Archive | September 10th, 2020

Workers in eastern Europe and former Soviet states prefer socialism

As the dystopian reality of bourgeois exploitation and ‘democracy’ hits home, Stalin and communism are viewed with respect and longing.

Proletarian writers

Hundreds of supporters gather to mark Josef Stalin’s 139th birthday in Moscow’s Red Square, 21 December 2018.

Former Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s approval rating has hit a record high of 70 percent amongst Russians, according to a study published by the Levada polling centre. (Stalin’s approval rating among Russians hits record high, The Moscow Times, 16 April 2019)

We are used to reading opinion polls, and being justifiably sceptical about their findings. Very often, a tiny proportion of the public is polled, and the methodology is key to determining the responses and therefore the outcomes. In ‘the west’, so-called ‘opinion polling’ is in general a technique of population manipulation, rather than one of enquiring science.

In this case, however, we note the general hostility of those conducting such polls – as evidenced by the liberal sprinkling of their reporting with the terms ‘regime’ and ‘dictator’ in relation to the socialist and workers’ states, while they refer to the corrupt capitalist kleptocracies now installed as having brought the great benefits of ‘freedom, jeans, open borders and coca-cola’. Understanding that bourgeois biases were stacked against an accurate recording of the people’s hatred of their present exploitation, we can begin to glimpse a greater truth that lies beneath.

With this in mind, it is worth examining some of the opinion polls of the peoples of the former socialist countries, 30 years on from the counter-revolution.

Over the past decade, polls have been conducted in each of the former democratic republics, allowing us to gauge their experience of the wonders of free-market (ie, monopoly) capitalism. A number of well-known western-European capitalist journals seem to be shocked at their reported results. Bourgeois journalists couch their own surprise in customary cynicism and dismiss the longing of eastern European workers for the return of the decency and optimism of their lost socialist systems as ‘nostalgia’. In Germany, they have even coined the term ‘Ostalgia’ – a longing for the return of the socialist (east) German Democratic Republic (GDR).

Subtly twisting words to suit their agenda, these reporters attempt to cover up the truth when discussing the reality of working-class power and actual opinions of east European workers, derived from the lived experience of workers from the former socialist states. This kind of con game has long existed when discussing any country that doesn’t have a system of government of which western capitalism approves.

The full articles are linked to, and we invite you to read them – bearing in mind that every piece of data is used as a pretext for a subjective and irrelevant conclusion in order to launch an unwarranted attack on socialism. If the youth want socialism, they are ‘young and naive and not experienced enough in life’. If the old that lived under socialism want their socialist systems back, they are ‘nostalgic’ fossils, lamenting for their lost youth.

If we ignore the commentary and listen instead to the source, we will find that our old comrades – who have lived and experienced both socialism and the capitalist reaction, counter-revolution and restoration – themselves provide detailed and nuanced reasons for preferring socialism.

This is all the more remarkable given that most of those old enough to have lived under socialist systems in Europe did so when revisionism was already busy uprooting the gains of the planned economy and preparing the necessary conditions for the counter-revolution. In many cases, the years they experienced were the years of relative stagnation and decline (although the socialist countries never experienced absolute recession before capitalist restoration) that paved the way for full counter-revolution.

Russia and the former Soviet union

“The majority of Russians polled in a 2016 study said they would prefer living under the old Soviet Union and would like to see the socialist system and the Soviet state restored.” (Most Russians prefer return of Soviet Union and socialism, Telesur, 19 August 2017)

Ex-Soviet bloc

“Reflecting back on the break-up of the Soviet Union that happened 22 years ago next week, residents in seven out of 11 countries that were part of the union are more likely to believe its collapse harmed their countries than benefited them. Only Azerbaijanis, Kazakhstanis, and Turkmens are more likely to see benefit than harm from the break-up. Georgians are divided.” (Former Soviet countries see more harm from break-up, Gallup, 19 December 2013)

East Germany

“Today, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, 57 percent, or an absolute majority, of east Germans defend the former east Germany … ‘life was good there’, say 49 percent of those polled. Eight percent of east Germans flatly oppose all criticism of their former home.” (Majority of east Germans feel life better under communism by Julia Bonstein, Spiegel, 3 July 2009)

Hungary

“A remarkable 72 percent of Hungarians say that most people in their country are actually worse off today economically than they were under communism … This is the result of almost universal displeasure with the economy. Fully 94 percent describe the country’s economy as bad, the highest level of economic discontent in the hard hit region of central and eastern Europe … The public is even more negative toward Hungary’s integration into Europe; 71 percent say their country has been weakened by the process.” (Hungary: Better off under communism? Pew Research, 28 April 2010)

Czech Republic

“Roughly 28 percent of Czechs say they were better off under the communist regime … Only 23 percent said they had a better life now.

“More goods in shops, open borders and better cultural offer are considered the biggest successes of the system that was installed after 1989.

“On the other hand, the voucher privatisation, the worsening of human relations and work of the civil service are its biggest flaws, most Czechs said.” (Many Czechs say they had better life under communism, Prague Daily Monitor, 21 November 2011)

The former Yugoslavia

“A poll shows that as many as 81 percent of Serbians believe they lived best in the former Yugoslavia ‘during the time of socialism’ …

“Forty-five percent said they trusted social institutions most under communism with 23 percent choosing the 2001-03 period when Zoran Djinđic was prime minister. Only 19 percent selected present-day institutions.” (Serbia poll: Life was better under Tito, Balkan Insight, 24 December 2010)

People in other parts of the former Yugoslavis, scarred by the ethnic wars from the 1990s and still outside the EU, are nostalgic for the socialist era of Josip Broz Tito when, unlike now, they travelled across Europe without visas.

“Everything was better then. There was no street crime, jobs were safe and salaries were enough for decent living,” said Belgrade pensioner Koviljka Markovic, 70. “Today I can hardly survive with my pension of 250 euros ($370 a month).” (In eastern Europe , people pine for socialism by Anna Muderva Reuters, 8 November 2009)

Romania

A 2010 poll found that 41 percent of the respondents would have voted for Ceausescu, had he run for the position of president. And 63 percent of the survey participants said their life was better during communism, while only 23 percent attested that their life was worse then.

Some 68 percent declared that communism was a good idea, just one that had been poorly applied. (In Romania, opinion polls show nostalgia for communism by Elena Dragomir, Balkan Analysis, 2011)

Ukraine, Lithuania and Bulgaria

“The poll showed 30 percent of Ukrainians approved of the change to democracy in 2009, down from 72 percent in 1991.

“In Bulgaria and Lithuania the slide was to just over half the population from nearer three-quarters in 1991.” (In eastern Europe, people pine for socialism, Reuters, 8 November 2009)

“In Bulgaria, the 33-year rule of the late dictator Todor Zhivkov [1954-89] begins to seem a golden era to some in comparison with the raging corruption and crime that followed his demise.

“Over 60 percent say they lived better in the past, even though shopping queues were routine, social connections were the only way to obtain more valuable goods, jeans and coca-cola were off-limits and it took up to 10 years’ waiting to buy a car.

“‘For part of the Bulgarians (social) security turned out to be more precious than freedom,’ wrote historians Andrei Pantev and Bozhidar Gavrilov.” (Reuters, op cit)

Why people miss socialism

It’s seemingly easy for the bourgeois press, who have to report these unfavourable findings to dismiss them as mere nostalgia. “Oh everyone loved their youth,” they clamour, “it is their youth they are nostalgic for, not socialism!”

It’s therefore worth taking a look at what people themselves have to say about their lived realities.

“Most east German citizens had a nice life,” says one former citizen, Mr Birger. “I certainly don’t think that it’s better here [reunified Germany] … The people who live on the poverty line today also lack the freedom to travel.” [We note that the ‘freedom to travel’ was denied not by the eastern republics but by the aggressive encircling imperialist powers, who put the entire existence of the socialist nations on a war footing, as they continue to do with the citizens of north Korea and Cuba, among others, today.]

“From today’s perspective, I believe that we were driven out of paradise when the wall came down,” one person writes, and a 38-year-old man “thanks God” that he was able to experience living in the GDR, noting that it wasn’t until after German reunification that he witnessed people who feared for their existence, beggars or homeless people. (Spiegel, op cit)

In the case of the GDR, it doesn’t seem to be mere nostalgia talking. It is far better to have a secure life and dignified existence without poverty than to have the ‘freedom’ to wander from town to town, half starving and homeless, or be forced to journey to a foreign land to offer your life and labour for cheap exploitation as your domestic economy has collapsed under the direction of the local kleptocrats and imperialist financiers. In any event, travel within the socialist world was possible and every worker had the right to long and well-paid holidays, maternity leave, carer and sick leave, and more.

What is important here is that an average worker interviewed does not go along with the propaganda narrative of the author. Political scientist Klaus Schroeder, director of an institute at Berlin’s Free university that studies the former communist state is cited in the Spiegel article, admitting: “I am afraid that a majority of eastern Germans do not identify with the current [capitalist and imperialist] sociopolitical system.”

Another point of attack we often see in the bourgeois press is that those who miss their socialist system do so because they were the lazy and untalented elements who therefore enjoyed the security of the state. In fact, a successful businessman interviewed in the article says that although he has personally done well, he is unhappy with unequal wages and pensions, and misses “that feeling of companionship and solidarity”.

Succinctly summing up bourgeois democracy, he says: “As far as I’m concerned, what we had in those days was less of a dictatorship than what we have today.” And he concludes that, as one of the fortunate ones: “I’m better off today than I was before, but I am not more satisfied.”

Speaking of Romania, the Balkan Analysis article concludes that it is not some nostalgia for their communist past that makes people long for socialism, but the fact that “people have felt increasing social and economic pressures and therefore their desire for social security guarantees has increased, regardless of education levels, age or social status”. In other words, economic insecurity has worsened under capitalism, bringing with it an increase in social dislocation, poverty, crime and unhappiness.

For the Russians, the case is simple: in 2017, Russians were spending more than half their income on food. The return of capitalism has meant a complete stripping away of any security for the vast majority and incredible enrichment for a miniscule minority.

Bulgarians are now also enjoying the ‘freedom’ to spend the bulk of their income on food: “We lived better in the past,” says 31-year-old Anelia Beeva. “We went on holidays to the coast and the mountains, there were plenty of clothes, shoes, food. And now the biggest chunk of our incomes is spent on food. People with university degrees are unemployed and many go abroad.” (Reuters, op cit)

“Looking on the surface, I see new buildings, shops, shiny cars. But people have become sadder, more aggressive and unhappy,” says renowned Bulgarian artist Nikola Manev.

Disillusionment with bourgeois democracy

This exponential rise in poverty and disempowerment has gone hand in glove with a disillusionment with bourgeois democracy. Just two countries polled out of the eight countries here were barely ‘satisfied’ with their democracy. (Hungary dissatisfied with democracy, but not its ideals, Pew, 7 April 2010)

Another common myth the bourgeois press propagated before the overthrow of socialism in 1989 was that eastern Europe was somehow imprisoned by its political and economic links with the USSR. The term ‘captive nations’ was ubiquitous in the bourgeois press. The president of the US was required every year to declare something called ‘Captive Nations Week’.

The bourgeois press and its propagandists continue to turn reality on its head, maintaining that eastern Europe was ‘free’ before the Red Army liberated it from Nazi occupation at the end of WW2, and that the new people’s democracies that later united in a security alliance (the Warsaw Pact) to defend themselves from the belligerent imperialist Nato bloc (whose bloodstained record is well known to our readers) was a prison of nations. In fact, before WW1, all of those states (with the exception of Czechoslovakia, which was so nonchalantly ceded to fascist Germany in 1939 under the Nazi-British pact sealed by British prime minister Neville Chamberlain) were ruled by oppressive and dictatorial monarchs or despots of one kind or another.

This disillusionment with bourgeois democracy can be seen in Hungary, for example. Seventy percent of Hungarians think it is very important to live in a country with honest multi-party elections, but only 17 percent believe this describes ‘democratic’ Hungary well. This also shows how, that despite their anger, the Hungarian proletariat have not quite seen off the fraud of the ‘multi-party’ bourgeois system, which provides a cover for the fact that behind the parties lies one ruling class that cannot be voted out of power.

Liberals who read this worry about a ‘disillusionment with democracy’, missing the point that bourgeois democracy is an illusion of democracy. In the west, you can change the ruling party or president but you can’t change the policies. Democracy in the former socialist republics has meant the policies of privatisation of public industry and services – the seizure of wealth that had been built up by the people and was formerly used only to benefit the people, but which are now being asset-stripped and turned into vehicles for profit-making. Capitalist restoration has brought a parasitic outgrowth of rentier cliques, whose only interest is in exploiting the national economy and leeching from its citizenry whatever they can get their blood-soaked hands on.

The capitalist counter-revolution: a modern imperialist holocaust

Those intellectuals and counter-revolutionaries who assisted in the dismantling socialism in Europe and the USSR had hopes of joining the parasitic imperialist club and living like the millionaire class of the USABritain and Germany. Instead, their people have become like those of capitalist Mexico – a source of cheap labour for western European and North American capital to exploit for superprofits, whether utilised in situ, or transported abroad.

After the counter-revolution, eastern Europe was systematically de-industrialised. Its formerly free states became new colonies – places to dump western goods, giving a much-needed shot-in the arm to global capitalism, which was just then heading into deepening recession. And with the de-industrialisation of eastern Europe’s economies, jobs were destroyed, forcing much of the young and able-bodied workforce to pack their bags and head for Germany, Britain and France, migrating to the centres of imperialism to find work.

The dire economic situation in many of the former socialist countries was accompanied by a historically unprecedented demographic decline. The return of the ills of unemployment, classical capitalist poverty and the desperation they bring have dragged all the ugly features of capitalist exploitation in their wake: mass drug-addiction, tuberculosis, HIV, prostitution, violence, crime and mental illness.

The birth rate has plummeted while life expectancy has declined by seven years in the territories of the former USSR and abortion rates have soared. This is rarely talked about, but represents a real capitalist holocaust and the deaths of unknown millions of European workers.

As mass privatisation and de-industrialisation were forced on the former German Democratic Republic, that once prosperous and proud nation required west-German subsidies of €130bn annually. Without employment prospects and with their society in ruins, east Germans migrated en masse. What freedom! A stunning population decrease of 2.2 million people from 16.7 million in mid-1989 to 14.5 million in 2005. (Communist nostalgia in eastern Europe: longing for the past by Kurt Biray, Open Democracy, 10 November 2015)

In Bulgaria, the devastating ramifications of economic privatisation and ‘democratic transition’ translated into the loss of jobs and professional occupations in the country’s villages. Mike Donkin, a BBC reporter and journalist, said in 2006 that Bulgaria had the fastest rate of population decline in all of Europe, “and the sense of abandonment is even greater in the countryside … Scattered across the landscape now are dozens of deserted or almost deserted villages.” (Maria Todorova and Zsuzsa Gille, Post-Communist Nostalgia, 2010)

The liquidation of collective farms reduced workers who remained in the countryside to subsistence farming and 19th-century production techniques, leading the young to leave not only the countryside but also the country. No wonder Bulgarians long to return to their lost socialist paradise.

A similar decline has been suffered in Poland. “As people leave, the economy is suppressed which encourages yet more people to up sticks and seek better opportunities abroad.

“And of course it tends to be the most entrepreneurial who leave, while more conservative-minded workers stay behind. Job-creating businesses which might have been set up in Warsaw or Krakow end up being established in London or Berlin.” (Poland asking workers to come home is shocking indictment of EU membership says Ross Clark, The Express, 24 August 2019)

The author claims this is an indictment of the European Union. In fact, it is an indictment of capitalism.

The Polish economy was hit particularly hard by the 2008/9 crisis, yet for the economy to be smaller in 2015 than it was in 2008 is an indication of the extent of the plundering of east Europe’s economies since the fall of socialism.

These results are not chance occurrences; they stem from the anarchy of the market in which capitalist nations compete to plunder the natural resources, cheap labour and markets of the former workers’ republics.

Is it any wonder that workers in the former socialist bloc are starting to see through the anticommunist propaganda with which they have been bombarded for years? Is it any wonder that the name of Josef Stalin is once more being associated with freedom, dignity and social justice?

We look forward to the day when the workers of eastern Europe are able to recover from the stunning blow that was dealt them by the collapse of revisionism and the capitalist counter-revolution, restoring and rebuilding a socialist society even better than the one they had before.

Stalin was a thousand times right when he predicted: “I know that after my death a pile of rubbish will be heaped on my grave, but the wind of history will sooner or later sweep it away without mercy.” (1943, quoted in Felix Chuev, Molotov Remembers, 1991)

The socialist genie is out of the bottle and will not be put back; the workers will not be kept down forever. Whatever its twists and turns, history has a way of moving forward; a temporary defeat is not the end of the road but merely a dip in the long march of humanity towards communist freedom. We have no doubt that the workers of Europe and the world will ultimately build socialist societies that empower them to develop their talents, harnessing their collective labour and the fruits of the earth to rationally plan a bright, hopeful and sustainable way of life for humanity.

Posted in Yugoslavia0 Comments

The reactionary nightmare of ‘gender fluidity’

We do not advocate and we cannot allow the bourgeoisie to impose this divisive ideology upon us.

Proletarian writers

The following speech was delivered by a central committee member to the party’s eighth congress in September.

This is a very interesting debate, comrades. I find it both encouraging and discouraging at the same time.

Why are we having this debate?

I would like to say that I agree with motion 8. It’s quite clear that this is an issue which is causing genuine confusion – and not only in our party. Our party is the reflection of society, and so if it is confusing us, you can be sure there is a far greater confusion outside our ranks – and that, if you like, is why we’re having this debate.

While I am sympathetic with the arguments put forward by those opposed to motion 8, we clearly do need to have a debate. Clearly some people have taken on identity politics (idpol) as a very central part of their political discourse: people in our schools, people in society, in every mainstream paper that you turn to.

A mere reference to gender identity and idpol, without expressing an opinion, is enough to make many people incandescent with rage.

We have to ask ourselves why that is, because when I grew up some years ago, this wasn’t an issue affecting peoples’ minds. People didn’t talk about it; they didn’t debate it: it wasn’t an issue.

Marx and Engels and Lenin and Stalin didn’t devote much attention to the politics of gender fluidity because it did not exist as an issue. This concept – contrary to the opinion of those opposed to this motion – is not “as old as humanity”.

Does material reality exist?

I do think that it is very important that all our discussions are rooted in material reality. And we have to ask ourselves: do we think that a material reality exists? Because there is the question, a fundamental question of philosophy, which underlies everything.

It’s why dialectics is so very powerful. I don’t want to go on about it. It wasn’t me who invented dialectics, but I am a firm adherent of it; of the revolutionary teachings of Karl Marx.

Dialectical materialism didn’t come naturally to me because my father happened to be a Marxist, or my mother happened to be a Marxist. You have to win that ideological bedrock through study; through really struggling with ideas and understanding.

I grew up in bourgeois society – just like everyone else. So when I was taught chemistry, when I learned and went to school, I quite liked some subjects and I didn’t like others. I realised after a while it was mainly my relationship with certain teachers that determined my enjoyment of certain subjects. But I had a flair for science.

I found out, actually, that I enjoyed studying history and politics more, but I argued with my schoolteachers; they would send me out of the class for disagreeing in a way they felt was antisocial. They couldn’t control the class. So I gave up those subjects and I concentrated on the sciences, thinking that science at least is objective; no-one will argue over the question: is two plus two equal to four?

Lenin quite rightly told us that “if geometrical axioms affected human interests, attempts would certainly be made to refute them”.

What did he mean? There are simple formulas that tell one the volume of a sphere, or how to work out the area of a triangle: half the base times the height. Does anyone fundamentally disagree with that? If a circle thinks it’s a square, is it a square? What a stupid thing to say; no-one’s saying that!

Why can’t a circle self-identify as a square? Is there not some kind of shape fluidity between circles and squares? Are they not fundamentally the same? They all fundamentally consist of area. Why do we differentiate between them at all? Why has humanity worried to define objects as green or blue?

Is there a material reality? There are those who will argue there is no material reality; we are not among them. That is not a Marxist concept.

Sex, gender and gender fluidity

Is sex important? Attempts are being made to confuse us as to what ‘sex’ is. Are ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ synonyms? Well they are synonyms, but a certain group of academics in the seventies in the United States decided that they weren’t synonyms. They were going to use ‘gender’ in their own way; they were going to use ‘gender’ to mean the social construct of behaviour surrounding what was expected of the biological differentiation among human beings (men and women).

But biological differentiation between male and female is a real thing. It doesn’t just exist in humanity, it exists in many species throughout the natural world. Sexual reproduction is a natural biological process that has persisted in nature due to the diversity it engenders; it is a phenomenon encountered in the natural world.

And let’s not forget how this debate impinged upon us. We’ve been following this ideological trend, and encountering identity politics among supporters and candidates for membership of our party, and amongst people we’ve been working with for at least four or five years. Because idpol has become a fashion in that period.

And it is a fashion; it is a trend. And it suddenly – from being very marginal to certain academic institutions in the 1970s – became mainstream globally worldwide; it was actively promoted. Not promoted by communists, not by socialists, but picked up on and accepted by many of them, because they are led by, and they blindly followed, bourgeoise society down this dead-end.

Bourgeois and proletarian politics

But we are a party of a different kind. What is the purpose of internal party discourse? What is the purpose of debate? What is the purpose of democratic centralism? It’s so that we can amongst ourselves work out the truth; what is in the interests of the working class as a whole.

We claim to be the party of the working class. It is a big claim, and really, we’re in embryonic form – let’s be frank about it. We’re not going to be the people and the organisation that finally make the revolution. We’re the beginning of that; we’re in the process of building it.

We have to earn the right to be trusted by the working class; to bring the best elements of the working class into our ranks and organisation. We must develop broad roots among the masses, to be in a position where they even trust and accept anything we’re saying.

And so, we are really only trying to find the truth. The truth is our biggest ally in that process.

Why deny the material reality of gender?

Why did it become a fashion to say there’s no such thing a male and female? I think the use of our internal bulletin has evolved to the point where we actually used it successfully to conduct that inner-party debate. The debate came up because of some posts on the party’s main Twitter account; the controller of the account was denounced on Twitter as “fascist” and “racist”.

Is it true? Are we going to get up here at congress and denounce comrades in debate? Will we tell them that “If you say X,Y and Z – then that’s it! I’m off! Screw the lot of you!”?

Is that a comradely way to have a debate? Does that forward our arguments? Does it help us reach a sound understanding? It does not! We’ve got to reckon with science, we’ve got to reckon with social phenomena. We have to come to a correct position which serves our class, and if we fail to do so, our organisation will fail to exist.

Not that the working class won’t achieve their salvation without us; it’s our firm belief that they will be able to. But will they be put back in the process if we do not evolve the leadership that is capable and worthy of the name of actually interpreting the world and Britain, and leading them forward?

Yes, they will be set back enormously. We know how difficult it is to get a foothold and a correct orientation; to develop and hold a class position that’s capable of leading working people. It’s been a problem – and it’s been a problem not just because it’s hard in itself; it’s been a problem because there’s been an active class whose interest it is to prevent us.

The British capitalist class is not passive; they’re not idle, and they’re perfectly happy to troubleshoot problems. They don’t have all the answers ready-made, but they have all the levers of power and they have capital.

So they can take an intellectual worker, they can set him a problem and when he comes up with a solution they find workable, they can employ him, and when they put their divisive ideas into practice in a little case study somewhere, and that seems to be working quite well, they can roll them out.

Class analysis seems alien to many workers in Britain because it’s gone ‘out of fashion’. It’s gone out of fashion because it’s been deliberately denounced and ridiculed from every pulpit, every university, every fount of learning. From the kindergarten right through to getting your PhD and becoming a lecturer, you’re rewarded if you do certain things.

In industry and in science, you’re rewarded if you provide any kind of technology or medicine that’s going to make money.

Keeping workers economically, intellectually and ideologically subordinate

When I went to medical school, I had a very erudite, intellectual, quite self-satisfied, pompous, English upper-middle-class, Oxbridge graduated professor. He had a degree of respect and notoriety as he had become a multimillionaire through the intellectual property right he exercised over his research. He had discovered and developed the proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) that went on to become the drug Omeprazole.

It’s just one of those things. In the lab he had played a key part in inventing this drug, which reduces stomach acidity. During an undergraduate lecture at the Royal Free hospital many years ago, he told us that before his results had been widely published, someone phoned him from Wall Street.

He said: “I was amazed that someone from Wall Street even knew about my research!” And this Wall Street capitalist asked him one question. He said: “This medicine, would you have to take it for a certain period of time, or would you have to keep on taking it to get its effect?”

The professor: “Ah, well, you’d have to keep on taking it.”

The Wall-street caller: “Oh, well thank you very much, that’s fascinating.”

His discovery went on to become one of the pharmaceutical industry’s huge money-making drugs, rolled out worldwide – because you have to keep on paying. It doesn’t solve the problem. To keep gastric symptoms at bay, you have to take it lifelong. So the drug was viewed by the industry as an almost limitless source of revenue.

In the field of science, why is it that huge amounts of money is put into the latest research to develop endovascular stents for an aneurism, which is going to cost £50,000 to treat a single patient, when in fact you could get rid of much of the problem by stopping the community from smoking? You could usefully spend those billions of dollars to develop a programme of preventative healthcare, rather than develop treatments for the wealthy inhabitants of a very small number of overwhelmingly industrial countries in certain healthcare systems, making a huge amount of money.

How much do we spend on malaria research, or tuberculosis research? Or even realising how aspirin can be used to treat certain conditions? Use and application of cheap drugs, that you can’t patent, are not pursued or promoted.

There is a vested interest of the capitalist class to accumulate capital, through the exploitation of their wage slaves.

Bourgeois ideology in culture – the hypocrisy of the mantra of ‘objectivity’

But then there is also an ideological outlook. Science and the arts are not alien to bourgeois influence. Lenin wrote a very beautiful article in 1905, in which he called for the intellectual class to be partisan.

He said: “Don’t be neutral. Don’t say ‘art for art’s sake’. Don’t pretend that your output – funded and commissioned by the possessors of money, the capitalist ruling class – is intellectually neutral output. Call a spade a spade. Become and state fearlessly that you are fierce advocates of the working people, and that their only way to a better society is to develop a liberating culture, a culture of proletarian revolutionary ideology.

You have to be openly partisan! That was his call – in art, in culture and in science.

Sex and sexual identity

So the question is sexuality: how does this tie up with the question of sexuality? And we come back to that innocuous post on Twitter, which I thought was obviously hilarious because I thought it was non-controversial.

We wrote: “There is a group of self-proclaimed ‘socialists’ who are not actually any longer fighting against our oppression, they’re fighting against reality!” and posted a link to an article.

Why did we say that? They’re a circle of people who broke away from a very small group which you may know, called the RCG. This circle wrote a blog called ‘Red Fightback’, and the bottom line is, their position is that there’s no such thing as gender.

Rather, gender, they claim, is some kind of medical conspiracy where, at birth, the doctors go away and huddle together and they ‘assign a gender role’ to you. So, pregnant mothers: when you have your 20-week ultrasound scan, you’re not having a scan to see whether your baby is a boy or a girl (say ‘Red Fightback’). No; that’s all medical conspiracy! And when the baby is born, they inspect the baby to say it’s a boy or a girl – well that’s all medical conspiracy, too! These things (boys and girls, men and women) aren’t real – don’t you see??

Now, that seemed to us to be so absurd and preposterous that we posted it. And the post seemed popular! It had, like, 100,000 views, with hundreds of comments saying: “You’re a Terf!”

I didn’t know what a Terf was at that point but, but I have since found out. It is an acronym for ‘Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist’ – which I’m not, because I’m not a feminist! But essentially, their line is that anyone who would purport to say there really is such a thing as gender (men and women), is some kind of fascist.

Who is pushing this ideology that there is no such thing as gender? That there is no such thing as sex? That it’s not real?

There is even a movement termed ‘ableism’ or ‘trans-ableism’. There exist people who say: “I look as if I’ve got two arms and two legs, but actually in reality, I feel like I was born disabled.”

There are people who are petitioning for the right to have an arm or a leg cut off; to have an operation which will make their physical form conform to how they feel; “my inner essence”.

It’s the ultimate idealism isn’t it? Idealism in the philosophical sense that that “the material world doesn’t exist”; “it’s whatever I think that is most important”. So actually, by that rationale, ideas are prime and matter will have to conform with my ideas, and the ultimate result is this kind of solipsism where you are alone in the world – the lone conscious force and the ultimate determiner of your own reality without reference to other people or the material reality of the word’s environment around you.

Morally, it means whatever you want subjectively is right and correct. So it can be used to justify doing anything, committing any crime against anyone.

As a philosophy it is totally isolating, and totally gets rid of the idea, as the previous speaker was saying, of having things in common, uniting on a class basis around the real things that oppress us; real material and economic phenomena.

Capital is the labour of past generations, accumulating in the hands of a tiny number of people who use their vast wealth to oppress and enslave us. We are wage slaves. We are slaves!

You go and tell working people outside this congress that they’re wage slaves! They won’t agree with you – they’ll think you’re mad. “I’m not a slave. Slavery, that’s all gone. That was the black people in the United States.” They literally have no concept of real history and culture. That is the deliberate product of capitalist education.

We in the CPGB-ML are here to create a scientific analysis. But let’s move away from the fact that this is pure idealism.

Why would the capitalist class suddenly take this idea from a group of academics and propagate it worldwide to the point where it’s on the lips of every prime minister; it’s on the lips of every banker; it’s on the lips of every capitalist?

You know, sometimes, the billionaires let slip things that the mainstream politicians feel unable to say. Now there was quite a nice article, probably about the time when the 2008 banking and world-economic crisis hit, when Obama had said to Wall Street: “I’m the thing that stands between you and the pitchforks.” But the billionaires were not to worry, Obama told them: “We’re going to bail you out. We’re going to protect you.”

Some of those billionaires have said that they don’t understand why the working-class movement hasn’t got more traction than it has. They literally don’t understand why they’re getting away with it. There are, incredibly, just eight (8) multibillionaires who have as much wealth in their hands as fully one half of humanity’s population (3,500,000,000 people). Billions of people don’t have enough food, clothing, housing, shelter – the other, apparently ‘uncontroversial’, motions that we’ve discussed today very convincingly paint that picture.

So there’s a real question on how they can take art and culture and ideology and politics and divide working people, make them feel disunited. If you make people concentrate on their differences, if everyone is totally isolated and different, if everyone is suspicious of their neighbour … well, racism certainly has a part to play.

It’s very useful not to trust muslims or not to trust Pakistanis or not to trust Afro-Americans, or “I don’t really like that Nigerian who lives next door to me, they’re a bit different aren’t they?” Well, if people rub along with each other, they get over that don’t they?

In my opinion, despite the active promotion of anti-immigrant hostility, this country is far less racist then it was whilst I was growing up. Yet the capitalists are constantly, constantly searching for new ways of dividing people.

Bourgeois feminism

Not enough working women are involved in our movement. Why is it that all of our YouTube videos have 80 to 90 percent hits from men? Young women don’t think politics has got anything to say to them. They’ve been pushed into this blind dead-end of bourgeois feminism.

As a previous speaker very informatively related, what began as a liberating movement for women became a simple demand for a meaningless piece of legislation – complaints about pay for professional and wealthy women. Working-class women were left to go back to the kitchen and raise their families.

Actually, say the bourgeois feminists, equality with men is mainly about women being sexually promiscuous. To the absurd point where Hugh Hefner-type Playboy promiscuity, not conforming to this marriage thing, just ‘go for it, girl’, make yourself naked and get into a pornographic magazine – this is touted as ‘liberation’! Women were already liberated in the sixties and seventies, runs the narrative: well done women, all your problems are over, be in pornographic magazines – all your problems are over!

Working women, while not fully buying into all of this, however, have successfully been encouraged not to identify with mainstream working-class movements. It’s very hard. We’re lucky to have a few strong women comrades; but look at the composition of the room: where are our able, active, working-class young women? Why aren’t they here?

We’ve been divided from them through a narrative that says: “Sex is the most important thing. Men are oppressing me. Why would I unite with a man to try and solve my problem? My problem is men! I don’t want anything to do with you.”

Unity of all workers and oppressed

We must get away from this idea of wearing a ‘badge of oppression’. We are a small group because we’ve been actively marginalised. The huge, multimillion-strong communist movement across Europe and the middle east, across much of Asia and Africa, has been broken by Khrushchevite revisionism from within. It’s been broken by imperialism, which used every division in the communist movement as an opportunity to drive home the wedge and destroy our ideology.

The grip that communist politics naturally had over working people was based upon its truth and utility as a guide to the liberation struggle of the masses.

We want to rebuild that. We’re not going to rebuild it through division and discord; through a struggle against reality. I think the resolution is very good for this reason.

We in the CPGB-ML are and have always been actively opposed to discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, or sexual proclivity. We want broad unity of the working class, as working people who face the same economic oppression and have the same interest in changing it.

Relative and absolute oppression. Data and truth. The oppression of ‘transwomen’

During our inner-party debate running up to this congress, conducted largely in local groups and the party bulletin, some comrades produced articles saying that particular and unusually harsh oppression had come to a group of people, ‘LGBTQ+’ people. They attempted to demonstrate this particular oppression of transgender people by producing a variety of references and percentages.

First of all, I would urge then to look very carefully at their figures and their sources. What is the actual percentage of the working class that are transgender?

It’s very difficult to find out. (A member of audience: “Ten percent of the population!”)

No. It’s very far from that figure. It is statistically so small as to be insignificant. It’s absolutely tiny. But, if you take everyone who is ‘gay’ and tell them “actually really, you’re transgender”; if you take everyone who is ‘confused during puberty’ – well, everyone’s confused during puberty! – “but actually, probably you’re transgender”. If transgender becomes your fashionable label that you impose on everyone who feels alienated in society, then you start to arrive at these incredible figures.

Because actually, the percentage of people who are alienated in society is massive; absolutely bloody massive. Because alienation is a product of capitalist exploitation, of its individualism and its dissatisfying, isolationist, selfish culture.

Equally, if you take any group in a society, figures can be quoted to show an association but not causality. Let me give an example. I’m not comparing the two groups, but if I said that “fascists are overwhelmingly working class” or “fascists are overwhelmingly less likely to get a job”, therefore we need to be championing the rights of fascists – it’s totally the wrong way of constructing an argument; it’s meaningless.

When we discuss the question of ‘trans rights’, we are told that this is exiting and new and meaningful and trumps all other issues! But never forget that to the extent that this is a real group of people and not a manufactured ideological product purveyed by the bourgeoisie to sow confusion and disunity in the ranks of the working class – then we’re talking about an insignificant percentage of the working class.

When we state clearly that we are against unjust discrimination, that relates to everyone, to all groups of workers. It’s covered! That statement and belief covers everyone. We’re inclusive.

Racism, black and bourgeois nationalism vs proletarian internationalism

It’s the same in our attitude towards racism. I’ve been in Brixton and I’ve had someone walk up to me and say: “Yeah, man. You think it about race, or about class?” And when I told my fellow Lambeth resident and worker that fundamentally oppression is based on class, he simply opined: “Nah!” and walked away, because the black community also … Why aren’t the black community here? They should be! Overwhelmingly, black workers find themselves confined to the lowest sections of the working class, because of racism, because of the legacy of colonialism.

Black workers should be identifying with the broad highway of working-class politics. But no, because we’ve been kept artificially divided. Blacks are told whites are racist, whites are encouraged to be racist, and, despite the fact that we’ve broken that down in many day-to-day dealings, in our political organisations, in our social organisations, we ghettoise.

We ghettoise. Should a Turkish comrade living in Britain identify as a British worker or as a Turk? Is he a Turk first and foremost? That’s been a huge problem for the revolutionary movement in this country.

I can tell you there are hundreds, thousands of militant communists in London who will agree with me on pretty much everything – but they will not join our organisation, “because I’m a Turk. Actually, the struggle I identify with, that I feel most strongly about, is going on in Turkey. And although I live here, and my kids are here, and they go to school here and I’m working here, and I face the problems that are here and in fact basically, I’m a British worker and my kids don’t speak Turkish … Well, I’m Turkish, and I don’t want them to get involved with you because I want them to look to Turkey.”

The children of such a ‘revolutionary’ are almost impossible to draw into revolutionary politics on this basis. They don’t really engage with Turkey in that way because they’re British; they were born here. You adopt the culture of your friends and the culture that surrounds you when you grow up. For kids that grow up in Britain, they are culturally British. And to deny their Britishness, and their right to change British culture, to join the British working-class movement and change what is wrong in their lives, means they become alienated from all that is living in both cultures.

Are we going to carry on in that way, where we are all separate and all divided? Do we have to follow the fashion of the bourgeoisie?

The bourgeoise that have pushed this identity movement aggressively have done so to confuse and isolate working-class youth.

So I will conclude by saying: We are not transphobic! There’s nothing to be afraid of in this statement. We do not advocate discrimination against any group of the working class. We advocate unity, we advocate common struggle, we advocate understanding, we advocate a broad and tolerant society. But, we do not advocate and we cannot allow the bourgeoisie to impose this divisive ideology upon us!

Thank you, comrades.

Posted in Politics0 Comments

The blatant hypocrisy of the USA’s lies about China’s Uighur muslims

Why are we still expected to pay any attention to the imperialists’ neverending barrage of fake news?

Ella Rule

Uighur muslims study at a re-education centre. The Chinese government is combining economic development of the area with vocational training courses to make sure that locals have better options and are less likely to be pulled in by the lies of imperialism’s jihadi-recruiting proxies.

Imperialist powers feeling threatened by the rise of China are relentless in their disinformation campaigns designed to foment unrest and weaken China internally, as well as to undermine its international support. The crocodile tears splashed with monotonous regularity all over the bourgeois media concerning supposed human rights abuses against China’s Uighur muslim minority are very much a case in point.

We are asked to believe, by means of a daily diet of lying propaganda, that China’s muslims have been rounded up en masse into concentration camps where they have been tortured and brainwashed with a view to getting them to abandon their cultural heritage. What wicked nonsense!

As Xinjiang province borders onto several muslim majority countries, it has been possible for troublemakers to infiltrate from states such as Pakistan or Afghanistan. These provocateurs have been trained by US imperialism or its Saudi sidekicks to use muslims’ religious beliefs, suitably distorted, to mobilise them unwittingly to serve all kinds of imperialist causes, including the balkanisation of China.

The technique involves working on local grievances (such as can be found amongst all populations anywhere in the world) inculcating a sense of victimhood among the target population that will make some of them receptive to the idea of taking ‘revenge’ against people who are usually wholly innocent.

The imperialists are thus able to provoke terror attacks against non-muslims resident in the region. Terror attacks and explosives have killed hundreds of civilians in busy shopping areas and crowded train and bus stations since the 1990s.

Naturally, China cannot tolerate this any more than any other state would tolerate terrorist activity within its borders.

To avert jihadi terrorism on their own soil, the US and Britain round up those found to be planning terrorist activity and put them in prisons that operate as jihadi indoctrination centres. According to The Times, muslims make up 16 percent of Britain’s prison population although they constitute only about 5 percent of the general population, the high percentage being accounted for by increased incarceration of extremists.

Consequently it is hardly surprising that: “Islamist extremists in Britain’s prisons are holding makeshift sharia trials, circulating banned books and openly grooming young muslim inmates …

“A former prisoner who claims that he took part in sharia courts and punishment beatings has given a detailed account of how he came to join a group of prisoners at HMP Woodhill, Milton Keynes, who pledged allegiance to Isis …

“The issue came under scrutiny last month when Usman Khan, 28, a Category A terrorist prisoner freed on licence, murdered two people at London Bridge before being killed by police.” (Islamist extremists hold sharia trials and groom young muslims in British prisons by Sean O’Neill, The Times, 23 December 2019)

In the US too, muslims make up about 9 percent of state prisoners, though they are only about 1 percent of the US population.

It follows that neither the US nor Britain has the slightest right to point the finger at China for taking measures to deal with jihadi radicalisation amongst its own muslim population.

What has to be appreciated about the Chinese approach to the problem is that its government does not consider that the solution lies in locking people up and throwing away the key.

Even if a million muslims have been taken to centres for deradicalisation, their number is insignificant in comparison with the proportion of muslims in the population, and certainly a far lower percentage than are incarcerated in Britain or the US. A million people represents less than 0.1 percent of the Chinese population of 1.4 billion, while muslims are estimated to make up nearly 3 percent of the population as a whole, ie, some 45 million people.

China’s deradicalisation centres are not designed for the same purpose as British prisons, the latter being intended primarily to punish, while the former focus entirely on reforming those detained so that on release they can go on to lead useful lives. The purpose of the camps is solely to provide vocational and civic training in order as to minimise people’s vulnerability to typical jihadi radicalisation methods and scripts.

In addition, the Chinese state has been investing massive resources in hastening the development of Xinjiang for the benefit of its citizens.

Recently, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the Uighur Autonomous Region of China and himself a Uighur, addressed a press conference in which he outlined the measures being taken by China in its Xinjiang region:

“Xinjiang’s economic development has realised a historic leap. Its GDP increased from 791m yuan in 1952 to 1.2tn yuan in 2018. Adjusted for inflation, this represents a 200-fold increase, with an average annual gain of 8.3 percent. Xinjiang’s per capita GDP rose to 49,000 yuan in 2018, from 166 yuan in 1952, and that’s approximately a 37.7-fold increase in real terms, averaging 5.7 percent annual growth.

“After seventy years of development, Xinjiang’s overall agricultural production capacity and its possession of modernised equipment have notably improved. It has China’s biggest production centre of cotton, and it also leads the nation in agricultural water-saving irrigation and mechanised farming.

“The region’s industry started from scratch and has formed a fully-fledged modern industrial system. Some production technologies in regard to new energy, new materials and equipment manufacturing have taken the lead domestically and even in the world.

“More and more modernised cities have emerged as shining pearls in the Gobi desert. Stretching from north to south and connecting the hinterland with the world, Xinjiang’s modern comprehensive transportation system has been basically completed.

“All prefectures and cities are connected by highways. Road network connectivity among administrative villages has reached 99.74 percent. The length of in-service railways totals 5,959 kilometres. Alongside the rest of China, Xinjiang has also entered the era of high-speed railways, which now links Urumqi to the rest of the country.

“We have also entered the era of subway, as the subway in Urumqi has already begun operating. There are 21 civilian airports in Xinjiang, and airlines have become the top choice for people to visit us and travel within the region.

“In recent years, we have made good use of Xinjiang’s geographical advantages, and seized the major opportunities presented by the Belt and Road Initiative. We are committed to promoting openness both at home and abroad, and turning Xinjiang into a key region on the Silk Road Economic Belt, as well as a major window in China’s opening to the west.

“In 2018, Xinjiang’s total imports and exports were $20bn. This is 1,481 times greater than it was in 1950. We have made good use of our unique tourism resources, implementing the strategy of developing Xinjiang through tourism.

“The potential created by stability is fully utilised as well. Tourism has seen a significant upsurge in recent years. Xinjiang received more than 150 million domestic and foreign tourists in 2018, a year-on-year growth of 40.1 percent, and 75.89 million tourists visited in the first half of this year, up 46 percent year-on-year.

“We expect to receive more than 200 million visitors this year. And we hope to present the charm, prosperity, and stability of Xinjiang to the world.

“Second, the living standard of people of all ethnic groups has achieved a historic improvement. Per capita income of urban residents jumped from 319 yuan in 1978 to 32,764 yuan in 2018, an average annual growth of 12.3 percent; that of rural residents went up from 119 yuan in 1978 to 11,975 yuan in 2018, an average annual growth of 12.2 percent.

“Xinjiang Uigur Autonomous Region has greatly improved the clothing, food, accommodation, and transportation conditions of the people of all ethnic groups, ensuring that the problems of hunger, cold, water and power supply shortages, and inaccessibility to the outside world that previously haunted this land are a thing of the past.

“Since the 18th CPC national congress, with a stress on people-centred and livelihood-centred development, Xinjiang has, for many years, spent more than 70 percent of its public budget expenditures on improving public livelihoods and continuously boosting welfare programmes focusing on employment, education, medical services, social security and housing etc.

“Many pressing livelihood issues bearing on the people’s immediate interests have been solved. Xinjiang has provided ‘zero-employment’ families with jobs in a timely manner, implemented the policy of free annual physical examination, achieved three-year free pre-school education in rural areas, carried out rural housing projects and built permanent housing for nomadic herdsmen, established a healthcare insurance system to treat critical illnesses, and provided basic living allowances to eligible rural and urban residents.

“People of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang have enjoyed a stronger sense of gain, of happiness and of security. To complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, we are focusing on poverty-stricken areas in the four prefectures of southern Xinjiang and have made clear gains in eradicating poverty.

“From 2014 to 2018, during a new round of the poverty alleviation campaign, 2.31 million people shook off the shackles of poverty, and the impoverishment rate in rural Xinjiang dropped from 19.4 percent to 6.1 percent.

“By 2020, like the rest of China, Xinjiang will lift its impoverished population totally out of poverty by current set standards. We will leave no one behind. Together with the whole nation, Xinjiang will make great efforts to finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects within the set timeframe.

“Third, our social undertakings have achieved historic breakthroughs. In the early years after liberation, the net enrolment ratio of school-age children was under 20 percent, the illiteracy rate was as high as 90 percent, and the average life expectancy was merely 30 years.

“Over the past seventy years, we popularised nine-year compulsory education and provided free three-year pre-school education and twelve-year basic education in southern Xinjiang. In 2018, the enrolment ratio of kindergartens was 95.95 percent, and the enrolment ratio of school-age children in primary schools was 99.91 percent.

“The central government has also organised Xinjiang senior high school class in some of the most developed cities in other provinces to offer better and free education for students from Xinjiang’s farming and pastural zones, a scheme that has benefited 110,000 students so far.

“Xinjiang has also set up a relatively complete county-township-village three-tier disease prevention and health system. The average life expectancy has now risen to 72.35 years.

“We highly value the protection and development of traditional ethnic cultures. The Xinjiang Uigur Muqam and Kirgiz epic ‘Manas’ were inscribed on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Requiring Urgent Protection.

“Xinjiang has built a four-tier public cultural service system from the autonomous region down to prefectures, counties and townships. Each county has a cultural centre, each township has a cultural station and each village has a cultural hub, enriching people’s daily life.”

So why the imperialist campaign for Uighurs’ ‘human rights’?

Imperialism has its eye on Xinjiang for a number of reasons, the first of which, of course, is its interest in destabilising China.

However, Xinjiang is attractive to imperialism for other reasons too.

– It is China’s largest gas-producing region and has significant oil and mineral reserves.

– It is a major centre for China’s Belt and Road Initiative and a gateway to central and west Asia, as well as to European markets.

– It has been for four decades a source of mercenaries open to recruitment by the CIA and secret Pakistani ISI forces for use against imperialist targets, including China itself. Fanatical Uighurs have served with Islamic State and al-Qaeda, with many of them ending up at Guantanamo Bay when these organisations turned against their master.

Beginning in 2013, thousands of Uighur fighters were smuggled into Syria to train with the extremist Uighur group known as the Turkistan Islamic party and fought alongside al-Qaeda and al-Nusra terror units in several battles.

Independent countries defend China’s record in Xinjiang

China is constantly inviting those who parrot the imperialist line about human rights abuses in Xinjiang to visit the area to see for themselves. But of course most of them parrot the line not because they believe it but to please imperialism.

However, plenty of serious people have taken up the offer and have been to see for themselves, and they have to conclude that there are no human rights abuses taking place there:

“In July of this year, 22 countries, most in Europe plus Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, sent a letter to the UN human rights council criticizing China for mass arbitrary detentions and other violations against muslims in China’s Xinjiang region. The statement did not include a single signature from a muslim-majority state.

“Days later, a far larger group of 34 countries – now expanded to 54 from Asia, Africa and Latin America – submitted a letter in defence of China’s policies. These countries expressed their firm support of China’s counterterrorism and deradicalisation measures in Xinjiang.

“More than a dozen member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at the UN signed the statement.

“A further statement on 31 October to the third committee of the UN general assembly explained that a number of diplomats, international organisations, officials and journalists had travelled to Xinjiang to witness the progress of the human rights cause and the outcomes of counterterrorism and deradicalisation.

“‘What they saw and heard in Xinjiang completely contradicted what was reported in the [western] media,’ said the statement.” (Behind the US anti-China campaign by Sara Flounders, Workers World, 18 December 2019)

Leading imperialist countries, especially the US, have committed unbelievable crimes against vast swathes of humanity. Confining ourselves to the decades since the end of the second world war, the US has waged genocidal wars of aggression against the people of KoreaVietnamYugoslaviaAfghanistanIraq, and Libya, to name just a few – in the process killing several million innocent people, devastating their infrastructure and destroying their economies.

It continues to wage proxy wars against countries such as SyriaIranVenezuelaCuba and Nicaragua, and it has weaponised financial and trade sanctions as a tool of its foreign policy to intimidate and subdue countries that refuse to obey its diktat.

Moreover, it has the largest prison population in the world as a proportion of its total population. It maintains 100 prisons around the world where it is illegally imprisoning, torturing an subjecting to ill-treatment some 25,000 people. It is the country that achieved notoriety through its torture chambers at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

In the light of these facts, instead of pointing fingers at other countries and posing as the guardians of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, the political and ideological representatives of the US should be hiding their faces in shame.

But since it is clear that the imperialists have no shame, it is past time for the rest of us to stop taking notice of their constant barrage of false accusations and to recognise these lies for what they are: a threadbare cover for the naked warmongering of a decadent and parasitic imperialist class.

Posted in USA, Campaigns, China, Politics0 Comments

Mr Jones: anti-Soviet propaganda gets thumbs up from Ukrainian president

The same old tired lies are being recycled under the guise of ‘fresh evidence’ in order to remind workers they must not think about taking state power.

Proletarian writers

A new film, Mr Jones, is receiving rave reviews from the corporate media, praised for bringing to life a forgotten Welsh hero who helped expose supposed Stalinist crimes in Ukraine. Nothing, however, is said of the fact that his journey to Soviet Ukraine began and ended in Nazi Germany, where he was the guest of Adolf Hitler.

Mr Jones – coming to a cinema near you

Presented as a mere ‘Welsh journalist’, Gareth Jones was not in fact anything like your average correspondent for the South Wales Echo. Jones was a well-educated Cambridge graduate, reputedly with family links to Ukraine, a multilingual onetime secretary to former British prime minister David Lloyd George. Strange, then, that he should be remembered merely as a newspaperman.

Gareth Jones travelled to Soviet Ukraine and soon afterwards brought back a story of terrible suffering at the hands of Josef Stalin. Mr Jones was not in the USSR for very long, and in the Ukraine for even less. He was caught by Soviet authorities and thrown out, later travelling to Asia where he was found dead, supposedly killed by Chinese bandits.

The new film from anticommunist Polish director Agnieszka Holland attempts to ‘bring to life’ the claims that Mr Jones travelled to Ukraine and witnessed first-hand a manmade famine there. Hunger he may well have seen, but who put the idea into his head (or into the director’s) that it was manmade, let alone that it was a genocide, as our anti-Soviet director declares (joined of course by the Guardian newspaper)?

Polish director a rabid anti-Stalin hack

At the Internationale FilmFestpiele in Berlin, Ruptly news agency recorded Agnieszka Holland as stating:

“Why Stalin is a hero for contemporary Russians? Don’t ask me. It shows an enslavement of the mind and soul. Stalin was one of the greatest murderers in the history of humanity … and he’s responsible for thousands of millions of lives.”

You would think that being responsible for thousands of millions of deaths, Ms Holland might be able to depict just one factual event from real life in her film about the ‘forgotten hero’ Jones and the mass killer Stalin.

Instead, in this excessive and ludicrous piece of anti-Stalin propaganda, the director portrays Mr Jones eating human flesh – a piece of fantasy so galling that it forced a relation of Mr Jones to write in to the Sunday Times to deny that his great-uncle had ever taken part in cannibalism and to admit that as far as the records show, he never even saw any bodies in Ukraine! (Mr Jones: The true story, as not seen on screen by Philip Colley, The Times, 26 January 2020)

Mr Colley Jr said: “In the film, they have got him up a tree eating bark, eating human flesh, tripping over dead bodies. He didn’t witness any dead bodies or any cannibalism, let alone take part in any.” (Daily journalist’s family hit out at Hollywood over film about his life by David Sharman, Hold the Front Page, 29 January 2020)

But that fact hasn’t stopped BBC Wales from reporting on the man who exposed “a manmade famine in 1930s Ukraine” or the Financial Times from noting: “While Graham Greene lends the film a plot point, George Orwell (Joseph Mawle) turns up on screen, inspired by Jones’s reporting to start work on Animal Farm.”

Readers might be interested to know that the family also deny that Mr Jones ever met Mr Orwell!

What do we know about Mr Jones and who he met?

One or two persons whom Mr Jones most definitely did meet with are Messrs Hitler and Goebbels.

Just days before his entry into the Soviet Union, Gareth Jones took a flight in a private jet with Adolf Hitler and ate dinner at a five-star hotel with Dr Josef Goebbels. His notebooks record the events and are held at the National Library of Wales, pages of which have been uploaded online.

In these notes, Mr Jones recorded his pleasant reflections on Mr Goebbels, whom he saw as jovial and laughing “all the time” with a tremendous sense of humour. The website dedicated to his work, garethjones.org, records that Gareth was in Moscow just ten days after his meeting with Hitler, who at the same time had set fire to the Reichstag.

The jovial arsonists Hitler and Goebbels took Mr Jones to Nazi party rallies and, after his deportation from the USSR, Mr Jones was back in Berlin on 29 March 1933 to tell the German people all about the horrors he had witnessed in the Soviet Union.

From Hitler to the modern-day fascists

Agnieszka Holland, who participated in the ‘Prague spring’, has been honoured by the Ukrainian government for this most recent work of fiction. When she collected an award from the neo-fascists, where only a couple of years ago scores of trade unionists were set on fire inside their offices in Odessa, she saw no irony in declaring:

“I do not normally wear jewellery, but today I’m wearing an earring which symbolises the millions of victims of the great famine orchestrated by Stalin in the Ukraine … It shows that social engineering and megalomaniac power can lead to the destruction of nature and suffering, and eventually the deaths of millions. At the same time, Stalin managed to convince the world he is in charge of an island of freedom and justice.”

“This is an allusion to populist leaders who believe that powers gives them the right to design human beings, to design societies, nature or destroy nature,” she said. “Unfortunately we have a lot of populist leaders at the moment.” (Holland picks up best-movie award for film about the Ukraine’s great famine by Matt Day, The First News, 23 September 2019)

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky awarded Holland the Order of Princess Olga.

Journalistic fraud in the 1930s

In the autumn of 1934, an American using the name of Thomas Walker entered the Soviet Union. After less than a week in Moscow, the remainder of his 13-day stay was spent in transit to the Manchurian border, at which point he left the USSR never to return.

Four months later, a series of articles began to appear in the Hearst press in America by Walker, who was described as a “noted journalist, traveller and student of Russian affairs who has spent several years touring the Union of Soviet Russia”.

The articles described a famine in Ukraine that had claimed six million lives, and was illustrated with photographs of corpses and starving children. Walker was said to have smuggled in a camera under “the most difficult and dangerous circumstances”.

Louis Fischer, an American writer living in Moscow at the time, was suspicious. Why had the Hearst press sat on these sensational stories for ten months before publication? He established that Walker’s short visit to the Soviet Union could not possibly have allowed him even to visit the areas he claimed to describe and to have photographed.

He also pointed out that Walker’s photographic evidence was distinctly odd: not only were the pictures suggestive of an earlier decade (Fischer thought probably of the 1921 Volga famine), but they contained a mixture of scenes from both summer and winter. Fischer also noted that the 1933 harvest in the Ukraine had been a good one.

Some of the pictures were subsequently identified as having been taken in the Austro-Hungarian empire and in World War 1, and it was known that Hearst newspapers were digging up old pictures and retouching them for use as anti-Soviet propaganda.

Pictures sometimes appeared labelled as having been taken in Russia, and at other times the same picture was relocated to Ukraine for obviously political reasons.

Not only were the photographs a fraud, and the trip to Ukraine a fraud, but Thomas Walker himself was a fraud, turning out to be an escaped convict by the name of Robert Green, who had served time in jail for forgery.

At his subsequent trial following recapture, he admitted that the series of pictures used in the Hearst newspaper articles were fakes and had not been taken in the Ukraine as claimed.

Despite these facts, the same photos are still used on commemoration posters and websites today, as well as featuring in the film Harvest of Despair.

Propaganda lies

Far from exposing the crimes of Stalin and the USSR, the new film Mr Jones exposes the utter bankruptcy of modern western cinema and the thoughtless, prejudiced, virulently anticommunist propagandists who fill positions at the Guardian and other such institutions.

These real falsifiers of history need to be exposed and confronted for the barefaced liars that they are.

Posted in Politics, Russia, Ukraine0 Comments

Why gay rights is not a class issue

It is not ‘homophobic’ for socialists to focus their attention on those contradictions that concern the whole working class in its struggle for socialism.

Ella Rule

Judith Gough, British Ambassador to Ukraine, at Pride Kiev 2017, shows how gay rights are used by the bourgeoisie as she claims it to be “Another step forward for equality in Ukraine”.

This text is an excerpt from a speech made by a member of the central committee to the party’s eighth congress in September.

The speech was part of a long discussion on the topic of identity politics in general and LGBT+ activism in particular. At the end of the discussion, the central committee’s emergency motion on identity politics was overwhelmingly adopted by the congress. Other motions on the topic, asking the party to adopt LGBT+ activism into its programme, were overwhelmingly voted down.

*****

First of all, I want to address the issue of why we give priority to the question of the oppression of women and to fighting racism but do not give the issue of LGBT rights the same priority.

Primary contradictions affecting our struggle for socialism

The answer to this is straightforward. Our party exists to promote the interests of the working class as a class, and to assist it in overthrowing the rule of the bourgeois class and establishing its own class rule. In that context, the question of LGBT is not a class question.

The question of women’s oppression, that is a class question, because when society was divided into classes, then as a result of that, women became the domestic slaves of men, and the only way of finally getting rid of that status is to abolish classes. Therefore the interests of working-class women are intimately bound up with the struggle of the working class as a whole for its emancipation.

Women’s liberation is absolutely 100 percent a class question.

The question of racism is also a class question, related to imperialism. As imperialism has gone all over the world, in order to mobilise the white workers at home to help them in their rape of the whole world, the colour question has become: “Well you know, these people are black, they’re inferior.” If white workers continue to harbour such prejudices, however, it will be impossible to bring about sufficient unity in the working class for it to be able to overcome the power of bourgeois rule.

That is why the question of racism is very much a class question.

Contradictions among the people and how they are manipulated by imperialism

Now the question of people being unpleasant to others who are a bit different, that is not a class question. We don’t approve of being mean to people who are different. We don’t approve of mocking people because they have wooden legs or are different in any other way. It tends to be a feature of human nature, but of course we are opposed to people being persecuted for being a bit different to the norm.

Only a minority of people are gay, and only a very tiny minority of people have gender dysphoria. However, these people are harmless to society and there is absolutely no need to persecute them.

The western imperialist bourgeoisie has suddenly discovered and embraced gay and transgender rights, which only yesterday it was vigorously opposing, to the point that today it is those who raise even the slightest question over even the most absurd demands of self-appointed LGBT activists who find themselves persecuted.

The advantage to the bourgeoisie of its newly-discovered enthusiasm for gay rights is that it can use them to castigate oppressed countries who stick to traditional religious prejudices on this issue whenever they fail to fall in line with imperialist demands.

Needless to say, the full force of this ‘human rights’ assault never falls on such client states of imperialism as Saudi Arabia, but only on those countries that resist imperialist hegemony. An excessive obsession with LGBT rights can therefore lead the unwary into backing imperialism against anti-imperialist governments.

LGBT ideology wants more than equal rights

But, to return to the question of the demands of the self-appointed LGBT activists. Unlike ordinary people who happen to be gay or transgender, they are not happy with simply being allowed to live their lives in peace and without discrimination; it is not just a question of men and women wanting to be accepted even though they’re different.

For the so-called activists, it is a question of going far further than that, to the point of absurdity. Transgender activists want us, for instance, to encourage little boys and little girls who prefer the lifestyle that society offers to people of the opposite sex to the one that accords to their own sex to actually physically mutilate themselves in order to achieve the appearance of a person of the other sex.

Now I was saying earlier to another comrade that both she and I, when we were eight, nine and ten, we cut our hair short and we wanted to be boys; we desperately wanted to be boys. Well, you know, in those days it was just accepted that some girls wanted to be boys, and nobody thought that strange in the least.

An example was the character Georgina (George) in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books. They were called tomboys and expected to grow out of it, which for the most part they did. Generally speaking, these girls on reaching puberty were more than happy to be girls and not boys, and to have boyfriends and not girlfriends. Only a tiny minority would have genuine gender dysphoria.

It was of course much harder for little boys who preferred the lifestyle offered to little girls, and they would no doubt have been pressurised into concealing that preference, but there’s no saying that in their case, too, puberty would change everything for most of them.

Nowadays, any ‘tomboy’ would be encouraged to think: “Well, have an operation, have hormones, have an artificial extension” – as a young child. That would honestly ruin their lives. If that had happened to me and I had been allowed to have hormone treatment to make myself more into a boy when I was clearly a girl, then it would have ruined my life.

Gay workers fight for socialism as workers, not as ‘gays’

We do want to represent the whole of the working class, including those people who happen to be LGBT. Not accepting the absurdities being promoted by self-appointed ‘activists’ means acting in the real interests of the working class, including those who happen to be LGBT, not against them, however genuinely such ‘activists’ may believe in the absurdities they are promoting.

Actually, the working class as a whole has a lot of common sense, and their attitude will be: “I’m sorry but a man’s a man and a woman’s a woman and you’re not going to be able to mess me around.” Any party that is claiming to be serious, but actually expects workers to believe that a fully equipped male who hasn’t even had an operation is actually female and ought to be allowed to come into women’s changing rooms, is going to be laughed out of court and told: “Look, get lost. This is not a serious party. This is not a party that I can trust to represent my interests, to overthrow capitalism and get a better life for everybody – including the LGBTs.”

In fighting for the interests of the working class as a whole, LGBTs will obviously also benefit. LGBTs would be much better off if everyone had a job. LGBT people won’t be able to say: “Well I’m not able to get a job because of my sexuality.” If everybody has decent healthcare, there is nothing special for LGBTs. We can honestly say that under socialism there will be no ‘LGBT rights’ because everybody will have full rights; end of story.

Silencing debate doesn’t vanquish existing prejudice, it simply creates fresh hostility

The other point that is very upsetting about the way LGBT ‘activists’ behave, the ones who are pushing this ideology, is that you are not allowed to have any dissent. The minute you disagree, you’re a ‘fascist’. All sorts of terrible words are used to describe the fact that you disagree with them. Is that how we want to proceed? Is that how you win hearts and minds? That we can’t debate; we can’t even raise it?

Recently there has been an argument in the Girl Guides. The Girl Guides have been told that a man, a fully equipped hairy male with all the necessary appendages, who self-identifies as a ‘woman’, is perfectly entitled to take young girls out on camping trips without supervision.

Now, can you really accept that nobody is even allowed to protest about that? Nobody is allowed to say: “Well I’m sorry but I’m unhappy about that. I think men are men actually, and I don’t want young girls exposed to the danger that that conceivably could produce. I’m sure this particular person is a lovely person, my daughter would probably be perfectly all right with him/her/them, but I can’t take the risk, I’m sorry.”

Frankly, by attempting to force absurd views onto people, ‘activists’ can only succeed in rousing hostility against LGBT people – even those who themselves oppose the absurd demands being made in their name.

And finally, if I’m a man because I say I’m a man – if that is the criterion, then that is surely the purist idealism … and I don’t think I need to say more.

Posted in Politics0 Comments

Identity politics are anti-Marxian and a harmful diversion from the class struggle

Refuse to allow our movement to be hijacked by hostile class forces!

Party statement

The following motion was passed overwhelmingly at the party’s eighth congress in September.

While being totally opposed to discrimination on grounds of race, sex or sexual proclivity, this congress declares that obsession with identity politics, including sexual politics, is anti-Marxian.

Congress therefore resolves that the propagation of identity politics, including LGBT ideology, being reactionary and anti-working class and a harmful distraction and diversion from the class struggle of the proletariat for its social emancipation, is incompatible with membership of the party, rendering those involved in its promotion liable to expulsion.

*****

We will be publishing materials to explain this motion’s content in more detail over the coming period. Check the page on identity politics for updates.

Posted in Politics0 Comments

Grenfell Tower: construction bosses’ contempt for workers’ lives laid bare

Despite its best efforts, the glacial inquiry has let slip a series of unpalatable truths about the practices and motivations of the construction industry.

Lalkar writers

Expecting a system where the profit motive is king to change how new buildings are delivered so as to avoid the cheapest tendering is like asking a leopard to change its spots.

It has been more than three years since the Grenfell Tower inferno, and yet the families and friends of those who lost lives, were injured and lost their homes in the atrocity are still a long way from seeing any conclusion to the public inquiry.

The second phase of the inquiry, on hold since March owing to the Covid-19 outbreak, recommenced during July but has now adjourned again for its ‘summer break’. The first phase of the inquiry established that it was the external cladding panels that were the ‘primary cause’ of the rapid fire spread and that their use breached building regulations.

The fact that it took the inquiry over two years to establish what seemed clear and obvious to many who heard the accounts of those at the scene and saw the horrendous footage of the fire is testament to the glacial speed at which this inquiry is moving.

Nevertheless, having established that the external cladding was to blame, phase two of the inquiry has been tasked with looking at the ‘wider context’ – not the social and economic one, but one that determines how this material, which has now been branded as being in breach of building regulations, came to be used on the tower’s ‘refurbishment’ in the first place.

This is the battle of the blame game, where all parties involved – from the government to the tenants’ management organisation, the contractor and the architects to the myriad subcontractors – are doing their best to avoid culpability.

In a case where 72 people lost their lives and over 70 more were injured, where hundreds lost their homes, some of whom are still waiting to be permanently rehoused, and in circumstances where over 450 buildings are today clad in the same material as Grenfell, one would expect a more urgent pace to the proceedings.

However, as readers of this journal are all to likely to realise, this is an inquiry being run by the deft hand of the British state – an inquiry intended to draw out the proceedings, to obscure the real systemic problems that led to the fire, to spread the blame onto the lower rungs of the corporate ladder, and to result only in a few tokenistic changes to the status quo that can be dressed up as having, as a consequence of Grenfell, delivered ‘justice’, and as having learnt the necessary lessons and duly rectified the system.

Despite all the above, what is clear from the inquiry so far is that, even within the evidence being heard, the ingrained systemic problems in how development is carried out under capitalism can nevertheless be pinpointed. The inquiry is exposing the priorities that drive development in our society, and much can be gleaned about how those priorities penetrate every part of the process – not only cost-cutting in the choice of materials used, but also the involvement of the private sector in establishing the very standards that are used to approve those materials for use.

‘Value engineering’: the cheaper option

The inquiry so far has established that at Grenfell the cladding that caused the spread: aluminium composite material (ACM), was used as a replacement for the originally-specified zinc cladding. This was a consequence of ‘value engineering’.

Value engineering: what a phrase! It is one of those phrases, like ‘mobility pool’ to describe the unemployed, that attempts to soften and cover up the hard truth that it is really at play. Value engineering is a euphemism for finding a cheaper material or method – in effect, cutting corners and saving money. It is a phrase that is prevalent throughout the construction industry.

The recladding project at Grenfell was no different to the norm. No sooner had the local authority planners approved the plans for the refurbishment of Grenfell than the request for a ‘radical rethink of the scope/spec … to deliver it within budget’ was made of the architects by the client, Kensington and Chelsea Tenants’ Management Organisation (KCTMO).

The original contractor, Leadbitter, had confirmed it was unable to do the work within the original budget, having priced the job at £11.2m, a figure £1.6m above KCTMO’s budget. As a result, the project went out to tender in early 2013 and it was Rydon that secured it. The company’s winning bid was £9.2m, significantly lower than that of the two other bidders, who were Durkan (£9.9m) and Mulalley (£10.4m). Two other contractors, Wates and Keepmoat, had already pulled out of the bidding process.

The financial plot thickened as the inquiry established that both KCTMO and Rydon needed to save even more. The tenants’ management organisation needed an additional £800,000 saving on top of Rydon’s successful bid, while Rydon had got its calculations wrong and underestimated its bid by £212,000. So overall the project had to be subjected to £1m in savings. Enter ‘value engineering’.

The council-approved plans had included zinc panels, which would have been fire-retardant, with solid metal cladding in the frame. It was a change to these panels that was highlighted as the most significant money saver. Rydon and its subcontracted façades specialist, Harley, proposed to KCTMO using the aluminium composite material (ACM) instead.

There are no friends among thieves, and Rydon did not miss the opportunity to claw back its £212,000. The quote from Harley showed that the change of material would save up to £576,973, yet Rydon understated this saving to KCTMO as £376,000.

When questioned about why the full savings had not been revealed to the client, Rydon’s refurbishment director Stephen Blake replied: “Change in a contract environment is a way of creating margin for a contractor. And that’s what we’ve done here.”

An obscured way of saying that when the opportunity arises to get a bit more profit out of the process, a contractor is going to go for it.

The result of this bit of value engineering was that Rydon recovered its initial underestimate, while KCTMO recovered part of what it was striving for, with additional savings likely to have come from elsewhere in the project. Both parties did well out of the material change, but turned Grenfell into a fire trap in the process.

In the summer of 2014 the local authority planners, who had previously approved the zinc panelling, rubber-stamped the change to ACM cladding.

Fire strategy an afterthought

Having worked hard to find cost savings, it seems that consideration of the impact of the material change on the fire strategy of the building was hardly addressed at all.

The inquiry heard from Simon Lawrence, the contract manager at Rydon, that he had assumed that the detail of the fire strategy would be handled by the architecture firm Studio E and Harley Facades. He also thought Building Control, which signs off construction projects’ compliance, would pick up any mistakes.

Bruce Sounes, the lead architect at Studio E, admitted that he had little idea of the risks associated with the products being used. Studio E, according to Sounes, had not previously been involved in the overcladding of occupied high-rise buildings. In his evidence, he stated: “Until the night of the fire, I had no knowledge that the products came in different varieties of core,” some of which are more flammable.

Stephanie Barwise QC, representing bereaved residents, said: “Studio E was so intent on getting what it considered to be the right aesthetic outcome – agonising as between the brushed aluminium and the battleship grey – that instead of focusing on or even considering the performance criteria, it instead defined the product in the specification … purely by reference to aesthetic criteria.” (Studio E responsible for ACM cladding switch, inquiry hears by Richard Waite, Ella Jessel and Will Ing, Architects Journal, 31 January 2020)

The witnesses from Harley Facades and other subcontractors have yet to be heard by the inquiry. Expect more attempts to avoid any culpability.

Subcontracting results in lack of responsibility

It is generally the case that on large developments, housebuilding being no exception, extensive subcontracting has become common practice. The main contractor focuses on winning the job and then outsources the work to smaller firms and tradesmen, driving down their prices to retain as much profit as possible.

“Mark Farmer, a government adviser on housebuilding, has pointed out that layers of competitive tendering in the supply chain apply cost pressures on smaller firms, which respond by cutting corners. He says that this model also creates a culture of ‘passing the buck’.

“‘A lot of this is playing out with Grenfell in the finger-pointing and lack of ownership and accountability,’ he said. ‘Building firms used to employ their own tradesmen but no longer. Of course there are a lot of good builders out there but the people operating the final install are often so far removed from those paying for the work that they don’t feel responsible for the outcome.’

“Mr Farmer believes that the culture of cost-cutting in the industry has left a legacy of poor-quality homes that could result in another tragedy like Grenfell.

“‘Unfortunately, lives are at stake,’ he said. ‘We have a legacy of building stock that was built the same way that Grenfell was refurbished. There is no point kidding ourselves, much of the industry’s poor performance has yet to be uncovered.’” (Grenfell Tower fire exposes culture of bad building by Andrew Ellson, The Times, 4 August 2020)

Mr Farmer went on to stress that the “industry is dominated by cheapest tendering, which creates a race to the bottom. Problems such as structural issues will only emerge over time. We need to urgently change how we deliver new buildings or we’re just piling up problems for the future.”

Expecting a system where the profit motive is king to change how new buildings are delivered so as to avoid the cheapest tendering is like asking a leopard to change its spots. The reason for development under capitalism is not primarily to fulfil a need but to extract a profit. Housebuilders are not building the thousands of homes needed by those on low incomes; they are focused on building houses that will turn the most profit.

Mr Farmer is right to highlight the problems, but he will need to look further than just a call for urgent change within this system. Indeed, it is not only the procurement process and value engineering that are a problem under capitalism: Grenfell is also drawing out the issues of deregulation and the influence of private companies over the planning process.

ACM cladding – a death trap

In relation to Grenfell, what seems clear is that, while all the parties involved are trying to pass the buck of responsibility, the very real consideration of fire safety had been overlooked at worst and underplayed at best. This was further compounded in 2014 by Rydon’s dismissal of Exova, the expert fire consultancy, which had until then been engaged in the design process.

Simon Lawrence stated when questioned on the absence of a specialist fire consultant that Rydon felt “comfortable with the risk” of overcladding Grenfell Tower, as it had done such work before on social housing blocks. Plus, he said, the company was using “what we believed to be a competent specialist subcontractor”.

“He said previous projects included several towers on the Chalcots estate in Swiss Cottage and Ferrier Point in Newham, both in London. Rydon had used Grenfell-style combustible aluminium composite material panels on those homes too.” (Grenfell firm took some of cladding savings for itself, inquiry told by Robert Booth, The Guardian, 20 July 2020)

Indeed, ACM cladding had been used on hundreds of high-rise buildings before Grenfell, all of which will have obtained planning permission, met building regulations and passed building control. It was only after Grenfell that the government decided that ACM cladding was in breach of building regulations. Before that it had not been explicit in condemning the use of ACM cladding on high-rise blocks.

Since the death of 72 people at Grenfell, the 456 high-rise buildings clad in ACM across England, including Rydon’s previous developments at Chalcots and Ferrier, have been targeted for remediation.

As a consequence of Grenfell, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced in May 2018 the provision of £400m to fund remediation of ACM-clad high-rises in the social housing sector in England, with an additional £200m announced for the private housing sector in May 2019.

As of June 2020, however, only 149 of the 456 high-rise buildings in question have been fully remediated, according to the National Audit Office. There are 140 buildings where remediation has not been finished, and an astounding 167 where work has not yet begun.

Building regulations reversal

How did ACM cladding become the material used on Grenfell and so many other buildings across the country?

This question is not easy to answer as far as the legal position is concerned – not least because the official government guidance was drafted loosely enough to mean that a large part of the construction industry was able to consider that using a material that had been shown to be deadly was nevertheless entirely legal.

In a comprehensive article in Inside Housing, reference was made to the evidence given in 2014 by Tony Enright, a fire safety engineer, to an Australian committee investigating a fire linked to a similar material. He pointed out: “A kilogram of polyethylene is like about one-and-a-bit, one-and-a-half litres of petrol. If you look at a one metre by one metre square section [of cladding], that will have about three kilograms, the equivalent of about five litres of petrol.” (The paper trail: the failure of building regulations by Peter Apps, 23 March 2018)

The article went on to explain that after the Grenfell fire, the government tested the panels that had failed with various combinations of insulation. “In the specific combination used on Grenfell, flames ripped through a nine metre rig in less than 10 minutes. Inside Housing has seen unreleased video footage of this testing and it is horrifying.”

While information about the fire risk of AMC cladding was known, and there had also been other instances of high-rise fires, this had not resulted in the material being banned for use in Britain. Quite the opposite, in fact.

In 1992, the Building Regulations Approved Document B had banned combustible materials entirely. Ironically, it was after a fatal fire at Garnock Court in Irvine, Scotland, in 1999 that the regulations were reviewed and the position was first weakened. Now, instead of banning materials, the regulations were performance-based. These set requirements that a material had to meet under certain conditions for its use to be approved. Herein lies the uncertainty, and the opportunity for the plastics industry.

With the question of fire safety there are two elements to the section within the Building Regulations Part B on the external fire spread. In the part of the approved document relating specifically to cladding, the use of ACM is deemed acceptable, while in the other part, relating (among other things) to the insulation of external walls, it is not.

The layer of insulation that was put behind the cladding at Grenfell, a product made by Celotex, has been described by Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack, who is overseeing the criminal investigation into the fire, as being “more flammable than the cladding”.

So on Grenfell Tower there was the equivalent of a layer of petrol holding up a thicker layer of petrol behind – and both of these were approved by government building regulations, not only on Grenfell but on hundreds of other buildings.

Industry standards led by private companies

The building regulations’ approval Celotex is where industry standards are really exposed. The inquiry has yet to hear evidence on this section, which will be covered in module two of the eight-module second phase. Until that evidence is heard, we won’t know for sure how the various parties concerned will try to cover up the involvement of the plastic companies in determining government policy. What we can do now, however, is to highlight what is known.

Under the approved Building Regulations Part B, the use of insulation like Celotex has become widespread. Celotex insulation is made from a plastic called polyisocyanurate, which does not meet the standard of ‘limited combustibility’.

The 2005 building regulation change known as BS 8414, which was made after the Garnock Court fire, introduced the testing of materials,. This testing was to be carried out by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), a former government national laboratory that was privatised in 1997.

The now private BRE was not only involved in advising the government on changes to the building regulations in 2005 which in effect reintroduced the use of combustibles in the building industry, but it actually organised all the internal meetings and processed all the consultation responses.

At the time of the inquiry into Garnock Court, the BRE had been developing the large-scale tests which were to be the basis of BS 8414. The BRE charges around £15,000 per test, the results of which are kept secret and released only at the manufacturer’s discretion. The BRE’s motivation for promoting the changes in the building regulations are highly questionable.

Other sections of the private sector have also been involved in informing policy. The pressures of climate change and the requirement to meet certain carbon emission targets have resulted in a move to improve the thermal performance of buildings. The plastics industry has stepped rapidly into this apparent breach to promote plastic-based insulation as the ‘solution’.

Celotex was one of ten companies ‘invited’ onto a ‘Green Deal’ committee, run by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), to come up with ways to push more insulation into homes. Another three of those ten companies were also from the plastics industry lobby group.

“Celotex technical director Rob Warren was a leading committee member who made his intentions clear on a now-deleted company webpage. Under the heading ‘Celotex enter government’, he said his position on the DECC committee meant he was ‘working inside government’ to ‘shape this critical policy enabling the insulation industry to maximise the benefits’.

“Construction expert Simon Hay, who was also on the committee, told us he was aware of the agenda: ‘The point from the insulation companies was that they were going to sell a lot more insulation,’ he said.

“A few years later, Celotex revealed that the rules the plastics industry helps to write are key to company profits. Trade magazine Urethanes Technology International reported in 2015 that Warren had told them regulatory change was the ‘greatest driver’ of plastic insulation sales. Without new regulations, he was reported as saying: ‘You cannot give insulation away and the public are not really interested.’” (Grenfell, Britain’s fire safety crisis by Gerard Tubb, and Nick Stylianou, Sky News, 4 June 2018)

Warren made it abundantly clear: weaker regulations that opened the door to the use of combustible materials in the fabric of our buildings was good for business. Any discussion about fire safety, however, was not.

This is aptly demonstrated in the government’s 2012 Green Deal launch report ‘Opportunities for Industry’, which contains 126 mentions of ‘cost’ and 119 of ‘saving’, but nothing at all about fire safety.

What continues to be clear as the inquiry progresses is that Grenfell was no blameless tragedy; it was most certainly a criminal case of negligence that could and should have been avoided. Grenfell suffered from being in the wrong place in the eyes of the haves and needing to be covered up to hide the have-nots.

When finance dictates, the lives of workers are the furthest from consideration.

Posted in UK0 Comments

Syrian and Libyan oil: Washington’s hand in the till

People across the middle east continue to suffer war and economic hardships as the price of living on top of coveted oil resources.

Lalkar writers

Despite the clear failure of the western-backed jihadi war of subversion against Syria to impose a change of leadership, thanks to the courageous resistance of the Syrian Arab Army and the fraternal assistance of Russia and Iran, imperialism continues in its efforts to strangle the country economically, so hampering the nation’s reconstruction.

It does this in two ways: by the imposition of sanctions, and by obstructing government access to the nation’s oil wealth, concentrated primarily in the north-east of the country.

Daylight robbery in Syria

Imperialism’s chosen guard dogs in the Kurdish SDF rent-an-army are ostensibly tasked with ‘protecting’ this oil resource from remnants of Islamic State, but their real job is to deprive the Syrian nation of its own oil revenues and hold the door open for imperialist plunder.

This is now openly declared US policy. On 30 July, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo told the Senate foreign relations committee that an (as yet unnamed) American oil company would begin operations in the north-east of Syria in areas under SDF occupation.

To back the SDF militarily, US forces are being established in the provinces of Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor, and US convoys have been ferrying war materiel into the north-east.

This new US aggression has not gone unanswered by patriotic forces however. A Syrian Arab Army checkpoint near the settlement of Tell al-Zakhab recently barred entry of a US patrol into a government-controlled area southeast of the city of Qamishli in Hasakah.

A US reprisal airstrike sadly claimed the life of one soldier and injured two more, but this flouting of Syrian sovereignty is meeting with increasing resistance from people in Syrian towns and villages, who have repeatedly denied passage to US convoys, driving them back into SDF-controlled areas.

One Syrian tribe in the province of Deir ez-Zor, the Al-Uqaydat, has announced the formation of a military council to launch popular resistance against both the Americans and the Kurds. It blames America for the assassination of a tribal elder, Matshar al-Hafl, as well as complaining about other assassinations of its leaders by the SDF.

Clearly, the US has not lost the knack of winning hearts and minds that served it so well in Vietnam.

The price of oil in Libya

Oil is also central to the civil strife that continues to make life a misery for Libyans, who, after seeing over four decades’ worth of economic and social progress wiped out by western-backed counter-revolution and Nato bombs, now live in fear as rival imperialist interests pick through the ruins to plunder the country’s mineral wealth.

Whilst the ‘international community’ pretends to have its sights set on peace and reconciliation in Libya, the biggest obstacle to that outcome is precisely the conflicting vested interests of those imperialists who are backing the two sides.

When the western-backed Benghazi revolt against the Libyan revolution blew up in 2011, the French oil company Total did a secret deal with the rebels, who promised it a tempting range of oil concessions should the revolt prove successful. Britain’s BP and Italy’s ENI had already secured concessions in the 1990s.

Turkey, meanwhile, is anxious to get access to gas deposits under the Mediterranean, and hopes to achieve this by lending its support to the so-called ‘Government of National Accord’ (GNA). However, in spite of the fact that the UN officially recognises the GNA as the legitimate government, Turkey is in practice its only major backer, bringing it into collision with fellow Nato member France, which backs the revolt by the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar, a stand shared by most other international parties.

Ankara and the GNA have identified an ‘exclusive economic zone’ off the Libyan coast to which Turkey has been granted access – in exchange for increased military assistance.

Whilst most of the blood being shed on all sides is Libyan, direct conflict between France and Turkey erupted on the high seas at the beginning of July.

In theory, the United Nations has put an embargo on arms sales to either side in the war, which Nato is supposed to be policing. According to Paris, however, when one of its ships tried to approach a freighter suspected of running weapons to Libya, three Turkish warships threatened it, lighting it up three times by targeting radar.

Ankara has hotly denied the Paris version of events, as each country accuses the other of breaking the arms embargo.

Efforts by Russia to broker a truce have been hampered by the GNA’s insistence on winning militarily, despite the declared readiness of the LNA to sign up for an immediate ceasefire.

And, behind the scenes, rival imperialist interests prolong and exacerbate the civil conflict as they jostle to be in the best position to take control of Libya’s oil wealth.

Posted in USA, Libya, Syria0 Comments

Elon Musk on Bolivia: ‘We will coup whoever we want!’

Bolivia’s ‘lithium coup’ is yet another example of a regime-change operation carried out at the behest of imperialist corporations.

Proletarian writers

Lithium mining at Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni. The salt flat contains more known lithium carbonate reserves than any other location on earth.

In July, billionaire Elon Musk, a grown man with all the maturity of a rebellious teenager, took to his favourite attention-seeking platform, Twitter, to make known his opinion, not that anybody asked for it, on a proposed economic stimulus package to help soften the blow of the latest crisis of overproduction that the capitalist world is presently reeling from.

“Another government stimulus package is not in the best interests of the people imo,” the sagacious entrepreneur opined. To which another user fired back: “You know what wasn’t in the interests of the people? The US government organising a coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia so you could obtain the lithium there.”

Outraged and well out of his depth, Musk threw his toys out of the pram, exclaiming: “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.”

This candid and frankly stupid remark neatly encapsulates the mentality of the capitalist class as a whole, and of the imperialist Americans in particular, who consider the whole continent to be their ‘back yard’.

It is their firm belief that the world, with all of its resources, is not a beautiful shared home to all of humanity and the animal kingdom, to be respected and nurtured in order to sustain life, but their own exclusive property to do with as they please. The inhabitants thereof are not human beings, but so much potential labour-power to be exploited or cannon fodder to be used to further enrich the capitalist class and fulfil its hegemonic desires.

Bolivia’s lithium reserves

Bolivia is blessed with a vast wealth of natural resources. In particular, it has been found to possess some 43 percent of the world’s known supply of lithium, buried beneath the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in the country’s southern highlands.

Underneath the flats, large aquifers rich in lithium brine are to be found. Extracting lithium in this context, as opposed to mining from hard rock, carries a number of benefits: the cost is significantly lower, the production timeframe is shorter, and returns are much higher – an extremely attractive prospect to profit-mad corporations. (A cost comparison: lithium brine vs hard rock exploration by Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist, 2 June 2015)

However, it was not Morales’s goal to allow foreign companies to exploit Bolivia’s lithium reserves, nor was it his intention to act as a supplier of raw materials for high-end manufacturing abroad.

Instead, under his leadership, the state-owned Bolivian Oil Fields (YPFB) proudly worked towards building the capacity to mine and process lithium within the country, bringing in large sums of money to be used for the benefit of the whole Bolivian people.

Such was the success of the plan, part of a larger ‘Bicentennial Agenda’, that, in June 2019, it was estimated that the country had the reserves and capacity to produce some 400,00 lithium batteries each year. (Bolivia: Morales to industrialise lithium for battery exports, Telesur, 19 June 2019)

Then, in October 2019, the first domestically manufactured electric car, produced by state-owned YLB (Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos, or Bolivian Lithium Deposits), was showcased at the opening of a new lithium technology centre in Potosi, a city near Salar de Uyuni.

The centre, consisting of 18 classrooms, laboratories and conference rooms, aimed to teach students about the production and uses of lithium, and to provide the future workforce for the industry. (Bolivia to introduce first domestically-made electric vehicle, Telesur, 2 October 2019)

A similar strategy was pursued in Bolivia’s natural gas industry, which before the Morales government’s initiatives was exporting unrefined gas and importing its refined counterpart. During Morales’s presidency, the YPFB began refining gas domestically and exporting value-added processed gas canisters to neighbouring Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Paraguay – once again using the proceeds to better the lives of poor Bolivians.

Of course, this did not sit well with the imperialist US, which cannot stand the sight of human progress, and could not stomach another socialist-oriented country in its ‘back yard’.

The November 2019 ‘lithium coup’ in Bolivia

“Our sin, our crime, is to be an indigenous person and to have begun change with the participation of the Bolivian people,” noted Morales during his first press conference in Argentina after the violent coup that overthrew him in November 2019 – a coup that had been led by the Bolivian elite with the murderous CIA acting behind the scenes.

“We nationalised energy and water, which were previously privatised,” continued President Morales. “We said that another world is possible without the IMF.”

“We did three important things. In the political realm, we refounded Bolivia. We left a colonial state behind and created a plurinational state. In the economic realm, we promoted nationalisations. And most importantly, in the social realm, we achieved wealth redistribution.”

The government of Evo Morales, the Movement Toward Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo, or MAS), greatly increased the quality of life for the working masses of Bolivia, reducing extreme poverty from 38.2 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2018.

This shocking redistribution of wealth and resources was just too much for the US to bear.

Accordingly, the US-led Organisation of American States (OAS) declared the results of the October 2019 presidential election, which MAS won by a wide margin, to be fraudulent, purely because they did not align with its own desired outcome.

“We won in the first round,” said Maduro. “According to the OAS, however, winning with a wide margin is electoral fraud … the OAS said there was fraud because in 225 tables the MAS obtained between 70 and 90 percent of the votes. In rural areas, we even obtained more … The real fraud is the OAS report.” (‘Fascists, racists plotted the lithium coup in Bolivia’ Morales, Telesur, 17 December 2019)

Using this pretext as a springboard, the opposition, backed by the police and armed forces, and, most importantly, by the US, ousted Maduro with a campaign of violence and intimidation. On 12 November 2019, opposition senator Jeanine Añez Chávez appointed herself ‘interim president’.

The demonstrations of Bolivian workers and peasants that followed the coup were drowned in blood. The armed forces were granted immunity from prosecution as they used live rounds against demonstrators, killing 30 and wounding 800 more in the clashes that immediately followed.

Evo Morales: a popular, well-respected leader

Evo Morales held the position of president from 22 January 2006 until 10 November 2019. He was, and still is, immensely popular with the Bolivian working masses. His illegitimate ‘successors’ enjoy no such popularity, and rule over the people with naked terror.

The story of Bolivia since the coup has been one of misery and suffering, combined with unrelenting struggle on the part of the popular masses of Bolivia.

Public companies are being dismantled and privatised, people are without food, embassies in fraternal, anti-imperialist countries such as Iran and Nicaragua have been closed, and members of MAS face political prosecution, all while ties between the coup regime and its puppetmasters in Washington are continually reinforced.

Such is the dependence and subservience of the US-backed regime on foreign capital, that newly appointed lickspittle foreign minister Karen Longaric penned a grovelling letter to Mr Musk asking his company to supply ventilators to help battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Musk ignored the request, perhaps advised to do so by his PR team, and the illegal government instead purchased 170 ventilators at the exorbitant cost of $27,683 each from a Spanish supplier, relying on a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (with headquarters in Washington DC) to do so, even though they could have been supplied by Bolivian companies at a fraction of the price.

This flagrant corruption blew up in the face of the regime, and health minister Marcelo Navajas was arrested in a panicked act of damage limitation. (Bolivia investigates health officials over ventilator deal after public outcry by Daniel Ramos, Reuters, 20 May 2020)

So what became of the elections that were apparently so near and dear to the OAS in November last year? Unsurprisingly, they have already been postponed twice (which did not bother the OAS one bit) and are now scheduled for 18 October. Whether or not they will go ahead this time no-one can be sure.

What we can be sure of, is that the results will once again be considered fraudulent by the ‘international community’ should the MAS win, as it is expected to do.

We stand with our brothers and sisters in Bolivia in their struggle to restore peace and independence to their country, and to restore their chosen leader to the position of president.

Both in Bolivia and Britain, workers are fighting a common, mortal enemy, the enemy of all mankind: imperialism, the most hideous, reactionary stage of capitalism and human exploitation in its final decaying, moribund form.

Every blow the Bolivian working masses land against the US and its lackeys, every defeat or setback they inflict, weakens our joint adversary, and is to be celebrated as a victory for us all.

Posted in Bolivia0 Comments

Media freedom? Show me the MSM journalist opposing the torture of Assange

Craig Murray

The following is a slightly shortened version of an account posted earlier this week on Craig Murray’s website, reproduced with thanks.

Read Craig’s account of the February extradition hearing.

*****

Today, the same corporate media that cried ‘Media freedom’ when Extinction Rebellion blocked the billionaire-owned propaganda presses is silent as Julian Assange’s Calvary for bringing real truth unfiltered to the public moves on to its next station; the macabre Gothic architecture of the Old Bailey.

The Tories appeared remarkably tolerant in the days when Extinction Rebellion were causing general disruption to the public. But to threaten the interests of billionaire paymasters is something against which the entire political class will unite.

At a time when the government is mooting designating Extinction Rebellion as Serious Organised Crime, right-wing bequiffed muppet Keir Starmer was piously condemning the group, stating: “The free press is the cornerstone of democracy and we must do all we can to protect it.”

It is surely time we stopped talking about the ‘free press’, as if it was Thomas Paine or William Cobbett distributing pamphlets. Print media is now the subject of phenomenonal ownership concentration. It broadcasts the propaganda of some very nasty billionaires to a shrinking audience of mostly old people.

The same ownerships have of course moved in to TV and radio and increasingly into new media, and have a political stranglehold over those who control state media. At the same time, the corporate gatekeepers of Facebook and Twitter purposefully strangle the flow of readers to independent online media.

The idea of a ‘free press’ as an open marketplace of democratic ideas has no real meaning in modern society, until anti-monopoly action is taken. Which is the last thing those in power will do.

Quite the opposite, they are actively seeking to eliminate dissent even from the internet.

I do not want permanently to close down the Sun or the Telegraph; neither do Extinction Rebellion. But their excellent action is an important opening to the debate about controlled public narrative, not least on climate change.

The highly-paid stenographers to power have been quick to protest. Murdoch mouthpiece David Aaronovitch tweeted out that in fact 99 percent of the time there was no editorial interference from Murdoch. But that is not the point. Murdoch employs reliable right-wingers like Aaronovitch; he does not need to tell them what to write.

Show me the Murdoch journalist who has more than once published about the human rights abuses against the Palestinians. Murdoch ejected his own son from his media empire because James was insufficiently enthusiastic about the slow genocide of the Palestinians, and does not believe that the market will magically fix climate change …

Julian Assange has been a light in this darkness. Wikileaks has opened a window into the secret world of war crime, murder and corruption that underlies so much of the governance we live under throughout the ‘free’ world.

Coming in the wake of the public realisation that we had been blatantly lied into the destruction of Iraq, there was a time when it seemed Assange would lead us into a new age where whistleblowers, citizen journalists and a democratic internet would revolutionise public information, with the billionaire stranglehold shattered.

That seems less hopeful today, as the internet world itself has been corporatised. Julian is in jail, and continuing today is an extradition hearing that has been one long abuse of process.

The appalling conditions of solitary confinement in which he has been kept in the high security Belmarsh prison, with no access to his legal team or a working computer, to his papers or to his mail, have taken a huge toll on his physical and mental health.

The UN special representative has declared he is subject to torture. Media that are up in arms about the very dubious ‘attack’ on Navalny have no emotion for state torture victim Assange other than contempt.

They are constantly asked by Julian’s supporters why the media do not see the assault on a publisher and journalist as a threat to themselves. The answer is that the state and corporate media are confident in their firm alliance with the powers that be. They have no intention of challenging the status quo; their protection from those kicking Assange lies in joining in with the kicking.

I hope to be in court today, and throughout the extradition hearing. The public gallery of 80 has been reduced to nine “due to Covid”. Five seats are reserved for Julian’s family and friends, and I have one of these today, but not guaranteed beyond that. There are just four seats for the general public.

Journalists and NGOs will be following the hearing online – but only “approved” journalists and NGOs, selected by the Orwelian Ministry of Justice.

I had dinner last night with Assange supporters from a number of registered NGOs, not one of which had been ‘approved’. I had applied myself as a representative of Hope Over Fear, and was turned down. It is the same story for those who applied for online access as journalists. Only the officially ‘approved’ will be allowed to watch.

This is supposed to be a public hearing, to which in normal times anybody should be able to walk in off the street into the large public gallery, and anyone with a press card into the press gallery. What is the justification for the political selection of those permitted to watch?

An extraordinary online system has been set up, with the state-favoured observers given online ‘rooms’ in which only the identified individual will be allowed. Even with approved organisations, it is not the case that an organisation will have a log-in anyone can use, not even one at a time. Only specifically nominated individuals have to log in before proceedings start, and if their connection breaks at any point they will not be readmitted that day.

Given these restrictions, I was very conscious I may need to queue from 5.00am tomorrow, to get one of the four public places, if I drop off the family list. So I went this morning at 6.00am to the Old Bailey to check out the queue and work out the system.

The first six people in the queue were all people who, entirely off their own bat, without my knowledge and with no coordination between them, had arrived while London slept just to reserve a place for me. I was swept up by their goodness, their trust in me, and by their sheer humanitarian concern about Julian and the whole miscarriage of justice.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Human Rights, Media, Politics, UK0 Comments


Shoah’s pages

www.shoah.org.uk

KEEP SHOAH UP AND RUNNING

September 2020
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930