had succeeded in increasing the hatred felt for US imperialism by people around the world to an ever-greater extent. Obama’s acceptance by much of the US elite is not proof that they do not continue to foster and use racism to rule at home and abroad.

The first question appears somewhat harder to answer, as all imperialist states use discrimination against minorities to divide the working class and protect their own parasitic position. However, the USA seems to be far more racially divided and far more aggressive towards its minorities than most.

One reason to consider when looking at police violence in the USA is the fact that most city, state and national authorities want to be seen as ‘tough on crime, tough on criminals’, and so the nod is given to police departments that tough is good and any stepping over the line will most likely see the culprit defended by the racist and pro-cop ‘justice’ system.

At the end of the day, the fact that the authorities want aggressive policing is obvious from the huge quantity of military vehicles, body armour and weaponry that is supplied to US police departments. And aggressive policing means hitting the poor. In the USA, although the poor come in all hues, you can usually guarantee someone is poor by looking at the colour of their face. If they are black, Latino or Native American, and especially if they are also young, they are likely to be poor!

There is also the violently racist history of the US from the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers to the modern day to help explain the excessively murderous policies imposed on racial minorities. The indigenous Native American peoples, were all but wiped out – slaughtered with the active assistance of the representatives of Christianity.

Many white bishops and priests, from the time of the first landings and into the 20th century, called from their pulpits for the extermination of the ‘godless heathens’ describing them as ‘non-people’. Those who sought the land inhabited by the indigenous people happily followed the words of God’s representatives on earth as their guide. Many of these sanctimonious souls also took part in the innumerable massacres of whole villages, where no one was left alive and where so many women and children died long, drawn-out deaths preceded by the most inhuman tortures.

If the Native Americans were the first ‘non-people’ in America exterminated for vast profit (ie, in order to gain land and mineral rights) after being designated as less than human, then the Africans and their descendants, who were ripped from their homelands in their hundreds of thousands and brought to the Americas as slaves in ships of death, were certainly the second.

Churches and their representatives once again played their part in condoning these crimes, condemning entire peoples to ‘animal’ status – beasts of burden that could understand words and follow the commands given, and even reply. At best, slaves were presented as being permanently childlike, unable to handle any great responsibilities or understand morality. Either way, they were treated as expensive property, and, while they could be beaten and disfigured for training or punishment purposes, they were not generally slaughtered without what could be considered ‘good’ reason – such as running away or as an example to others – as that would have been tantamount to throwing money away.

A real difference in treatment came with emancipation following the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1865, after the Civil War. As ‘free’ persons, black people in the US were no longer ‘of value’ to an ‘owner’ – and yet the perception of black people as less than human persisted. This was the time when lynching in great numbers really took place. Although black people were now technically able to vote, poll taxes, acts of terror (often perpetrated by groups like the Ku Klux Klan) and discriminatory laws kept huge numbers of African Americans disenfranchised, particularly in the south.

During this time, segregation, racial discrimination and expressions of white supremacy all increased, as did anti-black violence such as lynching and race riots.

Lynching exposed by Ho Chi Minh

In an article entitled ‘Lynching’ published in La Correspondance Internationale, a journal of the Communist International, in 1924, the great Vietnamese revolutionary leader and internationalist Comrade Ho Chi Minh described vividly and with sickening realism what a lynching really was.

He gleaned his facts mainly from newspaper and witness accounts, which were quite easy to obtain, as the US establishment, especially in the south, was quite candid about the practice. Comrade Ho explained to his readers that, in spite of the years of formal emancipation: ” American Negroes still endure atrocious moral and material sufferings, of which the most cruel and horrible is the custom of lynching.

Ho cited the following statistics: “From 1889 to 1919, 2,600 blacks were lynched, including 51 women and girls and ten former Great War soldiers.” Further: ” Among 78 blacks lynched in 1919, 11 were burned alive, three burned after having been killed, 31 shot, three tortured to death, one cut into pieces, one drowned and 11 put to death by various means. 

We do not find out what the ‘various means’ actually were, but, considering the grisly list above, we can only guess at what horrors those 11 people faced before the death came to relieve their sufferings. We do learn some of the ‘charges’ that were brought to ‘justify’ these sickening crimes.

One person was accused of ” having been a member of the League of Non-Partisans (independent farmers); one of having distributed revolutionary publications; one of expressing his opinion on lynchings too freely; one of having criticised the clashes between whites and blacks in Chicago; one of having been known as a leader of the cause of the blacks; one for not getting out of the way and thus frightening a white child who was in a motorcar “.

In 1920, there were 50 lynchings and by 1923 that was down to 28, but these figures increased again every time black people engaged in a serious struggle for civil rights.

It was common for newspapers to report in gory detail on lynchings after the event (not to condemn the organisers or show any pity for the victim, of course), and many lynchings were even pre-organised and openly advertised on the front pages of those newspapers.

The New Orleans States of 26 June 1919 published a headline running right across the front page in letters five inches high: ‘Today a Negro will be burned by 3,000 citizens’, while on the same date, the Jackson Daily News published on its front page across the first two columns in big letters ‘Negro JH to be burned by the crowd at Ellistown this afternoon at 5pm’.

Ho Chi Minh’s article also highlighted 708 lynchings of whites over a space of 30 years – a number that included 11 women. ” Some for having organised strikes, others for having espoused the cause of the blacks.” And so it was revealed that when white workers stood with their black brothers and sisters they met the same fate.

But imagine what they could have achieved for all workers if they had stood in solidarity in far greater numbers. Police and other killings, then as now, have nothing to do with crime and everything to do with the repression and division of the working class.

In today’s USA we see that:

1. African Americans comprise 13 percent of the US population and 14 percent of known drug users, but 37 percent of the people arrested for drug-related offences.

2. African Americans make up 57 percent of the people in state prisons for drug offences.

3. Studies show that police are more likely to pull over and frisk blacks or Latinos than whites. In New York City, 80 percent of the stops made were on blacks and Latinos, and 85 percent of those people were frisked, compared to a mere 8 percent stops of white people.

4. After being arrested, African Americans are 33 percent more likely than whites to be detained while facing a felony trial in New York.

5. In 2010, the US Sentencing Commission reported that African Americans receive 10 percent longer sentences than whites through the federal system for the same crimes.

6. In 2009, African Americans were 21 percent more likely than whites to receive mandatory minimum sentences and 20 percent more likely to be sentenced to prison than white drug defendants.

7. In a 2009 report, two thirds of the criminals receiving life sentences were non-whites. In New York, it was 83 percent.

8. The US Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded that an African American male born in 2001 had a 32 percent chance of going to jail in his lifetime, while a Latino male has a 17 percent chance, and a white male only 6 percent.

9. In 2012, 51 percent of Americans expressed anti-black sentiments in a poll; a 3 percent increase from 2008.

10. Every 40 hours, a black person in America is killed by the police.

Today, we do not see the huge crowds going to a lynching as if it were a public picnic as of old, but the police gunslingers fulfil the same role as the lynching organisers of those days. In fact, the ‘law-keepers’ were always party to those hideous murders, as much as the newspapers that advertised them and the sick bastards who carried out the deeds with impunity.

Each killing by the police brings the racial divisions inside the ringleader of world imperialism to the fore; each one is aimed at driving workers apart and brings succour to the real rulers of that nation.

The US has always been a racist state, in spite of legal sops to try to stave off the drive for real equality, coupled with the brutality meted out to those perceived to be leading that drive. And it is this same racism that provided, and still provides, the ideological underpinning of US imperialist oppression around the world.

When white and black workers stand together as one and defend each other as if they were the closest family members, they will terrify US imperialism and they will, hand in hand, take bold steps towards socialism at home and towards removing the repressive US boot from the necks of so many around the world.

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‘Pension freedom’ – the new provisions

NOVANEWS

www.lalkar.org

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Will free many retirees from their pensions for the benefit of capitalist sharks and fraudsters!

On 6 April 2015 a much-heralded law came into effect introducing ‘pension liberalisation’. Under standard private pension schemes, a worker and their employer pay regular sums to an insurance company throughout the worker’s employment, building up a ‘pension pot’. On the worker’s retirement, this pot is used to purchase an annuity to produce a regular income throughout the worker’s life in retirement.

Now these pension pots are to be equated to normal savings that can be spent anyhow and at any time, provided the worker to whom they belong is aged 55 or more. Theoretically pensioners are now ‘free’ to transfer their pensions savings to more competitive and/or flexible providers so as to improve their income on retirement, and even take all or part of their money before retirement. The reality, however, for many of them will be that their money will soon be gone and they will become entirely dependent on an increasingly stingy state pension. The state pension in 1979 was 26% of average earnings; today it is a mere 18%. It certainly does not cover the cost of living in a care home in one’s old age, or even the cost of having a modicum of care provided in one’s own home.

The Daily Mail of 5 April 2015 (Louise Eccles, ‘Pensions shake-up shambles’) cites the experience of similar pensions liberalisation in the US:

“A respected American think-tank has warned that Britain is about to make the same mistake as the US with pension freedoms.

“The AARP Public Policy Institute said the situation in the US showed that people could not be trusted to spend their own retirement savings wisely.

“Academics said many Britons would blow their savings and be left penniless, forced to rely on the State.

“The AARP’s David John said that in the US many spent ‘unwisely’, took bad financial advice or made mistakes and outlived their savings.

” Age UK has called for more safeguards after the charity’s analysis found someone on a typical pension pot who withdraws £3,000 a year from 65 will run out of money at 75.”

While the American think-tank feels that people can’t be trusted to spend their retirement savings wisely, the fact is that, on the one hand, people experiencing financial difficulties can hardly be called ‘unwise’ if they fail to save; and, on the other hand, there are many sharks out there eying the liberated pension pots with a view to their own benefit, and the workers who have access to these ‘liberated’ funds cannot be blamed if they do not have investment expertise, especially at a time when many people who do have such expertise have had their fingers burnt through what, after the event, proved to be a losing bet. The first of the sharks is the Inland Revenue. Workers will be able to take out 25% of their pension pots free of tax. Anything they take out for spending rather than re-investing over and above that amount will be taxed as income! Furthermore, it will in the first instance be taxed by deduction at source at the highest rate of tax, even in the case of people who pay little or no tax, unless the individual in question is unemployed and can produce a P45 showing a lower tax code. Ultimately, those who do not earn enough to pay tax at higher rates will be entitled to receive back their overpaid tax, but either they will have to wait to the end of the tax year or they will have to fill in a complicated claim form to submit to the Inland Revenue to receive their refund early.

Capitalism specialises in inculcating in people ‘needs’ for spending money on capitalist commodities. Mesmerised by seductive advertising, there are people who will raid their pension pots to pay for lavish weddings for their children, round-the-world trips and other luxuries that are beyond their income bracket. While they might in all probability be condemning themselves to a bleak old age, it is quite understandable that they don’t want to deprive themselves when they consider that they may not live long enough to enjoy a long retirement anyway.

Some insurance companies have a right to charge a very large commission should workers whose entitlement is with them wish to move to a company that offers a better deal.

Besides the ‘legitimate’ sharks, fraudsters have been anticipating a field day with pension liberalisation. According to the Daily Mail, companies have been compiling databases of people likely to have access to pension pots and selling these databases to virtually anybody prepared to pay the price demanded. Apparently a good way of getting people to divulge their financial details is to offer them a low-cost will-making service, or to promise donations to charity in return for the giving of personal information. Those who divulge this information in all innocence are likely then to find themselves targeted for innumerable offers they ‘can’t refuse’ – in particular high return unregulated investments that stand a high risk of failing.

Yet according to the Treasury, ” Our radical reforms are about giving people more choice when they retire – the government believes that people who have worked hard and saved all their lives should have the freedom to decide how to use their savings and the guidance to help them make good decisions .” (Quoted by Josephine Cumbo, ‘”UK pension reform ‘potentially dangerous”‘, Financial Times, 20 February, 2015).

So workers with pension pots are to be entitled to free advice ‘to help them make good decisions’. So committed is the government to making sure good advice is available that it has set up advice centres all over the UK. But Louise Eccles tells us (op.cit): ” The Government had said that everyone over the age of 55 who wanted to take part in the new pension freedoms would be given a free half-hour session of guidance through a new service called Pension Wise, offered through Citizens Advice and The Pensions Advisory Service .” However, only 294 people have been provided to advise 2.1 million over 55s entitled to cash in their pensions under the new provisions – 1 adviser to 7,000 people! Even the most optimistic government claims put the number of these half-hour advice sessions available in the next 12 months at 400,000 altogether, so that there would be a 5-year wait before the last pensioner was seen if everybody entitled to advice were to actually take up the offer. As it is, the government confidently predicts that most people won’t take up the offer of advice, and will either do nothing or will spend their unexpected bonanza without the benefit of any impartial advice at all.

It is the sheerest lunacy in the modern world to make workers make their own provision for income on retirement. The state pension should be sufficient, paid for from taxes – i.e., the annual distribution by central government of the surplus produced by the working class over and above what is needed to replace and improve the means of production, including providing for their own needs. Under capitalism the lion’s share of this is taken by the billionaires for whose benefit the capitalist economy is run, and much of it ends up in gambling on various types of investment that undermines the security of all investments, including the savings of retirees. Under socialism all of it is available to benefit those who need it, including retirees, and all other people in society unable to work.

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RBS banksters: Another trip on capitalism’s

NOVANEWS

www.lalkar.org

Merry-go-round of greed, exploitation and corruption

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The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which is 80 percent publicly owned and has been since it was rescued by £45bn of public money in 2008, has hit the headlines again for controversially paying out £421m in bonuses to its top employees despite announcing a figure of £3.5bn in annual losses. This takes the running total of losses to nearly £50bn since it was bailed out in 2008.

RBS chief executive, Ross McEwan, who was hired from Commonwealth Bank of Australia in 2012 to run RBS’s retail side, defended the bonuses, saying that he understood public concern, but that the bank needed to pay “fair pay” for people in “fairly technical jobs that we need to get right”.

Pointing all ways to appear all things to all men, he has also gone on record on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, describing the payment as “outrageous”! Of course, he also added: “It’s not something I am going to change or can change today.” Mr McEwan rather wants to change the focus onto “rebuilding the trust of customers”.

So, being outraged, along with the majority of the customers, but doing nothing to stop the bonuses will rebuild the trust of customers? Maybe not, but he has very publicly decided not to take his own £1m bonus this year. Before we all get lost in admiration for this saintly soul it would do well to remember that his salary is already £1m per year, and that when he came to RBS he was given share awards under the bank’s three-year incentive plan along with another £3m-worth of shares to buy him out of bonus awards he was due to receive from Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

We never cease to be amazed at how very well-paid people have to be given huge financial incentives to work, whether they get results or not, and yet, the same people (also highly paid) who justify and arrange this have no qualms at all in using various threats and acts of violence – not least through wage cuts or sackings – to low- paid workers and their families, supposedly to give them an ‘incentive’ to work themselves into physical and mental illness and early graves.

Coming back to Mr McEwan’s words of wisdom, in 2014 he described RBS as “the least-trusted company in the least-trusted sector of the economy”. And he then waxed lyrical about how that would be changed by being friendly and understanding to customers while “finally” stopping the astronomical losses that the bank has continued to make.

As to the method of that ‘recovery’, it boils down to this: when the bank has consumed enough of the public purse, and trimmed off the less profitable of its businesses (many of which have broken laws or regulations both here and abroad and are still costing RBS in huge fines and penalties as a result); when it has axed the jobs of thousands of workers who bear no responsibility for these acts and their consequences, it will be floated again as a wholly-private entity at knockdown prices – much to the joy and merriment of those large institutions and billionaires who will then reap fat profits from it … until the next time it needs saving with public money.

Meanwhile, RBS is to have a new chairman in the person of Sir Howard Davies.

The appointment was announced as RBS pledged to sell operations in 25 countries. (Even though they are getting rid of these, RBS has still made a £2.2bn provision for further possible fines for ‘conduct’ issues, including foreign exchange manipulation and payment protection insurance mis-selling.)

Showing just how these ‘top employees’ move around the financial trough, RBS has said that Sir Howard will join RBS’s board at the end of June, once he has issued his final report as chairman of the Airports Commission. Alongside his RBS chairmanship, Sir Howard will retain his non-executive directorship of Prudential, but will renounce his chairmanship of Phoenix insurance group and his role on the board of Morgan Stanley.

In financial circles it is apparently ‘understood’ that, following the general election, the new government, irrespective of the result, will start advertising the privatisation of the 80 percent of RBS that is currently publicly owned, in a sale that will likely include a large-scale ‘Tell Sid’-style offer to the public, allowing us as individuals to buy a few paltry shares of what we now collectively (on paper at least) already own.

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Will reaching a nuclear deal with US imperialism

NOVANEWS

www.lalkar.org

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Render Iran more vulnerable to US-Israeli aggression?

A deal has been reached between US imperialism and Iran in relation to Iran’s nuclear industry.

At this stage it is ‘Heads of Terms’ only – the specific provisions that will bind both sides remain to be negotiated. Even the Heads of Terms have not been published and there is a wide divergence between the US and Iran as to what was actually agreed. Each side has published its own statement as to what has been agreed, but there are major differences between them.

According to the US, what was agreed was that under this ‘deal’, Iran effectively hobbles its nuclear industry to the extent that US imperialism can be sure it would be quite unable to produce a nuclear weapon, notwithstanding the fact that it has the necessary know-how and qualified personnel to do so, at less than a year’s notice. According to the Financial Times, of Iran’s 19,000 centrifuges, it will keep only 5,060 older ones in operation, which will only be allowed to enrich uranium to 3.67%, well below weapons grade. Iran’s Arak heavy water research reactor, which would be capable of producing enough plutonium for a nuclear bomb, will lose its original core which will either be destroyed or removed from the country, and Iran undertakes not to build any other heavy water reactor for 15 years. For the next 20-25 years international inspectors are to have the run of Iran’s complete nuclear complex – enrichment plants, uranium mines, the factories that manufacture machinery for use in the nuclear industry and their storage facilities, with inspectors being given access to both declared and undeclared sites.

The US administration’s 5-page list of concessions allegedly made by Iran in return for the lifting of sanctions was curtly dismissed as ‘spin’ by Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, and Iran issued a complaint to John Kerry about it.

Among the issues on which there are clear differences as to what exactly was agreed are the following:

Ÿ Whereas the US statement claims that Iran will shrink its uranium stockpile to 300kg, this is not mentioned in the Iranian one.

Ÿ The Iranians state that there will be increased cooperation between Iran and all the other parties to the negotiations that would include the construction of nuclear power plants, research reactors and the use of isotopes for medical purposes – an issue on which the US statement is silent.

Ÿ While both statements say that Iran will be barred from producing uranium for at least 10 years, the Iranians claim it is nevertheless permitted to use its advanced centrifuges for the purpose of research. The US says that research will be strictly limited.

Ÿ The US claims that almost two-thirds of the centrifuges at the Fordow underground nuclear installation will be removed, although Iran will be allowed to convert the facility into a science and technology centre. The Iranians, however, state that over 1,000 centrifuges will remain there. Separately it has claimed that the modifications could rapidly be reversed if the US did not keep its part of the bargain.

Ÿ Whereas Iran insists that sanctions are to be removed immediately the final deal is signed (before 30 June), the US statement states that sanctions will only be removed piecemeal as and when agreed measures are implemented.

For his part Ayatollah Khamenei, whose word is law in Iran, has declared that unless there is immediate lifting of sanctions on the signing of the final agreement, then the agreement will not be signed by Iran.

Hence there is still plenty of scope for the collapse of this much-hailed agreement. Creeping up on US imperialism on the one hand and Iran on the other is the issue of Yemen, where US imperialism is seeking by military force – for the moment confined to bombing – through its client, the Saudi Arabian obscurantist regime, to restore to power the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, its docile puppet recently deposed by the people of Yemen led by the Shia Houthi movement to which Iran is naturally sympathetic – an issue that is bound to strengthen the hands of those both in the US and in Iran who are opposed to the deal.

Can US imperialism be trusted to keep to its side of the bargain, whatever that is?

Another problem is that it is a lot quicker and easier to re-impose sanctions than to replace nuclear reactors that have been destroyed. Nicholas Burns, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School and a former US undersecretary of state, wrote in theFinancial Times of 4 April 2015 (‘Imperfect deal will help an uneasy peace’):

” There are those who object that 6,000 centrifuges are far more than Iran should be allowed to keep, and that the current deal does not demand an Iranian capitulation.

“But it is unrealistic to try to resurrect the demands of a decade ago. Iran now has the scientific and engineering knowledge needed to build a nuclear weapon. But the framework agreement will put the country at least a year away from having enough weapons-grade uranium to make a bomb.

“That is a deal worth getting, even if it does not seem so to Benjamin Netanyahu or to some conservative US lawmakers”.

Paul Craig Roberts, a former defence adviser to Ronald Reagan, but now a leading critic of the US imperialist regime, considers that upon Iran giving up the right to develop nuclear energy it has under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which it is a signatory, it can be expected that Washington will renege on any commitments it makes:

“The real question, however, is on what basis can Iran possibly trust Washington?

“Iran should ask former Soviet president Gorbachev what Washington’s word is worth. In exchange for Gorbachev’s agreement to the reunification of Germany, Washington promised Gorbachev that NATO would not move one inch to the East and promptly took NATO to Russia’s border and is now working to incorporate former parts of the Russian empire into NATO.

“Iran should ask current Russian president Putin what Washington’s word is worth. Sensing Russian strategic weakness, the George W. Bush regime broke the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that Washington had signed with Moscow. Pulling out of the treaty, Washington quickly put anti-ballistic missile bases on Russia’s borders, hoping to degrade Russia’s strategic missile forces that serve as a guardian against Washington’s first nuclear strike, a policy now permissible under Washington’s revised war doctrine.”

In short, ” An agreement with Washington is a prelude to treachery. It puts the signer at ease while Washington prepares the signer’s doom. This is the way Washington operates…

“Throughout history Washington has proven conclusively that its word is not worth the paper it is written on.

“Everyone who ever trusted Washington has been betrayed. Possibly there is an exception somewhere, but the betrayals are vast and are sufficient in number to define Washington as the least trusted entity on the earth. No extant entity has broken more agreements than Washington.” (‘The Iran Nuclear Energy Agreement: Force Again Prevails Over Law’, 7 April 2015,

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/)

Perhaps a portent of US imperialism’s lack of good faith is its recent refusal of an entry visa to Hamid Aboutalebi who has been named as Tehran’s new ambassador to the United Nations. The reason for refusing? Because in 1979, 36 years ago, Aboutalebi was slightly involved in translating for the students who took 52 Americans hostage at the US embassy in Tehran. It’s obviously a humiliation about which the mighty US still feels mighty vindictive.

Iran’s case for reaching agreement

However, it should be noted that although it seems that Iran which is giving up its undoubted right to develop nuclear weapons for self-defence and is decimating its nuclear facilities, is, as the experience of Iraq teaches us, taking a rather dangerous step, in fact Iran has always insisted it is not interested in manufacturing nuclear weapons anyway, so at a certain level the concessions it is making only amount to providing imperialism with irrefutable evidence that this is the case. Nevertheless, by giving up its physical ability to produce nuclear weapons should they be needed for the purposes of deterring military aggression, one cannot help feeling Iran is certainly putting itself at risk.

US imperialism which has a massive nuclear arsenal is conceding nothing. In the words of David Gardner of the Financial Times, (‘An undue frostiness greets Iran’s nuclear spring’, 15 April 2014) if hawks could crow then on both sides they would now be doing so. US imperialist bullying, aided and abetted by EU imperialist bullying, has achieved critical concessions at no cost to itself by merely promising to reduce its bullying, but it seems there is nothing to prevent it finding some othercasus belli once Iran’s nuclear industry has been largely incapacitated. In fact Israel could feel encouraged to go it alone in launching a military attack on Iran once it was certain it did not risk nuclear obliteration by doing so.

But we are told the Iranian ‘hawks’ are crowing too. How could that be?

On the other hand, once UN sanctions, as opposed to unilateral US sanctions, have been lifted, it is likely to prove impossible to re-impose them since Russia and China who both hold Security Council vetoes, are unlikely to repeat their mistake of permitting these sanctions in the first place. In fact, Russia is already negotiating a $20 billion sanctions-busting oil deal with Iran.

More importantly even is that Russia has seized the opportunity to unblock a freeze it had in 2009 imposed, but only in response to heavy pressure from the US and Israel, on delivery to Iran of one of the world’s most advanced air defence systems. The establishment of this air defence system could be an even more effective deterrent against foreign attack than the power to retaliate with a nuclear bomb. So long as Iran can defend itself against the kind of imperialist aggression that led to the overthrow of the legitimate governments of Iraq and Libya, for instance, it can afford to submit to at least some of US imperialism’s unreasonable demands on curtailing its nuclear industry.

It is this that explains Israel’s virulent opposition to the deal that has caused major differences to arise between the Israeli and US administrations.

On the face of it, then, it would seem that reaching a deal represents a win for Iran against the forces of imperialist reaction. This circumstance is already convincing US militarists that the deal is a mistake and ought not to be concluded. Obama has conceded to them the promise that he will not push through the terms of any final agreement reached on the basis of his presidential powers but will put it to Congress for approval- his Party is after all keen to win the next election and does not want to offend people unnecessarily. However, the current thinking is that it is unlikely opponents of the deal will be able to muster the 67 votes needed to block it. US multinational profiteers have been gritting their teeth in rage at the ability of their rivals from other parts of the world to get their hands on lucrative contracts their government has forbidden them to bid for, and it is these commercial interests which have finally persuaded Obama that it is time to normalise relations with Iran.

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on Will reaching a nuclear deal with US imperialism

Ukraine: as military stalemate drags on, Russia has the diplomatic initiative

NOVANEWS

www.lalkar.org

Image result for Donbass FLAG

Despite the entry into the Ukraine of British and US “tactical advisors” and weaponry, aimed at shoring up the demoralised forces commanded (more or less) by the fascist junta in Kiev, there seems little immediate prospect of a decisive resumption of last winter’s stalled offensive against the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. However, the ultimate goal of NATO’s aggression, the destabilisation of Russia herself through border provocations and economic sanctions, has most certainly not been abandoned, and it is more important than ever for workers to stand in solidarity with Russia and the Donbass resistance.

Military stalemate

The hammering received by both the Ukraine Army and the fascist volunteer battalions at the hands of the resistance last winter sent the “presidential” usurper Petro Poroshenko scuttling back to the negotiating table in Minsk. In February an agreement was reached (Minsk 2) which required a cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of heavy artillery and talks about autonomy. Since that time, the shelling of towns and villages by Kiev forces and their Nazi auxiliaries has sown death and destruction on a daily basis, all with the clear intention of wearing down the resistance and provoking Russia into furnishing NATO with a pretext for full-fledged military intervention.

On some occasions Kiev has ramped up the attacks to such a level as to raise speculation that a new military offensive was imminent. So, for example, in the first two weeks of March, the army started massive tank shelling of positions of the DPR militias in the locality of Spartak, resulting in much loss of life and material destruction. Yet this was not followed through by the army, suggesting again that this was just one more desperate attempt to provoke a military response from Russia. (“Ukrainian tanks start massive shelling of militia positions – DPR Defence Ministry”, TASS, 10 April)

Within the confines of this military stalemate, the killing and torture of civilians goes on, as documented for example by a recent Russian parliamentary delegation to the 132nd Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly, held in Hanoi. One delegate, Valentina Petrenko, told the assembly that ” The world must learn the truth about torture in Donbass, we have documentary evidence of violence against and killings of civilians by Ukrainian law enforcement troops… These materials tell us about hundreds of killed civilians, show thousands of destroyed civilian facilities, residential buildings, apartments.” (“Evidence of torture in east Ukraine presented to Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly”, TASS, 31 March)

Thieves fall out

There are growing signs however that it is the junta and its imperialist backers that are displaying weakness and indecision, with the junta barely in control over its own allies, let alone able to make its writ run in the east. Consider for example the farcical stand-off between Poroshenko and Igor Kolomoisky.

When the Ukraine parliament sought to assert state control over Ukrnafta, an oil company in which the state owns 50% of the shares, it ran into problems. Kolomoisky, a wealthy businessman who owns 42% of the shares, had effectively been exercising managerial control, and did not care to relinquish the powerful position he had carved out for himself. After all, Poroshenko had already made him governor of Dnipropetrovsk, where he financed the “National Defence Force” to keep the province under Kiev’s control, whilst bragging that he would give a bounty of $10,000 to anyone who captured a Russian soldier in Ukraine. (No takers so far.)

So when parliament dared to challenge Kolomoisky’s control of Ukrnafta, the response was quick: guards in full camouflage gear, some carrying assault rifles, were deployed to defend the company’s HQ in Kiev. As Poroshenko yelped that no regional governor would be allowed a “pocket army”, his fellow oligarch smoothly replied that it was the company’s management, not himself, that had called in the troops, and that anyway they didn’t come from one of the volunteer military battalions that he supports.

Junta’s attack dogs out of control

And whilst oligarchs scrap over the nation’s rapidly depleting wealth, the freelance fascists upon whom the junta relies as ideologically driven attack dogs are proving an embarrassment even to their would-be masters in Kiev, threatening further to undermine morale amongst regular troops and threaten the survival of the junta itself. In one face-saving operation, Kiev is supposedly conducting an investigation into the behaviour of the Aidar battalion, disbanded under a cloud in March. Kiev’s stooge “governor” for Lugansk province, Gennady Moskal, reported that the Aidar battalion was out of control and needed to be replaced by regular forces (sidestepping the inconvenient fact that it was the reluctance of regular forces to slaughter their fellow citizens which compelled the junta to embrace irregular forces in the first place). According to TASS, ” Moskal said in his statement that a part of Aidar had long ago defected from the battalion and was engaged in looting, robbery, racketeering, auto theft and other crimes in regions controlled by the Ukrainian side. An attempt had been prevented to take an arsenal of weapons from the area of combat operations in Donbass to Kiev. The arms were meant for “destabilizing the situation” in the capital, Moskal said.” (‘Kiev launches investi-gation into Aidar battalion’s crimes’, TASS, 31 March) Clearly it is that last-mentioned threat of destabilisation which is really worrying the junta, rather than the routine killing of civilians, which is (unacknowledged) state policy.

France and Germany rock the NATO boat

The longer the military stalemate continues, the more the USA’s international ‘partners’ come under a double pressure: political pressure from Washington to keep widening the scope of sanctions against Russia, and economic pressure not to wave goodbye to such crucial trade relations as those with Russia and eastern Europe – especially in relation to the energy and defence industries.

Hollande has been tying himself in ever tighter knots over whether to notch up brownie points with Washington by refusing to supply Russia with two Mistral helicopter carriers as previously agreed, or stick by France’s contractual obligations and assert some degree of independence from the US. Hollande is currently trying to fudge it, saying the ships will be delivered when certain “preconditions” relating to the Ukraine are met. Moscow’s position remains clear cut: kindly deliver on contract or refund our money. With the crisis engulfing Europe, Hollande is understandably loath to kiss away the €1.2 billion deal.

Meanwhile, Hollande’s own head of military intelligence is busy telling the world that NATO is lying its head off about Russian “invasions”, that it is controlled by America and cannot be trusted. Spymaster General Christophe told a French parliamentary hearing that, contrary to received wisdom, French spies had failed to spot any preparations for a Russian attack whatever. “NATO announced that the Russians were about to invade Ukraine. But, according to French intelligence, there is nothing to corroborate this hypothesis – we determined that the Russians were deploying neither command posts nor logistical facilities, including field hospitals, needed for a military incursion.”

Germany too is giving short shrift to pleas from NATO to join its campaign to supply lethal weaponry to the Kiev junta. An article in the German newspaper Der Spiegelsuggests that Merkel’s administration views as “dangerous propaganda” the wild talk emanating from such NATO leaders as Commander Philip Breedlove (sic). Confronted by the general’s hysterical ranting about the people’s militias preparing, supposedly with Russian help, “over a thousand combat vehicles” and possessing “sophisticated air defence” and “battalions of artillery” , Germany’s own spy service was tasked to check the figures. Their research revealed “just a few armoured vehicles” ! The suspicion in Berlin is that such falsified information is being disseminated in order to sabotage the Minsk peace process in which Russia, France and Germany took the initiative, peace talks which Der Spiegel reminds its readers were dismissed as “Merkel’s Moscow stuff” by Washington’s attack-dog, Victoria Nuland (‘Germany slams NATO European commander’s comments on Ukraine as ‘dangerous propaganda’ – Spiegel’, RT, 8 March, 2015).

Diplomatic efforts supported by Russia

As provocation piles on provocation, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov doggedly continues to urge a political solution to the crisis, keeping Germany and France engaged in the diplomatic process whilst the UK and US rattle their sabres. The ‘Normandy Four’ (Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine) met again on 13 April, in Berlin and agreed to set up working groups within the Contact Group, which comprises Russia, the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe), the Donbass republics and the Kiev junta.

It is noteworthy that the Normandy Four talks, in which US imperialism plays no direct role, took place on the eve of the G7 talks, a forum wherein Washington and Britain flex their muscles and from which Russia remains suspended. The likelihood is that the political heat generated within the talks will rival that generated by the protests without.

Meanwhile proof that the Donbass republics are determined to assert their independence on the world stage comes in some reported remarks of the foreign minister of the DPR.  Foreign Minister Alexander Kofman – who confirms he’s having political discussions with members of some EU countries – says there are plans for a wide-ranging meeting in May, leading to the possible set up of an Institution of Unrecognized Nations which could include a lot of participants, from Donetsk and Lugansk to Catalonia and the Basque country. And Kofman is adamant. He’d rather see the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as an independent country, not as part of Russia. But first, the war Kiev – and Washington – are so obsessed on winning has to end” (‘The war has not started yet’, Pepe Escobar, RT, 30 March).

In a joint statement on 30 March the DPR and LPR made it clear that they would not consent to be treated as bystanders when it came to tackling the constitutional reforms envisaged by Minsk 2: The republics are setting up a commission that will be tasked to implement the provision of the complex of measures concerning reforms of the Ukrainian constitution and to align the republics’ constitutional laws,” the statement said. ‘We offer head of Ukraine’s constitutional commission , Volodymyr Groysman to set up a joint working group” (‘Kiev fails to fulfil Minsk agreements – LPR republic’ TASS, 1 April). They have had a similarly brisk way with those who wanted the fledgling republics to submit to electoral plans dictated by Kiev. The parliamentary speaker of the DPR, Andrey Purgin, spelt it out: “Purgin cautioned against trying ‘to impose unilateral decisions’ on the two eastern republics, noting that peace agreements reached in Minsk, Belarus, last month ‘envisage coordination of all decisions and draft regulations related to Donbass with representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics’” (‘Elections in east Ukraine must be coordinated with Donetsk, Lugansk heads – official’, TASS, 13 March 2015).

Clearly, the junta’s idea of ‘peacekeepers’, or of ‘constitutional reform’, could be expected to differ radically from that of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics. Lavrov has made it clear that the suggestion of introducing peacekeepers in Ukraine, as with any other suggestions that go beyond what was agreed at Minsk 2, could only usefully be discussed with the participation of Donetsk and Lugansk.

Solidarity

Through no choice of their own, the people of the Donbass have found themselves on the front line against imperialist aggression, an aggression which has as its goal no less than regime change in Moscow itself. With troops and weapons from the US and Britain now pouring into the Ukraine, bringing the British people into the most direct confrontation with Russia since 1919, it is more important than ever for workers to stand in solidarity with the Donbass resistance. It is only upon the steadfastness of that resistance that any just political settlement is to be found.

Victory to the heroic Donbass resistance!

No co-operation with imperialist war crimes

Posted in UKComments Off on Ukraine: as military stalemate drags on, Russia has the diplomatic initiative

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