Archive | October 24th, 2016

UK Government Fails to Explain Use of Drones Outside Armed Conflicts

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Sputnik 

The UK government sidestepped the question on laws governing the use of lethal drone strikes outside armed conflicts, when responding to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’s report, the committee said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

According to the Committee, the UK government could not justify the refusal to answer the question about legal constraints within which it would operate by saying that this was a hypothetical situation, although in the course of the inquiry it stated that “it would be prepared to resort to such use of lethal force for counter-terrorism purposes even outside of armed conflict.”

“The Committee welcomes some clarifications of the Government’s position, but is disappointed that the Government has refused to clarify its position in relation to the use of lethal force outside armed conflict… ,” the statement said.

The committee’s report asked government to clarify their policy on the use of drones for targeted killings, including the interpretation of the UK and international laws pertaining to such strikes and the general principles of their use.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights, which includes members from both Houses of the UK Parliament, checks all government bills for compliance with human rights granted by the UK and international law and examines government responses to court decisions on human rights cases.

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Chilcot report: a devastating exposure of the British establishment

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Proletarian issue 73 (August 2016)
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Blair hung out to dry in an attempt to divert attention from the continuing crimes of British imperialism.
On 6 July this year, the eve of the 11th anniversary of the 7 July 2005 London terror attacks, the long-delayed Chilcot Report (CR) into the Iraq war was at long last made public. Its findings were intended to be ready for publication in 2010; actually it took a whole seven years for these findings to see the light of day. With an estimated word count of 2.6 million, the inquiry cost the taxpayer just over £10m.

No class-conscious worker ever expected Sir John Chilcot to lay bare the real reasons for this war; that Anglo-American imperialism was guilty of a predatory war for domination (the highest crime against humanity), and that the war was directed at the overthrow of the legitimate Iraqi government, which presented an obstacle to the war aims of the imperialist banditry.

What is more, the CR accepts the false assumption – an assumption essentially accepted also by the social-democratic and Troto-revisionist fraternity – that the war would have been fully justified if Iraq had really been in possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This basic premise is, however, completely unjustified. In all fairness, Iraq, or any other country, is as entitled to manufacture WMD as are the US, Britain, France and other nuclear powers.

If countries are to be denied the right to produce WMD, it can only be under a comprehensive, non-discriminatory, universal, verifiable and enforceable treaty that bars the production and possession of such weapons to all. Failing that, the attempts by imperialism to deprive some countries of the right to manufacture these weapons serves merely as an excuse to disarm them as a prelude to imperialist wars for regime change.

It is thus the case that, while looking the other way when it comes to the sizeable nuclear arsenal of the zionist state of Israel, imperialism is conducting a relentless war – by propaganda, economic sanctions and blockade, and other means – against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear capability, which the DPRK needs as the surest guarantee of its sovereignty, and as a protection against US imperialism’s evil designs for the overthrow of its government and social system.

Be that as it may, considering the narrow scope and terms of its reference, Sir John’s report has proved devastating for the British establishment in terms of exposing and holding it to account for its share in that destructive and predatory war, which, in addition to the loss of 179 British soldiers’ lives, resulted in the death of two million innocent Iraqis, the internal and external displacement of more than five million, and the wholesale destruction of the country, leaving behind the legacy of sectarianism and terrorism which since then has spread to, and destabilised, vast areas of the middle east and is now threatening to become a feature of life in the centres of imperialism – as is evident from the recent spate of terror attacks in Belgium, France and Germany.

Most people had come to expect a whitewash from Chilcot, following its predecessors, the Hutton and Butler reports. Thankfully, and surprisingly, this is not the case. Sir John’s report exposes, albeit in the understated language of the British civil servant, in pitiless detail, the dishonest, hypocritical, duplicitous, villainous and shallow conduct of the then Labour leader and prime minister, Tony Blair – the chief British warmonger. Notwithstanding its emphasis on Blair, the report has much wider application, which we shall come to shortly.

Chilcot’s aversion to calling a spade a spade

With an inbuilt dislike for calling a spade a spade, Sir John does not say that Blair told bare-faced lies. Instead, in reference to Blair’s September 2002 statement warning that Iraq had WMD that could be launched in 45 minutes threatening British bases in Cyprus, Chilcot says: “The judgments about Iraq’s capabilities in that statement, and the dossier published on the same day, were presented with a certainty which was not justified.” Translated into plain language, it means that the statement was a lie. (See Chilcot report: Tony Blair’s Iraq war case not justified, BBC News, 6 July 2016)

War was unnecessary if the aim, as claimed by Blair, was to deprive Iraq of its WMD (WMD which Iraq did not in fact possess) says the CR: “We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted”, adding that “Military action was not a last resort”.

Characteristically, Sir John does not say outright that the war was illegal even under British law. However, he implies precisely that in dealing with the argument that the legality of the war depended on an assurance by Blair to his attorney general, Peter Goldsmith, that Iraq was guilty of “further material breaches” of its obligations to the UN.

The “precise basis on which Mr Blair made that decision is not clear,” says Sir John. In other words, Blair’s assertion was baseless. That being the case, as there was in fact no legal basis for his assertion, Blair was guilty of leading Britain into an illegal war. What is more, cabinet ministers were, or allowed themselves to be, kept in the dark about the “legal uncertainties” concerning the war. (See Damning Chilcot report helps answer these key questions about the Iraq War by Shane Croucher, International Business Times, 6 July 2016)

Goldsmith comes out badly from the CR, with his reputation nearly as badly damaged as that of Blair. Having initially argued that military action needed a second UN resolution, which did not materialise because of French, Russian and Chinese opposition in the UN security council, he allowed himself to be arm-twisted into changing his mind and providing a legal cover for the predatory war against Iraq.

The CR concludes that the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for British military action “were far from satisfactory” – ie, it was a dishonest legal opinion. Goldsmith did not even provide written advice explaining his decision.

Responding to the CR, Goldsmith asserted that it was his “honestly-held opinion that there was sufficient authority in UN Security Resolution 1441, together with Resolutions 678 and 687, to go to war. I welcome the fact that there is nothing in today’s report that challenges either my conclusion or my view.” (See Circumstances of decision to invade Iraq were ‘far from satisfactory’ by Patrick Wintour and Owen Bowcott, The Guardian, 6 July 2016)

Like Blair, he must be totally deluded to believe that the CR does not challenge either his conclusion or his view. It does precisely that, albeit in understated language.

As a matter of fact, the CR points out that as early as December 2001, Blair’s policy was to work for regime change in Baghdad. In a memo dated 28 July 2002, Mr Blair promised US president George W Bush: “I will be with you, whatever.” Legal or not, Blair had committed Britain to participation in the Iraq war a whole eight months before its commencement, while working to invent ‘facts’ to justify British imperialism’s part in this criminal predatory venture.

Flawed intelligence

The CR censures intelligence chiefs for allowing Blair to publish false claims. The joint intelligence committee (JIC), then headed by Sir John Scarlett, is strongly criticised for allowing Blair to present, without being challenged, the case for war more strongly than was warranted by the evidence, which was “flawed”.

In 2004, Scarlett was promoted to the head of MI6. He left the service in 2009 and has since advised firms including Statoil, PricewaterhouseCooper and Morgan Stanley, although, as someone complicit in a megalomaniac’s march to war, he should, in the words of the Daily Mail’s Max Hastings, “be running a whelk stall on St Helena”. (How our ruling class betrayed us: the cabinet. MI6, generals, law officers, civil servants … all were complicit in a megalomaniac’s march to war, 7 July 2016)

Also criticised in the report is Sir Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6. In a damning passage, the report says that the misleading Iraq weapons dossier (the ‘dodgy dossier’), with its exaggerated claims about the threat to Britain’s national security by Iraqi weapons, when in fact there was no imminent threat at all, left “a damaging legacy, including undermining trust and confidence in government statements, particularly those that rely on intelligence that cannot be independently verified”.

Since MI6 supplied “flawed intelligence and assessments” on Iraq’s ability to use WMD, the agency is clearly left with a huge trust deficit – as, indeed, is the political establishment. (See Chilcot’s indictment of Tony Blair could hardly be more damning by Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, 6 July 2016)

Although Blair claimed that the US and Britain were carrying out the will of the UN security council, as a matter of fact he embarked on the invasion without the approval of the UN. “In the absence of a majority [in the security council] in support of military action, we consider that the UK was, in fact, undermining the security council’s authority.” This is a damning indictment of the warmongers, who claimed to be acting in the name of the security council against the Iraqi government for the latter’s alleged flouting of security council resolutions! (See BBC, op cit)

Robin Cook’s resignation

Many senior government ministers, such as Gordon Brown and John Prescott, did not challenge Blair’s assertions and the drive to war because they were not included in decisions – or, more likely, because they allowed themselves to be excluded. Robin Cook, the then foreign secretary and the leading opponent of the war in early 2003, alone emerges with honour.

Standing at the back of the House to deliver a searing critique of the case for war, he quizzed intelligence chiefs over their claims and resigned to a standing ovation on 17 March, saying: “I can’t accept collective responsibility for the decision to commit Britain now to military action in Iraq without international agreement and domestic support … the threshold for war should always be high.”

He predicted civilian deaths on a mass scale. Iraq “probably had no weapons of mass destruction”, he said and probably only had chemical weapons sold to the regime by the US in the 1980s, asking: “Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years, and which we helped to create?” Mr Cook went on to conclude: “I intend to join those tomorrow night who will vote against military action now. It is for that reason, and for that reason alone, that I resign from the government.” (See This is Robin Cook’s powerful resignation speech that failed to stop the Iraq War by Dan Bloom, Mirror, 6 July 2016)

As a matter of fact, the entire British cabinet (with the exception of Mr Cook), MI6, army generals, law officers, civil servants, the majority of Labour and Tory members of parliament and most newspapers happily joined Blair’s drumbeat to war.

Iraq war made Britain less safe

Contradicting Blair’s assertions that military action in Iraq would make Britain safe, the CR says: “Mr Blair had been warned … that military action would increase the threat from al-Qaeda to the UK and an invasion might lead to Iraq’s weapons and capabilities being transferred to the hands of terrorists” – precisely what has actually happened since. (See BBC, op cit)

Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of MI5 from 2002-7, told the inquiry that the invasion of Iraq substantially increased the terrorist threat to Britain and helped to radicalise young British muslims. This is corroborated by Alistair Campbell, Blair’s spin doctor, who wrote in his diaries: “Eliza gave a very gloomy picture of the terrorist scene here, said that even though al-Qaeda were not directly linked to Iraq, they would use an attack on Iraq to step up activity here. TB [Blair] was looking really worried at that point.” (See Key figures scrutinised in the Chilcot report by Ewen MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, 6 July 2016)

Dame Eliza is one of the few to emerge from the CR with her reputation enhanced.

Britain’s humiliating defeat

In addition, the report says that the war was characterised by catastrophically poor planning, poor risk assessment and equipment shortages which, among other things, led to a “humiliating” defeat for the British military in Basra, with British troops having to use prisoner exchanges to get patriotic resistance forces to stop targeting them. In a masterly understatement, Sir John concludes: “The UK’s military role in Iraq ended a very long way from success.” In plain language it means that the UK’s military action in Iraq ended in a humiliating defeat. (See BBC, op cit)

Blair’s response to the report

On the same day as the CR was presented, Tony Blair held a press conference lasting almost two hours, during which he attempted to brazen out his criminal record on the war against the people of Iraq. Contradicting all available evidence, he claimed there was no rush to war; that there were no lies; that parliament and the cabinet were not misled; that there was no secret deal with America; that intelligence was not falsified; and that the decision to go to war was made in good faith. (See In full: Tony Blair’s press conference after the publication of the Chilcot report by Scott Arthur, YouTube, 9 July 2016)

The truth is that he had, as early as 2002, committed Britain to war, as is clear from his above-cited 28 July 2002 note to Bush saying “I will be with you, whatever.” While repeatedly asserting that the aim of the war was to disarm Iraq, in secret correspondence with Bush he wrote that “getting rid of Saddam Hussein is the right thing to do”. In other words, the war was for effecting regime change and replacing the government of Iraq with one subservient to Anglo-American imperialism.

Eleven days after 11 September 2001, Blair travelled to Washington as an honoured guest for George W Bush’s address to a joint session of the US Congress. The following month, he was in Brighton to speak at the Labour Party conference. During his speech, marked by delusions of grandeur, he said ominously: “The kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us reorder this world around us.” (See Full text: Tony Blair’s speech, The Guardian, 2 October 2011)

A few days after the start of this criminal predatory war, Blair wrote to Bush on 26 March 2003 thus: “Our fundamental goal is to spread our values of freedom, democracy, tolerance and rule of law … That is why, though Iraq’s WMD is the immediate justification for action, ridding Iraq of Saddam is the real prize … This is the moment when you can define international priorities for the next generation: the true post-Cold War world order.” (See Declassified letters: From Tony Blair to George Bush about the Iraq war, Business Insider, 6 July 2016)

Shorn of all euphemism, the above words have only one meaning – namely, the pursuit of complete and total domination by Anglo-American imperialism through the forcible overthrow of the legitimate governments of countries that stood in the way of such domination. The allegations of Iraq’s possession of WMD and the faked intelligence to support these allegations were merely an excuse and a pretext for waging a devastating war in pursuit of domination.

Astoundingly, Blair asserted that the world is a safer place after the war: “I believe I made the right decision and the world is in a better place right now.”

As someone who participated in the unleashing of the most horrendous and devastating terror on the Iraqi people, with millions of people slaughtered and displaced, and the wholesale destruction of the country, he shamelessly went on to say: “Saddam was himself a wellspring of terror, a continuing threat to peace and to his own people. If he had been left in power in 2003, then I believe he would have once again threatened world peace.”

He concluded by saying: “I can’t say sorry for Iraq … I’d do it again.” The Daily Mail article cited above, written after Blair’s brazen press conference, quite correctly characterised him as “a monster of delusion”. Indeed, looking at the middle east in the aftermath of the Iraq war, only someone who had taken leave of his senses and was thoroughly bankrupt morally could have made these assertions.

Military families demand Blair’s prosecution

Following the release of the report, military families called him a terrorist. Sarah O’Connor, whose brother Bob died in Baghdad in 2005, expressed her judgment and anger in the following words: “There is one terrorist in this world that the world needs to be aware of, and his name is Tony Blair – the world’s worst terrorist.” Her words were enthusiastically cheered by some of the other relatives.

Twenty-five bereaved family members were at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in London, where they were given a few hours to read the report before it was officially published. Most of them welcomed the report. “Everything he [Sir John] said today, we have been saying for all these years,” said Rose Gentle, whose son Fusilier Gordon Gentle was killed by a roadside bomb at the age of 19.

Pauline Graham, Rose Gentle’s mother, said: “Now we know where we stand and what we can do. Tony Blair should be taken to court for trial for murder. He can’t get away with this any more”.

Reg Keys, whose son Tom was killed in 2003 aged 20, told reporters that, considering the ongoing terrorist deaths in Iraq, “I can only conclude that unfortunately, and sadly, my son died in vain.”

Mr Keys’ sentiment was echoed by other relatives of the fallen British soldiers. Theresa Thompson, whose son Kevin was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Basra in 2007, aged 21, said: “It was an illegal war. He died in vain. He died for no purpose.” “I won’t stop till Tony Blair is held responsible for this,” said her husband Mark. (See Reg Keys, Rose Gentle and Sarah O’Connor react to the Chilcot report by Express and Star News, YouTube, 6 July 2016)

This is a sentiment shared not only by bereaved families of British soldiers but by millions of people across the country.

Corbyn’s apology

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did the decent thing and apologised on behalf of the Labour party for the Iraq war, saying that those who took the decisions “laid bare in the Chilcot report” must now face up to the consequences. He described the Iraq war as the most “serious foreign policy calamity of the last 60 years”, after meeting families of military personnel.

In a speech at Westminster he said: “I apologised to them for the decisions taken by our then government that led this country into a disastrous war. It’s a disaster that occurred when my party was in government.”

Without naming Blair, Mr Corbyn said that parliament had been misled by a “small number of leading figures in the government”, who were “none too scrupulous” about how they made their case for war. He went on to “apologise sincerely on behalf of my party for the disastrous decision to go to war in Iraq in March 2003.

“That apology is owed first of all to the people of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and the country is still living with the devastating consequences of the war and the forces it unleashed.” It was they, the Iraqi people, he said, who had paid the greatest price.

Speaking after David Cameron in the House of Commons, he described the war as an “act of military aggression” that was considered illegal “by the overwhelming weight of international legal opinion”. Continuing, he sated: “It [the war] led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of millions of refugees. It devastated Iraq’s infrastructure and society.

“The occupation fostered a lethal sectarianism that turned into a civil war. The war fuelled and spread terrorism across the region”.

The former Labour government, he said, had misled parliament. “The government’s September 2002 dossier that Iraq had WMD that could be deployed in 45 minutes was the most notorious of many deceptions.” He invoked the memory of the late Robin Cook, who, in his resignation speech, had stated clearly in “a few hundred words what has been confirmed by this report in more than two million words”. (See Corbyn apologises after Labour’s role in Iraq war ‘laid bare’ by Chilcot report by Anushka Asthana, Rowena Mason and Jessica Elgot, The Guardian, 6 July 2916)

Let it be noted that as Corbyn delivered his damning apology, Labour backbencher Ian Austin shouted: “Sit down and shut up, you’re a disgrace.” Austin’s shameful heckle was supported by several other Labour MPs, including Mike Gapes, Steve McCabe, Margaret Beckett and Alan Johnson.

Gapes also used social media to criticise Corbyn’s apology: “Saying sorry to victims’ families is not the same as apologising for removing a brutal fascist regime. I don’t.” Obviously Mr Gapes is unable to see the real brutal fascist dictators of Anglo-American imperialism, who wage predatory wars of rapine and pillage and overthrow governments that present an obstacle to their quest for domination. (See The Chilcot report: Jeremy Corbyn blasted for Iraq War apology by Lucy Fisher, The Times, 8 July 2016)

The despicable Ann Clwyd said that she would still vote for the war against Iraq: “No one will ever be able to convince me that the world is not better off without Saddam Hussein in power.” (I’d still vote to go to war in Iraq, The Guardian, 6 July 2016)

No Conservative MP plunged such depths of degradation, decadence and degeneration as did the MPs belonging to an allegedly socialist party. Even David Cameron had the decency to say that MPs who had voted for the war against Iraq in 2003, as he had, should take their “fair share” of the responsibility for its consequences. In his statement on the CR, he said that “MPs on all sides who voted for military action will have to take our fair share of the responsibility. We cannot turn the clock back but we can ensure that lessons are learned and acted on.” (See PM statement on the Iraq Inquiry,Government website, 6 July 2016)

Having said that lessons ought to be learned, he went on to negate his statement by affirming his commitment to Britain waging imperialist wars to protect ‘human rights’ [read imperialist super-exploitation and brigandage] and safeguard Britain’s special relationship with the US. Failures over Iraq, he said, should not undermine the idea that Britain should intervene where human rights were endangered.

Nor should the CR lead to Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with the US being questioned. “It would be wrong to conclude that we shouldn’t stand with our American allies when our common security interests [ie, ‘our’ imperialist interests] are threatened,” he said, adding: “I don’t think they’re always right but I think they’re always our best partner and we should work with them.”

As one of the architects of the predatory war against Libya, he doubtless had in mind the defence of that criminal enterprise, which resulted in the deaths of several tens of thousands of innocent Libyans, the murder of their leader Colonel Gaddafi, and the wholesale destruction of their country. This is what passes for ‘learning lessons’ with the political spokesmen of imperialism.

Calls for Blair’s prosecution

Corbyn also apologised to the families of soldiers “who died in Iraq or who have returned home injured or incapacitated”. Hinting at a case for prosecuting key decision makers, he said: “We need Britain to join the 30 countries including Germany and Spain that already support giving the International Criminal Court the power to prosecute those responsible for the crime of military aggression.”

Paul Flynn, shadow commons leader, said that Blair might have a legal case to answer. “I think really there should be serious consideration to him being prosecuted for this but I think this remains to be seen,” he told BBC2’s Daily Politics programme.

In apologising on behalf of his party, Mr Corbyn stated that the “decision to go to war in Iraq has been a stain on our party and our country”. In uttering this sentence Mr Corbyn was ignoring the bloody record of the Labour party and the blood-soaked history of British colonialism and imperialism. No one in the least acquainted with historical truth would be fooled by Mr Corbyn’s attempt to present in bright colours the record of the Labour party and Britain alike.

Even Sir Michael Rose, former commander of the SAS, who led the UN forces in Bosnia, had this to say in the Daily Mail of 7 July 2016: “This war was unjust and unjustifiable. On 9 January 2006, I publicly called for the impeachment of Blair over Iraq. At that time our MPs did not have the moral courage to act. Today, reflecting on the anger of the people of this country who have been so betrayed by him, they will do so now.”

He expressed the belief that the families of the 179 soldiers killed in Iraq have a number of possible grounds for legal action against Blair. (Why the families should see Blair in court)

Attempts to safeguard the system by sacrificing Blair

In May 1997, after Labour’s landslide election victory, Tony Blair stated from the steps of 10 Downing Street: “Mine will be a government that seeks to restore trust in politics in this country.” As it turned out, no British prime minister in recent history has left office with such a legacy of distrust in bourgeois politics.

And this in large measure can be accounted for by Britain’s participation under Tony Blair in the imperialist war against Iraq. Because he has brought such discredit to the ruling class, the latter has turned against him, with the hope that by sacrificing him the whole system may be purged and carry on with repression at home and war abroad.

But it will be difficult to square this circle, as there is the widespread perception that the people of Britain have been betrayed not by Tony Blair alone, but by a much wider range of political, journalistic, ideological, parliamentary, ministerial and business representatives of imperialism, with the full backing of intelligence agencies and the top echelons of the civil service.

In a withering piece in the Mail on Sunday, conservative journalist Peter Hitchens laid into the hypocrites who supported the war willingly and are now busy passing the buck to the fallen and deservedly discredited and despised Tony Blair.

“If you want to blame anyone for the Iraq disaster, look at yourselves,” he wrote. “I mean those scores of MPs of both parties who scuttled, bleating, through the war lobby [on 18 March 2003, parliament voted by 412 to 149 for war] and now claim, falsely, that they didn’t know the facts.

“I mean my media colleagues, who have been trained from their earliest years to doubt what they are told, yet swallowed Alastair Campbell’s great dish of steaming tripe without a thought. Come on, how hard was it to see that the danger was invented, that the war was illegal and that it was none of our business? I have no prophetic powers but I could see it.”

Mr Hitchens pointed out that instead of learning from the Iraq fiasco, the same people who claim to have been fooled by Blair are willingly allowing themselves to be fooled into supporting a war with Russia: “And yet, diddled so blatantly that even an official report now confirms it, you still don’t learn. How many supposedly responsible voters are currently being fooled by today’s attempt to spin us into a stupid conflict with Russia, a country almost nobody in Whitehall knows anything about or understands?

“At least as many as were misled by claims of a fictional massacre into supporting the Libya disaster. At least as many as were persuaded by a media chorus to admire Hilary Benn’s feeble, poorly argued speech urging us to bomb Syria.

“Is there no idiocy you can’t be gulled into by a bit of atrocity propaganda or the endless recycled claim that the chosen target is the new Hitler, who must not be ‘appeased’?”

Mr Hitchens offered a “word of advice” and issued an ominous warning in these words: “If you don’t like atrocities, don’t start wars. Wars are the mother and father of atrocities, and one day they will come home to us, if we keep launching them against others.”

He concluded his thought-provoking article with remorseless logic and powerful arguments as follows: “Vladimir Putin is already being turned into the new Hitler. Nobody who knows anything about Russia thinks this is true. But a couple of weeks ago we more or less secretly sent British troops to Ukraine, a country with which we are not in any way allied, and which is a war zone. Was parliament asked about ‘Exercise Rapid Trident’? I can find no record of it.

“We have just made the daft decision to send 650 scarce troops to Poland and Estonia. This is supposedly in response to a ‘Russian threat’ to these countries for which there is no actual evidence. Apart from the tiny enclave of Kaliningrad, Poland doesn’t even have a border with Russia. As the wise academic Professor Richard Sakwa, whose father served in the pre-war Polish army, has rightly said: ‘Nato grew to meet the threat it had itself provoked’.

“If we are not careful, we shall once again create a war out of our own exaggerated fears and by believing our own propaganda. Any of you who are taken in by this have no right to attack Mr Blair. You are as bad as he is. He and his like couldn’t do what they do without your help.” (Want to see who started the Iraq war? Look in the mirror, 10 July 2016)

Imperialism means war

Though welcoming the CR for exposing the deception and fraud that British imperialism’s political representatives and intelligence services resorted to in the run up to the Iraq war, those representing the interests of the proletariat must go further and explain to the latter the mainsprings of modern war in general and the Iraq war in particular – namely, that imperialism is the source of modern war.

The wars waged by imperialism have nothing to do with democracy, freedom or the rule of law, but everything to do with domination. And since war cannot be eliminated without destroying imperialism, the struggle for peace must be inextricably combined with the struggle against imperialism.

In its quest for domination, in waging predatory wars, imperialism is able to enlist the support of its own privileged workers – what Lenin called the ‘labour aristocracy’ – who act as a purveyor of corruption and opportunism in the working-class movement. (See Imperialism and the split in socialism, October 1916)

Nothing could have illustrated this support more clearly than the Labour party and trade union leaders backing the renewal of Trident, supposedly in order to preserve the jobs of skilled labour, on the one hand, and supporting the Remain campaign in the referendum for fear that a Brexit would weaken imperialism, on the other.

In its struggle against imperialism, the working class must also wage an uncompromising struggle against this opportunism that weakens and divides our movement. One only has to cast a cursory glance at the Labour members of the British parliament and the trade union bosses to be convinced of this simple, yet hard to learn, truth.

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Does Brexit REALLY mean Brexit?

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brexit

With the unexpected result of Britain’s referendum on Brexit on 23 June, the dominant sections of the British and international imperialist bourgeoisies were thrown into turmoil. Multi-billionaire George Soros spoke for all that fraternity when he exclaimed following the Brexit vote:

The catastrophic scenario that many feared has materialised, making the disintegration of the EU practically irreversible,” which he rightly considers threatens “the very survival of the European project“. (EU disintegration ‘practically irreversible’ – RT, 26 June 2016).

As LALKAR has consistently been pointing out, the European Union is an imperialist project designed on the one hand to merge Europe into one large, economically efficient, market, and, on the other hand, to form a bloc that that is strong both financially and militarily facilitating both imperialist domination over weaker capitalist countries as well as avoiding losing out to more powerful economic rivals. It is designed to enable European countries to maintain themselves as imperialist powers. Its break-up is bound to weaken the individual imperialist countries of Europe both economically and militarily. Hence Soros’ dismay, and that of his fellow bloodsuckers.

It follows then that just as the working class and oppressed countries of the world can only welcome the weakening of imperialism, the most powerful sections of the ruling class have a very strong incentive to try to wriggle out of the consequences of the Brexit vote. Yet Theresa May, the new prime minister who replaced David Cameron after he so disastrously (for the bourgeoisie) gambled on the Remain camp being able to carry the day in the referendum, despite herself having been on the Remain side, has declared that “Brexit means Brexit”. But does she really mean it?

Whether she does or not, the fact is that the premiership did not fall into the hands of Boris Johnson or Michael Gove who had campaigned for Brexit since they turned against each other in their competition for the top job. Instead the job of leading Britain towards the implementation of Brexit is entrusted to what from the point of view of the bourgeoisie is a ‘safe pair of hands’. It can be expected that, whatever she says to the contrary, May will enthusiastically implement any damage limitation exercise designed to enable the bourgeoisie to retain as much as possible of the advantages that EU membership gives them even if, in the event, Brexit is in fact implemented.

What is suspicious is that Theresa May’s government is in no hurry to invoke Article 50 to start the 2-year period of exit negotiations with the rest of the EU, but instead appears to be delaying doing so on one excuse or another. According to The Independent:

Ministers are reportedly in discussions over a delay in triggering Article 50, the formal process of leaving the European Union, which could see Britain remain a member of the bloc until late 2019.

“Theresa May, who is expected by many to trigger the two-year process of leaving the EU in early 2017, could push back the timetable because her new Brexit and international trade departments will not be ready, sources in the City of London have told The Sunday Times. Elections on the continent, including those in France and Germany, could also delay Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty being triggered.

“‘Ministers are now thinking the trigger could be delayed to autumn 2017,’ a source who has reportedly had discussions with two senior ministers told the newspaper. ‘They don’t have the infrastructure for the people they need to hire,’ the source added, in reference to the new Whitehall departments being set up from scratch to handle the Brexit negotiations .” (Ashley Cowburn, ‘Brexit “could be delayed until late 2019″ with Whitehall departments not yet ready to trigger Article 50′, 14 August 2016).

In addition, legal challenges are being mounted (by persons wholly unconnected to the government, of course) to try to establish that Article 50 cannot be invoked without parliamentary authority, which of course would never be forthcoming since both the parliamentary Tory Party and the parliamentary Labour Party, unlike the general membership of both parties, are actually opposed to Brexit.

And furthermore there is the canny way Theresa May has set up the preparations for Brexit, as explained by Rachel Sylvester, a passionate Brexiteer, writing a most entertaining article for The Times:

There is not one Whitehall department but three responsible for managing departure from the EU. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been boosted by the new Departments for Exiting the European Union and International Trade, setting out to negotiate the terms of the UK’s relationships around the world.

“Already a vicious turf war is under way. In Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, Theresa May has appointed three of the biggest egos in politics to work together on one of the most contentious issues Whitehall has ever known. The consequences are already being felt. …

“For now, though, there are only clouds on the horizon.

“… the Brexit secretary has never got on with the international trade secretary, while the foreign secretary trusts neither of his two fellow cabinet Brexiteers. … The prime minister has said that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ but Mr Johnson, Mr Davis and Dr Fox all disagree about what this means for access to the single market and controls on free movement.” (‘Brexit bureaucracy will infuriate Out voters’, 16 August 2016).

Meanwhile the three Brexiteers are reportedly mainly engaged in squabbling over who is to have the best office and the largest budget.

Ms Sylvester merely bemoans the surplus of expensive bureaucracy, but of course as far as the bourgeoisie is concerned the expense will all have been worth it if these Brexiteers make such a pig’s ear of brexiteering that they are never in a position to invoke Article 50 and in the meantime the British electorate, it is no doubt hoped, might lose interest in Brexit being implemented, giving leeway for calling yet another referendum which might overturn the Brexit decision without invoking the political turmoil that would undoubtedly ensue if the government were seen to be backtracking on Brexit now in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote.

However, if in the end Brexit cannot be avoided, the negotiations with the EU will all be about how to keep all the advantages for imperialism of the European Union despite the fact that Britain is no longer technically a member. This is a question that interests not only the British bourgeoisie but the bourgeoisies of the other European countries also. They need to keep exporting to Britain just as much as Britain needs to keep exporting to Europe, for example. The knee jerk reaction that the remaining EU members would in some way punish Britain for leaving, for example by imposing heavy duties on its exports to the EU, has now become somewhat muted, and it is also possible that the original EU push to get the Brexit negotiations over and done with as soon as possible will also start to fade, as the wealthiest and most influential sections of the bourgeoisie in all the imperialist EU countries realise that their best bet is to stand together against the disenchanted British and European masses.

Yet the tensions caused within the EU by the need to punish Britain severely in order to deter other disgruntled EU countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and even France also seeking to exit, existing side by side with the contradictory need to maintain business as usual, are likely to exacerbate the centrifugal forces currently wracking the EU.

Throughout the EU the working-class masses, including those who in the past have been privileged and enthusiastic supporters of capitalism – the labour aristocracy and the intelligentsia – have been seeing their living standards become insecure, with high unemployment and diminishing social welfare provision. Those who have suffered most are those from the industrial heartlands whose jobs have effectively been exported by the bourgeoisie to low cost countries. The capital that the bourgeoisie was able to accumulate thanks to the sweated labour of the British working class and the masses in the oppressed and super-exploited countries has been whisked abroad in pursuit of maximum profit, leaving behind an industrial wasteland and a handful of theme parks celebrating Britain’s industrial very much past.

When the factories, mills, mines, steelworks and yards closed down, not only did British workers lose their jobs. They also lost the community activities that centred round their workplaces – the brass bands, the choirs, the social clubs, the sporting events. In addition family members who for generations had all lived in close proximity to each other were forced apart in search of work. This de-industrialisation caused by the export of capital has been going on for decades, and was well advanced long before the current crisis of capitalism erupted in 2007-8, but until the crisis it was still possible for a large number of people to feel that their living standards were rising with a credit boom that enabled them to live far more luxuriously than had their parents, as owner-occupiers, with indoor toilets and bathrooms, designer kitchens, central heating, wall-to-wall carpeting, colour televisions, etc., all of which to some extent softened the blow of what had been lost. However, with the eruption of the financial crisis, all this is under threat. The economic crisis left millions of British families in desperate straits. Nowadays, the TUC has found, more than 1.6 million families are living in ‘extreme debt’, i.e., having to pay 40% or more of their income to creditors (not counting what has to be paid to mortgagees for the cost of one’s home). A further 1.6 million families live with ‘problem debt’, i.e., which consumes over a quarter of their income, and ” the problem is growing fastest among the working poor – people with jobs but whose pay is not enough to keep them afloat”. Real wages in Britain, according to the OECD, declined by 10.4% between 2007 and 2015 (see Patrick Collison, ‘More than a million households facing “extreme debt”, says TUC’, The Guardian, 23 August 2016).

Even if the older generation are able to hang on to what they have got, their children can’t afford to buy their own homes and find there are is no council housing available, have difficulty finding work, have to pay a fortune for higher education without any guarantee of employment at the end, etc. At the same time, the big bourgeoisie and its handmaidens are getting exponentially richer. All in all, there is every reason for the proletariat to feel extremely angry.

Of course, if the ruling section of the bourgeoisie constitutes a mere 0.1% of the population, it has to find ways of deflecting the anger of the masses away from the capitalist system that has produced their misery. The current surefire ways of doing that in most of Britain are: (1) to blame immigrants, and (2) to blame the Brussels bureaucrats. In Scotland the bourgeois ideologues have had stunning success in diverting the anger of the masses away from their moribund capitalist system by blaming the English. And it is these popular prejudices cultivated by imperialism, combined with increasing poverty and the imposition of draconian austerity packages, that explain the results of the Brexit referendum. Many of the angry proletarians in England and Wales, in particular in the most de-industrialised areas, voted to leave the EU because they believed the propaganda that unlimited immigration from the EU was responsible wholly or partly for unemployment and deteriorating public services and/or that the Brussels bureaucracy was somehow preventing the UK escaping from the economic doldrums. In Scotland, however, where all the blame is heaped on the English, the Brussels bureaucracy is seen as a benign alternative and source of subvention, therefore nearly two-thirds of Scots (on a turnout quite a bit lower than in England and Wales) voted to Remain. Northern Ireland of course voted for Remain because it does not want to see the border between north and south resurrected, which voters feared might happen if Britain left the EU. Following these carefully cultivated prejudices, the English and Welsh workers in their majority favoured the Leave campaign, while the Scottish favoured the Remain.

Because the Scottish vote favoured Remain, the reactionary Scottish separatists are now demanding a second referendum on Scottish independence with a view to somehow enabling Scotland to remain in the EU after Britain leaves. It’s unlikely to happen. For a country to be admitted into the EU all other EU members have to agree to its admission. Countries like Spain, which has its own problems with separatists, will almost certainly not agree to ‘reward’ Scotland in this way as it would not want to give encouragement to its own secessionists. Northern Ireland, however, is in a different situation because if under the terms of the Good Friday agreement it were to hold a referendum on whether it should become part of the Irish Republic, there is a good chance that this would be upheld by a majority: it could be the one thing that persuades the Protestant community, that has hitherto strongly favoured ‘loyalty’ to the British state as the guarantor of its privileges, to abandon that allegiance so as not to lose EU subsidies. Time will tell.

What the referendum has clearly done, however, is to act as a disclosing agent exposing the dangerous delusions prevalent in the working-class movement in Britain. While the result of the referendum was progressive, and working class defiance of the ruling class was heartening, a proletariat that is susceptible to being divided against itself on xenophobic or nationalist lines, as appears to be the case with the British proletariat at present, will never be able to put an end to the rule of the bourgeoisie. It is of utmost importance that every effort should be made to imbue the proletarian masses with the understanding that it is capitalism not immigrants that is responsible for the present parlous economic situation. Xenophobia must be replaced by kefalophobia – i.e., the hatred of capital.

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Could Corbyn cure the crisis?

NOVANEWS
Issued by: CPGB-ML
Issued on: 08 September 2016
Could Corbyn cure the crisis?
The right-wing majority of the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) is seeking to overthrow the party’s left-wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn, having been desperate to ditch him ever since he won the 2015 leadership contest by a landslide.

Until recently, the PLP and the trade unions always decided on new leaders between themselves, but rule changes now mean that individual members and registered supporters have the final say. Since the majority of ordinary party members have shown that they are pinning their hopes on left social democracy to find solutions to austerity, privatisation, unemployment and war, anybody who hopes to replace Corbyn as leader is forced to use left-sounding phraseology too.

Hence the Labour bigwigs’ preferred ‘unity’ candidate, Owen Smith, who, while polishing his leftist facade, comes reassuringly equipped with an impeccable corporate CV, thus earning him the confidence of the party establishment and imperialist media alike.

A surge of hope

The election of Corbyn as leader brought with it a great surge of hope to all those who still believe that if only the Labour party can get ‘back to its roots’ and win an election on a left-social-democratic platform, the problems of crisis and war can be tackled fairly; that by taxing the rich more effectively and refusing to launch imperialist wars, the government could balance its books and bring back the fast-diminishing welfare state; and that the People’s Assembly is right when it asserts that “austerity is a political choice, not a necessity”.

According to this view, a left-wing Labour government would renationalise utilities and services, rebuild the NHS, re-fund education, reinvigorate industry and employment, bring back social services, increase the state pension, and fund the benefit system so as to provide an adequate safety net to those who can’t find jobs or are otherwise unable to work.

Put simply, most of us long to live in a fairer and more secure world. The surge of support for Corbyn is just one manifestation of this desire, and of the anger at the constant downward pressure on living conditions that the majority of British workers have had to endure in recent decades.

This anger and frustration is also behind the rise of Ukip/BNP-type British nationalism, of Scottish and Welsh nationalism, of black nationalism and of bourgeois feminism. All these movements claim to offer solutions to workers’ problems, but all are based on the idea that the enemy we need to fight is within our own ranks (immigrants, black people, white people, English people, men).

They all act to divide the working class whilst leaving the rule of the capitalist class intact.

Can capitalism be fixed?

Essentially, all the solutions on offer are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the world in which we live.

The conditions that allowed the Labour government to provide public services, social housing, jobs and benefits to workers in 1945 no longer exist. The USSR is no longer offering its glowing example of socialist prosperity, and the post-war need for massive reconstruction has been replaced in the capitalist world by a deepening economic crisis, which isforcing the imperialists to cut costs everywhere.

The collapse of the USSR, and the consequent disarray in the world communist movement, has emboldened our rulers to believe that they no longer face the imminent threat of revolution. The need to buy social peace has been replaced by the need to pass the burden of the crisis onto the working class, and our potential resistance is being crushed not by buying us off, but by pushing us into the arms of all the charlatans who make careers out of spreading racist, nationalist and other divisive lies to confuse us and to divert us from targeting our real enemy: capitalism itself.

Resistance needs direction

Our party greets with enthusiasm the rising spirit of anger and resistance among British workers, but Marxist science shows that they will be powerless to change society until such time as they have learned to recognise their real, classinterests and to distinguish clearly between friends and enemies.

Given the strength and all-pervasiveness of the corporate imperialist propaganda machine, that is no easy task, but life is every day blowing holes through the officially accepted narratives and providing us with lessons that are there if only we are willing to open our eyes and learn from them.

People who genuinely want to change society for the better must help accelerate this process by using every cut, every war crime and every act of scapegoating to prove to workers that it is impossible to provide a decent life for all while capitalism remains.

Capitalism begets and increases inequality; it cannot avoid the waste of unemployment and overproduction; it cannot solve the problems of poverty and unemployment, nor plan its activities so as to avert environmental catastrophe. Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, exacerbates all these contradictions on a world scale.

Imperialism leads to war, and imperialist crisis today is pushing us towards a cataclysmic world war with Russia or China or both.

Labour’s history, soaked in the blood of the oppressed masses, proves that it has never been a tool for workers’ emancipation; it is a party at the service of the ruling class against the interests of the working class.

Moreover, with the best will in the world, and even with the nicest of leaders in charge, Labour is incapable of fixing capitalism’s contradictions. Even if he can retain his position at the head of the party, Corbyn will not be able to change that simple fact.

Even supposing it were possible to transform the Labour party, it is not possible to turn a capitalist democracy into a workers’ one by simply changing those who run it. In capitalist countries, prime ministers serve the ruling class, not the people.

No PM in a time of crisis can resist the ruling class’s need to implement austerity and wage war if they want to keep the job. Corbyn would be left trying to reconcile the anti-war and anti-austerity feelings of the masses with the capitalists’ need to wage imperialist wars and effect cuts and privatisations.

Let those who believe Mr Corbyn can win the battle against British capital without threatening the foundations of the capitalist system do their best. For our part, we would be happy to see JC elected PM, since that would be the surest way to disillusion the millions who are pinning their hopes on such an outcome.

Meanwhile, our party will continue to do everything in its power to win workers over to the struggle for socialism.

Hard as it may be to accept, in the end, we have to admit that the working class has no other viable option. Only by completely replacing the capitalists’ economic system and political dictatorship with workers’ social ownership and with production directed to meeting people’s needs will we be able to build a world fit for human beings, and to consign poverty, inequality, ignorance, disease and war to history.

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Philippines peace talks

NOVANEWS

phillipines

 

 

 

 

 

Peace talks between the government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) resumed in Oslo on 22 August 2016. The opening ceremony began with a brief introductory speech by the Special Ambassador to the Philippine Peace Process, Elisabeth Slattum welcoming the two delegations and expressing the hope that the resumption of the talks will prove to be a firm foundation for the negotiations ahead. She was followed by Norwegian Foreign Minister, Boerge Brende, who welcomed the delegations on behalf of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) that had acted as a facilitator in the peace negotiations. Noting that the armed conflict between the GPH and the NDF had been one of the longest conflicts in the world, he said that the negotiations will be difficult and time-consuming. Expressing the support of the RNG for the negotiations, he expressed the hope that the parties would succeed in coming to grips with the substantive issues and reach important agreements.

Following the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Secretary Jesus Dureza, Special Advisor on the Peace Process, representing President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Professor Jose María Sisón, NDFP chief political consultant, made their opening statements.

Dureza said that the conflict had been going on for more than 30 years and it was time to end it.

The Presidency of Mr Duterte is a new element which brings some hope for the success of the present talks. Sisón said that the NDFP was optimistic that objective conditions and subjective factors in the Philippines were more favourable than ever before to carrying out the peace negotiations and reaching the goal of a just and lasting peace through basic social and economic reforms.

Continuing, Sisón said: “For the first time in the history of the Philippines, a President has emerged by denouncing the abuses of the oligarch and the folly and servility to foreign powers and by using street language and the methods of the mass movement. He is proud to describe himself as the first left president and as a socialist, willing to seek common ground and cooperation with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.”

He went on to express the willingness of “the CPP, NPA and NDFP in pursuing the just cause of national and social liberation against foreign and feudal domination.”

The reforms, he said, would involve, inter alia, the abrogation of unequal treaties and agreements, democratic empowerment of the working people, social justice, economic development through national industrialisation and land reform; free public education, a patriotic and progressive culture; international solidarity of all peoples and trade and diplomatic relations with all countries.

Just ending the hostilities, he said, was not enough. There must be a “just peace”based on reforms that “lift the people from the morass of underdevelopment, social injustice and poverty”. In the pursuit of such reforms, he ended, ” we can have truce and cooperation and form a government of national unity, peace and development.

On this occasion, LALKAR sends its best wishes to the CPP, NPA and NDFP for the successful outcome of these talks

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Venezuela: Maduro takes control

NOVANEWS
Proletarian issue 73 (August 2016)
Image result for CHAVEZ CARTOON
As the corporate media churns out sensational headlines about food shortages, the Venezuelan government stands by its word and starts to take control of production and distribution.

 

The corporate media are currently in overdrive with stories of shortages of goods as a result of economic failure in Venezuela. The reality is that there are shortages but these are a consequence of sabotage by private companies, alongside a three-year drought, which has also effected hydroelectric energy production.

However, these shortages are being taken seriously by the government, under the leadership of President Nicolás Maduro and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which has launched the ‘great sovereign and safe supply mission’ and is taking control of factories that are being closed by imperialism and the local bourgeoisie.

Great sovereign and safe supply mission

The mission, under the command of defence minister Vladimir Padrino López, is focused on the food, pharmaceutical and industrial sectors, and is aimed at tackling shortages in these vital areas. The programme further aims to develop more efficient local production as well as a new system of distribution for basic products.

The moves come in response to the sabotage and manifest failure of largely private controlled supply chains operating from production to distribution, with 93 percent of the distribution networks across the country being until now in private ownership. In an announcement on 11 July, President Maduro explained that private ownership is “pulverising” the supply system and identified this as the root cause of the shortages that Venezuelans have been enduring.

This is a bold and positive stand by the revolutionary government. It has already met with opposition, as was to be expected, from private companies and the corporate media alike. However, as was pointed out by President Maduro in a television broadcast, the brutal media campaign against the defence minister is a sign that the mission is proceeding well.

Following the launch of the scheme, 105 production agro-alimentary plants have joined, 77 of which belong to the private sector and 28 to the public sector. Maduro noted: “This is not a minor thing, these are plants that have full productive capacity to meet the needs of our people … the goal is to have more than 600 agro-productive units.” (Maduro: 105 agro-alimentary productive plants have joined the Great Mission Sovereign Supply, RNV, 19 July 2016)

True to his word

In the last issue of Proletarian we quoted Maduro at a rally in May this year where he announced: “I’m ready to hand over to the Communal Power any factory stopped by any rich person in this country … Whoever doesn’t want to work should leave and those who do are welcome; we will go united. This country needs all of its economic structure to be functioning.

“A stopped factory (is) a factory turned over to the people; the moment to do it has come. I’m ready to do it, to radicalise the revolution.” (Maduro orders shuttered factories seized and given to workers, Telesur, 15 May 2016)

Recent events have shown that these were not simply rhetorical statements. As soon as the factory of US monopoly Kimberly-Clark Corporation stopped production in early July, firing 971 workers and closing its gates, the government seized it and handed it over to the workers. Venezuela’s 2012 Labour Law prohibits mass firings without consultation with the government and firms that have illegally stopped production are liable for reopening under workers’ control.

On state television, Maduro announced: “Forty-eight hours ago, without notice, a US company called Kimberly-Clark, violating national laws and the constitution, fired almost 1,000 workers from its production plant, closed the door and left the country.

“Kimberly is now in the hands of the workers – producing, working, and we are going to invest the necessary resources in order to consolidate [the plant].” (Venezuela backs workers’ takeover of Kimberley-Clark as Citibank moves to close BCV account by Lucas Koerner, Venezuela Analysis, 13 July 2016)

The executives of Kimberley-Clark are not being let off either, with the Venezuelan government intending to request a red notice from Interpol (described by the US Attorney’s Manual as the “closest instrument to an international arrest warrant in use today”). During a televised address on 18 July, Mr Maduro announced: “The ones who must go to jail will go to jail, wherever they are, because we will ask for a red notice” for their arrest and imprisonment following the illegal closure. (Venezuela’s Maduro threatens to jail Kimberly-Clark executives with Interpol, UPI, 19 July 2016)

Kimberley-Clark produced millions of nappies, sanitary pads, toilet rolls and other healthcare products every month. Following the workers’ takeover, the warehouses were found to be full of the very raw materials that the company had claimed to be unable to obtain. Venezuela’s labour ministry has confirmed that the factory is operating at full capacity and these essential items are once again in circulation. (See Venezuela: seized factory was well stocked but wasn’t producing, Telesur, 16 July 2016)

Economic sabotage and financial blockade

Kimberly-Clark claimed in a press statement that it had acted appropriately in suspending operations and that its decision to leave Venezuela was due to difficulties accessing both raw materials and US dollars for imports.

In response to these claims, President Maduro’s government has pointed to the vast quantities of US dollars these firms have received from the Venezuelan state in exchange for production or imports. Indeed, a recent investigation by Telesur revealed that the private sector may have siphoned off up to $259bn from the state between 2003 and 2013.

The investigation found that by taking advantage of different exchange rates, which are part of the government’s programme of subsidising essential goods, and also through failing to import or produce the goods they have claimed for, these companies have increased their holdings of US dollars in foreign banks, while reducing the goods on the shelves, thereby exacerbating the shortages experienced by workers whilst lining their own pockets. (Venezuela private sector siphoned off $259bn in public funds, Telesur, 19 June 2016)

After taking control of the factory, the workers were able to reactivate the company’s computer systems, which government sources say yielded evidence of false accounting on a massive scale and showed that the company’s entire output had been going to Colombia rather than to the under-supplied Venezuelan market.

Along with the closure of the Kimberley-Clark factory, other multinational firms, including Bridgestone, General Mills and Procter & Gamble, have also scaled back operations in Venezuela, giving similar justifications about access to raw materials and US dollars.

To add to the pressure on the government, US-based Citibank has announced it will be closing the foreign currency accounts it holds for Venezuela’s Central Bank (BCV), which are used by the Venezuelan government for a range of international transactions. Mr Maduro has quite rightly labelled this move as yet another aspect of the financial blockade that US imperialism is trying to impose on the country.

President Maduro reinforced the determination of the Venezuelan people and their government to stand strong in the face of these attacks: “Do you think they’re going to stop us by putting in place a financial blockade? No, ladies and gentlemen, nobody stops Venezuela! With Citibank or without it, we are moving forward.” (See Maduro says Citibank to close Venzuela’s currency accounts by Andres Schipani, Financial Times, 12 July 2016)

Victory to the Bolivarian revolution! Hands off Venezuela!

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TTIP: signs of division in the imperialist camp

NOVANEWS
Proletarian issue 74 (October 2016)

Image result for TTIP LOGO

As the US-EU free trade agreement founders, the EU is demanding that Apple pay €13bn in back taxes.
The proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the countries of the EU, a laughably named ‘free trade agreement’, has been in negotiation since summer 2013.

Labelled by Hillary Clinton the “Economic Nato”, this treaty is specifically designed to safeguard the domination of the globe by decaying US imperialism. Its negotiation is occurring in a time of declining rates of imperialist profitability and the steady rise of the Chinese economy, in particular, among the developing nations.

Status of the negotiations

With the disruption caused by the British vote to leave the European Union, TTIP has lost one of its greatest advocates – the British ruling class – and hopes of an agreement before the end of 2016 will now most probably be frustrated.

United States president Barack Obama finishes his term on 20 January 2017. With the signing of TTIP before then now looking near impossible, it is up to the next head of the US state – be it Clinton or Trump – to see the treaty through. Clinton, in her capacity as the representative of US neo-liberal capital, was previously vocally keen on pushing TTIP through. Under pressure, she has apparently been forced into a volte face and is hinting at opposition to the treaty. However, little or no credence should be given to this apparent change of heart, which is clearly aimed at gulling concerned voters.

Trump, on the other hand, with his protectionist demagogy, has come out clearly against both TTIP and TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership – finalised but awaiting ratification) claiming that they are unfair to the United States! However, Trump’s own business history and practice should, as with all his statements, leave at least reasonable cause for doubt as to which way he might finally jump given the opportunity.

In France, President Hollande recently stated: “The negotiations are bogged down, positions have not been respected, it’s clearly unbalanced,” and said that he will withhold support until after the end of the Obama presidency. French foreign minister for trade Matthias Fekl has been even more forthright, saying: “France calls for an end to these negotiations.” (See No compromise from US, no TTIP with EU this year – France and Germany on trade deal, RT, 30 August 2016)

In Germany, vice-chancellor and economics minister Sigmar Gabriel has stated that the TTIP negations have failed, although “nobody is really admitting it”. (It should be noted that Sigmar represents the Social Democratic Party [SPD], the junior partner in Germany’s ‘grand coalition’. For now, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her dominant Christian Democratic Union [CDU] remain strongly committed to TTIP.) (TTIP has failed – but no one is admitting it, says German vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, Independent, 28 August 2016)

These statements have been accompanied in the bourgeois press by bombastic headlines to the effect that TTIP has been derailed, is finished, has collapsed and so on, with much congratulatory back-slapping from the ‘leftist’ wing of imperialism.

All inter-imperialist alliances are temporary

These developments cannot be seen outside of the global economic situation, however. Weak growth despite low and even negative interest rates, constantly increasing inequality, rising debt and declining rates of profit characterise the world economy – all symptoms related to the current capitalist crisis of overproduction.

Rumblings of TTIP failing are part of a rising tide of protectionist rhetoric on both sides of the Atlantic, much of which is being couched in terms of ‘protecting workers’ in the imperialist countries. TTIP must be considered in the wider circumstances in which it is proposed – that of the most serious crisis of overproduction the capitalist system has ever known and the consequent desperation of capitalists everywhere to protect their diminishing sources of profit.

Elsewhere, further signs of division between the EU and the United States imperialists are showing. The recent order by the European commission demanding that Ireland extract €13bn from Apple in back taxes represents a historic action by the EU against a business based in the United States – a demand, essentially, for Europe to take its ‘fair share’ of the profits of US imperialism; of the surplus value the US has extracted from exploited workers in Europe.

This is one of the world’s biggest tax disputes ever seen, and, if it is progressed, it will have a significant impact on US-EU relations. Unsurprisingly, the government of Apple’s host country in the EU – Ireland – has sided with the United States in this dispute and seeks to appeal the ruling. Of the major parties, only Sinn Fein is demanding that the US multinational pay what it owes.

Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, called the decision “political crap”, and in one respect he is right: this is a political action by the EU. (See Tim Cook says Apple could send cash back to US next year, Wall Street Journal, 1 September 2016)

The ruling against Apple by the EU follows on from German-based car manufacturer Volkswagen being pressured into paying out $15bn in compensation in the USA while the EU has refrained from pressuring a company of ‘its’ bourgeoisie to offer any sort of compensation to defrauded customers. (See VW rejects cash offer for European car owners, Wall Street Journal , 4 July 2016)

These rulings over tax have the capacity to develop into further tit-for-tat rulings as the US and EU ruling classes scramble to claim tax from multinationals based in each other’s jurisdiction.

Is this really the end for TTIP?

All this demonstrates the contradictions that exist between the imperialist countries of the world. Their respective bourgeoisies are in competition with each other for the division of the rest of the world, and for the exploitation of labour and resources.

However, it must not be forgotten that:

1. Both the US and the EU ruling classes on the whole want TTIP to be passed – negotiations are still ongoing. This is a treaty designed to ensure the imperialist domination of the world, and it is in the best interest of these decaying parasitic imperialist countries to get it signed.

2. There is enormous popular resistance to TTIP in Europe, and, with upcoming elections in France, Germany and Austria, it is to the benefit of the governments of these countries to give a token demonstration that they are ‘reconsidering’ the treaty – at least until after these elections – in order to assuage popular anger and dissipate the protest movement.

With this in mind, and barring any other developments in relations between US and EU imperialists, it seems likely that TTIP negations will merely be delayed until after the elections have been held, rather than that they have really ‘failed’, as headlines have been quick to proclaim.

There are definite signs of division in the ruling classes, which must be used to bury TTIP for good. The strongest pressure against TTIP has come from popular resistance by the masses and it should not be diverted by insubstantial sloganeering by government clerks.

TTIP is still under discussion – wavering but not finished. We should believe the agreement is dead when we are sure it has been buried by the force of working-class resistance, not when representatives of the bourgeoisie tell us that the fight is over.

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Bolivia: reactionary revolt of the mining cooperatives

NOVANEWS
Proletarian issue 74 (October2016)
 

Image result for PRESIDENT OF BOLIVIA CARTOON

As the crisis of overproduction deepens and commodity prices fall, a battle is going on for control of Bolivia’s mineral resources.

 

On 25 August 2016, a Bolivian government vice minister of the interior, Rodolfo Illanes, who was also a law professor, was stoned to death by a mob engaged in a dispute with the government over the terms on which mines are allowed to operate. He had been sent to the area to try to negotiate with the leaders of the disturbances, which involved blocking roads to paralyse the country’s economic activity, but instead he was brutally murdered.

The people who organised the anti-government protest – which was violent from the start, with rocks and sticks of dynamite being hurled at the police – were not the oppressed and exploited, but were essentially newly-emerged capitalists, who had become rich in the mining cooperative movement.

Although the mining cooperatives have in elections to date always backed the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), the party to which President Evo Morales belongs, their relationship with the government has always been tense and has been maintained only through the considerable concessions that the government makes towards them, such as absolving them from paying tax and not requiring them to observe the labour law – including permitting them to ban unionisation of their hired labour.

The government has also assisted in providing them with modern machinery. However, as a result of the world crisis of overproduction their profits have fallen – a situation that they expect the government to make good.

Economic background to the dispute

Since the MAS government took power in 2006, it has made significant strides forward in improving the lot of the working people of Bolivia, despite the intervening world economic crisis. It has done this principally by reducing imperialist exploitation, expropriating property that is lying idle, and using the wealth gained to improve people’s living standards – especially by investing in infrastructure, health and education.

It is recognised that, under Morales, average annual per capita income has risen from $873 to $3,119 and extreme poverty has declined from 38.2 percent in 2006 to 16.8 percent today. A recent World Bank report confirmed that Bolivia is a world leader in terms of revenue growth for the poorest 40 percent of its population.

Nevertheless, the collapse of world commodity prices presents a challenge not only to the extractive industries but also to the government of the country, which derives a considerable amount of its income from them. Although they represent only about 17 percent of GDP, hydrocarbons and minerals make up 72 percent of Bolivia’s export products (hydrocarbons 45 percent and minerals 27 percent of total exports). It is obvious that, in order to maintain its commitment to continued improvement of the lives of the Bolivian masses, the Bolivian government must find ways to maintain and increase its income in the face of difficult conditions.

The basis of the contradiction between the Bolivian government and the somewhat pampered mining cooperatives is therefore self-evident. What is true, however, is that a nationalist and patriotic government such as that of Morales offers the cooperative movement far better prospects than any alternative, and that as a result the contradiction is not by its nature antagonistic. Still, there are plenty of unpatriotic comprador and/or feudalistic elements around, who are making it their business to foster resentment and make the contradiction antagonistic in the hope that this will help restore the kind of comprador government that will prioritise their interests at the expense of the mass of the Bolivian people.

Before the MAS government took power, the richest 10 percent of the population had 128 times the wealth of the poorest 10 percent, but by last year this gap had been reduced to 37 times. This is not an achievement that is to the liking of the rich, however, who can, of course, count on the support of US imperialism, desperate to intensify its own exploitation of the country.

In particular, it is known that US imperialism has earmarked considerable resources towards mobilising public opinion in Bolivia for a future electoral defeat of the Morales government. Indeed, it was successful in February this year in defeating a proposal for constitutional change, put to a popular referendum, that would have allowed Evo Morales to stand for a third term in office.

Over the past eight years, the US government’s ‘National Endowment for Democracy’ (one its prime instruments for manipulating world politics in US imperialist interests) has funded about 40 institutions in Bolivia, including economic and social centres, foundations and non-governmental organisations, to the tune of more than $10m, while last year, the US produced its ‘Strategic Plan for Bolivia’ aimed at restoring imperialist sway over that country. This plan requires, first and foremost of course, the removal of the MAS government.

Bolivia’s mining cooperatives

Currently, mineral mines in Bolivia are divided between the private sector (which operates 70 percent of them), the cooperative sector (operating 22 percent) and the state sector (8 percent). The first set of cooperative mines were formed in 1952, when a new government headed by the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement nationalised the biggest mines, but turned others over to the workers to extract whatever livelihood they could from them. The exercise was repeated in 1985 when most of the state sector closed down and the least profitable mines were offered to their workers to operate as cooperatives while the others were sold into private hands.

By dint of ignoring safety regulations, mobilising child labour and operating under the most backbreaking conditions, the cooperative owners of these mines managed to eke out a living. When commodity prices surged in the world market, however, as China and the other Brics countries created an unprecedented demand for minerals, some cooperative owners became rich, and those operating the cooperative mines – who were originally co-owners – have divided into exploiter and exploited classes.

Today, only some 5 percent of cooperative miners remain owners, the remaining 95 percent being relegated to the status of hired labour, which, for historic reasons, lacks the labour protection rights that have now spread to most other workers in Bolivia. If the market forces from which cooperative owners seek protection force the mines to close, these workers would immediately be pauperised – and this is the basis of their support for their bosses’ demands for continued and increased government support.

The cooperative owners’ demands

Interestingly, the present dispute arose on 10 August without there having been any proposal at all on the part of the government that affected the cooperative mining sector. What it had proposed was to extend employment protection rights, including the right to strike, to the whole of the cooperative service sector – which clearly does not include the mines.

Nevertheless, the cooperative miners’ organisation, Fencomin (Federación Nacional de Cooperativas Mineras), to which some 45,000 cooperative miners belong, including of course the mine owners, decided to mobilise en masse against this law. Since the workers in the service sector (electricity and gas, water and telecommunications) cooperatives all supported the proposal, the action was taken effectively in support of the member-owners of the cooperatives, not their workers.

It was only after they had already mobilised that Fencomin brought out its list of demands – originally 10 and then increased to 14. Prominent among these demands are:

– No to unionisation of the workforce (which hadn’t even been suggested at that stage)

– The loosening of environmental controls

– Allowing the cooperatives to make their own arrangements for outside investment without government control

– Subsidised supply of electricity.

On 23 August, Fencomin started to implement roadblocks that left thousands of travellers stranded in an effort to force the government to accede to its demands. This mobilisation was violent from the start, with the miners being armed with sticks of dynamite and laying traps to blow up police vehicles. At one point, some 40 policemen were taken hostage and beaten up before being released.

Although the government had decreed that the police facing the miners should not be armed, it is perhaps understandable that, in view of the violence they were facing, this order was ignored by some. This led on 24 August to the fatal shooting of two miners, which will in turn have further inflamed the passions of the others. Nevertheless, the murder of the unarmed and defenceless peace negotiator from the government caused such revulsion among the miners themselves that their protest was very quickly abandoned altogether.

Government backlash

The government has lost no time in bringing forward proposals that will give protection to proletarian and genuinely cooperative miners, but will clip the wings of the cooperative profiteers. According to Xinhuaof 2 September 2016: “Several decrees were agreed during an emergency cabinet meeting on Thursday [1 September] …

“The decrees called for the state to take back control of areas and concessions subleased to private companies [national and international], and, according to the government, there are 31 such contracts …

“The state will also take control of sites that are not producing, he said …

“A third decree calls for regular auditing of the mining cooperatives, which will have to report annually on how many members they have, and the volume and value of their output.

“‘The goal,’ said Navarro, ‘is to identify the legitimate cooperatives from those that are merely companies (that) exploit men.’

“In addition, the government announced labour protections for salaried miners, and banned the possession of dynamite and other explosives during strikes or protests.” (Bolivia unveils stricter regulation of mining cooperatives)

This will enable the state to take over any mines that the cooperative owners close down, so that their hired workers are not left high and dry. It will also enable the state to clamp down on what has been a lucrative business for cooperative owners of ‘partnering’ with private companies in order to enable the latter to enjoy the cooperatives’ tax immunity.

As Alfredo Rada Vélez, vice-minister of coordination with the social movements, has explained: “Today the government, by acting without hesitation, has sent a clear message to the worker base of the cooperatives: we are a government of the workers and will no longer tolerate abuses and exploitation within the mining cooperatives. Equally clear is the message to the employers’ leadership: we are a government that defends the sovereignty of the Bolivian people over mineral resources and we will not permit their privatisation or subjection to foreign ownership.” (Quoted in Bolivia’s government sides with workers in conflict with bosses in mining cooperatives by Richard Fidler, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, 10 September 2016)

Capitalist production cannot solve the people’s problems

It is only too likely that the cooperative owners will do everything in their power to restore their offensive against the Morales government, and that in doing so they will receive the enthusiastic and munificent support of imperialism. However, the MAS government has proved that it is no walkover, but is able to counter with pragmatic and intelligent responses, relying above all on the downtrodden proletarian masses of Bolivia, whose interests it genuinely seeks to represent.

However, to escape the noose of the world crisis of overproduction, it is essential to reduce market relations to a minimum by establishing a socialist economy based on state planning for the maximum benefit of the masses. It is very clear in Bolivia that market relations leave the country in extreme difficulty when crisis causes a reduction in the world price of commodities, making it almost impossible for the government to continue to implement measures that improve people’s living standards, including investment in the mines.

In the last great depression of the 1930s, the Soviet Union was the only country that escaped unscathed and able to continue growing its economy and the wellbeing of its people, precisely because it had substituted planning for the anarchy of the market.

Posted in South AmericaComments Off on Bolivia: reactionary revolt of the mining cooperatives

Cuba ‘will not cease defending its revolutionary and anti-imperialist ideals’

NOVANEWS
Proletarian issue 74 (October 2016)
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President Castro reaffirms Cuba’s commitment to socialism at non-aligned movement summit.
The following speech was delivered by Comrade Raul Castro to the 17th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Venezuela on 17 September 2016.

We are 120 non-aligned states, which adhere not only to the Bandung principles but also to the declaration of the non-aligned movement on purposes, principles and its role in the current international juncture that was approved at the 14th NAM summit in Havana. Our enormous strength cannot be underestimated when we proceed in a concerted fashion.

In the 14th NAM summit, held in Havana in 2006, we rejected any attempt at ‘regime change’ and appealed to all countries to abstain from resorting to aggression or to the use of force.

Also in Havana, in January 2014, the heads of state and government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) signed the proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace, thus reaffirming our commitment to the principles enshrined in the United Nations charter and international law, as well as to the peaceful settlement of disputes and full respect for the inalienable right of every state to choose its political, economic, social and cultural system, as an essential premise to ensure coexistence among nations.

However, we are witnessing increasing attacks on Venezuela’s sovereignty and self-determination. Cuba reaffirms its unconditional support to the Venezuelan government and people, to the civic-military union and to constitutional President Nicolás Maduro Moros.

We strongly repudiate the judicial-parliamentary coup d’état engineered against President Dilma Rouseff, for it is an act of contempt against the sovereign will of the people who elected her with more than 53 million votes.

Our sister nation of Colombia may count on the full support of Cuba as it moves forward along the challenging path of the implementation of the agreement, and the consolidation of the stable, fair and lasting peace that Colombians deserve.

We express our confidence in the people of the Arab Republic of Syria, for we know that they are capable of resolving their differences by themselves, without foreign interference aimed at promoting regime change.

Comrade President, it is unacceptable that the Palestinian people are still victims of occupation and violence, and that the occupying power continues preventing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.

Every attempt to secure the self-determination of the abused Saharawi people has failed. Thus, the international community needs to apply itself to resolving this issue.

We affirm our solidarity with the historical demand of the Puerto Rican people for self-determination and independence.

We also uphold our solidarity with the claim of the Republic of Argentina over the Falklands, South Sandwich and South Georgia Islands.

Esteemed Comrade Maduro, to Cuba, non-alignment means to struggle for the radical modification of an international economic order imposed by the big powers – the same order that has made it possible for 360 persons to accumulate an annual wealth exceeding the income of 45 percent of the world’s population. The gap between the rich and the poor keeps widening. Technology transfer from the north to the south countries remains an elusive goal while globalisation basically privileges a special group of industrial nations. Meanwhile, the debt of the south countries, which never ceases to multiply, now amounts to over $1.7tn.

At the moment, 2.9 billion people are forced into unemployment and extreme poverty, and millions of children perish every year from hunger and preventable diseases; nearly 800 million people remain illiterate while more than $1.7tn are spent on armaments.

Non-alignment also means to struggle for the reduction of the knowledge gap, and for the possibility of using information and communication technologies for development and cooperation. We reject the growing militarisation of these technologies and their aggressive use against other countries.

Climate change continues to aggravate, while in the developed countries irrational production and consumption patterns persist that threaten the conditions required for the survival of our species.

On the other hand, the realisation of human rights remains a dream for millions of people all over the world. The United States and Europe resort to manipulation, double standards, selective criteria and the polarisation of this issue, while waves of refugees concentrate at European borders, waiting a for just, stable and permanent solution that can protect their lives and dignity.

Esteemed President Maduro, 21 months have passed since our simultaneous announcement with President Barack Obama of the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.

There has been some progress, mostly in the diplomatic area and cooperation on issues of common interest, but the same cannot be said of the economic and commercial sectors due to the limited, albeit positive, scope of the measures so far adopted by the US administration.

Cuba will persevere on its demand to have the economic, commercial and financial blockade lifted – a blockade that brings so much damage and hardship to our people, and which also has a negative impact on many other countries due to its extraterritorial implementation. By the same token, Cuba will continue urging the return to our sovereignty of the territory illegally occupied by the United States naval base in Guantanamo.

There will not be normal relations before that issue is resolved and other policies harmful to Cuba’s sovereignty still in force are terminated, such as interventionist and subversive programmes.

We reaffirm our disposition to engage the United States government in a civilised relationship, but Cuba will neither renounce any of its principles nor compromise on its sovereignty and independence. Cuba will not cease defending its revolutionary and anti-imperialist ideals or supporting the self-determination of all peoples.

Comrade Maduro, we wish our sister republic of Venezuela full success in the leadership of the non-aligned countries. At the same time, we congratulate the Islamic Republic of Iran on its good work during this past term at the head of the movement.

The only alternative to the enormous dangers and challenges lying ahead is unity and solidarity in defence of our common objectives and interests.

Posted in CUBA1 Comment

THAAD in south Korea – China warns the US: you’re playing with fire

NOVANEWS

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By pushing ahead with THAAD deployment, Washington and Seoul are redrawing the map of the region – to the detriment of imperialism

As the US Obama administration limps towards its end, its ‘pivot to Asia’, aimed at the encirclement of China, as well as Russia, is creating one crisis after another and considerably increasing the threat of a devastating Third World War.

Alongside crises in the South China Sea, and in the East China Sea (between China and Japan), a particularly dangerous situation is once again emerging on and around the Korean peninsula. (For a detailed analysis of the South China Sea issue, see ‘US imperialism’s military aggression is the major factor behind South China Sea disputes’, Proletarian, August 2016.)

War games

On 22 August, the annual joint US-south Korean military exercises known as Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) began in south Korea.

These military drills involve some 25,000 US military personnel, some 2,500 of them introduced from outside south Korea. They are joined by 75,000 troops from south Korea. At present, the US has 28,500 troops permanently stationed in south Korea.

The US-dominated UN Command Military Armistice Commission declared it had notified the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) military that the UFG exercises were “non-provocative”. However, this ridiculous assertion is at complete variance with the facts. Over the past five years especially, the Obama administration has repeatedly used exercises with south Korea to stage a menacing show of force and to threaten the DPRK and other states in the region.

Last November, the US and south Korea formally adopted a new military strategy, Operational Plan 5015 (OPLAN 5015), that is explicitly offensive in character. According to this plan, in a conflict with the DPRK, US and south Korean forces would make so-called “pre-emptive strikes” on key targets, including nuclear facilities, and carry out “decapitation” raids to assassinate high-level officials in acts of state terrorism, including the DPRK’s supreme leader Comrade Kim Jong Un.

OPLAN 5015 provides the framework not only for the UFG exercises, but also the Soaring Eagle military drill being carried out simultaneously by the south Korean air force, involving some 60 military aircraft and 530 troops. The south Korean media reported that their air force was practising to “pre-emptively remove the north’s ballistic missile threats by proactively blocking the missiles and their supply route”.

During last year’s UFG drill, the US exploited the situation to station nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers at its bases on Guam in the western Pacific.

Chinese condemnation

The latest US-south Korean war games have not only been denounced by the DPRK but also by China.

In a commentary issued on 24 August, entitled ‘S. Korea-US war games to further escalate tension in Northeast Asia’, the Xinhua news agency noted that:

The south Korean-US annual joint war games that kicked off on Monday will further escalate tension on the Korean peninsula and damage peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

“The joint annual war games, scheduled to run through next Friday, was claimed by the two allies to be defensive in nature but considered by Pyongyang as a dress rehearsal for northward invasion.”

The Xinhua commentary went on to note that: ” This year’s south Korea-US war games simulate a wartime joint response scenario, a doctrine that involves a US-south Korea pre-emptive strike against the DPRK, raising the possibility for military conflicts on the peninsula .”

It continued by highlighting the dangerous regional situation against which the US-south Korean war exercises are being held:

Northeast Asia has already witnessed heightened tension following an agreement between Seoul and Washington in July to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile defence system in south Korea.

“The THAAD deployment may accelerate the DPRK’s efforts to develop its SLBM[submarine-launched ballistic missile] technology as THAAD’s X-band radar cannot detect and track ballistic missiles fired from a DPRK submarine that moves deep under the waters. [On 24 August, it was reported that the DPRK had indeed successfully test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine off its eastern coast, demonstrating, according to the south Korean military, ” a significant improvement in its efforts to build a harder-to-detect means to strike American and allied forces” -Ed.]

Moreover, China and Russia are strongly opposed to the deployment of THAAD, as its radar can snoop on Chinese and Russian territories, breaking a strategic balance in the region and damaging the security interests of Beijing and Moscow .”

The formal declaration of the US-south Korean intention to deploy the THAAD missile defence system in south Korea by the end of 2017 came on 8 July, provoking open fury in Beijing.

What is THAAD?

THAAD consists of interceptor missiles and the AN/TPY-2 X-band radar system. It is designed to locate and knock out incoming missile attacks. But its real purpose is far from defensive. The United States’ plan is to use the system to prevent any Chinese counterattack hitting US military bases and other targets should Washington launch a nuclear first strike against China. In other words, under the pretext of countering a supposed threat from the DPRK, the US intention is to leave China (as well as the far east of Russia) helpless in the face of US nuclear blackmail.

The system is also connected to the Link 16 intelligence-sharing network, providing intelligence on troop and possible target movements in real-time. In January, Seoul announced it would join Link 16, which includes the US, Japan and Nato countries.

US imperialist bad faith

On 2 March this year, following another nuclear test by the DPRK, Washington succeeded in cajoling China and Russia into acquiescing to another round of stringent anti-DPRK sanctions in the United Nations Security Council. The Obama administration, in weeks of horse-trading, had threatened Beijing with unilateral sanctions that would penalise not only the DPRK but entities and businesses from other countries (which overwhelmingly means China) doing business with it, as well as a possible deployment of the THAAD system.

Having secured the UN resolution, perhaps not altogether surprisingly the US and its closest allies went on to introduce a range of further unilateral sanctions anyway and have now signalled their intention to go ahead with THAAD.

This finally drew the admission from the Chinese newspaper, Global Times, in an 11 August editorial, that the DPRK’s ” nuclear ambition was primarily triggered by long-standing military pressures imposed by south Korea and the US…The escalating pressures have [led to] bolder nuclear projects. China, being a well-intentioned and responsible mediator, has been paid back by a threatening advanced military system.”

For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that deploying THAAD would “undermine the existing strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond” and“have the most negative impact on global strategic stability, which Washington so likes to discuss a commitment to“.

Consequences

Already, since the THAAD announcement, in the UN Security Council, China, supported by Russia, has blocked an attempt by the United States and its allies to censure Pyongyang further for a recent round of missile tests, with Beijing’s representative telling his US counterpart to his face that they had brought the problem on themselves.

In fact the THAAD deployment is already showing the potential to redraw drastically the geopolitical map of Northeast Asia – ironically in a way that is far from favourable to imperialism.

We are already seeing a considerable deterioration in the bilateral relations between China and south Korea, which had been growing steadily closer for years. Some time ago, China replaced the United States as south Korea’s largest trade partner. But, whilst its economic dependence on China grew, it remained, needless to say, utterly dependent on the USA in the military and security fields. Therefore, Beijing and Seoul might have been compared to an unlikely couple sharing the same bed but with very different dreams – whilst China hoped to use the attractions of its huge and buoyant economy to encourage south Korea to distance itself somewhat from the USA and play a more constructive role in the region, south Korea hoped to use its burgeoning economic ties to weaken the long-standing fraternal relations between the socialist allies, China and the DPRK.

Starting with the entertainment and cultural industries, but doubtless moving on from there, south Korea is now set to pay an economic price for its actions against China.

But the strategic implications go far beyond that. As Woo Jung Yeop, a research fellow at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies, a leading south Korean think tank, aptly put it, south Korea’s actions give the DPRK a chance to ” bring the Northeast Asian order back to the cold war period when China and Russia backed north Korea and did not have good relations with South Korea and Japan “.

A new cold war

A veritable deluge of official media commentary from China lends credence to Woo’s view.

On 29 July, Xinhua released a commentary entitled ‘New Cold War looms large in Northeast Asia as Seoul accepts THAAD’. The writer, Liu Chan, noted:

A new Cold War is looming large in Northeast Asia as Washington insists on installing an anti-missile shield in south Korea, a provocative move that could further split the region, trigger a fresh arms race and crush hopes of denuclearising the Korean peninsula…

“The Obama administration claims the anti-missile shield could help defend south Korea against a potential security threat from its neighbour the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

“However, given the fact that the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile shield is designed to intercept incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles at relatively higher altitudes, the DPRK needs only short-range rockets and conventional arms to launch devastating attacks on its southern neighbour, thereby rendering the shield as an ineffective deterrent.

“Furthermore, THAAD, which has a 200 km-range for intercepting missiles, is to be set up some 300 km southeast of Seoul in Seongju county, far from the border with the DPRK. That means the capital and the surrounding areas, the country’s most populated region, will not be protected.

“While Washington’s reasoning for the THAAD deployment is untenable, its self-serving motivation sticks out a mile.

“THAAD’s X-band radar is believed to have a detection range as far as 2,000 km in forward-based mode. Thus once placed in south Korea, the United States would be able to peer conveniently deep into China and Russia, imposing a grave threat to the security interests of the two countries and to regional peace.

“With Seoul agreeing to let THAAD in, a new arms race is well expected. If that were to happen, then regional countries will be sucked into a security dilemma and an unavoidable action-reaction cycle.

“Already, the Chinese defence ministry has confirmed recently that Beijing is testing its own anti-missile systems to ratchet up self-defence capabilities. The deployment would only encourage the DPRK to be even more adventurous, building more bombs and testing more missiles. As for the Russians, don’t expect Moscow to stand idle if its national interests are challenged.

“By strengthening its military posture and alliance in the region, Washington is producing two contentious camps on both sides of the 38th parallel on the Korean peninsula, and diminishing any hope that the region’s nuclear issue can be solved diplomatically.

“For that, Washington and Seoul need to tread very carefully. Otherwise, the outcome of a misplaced decision could be too calamitous to overcom e.”

The next day, Xinhua writer Chen Shilei followed up with a commentary entitled, ‘Seoul should stop playing with fire by planning to deploy THAAD’. According to Chen:

South Korea should stop playing with fire by hosting the US anti-missile system on its own soil, as the move will not only isolate itself but also undermine regional stability.

“Less than two weeks ago, south Korea and the United States reached the agreement to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) in the southern region of south Korea, despite continued opposition from neighbouring nations.

“Although the two countries claimed THAAD will not target any other third party but will be operated only in response to nuclear and missile threats from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the deployment is no doubt a key step in the US strategy of pivoting to Asia and will escalate tensions in Northeast Asia, especially on the Korean peninsula.

“It is believed that Seoul knows what the consequences of hosting THAAD are, but its siding with Washington for whatever reasons on THAAD shows its short-sightedness and poor diplomatic judgement…

“Escalating tensions on the peninsula will only shatter the Korean people’s dream of peace and reunification, which will be the bitterest legacy of the Park Geun Hye government and the biggest misfortune of the Korean people…

“The reason why Beijing and Moscow firmly reject the missile defence system is that with the shield’s X-band radar, Washington is able to peer conveniently into China and Russia, posing a grave threat to the security interests of the two countries and to regional peace…

“Seoul has yet to fully understand that accepting the deployment of a missile shield will only let south Korea become the frontline for possible strategic confrontation between the world’s major countries .”

On 4 August, Xinhua ran a further commentary under the heading ‘China, Russia will by no means compromise on their security interests’, which reads as follows:

Both China and Russia oppose the planned deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system on the Korean peninsula, which endangers their national security and challenges the region’s strategic balance.

“The joint decision by the United States and south Korea is seen as part of a Washington-intended global anti-missile shield to serve US hegemony. The move, with the declared purpose of protecting south Korea from alleged missile and nuclear threats from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is no doubt intended for China and Russia.

“The THAAD system is useless against low-altitude missiles from the north, but its X-band radar could easily penetrate into the territories of China and Russia, which the United States considers the main challengers to its supremacy.

“Deployment of such an anti-missile system is expected to prompt countermeasures and an arms race with a new Cold War looming in the region. Russian analysts believe this is the most serious military provocation in years in Northeast Asia.

“Political trust could be unravelled, prosperous economic and trade ties could be destabilised and regional security could worsen.

“As the Korean peninsula plays an important role in the international geopolitical landscape, it is in the interests of China and Russia to maintain peace and stability there.

“The United States should not underestimate the determination of both countries to safeguard their strategic security interests. The two countries are coordinating closer than ever before, which will serve as a basis to face the THAAD challenge.

“For Washington, its devoted efforts towards a global anti-missile shield also reveals an anxiety over its declining influence in the world and a lack of confidence in keeping its territory safe. However, safeguarding its own security while putting other countries at risk is simply intolerable .”

Finally, for the purpose of this brief review, on 8 August, Xinhua carried a commentary by Luo Jun, entitled, ‘Seoul invites strategic catastrophe as THAAD threatens more than Pyongyang’. According to Luo:

The south Korean government is either making a historic misjudgement, or is using it as a weak excuse, to state that the deployment of a US anti-missile system could pit Beijing against Pyongyang.

“Instead, the decision to deploy the anti-missile system will bring catastrophe to the Korean peninsula and destroy the hard-won political mutual trust and economic ties between Seoul and its neighbours in Northeast Asia.

“Trying to defend an unpopular decision to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system in Seongju county, southeast of Seoul, a south Korean government spokesman on Sunday called China’s criticism unreasonable and shifted the blame to the ‘nuclear and missile threats’ from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

“However, Pyongyang’s proposals for a halt of military and nuclear activities on both sides have repeatedly met cold rejection from Washington and Seoul, which have stuck to frequent military exercises and flown nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over the Korean peninsula, in a clear show of hostility against Pyongyang.

“Such measures were against the DPRK only. Now with the decision to deploy THAAD, which can snoop on vast territories in China and Russia, the United States and south Korea have alienated China and Russia with severe threats to their national security.

“It is unmistakably a strategic misjudgement for Seoul to violate the core interests of its two strong neighbours, at the cost of its own security, and only in the interests of American hegemony.

“The THAAD deployment is based on shaky grounds as it is incapable of intercepting Pyongyang’s short-range missiles, nor can it shield south Korea’s most populated city, Seoul, which is far away from Seongju county.

“However, the THAAD radar system’s strong spying capability means that its location will be among the first targets to be wiped out in case of conflict.

“By allowing the United States to deploy THAAD on its soil, the south Korean government has brought more danger than security to its people, and shut the door to peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

“Now facing a common threat to their national security imposed by Washington and Seoul, China and Russia, along with other regional countries, will have little choice but to come closely together to address the issue. [In this context “other regional countries” can only refer above all to the DPRK – Ed.]

“Some analysts have pointed out that the only beneficiary of turmoil in Northeast Asia is the United States, as it relies on the ‘necessity’ of its military presence in the region to remain a hegemonic global power.

“If Seoul and Pyongyang gradually eased tension, Washington’s military presence in south Korea would be hard to justify. That is why Washington has often discouraged Seoul from talks with Pyongyang and insisted on war drills.

South Korea needs to draw lessons from the disastrous results of conflicts in the Middle East and correct its strategic mistake of inviting THAAD, before it makes itself a powder keg in Northeast Asia.

“The future of the Korean peninsula lies in the constructive exchanges and common development of regional countries, with a goal of gradual reconciliation between Seoul and Pyongyang. Deploying THAAD is clearly a move toward the opposite direction .”

Popular opposition to THAAD

The firm opposition of Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow to THAAD is echoed by the broad mass of people in south Korea and all the democratic and progressive forces there.

In early August, four Members of Parliament from the opposition Minjoo (Democratic) Party of south Korea visited Beijing in an attempt to defuse tensions. For their pains, they were subjected to ferocious

attack from President Park Geun Hye and officials of her ruling Saenuri party. The MPs were accused of “sympathising with China” and of making ” absurd arguments that jibe with north Korea’s“. They were even labelled as “flunkies of China” – this charge is particularly ironic as, ever since she came to office, Park, rather than engaging in dialogue with compatriots in the north, has shamelessly travelled the world engaged in mendicant diplomacy designed to mobilise great and small powers alike against the DPRK.

The stand of the opposition parlia-mentarians is, however, in accord with a broad mass movement of students, trade unionists, environmental campaigners and others, who are organising against THAAD.

What is most noteworthy in this regard is the militant opposition of the people of Seongju to the proposed deployment of THAAD in their community. When Prime Minister Hwang Kyo Ahn visited the county on 15 July, residents greeted him with a barrage of eggs and water bottles.

A crowd of around 3,000 surrounded a bus that Hwang had taken refuge in to escape the projectile eggs, saying they would not let him go until he promised to retract the decision. The standoff lasted for many hours.

The local people also blocked the entrance to the government compound, where Hwang was trapped, with a tractor as security guards struggled to keep them at bay.

It was the third consecutive day of protests in the town. “You bastard,” a protestor shouted, according to south Korea’s Yonhap news agency. “Why would you bring THAAD to Seongju?”

Indeed, by pushing ahead with the THAAD provocation against China and Russia, by their aggressive policies towards the DPRK, and by their arrogant and repressive treatment of the people in south Korea, US imperialism and their south Korean puppets can but strengthen the unity of China, Russia and the DPRK and can but incite the mass of people in south Korea to step up the anti-imperialist struggle for peace, democracy and national reunification. In a word, imperialism and its puppets are once again engaged in their time-honoured practice of lifting a rock only to drop it on their own feet.

Posted in USA, China, South KoreaComments Off on THAAD in south Korea – China warns the US: you’re playing with fire


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