Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Taking the Piss

Read here

The use of water based sewer system contaminates the entire water supply with pollutants and nutrients that if captured and recycled, could provide sufficient agricultural nutrients to ensure a sustainable food supply.

No Mix toilets collect urine and feces in separate places, the toilet bowl has two drains, one, in the front for the urine and one in the back for the feces. The feces are dry composted and the urine is processed for agricultural purposes. Separating toilets protect the water supply and provide a renewable, safe, low cost source of nitrogen, enough to greatly reduce our dependence on natural gas and oil. The important key is to separate the valuable, nitrogen rich urine, human urine, at the source, before it is mixed with feces and before it is flushed into the water supply.

The potential of capturing human urine is stunning. Human urine is 18% organic nitrogen and has been used in agriculture for thousands of years. Sweden, Germany, Holland and many other countries have been using and processing human urine for agricultural purposes and to protect the environment from water based sewer systems. Human urine is the only renewable, sustainable, and economically feasible source of nitrogen available to humanity and it is free.

What is the economic value of human urine? The value of comparative petroleum derived fertilizer with the same 18% nitrogen content is approximately $10.00 a gallon and requires a massive polluting industry that is not renewable. The average person produces 2 liters of urine a day or roughly $5.00 worth of organic nitrogen. A city like Miami flushes down the drain 10 to 20 million dollars worth of nitrogen a day . The cities will become fertilizer factories and urban and suburban farming and food production could provide a sustainable, local food supply.

A Happy New Year ?

Adapted from here
As 2010 approaches we remember how the decade started with the Millennium Declaration by the UN that set many spectacular targets for world progress. The boldest one being to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015. That meant finding a better life for at least half the estimated 1.4 billion humans who live in poverty so severe — living on no more than $1.25 a day. But with only six years to go those in extreme poverty have soared back above 1.1 billion.
"more than one quarter of children in developing regions are underweight for their age, stunting their prospects for survival, growth and longer term development," says the UN.

By early 2008, government intelligence agencies were warning that in a at least 27 nations across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean food riots and the panic-hoarding of grains or rice could lead to social chaos and the rise of violent new movements.As it turned out, 61 countries experienced serious food riots. As the decade ends, many aid agencies are now warning that we're on the verge of an even greater, global frenzy over food.For many governments, what was even more worrisome was that the situation also meant serious hardship for the more politically potent urban "middle" classes.Civil unrest struck not only the world's poorest nations, such as Ethiopia, Mozambique, Haiti, Bangladesh and Yemen, but also those classified as middle income, including Mexico, Egypt, Morocco, Thailand and the Philippines.The ensuing social unrest increased the strain on the whole international trading system to the point that it appeared on the verge of a classic "each against all" meltdown.Faced with the need to calm frantic populations, 31 food exporting nations, including key rice producers such as Vietnam, India and Thailand, imposed export restrictions, which led to shortages elsewhere.At the same time, an even larger group of countries, fearing future price rises, leapt into the turbulent commodity markets to try and shore up dwindling stocks while they still could afford to.Panic buying, which became all the more intense because of the lack of transparency over the true state of food stockpiles, bred natural distrust across the globe.

In recent years, extreme poverty has been seen increasingly as an African problem.In fact most of the world's poor are not in Africa, but in Asia and the Pacific region.There are almost three times as many poor — 642 million — in countries such as China, India, Pakistan and the Philippines than in sub-Saharan Africa with its 265 million.The number of people in serious poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean hit 71 million in 2009, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, a rise of three million in just one year.

The world is not producing enough food with capitalist methods .In fact, global production per capita is falling, not rising. And, as it falls, poverty rises; so does social unrest and trade wars.

A "Happy New Year" ? If you are one of the unfortunate billions living in much of Asia or Africa then the obvious answer is very likely to be no! History shows that capitalism won't go away if we shut our eyes to it, it will merely attack us all the more mercilessly. The market system is nothing if it is not relentless. Because of the problems and suffering it causes, we have to put capitalism out of its misery, and in so doing, we will help lift ourselves out of our own. Nobody else is going to do it for us, that's for sure. Without this, "Happy New Year" will be the empty platitude it usually becomes every year. If we democratically organise for change, so that we can build a society based on co-operation, respect and peacefulness, then next time we utter that phrase it may, for once, carry some real meaning.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Communist Commotion

Another article from a past issue of the Socialist Standard exposing the Communist Party's topsy-turvy world of shifting political positions and internal dissent .

"FREE HARICH - SACK HARRY," painted with true Communist zeal in large white letters on the roadway greeted the faithful as they entered Hammersmith Town Hall over the Easter week-end to receive their annual dose of dogma from the cardinals of King Street, and to indulge in some public confessions of political sins. This slogan was not a rabble-rousing challenge to strike fear into the hearts of Yankee capitalists or warmongering Tories; it was directed not outwards, but inwards, to the heart of the Workers' Mass Party itself. Harich is the young intellectual imprisoned by the East German government, and guess who Harry is? Yes, none other than Cardinal Harry Pollitt. Alas! we confidently predict that this slogan will have as little effect in altering the status quo as others which have appeared on walls from time to time to enliven the working-class scene have had (e.g., "Hands off Guatemala," "End Eden's War," "Chuck The Tories Out," etc.). Harry is still there, and so, presumably, is Harich—but in a different place.

  The irreverent slogan was, however, a sign of a definite air of revolt which hung over the proceedings, a revolt which, if not quite amounting to "ruthless self-criticism," was at least an indication of a fairly advanced state of political masochism. Cardinal J. Gollan, the Party secretary, had to announce that 7,000 of the faithful had left the flock during the preceding year: others were all too ready to voice their doubts, especially about the Russian intervention in Hungary. One delegate remarked that in 22 years he had never known a Congress that had such a ' type of discussion getting down to it.' (Observer, 21/4/57). The College of Cardinals, including Gollan, Matthews, Mahon and Pollitt, struggled manfully with incantations and holy writ to exorcise the devils of heresy.

  Representatives of the Labour press were excluded from the conference. Could this be because Mr. Peter Fryer (who resigned from the Daily Worker over the treatment of his reports from Hungary and who was later expelled from the C.P.) was the would-be representative for Tribune'?


Although the hierarchy's policy obtained an "overwhelming majority" of votes in its support from the Congress, there were some rather frank things said about the Russian intervention in Hungary. For instance, Mr. J. McLoughlin, the famous Dagenham campanologist, was most vociferous: "Don't dig your heads in the sand," he said "and ignore Hungary. Terrible things have happened." And, he added, in a final fling at the platform, "I want to come to the next Congress and see at least a partially new front bench—not the Dutt-Pollitt-what's-his-name axis." (Observer, 21/4/57.) Tut, tut, John. flattery will get you nowhere.

J. McLachlan (Scotland); "The Daily Worker told us that there was black counter-revolution in Hungary, but, in fact, there were popular demonstrations against a bureaucratic regime," he said. "I agree that these were used by reactionary forces, and I agree that the final intervention by Soviet forces was necessary. But terrible mistakes had been made by the Soviet and Hungarian leaders and we should condemn those mistakes at this congress." (Daily Worker, 22/4/57.)

  Another outspoken critic was Mr. Brian Behan. "At meeting of the executive," said Brian Behan, "he had moved an amendment that they should dissociate themselves from the crimes of the Hungarian Communist Party. but this had not been printed in the Daily Worker. He had been told that this was due to a technical error(!) and accepted this, but he believed that his amendment should have been reported to Congress." (Daily Worker, 20/4/57.) Readers who may be prematurely rejoicing at the thought of free speech pervading the upper layers of the Communist hierarchy will no doubt be saddened to learn that Mr. Behan did not gain a place on the new executive: the above statement, and others we shall be reporting later in this article, may offer slight clues as e cause of his unfortunate political demise.

  Mr. Fryer was not permitted to put his case before Congress, but copies of a speech he would have made were distributed. A portion of this speech (reported in the Manchester Guardian of 22/4/57) is most revealing, and is worth reproducing here: "You can cross out my name from the membership list with a stroke of the pen. But you cannot cross out the truth about Hungary with a stroke of the pen. The truth about Hungary is known perfectly well to many of you who will vote for the rejection of my appeal. In the privacy of his office J. R. Campbell (editor of the Daily Worker) speaks of Kadar as a puppet. I am expelled for blazoning abroad what Campbell knows to be the truth."

  The Bomb, and Conscription

Male Communists are capable of making some monumentally fatuous remarks, but it takes a female Communist (Comrade Frances Silcocks, from Yorkshire) to reach the ultimate low in fatuity. After dilating on the struggle of working-class women against the horrors of the H-bomb, this Diana of the barricades said: "Now we are told that the Soviet Union is testing the bomb, and we are asked what we say about that," she said. "We are opposed to tests in any country, including the Soviet Union. But what is the Soviet Union to do? Is it to sit on the fence until we throw bombs at them and they have none to throw back? " (Daily Worker. 20/4/57.) Certainly not, Comrade Frances, we hero mothers of the Communist Party would consider it an honour and a privilege to be liquidated by a real, class-conscious, Soviet H-bomb.

  "There was a short, sharp debate on conscription. By 321 votes to 135 Congress defeated a proposal that the Party should fight to end conscription." (Daily Worker, 22/4/57.) The ubiquitous Mr. McLoughlin also had some words to say on this subject: "The Tory Government had announced a new policy on conscription, but the Communist Party was still committed to it. Why?" he asked. "Perhaps because the Russians have got conscription." , "Don't be provocative," called out a delegate. (Daily Worker, 20/4/57.)


The election of the executive committee was democratic in the extreme; 42 members were "recommended" for election, and, would you believe it, "a party spokesman said . . . that there would be 42 members on the new executive." (Manchester Guardian, 20/4/57.) How convenient! As we mentioned before, careless talk cost Mr. Behan his seat on the band-wagon.

  Lest we appear too harsh on the comrades, we should mention that they stage-managed quite a nice little show of "democracy" during the congress. The minority formulation in the draft revised text of The British Road to Socialism relating to "fraternal relations between Socialist Britain and the countries of the British Empire" received a majority of votes over the majority (executive committee) version. However, we defy anyone to show us any fundamental difference between the two drafts as reported on the front page of the Daily Worker of 22/4/57. The debate was, as the immortal bard said, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

  A final indication of the degree of democracy which pervaded the congress is that 57 general resolutions submitted by branches were not discussed, and "before delegates had seen them they were asked to agree to remit them to the National Executive, and in the end they did so." (Manchester Guardian, 23/4/57.)


Cardinal Gollan admirably defined this fine old Bolshevik euphemism for criticism of official party policy in his weighty address to his flock (Daily Worker, 20/4/57). "We use the word 'revisionist' advisedly, not as a bit of name-calling, but to describe objective tendencies. These were the contributions attacking the essential basis of the Party, democratic centralism and its leading role." He later said (Daily Worker, 22/4/57): " Lenin and the Bolsheviks had to fight revisionists all their lives." Exactly; the modern disciples of Pope Lenin have to carry on the good fight—no wonder they don't have any time to discuss Socialism.

  Another outspoken delegate was Professor Hyman Levy, who denied that the loss of 7,000 members was due to "revisionism" , " but to the attitude of the leaders to events in Russia and Eastern Europe." (Manchester Guardian, 22/4/57.) Professor Levy "challenged his chairman, Mr. Harry Pollitt, to explain his silence about 'a gangsterism' in the Soviet Union. How often has Harry Pollitt been told about this? How often has he told people to keep their mouths shut?" Need we add that Professor Levy's utterances were nowhere reported in the pages of the Daily Worker! Much prominence was, however, given to a "reply" by Andrew Rothstein, a reply deeply embedded in party dogma. (Daily Worker, 23/4/57).


The recent coming to power of a "communist" government in the State of Kerala in India received much plaudits from the assembled comrades. Cardinal George Matthews said (Daily Worker, 22/4/57): "The victory of the Communist Party of India in the State of Kerala is a portent of far-reaching political developments which will take place among the teeming millions of India." No one outside the Communist Party phantasy world, however, will be surprised to learn that business in Kerala continues much as before, on sound capitalist lines, and the revolutionary Communist ministers' " deeds and sayings in one single day are too bourgeois for words," according to Miss Taya Zinkin in the Manchester Guardian (24/4/57). She continues: "The Chief Minister attended Acharya Vinoba Bhave's prayer meeting yesterday, bought a copy of his book on the Gita (Hinduism's Bible), and asked for an autograph of India's walking saint . . . Meanwhile the Health Minister, Mr. R. A. Menon . . . told the Palghat Poor Home Society that the beggar problem must be solved by private institutions because the Government can do very little," etc.

  "The British Road to Socialism"

Some heretic voices were even raised against this blueprint for revolution (1957 version, with all the latest tactical amendments and deletions to match the day-to-day struggle. E. & O.E.). A genuine, old-fashioned kind of Bolshevik is T. Connor who "opposed the draft as a revisionist [ ouch; that word again] programme, and he was fighting for a return to revolutionary Socialism. He moved an amendment calling for the formation of workers' councils and councils of action through which power would be seized." (Daily Worker, 22/4/57.) Cardinal J. R. Campbell rebutted this idea, evocative as it is of sterner, ruder, Bolshevik days. "The amendment put forward by Huyton, suggesting that workers' councils and councils of action would elect a Socialist Government, proposed to substitute for the pure milk of Marxism the skimmed milk of Trotskyism," he said. [Laughter]. May we remind the reverend Cardinal and all the sheep who laughed so heartily at his witticism, that once upon a time "councils of action" , "workers' councils" , " united fronts," etc., were all the rage on the revolutionary front. For instance, a circular issued by the "Red International of Labour Unions " came into our hands (SOCIALIST STANDARD, March 1923) before the word "Trotskyism" (one of the foulest swear-words in the Communist vocabulary) was invented. This circular advocated the concentration of "all available strength" by the formation of "councils of action through the medium of conference composed of delegates from trades councils, trade union branches, and district committees, working class local and national political organisations, unemployed organisations, co-operative societies and guilds." Stick that in your milk and skim it, Campbell. Cardinal Campbell opposed the nationalisation of certain types of land, not because it is not Socialism, but because "it would also lead to endless complications pushing masses of people on to the wrong side of the class struggle." (Daily Worker, 22/4/57). Yes, but which side? With true revolutionary zeal the good Cardinal also opposed the policy of " no compensation," because it "would alarm those we are seeking to neutralise, would create the maximum opposition and make most difficult a peaceful transition."

  To prove that the female of the Communist species is more deadly than the male, Mrs. Gwen Shield moved an amendment to reject the draft's proposal to compensate former owners of nationalised industries. " She wanted them to get only the opportunity to work and when prevented by physical incapacity to get National Insurance benefits." (Daily Worker, 22/4/57). Good news for all you capitalists!

  What of the Future?

Thousands of members have left the Communist Party during the past year, and many more may do so after this year's conference, which has conclusively proved the party hierarchy's refusal to budge one inch from its rigid pro-Russian line. But the "hard core" will carry on, for, in Cardinal Pollitt's own words, "We all owe everything to the party, whatever we do and whatever our job" (Daily Worker, 23/4/57).

  Professor Levy summed up the Communist Party's political influence thus: "The working class of this country have constantly rejected the Communist Party," he said. "You keep on talking as if you were the leading group." (Manchester Guardian, 22/4/57). Whatever future party line the diehards adopt in following the tortuous changes in the policy of the Russian ruling class, it will inevitably be anti-working-class and anti-Socialist. The Communist Party's past history has been a chapter of misrepresentation, trickery, deceit and humbug. Its future is likely to be no different.

(Socialist Standard, June 1957)

Walking the Plank

JT Murphy back row with child
Over the decades the Socialist Party has witnessed and commented upon the acrobatics of other alleged socialist parties . The Communist Party with its political somersaults from ever-changing Moscow instructions offered a treasure trove of material for the writers of the Socialist Standard to expose the hollowness of the Communist Party's claim to be the workers party .

Another Communist Leader Walks the Plank

The expulsion of Mr. J. T. Murphy from the Communist Party shows up once more the conflicts between the leaders of that organisation for the control of its confused rank and file. The issue giving rise to the expulsion was no question of Socialist principle or working-class interest. Theoretically it was a conflict of slogans. The Politbureau called upon the workers to "Stop the transport of munitions" ; Mr. Murphy preferred to demand "Credits for the Soviet Union!" Rather slender ground for a charge of heresy, one would imagine; but there is probably more in the matter than meets the eye.

As is usual in the Communist Party, the expulsion was carried out dictatorially. The Politbureau expelled Mr. Murphy in answer to his resignation, and informed the membership afterwards. The Communist Party, unlike the S.P.G.B., provides no opportunity for a member to defend himself against a charge before a branch meeting, delegate meeting or Annual Conference. We have, therefore, no means of testing the amount of support Mr. Murphy had among the members of the Party. It is, however, interesting to notice that the fusilade of condemnation of Mr. Murphy in the columns of the Daily Worker contains at least one significant admission. The Working Bureau of the London District Party Committee, "endorsing the decision of the Politbureau," drew that body's attention to the "weakness revealed in our ranks by the fact that nowhere within the Party did any comrades appear to recognise Murphy's wrong line or query his article" (Daily Worker, May 19th).

Mr. Murphy's slogan could, of course, be adopted by any capitalist wishing to export goods to Russia. Most Liberals and some Conservatives are in favour of such procedure. At the same time, the slogan officially favoured is of the sort likely to appeal to the sentimental anarchists and general strike fanatics, who fondly hug the delusion that the operations of Governments enjoying the political support of the major portion of the workers can be seriously hampered by attempts at minority mass action. The workers and unemployed (unable, as they are, in their present state of disorganisation, to defend their wages and insurance benefits against "economy" cuts) are expected to rise in defence of the Russian Government! Could folly go further?

Mr. Murphy's lukewarmness is not altogether a mystery. He has for many years been associated with an important munition producing area (i.e., Eastern Sheffield), and working-class electors of Brightside, whose votes he solicited at the last General Election, not being Socialist, can hardly be expected to display enthusiasm over a proposal to curtail their chance of getting or holding a job. They may want capitalism to be administered more favourably to themselves, but there is the rub—they want capitalism! And no one knows that better than Mr. Murphy. From his point of view, full-time production of munitions or anything else for the defence of the Soviet Union, or for the defence of China from Japanese imperialism, or any other old "ism" would therefore be a much more attractive election cry.

That he is concerned with "Work or Maintenance" by the capitalists, and not with emancipation from capitalist domination, is made clear by his election address of October, last year. Boasting of the "magnificent demonstration" of the unemployed to the Labour Council on the 7th of that month, in which he played a leading part, lie said this "clearly shows the way in which the workers can move forward. Already we have gained concessions against the economy cuts. Mass action and again mass action will defeat the economy proposals of the National Government and the Labour Party."

The "concessions" he mentioned consisted of the promises by the representatives of the Council which the leaders of the deputation allege that they received and upon the supposed strength of which they led the demonstrators peacefully home again. It is worth noting, too, that less than five minutes before Mrs. Moule (a leader of the deputation) announced the obtaining of the promises, Mr. Murphy had been emphasising from, the platform that the Council, dominated by the Labour Party, had broken every promise they had ever made. It is not surprising, therefore, that this same Mr. Murphy, who was prepared to treat a promise as a concession in his election address, should soon find it necessary to publish an "exposure" of the local Labour leaders for failing to keep their promises. In a pamphlet entitled "Handrags of Law and Order," issued a month or so ago, Mr. Murphy registers a feeble complaint about the " hypocrisy " of the Labour chairman of the local Public Assistance Committee and others administering the Means Test. Mass action had ignominiously failed to relieve in the slightest degree, the intensified poverty the unemployed. Mr. Murphy's pamphlet therefore was not merely an exposure of the Labour leaders ; it was equally an exposure of one of the policies of the Communist Party.

If Mr. Murphy has, therefore, been expelled, it is not because he has failed to do his share in misleading working-class dupes. He has not deviated from any clearly defined policy. Opportunist to the core, the Party has adopted various contradictory policies. Under such conditions nothing is easier than for a group of leaders to turn the Party machine against another leader less popular. Intrigue thrives where dictators exploit the politically inexperienced. That is the general lesson of Communist expulsions.

Mr. Murphy, who was expelled in spite of his willingness to sign a retraction drawn up by himself, but not satisfactory to the Party leaders, is now denounced by them in extravagant terms as a deserter from Communist principles. He joins a large body of former Communist leaders who were once given servile hero worship and. are now treated as enemies and outcasts. It is not that Mr. Murphy has changed, but only that a new clique are in control. because they have gained favour in Moscow.

E. B.
(Socialist Standard, June 1932)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Us and Them

The pay of Walt Disney's chief Robert Iger fell 28% to $29m (£18.1m; 20.2m euros) in 2009.Iger's pay divides up as follows:

$2.04m in salary
$6.34m in stock awards
Options valued at $8.31m
Bonus of $9.25m
Other compensation of $3.08m

Apple head Steve Jobs received his customary $1 annual salary in 2009.But don't fret , Jobs' stake in Disney - of 7.4% - is currently worth about $4.5bn. His 5.5 million shares of Apple's stock is worth about $1.1bn as Apple's share price rocketed this year.

The heads of US mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may each receive pay packages of up to $6m (£3.7m) for 2009.

back in the UK

Scotland's children's commissioner warned key goal of halving child poverty in 2010, ahead of eradicating the problem altogether by 2020 would not be achieved.
And reported here pupils from the poorest 10% of homes are more than five times as likely to be persistent absentees – meaning they miss a fifth or more of the school timetable – than their classmates from the wealthiest 10% of homes, the Tories' analysis of the government's latest truancy statistics shows.

More than seven million households struggle to pay their fuel bills, almost double the official estimate, according to new research published . In a separate analysis , the Conservative Party claims that 2.4m pensioner households – one in three – are in fuel poverty .

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, an umbrella group for housing charities, said:
"...Huge numbers of vulnerable people will go cold this winter because they can't afford to heat their homes. The spiralling cost of energy and the impact of the downturn mean heating our homes has become a luxury rather than a basic necessity – particularly for the elderly, low paid and unemployed."

Also reported in The Independent discrimination against disabled people is increasing in the workplace as employers target them for redundancy and unfairly turn them down for new jobs. The employment gap between disabled and able-bodied employees is growing as more people compete for fewer jobs during the recession.
The study also warned that the job prospects and standard of living of disabled people could worsen even further as public service are cut.Disabled workers are more likely to work in public administration, health or education than the working population as a whole meaning that public spending cuts could have a disproportionate effect on disabled workers.
The report's authors concluded: "Not only are disabled people more likely to be out of work, and experience a higher incidence of in-work poverty, they face additional financial costs arising as a result of an impairment. They are also less likely to have savings and are therefore at greater risk of immediate poverty during an economic downturn..."

Office for National Statistics figures show that the richest fifth have nearly two thirds of the wealth. More startling is that the poorer half of us speak for just 9p in every £1 of privately held wealth.The report reveals many consumers' reliance on debt to fund their day-to-day living costs. More than a third of respondents said they had never saved, while three-quarters of households had unsecured credit facilities, such as a credit card or store card, and 48% had unsecured debt, owing an average of £2,700 each.15% of households that owed money on one or more credit or store cards admitted they had been unable to meet their minimum repayments, and 10% of households were in arrears on at least one financial commitment.

SOYMB wishes you festive greetings

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Is Nicaragua Socialist?

Is Nicaragua socialist?

In the midst of the Irangate scandal in which US President Ronald Reagan and his accomplices do their best to extricate themselves from the web of lies created to cover up their illegal funding of neo-fascist terrorists aiming to overthrow the government of Nicaragua, a seldom-asked question is, Who rules Nicaragua and what are the consequences for the working class? Conventional leftist wisdom is quite clear on the matter: the imperialist government of the USA is at war against the left-wing government of Nicaragua and therefore the Sandinista regime must be defended against all attacks. Of course, it is true that Nicaragua is the current victim of a campaign of destabilisation and outright terrorism by American imperialism but that in itself does not make the Nicaraguan government a regime to be supported. Struggles between rival capitalist governments are common and socialists do not take sides in the conflicts between robber forces.

In fact, the coming into being of the present Sandinista regime in Nicaragua was the product of a process of class struggle between various ruling factions which has gone on since the beginning of this century. In the early 1900s the British Empire controlled the Atlantic coast region and these imperialists were ousted, with US support, by José Santos Zelaya whose party represented the aspirations of local capitalists with interests in small business and farming. Having removed the British imperialists, Zelaya's liberal capitalist government was put under pressure to act at the behest of US capitalists. When it failed to do so, refusing to remove restrictions on US capital investment or to allow the building of a trade canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the US imperialists responded in the time-honoured fashion: by sending in the Marines and toppling the Zelaya government.

Until 1926 the Marines kept Nicaragua under US imperial control with puppet governments assuring that the national economy served as a satellite of Wall Street. In 1926 the national capitalists, led by Cesar Augusto Sandino, attempted to oust the US imperialists as they had done with the British but national capitalist liberation (which is of no interest to the workers) was not achieved and instead the US established the regime of Anastasio Somoza Garcia, a man qualified by virtue of having been a second-hand car salesman in Philadelphia. The Somoza regime ruled as a dictatorship, using the National Guard to keep the wealth producers in their place. It was a corrupt, vicious and dynastic regime: Anastasio Somoza Debayle (the second Somoza leader) personally stole much of the money sent to Nicaragua in 1972 after the tragic earthquake and used extreme force in suppressing any opposition.

Politically the Somoza regime was discredited and, as time went on, it became economically incapable of winning any support: between 1970 and 1974, 35 per cent of all Nicaraguan factories closed down due to falling profits. The resident capitalists wanted change. It was this more than anything which led to the uprising in 1979 which brought down the Somoza regime. The uprising was a popular rebellion involving workers, peasants and local capitalists – it was in no sense a socialist revolution.

The leading political force in what became known as the Sandinista revolution was the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN) which was formed in 1961 and originally comprised mainly young pro-Moscow leftists. There is no doubt that after 1979 there were definite improvements both in the economic standard of living and in the degree of political freedom in Nicaragua. Both of these improvements proved to be short-lived and neither amounted to socialism or anything like it (which cannot be established in one country anyway).

The trouble with capitalism is that there are no "nice" ways of running it: capitalist governments can never be "goodies" because it is their job to administer the exploitation of the working class. A government which is loyal to the nation which it serves (and remember, the Sandinistas are nationalists) must ensure that the nation is performing profitably and that entails squeezing as much surplus value as possible out of the wealth-producing majority. That is precisely what has happened since 1979 in Nicaragua.

The FSLN has used its state power to run a form of state capitalism in which the workers are organised as a military force, expected to obey orders from above in the interest of the national economy. "The FSLN has translated its military structures to civil life – more by circumstance than intention – and as such the recently created mass organisations function with a totally hierarchical structure" (Notas Sobre Nicaragua y la Revolution Sandinista in Bicicleta, February 1981, p. 55). The FSLN controls the workforce, despite the pretence of workers' participation at ranch and factory levels which are no more than a means of incorporating the workers into previously determined state plans.

Under Nicaraguan state capitalism the major features of the economy are under state control. Unlike in Russia and other "socialist economies" the Nicaraguan government does not directly own the means of wealth production and distribution but does monopolise the banks (which control agricultural credit) and all imports and exports, thus effectively appropriating profits from cotton, beef, sugar and coffee which constitute two thirds of the country's exports. The state also controls the means of processing agricultural commodities, so that although most land used for cotton cultivation is privately owned most of the cotton processing factories are state-owned; although 70 per cent of cattle are owned by peasant farmers 80 per cent of slaughterhouses are state-owned. The state is under an obligation to use its power as a national capitalist to milk as much profit as it can out of the war-weary workers. This profit is needed firstly to pay the interest on the massive debt – in excess of $2.5 bn – which is owed to the big Western banks; secondly, to offset the massive flight of private capital which has taken place since 1979 - Nicaraguan capitalists quite understandably prefer to invest in safer economic regions than one under military attack by US imperialism; and thirdly, to pay for the destabilisation, which has been openly funded by the US Administration to the tune of $130 million in aid to the contras, added to which has been a US trade war against Nicaragua. Given these circumstances and given the imperative need for capital accumulation which is essential to an underdeveloped capitalist economy, the state as capitalist has no option but to act as a ruthless and exploitative boss.

As with the economy, so in national politics the FSLN monopolises power. Technically, power is vested in the Council of State. Epstein and Evans, writing in the radical US paper, In These Times, contend that the Council is "little more than a sounding board for the policies of the nine-man FSLN directorate" (11 January, 1983). The FSLN junta has suppressed opposition parties and newspapers and, as is the usual tendency when a vanguard party monopolises the state, the new bureaucratic elite has established for itself a privileged lifestyle:

“As the FSLN consolidates its hold over the government, its leaders inevitably gain access to the perquisites of power. Commandantes live in the wealthier districts of Managua, occupying mansions previously owned by the leading Somocistas. They are provided with chauffeur-driven cars, servants and bodyguards. Their government offices are air-conditioned, a most exclusive and important status symbol in tropical Managua". (“A Critical Look at the Sandinistas”, Changes, May 1982, p. 14).

One black marketeer quoted in The Toronto Star (12 April 1987) complains that "President Daniel Ortega and the nine commandantes are the only people in the country with money. The rest of us are dying of hunger". No doubt this quotation is printed by a pro-US Canadian newspaper as part of the ideological war against the Sandinistas but it does probably reflect the resentment which is all too common in the so-called nationally liberated countries such as Cuba, Vietnam or Kampuchea where the beneficiaries of "liberation" are the small class of bureaucrats who control the national state. Of course, Leninist mythology has it that the state is being run by the bureaucrats on behalf of the working class: it is a dictatorship on behalf of the proletariat. So it was that Pedro Ortiz, head of the Sandinista Workers' Central could tell Nicaraguan agricultural workers that

“For workers to conduct a strike against the state is to conduct a strike against themselves, because the land is now administered by the workers and campesinos” (Volya, No. 3, p. 3)

This is similar to the instruction given by Trotsky to the Russian trade unionists after 1917. Indeed, the FSLN's attitude to East European state capitalism is that of admiration: the FSLN newspaper, El Nuevo Diario, described East Germany as "a model society . . . organised on the basis of jobs for all, peace and justice". In 1980 when ten million Polish workers resisted their state-capitalist masters and formed Solidarity, the head of the FSLN Propaganda Department, Frederico Lopez, lined up with the most reactionary forces worldwide in condemning such trade unionists as "counter-revolutionary elements which seek to place Poland into the hands of imperialism". (FSLN memorandum, 23 December 1981, quoted in Nicaragua: Say Hello to the New Bosses, p.31. Published in No Middle Ground).

It is an irony of political history that many of the workers who nominally supported the Sandinista revolution in 1979 then went on to support Solidarity in 1980, only to discover that the FSLN, having established its role as a national capitalist in opposition to the idea of independent trade unions, now opposed the struggle of the Polish workers. In expressing such opposition the FSLN was only being consistent, for it has done its best to ignore or suppress independent unions in Nicaragua. The country's two largest trade unions, the Sandinista Workers' Central (CST) and the Association of Rural Workers (ATC) each have about 100,000 members. They are essentially company unions, run by and in the pay of the state bosses. It should be pointed out that Nicaragua is traditionally a badly unionised country: on the eve of the revolution in 1979 only 6 per cent of the workforce was unionised.

There are some unions which are not state-run, but these are either too small to be of significance or discriminated against by the state employer. They range from the very small People's Action Movement (MAP) which characterises Nicaragua as well as Cuba, China and Russia as "state capitalist" (several of them are now locked in Nicaraguan prisons) to the 65,000-strong Nicaraguan Workers Confederation (CTN) whose manifesto asserts

“. . . the need to guarantee the development of a union movement that is democratic, independent, unified, revolutionary and class-conscious ... so as to rebuff every effort to impose a single union hierarchy that would be totally subordinate to the party in power.”

Despite its Catholic illusions – not dissimilar to those of Poland's Solidarity – the CTN is the major force in Nicaragua with a chance of threatening the state's stranglehold over labour.

Without doubt, the US-backed terrorism against Nicaragua is brutal in its disregard for life and hypocritical in its undemocratic tactics in the avowed interest of a perverse notion of democracy. In fact, the US terror is having the reverse effect to that intended: it is uniting Nicaraguans behind the Sandinistas in an act of national defence. Without a US war against it there is a much greater likelihood that Nicaraguan workers would be resisting the state. The US assumption that Nicaragua is "socialist" is utterly mistaken and so probably is the theory that Nicaragua is about to fall under the control of the Russian Empire, taking with it other Central American countries. In fact, it is only the US offensive which could make that feasible, if only as a last resort for a terrorised Sandinista regime.

Needless to say, the Socialist Party is hostile in every way to the Contra terrorists and their backers. But the enemy of an enemy is not necessarily a friend (if it was, then socialists in Britain would have had to have defended Hitler in the last world war or the Galtieri junta in the Falklands war). Socialists do not support the state-capitalist government of Nicaragua and to the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign which implores us to do so we respond that our only support is for workers of all lands in their struggle against the capitalists of all lands, be they imperial exploiters or native ones, left or right wing.

(Socialist Standard, July 1987)

Chile : Myth and Reality

Chile: Myth and Reality

The events in Chile are already a myth. There, according to left and right-wing commentators alike, a democratically-elected Marxist government was overthrown by the armed forces, so proving the impossibility of establishing Socialism peacefully by using the existing machinery of limited political democracy.

Let us try to scotch this myth now by showing that the failure of the so-called Chilean experiment has absolutely no relevance to the question of whether or not Socialism can be established peacefully and democratically.

Allende and his Popular Unity were not Marxists and were not trying to establish Socialism. The programme of the Popular Unity, an alliance whose main elements were the so-called Socialist Party and the so-called Communist Party, was essentially one of state capitalism for Chile. It called for the break-up the big landed estates, for the nationalisation of foreign-owned and some Chilean-owned industry, and for various social reforms. Even if implemented in full this programme would have left the basic position of the working class in Chile unchanged: they would have remained propertyless wage-workers forced to sell their mental and physical energies to an employer (even if the State) in order to live; production would have remained geared to the market; and the government would still, under pressure from the world market, have had to restrict the consumption of the working class in order to allow the maximum amount of surplus value to be extracted for re-investment.

Secondly, not only was the Allende government not trying to establish Socialism, but it did not even have majority support for its programme of state capitalism. Allende was elected President in September 1970 in a three-way contest, but with only 36 per cent of the vote. Subsequent elections showed that his government never did manage to acquire majority support. The last elections in March this year still gave its opponents 55 per cent of the vote.

Thirdly, because of this limited electoral support, the Popular Unity did not completely control the State machine. Parliament remained in the hands of its opponents who, although they did not have the two-thirds majority needed to impeach Allende himself, harassed his Ministers and delayed and altered ills proposed laws.

For three years those whose vested interests were threatened by the coming of state capitalism to Chile—the American corporations, the Chilean landowners and big capitalists—sabotaged and plotted against the Allende government, but the fact remains that the conflict in Chile was between private capitalism and state capitalism, not between capitalism and Socialism.

That the limited democracy that existed in Chile has been a victim of this conflict can only be a matter of regret for Socialists. For, whatever its limitations, capitalist political democracy at least allows the working class to organise to defend its everyday interests and to discuss differing political views, including those of Socialists. Its suppression in Chile by a military junta represents, in this sense, a step backward for the working class of Chile — not that much of it would have survived had the Popular Unity's full state capitalist programme been implemented, if the experience of Cuba is anything to go by.

But it still remains true that, in the quite different political conditions (which have never yet existed) of an immense majority of workers in all the industrialized countries of the world being Socialists and organised to win and control political power, Socialism could be established peacefully. The overthrow of a minority state capitalist government in Chile by forces acting on behalf of private capitalist groups will not deflect us from this position into urging the working class to adopt the futile and dangerous policy of armed insurrection.

(Socialist Standard, October 1973)

Background to Cuba

Hindsight is a wonderful thing often offering 20/20 vision over the past but the SPGB has had to apply its analysis of current events often with little first hand information . This is an article on Cuba from 1961.

Cuban Background

To anyone who follows the Latin American scene, so many aspects of Cuban politics seem familiar that there is a danger of failing to see just what distinguishes the Cuban question from the traditional turmoil in that part of the world.

When Spain's colonies in the New World fought for independence a hundred and fifty years ago, their main source of inspiration was revolutionary France and the young United States. However, in one fundamentally important respect they fell short of the requirements of real social change; a unified and coherent class demanding the overthrow of the outmoded system on the strength of its mastery of the new productive and social forces.

As the present situation in the Congo shows, not all independence movements are the expression of a powerful embryo bourgeoisie, ready to effectively take the place of the former imperialists on the backs of the local working-class and peasantry. The ousting of Spain from the Americas was due more to the weakness of Spain than to the strength of its colonies. The social vacuum, the rapid collapse into anarchy could not, in those days, become the concern of a United Nations Organisation acting as a broker and a policeman of international capital. The high-flown language of the constitutions drawn up by the South American disciples of Washington, Jefferson and even Tom Paine was not matched by the level of economic and class development in their respective regions. From Mexico in the north to Argentina in the south. the whole continent was to relapse into a state of autocracy where power rested with decadent, constantly feuding landowning interests.

At the turn of this century, the needs of European industrialism led to the "Scramble for Africa". Perhaps less spectacularly, and certainly without the formal annexation of territory as was the case in Africa, a similar process began in the Americas. The outcome of this process has, to a remarkable degree, run parallel to Afro-Asian developments. Britain, France, the USA and then Italy, Germany and Japan have, over the years, poured capital in and drained profits out. Vast rail networks were established. Soon hides and grain, meat and coffee, sugar and bananas, were flowing onto the world market.

The precious metals that had provided the funds for Spain's "siglo de oro", its century of supreme power and culture, were no longer of prime importance. Not silver from the mines of Potosí, but tin from neighbouring parts of Bolivia, was to become the source of immense wealth for the mighty foreign Corporations who were equally busy in their exploitation of copper and nitrates from Chile, petroleum from Venezuela, quebracho from Paraguay, and so on. Countries, most of them larger than any in Europe, were to become utterly dependent upon a single crop; here coffee, there bananas or sugar.

Guatemala, which in its time played the role of David to the American Goliath, is known as a banana republic. In Cuba, on whom the mantle has fallen, it is sugar that dominates. True, tobacco from these parts is justly famous throughout the world. In view of Cuba's increasingly intimate relationship with the Russian Capitalist bloc we may yet witness the paradox of the Havana cigar as a status symbol of the Russian ruling class. We shall see bloated Commissars yet! Nevertheless, it is sugar that is Cuba's economic life. As goes sugar so goes Cuba—boom or slump; it is the basis of its foreign trade which in this context means, overwhelmingly, trade with the USA. Fidel Castro now challenges the status quo.

As a "middle-class" Robin Hood, Fidel readily appealed to an American public weaned on the exploits of Davy Crocket. At the point where it became evident that in serving the needs of aspiring Cuban Capitalism the existing order of things would be upset, Castro fell from his pedestal. He was unmasked as the harbinger of "Communism" (read, Russian influence) in the Western Hemisphere. The bearded warrior of the mountains was romantic no longer.

The modern history of Cuba could be written around its relations with the United States. Of all the former Spanish colonies it was the last to break from the grip of the old country. It did so only to find itself a virtual colony of its erstwhile ally; to such an extent that there was an American governor at first, and US troops were not withdrawn from the island until eleven years after the signing of the peace treaty with Spain in 1898. US marines returned "to restore law and order" in 1920. The United States census of 1947 revealed that their industrial investments alone were only slightly less in Cuba than in Brazil; $64,000,000 as against $65,000,000 (Germán Arciniegas, The State of Latin America, p. 302). This figure later increased.

Trade Unions

Through this century, Cuban government has been a succession of "strongmen," as Time magazine likes to call them, who have depended upon American patronage. Fractional alterations in US sugar tariffs in line with the protectionist demands of Hawaii or Porto Rico have had overnight repercussions on the Cuban economy. Laws passed by the US Senate actually reducing Cuba's sugar quota, as in 1951, when the quota was varied in favour of Trujillo's Dominican Republic, Peru and Porto Rico could mean and often did lead to gross economic instability. In working-class terms this means unemployment, destitution.

Out of bitter experience there grew in the 1930's a significant labour movement. In a limited sphere, in the cigarette and cigar factories and the Havana docks, Spanish immigrants of the Anarcho-Syndicalist school had introduced the principles of trade-unionism at the turn of the century. In more recent times a far wider range of trades has become involved although at the price of Stalinist influence out-weighing that of the old Anarcho-Syndicalists who, for all their faults, did not compromise their class interests with the state requirements of a world power as do the so-called Communists. In fact, the Communists' record in Cuba puts them in a rather curious position in relation to the current "togetherness" of their home and "mother" countries.

Batista, murderous and corrupt, Farouk to Castro's Nasser, had been given Communist support in his early years of power (M. Poblete, El movimiento obrero latinoamericano, p. 196). It was he who gave the Party legal recognition. Batista came to power first in October, 1940. In December of that year the second congress of the Communist-slanted Workers Federation of Cuba, T.U.C. of sorts, drew up a statement with which a Socialist could scarcely disagree. "Cuban workers .... resolve to struggle against the Imperialist war, to expose its Imperialist character and the war-aims of both belligerents and to develop a nation-wide movement to ensure that our country keeps out of this criminal conflict". When "you know what" happened, new instructions were given out. The first resolution to be carried at the third: congress of the C.T.C. went as follows: " The supreme task of the labour movement at the present time is to concentrate all its efforts and to use all its might towards the defeat of the Axis. Workers organised under the C.T.C. are willing to collaborate with all those in favour or national unity, that is to say, willing to subordinate any grievances that may arise within the country in their over-riding interest in destroying the foreign enemy. For the duration of the war. Cuban workers wish to avoid strikes and disputes likely to interfere with production."

The congress called upon working-class youth to volunteer for service at the war-front.

C.P. - just in time

Communist support for Castro's guerrilla struggle came late but, like Russia's entry into the war against Japan, in time. At this stage, however, it would be a mistake to regard Castro as a Caribbean Kadar, a mere puppet of the Eastern bloc. Like many a Nationalist before him he is attempting to play off one great power against another in the hope that advantages will accrue to the would-be elite he represents. It is the universal demand of the Latin American bourgeoisie to free their respective national economies from the preponderance of Anglo-American capital.

As early as 1926, in a polemic with Lozowsky, chief of the Profintern, Haya de la Torre, of Peru, pioneer student of the development processes of backward countries within the Imperialist orbit, denied the accusation by the Communists that he favoured unconditional support of Japan in the event of a war between that country and the U.S.A. Nevertheless, he considered it would be a valuable opportunity to take advantage of their rivalry(Haya de la Torre, El antimperialismo y el APRA, p. 101). A mightier rival appears on the scene and, one by one, the Latin American rulers see how to use their bargaining position to diversify their means of production and to intensify or quite often to initiate industrial development. Back in Havana from Prague just recently, a Castro man announced he had secured promises to establish thirty new industries by East European concerns. Of course, for a small power to attempt playing off the great powers involves considerable risks. It is sometimes swallowed up in the process.

The overthrow of the Batista clique with its record of gangsterism in the Chicago tradition, has been followed by a vigorous and forward-looking regime under a new dictator; what in Spanish is wryly called a "dictablanda" rather than a "dictadura", a mild dictatorship whose authority is used towards social reorganisation rather than to feather the generalissimo's private nest. Be that as it may, the massive programme of nationalising most Western owned utilities, agrarian reform meaning the breakup and redistribution amongst the rural population of the great estates (a retrograde step from the long term point of view), the attack upon widespread illiteracy add up to a really serious attempt on the part of Cuba to enter the Capitalist arena on a more equal footing.

"In Europe, Imperialism is the culmination of a series of developments within Capitalism and is characterised by the export of capital and the capturing of markets and sources of raw materials in the economically backward countries. However, what in Europe is [according to Haya de la Torre whom we are quoting] the last phase of Capitalism is in Latin America the first. For us Indo-Americans, imported capital marks our first step in modern capitalist society" (Haya de la Torre, El antimperialismo y el APRA, p. 51).

Pending a dramatic awakening of working-class consciousness within the metropolitan powers, the repetition elsewhere of our own bitter experience seems inevitable, though tragically so. But this much, at least, we can say: that the socialist, on the strength of his Marxian analysis, cannot be deluded into believing that this latter-day development of capitalism, the most inhuman of all social systems, whether of the state-owned variety or not, is the first stage of our revolution; the beginnings of a society built democratically by a conscious, international working-class to serve human needs on the basis of common ownership of the means of living— Socialism. Would that it were!

(Socialist Standard, January 1961)

Friday, December 25, 2009

A letter of resignation from Wenceslas’s page boy to the King

Dear Majesty…

Your majesty; I wish to give notice that I will be terminating my post as your humble page with immediate effect. You may well wonder why I am doing this and because I believe you to be well meaning and kind I will do my best to explain.

It is for me as if a sudden awakening has befallen me. I believe I understand things much more clearly now. It all began on St Stephen’s Day – you remember you bade me accompany you to give assistance to that humble peasant whom you saw gathering firewood during that dreadful storm? You will recall that you asked me where he lived. I was rather surprised that you needed to ask me that because you may also recall that he, in fact, worked for you.

You bade me bring you meat for him – and wine. Well, had you known the people who worked for you as well as perhaps you should do, you would have known that he did not eat meat. Not, perhaps through choice only, but because the only meat he might have been able to procure was to be found on your land. Now you have gamekeepers whose function is to prevent people from hunting game on your land. In any event, he would not eat any meat you gave him because he believed, as a devout Christian, that all life is sacred – just like Jesus Christ did and preferred, like Christ did, to eat food that did not derive from the exploitation of animals.

It is with some sense of irony that the meat I did, in fact, bring you came from the very woods the peasant had worked to maintain for you, but whose fruits he was largely denied because of your ‘ownership’ of it.

The wine we gave him was the wine made from the grapes he worked to grow in your vineyard. Perhaps this was the first time he was able to enjoy the wine he helped to make.

Even more ironic is that the pine logs I brought to you to give to him on that day were the very pine logs that the peasant had cut for you the year before. In fact the peasant was compelled by circumstances largely sanctioned by you, to spend so much of his time working for you in tasks such as gathering wood and managing your land, that he had very little time himself to secure and satisfy his own needs – such as gathering winter fuel.

You remember that after braving the storm for some time I became exhausted and unable to continue. I can’t help but feel that this is due at least in part to the fact that since I grew up in poverty, that I am undersize and underweight compared with people who live as you do. Yes, it was kind of you to allow me to tread in your steps and thus lessen the effort of walking in such heavy snow, I do not want to sound ungrateful. I am also aware that the education you enabled me to have has also equipped me to see things as I now do and to write to you in this way. For that I am grateful – as I am sure all the children you helped rescue from slavery are, too. But this existence for me – working for you for low wages – just seems to me to be another kind of slavery. I realise that you have become a very good man in spite of what your mother did to you and to your grandmother.

So I am going to the great city of Prague in order to study further in the hope that I may be better placed to help ensure that our children and their children may live in a world without poverty. I know you will bless this decision I have made.

Your loyal page, Boris

PS – I have heard rumours that your younger brother Boleslav is planning to hurt you badly. I hope you can do something to prevent this happening.)

Tony Norwell (sympathiser)

Goodwill to all....

Well did we SOYMB readers? Show goodwill to all or at least to some . Was it a good feeling? Was it good to give as well as to receive – was it better to give or better to receive?
That song still in our heads which occasionally finds its way to our lips , ‘Oh! I wish it could be Christmas everyday…’ , reminding us all of what a misery and a waste of our lives are in this daily wage-slave grind .

SOYMB say that the only aspects of any value worth considering about this holiday are that we proles get some time off the drudgery of everyday work and get time with our families and friends. Also, we can pig-out on all the good food, if we are so inclined, enjoy the special TV programmes and have at least one chance in the year to give some kindness, affection and love to our fellows and hopefully, to receive like in return. Readers north of the border enjoy a little extra indulge on Hogmanay. . .[hic]

Otherwise, that whole charade has very negative feelings for us. All the money required and debt acquired, the huckstering, the pretence, and the religious connotation and, that feeling that all the kindness, affection and love is primarily expressed in a material form – that sort of love that we can only describe as counterfeit – material love (gifts) to satisfy some fetish with the must-have commodity. We know too that unless we give a gift, a card or a calendar to another we are unlikely to receive like from them in return – a sort of coercive love.

Our children are deceived and urged to request gifts from a fictional figure called all the way up from the 4th century Bishop of Mrya re-branded by Coca Cola and renamed Santa Claus and, unless they behave themselves, he will not deliver – more coercion.

Finally, the ideology or culture demands of us that we all undertake the same ritual every year. Go out and spend as much money as we’ve got and more that we haven’t got, on gifts, cards and calendars as well as buy the same fattening foodstuff, stuffing the turkeys with sausage and the capitalists with profit.Unless we follow this line we will not enjoy ourselves and we might be seen as outcasts or spoilsports. In no time at all it seems we are back again in the world we know (but don’t love) where other rituals dominate the scene and here its not “goodwill and love” we hear.

At this time of the year are these feelings of goodwill – kindness, affection and love , an ideological or cultural thing or are they symptomatic of deep longing for another world where humans could be free to behave with kindness, affection and love as a matter of course all the year round? We are also to wish each other well for the coming New Year, and hope our luck will bring us a better life despite the cruel truth that our material conditions are likely to remain the same. In the cold miserable light of a capitalist day, nothing much has changed by the notching up of another year since the supposed birth of the fantasy Jesus Christ.

In socialist society, not only will we have free access to the products and services of human production and to life itself, too we’ll get free access to all the human support, kindness, affection and love all year round, instead of for just a mean two weeks. In free society this behaviour will become the norm in our human world. Why would you want to pay, when you can have free access? In addition, we will be free of the drudgery and stressful life that is our everyday experience now, that which we are glad to see the back of for a skimpy two weeks of partying at the end of the year.
adapted from William Dunn's 2005 article

Merry Marxmas

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Russia's Afghan hound

Thirty years ago today Afghanistan was invaded by the USSR. What we said in The Socialisat Standard of February 1980 remains valid today:

"The invasion of Afghanistan will not improve that world; it will not make human beings better fed, more secure. At most it will draw fresh battle lines to mark the wars yet to come. In the course of capitalism's conflicts Afghanistan has suffered over centuries and there is no reason to believe that its future will be any more peaceful.

So we have been here before and we will be here again..."

In the high days of flower power, Afghanistan lay at the end of the hippie trail and Kabul was reputed to be a fabulous city where a peace-lover could live, as free as a bird, on little more than cannabis. It might have been, like Neville Chamberlain's Czechoslovakia, a far off country of which we know very little - except to the few million Sid James fans who faithfully went to see Carry On Up The Khyber. The Russian invasion - swift, brutal, remorseless- was a blast of harsh reality to blow away the fables.

It is difficult to understand how even the hippes came to think of Afghanistan as a lotus-land. In fact it is one of the world's greatest inhospitables, with a climate which swings from one extreme to the other. The North endures long, harsh winters of impassable snows while in the south the summer temperature can reach 120°F. There are swarming flies and dust storms which are whipped up by fiery winds. The nights are intolerable as the rocks give off the heat they have absorbed during the day. Nor is it a peaceful land, being populated by tribesmen and brigands who are habitual, ruthless fighters. And as a final endearing touch, these same athletic warriors suffer from chronic bowel disorders, said to be caused by their injudiciously heavy intake of fruit.

A Cruel People

So the Russians have not gone there, with their tanks and artillery, for the good of their health. The invasion is the latest episode in a long saga of conflict and bloodshed which has been Afghanistan's history since the ernergence of capitalism and its international rivalries.

Afghanistan first became an independent country in 1747. A century later as British capitalism, an established power in that part of the world, met the resistance of Imperial Russia, the geographical position of Afghanistan ensured its role as a buffer. The two opponents became absorbed in what was euphemised as the Great Game -the diplomatic deceits, the espionage, the threats - in which Afghanistan was the unwilling playing area. Between 1838 and 1919 Britain fought three wars there, the effect of which was to set up a succession of rulers whose power rested upon British bayonets. Those wars were notable for the pitiless atrocities comrnitted by both sides; in 1842 the British garrison in Kabul was forced to abandon the city and of 4,000 men there only one survived. "There is no doubt that we are a very cruel people", commented Winston Churchill in 1897, after watching British soldiers shooting prisoners and razing villages along the fron tier.

Britain's withdrawal from India in 1947 marked an historic decline of its power and influence in the area and in the 1950s its place in the Great Game was taken over by America. By that time Afghanistan had become more than a buffer state; its strategic importance was complicated by the development of the oil fields of Arabia and the Persian Gulf. The American Cold War strategy of containing Russian ambitions erected a delicate framework of tenuously related states, in which Afghanistan was doomed to play a vital part.

Bloody Coups

Until the early 1970s, Afghanistan existed in a conditon of uneasy division, north and south, between Russia and the USA. In the north the Russians built roads, drove the Salang Tunnel beneath the mountains of the Hindu Kush and flooded the country with "advisers". In the south the Americans poured in massive amounts of aid, building airfields ominously capable of handling the largest military aircraft. Whatever stability this balance imposed upon the country was first threatened in 1973 when Zahir Shah was overthrown in a coup led by the "Red Prince" Daoud who was himself replaced - and, almost as a matter course, killed - in another coup in April 1978 when Moharnmed Taraki, the first outright Russian puppet, took power.

The actual organiser of this last coup was Taraki's deputy, Hafizullah Amin. The reforms which the Taraki government attempted to impose provoked a rebellion among the landowners and tribesmen and an uneasy one & Moscow advised the elimination of Amin, whose support for Taraki was not wholehearted. In the event, last September, it was Taraki who was killed, in a gun battle after which Amin took over. Now Amin has himself been ousted andsome reports say after a "trial" - put to death along with many relations and associates. The new puppet, propped up by the Russian tanks and guns, is Babrak Karmal who will presurnably last just as long as he pleases his masters in Moscow. Amin fell because he failed to put down the rebels; the Russians moved in to take over the job, which many observers are saying will be as tough, as enduring and as costly as the American attempts to beat the Vietcong. '

Bloodshed and Hypocrisy

Through all of this has run an unbroken streak of bloodshed. Since April 1978, for example, many people - running into tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands - have been murdered by whichever government has been in power. The insurgent tribesmen have preyed mercilessly on the Russian "advisers", nearly a thousand of whom have been shot, publicly tortured to death or flayed alive during the past year. One retaliatory act to Amin's brutalities was the beheading of 35 Russians and the parading of their heads. And behind all this has loomed the vaster, perhaps the ultimate, violence of capitalism's dominant nuclear powers, competing for control over this barren but vital corner of the world.

The Russian attack - their first direct operation of this kind outside of Eastern Europe - was in many ways similar to their move against the Dubcek government in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Then, too, there was a dissident movement offering a threat to the Russian grip upon the country. There was political unrest in nearby Poland, as there is now in places like Iran, where the Islamic religion is a cover for a rising political force. The Russian tanks went to Prague, as they have gone to Kabul, first to depose the figurehead to the unrest, then to crush the insurgents, then to set up a government on which Moscow can depend. In classical Communist Party vocabulary, this is an example of capitalist imperialism; but of course the Russian press describes it as a necessary move against a counter revolution.

This was typical of the nauseous hypocrisy, from all sides, which greeted the invasion. Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was able to forget Vietnam and Cambodia - not to mention American capitalism's numerous other outrages - and protest about " ... an independent Moslem country on which the Soviet Union is trying to impose its will by force". The murder of Amin came only a few days after Pravda had approvingly reported his account of his happy relations with the Kremlin. And of course, whenever it has suited its case, Russia has readily denounced other capitalist states for "interfering in the internal affairs" of smaller nations. Then there is one final, illuminative irony - that a country which clairns to have thrown off, in a socialist revolution, the cynicism of Tsarist imperialism, should itself so ruthlessly continue that self same imperialism.

Capitalist Interests

In this war, as in those which have happened before, it is ordinary workers and peasants who will be suffering and dying. Under the delusion that some interests of theirs are involved they will willingly take arms, they will kill and be killed and they will wreak upon each other the most frightful atrocities. When it is all over and the dead have been counted no worker will have gained anything from it; the victors will be one group or other of the capitalists whose interests are at stake in the struggle.

While the immediate reasons for the conflict in Afghanistan are complex, even obscure, the basic explanation is simple and apparent. It is the same reason as applied to the two world wars, to Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia ... Capitalism is a societydivided into a mass of rivalries - companies, states, powerblocs. It is a society which has to be competitive, which cannot work cooperatively. The conflicting interests which are at work over Afghanistan are massive and to protect them each participating power has an elaborate machinery of diplornatic intrigue and as destructive a military force as it can support. The great powers of capitalism, who need to involve themselves in almost every dispute wherever it happens, now have the capacity to wipe each other out. Capitalism has created a dangerous world.

The invasion of Afghanistan will not improve that world; it will not make human beings better fed, more secure. At most it will draw fresh battle lines to mark the wars yet to come. In the course of capitalism's conflicts Afghanistan has suffered over centuries and there is no reason to believe that Its future will be any more peaceful.

So we have be en here before and we will be here again. It may happen next in a different country with another set of statesmen to peddle their lies; or new political analysts to pronounce their instant solutions. And there will be other workers to die and to suffer, in spite of the mouldering graves of those before them which testify to the futility of it all.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Birds of Feather: The Russo-German Bombshell

The London newspapers on Tuesday, August 22nd (except the Communist Daily Worker, which was busy ringing up Moscow) reported with astonishment the announcement from Berlin that Germany and Russia had negotiated a non-aggression pact, and that Herr von Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister, was flying at once to Moscow for the formal signature of the Treaty. This announcement, which came immediately after the completion of a trade agreement between the two Governments, was confirmed by the official Russian Tass News Agency in the following terms : "After the conclusion of the Soviet-German trade and credit agreement there arose the problem of im¬proving political relations between Germany and the U.S.S.R.
An exchange of views on this subject, which took place between the Government of Germany and the U.S.S.R., established that both parties desire to relieve the tension in their political relations, eliminate the war menace, and conclude a non-aggression pact.
Consequently, the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, von Ribbentrop, will arrive in Moscow in a few days "for corresponding negotiations"
—(Evening Standard, August 22, 1939.)
The Pact was duly signed in Moscow on August 23rd, thus realising a possibility suggested in these columns more than once.

That the capitalist Press was, for the most part, genuinely surprised is undoubtedly true — though this betrays some simplicity on their part and remarkably short memories. They had reasoned on the basis that Russia and Germany were fundamentally divided over the issue of Communism and that, consequently, Russia could be counted on to help British capitalism in its difficulties with Germany, Italy and Japan, the three principal members of the Anti-Comintern Pact. The reasoning was superficial in the extreme and overlooked the ease with which Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini had arranged pacts of friendship on earlier occasions, for example, the Russo-Italian "Pact of Friendship, Non-Aggression and Neutrality" of September 2nd, 1933, and the ratification and continuation on May 5th, 1933, of a German-Russian Agreement of earlier date. Though Hitler was then in power and was ferociously crushing Communists in Germany, the Russian Government could put its signature to an agreement which affirmed that the two Governments, by prolonging the Berlin 1926 Treaty of Neutrality and Non-aggression, "intend to continue the existing friendly relations between the Soviet Union and Germany."

The Press should also have remembered Stalin's speech of March 10th, 1939, in which he made it very plain that Russia had no intention of falling a victim to what he declared was British - French policy, the policy of enmeshing Russia in war with Germany and Japan.

Yet when all these facts have been allowed for, it cannot be denied that, for Stalin to choose this moment, when a German army waits on the Polish border, to enter into a new 10-year Pact with Hitler represented a staggering affront to all those people who had believed that the Russian Government was above the disreputable ways of traditional diplomacy and that for that Government opposition to Fascism and aggression was a matter of principle. As Mr. Lloyd George — a supporter of the policy of alliance with Russia, who has been much praised by the Communists — says, the German - Russian Pact "is a stunning blow to Britain's Peace Front " (News Chronicle, August 22nd). It was so regarded by supporters of the "Peace Front" in Britain and other countries and, according to Press accounts, was received with jubilation in official circles in Germany and Italy.

Sordid Pacts Secretly Arrived At

The method by which the Stalin-Hitler Pact was reached merits a little attention, if only to expose the Communist hypocrisy of denouncing "secret diplomacy", it "appears to have, been arranged without the (British) Foreign Office having the slightest inkling of what was going on," it is unquestionable that Germany and Russia must have been negotiating secretly for some considerable time, simultaneously with public declarations by Russia that all they wanted was the Peace Pact with Britain and France against aggression. The Daily Herald (August 22nd) reports from Berlin that, according to German accounts, the secret negotiations began in June, though the Evening News thinks they probably began even earlier, in April, when the Anglo-German Naval Treaty was denounced by Germany. Here we have an example of the cynical indifference of the Nazi and Bolshevik rulers to the views of the masses, so cynical that they can arrange in secret a Pact which must shock millions of simple-minded Germans and Russians alike. These rulers will, however, live to regret their action, for it will have repercussions as yet undreamt of by them.

Taking a long view, this is the outstandingly important feature of the Russo-German Pact, in spite of the fact that at no distant date both signatories to the Pact, having served their immediate purpose, may seek to explain it away as of no particular significance. The fact remains that Hitler, who built himself up on the slogan of protecting Germany against Bolshevism, and Stalin, who built himself up on the slogan of anti-Fascism, will have exposed themselves to their own sincere followers as being prepared to shake hands with their allegedly implacable foes, and to compromise with what they have denounced as the worst of all evils. From this realisation may flow the progressive demoralisation of both the dictatorships, with resulting revived hopes for democracy and Socialism.

Thieves Falling Out

Behind these negotiations are intrigues involving all of the Great Powers, an all in game of international blackmail. It is easy enough to reconstruct what has been going on, with reasonable confidence of substantial accuracy. The British and French capitalists, with interests in Europe, but with great interests in and on the way to the East, have long been vulnerable to an attack in both quarters at once. How, then, to gain the greatest measure of security? Equally the game of the German and Italian capitalists was to mass as many allies and potential allies as possible to keep the ring for their expansion. Russia's rulers, on the other hand, have feared that both groups might settle at the expense of Russian territory when various small nations had been gobbled up. After Munich, and the disappearance of Czecho-Slovakia, British policy veered towards a Russian alliance (though this still did not prevent private and "unofficial" conversations between the Secretary of the Overseas Trade Department, Mr. Hudson, and Herr Wohltat, Economic Adviser to General Goering, about possible economic assistance and a loan to Germany, these discussions being suddenly brought to light towards the end of July. Nevertheless, British capitalist interests in and about China necessitated some action against, or compromise with Japan. Russia not desiring to be isolated, has retaliated with the Russo-German Pact, intended no doubt as a final warning to the British Government of a real Russo-German alliance unless the British Government would line up definitely with Russia and against the German-Japanese group. But in the international scramble every new alignment of forces provokes further jostling for position, so now Japan will have an increased fear of herself being isolated through loss of German backing, and the Japanese capitalists will have to ask themselves whether to crusade under the banner "Asia for the Asiatics" , line up still closer in the Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany against Russia, or revert to the British alliance, and divide the Chinese market with the British Empire. Germany, having used the Russian Pact to try to bring Japan to heel, may drop it as quickly as it was taken up, in which case Russia, Britain and France may yet be forced into a close alliance. At the moment this still seems the most likely outcome, with, as a minor phase, a further attempt by Britain and France to detach Italy and Spain from the Axis. That the Pact is supposed to endure for 10 years will not disturb either party for 10 minutes if they want to break it.

One feature of the situation which has received less attention than it deserves is the trade agreement which preceded the German-Russian Pact. The Manchester Guardian's Moscow Correspondent (August 22nd) states that the trade agreement, under which Germany advances Russia a trade credit of £16,000,000, was delayed because Russia insisted on being supplied by Germany with "equipment of a strictly military nature" in return for Russian exports to Germany. The Guardian's Berlin correspondent states that, according to German accounts, the agreement arose out of Russia's great need of industrial machinery, which Germany can supply,"and out of Germany's need for Russian exports. It may well be that economic difficulties in both countries are forcing the two Governments to revise their policies of recent years and, indeed, one German newspaper states that the Russian Government has recently decided to reorganise its foreign trade and aim at expanding it."(Quoted in Daily Express, August 22 )

In the meantime, the rights and wrongs of Danzig and Poland fall into their true perspective as mere counters in the sordid international scramble of the capitalist Powers — not omitting the Bolsheviks. One thing at least should be gained, a growing refusal by the workers to be influenced by the shoddy propaganda alike of "big-business democrats" and Nazi-Bolshevik believers in totalitarian capitalism.

The Apologies of the Communist Party

After their first reaction — one of utter consternation — the British Communist Party Central Committee published a remarkable statement in the Daily Worker (August 23rd). Its claims were so amazing and the evidence on which they were based is so negligible that the statement is no less amazing than if the Communist Party had decided to deny everything and declare the whole affair to be an invention of the capitalist Press. (They might just as well have taken this line for all the effect their apologetics seem to have had on most of their followers.)

During recent weeks the News Chronicle has several times reported statements that the German Government was making approaches to Russia for a Pact. Each time the Daily Worker has ridiculed the suggestion and put it down to pro-Nazi influences in Great Britain. Now, when it transpires that the statements were correct, and the Russian Government had secretly been negotiating such a Pact, the Daily Worker (August 23rd) blares forth in great headlines that the German-Russian talks are a "Victory for Peace and Socialism" , a "Blow to Fascist War Plans and the Policy of Chamberlain", "the action of the Soviet Union in its present negotiations with Germany has spiked the guns of the pro-Fascist intrigues of Chamberlain and has strengthened the hands of the British people in their fight for the Anglo-Soviet Pact. Now is the time and the hour to develop the mass movement for the immediate signing of the Anglo-Soviet Pact."
The statement further declares that it represents a climb-down and defeat for Hitler, and that the Pact is fully in line with past declarations of Russian foreign policy. To show this the statements made by Stalin in March last are quoted. One in particular will show the hollowness of the Communist Party's defence. Stalin is quoted as having said :
"We stand for the support of nations which are the victims of aggression and are fighting for the independence of their country."

To justify the present attitude Stalin should have added, "We also stand for Pacts of Non-Aggression with the aggressor State (Germany)." He did not do so, but that is what the Communists are now seeking lamely to defend.

If, as the Communist Party say, the Pact means defeat and "capitulation," of Hitler and the Axis Powers, they signally fail to explain why, in their own words, "the Berlin papers spread the news in the largest of type across their front pages."

Altogether, the whole of the Communist Party's explanation fails to explain away the glaring impossibility of reconciling the action of the Russian Government with the propaganda of the Communist Party.

One true statement— but only half the truth— is this :
"What kind of discussions are proceeding to-day in German factories, shipyards and mines ? What a strengthening of the mass opposition to the Hitler regime the negotiations will present ? What an exposure of Hitler they represent."

For the other half of the truth read "Russia" for German and "Stalin" for Hitler .

Socialist Standard September 1939