Thursday, November 30, 2006

Iranian President Ahmadinejad's letter to the American people

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This piece, published on the ICH website, is well worth reading, though Ahmadinejad is living in cloud cuckoo land if he thinks it will be widely published by the US media.

This had the makings of a good letter - it contain a lot of truths - but spoiled by the silly references to a mythical being. Isn't it just damned nauseating the way the world's leaders, not content with pulling the wool over our eyes at every opportunity, continue toveil themselves in religious piety in a further attempt to get our attention?

Meanwhile, this letter will be ignored by Bush. Why? Because whatever Bush is doing in the Middle East we are reminded by Dubya himself that God told him to do it. On 7th October 2005, The Independent reported (as did the BBC) a conversation Bush had had with former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath and Mahmoud Abbas, former prime minister and now Palestinian President. Bush told them:

"I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,' and I did. Now again", I feel God's words coming to me: 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.' And by God, I'm gonna do it."

Indeed, in his ever pathetic attempts to win the hearts and minds of god-fearing Americans, Bush pulls the religious card out at every opportunity. Consider:

"I BELIEVE that God wants me to be president."

So convincing was this that Bush won the support of his top military brass:

"Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there? And I tell you this morning that he's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this" (Lt Gen William Boykin, speaking of G. W. Bush, New York Times, 17 October 2003).

How history repeats itself:

"I would like to thank Providence and the Almighty for choosing me of all people to be allowed to wage this battle for Germany." (Hitler - Berlin March, 1936).

And just like Bush, Hitler too had his military top brass propagating the view that leaders are god-given:

"God gave the savior to the German people. We have faith, deep and unshakeable faith, that he was sent to us by God to save Germany." (Hermann Goering).

Undoubtedly Ahmadinejad, like ourselves, recognises that many workers are sincere in their beliefs; that they are quite decent men and women who genuinely believe in the teachings of the various religions; that they do not do so for any material gain. Socialists do not take the view that such people are silly, idiotic or mentally deranged as many ‘rationalists’ do. It would be foolish to imagine that people who produce and distribute all the wealth of the world are imbeciles. But how do we explain the apparent contradiction of intelligent people, who behave in a sensible fashion in their real and everyday lives, but believe that the world is subject to supernatural forces, that certain events and phenomena are the will of a god? It would be a strange worker who blamed the malfunction of a computer on the acts of demons, or sought an exorcism on his electric calculator or mobile phone. In their everyday working lives, people base their actions on a materialist view. It is only when dealing with conflicts, that they see as being between good and evil, that they have recourse to religious and superstitious and unscientific ideas. At the weekend in church, synagogue or mosque, they profess all sorts of peculiar notions, but Monday to Friday in the workplace, they are as materialist as any member of the Socialist Party, often holding strong views on workers’ rights and conditions.

We live in a harsh, competitive society where everyone’s hand is turned against everyone else. Yet human beings crave social identity and companionship. The appeal of religion in modern day society is that it offers at least the consolation of a future state of peace and harmony. It stresses brotherhood and social cohesion. The harsher the reality, the more fantastic the solace offered by religion. It is no accident that early Christianity spread amongst the slaves of the Roman Empire, nor that in India and indeed throughout Asia, where poverty is so harsh, we have the devout religious zealots. In modern society, the emphasis on social stature is put on possessions. Everything has a price. Religion and its professed rejection of the material benefits of ownership stress a desire deep in the human character for something more worthwhile than mere property ownership. In actual practice, the religious bodies that stress the importance of something beyond mere ownership are often the most money-grabbing organisations in the world today. But their appeal lies in the rejection of the values of the society that they all support.
No matter how different the various religions may be, they all have a common basis – the suspension of logic. The history of religion is one of retreat. In primitive society, it claimed to be able to placate the mountain god or the river god. Such claims were made foolish by humanity’s growing knowledge of geology and meteorology. In medieval times they believed in ‘the divine rights of kings’ and such nonsense. These ideas were thrown out by the growth of the new ruling class. Today, religions no longer claim to control the material world. It has retreated into the social sciences. Its last bastions are the categories of good and evil. It blames all the social problems on the imperfectability of human kind. It can do this because the present ruling class can not allow the unrestricted scientific investigation of the cause of poverty, war and other social problems.

From a socialist viewpoint, it is not a case of God creating man, but of Man creating God. And what a variety of gods they have created! That ideas are a product of real, social circumstances, as socialists have always maintained, is nowhere better illustrated than in religion. Take the various notions about heaven. In the upper stages of savagery, the American Plains Indians lived by hunting. So their concept of an after-life was ‘The Happy Hunting Ground’ – a world where the game was plentiful. The Viking’s concept of an after-life was Valhalla, a sort of never-ending Bacchanalian feast, where food and drink were to be had in abundance. Contrast that with the modern Christian notion of heaven. Marble halls, Heavenly Gate and the guardian St. Peter, like a social security clerk, totalling up your good deeds stamps and seeing whether you qualify for any benefit!

As socialists we reject religion, recognising that between religion and socialism there can be no compromise. They are two fundamentally opposed views of the world. The religious view sees workers as incapable of solving the problems that confront them - something leaders zoom in on in an atemt to win their sympathy. The consolation offered by its believers is beyond the grave. They believe that human beings should adopt a slavish attitude…be humble…be grateful…and not attempt to abolish the ills that afflict them.

The socialist view is the exact opposite. We view the human being as a superb animal that has adapted the natural world to meet its needs. We view with wonder and astonishment the many magnificent accomplishments of men and women in the field of science, medicine, agriculture and advanced modern technology.

Socialists place their faith not in gods and supernatural forces, but in the intelligence and knowledge of the working class. The transformation of society will not be brought about by the action of gods, but by real men and women determined to end capitalism and establish socialism and, so doing, to fashion a world in their own interests. The hope for humanity’s future does not lie in the reformation of the human character as proposed by religion. We do not expect people to become saints. Socialism means an end of social conflict. This can only come about by the conscious political action of men and women who are convinced of the need for socialism.

Remembering CND (Confused about Nuclear Disarmament)

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The reformist bandwagon, going nowhere fast, has passed through the town of Pagosa Springs, Colorado (western North America).

Some residents are angry at one local for having the temerity to display a symbol associated with peace (although the term piecemeal would be more accurate), hippies and, quite possibly, devil worship! No doubt the fact that this festive-looking wreath has led to a march and the birth of a monster peace sign has left conservative types frothing at the mouth and worried by such a growing 'threat' to the status quo.

Need the establishment types be worried? No, not at all, although we are told that the "..peace symbol came to prominence in the late 1950s as the logo for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a British antiwar group, according to the group’s Web site."

CND does not stand for peace but non-nuclear conflict, hence their less well known name, CCW -the Campaign for Conventional Warfare. Indeed, the group's latest campaign is for a debate to be held before the Trident nuclear weapons system is replaced: "Time and again, the ministers responsible have promised that a full debate and vote will take place." And Socialists have time and again pointed out the futility of such campaigning in the global capitalist system where war is endemic.

CND has a very short memory, one example of which is that less than ten years ago the group was organising protests against the introduction of Trident. The Socialkist Party responded in an article entitled: Reply to CND

Socialists, further, remember the birth of CND and leafleted the now famous Aldermaston march of 1958:

"This demonstration is evidence of the strong feeling throughout the country. We share your revulsion that the threat of nuclear weapons has aroused against the Hydrogen Bomb and are fully aware of its devastating consequences. But we disagree with the nature of your protest, which we hold is basically unsound and can only prove ineffective.

Mere emotion, however passionately directed against the horror of war, does not prevent war. Effective protest and action demands both an understanding of the cause of war and a practical idea of how war can be prevented.

The cause of war today is the capitalist organisation of society, a society based on the private ownership of the means of life and on production of goods and services to make a profit. Capitalism creates ruling groups who constantly struggle with each other for control of the wealth of the world. Governments represent the interest of these ruling groups. Their conflicts are economic ones: the competition for markets, the race for sources of strategic positions.

Russia, with its state-controlled capitalism, is no less involved in this sordid business than are the U.S.A. and Great Britain.

Governments cannot be moved to disarm by appeals to their humanity. History shows to the contrary that governments always prepare for war, that the horrific consequences of war do not minimise the likelihood of war, and that "agreements " between governments are no guarantee of peace.

Effective protest against nuclear weapons demands protest against the whole monstrosity of war. The abolition of war can only be effected by the reorganisation of human society.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain in its pamphlet on war states: "War can solve no working class problem. It cuts across the fundamental identity of interest of the workers of the world, setting sections of this class at enmity with each other in the interests of sections of the capitalist class.

"War elevates force into the position of arbiter in place of the common human desire for mutual peace and happiness. Its effect is wholly evil. It depraves all the participants by forcing them to concentrate upon the best methods of producing misery and of annihilating each other.

"War elevates lying, cheating, disabling and murdering opponents into virtues, confers distinctions upon those who practise these means most successfully.

"Young men and women, in their most impressionable years, have the vile methods of warfare impressed upon them so thoroughly that they lose a balanced outlook on life and are impregnated with the idea that force, with all its baseness, and not reason, is the final solution to all problems.

"Socialism is completely opposed to war and what war represents. At the same time it is the only solution to the conditions that breed war. It is a new form of society in which the people of the world will work harmoniously together for their mutual benefit, for there will be neither privilege nor property to cause enmity.

"No coercion will be needed in Socialism because each will gain from co-operating harmoniously with its fellows. But it is a new social system that demands understanding of its implications from those who seek to establish it.

"With the establishment of Socialism war will disappear and humanity will have taken the first step out of the jungle."

RS

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Rendition to Torture

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A derisive report by MEPs has attacked Britain’s role in torture flights and shown the Labour Party top brass up for the lying reprobates socialists have always claimed they were. The report states that European governments, including the British, knew all along about the CIA practice – known as extraordinary rendition – of flying ‘terror’ suspects to countries where there was a high probability they would be tortured.

Not only is the report highly critical of Geoff Hoon, minister for Europe, it further lambasts the chief legal adviser to the Foreign Office, Sir Michael Wood, for holding the view that receiving or possessing information extracted from torture was not forbidden by international law if there was no direct participation in the torture.

The report further focused on UK residents who had been seized in The Gambia, handed over to US agents and flown to Guantanamo Bay, and to Martin Mubanga, a UK citizen, also flown to Guantanamo Bay in 2002, where he was tortured for 4 years before being released without charge (or trial).

The report referred to 170 CIA rendition flights that had stopped over at British airports, bound for countries known for their appalling humans rights abuses.

No doubt the wily Blair will wriggle free from this mess and, come the next election, selective-amnesiacs will have forgotten all of this and voted in their millions for the Labour Party’s new clown prince – Gordon Brown. Neither will they recall that it was Blair who once referred to Guantanamo Bay as”an anomaly.”

Cast your mind back. Prime Minister’s Question Time. 7th December 2005:

Charles Kennedy (then Liberal Democrat leader): "The United States Secretary of State said yesterday that "extraordinary rendition" had been conducted in co-operation with European Governments. To what extent, therefore, have the Government co-operated in the transport of terrorist suspects to Afghanistan and elsewhere, apparently for torture purposes?"

Prime Minister Tony Blair: "First, let me draw a very clear distinction indeed between the idea of suspects being taken from one country to another and any sense whatever that ourselves, the United States or anyone condones the use of torture. Torture cannot be justified in any set of circumstances at all. The practice of rendition as described by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been American policy for many years. We have not had such a situation here, but that has been American policy for many, many years. However, it must be applied in accordance with international conventions, and I accept entirely Secretary of State Rice's assurance that it has been."

Mr Kennedy: "Given that assurance, can the Prime Minister therefore explain why the published evidence shows that almost 400 flights have passed through 18 British airports in the period of concern? When was he as Prime Minister first made aware of that policy, and when did he approve it?"

Mr Blair: In respect of airports, I do not know what the right honourable gentleman is referring to

Come forward a week: Prime Minister’s Question Time. 14th December 2005:

Charles Kennedy: "Last week, the Prime Minister acknowledged that he had been aware of the United States' policy of rendition for quite some time. If terrorist suspects are not being transported to a third country for the purposes of torture or mistreatment, will he explain to the House for what purpose they are being transported?"

Tony Blair: "First, let me again make it clear to the right honourable gentleman that this government are completely and totally opposed to torture or ill-treatment in any set of circumstances. Our country is a signatory to the United Nations convention against the use of torture, and we will continue to uphold its provisions absolutely.

And forward another week: Prime Minister’s Press Conference, 22nd December 2005:

Question: "Prime Minister, speaking of European leaders who have expressed ignorance of the American practice of shipping prisoners back and forth through airports in Britain and Europe to countries that may practise torture, Colin Powell said this week: 'Most of our European friends cannot be shocked that this kind of thing takes place. The fact is that we have over the years had in place procedures that would deal with people who are responsible for terrorist activities, and so the thing that is called rendition is not something that is new or unknown to my European friends.' Now that you know, do you approve it or will you stop it?"

Mr Blair: "Well it all depends on what you mean by rendition. If it is something that is unlawful I totally disapprove of it; if it is lawful, I don't disapprove of it…. all I know is that we should keep within the law at all times, and the notion that I, or the Americans, or anybody else approve or condone torture, or ill treatment, or degrading treatment, that is completely and totally out of order in any set of circumstances.
In capitalist politics there are lies, damned lies and then Labour Party leaders.

Just for the record:

“No State Party shall expel, return or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.’
From Article 3 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT). Britain and the USA are both signatories.
JB

Socialists and Cuba

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The Cuban dictator Fidel Castro has yet to make a public appearance at the five days-long celebration marking his 80th birthday. Socialism endures. These two sentences are factually correct but otherwise completely unrelated. The myth-making media and many on the Left would no doubt disagree. The latter are certainly relieved to learn that "Cuba won't abandon socialism just yet". This is the title of a recent article, written by one Paolo Spadoni - a professor of political science no less, so his views must be respected! - in 'The Christian Science Monitor' (sic).
What utter nonsense! Truly this amounts to another abortion of Socialist Understanding. See also this.
What then is the Socialist position? Time for a brief history lesson In 1938 the Cuban 'Communist' Party openly supported General Batista and twenty years later effectively broke the general strike called by Castro. This may sound strange but Castro's forces were aligned on anti-Batista, pro-nationalist lines - they were not even pretending to be socialist! Castro clearly identified himself as an enemy of the working class. He failed to deliver on his promise of free elections within a year of ousting the previous dictator! Perhaps this was because he felt a need to consolidate his power, as the numerous silenced, exiled or imprisoned members of trade unions and other groups suggest. No opposition parties or newspapers survived the purge. Ironically, it was US aggression which led Cuba down the state capitalist path of development. This brought about the much praised rise in literacy and improved health care, but such developments are part and parcel of producing a modern working class equipped to handle advanced methods of production. However, in other areas, Castro was candid enough to admit, as in 1965, that the regime had not even begun to deal seriously with the housing problem. Indeed, six years later the workers were told to build their own in addition to their normal work! This was never actually a problem for Castro and the nomenklatura - such difficulties are never experienced by the capitalist class. Tellingly, the existence of profits, interest, wages (all hallmarks of capitalism) in the early 80's, when links with the so-called Communist bloc were strong, is revealed by Peter Marshall in his Cuba Libre: Breaking the Chains. (He also writes about the existence of thousands of political prisoners and appalling anti-gay prejudice as well as stating that strikes and the formation of free trade unions are illegal). Since the collapse of many former state capitalist trading partners, reports suggest that the quality of life for the working class in Cuba has declined; poverty & prostitution are rife alongside deteriorating health and schooling facilities. Change to another form of capitalism is possible and is apparently being considered, as ABC News International reports.
Also worth a look is this Newsdesk.org piece , which reports that the Cuban government has launched a study with a surprising focus: What is it about socialism that causes people to steal?
Yes, Socialism endures in spite of the likes of Castro, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin and all the other motley misleaders past and present!

Still not convinced? Check out this.
Oh, and for any Che Guevara fans, who think he was a "socialist". This is for you.

RS

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Practical Socialism

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There are a couple of articles posted on Alan's blog "Mailstrom" which will be of interest to readers:

Building Profits versus Building Homes

and

How Socialism Can Organise Production Without Money

One of the arguments against Socialism is the so-called "Economic Calculation Argument." The Socialist Party was subject to criticsm from the Libertarian Alliance in the 1970s and after on precisely the ECA. One particular critic of the SPGB, David Ramsay Steele (and author of "From Marx to Mises", was in fact a former member of the party.

The Libertarian critique of Socialism led the party to look into its conception of Socialism; the result was a refining of the socialist case as well as a refutation of the ECA.

Gray

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Afghanistan - the truth

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It was interesting to hear Tony Blair telling British forces in Afghanistan that they were fighting for the future security of the 21st century. If the results of that US/UK led invasion of that country five years ago are anything to go by then the 21st Century looks set to be a miserable time to live through.

Five years after the invasion of Afghanistan the country is in ruins, the infrastructure in tatters, the Taliban, who Blair and Bush once informed us had been ousted, now as strong as ever and inflicting heavy casualties on UN forces. The cultivation of poppies, which Bush once told us had been halted, is now as strong as it has been in 20 years. Antonio Maria Costa (the UN anti-drug chief) said recently that this year's opium harvest will be a record 6,100 tons (enough to make 610 tons of heroin) or 92% of the total world supply and 30% more than the amount consumed across the world in one year. Way to go Bush and Blair!! Drug barons across the planet salute you!!

The burqa, once believed gone forever with the arrival of Western forces and the installation of a puppet regime, is being worn through sheer fear everywhere. So, congratulations Mrs Bush and Blair – another glorious foreign policy cock-up of gigantic proportions.

And let’s set the following fresh statistics against the 5 year Western occupation of Afghanistan:

Life expectancy in Afghanistan is 44.5 years – the lowest in the world.
At 161 deaths per 1,000, infant mortality is the highest in the world.
One in five children perish before the age of 5.
Every day 50 women die in childbirth.
45% of those seeking work are unemployed.
50 % of the working population earn a miserly $200 a year. Those involved in the heroin trade – the country’s number one industry – fare a little better and receive an average $300 a year.
Only 25% of Afghans have access to clean water and adequate sanitation.
25% of the population depends on food aid.
500,000 are either homeless, living in appalling conditions or do-it-yourself dwellings.
There is one doctor for every 6,000 people.
Fewer than 6% of Afghans have access to electricity, and at irregular intervals.
Over 100 are killed or wounded each month by mines.
It is reported that children are being kidnapped and sold into slavery or killed for their organs. Tens of thousands of woman have turned to prostitution in order to survive.

Neither have US public relations helped matters. As in Abu Ghraib in Iraq, so too have there been numerous accounts of the torture of detainees in Afghanistan's US controled detention centres. Moreover, US troops have openly ridiculed the dominant religion there. In late October, US troops were captured on film burning the bodies of dead Taliban fighters in the village of Gonbaz - forbidden under Islamic law.

The corpses burnt, U.S. psychological operations specialists, in an attempt to lure Taliban followers, used loudspeakers to goad local villagers: "Attention, Taliban, you are all cowardly dogs. You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned. You are too scared to come down and retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be...You attack and run away like women. You call yourself Talibs, but you are a disgrace to the Muslim religion, and you bring shame upon your family. Come and fight like men instead of the cowardly dogs you are."

Just the way to go on when you’re trying to win the hearts and minds of the people. Operation Eduring Freedom turns into Operation Who Fancies Their Chances?

In Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence (Seven Stories, 2006) by Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls, the authors argue that the continuing plunge into brutality is directly related to US policies over the past 5 years. The US would not allow the UN to stabilise the country outside of Kabul and allowed the Northtern Alliance and other war mongers to take control and to continue their violent suppression of the population. This, along with a hated US policy for the country, has turned people to support the Taliban.

The authors write:

“As warlords have carved out chunks of Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, the lawlessness that gave rise to the strict Islamic movement in the mid-1990’s has begun to spread, once again, across this country. The United States-led military campaign… has returned to power nearly all of the same warlords who had misruled the country in the days before the Taliban.

“…One thing is certain: having warlord armies as the only non-U.S. forces in the bulk of Afghanistan ensures little international accountability for U.S. troop operations in the countryside. ISAF [the United Nations established International Security Assistance Force] expansion would have interfered with the U.S. hunt for al-Qa’eda and bin Laden. According to Al Ahram Weekly columnist Fahmi Howeidi, the ‘primary function of [ISAF] is to divert attention away from the military operations being conducted by U.S. forces in the Afghan countryside. In fact, as much as the hands of the international force are tied in Kabul, the Americans have a free hand elsewhere.’ The absence of peacekeeping troops, deliberately maintained by the Bush administration, ensured that the United States, rather than an international body, had control over most of Afghanistan.

“The official U.S. policy on Afghanistan’s security, according to Rumsfeld, was ‘helping [Afghans] develop a national army so that they can look out for themselves over time.’ Since developing a national army and police force in a country flush with weapons and decimated by war is a time- and money-consuming effort, Rumsfeld privately ‘wondered why they couldn’t just let the Afghan warlords create an army.’ In some areas of the country, this is indeed what has happened. While the national army is still in its infancy, local and regional warlords, many of whose private militias are well funded by drug revenues, easily filled the military vacuum left by the Taliban, but this didn’t

It now seems that the US is reaping the bitter harvest of its foreign policy which used Islamic fundamentalism as a puppet in its perennial game of globo-political profit-making. For years it courted some of the most dangerous, conservative and fanatical followers of Islam and is now paying the price. The globalisation process, which the US has pursued obsessively, has only served to make political Islam more reactionary in defence of its own culture and strategic interests.

The Islamic zealots the US are prepared to annihilate, in Afghanistan were once afforded most favoured status during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Under the Carter administration and beginning in 1980, they were trained in their thousands (sources quote 20,000) at the CIA’s Camp Peary and at the ex-army base at Harvey Point in Carolina; by the Green Berets at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and indeed by the SAS in Scotland. They would go on to be trained at Fort A.P. Hill, just off the Washington-Richmond interstate highway, and at Camp Picket in Virginia by Green Berets and US Navy SEALS. This was not simply ‘basic’ training. They were trained in over 60 deadly skills, including the use of sophisticated fuses, timers and explosives, remote control devices for land mines, incendiary devices and the use of automatic weapons with armour piercing shells. Thus the US went about supporting a ten-year long jihad in the hope Soviet state capitalism would not encroach upon its central Asian markets and that the military cost of the operation would cripple the Soviet economy.

Blair’s comments on securing the 21st Century beg the question “on whose behalf?” Would Western forces really be there if the smell of oil was not in the air? The oil reserves of Central Asia ($12 trillion worth by some estimates) are large enough to attract any oil-crazed president and his lackeys and as Afghanistan is geographically located between the Caspian basin and the markets of China and the Indian sub-continent, we can well see the country’s strategic importance to foreign policy planners wishing to dictate the way in which the region’s oil and gas reserves are utilised to the benefit of the US dollar.

To be sure, Afghanistan is not the first war of the 21st Century as Bush claimed back in 2001, but just one battle in a larger war that began in 1945 with the US determined to control the world’s resources, and there is more than ample evidence to prove this. More importantly, though, the entire Afghanistan/Iraq episode serves to show the insanity of the system we live in, and the desperate need to wrest control of our planet away from the madmen before it is indeed too late.In the 20th century, some 220 million lost their lives in wars, in conflicts over trade routes, areas of influence, foreign markets, mineral wealth and the strategic points from which the same can be defended or in other words, in the name of profit.

As socialists, as observers of international affairs and commentators on the way they impinge upon the lives of our fellow workers, we are well attuned to the machinations of the elites of powerful countries as they seek to promote the interests of their corporate backers. Though it is no easy task for the uninitiated, we urge our fellow workers to be as vigilant as ever. To believe the arguments of the likes of Bush and Blair is to disarm yourself intellectually - for it is at times like the present, when the media is dancing to the tunes of governments, when the trumpets of jingoism, patriotism and reaction are sounding, that we need to be fighting the war of ideas with a little more gusto.

The solution to the ongoing insanity, we insist, remains the same. There is one world and we exist as one people in need of each other and with the same basic needs. There is far more that unites us than can ever divide us along cultural, nationalistic or religious lines. Together we can create a civilisation worth living in, but before that happens we need the conscious cooperation of ordinary people across the world, united in one common cause – to create a world in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation, a world without borders or frontiers, social classes or leaders and a world in which production is at last freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used for the good of humanity – socialism.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tony Blair: "Iraq is a disaster"

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Only those suffering from selective amnesia will not recall the nauseating lengths to which Tony Blair went in promoting the case for the invasion of Iraq, how he used 10-year-old information gleaned from the internet, and some student’ dissertation to boot, to argue that Saddam Hussein was quite capable of lobbing a missile at Britain within 45 minutes.

Prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, well over a million people took part in a mass protest in London - people fully aware at the time that the events of 9/11 had no link to Saddam Hussein (something George Bush promoted and later denied) and that he posed no military threat to the West. Likewise, the many who marched to Hyde Park that day were right in believing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction—a fact that was proved within months—and that any war in Iraq would fully destabilise the country (ex-president George Bush Snr. in fact cautioned Dubya that invasion would lead to destabilisation). And you would have been in a minority had you not realised the link between the intended war and the fact that beneath the sands of Iraq lay huge oil resources.

Three years after the invasion, with 650,000 Iraqis dead, the country’s infrastructure in total tatters, the country racked by a civil-war that threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands more Iraqis, global terrorism far more of a reality than before the invasion, Blair has admitted that the whole damned episode is a ginormous cock-up.

Interviewed by David Frost on Al-Jazeera on Friday night, Blair sent a shock-wave through Westminster when, responding to Frost’s querying whether the Western invasion of the country had "so far been pretty much of a disaster", Mr Blair said, firmly: "It has."

However, rather than locating the problem in the invasion, the toppling of Saddam, the setting up of a stooge pro-Western government, Blair continued: "You see what I say to people is why is it difficult in Iraq? It's not difficult because of some accident in planning, it's difficult because there's a deliberate strategy - al Qaeda with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other - to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war."

And who trained Al-Qaeda? British and US special forces, Mr Blair. And what has always been the will of the majority in Iraq, Mr Blair? That the Western occupying armies get the hell out of Iraq.

Notwithstanding the carnage engulfing Baghdad and British-controlled Basra, Blair maintained that British troops were not ready to cut and run.

"We are not walking away from Iraq," he said. "We will stay for as long as the government needs us to stay.” Or rather British and American forces will stay until the country’s oil wealth is secured for Western interests.

"And the reason for that is that what is happening in Iraq, as in Afghanistan, as elsewhere in parts of the Middle East, is a struggle between the decent majority of people, who want to live in peace together, and those who have an extreme and perverted and warped view of Islam, who want to create war.”

One wonders whether Blair gets his political weltanschauung from the same sources as his war-mongering counterpart across the pond. Nowhere do the politics of oil enter the equation – the real reason for the invasion.

Jut one day after the Frost interview and Blair was back-pedalling – for sure his telephone hotline buzzing all night with concerned messages from the jingoistic fraternity in Washington and the oil cartel at home – and his spokesman adamant that his apparent concession was a "straightforward slip of the tongue" – perhaps the kind is slip Mr Bush is so famous for! Blair’s spokesman continued: "He doesn't think that a democratically-elected government in Iraq is a disaster; he doesn't think that getting rid of Saddam was a disaster, but he does acknowledge there are difficulties, and he doesn't try to downplay those."

We wonder just what “difficulties” Mr Blair is thinking of. That in securing the ‘world’s richest prize’ people have to be killed and democratic elections – as in Iraq – have to be subverted. What, the elections were democratic, Mr Blair? Then why did all candidates first have to be cleared by the White House?

How can an election be construed as legitimate when it is carried out under foreign military occupation and when the country is apparently ruled by, and the election will be officially run by, a stooge government installed and kept in power by the army of occupation? Where the democracy in holding an election that is to be orchestrated from the US Embassy and which will be under the ultimate control of US forces? Where the democracy and freedom of expression when a raging civil war prevents large sections of the population casting a vote and when the election is so tailored as to bring into being a new assembly responsible for drafting a Washington–vetted constitution and selecting a government that will be allowed to exist only so long as it functions under the conditions of military occupation?

Toppling Saddam was not a disaster? The very reason Saddam was not toppled in the wake of the first Gulf War - when the US prompted northern Kurds and the southern Marsh Arabs to rebel against Baghdad, offering they would come to their aid, and then sat back as Saddam annihilated them – was exactly because it was recognised an unstable Iraq was not in US interests, that it was safer to keep Saddam in power. Saddam might have been an utter bastard, but as far as Washington was concerned in 1991 he was holding the country together. This is not to say that we, as socialists, believe Saddam should have been left in power, but it is instructive to point to glaring changes in US policy.

As socialists we do maintain that it is dangerous to listen to leaders of any party and from any country, regardless of their flower cant, and insist that anything they say is taken with a pinch of salt and that workers should organise against them and in their ilk and in our own interests. The concept of leadership has emerged with class society and will end when we abolish class society, when we abolish the profit system and all that goes with it. The master class have been allowed to lead because of their control over the means of living and by virtue of their control of the education system and their monopoly of the media and other information processes.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The greatest weapons we posses are our class unity, our intelligence, our ability to question every corrupt word that is uttered by politicians, and to imagine a world fashioned in our own interests. Leaders perceive all of this to be a threat and so will do anything to keep us in a state of oblivion, dejection and dependency – not least of these methods is to further lie to us at every opportunity. Our apathy is the victory they celebrate each day. Our unwillingness question everything they say, to unite as a globally exploited majority and to confront them on the battlefield of ideas is the subject of their champagne toasts.

When it comes to commenting on Iraq, on would have thought that Blair would have learnt his lesson and kept his ill-informed mouth shut. For over 3 years he has lied incessantly about Iraq. It is staggering that anyone in Britain still finds anything he says believable. Just to remind visitors to this blog of some of his untruths we’re listing a sample few of his Iraq-related porkies. If you think anything Blair says is trustworthy, consider the following:

1) "The assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt … that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons" (Tony Blair’s foreword to the dossier on Iraq, 24 September 2002)

Fact: After over three months of inspections, the UN weapons inspectors reported on 6 March that "No proscribed activities, or the result of such activities from the period of 1998-2002 have, so far, been detected through inspections”.

2) "There is no doubt about the chemical programme, the biological programme, indeed the nuclear weapons programme. All that is well documented by the United Nations." (Tony Blair, 30 May 2003)

Fact: The UN had found no evidence of any on-going programmes since the mid-1990s. Dr Hans Blix said on 23 May that "I am obviously very interested in the question of whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction and I am beginning to suspect there possibly were not."

3) "The reason why the inspectors couldn't do their job in the end was that Saddam wouldn't co-operate." (Tony Blair, interview on 4 April 2003)

Fact: Hans Blix told the Security Council on 7 March 2003 that "the numerous initiatives, which are now taken by the Iraqi side with a view to resolving some long-standing open disarmament issues, can be seen as 'active', or even 'proactive'".

4) "the UN has tried unsuccessfully for 12 years to get Saddam to disarm peacefully." (Tony Blair, interview in the Independent on Sunday, 2 March 2003)

Fact: In 1999, the Security Council set up a panel to assess the UN's achievements in the peaceful disarmament of Iraq. It concluded that: "Although important elements still have to be resolved, the bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated."

5) "We have already found two trailers, both of which we believe were used for the production of biological weapons" (Tony Blair, press conference in Poland on 30 May 2003)

Fact: Government experts believed that the trailers were used for the production of hydrogen for artillery guidance balloons - a system, incidentally, sold by the UK to Iraq in the 1980s.

6) “There is some intelligence evidence about linkages between members of al-Qaeda and people in Iraq." (Tony Blair to the House of Commons Liaison Committee, 21 January 2003)

Fact: In early February, a classified British intelligence report, written by defence intelligence staff in mid-January and presented to Tony Blair just prior to his 21 January presentation at the Liaison Committee, stated that there were no current links between the two, and that Bin Laden's "aims are in ideological conflict with present day Iraq".

7) "As the Foreign Secretary has pointed out, resolution 1441 gives the legal basis for this [war]" (Tony Blair to the House of Commons, 12 March 2003)

Fact: Resolution 1441 was secured on the British assurance that it did not authorise military action, even if the UK or US believed it was being violated by Iraq. Britain's UN ambassador Jeremy Greenstock informed the Security Council on 8 November 2002 that "There is no 'automaticity' in this Resolution. If there is a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter will return to the Council for discussion".

8) "On Monday night, France said it would veto a second Resolution whatever the circumstances." (Tony Blair to the House of Commons, 18 March 2003)

Fact: President Chirac said that France would vote against any resolution that authorised force whilst inspections were still working. Chirac said that he "considers this evening that there are no grounds for waging war in order to ... disarm Iraq.

9) "The oil revenues, which people falsely claim that we want to seize, should be put in a trust fund for the Iraqi people administered through the UN." (Tony Blair to the House of Commons, 18 March 2003)

Fact: Britain co-sponsored a resolution to the Security Council, which was passed in May as Resolution 1483, that gave the US and UK control over Iraq's oil revenues.

10) "Our aim has not been regime change; our aim has been the elimination of weapons of mass destruction" (Tony Blair, press conference, 25 March 2003 )

Fact: UN weapons inspectors were reporting Iraq's "proactive" cooperation, and were offering that Iraq could be confirmed as fully disarmed within three months if that assistance continued. If Mr Blair's aim was the elimination of prohibited weapons, why terminate the inspection process just when it was most effective?

Today, meanwhile, Gordon Brown is in Iraq and no doubt the trip will be used as a damage limitation exercise in the wake of Blair’s unwitting confession. Brown’s remit? To visit and placate British troops, who may have thought this was Blair saying they were going home, and to announce at least ?100 million in new aid for reconstruction. For what it’s worth, the figure is peanuts. On July 18th of this year US government's top auditor told Congress that the new Iraqi government would require at least $50 billion in aid just to rebuild the country's oil facilities and electrical grids to pre-invasion levels. Brown’s ?100 million would not cover the damage that is done to Iraq as a direct result of the ongoing civil war each week.

JB

THINK GLOBALLY, ACT GLOBALLY

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The threat of global warming is clearly a global problem that can only be dealt with by co-ordinated action at world level. But this is not going to happen under capitalism. As a system involving competition between profit-seeking corporations backed up by their protecting states, it is inherently incapable of world-wide cooperation. There never has been such cooperation. Just the opposite, in fact. The inevitable clashing interests between different states, each seeking to pursue the interests of its profit-seeking corporations, breeds war rather than cooperation. Look what happened last century. Look at the invasion of Iraq this century.

So it’s not going to happen. There is not going to be any coordinated world action to deal with global warming as long as capitalism is allowed to continue. Something will be done but it is bound to be too little, too late.

It’s certainly going to be too little. These days, when private corporations have governments under their thumb much more than in the recent past, what is being proposed is not even state intervention to force carbon-polluting corporations to limit their emissions in the overall capitalist interest. It’s to try to use the mechanisms of the market to solve the problem: fiddling about with the tax system to make investment in anti-pollution measures more profitable; establishing an artificial world market and price for carbon. Anybody can see that this is not going to work.

Governments are also proposing that individuals play their part, as if individuals rather than the system were to blame. They want us to drive smaller cars, even cycle to work, turn off the lights when we leave a room, not leave our TV on standby, not fly to our holiday destination. That’s all very well but unless they want us to reduce our standard of living that will just mean we would have money to spend on something else. As the capitalist class are always wanting us to reduce our standard of living since this means more for them as profits - and provoke strikes and impose austerity to try to do so - , socialists are naturally suspicious of the motives behind the government propaganda here.

In any event since the great bulk of carbon emissions come from energy generated for industry, offices and commercial transport, as well as from deforestation, even if we did all the things they want - and we’re not saying we shouldn’t, that’s an individual life-style choice - it wouldn’t make much difference. Changing life-styles is no more a solution to global warming than letting the invisible hand of the market have a go.

Having said this, individuals do have some responsibility in the matter. Capitalism - the cause of the problem - only continues in the end because people put up with it. Most people don’t see any alternative to working for wages, producing for profit, using money, the world divided into states, the existence of armies. These attitudes both reflect and sustain capitalism. And every time people get a chance to vote, a majority back politicians committed to maintaining the capitalist system as the way of organising the production and distribution of wealth. So capitalism continues. As do its problems, including the threat of global over-warming. Maybe as this gets nearer people will be driven to consider an alternative.

Global warming can only be tackled by global action. And effective global action will only be possible within the framework of a united world. A united world is only possible on the basis of the Earth’s natural and industrial resources being the common heritage of all humanity.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It's the same in China

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Socialists never get tired of showing how China and Cuba and every other country claiming to be socialist - not forgetting the former Soviet Union - in fact adhere to a brand of capitalism known as state capitalism, that in all of these countries money is of more importance than human life.
A recent example of China's worship of the god Mammon comes in a report this week of a young boy named Xiong Hongwei and how he drank pesticide from a soft drinks bottle, became seriously ill and was rushed to hospital by his grandfather. Arriving at the hospital the grandfather only had 123 yuan on him (?8.00) so was sent home and told to get the requsite 639 yuan before treatment could be administered. Result? The boy died.
Two thousand people protested outside the hospital and clashed with riot police and the hospital was closed temporarily.
At one time the Chinese health sevice was free to all - in other words it was somewhat similar to the NHS - until the market-oriented economy kicked in. In 1979, before market reforms, the government shouldered 54% of healthcare costs. That figure has since dropped to 17%.
Medical insurance comes highly recommended in China, but in the countryside only 25% of the country's 80 million farmers can afford it. The rural collectives they belonged to and which spread health care costs among members, was abolished in the early 1980s. The result being that many simply can't afford healthcare, so get ill, can't work and fall deeper into poverty - a vicious cycle mirrored in many countries.
Meanwhile, China's government still claims to be communist. And, meanwhile, China's leaders still support the wages system and commodity production. They promote trade according to the dictates of international capital and are ever prepared to go to war to defend China's economic interests. Hmmmm...isn't this what the US and British and French and Italian capitalist government do?
JB

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Against Bigotry

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Socialists, other than agreeing on the urgent need for the establishment of a world of free access as a solution to most of today's 'problems', are a very mixed group with diverse tastes and interests. But given the number of high-profile celebrities joining the reformist misery-go-round, they might well be angry with Angelina, bored of Bono and mad with Madonna for further delaying effective treatment, i.e, addressing only the symptoms rather than the actual disease. Another celebrity has identified a rather different 'problem' and has called for religion to be banned. Elton John is quoted as saying "I think religion has always tried to turn hatred towards gay people. From my point of view, I would ban religion completely,"

Here Elton is singing a refreshingly different tune, but it is not one you will hear Socialists joining. This is not to say that Socialists are unsympathetic: indeed, if our numbers were larger, we too might be subject to the same scorn reserved for the homosexuals and lesbians who paraded in Jerusalem recently. Yes, in a rare show of unity fundamentalist christian, jewish and muslim fascists came out against the sodomities (their pejorative).

What then is the Socialist position? Well, in our Declaration of Principles which date from 1904, you can read the following:

That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind, without distinction of race or sex.

The hate and distrust that exists in society today is a direct result of the nature of societies past and present. A society in which we must compete to survive, in which our jobs are threatened by other workers, in which we do not feel secure, is fertile breeding ground for racism, sexism, nationalism and all the other hatreds that abound.

Even today, while this hatred is sometimes used to pit one worker against another, it appears that overall, these hatreds are being rooted out and made socially unacceptable. This is particularly noticeable in countries like South Africa where there is a shortage of white workers, and black workers must be brought into previously "white" workplaces without the major disruption that is caused by overt racism.

No society can meet our human needs as long as there are different classes of people. Every person has abilities that differentiate them from others, but we are all equal in our humanity. We all have strengths and weaknesses. What we need is a society that allows us to use our strengths, and that accepts and accommodates our weaknesses.

Socialism will be a society geared to meeting human needs, and the need to be accepted for what we are is probably the most basic of human needs. When the breeding ground for these hatreds has disappeared, people will naturally be able to eradicate them with all the other negative leftovers of capitalism.

Clearly, Socialists are not homophobes. But, having endured physical attacks from fascists of the Left and Right we remain wholeheartedly in favour of the fullest freedom of speech. This is because we hold that out of full and free discussion of today's social problems only one valid conclusion can emerge: that Socialism alone will provide the framework within which they can be solved.

Socialists are Materialists and as such opposed to religion in all its forms. We agree with Marx that 'Religious suffering is at one and the same time the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the opposed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.' So, in the words of the radical poet P Bysshe Shelley:

Let us hasten than glorious day
When man on man no more shall prey
When prophets priests and kings
Are numbered with forgotten things
RS

A "moral right" to terrorism?

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According to Professor Ted Honderich of University College London the 'Palestinians have a moral right to terrorism' (The Independent, 2 November 2006). He goes on to explain that the "…Palestinians have a moral right in historic Palestine, including Israel, to their terrorism against that [Israel's] ethnic cleansing...Everybody believes the Palestinians have a right to a viable state..." Socialists do not make moral appeals, and have, since the Party's inception in 1904, opposed terrorism/wars: whenever have our 'problems' been solved by workers killing each other? And states?! Such ignorance!

Socialists do not go down that well-known leftist cul-de-sac of supporting oppressed and disadvantaged national minorities achieve statehood. We wonder if the Professor and others in favour of this position realise what a Sisyphean task they undertake? By way of illustration replace 'Jews' in the quotation below with any of the following:

* the indigenous peoples in North America, South America, and Australia;
* the Basques, Galicians, and Catalonians in Spain;
* the Bretons, Alsatians, Corsicans, and Savoyards in France;
* the Abkhazians and Ossetians in Georgia;
* the Sorbs in Germany;
* the Kurds and Turkmen in Iraq;
* the Kosovars and Hungarians in Serbia;
* the Moravians and Ruthenians in Slovakia;
* the Chinese in Vietnam;
* the Koreans in Japan;
* the Tamils in Sri Lanka;
* the Québécois in Canada;
* the Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan; and
* the Hawaiians in the United States.
For further info click here.

"In one of his first articles after becoming a Socialist, Marx argued that Jewish people should seek emancipation, not as Jews, but as human beings. To do this they should abandon their religion - just as Christians should abandon theirs - and become members of a secular human community in which money and the state should be abolished, i.e. Socialism. In the meantime, under capitalism, Jews should enjoy the same political rights, in a secular democratic state, as Christians and others."
For further info click here.

The Socialist Party has repeated this message many times, including on the emergence of the new Jewish State of Israel in Palestine (itself an 'artificial subdivision of the old Ottoman Empire'):

"Within the tormented area of the struggle Arab and Jewish workers have already given evidence of where the chains rub them by the strikes that have taken place against Jewish, Arab and alien masters. These Jewish and Arab workers form the vast mass of the population of the territories involved; they are the poverty-stricken exploitable material without which neither the Jewish nor Arab capitalists and landowners, nor outside capitalists, would be able to reap their harvest of profit from those rich areas. Industrially and commercially Jewish capitalists have been the progressive force. They have brought highly developed Western methods to a backward area, and in places have made the desert bloom. But with Western methods they have brought Western forms of wage-slavery and expanded under cover of nationalist ideals."
For further informaton click here.

Then and now Arab and Jewish workers have more in common than with the capitalists who exploit them. The creation of a separate Palestinian state, viable or otherwise, will no more end this exploitation than, for example, when a new black master class took over the state at the end of the era of apartheid in South Africa.

Furthermore, as "...long as we have capitalism, that is, competition and contest between capitalists and capitalist states, buying and selling, land grabbing for profits and other gains, which leads to bullying, threatening, spying, open hostility, conflict, terrorism and open military war, we will never be free of violence and terrorism."

'Workers of the World, Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.'
To see a how the modern Israeli state has emerged over millenia, see: "Imperial History of the Middle East".
RS

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Great Poppy Debate

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Remembrance Sunday was created on November 7 1919 by King George V as a way for people to remember the sacrifices made by the Allied soldiers of the First World War. It is observed today (on the Sunday closest to November 11) to remember the fallen of other conflcits too.

The plastic poppy has its origins in the poppies made and advocated by Moina Michelle (1918)and Madame Anne Guerin (1920) - its symbolism stems from the poem "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae. Poppies grew across the battlefields. The red is the blood spilt.

Cue Peter Snow, a newsreader, who refused to wear a poppy the other day and calls the whole tradition "poppy fascism." He has a point as kids are being forced to wear them and viewers' wrote a storm of complaints because he didn't have one on. (An aside - there is also the campaign for a white poppy, to symbolise peace and remembrance, rather than the red poppy.)

The socialist take on this lays in objection to that seemingly harmless word "sacrifices" from the first sentence of this post. The ruling class, the pulpits and the media argue that working class men and women have fought and died in wars in order to let us all enjoy what we have today. Presumably, that "sacrifice" was death for capitalist democracy. The Socialist Party argues that wars are not fought to protect democracy. Further, we argue the cause of wars is the capitalist system itself.

Remembrance of wars is not a pointless exercise. We need to remember why the horror started in the first place and that it is possible to banish the murder, misery and destruction of wars forever.

Erratum -- the newsreader in question is of course Jon Snow!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

William who?

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Socialists do not want to abolish the monarchy. Socialists are much more ambitious: we desire nothing less than a global classless commonwealth. Until that glorious day we will do our best to ignore the latest royal pantomime. You might think that those of us existing in republics such as Austria, Romania, Russia or South Korea might suffer less exposure but no, papers in these countries soon carried the 'news' that a worker on an English Channel ferry had failed to recognise one William Windsor! Unbelievable! And possibly something which might elicit a passing smile from even a veteran class warrior. There should be no doubt, however, that Socialists seek to replace pomp and privilege for the few with peace and plenty for all, as the following gems show...

"...The King as such is a nonentity, a dummy, a convenient cloak behind which the capitalist class carry on their operations of robbing the workers of the fruits of their toil. As a private individual, the landlord of vast estates, George Wettin may make himself feared, but no one trembles at his royal word, or quakes at the thunder of his anointed brow. If the great ones of the capitalist world bow and scrape before him, it is only because he is the incarnation of capitalism, the symbol of the domination of a class of parasites and thieves, the image of themselves triumphant. They know that while the workers will flock in millions to cheer this straw man of theirs, dragged through the streets like a fifth of November guy, they and their plunder are safe. Hence they set the example of deification, knowing well they will be followed by their sheep..."

No doubt this parasite was totally oblivious to the fact that one of the craftsmen who helped create the new coronation chair was F.C Watts, a founder member of the Socialist Party! Truly, the capitalist class reigns over the workers only with their support!

The Socialist Standard has been printed monthly without interruption for over one hundred years: Indeed, this is all the more impressive considering periods of press censorship and the unilateral action of printing firms, the latter leading to the removal of an article concerning the death of George VI:

One year later, there was a new figurehead for the same old rotten system:

Years can pass between such articles appearing in our journal, an appropriately contemptuous lack of interest which is possibly only bettered at branch level:

"Islington branch of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, on this eightieth birthday of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, hereby resolves to express its hostility to the existence of a monarchy and the parasitic class it represents. In an age when one third of the world's population suffers from malnutrition, when millions throughout the world face the indignity of the dole queue, when 53,000 families in Britain are homeless, when health facilities are cut back while money spent on nuclear warheads, for the workers of this country to be ecstatic that an aristocrat has survived to be eighty is distasteful in the extreme: The concern of our party remains with the wealth producers of the world, including those who face old age in poverty with the threat of hypothermia. Let Kings and Queens be left to the history books; let working people create a better society for ourselves." (4 August 1980)
RS

Do you remember the Sandinistas?

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The Sandinistas are back. Or are they? In any event, Daniel Ortega, who headed the revolutionary junta that took over after the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and who was President of Nicaragua till he was voted out in 1990, has just been elected President again.

For those with short memories, in the 1980s the Sandinistas enjoyed the same prestige and support amongst Leftwing romantic revolutionaries as does Chavez today. “In 1979,” read the blurb on the back of Nicaragua: The Sandinist Revolution by Henri Weber that came out in 1981, “Nicaragua’s long-lived Somoza dictatorship fell before a mass insurrection led by the Sandinist movement, which has now established the first anti-capitalist power on the American mainland.”

Weber was then a prominent member of the French equivalent of the old IMG. Later he became a “Socialist” Party senator. Ortega’s political evolution has been in the same direction. While still an anti-yankee nationalist he now emphasises his Christian rather than any “Marxist” (read Leninist) credentials.

The Sandinistas were a guerrilla group inspired by the Cuban revolution (and named after a Nicaraguan nationalist who fought against US domination in the 1920s). At the beginning, in 1979, they shared power with the representatives of the liberal bourgeoisie, who were also against the Somoza dictatorship. But they soon came to monopolise power and attempted to transform Nicaragua into the same sort of state-capitalist regime as existed in Cuba, with the same “Marxist-Leninist” ideology: a minority vanguard would liberate the people through opposition to US imperialism, land redistribution, social reforms and a cultural revolution against capitalist influences which would create a “new man”.

The USA wasn’t having it and financed and armed the “contras” who waged a relentless guerrilla campaign against the Sandinista government, so weakening it that in the end it had to agree to abide by the outcome of internationally-monitored elections. Ortega lost, ironically to one of the representatives of the liberal bourgeoisie would had been a member of the original 1979 junta. Most people in Nicaragua were simply fed up with the civil war and the economic privations it and the failure of the Sandinistas’ economic policies had caused.

For the first time a self-appointed “Marxist-Leninist” vanguard had been voted out of office. In any event, even in the absence of the US-provoked civil war, the Sandinistas would have failed to establish socialism or even improve the position of the working class. Quite apart from the fact that, due to the already world nature of capitalism, socialism cannot be establishment in just one country, and certainly not in an economically backward one like Nicaragua (or Cuba), no minority can impose socialism on a majority that does not want and understand it.

Once in power that minority has no alternative but to work within the context of capitalism, but capitalism cannot be made to work in the interest of the class of wage and salary workers. Which was why even in their hey-day the Sandinista government was opposing strikes and urging workers to work harder. They had no alternative since, just to survive within world capitalism, they had to keep costs down so as to make a surplus (a profit) to pay for essential imports.

The Sandinistas’ failure was not that of “the first anti-capitalist power on the American mainland” but the failure of an attempt to establish a Leninist state-capitalist regime there.
ALB

Monday, November 06, 2006

REVOLUTION LATER

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A revealing letter under this heading was published in the Sunderland Echo last Thursday (2 November):

"In his slightly separatist letter (Oct 10), Steve Colborn tells us that the "only way forward" is socialism, but that the Respect Party is not the way to achieve it.

Well of course it isn't. Steve knows as well as I do that the only way to real socialism is through revolution and smashing of the capitalist system and all its machinery.

As a member of the revolutionary Socialist Workers' Party I would like nothing more than to see this happen. Unfortunately though, a mass uprising just isn’t on the cards right now.

Yes, many people are dissatisfied with mainstream politics, but how many are clued-up on the system and are ready and willing to fight for the alternative in the way that is necessary?

It is a sad fact, but the masses are doped with materialism and entertainment, and while Corrie is on the telly and there's a lager and pizza in the fridge we are not going to see revolution. Therefore, there is a need for the next best thing, Parliamentary reform.

The Respect Party aims to fight for the best possible deal for working people within the present system. And it's essential such a party exists, even if only as a fringe party, to prevent the rich from being all-powerful.

I sincerely hope Steve manages to stir the masses and wake them from their slumber. Till then though, all we have is our vote.

Gary Duncan, Respect Party, Hylton Castle, Sunderland."

What an admission from a member of the SWP/Respect Party! That because socialism is not on the agenda we should lower our sights and just go for what reforms we can get within the capitalist system! Yes, most people today don't want socialism, but we in the Socialist Party draw the opposite conclusion: that we should step up our efforts to spread socialist ideas, not retreat into reformism.

And we don't agree that socialism has to be come through some violent mass uprising to smash "the capitalist system and all its machinery". That's just romantic pseudo-revolutionism. Once there's a majority against capitalism and for socialism they can use the ballot box to get their way. But thanks, Gary, for the admission that Respect is just a reformist front for the opportunist SWP.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Louts, chavs, and hoodies.

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Demonising the young has been an adult pass-time for as long as this writer can remember. Today’s chavs have a long pedigree - remember the Mods and Rockers? And before them the Teds. And before them…

When we pointed out that human beings react to their surroundings and behaviour reflects the conditions of the world we inhabit we were told we were woolly headed dreamers. Treating society’s offenders as human beings was not an option that would do any good. The fault we were told lay in human nature.

Now who do you think said this in opposition to the human nature argument?:

“If all we have to say to those kids is that you’re feral, that you deserve an ASBO, that you should be in custody — we will simply be reacting to youth crime instead of reducing it…Tell a 16-year-old boy, abandoned by his father, neglected by his mother, on drugs, dyslexic, hyper-active . . . tell that boy it’s all his own fault when he ends up in Feltham [the young
offenders institution].”
It was in fact David Cameron the leader of the newly compassionate, formerly hang ‘em and flog ‘em, Conservative Party – as reported in The Times.

Caught seemingly on the back foot by this departure from the hymn sheet Labour has labeled this environmentally centered approach “hug-a-hoodie” and “love a lout.”

Cameron was speaking as new research on the lives of British teenagers uncovered a debauched life of drinking, fighting and underage sex among today’s 15-year-olds thus confirming the worst fear of your average Daily Mail and Sun reader. The study, conducted by the Institute for Public Policy Research, said that a serious breakdown in the relationship between children and adults in Britain was to blame, a rift not witnessed in comparable European countries (and therefore not attributable to that other popular bet noir — Britain’s membership of the Common Market.

Many teenagers, said the report, spend almost all their free time “hanging round with friends” (gasps of shock and horror). 59 per cent of boys in Scotland and 45 per cent in England spend four or more evenings with their friends (presumably instead of setting up their own thriving business — young Richard Bransons in the making).

Nick Pearce, the director of the IPPR and co-author of the report, said the key finding of the research, Freedom’s Orphans, was that children are no longer learning how to behave from adults, but from one another. “Because they don’t have that structured interaction with adults, it damages their life chances,” he said. “They are not learning how to behave — how to get on in life.”

And we all know what that means of course — knuckle down to that meaningless job, do as you are told, question nothing, churn out those profits for the owning class.

GT