New threat of imperialist nuclear war amid climate danger!
Hot on the heels of the US cutting its losses in Afghanistan in August, comes the formation of AUKUS, a new imperialist bloc between the United States, Britain and Australia, transparently to target China in the Asia-Pacific region. This carries a potent war threat for the future to try to preserve US world dominance and exposes completely the nonsense being talked by Biden et al about doing something about climate change. They prefer a good old dose of aggressive nuclear blackmail with the threat of a nuclear holocaust. As does British Labour’s execrable imperialist thug leader Starmer, who saluted this in the House of Commons and seemed even more enthused about it than Johnson himself. So much for fighting for human and ecological survival. Fighting for the hegemony of the US and its lackeys over the workers and oppressed of the world is much more important for such reactionary rabble.
This is evidently the second part of the Biden plan to reorient US imperialism to the Far East to confront what it sees as its most important adversary on a global level. It appears above all to be a nuclear submarine pact, and Australia will be building a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines in Adelaide with mainly US technology. Apparently, the submarines will be armed with long-range missiles, but not nukes, as that would be a major breach of the Non-Proliferation treaty. But nevertheless, the aim is to harass China with submarine activity off its own coastline and put military pressure. US and potentially British nuclear submarines will be leased to Australia in the interim until its own dedicated fleet is ready, so this could well be up and running much earlier than the construction schedule suggests. China has warned that such behavior could even result in nuclear retaliation against Australia.
This development seems for the moment have silenced the Trumpians screaming about Biden’s abrupt implementation of Trump’s Afghanistan withdrawal agreement last month. Indeed, Biden’s move appears positively Trumpian itself, and is likely calculated to wrong-foot his far-right critics – by stealing some of their clothes and appropriating aspects of the strategy they would like to be carrying out – before they have chance to try this out, so Biden and the Democrats can present it as their idea. But this is not just a cynical triangulation maneuver for domestic reasons.
The fact is that the US might be the imperialist hegemon, but it is a declining hegemon. One major index of US decline is that it was even humiliated by its economy being kept afloat by Chinese money when its banking system teetered on the brink of collapse in 2008-9. An intolerable situation for an imperialist world hegemon! Recent wars and conflicts in the Middle East have exacerbated and highlighted its decline. Some of Trump’s sporadic rhetoric about puling the US out of conflicts in the Middle East and the Muslim world – together with his Muslim ban on immigration – also reflected a desire for the US to cut its losses in such conflicts and focus on China as the main enemy. But Trump had his own entanglements in the Middle East and could not follow up on his rhetoric about this in part because of his extremely close relationship with the Israel lobby, which directly sponsored his presidency to implement their policies over Jerusalem, Golan and other annexations, while hoping that he would attack Iran on their behalf.
Biden, who is not as deeply entangled with the Zionists as Trump was, has more freedom to pursue aggressive initiatives like AUKUS in the wider world, outside the restrictive focus that excessive subservience to the Lobby dictates. AUKUS, as a Far-Eastern geopolitical initiative with a global span, can be considered a more ‘pure’ expression of the current interests of US imperialism than some of its recent conflicts. Hence Biden is likely onto a winner on this domestically, as long as nothing goes spectacularly wrong in the short term.
Biden’s speech about the withdrawal from Afghanistan, made it very clear that the purpose of the withdrawal was to clear the decks for a renewed drive against China and Russia:
“We are in fierce competition with China. We have dealt with challenges from Russia in many ways. We are facing cyber attacks and nuclear proliferation. We must strengthen the competitiveness of the United States to meet these new challenges in the 21st century competition.
We can attack on both sides: while fighting terrorism, while dealing with current and new threats that will continue to exist in the future. In this competition, China and Russia are eager to let the United States fall into the quagmire of Afghanistan for another decade.
When we turn to the page that has guided our country’s foreign policy for the past two decades, we must learn from our mistakes. For me, there are two crucial lessons: First, we must set tasks with clear achievable goals, not goals that we can never achieve. Second, we must clearly focus on America’s most fundamental national security interests.
This decision about Afghanistan is not only about Afghanistan. This is about the end of a major military operation aimed at reshaping other countries.”
The formation of AUKUS drew a strong rebuke from China’ Foreign Minister Zhao Lijian on 16 Sept:
“The nuclear submarine cooperation between the US, the UK and Australia has seriously undermined regional peace and stability, intensified the arms race and undermined international non-proliferation efforts. The export of highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology to Australia by the US and the UK proves once again that they are using nuclear exports as a tool for geopolitical game and adopting double standards. This is extremely irresponsible. As a non-nuclear weapon state under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and a party to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone (SPNFZ) Treaty, known as the Treaty of Rarotonga, Australia is now introducing nuclear submarine technology of strategic and military value. …”
But what is also quite sinister is that all three of the states involved in AUKUS have a common central ethnic core. Which is a new development in recent history. All the components of this alliance have major records of hostility to and atrocities against East Asians and Chinese people in particular. “Yellow Peril” racism is both ancient and recent in the US, and the Trump/Biden repeated attempts to blame China – where the disease may (or may not) have originated – for the Covid-19 Pandemic, have the character of racist war propaganda. Britain’s record of colonizing China from the Opium wars onward is obvious, and “White Australia” nationalism has from the beginnings of Australia as a genocidal white colony defined itself against the masses of Asia to the North, China being one of the post powerful potential adversaries. And of course, the recent political evolution of Britain under the Brexit regime of Johnson has been one of rampant official xenophobia and racism. The Brexiters would like to expand the navy and ‘rule the waves’, but have no hope of anything of the sort except as lackeys of the US.
Notwithstanding the disingenuous claims by these imperialists that they are countering Chinese ‘bullying’ of states like Vietnam and the Philippines who have disputes with China in the region of the South China Sea, everyone knows this is about the US, as world imperialist hegemon, with its lackey states, trying to reassert its hegemony. The Anglo-Saxon makeup of this bloc is provocative.
The ethnic aspect of AUKUS has caused major unease in Europe, particularly France. It has its material pretext, but there is more than that involved in the sentiments expressed. In order to be part of the new nuclear submarine pact, Australia tore up a $66 billion dollar deal for France to supply them with 12 non-nuclear, diesel-powered submarines. But French anger is not just about this submarine deal. French President Macron used the dramatic diplomatic device of recalling French Ambassadors from Washington and Canberra.
The French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves le Drian said the following about the US and Australia:
“That is why I say there has been duplicity, contempt and lies, and when you have an ally of the stature of France, you don’t treat them like that….When we see the US president with the Australian prime minister announce a new agreement, with Boris Johnson, the breach of trust is profound. In a real alliance you talk to each other, you don’t hide things, you respect the other party, and that is why this is a real crisis.”
Guardian, 18 Sept
Even more contempt was reserved for Johnson, as another French official said “The UK accompanied this operation opportunistically. We do not need to consult in Paris with our ambassador to know what to think and what conclusions to draw from it.” (ibid). L’Albion Perfide is taken as read again. And a former British Ambassador to France added:
“There is a deep sense of betrayal in France because this wasn’t just an arms contract, this was France setting up a strategic partnership with Australia and the Australians have now thrown that away and negotiated behind the backs of France with two Nato allies, the US and UK, to replace it with a completely different contract.
“For the French this looks like a complete failure of trust between allies and calls into doubt what is Nato for. This puts a big rift down the middle of the Nato alliance … Britain needs a functioning Nato alliance. I think people underestimated the impact that this would have in France and how this would seem as a humiliation and betrayal in a year President Macron is running for election in a very tight race with the far right.”
The reason that the US is inclined to do things like this that undermine NATO has causes that go back to the Cold War. The refusal of France and particularly Germany, for instance, to sign up fully for Reagan and Thatcher’s early 1980s nuclear crusade was simply because the core countries of Europe have solid material interest in a degree of collaboration with countries like the USSR and today’s post-Soviet Russia that resist the US’ aspirations to dominate the world. Such things as cheap plentiful sources of energy from Russia are of particular importance. They preferred to undermine the workers states through economic penetration than crude military pressure. Today with post- Soviet capitalist Russia, which is currently allied in effect with post-Maoist capitalist China in an informal non-imperialist bloc, they are even less keen on nuclear brinkmanship.
Which has the tendency to marginalize NATO in the European theatre. Given China’s economic and military power this tends to shift the theatre of potential conflict of this type away from Europe, which undermines NATO’s raison d’être. US decline makes it more difficult to pressure other powers into line and so, NATO becomes less central and can be considerably undermined as it seems to be here. This is accentuated by China’s new infrastructure projects in Asia like Belt and Road that appear to be creating a counterweight to US hegemony with even more incentive for some of the European powers to hedge their bets on Washington’s increasingly desperate attempts to preserve its position. Apart from Washington’s unsinkable aircraft carrier centred in London of course.
This is not a simple development, and its early days yet, but the position of Marxists regarding it is straightforward: we oppose it tooth and nail, as we oppose NATO and all other imperialist alliances of this type. We are not for preserving NATO, if this does prove to be the disintegrative force that some surmise, but equally we oppose this as a putative replacement alliance. We are for the defence of China and other non-imperialist countries against the war drive that is evidently behind this and for the defeat of AUKUS in any future conflict with the non-imperialist states targeted. It is also a sign, when human civilization is being put in increasing danger by capitalist-induced climate change, the real priority of imperialism is hegemony and its own survival even though countless deaths through war and counterrevolution. This war drive needs to be smashed by the world proletariat, led by a new revolutionary communist movement that our comrades are seeking ways to build.
The counter-revolution in the USSR was not fought, not even admitted and even less studied by those who claim to be revolutionaries today, beyond rare exceptions.
The final destruction in the USSR, after 74 years of existence, in August 1991, was the biggest defeat of the working class and the communists in the last 50 years. It is necessary to recognize this truth and say it however bitter it may be. This is a starting point for understanding the current reality for those who want to change it, for anyone who has the fight for communism as a strategy. The lessons of this defeat are as or more important for our time as the lessons of October 1917 and the causes of bureaucratic degeneration in the following decades. Like revolution, counterrevolution needs to be studied. A clear understanding of the liquidation of the USSR serves the struggles of the present and the future. We claim the USSR and the set of experiences of workers states created in the 20th century, criticising the limitations and deviations committed.
The crisis that led to the final liquidation of August 1991 was a consequence of the exhaustion of the USSR economy, compromised by:
1. Isolation of the USSR (attenuated by the existence and relationship between the USSR and part of the other workers’ states), aggravated by the policy of “socialism in one country”, on the one hand, and by the permanent economic war of boycotts, sanctions and blockades of imperialism, on the other;
2. By the arms race, as a war economy. If investment in destructive forces is beneficial to the imperialist political economy, the same economic policy exhausts the productive forces of a workers’ state. In this context, the involvement of the USSR in the Afghan War, with the concentrated war effort, was the coup de grace, falling into the trap of imperialism (explained in “The adventure of imperialism in Afghanistan was a blow against the revolution “);
3. By conciliation, bureaucratic indebtedness, liberal measures, dismantling of planning and control of foreign trade over the 74 years that led to Perestroika and Glasnost;
4. Finally, the complete liquidation of bodies of workers’ democracy by Stalin’s bureaucratization, continued by Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov, and Gorbachev, meant that in the decisive battle in which the bureaucracy was divided between restorationists and conservatives there were no independent mass bodies of the two wings to fight for a destiny that would serve the immediate and historical interests of the majority of the population of the USSR.
The collapse of Yanayev’s bureaucratic coup (explained by us in ” The Soviet bloc’s counter-revolution still traumatizes humanity “) and Yeltsin’s restorationist counter-coup imposed historic defeat and started the plunder of the workers state and 14 other republics by imperialist finance capital . According to the geopolitical writer William Engdahl, in his work Manifest Destiny – Democracy as Cognitive Dissonance (2018):
“Boris Yeltsin and his “free market reformers” were part of one of the most criminal undercover looting operations in CIA history. It was the rape of Russia by a corrupt circle of treacherous Soviet generals, together with their young KGB squad protégés, who were turned through the operation into billionaire oligarchs. This economic rape was only possible through Western banks and Washington’s so-called “machines of democracy” under three successive presidents – Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and Bill Clinton.
William Engdahl, in his work “Manifest Destiny – Democracy as Congnitive Dissonance”, p. 29, 2018.
The tragedy was not limited to the economic field or to the peoples of the former USSR, it reached the last generations of social fighters and was also a political and theoretical-ideological tragedy for the world proletariat.
In terms of theory, the counterrevolution potentiated the most effective anti-communist propaganda machine since the McCarthyism in the US in the 50s. Neoliberalism, postmodernism, identitarism, are variants of this anti-communist ideological offensive, catapulted by these counterrevolutionary processes, although they are schools of conservative or reactionary thinking that were created before the processes of 88-91.
Within the workers’ movement and the majority leaderships of the mass and left-wing movements, this offensive contributed to a qualitative leap in the bourgeoisification of social democracy and the consolidation of conciliatory leaderships. This defeat is also expressed in the abortion, or precocious decay of the processes of accumulation of class consciousness since the victory in Vietnam in 1975.
In the last almost five decades, none of the revolutionary processes have resulted in the expropriation of the bourgeoisie as a class in any country, nor in the conquest of power by the working class, just check the revolutionary processes in Iran, Nicaragua, Burkina Faso … the deformed way in which the post-1917 revolutionary processes occurred, especially after the Second World War. This period of relatively short setbacks in historical terms makes many contemporary social fighters believe that the social revolution is an outdated phenomenon. For many of the new generation, the 20th century would not have ushered in the era of proletarian revolutions. They just believe that proletarian revolutions were a phenomenon unique to the last century.
Trotskyism, critical of the hegemonic and traditional leaderships and which could have assumed a leading role in the struggles with the retreat of social democracy and Stalinism, did worse than the first two trends. Confusion reigned in Trotskyism, the charlatanism of selling defeat as victory, indifference to the valuable achievements of the past in the class struggle. Almost all self-proclaimed Trotskyism celebrated with imperialism the end of the USSR and almost all workers’ states.
In terms of economic policy, the majority trend in most nations and moments was the loss of political, economic and social rights for workers, which is generically agreed to be called neoliberalism or globalization.
On the defensive, disorganized, without parties that would at least help it to distinguish allies from enemies, victories from defeats, the proletariat accumulated losses in all terrains: organizational, in conscioiusness, in living conditions. Which also impacted on the backward sections, the consciousness of certain fractions of the proletariat receded from conservatism to new versions of reactionary (neo-fascism, Trumpism, Bolsonarism).
The militant communist, revolutionary and internationalist forces represent only a small minority of the workers’ movement today. But they were never in the majority, not even in revolutionary periods. With determination, a dialectical and materialist understanding of history, a willingness to fight for programmatic clarity, it is possible to regroup revolutionary cadres prepared for the struggle in the current situation and for new social revolutions.
– 30 Years since August Coup and Collapse of the USSR.
– Almost 20 years of imperialist occupation in Afghanistan collapses in days.
– A critique of a flawed analysis of the counterrevolution and its effects
The Russian October Revolution was the greatest event so far in human history. It was the first opportunity for humanity to begin to abolish the capitalist system whose quest for profit had already led to the nightmare of millions of workers being dragged into massacring each other across Europe as the various imperialist powers fought each other to divide and redivide the world.
For us, the USSR was a state unlike any other. The proletariat built its own bodies of power, the popular councils, built its own revolutionary party, the Bolsheviks, and seized power from the bourgeoisie, establishing its own class dictatorship. The class character of the state born out of the Bolshevik and Soviet revolution is determined by the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, by the nationalization of the means of production, by economic planning. As long as this state maintained and defended the property relations born of this revolution, for us the USSR was a workers’ state.
But, in less than a decade, the USSR underwent a degenerative process, a political counterrevolution. A bureaucratic caste emerged from the material conditions imposed by the class struggle, the legacy of Russian society’s agrarian backwardness, the aftermath of the First World War, the civil war and invasion of the country by an international bourgeois military coalition and later by the siege, sanctions and blockades established by imperialist world capital. Therefore, it was a degenerated or bureaucratized workers’ state. A political revolution was needed to re-establish the political power of the workers and reject all attempts to restore the bourgeoisie, by internal or external agents, carrying out, if necessary, a united front with the bureaucracy in the face of the capitalist counter-revolution.
And in the second post-war period, as part of the gaps left by the defeat of fascism, a whole series of workers’ states emerged from East Germany to North Korea, passing through Albania, China, Yugoslavia and Cuba. They were the result of different revolutionary processes under nationalist, Stalinist leaderships, or simply bureaucratic annexation to the USSR. In any case, these were processes that were born under bureaucratic deformations, without workers’ democracy. The bourgeoisie was expropriated, but the workers did not organize themselves into revolutionary Marxist parties or create bodies of dual power as in the first years of the USSR, and that is why they are called deformed workers’ states.
So, if the Russian revolution was one of the greatest achievements of the proletariat in the history of class struggle, conversely, the defeat of the degenerate Soviet Union (USSR) in 1991 was, on the contrary, a great defeat for the world working class, which demands analysis. and proper understanding. The degeneration of the Russian Revolution, the analysis of the reasons for that degeneration and of the self-reinforcing series of betrayals that cemented Stalinism in power though the repeated sabotage of opportunities to extend the world revolution, all these are matters which must be clarified by the would-be revolutionary left today to understand our tasks going forward. So are the processes by which the counterrevolution was able to succeed, the points of continuity and discontinuity in the situation today, the points of support that persist which Marxists need to make use of to advance the class struggle today. This document attempts to address some of these questions.
Its 30 years almost to the day since the bankruptcy of Stalinism brought about the collapse of the USSR. The attempted coup in late August 1991 by a group of bureaucrats, military men, and dignitaries (including Vice President Gennadi Yanayev) in the apparatus of the disintegrating Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) briefly overthrew the government of the last Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, imprisoning the Soviet leader and his immediate circle for three days, before the coup collapsed. The bankruptcy of Yanayev’s Emergency Committee is associated with the bankruptcy of Stalinism (and Krushchevism), however, in retrospect, if we could establish a political position in August 1991, it would be that of a critical alignment in a united front anti-capitalist restoration policy with the Emergency Committee against Yeltsin.
One reason that the coup collapsed is that it did not manage to get the support of even the bulk of the military and repressive apparatus of the USSR. It also failed to get any significant mass support. The coup-plotters were themselves thoroughly demoralised and according to some accounts, spent much of the three days of the coup drinking heavily, no doubt suspecting they would lose. Gorbachev’s programme of political liberalisation (glasnost) and ‘market socialism’ (perestroika) failed to overcome the stagnation of the Soviet economy as the regime hoped and had led to growing economic turmoil and declines in living standards over the period of his presidency from 1985-1990.
Toward the end of 1990, jointly with Boris Yelstin, he put together a 500-day plan for the rapid transformation of the USSR to a capitalist, market driven economy, through large-scale privatisation and attacks on social rights, while still sometimes talking of ‘market socialism’. This was the point at which Gorbachev himself crossed the Rubicon and became an advocate of capitalist restoration. But getting the conditions in place to implement this dragged on through 1991. Yelstin was the former head of the Moscow Communist Party, and from 1990 an openly bourgeois politician outside the CPSU. Yelstin gained the Presidency of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic, which as the Russian Federation, became the core successor state to the USSR after the counterrevolution.
The collapse of the coup, partly in the face of civil resistance – ‘democrats’, privateers and fascists organised publicly behind Yelstin outside the Russian parliament or ‘White House’ — was followed by the public humiliation of Gorbachev for his evident weakness in the face of the coup, and by the end of the year, the formal dissolution of the USSR and Gorbachev’s resignation/redundancy as its last president. This merely formalised what happened in the immediate aftermath of the failed coup in any case, as the de facto state power became Yelstin’s Russian Federation, with many of the non-Russian republics, notably the Baltics, declaring their secession from the USSR during the coup itself, de facto disintegrating the USSR and not even waiting for Gorbachev’s proposed new union treaty (stopping which was one of the coupists’ prime motives) to see the light of day.
Imperialism’s Afghan Adventure was a Blowback from Counterrevolution
In addition to the anniversary of the Soviet collapse, the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has led to the collapse of the pro-US puppet regime of Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is bound up with the counterrevolutionary collapse of the USSR. Massive US funding of a jihad against the left-nationalist, Moscow-allied People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) began in the late 1970s, and when the Soviet Union intervened in December 1979 to prevent the overthrow of the PDPA by these counterrevolutionaries, Afghanistan became a cause celebre of anti-communism. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher very publicly associated themselves with the mujahedin, the ‘holy warriors’ who were given hi-tech weaponry like Stinger missiles to fight the PDPA and USSR.
The retreat of the USSR from Afghanistan under Gorbachev was a major capitulation to imperialism and heralded the collapse of the USSR itself. Yet the PDPA regime was among the last of the USSR’s client states to fall; it did not collapse until April 1992, 6 months after the USSR collapsed. The diffuse coalition of mujahedin with some PDPA defectors was swept aside in 1996 by the youthful, austere and fanatical Taliban faction of Islamists, based in ‘refugee’ camps in Pakistan, who have politically dominated Afghanistan ever since.
The Afghanistan invasion and occupation at the end of 2001 was always a sideshow and a fig-leaf for imperialism and Zionism’s intention to take advantage of the terrorist attack the US received from Al Qaeda fighters on September 11th, 2001. The imperialists were always aware that as well as being an expression of extreme reaction with pre-capitalist, medieval origins, and social base (to a degree), Islamist movements are also capable of giving expression to popular rage against imperialist crimes. They are difficult clients that sometimes bite their patrons. The sheer scale of 9/11 was shocking to US imperialism, which undoubtedly through its intelligence agencies had some awareness of the perpetrators’ activities, but not the degree of their ambition. But irrespective of this, the effect of 9/11 was to strengthen the Zionist faction in the US ruling class which wanted to remake the Middle East in Israel’s interest, initially through the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
In that, the occupation of Afghanistan had to be maintained for a prolonged period to make some show to the Western public that something direct was being done to confront the actual home base of Al Qaeda. But it was a bipartisan exercise in hypocrisy, as there was never any Western intention to undermine the social basis of the counterrevolution they had fomented to destroy the PDPA. So, it was always pretty much inevitable that when the West finally cut their losses and withdrew from Afghanistan, it would revert to the Taliban.
The rumours of deals with the Taliban by Trump or even Biden are highly likely to be true. The expressions of ‘shock’ by some in the West at Biden’s withdrawal and the Taliban victory are just disingenuous nonsense. So are the comparisons being made by some with the fall of Saigon in 1975.
Though many desperate Afghans may well have believed in some sort of Western good intentions, they were being cynically duped and exploited. Many now, desperately trying to escape, are not the equivalents of counterrevolutionaries fleeing the Vietnamese revolution in 1975, but victims of Western duplicity, and as refugees are targets for right-wing populists and fascists in the West. We must demand full rights of asylum and settlement in the West for all those Afghans seeking to escape. No restrictions or quotas.
All these things are simply the logic of fomenting counterrevolution in a country like Afghanistan. What may be the international role of the Taliban now the US occupation is over is an open question. Will they become a Western client state, and participate in Western attempts to sabotage the efforts of semi-colonial countries and former workers states to build infrastructure to counter dependency upon imperialism, such as the Chinese-led Belt and Road initiative in Eurasia? Or will they be drawn into this sphere of influence? There are all kinds of contradictory speculations about at the moment, and it is likely to take a bit of time before it is clear which way the situation evolves.
A flawed analysis of the counterrevolution
The collapse of the USSR was long forecast, in broad outline, by the Trotskyist movement, though the details, processes and outcome have proved to be a source of strong disagreement and division. One Trotskyist tradition that particularly stands out as making seemingly robust, but in fact problematic and ultimately false claims to have uniquely and correctly analysed the collapse of the USSR, and resisted it to the last, is the comrades of the now-splintered International Bolshevik Tendency, an ostensibly orthodox Trotskyist tendency that emerged from the Spartacists in the early 1980s, and which claimed to be the latest embodiment of a continuity of revolutionary tradition derived from them.
Confusingly, the group that is now using the name ‘International Bolshevik Tendency’ is based centrally in New Zealand, with a smattering of supporters elsewhere. Its best-known leader is Bill Logan. They insist that post-Soviet Russia is now a rival imperialist power to the US. Whereas the other main wing of the IBT, whose best-known leader is Tom Riley, based in North America but also with supporters elsewhere, and which now just calls itself the ‘Bolshevik Tendency’, insists correctly that Russia represents a relatively backward, dependent form of capitalism, that should be defended against imperialism along with other semi-colonial countries. But both agree that China is still a deformed workers state and make a great show of criticising those on the left who refuse to defend it again a supposed danger of capitalist restoration.
The starting point for this is their common position on the August coup of 1991. They correctly berate the bulk of the pseudo-Trotskyist left internationally who sided with Yeltsin against the coup-plotters as basically siding with the clarified, consistent advocates of the capitalist destruction of the USSR:
“In the weeks following the failed coup attempt of 19‐21 August, the International Bolshevik Tendency was virtually alone among self-proclaimed Trotskyists in recognizing that this event marked the end of the Soviet workers state. Every major political development has since confirmed our view. … The major political institutions of the Soviet state could be dismantled without armed resistance because the fate of the USSR had already been decided. The post-coup developments were a mere epilogue to the three days in August when the demoralized defenders of the old Stalinist apparatus made and lost their last desperate gamble.
“The success of the coup plotters would have represented an obstacle, however temporary and insubstantial, to the victory of the restorationists now in power. It was therefore the duty of those who defended the Soviet Union against capitalist restoration to side with the coup leaders against Yeltsin, without offering them any political support. Yet, to our knowledge, every other tendency purporting to be Trotskyist failed this last test of Soviet defensism. Most sided with the forces gathered around Yeltsin in the name of democracy. Others were neutral. To excuse their failure, many of these groups now find it expedient to play down the significance of Yeltsin’s August victory.”
1917 no 11, Soviet Rubicon and the Left, third quarter 1992
This is no doubt correct, at least as a criticism of the pseudo-Trotskyists. It was indeed scandalous that the bulk of the ‘Trotskyist’ left actually applauded and sided with the consistent advocates of rapid capitalist restoration and overt subordination of the USSR to imperialism. The IBT are quite rightly scathing about this. However, despite this position, the IBT still managed to fragment with major disagreements about questions derived from the outcome of the counterrevolution. Quite correctly they wrote in the aftermath of Yeltsin’ victory:
“On what terms will Russia and the other republics join the imperialist ’family of nations’? The productivity of Soviet labor has always lagged far behind that of advanced capitalist countries. The products of Soviet industry simply can’t compete in price or quality with Western goods. Western capitalists are reluctant to invest even in Poland and the former DDR, whose industrial plant is more advanced than Russia’s. Russian and Ukrainian industries are even less likely to find foreign buyers. Aspiring Russian ’entrepreneurs’ cannot simply take over existing state industries and start making money. To become competitive internationally, most Soviet enterprises would require massive retooling and upgrading, and that can only be financed from abroad. The imperialist giants, locked in ever intensifying economic rivalries with one another, are not about to underwrite the development of a major new competitor. The total ‘aid’ earmarked for the former Soviet Union so far is only a fraction of what the imperialists spent each year preparing to wage war on the ‘evil empire.’ The assistance they are providing is only enough to help Yeltsin keep a lid on his unruly population. There will be no latter-day Marshall Plan.
The lands that once made up the USSR are not without value to the predators of Wall Street and the Frankfurt bourse. The former Soviet Union was the world’s number-one producer of oil and timber, and its territories are also rich in minerals, metals and grain. The population is well educated even by Western standards, and is thus a huge potential market and reserve of exploitable labor. But the imperialists see the former Soviet Union chiefly as a producer of raw materials and agricultural products and a consumer of the finished goods of the U.S., Europe and Japan. The deindustrialization which will accompany capitalist restoration will lock the various republics into a pattern of economic dependency and backwardness more typical of third-world countries than the developed capitalist world.
The former Soviet Union, however, is no third-world country. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 tore the former czarist empire out of the imperialist orbit and laid the foundations for transforming it from a backward, largely peasant nation into a major industrial power. At the time of the revolution, over 80 percent of the Soviet population lived in the countryside; today, more than 60 percent are city dwellers.
The reintegration of the Soviet Union into the international capitalist division of labor will mean the ruin of entire economic sectors: steel, machinery, military hardware and consumer goods and the destitution of many of the tens of millions of workers whose livelihoods depend upon industry.
The states emerging from the breakup of the USSR are not likely to be reduced to third-world status without explosions of popular anger. As mass indignation at free-market ‘shock therapy’ continues to mount, Yeltsin could easily fall. He has already been forced to modify some of the harsher aspects of his economic package. Yet none of Yeltsin’s would-be successors is any less committed than he to capitalist restoration; they differ only over tactics and timing.
The correctness of this evaluation of the destiny of the territories and peoples that made up the USSR does not seem to have prevented one part of the IBT from breaking from the logic of this and concluding that Russia has somehow overcome this future of dependency and become an imperialist rival of the West. In this regard, the New Zealand centred IBT has already, in fighting supposed ‘Russian imperialism’ sided with the reactionary, Nazi-infested Maidan movement in Ukraine. This has been armed, funded and egged on by US imperialism and the EU, against Russia which has now moved away under Putin from Yeltsin’s subordination to imperialism, and has been attempting to resist the project of extending NATO deeply into the former USSR itself, an obvious continuation even despite the counterrevolution, of the imperialist policy of outright political reconquest of the former workers states. The New Zealand-based IBT has also taken a neutral position on the Syrian conflict, “As in Ukraine, Marxists have no side in the Syrian civil war or the imperialist struggle weaving through it and demand the departure of all imperialist forces from the region.” (1917 no 41, 2019)
The confusionism of the whole ex-IBT diaspora is striking. Superficially this would appear to be an empirical falling out over the further evolution of Russia over time since the counterrevolution. However, it does seem to have been the result of Russia’s break, under Putin, from overt subordination and clientelism of the West that was previously dominant under Yeltsin, to an attitude of at least partial resistance to Western incursions and offensives. The Logan-led IBT drew the conclusion from this that Putin’s Russian has overcome the devastating material handicaps the IBT earlier pointed to and become imperialist.
But much of Russia’s activities along these lines are in a bloc with China and other semi-colonial countries such as Iran and Syria to resist imperialist domination in Eurasia, a bloc that also has allies in the Americas, such as Cuba and Venezuela. Some of these states at odds with imperialism are still deformed workers states, such as Cuba, others are ex workers’ states, such as Russia and China, while others still, such as Iran and Syria, were never workers’ states at all. However, all, wings of the ex-IBT defend China as supposedly still a deformed workers’ state, which therefore has to be defended in all conflicts with imperialism. Yet they logically must have radically different attitudes to its major international initiatives, such as the Belt and Road initiative, which hardly has anything ‘socialist’ about it, rather consisting of infrastructural development that will benefit both China and its other capitalist partners. All of which are being co-ordinated in a bloc with (to the IBT) ‘imperialist’ Russia. These contradictions make for a very confusing, contradictory mess.
A crucial ambiguity….
To explore the roots of this, it is necessary to go back to a crucial ambiguity in the IBT’s analysis of the events surrounding the collapse of the USSR. At the time, the IBT wrote:
“The barricades of August formed a dividing line between those bent on bringing back capitalism and those who wanted to slow down the market reforms and preserve, at least for a time, the social and economic status quo. Social democrats, liberals and all those who openly favored capitalist restoration had little difficulty in grasping the significance of the coup and its defeat. Pseudo-Trotskyists, however, must falsify reality to justify shirking Soviet defensism and prostrating themselves before left-liberal public opinion.”
“The struggle for power was between the Stalinist parasites who sought to preserve their host and the Yeltsinite restorationists who sought to destroy it.”
But here is the ambiguity:
“The men of the Emergency Committee were not Stalinists of the 1930s mould. Their will to act was compromised by the fact that they were demoralized enough to accept the inevitability of loosening central controls and giving market forces a wider scope. Their difference with Yeltsin was that they favored market ‘reforms’ within the overall framework of bureaucratic rule. By the time they decided to strike in defense of the beleaguered central state apparatus, it was already in such an advanced state of decay that it no longer commanded the unquestioned allegiance of the armed forces. These factors fed into each other, leading to the August debacle.”
In other words, even the IBT admit that the aim of the plotters was not to stop capitalist restoration per se, but to slow it down to maintain bureaucratic control of the process. If that is the case, then they effectively concede that it is perfectly possible for a Stalinist regime to itself preside over a process of capitalist restoration, while maintaining bureaucratic control over the process. It might well be appropriate to take a side on an issue like this because the character of such a conflict could impact on such matters as to whether the outcome of the conflict will result in the resulting regime or state being reduced to semi-colonial servitude to imperialism, or in some way resisting it. But to imply, or half-imply, that such bureaucrats are waging a real struggle against capitalist restoration, is to build illusions. Only the class-conscious proletariat can do that.
…. which besets their understanding of China
This is what happened in China, becoming definitive within around a year of the collapse of the USSR in late 1992, and what gets the ex-IBT into a terrible mess. Since the split the NZ centred IBT group do not seem to have written a great deal about China, but the North American-centred Bolshevik Tendency have produced a major polemic against those on the left who have concluded that capitalism has been restored in China.
The Bolshevik Tendency point out that Mao’s China, once it had expropriated the bourgeoisie, had basically the same contradictions as the USSR under the Stalinist regime that existed in the USSR from Stalin’s day until August 1991:
“’Communist China’ under Mao was characterised by essentially the same contradictions that Leon Trotsky had enumerated for the USSR in his 1936 book The Revolution Betrayed:
‘The Soviet Union is a contradictory society halfway between capitalism and socialism, in which: (a) the productive forces are still far from adequate to give the state property a socialist character; (b) the tendency toward primitive accumulation created by want breaks out through innumerable pores of the planned economy; (c) norms of distribution preserving a bourgeois character lie at the basis of a new differentiation of society; (d) the economic growth, while slowly bettering the situation of the toilers, promotes a swift formation of privileged strata; (e) exploiting the social antagonisms, a bureaucracy has converted itself into an uncontrolled caste alien to socialism; (f) the social revolution, betrayed by the ruling party, still exists in property relations and in the consciousness of the toiling masses; (g) a further development of the accumulating contradictions can as well lead to socialism as back to capitalism; (h) on the road to capitalism the counterrevolution would have to break the resistance of the workers; (i) on the road to socialism the workers would have to overthrow the bureaucracy. In the last analysis, the question will be decided by a struggle of living social forces, both on the national and the world arena.”
Though actually the use of this passage from Trotsky is problematic, as the relationship between the revolution ‘in the consciousness of the toiling masses” in a workers’ state that was qualitatively bureaucratically deformed since birth, as in China, and that in the USSR, which was initially a revolutionary workers state, must necessarily be different. The difference lies in the fact that the agency of the creation of the Soviet state was a class-conscious action of the proletariat led by a revolutionary vanguard party, whereas in China the state was the creation of a privileged bureaucratic caste whose main social base was the peasantry, which excluded the proletariat from political power right from the creation of the workers’ state. The consciousness of the masses in a country where a class-conscious proletariat played no role in the revolution cannot be equated with that of a country where the proletariat was the central locus of the revolution.
However, the BT go much further than this. They seek to equate the situation in China today, not under Mao, with the situation of the USSR under Stalin and his successors, and minimize the significance of the existence of a powerful bourgeoisie in today’s China:
“The single biggest factor distinguishing the Chinese economy from its advanced capitalist competitors is the central role played by the state sector—particularly in banking and strategic industries. Unlike the Soviet Union under Stalin, China has a significant private capitalist sector which accounts for a large chunk of its economy and produces most commodities for export. But the SOEs, which remain at the core of the economic and social order, do not operate according to the same principles as for-profit enterprises.”
And under the heading “China’s capitalists: a vulnerable class”, they further argue:
“China’s economy has a significant capitalist component, unlike the Soviet economy which was virtually entirely collectivised.”
“A 2011 study by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission which estimated that China’s state sector made up at least 50 percent of the economy, failed to take into account the fact that the mixed ownership reform programme permitting private investment in SOEs did not give investors any influence over decision-making. Assigning such investment to the private sector, while technically correct, can therefore result in significantly underestimating the effective weight of state ownership.”
“It is essential to understand that despite the nominal introduction of many features of a capitalist market economy the fundamental relationships established by the 1949 Revolution have not changed. Many of the apparent changes are essentially cosmetic and introduced solely to encourage foreign investment.”
Those gullible foreign capitalist investors must have been terribly fooled by such trickery, into not understanding that no fundamental change has occurred since Mao, and the state still does not in any sense exist for their benefit and does not defend their property against the masses.
The BT admit that the figure of 50 per cent private ownership is ‘technically correct’. They do not surmise that the existence of this powerful bourgeois layer, and its evident interpenetration with the state, creates a different relationship between the state and private capital than exists in a workers’ state, deformed or otherwise. In a workers’ state, one primary function of the state is to suppress private ownership of the means of production in order to guarantee the inviolability of state property. In the Chinese situation, the state itself has a hybrid character, and the state itself and state property is being used to promote the interests of a Chinese bourgeois layer whose social weight is considerable. So, the BT say:
“Bloomberg’s 27 February 2012 online edition estimated the net worth of the 70 wealthiest delegates to the CCP’s National Peoples’ Congress as $89.9 billion. While they undoubtedly favour taking ‘market reform’ all the way to outright capitalist restoration, they are also very aware, unlike the IMT, SEP and sundry other leftist impressionists, that China has yet to undergo a social counterrevolution.”
So, the 70 wealthiest delegates at the CCP’s National People’s Congress were, on average, dollar billionaires. Well money talks. Why should these billionaires need a ‘social counterrevolution’ if they have enriched themselves to the point of becoming dollar billionaires under the supposed dictatorship of the proletariat? It is obvious that it is the regime of the CCP that has enriched them. Even if they have to sacrifice some of the prerogatives of capitalists in the ‘free world’ and abide by what may seem like a more draconian form of state regulation, that is being done for their benefit, for the promotion of the interests of Chinese capital, and it certainly has brought them large fortunes. It has also, to a degree, protected their profitability and fortunes from some of the bankruptcies that have afflicted some sections of capital in the older capitalist countries. Maybe, like the Western bourgeoisie in the 1970s, some future fall in profits may cause them to complain about the burden of state regulation and seek a more complete, neoliberal privatisation of the economy, but they seem to be doing pretty well out of this setup at the moment. Chinese capital is doing well out of this arrangement, and as long as this is the case it has no reason for them to seek to change it.
In putting forward the thesis that today’s powerful Chinese bourgeoisie, the massive beneficiary of state largesse, is a ‘vulnerable class’ and thus perpetually on the edge of extinction, the BT asserts:
“The legal status of private capital—particularly domestic capital—is not clearly defined. Xi’s on-going anti-corruption campaign, which served to simultaneously mobilise popular support while eliminating or intimidating potential factional opponents, signalled that domestic capitalists transgressing ground rules laid down by the party do so at considerable risk. Xi explicitly identified his campaign to reign in bureaucrats flaunting ill-gotten gains with Mao’s ‘tigers and flies’ anti-corruption drive of the mid-1950s”
But the fundamental purpose of Mao’s campaigns had a different content and objectives. Mao’s purges were of bureaucrats who acted outside the framework of the specific polices of Mao’s faction of the bureaucracy in the regime that he dominated, which had decided that for reasons of its own self-preservation that the national bourgeoisie had to be suppressed and its property expropriated.
Xi, who is acting in a manner somewhat analogous to a social-democratic or perhaps liberal populist politician in the post-WWII period of ‘welfare capitalism’ that preceded neoliberalism in the advanced capitalist world, is merely threatening with punishment for corruption capitalists who transgress the rules of a project that uses the state for a project whose objective is to enrich the ‘vulnerable’ new Chinese bourgeoisie that has considerably enhanced its wealth under this capitalist arrangement.
Absurdly, the BT say that:
“Xi plays essentially the same role in China today as Stalin did in the Soviet Union:”
And then quote Trotsky to elaborate on what they mean
““The function of Stalin…has a dual character. Stalin serves the bureaucracy and thus the world bourgeoisie; but he cannot serve the bureaucracy without defending that social foundation which the bureaucracy exploits in its own interests. To that extent does Stalin defend nationalized property from imperialist attacks and from the too impatient and avaricious layers of the bureaucracy itself. However, he carries through this defence with methods that prepare the general destruction of Soviet society. It is exactly because of this that the Stalinist clique must be overthrown. The proletariat cannot subcontract this work to the imperialists. In spite of Stalin, the proletariat defends the USSR from imperialist attacks.”
But Xi is not defending ‘state property’ per se as is evident from the above. He is defending Chinese capital, and the new Chinese bourgeoisie, and a hybrid project that makes use of elements of the state apparatus that were inherited from a deformed workers state to promote the accumulation of profit and thus capital, in the hands of this new Chinese bourgeoisie. This project has been highly successful and has enabled this post-Maoist form of Chinese capital to resist the semi-colonial subordination of China to neoliberalism, which is the concrete expression of imperialism today, and even to provide aid to other non-imperialist bourgeois states in backward countries like Syria and Venezuela, among others, to resist imperialism’s war drive, economic sanctions, proxy, and hybrid wars.
The BT conclude by issuing their own warning about the danger of promoting illusions in what they still insist is Chinese Stalinism:
“The CCP’s recent moves to strengthen the state sector no more signify some sort of revolutionary regeneration than Xi’s anti-corruption campaign was aimed at transforming the bureaucracy into a cadre of revolutionary communists. The CCP remains a historically unstable, contradictory and transient formation which can only maintain its privileged position by suppressing any form of independent working-class political expression or dissent. A transition to a genuinely socialist society is only possible through working people ousting the CCP bureaucrats and establishing their own direct political rule.
“Only the programme of ‘permanent revolution,’ based on recognising the necessity to establish workers’ power in every country on the planet, can provide a coherent alternative to the Stalinist/Maoist programme of ‘socialism in one country,’ which is premised on the illusion of a permanent reconciliation with international capital. To open the road to socialism Chinese workers must create a new revolutionary party based on the internationalist programme of the early revolutionary Communist International in the time of Lenin and Trotsky.”
This is all very well, but Xi is not engaged in building ‘socialism in one country’, but a post-Maoist programme of building Chinese capitalism, using a hybrid state-private capitalist model that aims to build a counterweight to Western imperialist domination including by aiding other semi-colonial nations to resist imperialist domination. This is in fact a logical extension of Stalinism’s illusions of building ‘socialism in one country’ when the Stalinist apparatus loses confidence in its ability to defend economic planning. It’s a new utopia, effectively of ‘capitalism in one country’ built as an alternative to imperialist domination. It also dovetails somewhat with the retreat of the still-infant bourgeois regime in Russia under Putin from subordination to neoliberalism and imperialism, and its efforts to combat outright imperialist domination from Ukraine and Syria. This does involve a new variant of the social democratic worldview, which is where the labour reformist features that the BT point to in their study of China actually come from.
A denial of reality, and its facets
The ex-IBT trends as a whole have a big problem with this. Recognition of elements of this reality led the New Zealand centred part of this trend to flip over to characterising Russia as imperialist. It does appear that the denial of the capitalist character of China by both wings is based on the fear that if they recognise reality, they will capitulate and conclude that China, too is imperialist, a position that leads into the social-imperialist camp. So, they deny reality, in a manner analogous, though in reverse, to the denial of reality by the Healy tendency in refusing to accept that a deformed workers state had been established in Cuba after 1960. The Healy tendency did this because they feared that if they accepted the Cuban revolution as real, they would become Hansen-like cheerleaders for Castroism. The ex-IBT trends fear that if they accept that capitalist restoration in China has taken place, they will become pro-imperialist third-campist types. Indeed, this has partially happened to the New Zealand centred IBT over its position that Russia is ‘imperialist’. But somewhat eccentrically, they continue to insist that China is a workers’ state that must be defended against counterrevolution despite many of its initiatives being closely coordinated with ‘imperialist’ Russia.
This contradictory mess is a result of the flaws of the IBT tradition itself. It is necessary to defend the powerful but still dependant capitalist states in Russia and China against imperialism without promoting illusions that there is something socialist about them, any more than with Iran or Venezuela. That is the conclusion that consistent Trotskyists need to draw from the current situation.
Communist Fight issue 6 is out now, in hard copy format. It features articles on Palestine, and the need for international workers action to liberate Palestine and fight the genocidal Zionist project through international workers revolutionary action. Also this issue focuses on the need to defend Cuba as a deformed workers state, in the context of the recent counterposed demonstrations. We also have coverage of the huge protest movement in Brazil against Bolsonaro driven by the suffering of the masses in the Covid-19 pandemic under his fascistic regime, which is crucifying the masses and at the same time destroying the Amazon basin as a crucial part of the global ecosystem humanity and other higher life forms depend on.
Related to this is an article on recent catastrophic climate events, which indicate that capitalism is already pushing us past tipping points that threaten disaster for human civilisation. The overthrow of capitalism by the working class is becoming more and more urgent.
Regarding British politics we have extensive coverage of the criminality of the Johnson regime over Covid, and its attacks on democratic rights. We have a major examination of the issues in the Unite General Secretary Election and how the ‘left’ bureaucracy is risking opening the way for a right-wing Murdoch stooge. And we have a historical/programmatic article on how neoliberalism, deindustrialisation and financialisation have changed the nature of the Labour bureaucracy, and hence the class makeup of the Labour Party.
This 36 page edition contains substantial material on the international and domestic class struggle, and we urge socialists and those sympathetic to revolutionary politics to take out a subscription, which costs £17 per year for 4 issues. See our Communist Fight page for details.
“The-times-they-are-a-changing”: as one well known Palestine Solidarity activist, of Jewish origin, recently said, evoking Bob Dylan in a call for the formation of a new Palestine solidarity movement in Britain. They certainly are! Criticisms of Zionism that were considered taboo just a few short years ago are now becoming so obvious that they will soon be mainstream on the left. That Political Zionism is Jewish supremacism is increasingly becoming common knowledge and entering the left mainstream, this stronger emphasis of many fighters for Palestine on this is to be welcomed. Political Zionism is indeed a Jewish supremacist movement.
The old prejudice that Zionism was simply a tool of Western colonialism, that was by that token not really Jewish at all, and had no independent agency of its own, is being dissipated by the radicalisation that has happened in Britain as a result of the experience of the orchestrated role of Zionism in undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, where Zionist smear campaigns managed to reach where ordinary British imperialist chauvinism was unable to. This radicalisation has now been deepened, and on a world-wide level, by the victory of the Palestinian people in the Saif Al-Quds (Sword of Jerusalem) war of May 2021, which for the first time for decades united the Palestinian people from the River to the Sea in a struggle against Zionism, and forced Israel to make concessions and call a face-saving ceasefire much earlier than planned in the face of such Palestine-wide resistance, which threatened the very stability of the Jewish state.
The activist referred to earlier, Tony Greenstein, gets it almost right when he writes of the comparison between Zionism and the earlier struggle against South African apartheid:
“The campaign against Israel is different in one crucial respect from that against apartheid in South Africa. Whereas the latter had no domestic support base, apart from the capitalists, right-wing Tories and fascists, the Israeli state has a lobby that is strong and powerful.
“Israel has support within the Jewish community. The last survey by Yachad of British Jews in 2015 found that 59% identify as Zionists. However 31% said that they weren’t Zionists. This was down 13% on a similar survey 5 years previously.
“Despite the attempt to label BDS as anti-Semitic, 24% of British Jews support some form of sanctions on Israel. Among secular Jews this rises to 40% and among the under-30s it is 41%. Compare this with the Board of Deputies, which purports to speak for British Jews, which never criticises Israel. Zionist organisations have hijacked the voice of “British Jews”. British Jews are in the words of Barnaby Raine the Establishment’s ‘favourite pets: heroic colonists in the Middle East and successful citizens in the West.’”
One important difference between South Africa and the Zionist state is that the latter has a powerful ethnic lobby as its base of support in the West that the Boer/Anglo regime never had, separate and distinct from the run of the mill bourgeois forces that over South Africa, as over Kenya, Malaya, Ireland, you name it, backed the West’s colonial allies in all its more conventional colonial type wars.
This reference to the Zionist Jewish establishment as ‘successful citizens in the West’ can only refer to the Jewish-Zionist bourgeois layers that use the power of their property and wealth to give rise to the ‘strong and powerful’ Israel lobby, which is primarily an ethnocentric lobby or faction within the bourgeoisie. Which is disproportionate in size simply because of the much higher proportion of Jews who have risen into the Western bourgeoisies over a prolonged period, a historical legacy of the social role of the Jews as a class of commodity traders under European feudalism. The younger, more secular Jewish layers who are less enamoured with Zionism’s crimes are obviously outside this bourgeois, ruling-class layer.
But the point about Zionist Jews who are ‘successful citizens’ (i.e. leading figures in the ruling class) being mere ‘pets’ is a misreading: they are much more valuable to the bourgeois establishment than that, a class-conscious reserve, previously mistakenly maligned from the standpoint of the gentile bourgeoisie, now among their most celebrated class brethren.
Israel is more than a Western pet in another sense, as typified by the Israeli arms company Elbit systems, whom Palestine Action’s activists, are organising against with great courage while being maligned by PSC. Elbit is no subsidiary of the West, it epitomises the imperialist nature of Israel and its overseas lobbies as a distinct force within the pantheon of imperialist powers. As we wrote recently:
“This is not some Western arms exporter supplying arms to a client, like Saudi Arabia in Yemen. This is an Israeli arms company that supplies high-tech weaponry to the West and its clients: to the British armed forces, those of the US, France, Italy, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines; from military drones to night-vision equipment and other military surveillance equipment. Its military hardware is marketed as tested in action, i.e., against the Palestinian people. Israel is a far tougher nut to crack than any mere colonial outpost, it is an imperialist enemy in its own right. Therefore, you get the contradictory phenomenon where, while Israel sometimes acts like a Western client state, at other times the US and other Western powers act like Israeli client states. The overlapping of the ruling classes means there is an element of truth in both.”
The current scandal involving another Israeli hi-tech company connected with the Israeli military, NSO Group, and its spyware Pegasus, being used to spy on and steal the data of human rights activists, lawyers acting for the victims of political persecution, in numerous countries around the world, including that of Israel’s kindred anti-Muslim persecutor Modi in India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia (Israel’s client), Morocco, Kazakhstan, and Hungary whose right-wing nationalist government both fulminates against alleged ‘subversion’ from prominent Jews like George Soros, and is an Israeli client state. These things might seem incidental, except that they emphasise that Israel is in the vanguard of reaction, a quartermaster to imperialism generally and its repressive clients around the globe, and a danger to democratic rights wherever its operative go.
Zionism is a genocidal project in its own right; it always has been. Right from the beginning its aims were substantially different to movements with which is it often compared, such as the movement led by Marcus Garvey that advocated that the descendants of those Africans kidnapped and used as slaves by early Western capitalism, particularly in the Americas, should return to Africa. These movements were simply both utopian and limited in their aims: basically, to ameliorate the oppression suffered by the descendants of the enslaved by creating Black African states that they could ‘return’ to. Their forcible exile was real, and ‘return’ was no answer to their oppression. The outcome of that movement was the creation of two impoverished neo colonies in Africa, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, that have proved, because of their somewhat artificial nature, more impoverished and unstable than the more traditional African semi-colonial nations that neighbour them, and completely unable to liberate any black people.
The Zionist project was very different from these. Right from the very beginning, far from expressing hostility to imperialism and colonialism in any sense, Zionism modelled itself on colonialism. The effective founder of Zionism as a movement, Theodore Herzl, praised the British arch-coloniser of Africa, Cecil Rhodes, and sought to emulate him. It is now very clear that Zionism did evolve a strategy that indeed was able to liberate the Jews from the historic oppression that began in the late feudal period in Europe and persisted through both the progressive phase of capitalism and the early period of imperialist capitalism, culminating in the obscenity of Hitler’s genocide.
That strategy involved using the social weight that Jews had achieved in the imperialist bourgeoisie despite their frequent oppression and persecution, to create by transplantation an advanced capitalist, imperialist state in the Middle East, that could create the conditions where the bulk of Jews could be liberated from oppression by joining the world’s dominant, oppressor peoples. This strategy has proven highly successful as Israel is now, despite its comparatively small size and population, an imperialist regional superpower in the Middle East, armed with hundreds of nuclear weapons and an advanced, hi-tech computer-derived armaments industry that acts as a quartermaster to many of the most powerful imperialist countries.
However, it was not a universalist strategy that aimed to liberate Jews alongside all other peoples from systematic oppression. It always aimed to liberate Jews at the expense of another people, the Palestinian Arabs, whose population was actively unwanted. Logically the project of Political Zionism could only succeed if the Palestinian Arab population were expelled or otherwise disposed of. But mere expulsion is problematic as it means a large, exiled refugee population exists as a permanent reminder to the world that Israel is built on land taken by force from them, and thus was founded through a massive crime. So, the logic of Zionism can only be genocidal, and that is now becoming widely recognised.
Only Zionist lobbying power can keep the lid on this. The Zionist lobbies are a unique formation based centrally on ethnocentric Jewish chauvinist politics within the Western imperialist ruling classes. They are an alliance of similarly minded but sometimes dissenting factions – they are not monolithic. A Jewish-born capitalist in the West is entitled by right to Israeli citizenship under Israel’s racist ‘Law of Return’, and thus to become part of Israel’s ruling class. Many though not all do. Much of Israel’s power comes from these pro-Israel ruling-class factions overseas. Israel’s ruling class overlaps with the ruling classes of the West, which is why its power is proportionately much greater than its size and population. Without this, Israel’s power would be no greater than that of, say Denmark. But Denmark’s Prime Minister cannot do things like marching into the US Congress to ovations from all sides while denouncing Obama’s Iran deal, as Netanyahu did in 2015. Denmark does not have overseas interests who can do things like sabotaging the Labour Party here, as happened to Corbyn through a torrent of smears and lies.
We must know what we are up against. Otherwise, we will be suckers for the smears about ‘anti-Semitism’ that have driven back the left repeatedly. Israel is a key element of world imperialism and will not be defeated or humanised by liberal pressure tactics or boycotts based on moral disgust. While boycott campaigns like BDS have some value, this is only as a step towards mobilising working-class actions. Mass solidarity demonstrations like the ones in Britain are crucial. But even more the labour actions boycotting Israeli ships and/or arms shipments in San Francisco, Italy and elsewhere. These point the way toward internationally based working-class revolutionary action to inflict major defeats on Zionism, and indeed given Israel’s key role as a quartermaster and a centre of neo-liberalism, on world capitalism itself.
It is crucial, but not enough, to protest and mobilise against Zionism and imperialism’s wars, their crimes against the Palestinians, their threats to Iran, to Syria, and the region. What this points to is the need for a strategy of permanent revolution, of the working class acting as the leader of all the oppressed, with the centrally Arab working class in the Middle East struggling for its own power, overthrowing class and national oppression, liberating both itself and the Jewish population from Zionism which is a key mainstay of capitalist oppression.
At the time of the Industrial Revolution Britain gained the moniker of the ‘workshop of the world’. Its industrial strength made it the first truly capitalist industrial world power. Statues of its conquering heroes litter the cities of imperial Britain: Cromwell, Wellington, Rhodes, Clive, Churchill, Montgomery, and often from a slightly earlier period, those of its slave-traders, Colston, Cass, Havelock, Drake. The anti-racist movements that have rocked the Western ‘free world’ in recent years, having their initial epicentre in the United States, in this country have hit against the ethos of Brexit and its glorification of the ‘buccaneering spirit’ of early British capitalism that was integral to imperial expansion.
Basically this ‘buccaneering’ spirit they are trying to invoke is the 17th century one of plundering and exploiting other nations and peoples. Buccaneering is often a euphemism for piracy, though outright pirates were deemed so because they plundered and killed purely on their own account. Those plunderers whom the British term ‘buccaneers’ were acting at least partially on behalf of Britain, had official approval, with a kind of British letter to prove it. But to all intents and purposes they were indistinguishable from pirates. In those days the British in the Caribbean were trying to drive out the Spanish and Portuguese as much as possible, their ‘buccaneering’ largely took place a long way from home and was at the expense of colonisers mainly from the Iberian Peninsula, as well as the French.
Today, British imperialism is no longer the workshop of the world, but a third-rate military power with precious little industry left. It depends instead for its wealth on its financial services industry, whose material basis is rooted with Britain’s so-called ‘invisible earnings’, which amount to the economic interests remaining around the world from its former Empire that do not depend on formal political control, also bound up with tax havens, which the British ruling class closely guard, and which have a tendency to draw in financial resources from around the world. Protected of course, now that political control has gone, by the world power of US imperialism, as part of the quid-pro-quo whereby in return for such protection Britain becomes one of the most slavish supporters of US imperialism in the world (a.k.a. the ‘special relationship). Britain’s financial industry is crucial to the survival of British capitalism and such activities as tax dodging and money laundering have become much more central to this than it was in the days when Britain had substantial manufacturing industry. Indeed, it is those sections of the bourgeoisie most bound up with such activities, as opposed to Britain’s residual industries, that drove Brexit. The ‘buccaneering’ that the Brexiters seek to promote is the plundering of as much as they can from the world’s poor and oppressed by Britain’s financial capitalists.
British Capitalism: from Finance Capital to Financial Capital
Financial capital (as opposed to old fashioned finance capital: the union of industrial and banking capital) is what drives British capitalism today. That was what the ‘Thatcher revolution’ consisted of, basically. The eclipse of industrial capital, of the old banking-industry relationship by a financialised model of capitalism in the 1986 ‘Big Bang’ of financial and stock market deregulation was the whole point of Thatcher’s anti-union attacks of the 1980s. Indeed the ‘Big Bang’ would not have been considered possible until the vital, strategic defeat had been administered to the social-democratic-led British labour movement with the defeat of the 1984-5 miners’ strike.
The British ruling class had been trying to defeat the unions for quite a while previously – both the 1964-70 Labour government’s White Paper In Place of Strife and the Heath government’s Industrial Relations Act were obviously aimed at decisively weakening the unions with the aim of restoring the profitability of British manufacturing and finance capital. But with that economic model, they could not really succeed, as with an intact manufacturing base, the working class was simply too strong. But the evolving strategy of neoliberalism, which crystallised in the late 1970s, and not just in Britain, encompassed the need to substantially, and (they hoped) decisively weaken the proletariat in the advanced countries, though the export of large number of manufacturing jobs to lower waged semi-colonial countries, in effect inflicting a major defeat on the organised proletariat by moving large chunks of it lock, stock and barrel to places where its historical struggles would have to start virtually from scratch.
This major restructuring of British capitalism also meant a major restructuring of the British labour movement. The apotheosis of Britain as the ‘workshop of the world’ in the 19th Century had led to the growth of a mass working class and trade union movement, which initially the British ruling class tried to crush both in terms of its agitation for political freedom and democratic rights (Peterloo), and later repression against the Chartists, and in terms of trade union struggles (Tolpuddle). But despite such setbacks, trade unions did grow to substantial strength in the 19th Century. They became quite respectable and bourgeois during the period of Britain’s world hegemony and monopoly in the mid to late 19th Century, generally giving their support to the Liberals.
The dawning of the epoch of imperialism towards the end of the 19th Century, i.e., monopoly capitalism whose expansionist essence was expressed in a massive expansion of colonialism, led to Britain’s world dominance being broken by other emerging imperialist powers, including France, the US and most notably Germany. The economic convulsions of this change, by degrees, broke the British labour movement from its allegiance to the Liberals. In parallel with a new and more militant growth of trade unionism. This gave birth to a class collaborationist, but independently organised, Labour Party, dominated by a political and trade union bureaucracy who saw its function as negotiating with the bosses of industrial/finance capital over the price of labour power and social benefits derived from that, within the framework that their pro-capitalist politics considered that British capitalism could afford. These limitations were at times contested by Communists of varying types, but never overcome. Within this framework, the class struggle and the political fortunes of the Labour Party ebbed and flowed through the 1926 General Strike, two world wars, culminating in the scare that British workers gave to the ruling class in the early-mid 1970s, when for the first time in British history a Tory government – Edward Heath’s – was brought down essentially by workers’ own class struggle actions and the political effects of that.
The defeat of the miners a decade later represented a qualitative break from that. The jobs massacre that both preceded and followed that shifted the axis of British capitalism and also its relationship with the political labour bureaucracy. There had been anticipations of outright treachery from this quarter earlier, most notably in 1931 when in a major unemployment crisis triggered off by the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression that followed it, the Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald and his Chancellor Phillip Snowden, in order to launch a major attack on the already meagre benefits available to the unemployed, was forced to break with the Labour Party completely and go into coalition with the Tories. In those days, despite the depression over the British working class caused by the defeat in 1926, there was no way that bulk of Labour’s political bureaucracy, linked to finance capital and industry by the substantially developed ‘common interest’ of class collaboration with large scale employers of the working class, could accept such an attack. MacDonald and Snowden signed their own political death certificates with this action and were forever excoriated as traitors, though the labour bureaucracy under their successors in that decade were incapable of fighting back against the attacks the MacDonaldites had perpetrated.
Ramsay MacDonaldism now Dominates Labour
Today there are forces in the political Labour bureaucracy that have repeatedly done similar things and are not so isolated. In fact, the bulk of today’s political Labour Party bureaucracy has a very different relationship with British capitalism to those in the earlier period, which in large measure can be explained by the shift in the makeup of British capitalism itself and the rise of financial capital at the expense of the older model. From the mid-1980s we had the rise of what was called Ramsay MacKinnockism, with the flagrant stabbing of workers struggles by the Labour leadership under Neil Kinnock without any attempt to disguise it. Kinnock’s leadership first saw the rise to prominence of Peter Mandelson, who became even more of a central ideological figure in the Blairite period and as is well known, is the mastermind behind Starmer’s massive purges of the Labour left today. Mandelson summed up the entire changed relationship to capital of the Blairised, that is, financialised, Labour right-wing leadership when he said that Labour was “‘intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, as part of the Blair government of New Labour that was praised by Margaret Thatcher as “my greatest achievement” and which made clear before it was elected that it intended to keep the vast majority of Thatcher and Major’s anti-union laws and privatisations. Not to mention that under Blair’s leadership, Labour became the pro-US war party, the initiator of the Iraq war, unlike the days when Harold Wilson carefully avoided direct involvement in Vietnam.
Thus, a major shift in the makeup of British capitalism has catalysed a major shift in the relationship of the bureaucracy of the Labour Party with this reconfiguring British capitalism. The position of the Labour left is key in the Party is key to this. The archetype of the Labour right from the earlier period, Denis Healey, once remarked that Labour was like a bird: it needed two wings to fly, its left wing and its right wing. This summed up the attitude to the reformist left of the mainstream of the labour bureaucracy under the old regime of collaboration with finance capital. It was one of co-optation and a degree of compromise.
That is no longer possible. The whole point of Thatcherism and neoliberalism, of which Kinnockism/Blairism and that wing of the Labour bureaucracy have become an integral part, is that it is quite right that the social power, collectivity and living standards of the proletariat, should be qualitatively, substantially reduced. Therefore, there can be no compromise between the Blairised right and even mild-mannered left reformists like Jeremy Corbyn, who do not seek at all to overthrow British capitalism but would like to reverse at least the worst aspects of the ‘Thatcher revolution’ and deliver some basic social reforms. The problem is that Thatcherised ‘Labourism’ does not inspire mass support from the working class, and in the mid 20-teens New Labour faced a sustained loss of support, as expressed in losing elections.
Their desperate attempts to overcome this produced an opportunity for mass support for basic social-democratic reforms to be expressed, through Corbyn’s being elected leader. But the Blairised, financialised political Labour bureaucracy and parliamentary contingent could not tolerate this for a moment, and their tactical response was simple sabotage and deliberate attempts to undermine Corbyn, sabotage and engineer the loss of elections, and even boasting publicly about an attempt to destroy Corbyn “as a man” in the manner of some nutcase cult psychological gangbang. The financialisaton of British capitalism and its loyal servants in the Labour bureaucracy has led, also, to a growth in influence of Zionism among such layers, for reasons that are quite explicable historically. Thus, the war of these Zionised Blairites against Corbyn and Corbynism, which is still accelerating, signifies the opposite policy to that of Denis Healey. Far from needing two wings to fly, their concept after Corbynism is that the British Labour Party should be purged of social-democratic reformism altogether.
Reformist Utopianism Needs to be Overcome. Fight for Communism!
The underlying reason is that the decline of British imperialism, and its industrial base, has rendered the core programme of social-democratic reformism unrealisable within the framework of the British capitalism we have today. Past gains won by the mass pressure of the workers and implemented by social democratic governments, archetypally the NHS, are under massive attack from the Tories and the ruling class, and the Blairites fully support this, even if at times their representatives have to dissemble and try to hide this to avoid giving ammunition to the left. The only way that substantial, sustainable social gains can be achieved today is through the establishment of a workers’ state, and the forcible suppression of the political power of the capitalists.
As Marxists today, we do not seek to put into power the neoliberal crypto-Tory right-wing leaders of the Labour Party. The Ramsay Kneel MacKinnockites, the Blairites, the Mandelsons, the Starmers, the Jess Philipps and Stephen Kinnocks who visibly celebrated in the mass media when the Corbyn-led Labour Party lost the 2019 Election, and were visibly shocked and horrified when Corbyn destroyed Theresa May’s majority and came close to winning outright in the election in 2017. The mass of the working class does not have any illusions that these types represent a class alternative to the Tories and other bourgeois parties.
We seek to help the subjectively socialist, left social democratic elements to fracture Labour decisively and create a new working-class party. There is an historic opportunity, right now to do this, to create a genuine working-class party with a mass base – the mass base of the Corbynite movement – that would not, at least at the beginning, have a privileged bureaucracy ruling the roost over it. Thus, the possibility exists of replacing Labour, as a bourgeois workers party with a hardened bureaucratic and now neoliberal caste on top of it, with a genuine workers party, completely devoid of such a caste, which would be capable of political development beyond left-reformist utopianism toward revolutionary Marxism. Indeed, the very impetus of such a split might very well propel many of its followers further left.
Of course, Labour and its mass membership do not exist in a vacuum. The trade unions are a key part of the broader labour movement, were marginalised by the Blairites in their ascendancy, and are under attack from Starmer once again. Such a party would have to confront the right-wing in the unions and move beyond the left bureaucracy and its limitations and potential for treachery also. As part of fighting for a transitional programme to point toward the need for revolution, Marxists must raise demands to end the privileged salaries of union officials and subordinate their activities to workers democracy.
In any case, this analysis must underpin the political activities of revolutionary Marxists in this period and we in the Consistent Democrats will do all we can to popularise it and build a movement around it.
“When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another such that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call his deed murder. But when society  places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live – forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence – knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains … ”
The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/condition-working-class/ch07.htm
It is not new to speak of social murder, indeed the then-Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, spoke of in the sense that Engels used it, regarding the deaths caused by unsafe building materials in the terrible Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. However, the deaths referred to in this way in Grenfell ‘only’ amounted to 72. When we talk about the Covid-19 pandemic we are talking about 129,130 deaths as of now, and still counting (the ONS says 150,000).
In terms of per million/per capita death rates (it’s the same thing!), the UK is in 20th place in the entire world, out of 222 countries registered on the Worldometer as of 25th July. But the UK is the fifth wealthiest country in the world. Not only that, it has no land borders, only air or seaports, so it is obvious that the UK, as well as having advantages in terms of wealth in keeping the spread of Covid under control, also has natural advantages in terms of geography. The only advanced capitalist/imperialist countries that are ahead of the UK in per-capita infections, Belgium and Italy, both have extensive land borders with several states.
Furthermore, the statistics produced by the British government are considered too low by the Organisation for National Statistics, which is independent of the government. They announced in May that the real total of Covid deaths was more than 150,000.
Why this is becomes obvious when you examine the pronouncements and actions of the Johnson government in dealing with Covid, and the sporadically implemented, manoeuvrist, but discernible and clear strategy that has been implemented by Johnson over the entire pandemic.
The latest manifestation of this was laid out by Professor Robert West, an adviser for the Government’s own SAGE body (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) who have worked for the government for the entire pandemic, as reported in the Guardian. Regarding the July 19thFreedom Day, he wrote:
“What we are seeing is a decision by the government to get as many people infected as possible, as quickly as possible, while using rhetoric about caution as a way of putting the blame on the public for the consequences” .
The article continues:
“’It looks like the government judges that the damage to health and healthcare services will be worth the political capital it will gain from this approach,’ West said, adding that ministers appear to believe the strategy is now sustainable – unlike last year – because of the vaccine rollout.
“A large wave of infections, coupled with mass vaccination, would push the UK closer to ‘herd immunity’, where enough people in the population are resistant to the virus that it no longer spreads. The threshold for herd immunity with the Delta variant is unclear, but scientists estimate that transmission would need to be blocked in about 85% of the population. Ministers have repeatedly denied that achieving herd immunity by letting cases rise is the government’s goal.”
Its perfectly obvious to everyone what the purpose of this gamble is. Johnson hopes to use herd immunity through infection as a lever to re-open the country ahead (he hopes) of Britain’s economic competitors. To try to achieve such an advantage, he is prepared to risk the death or serious, crippling injury through ‘Long Covid’, of a part of the population considered expendable, or even the possibility of the emergence of a new Covid variant that evades the vaccines in use at the moment, which would likely result in a lot more deaths. In the face of a partially, but insufficiently vaccinated population, this is not a fanciful threat, as many have pointed out.
It is possible that this tactic may succeed, but even if it does, it involves risking the lives of mass of the population and holding them hostage to the unpredictable genetic variations that can occur in a virus population allowed to circulate widely before genuine herd immunity is achieved by vaccinating in excess of 80% of the population, an optimum derived from scientific experience of previous vaccination campaigns to deal with endemic disease. This is the ‘buccaneering spirit’ of Brexit that Johnson, Cummings and co frequently spoke of over the past several years. Even if it works, there is a criminal intent behind the strategy.
Government strategy now is a modified version of its original strategy of herd immunity through mass infection without a vaccine. They had to abandon that in the face of a huge outcry, the forecast likelihood that it would result in half-a-million dead, and they would be strung up from the nearest lamppost. Now, instead, they are using herd immunity through mass infection to as a risky shortcut to speed up the development of herd immunity through vaccines, and they are prepared to risk a disaster that if it occurs would have world-wide implications, to steal a march on the competition.
The government can deny until it is blue in the face, but the evidence corroborates that its initial strategy at the beginning of the pandemic was “herd immunity” without vaccines. Not only did Johnson talk openly of it on Breakfast TV, but it was also promoted by Sir Patrick Vallance, who told Sky News:
“Communities will become immune to it and that’s going to be an important part of controlling this longer term … About 60 per cent is the sort of figure you need to get herd immunity.
“Our aim is to try to reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely; also, because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmission, at the same time we protect those who are most vulnerable to it.”
This was in early March 2020, long before any vaccines existed.
The policy since has been, as was noted in a prescient article by George Galloway’s ‘Workers Party’, that of “punctuated herd immunity”. Even though, bizarrely, Galloway has been prepared for his own opportunist ‘tactical’ reasons to advocate votes for Scottish Tories during the pandemic, he managed to an astute and sharp characterisation of this:
“It is increasingly clear that these lockdown measures simply represent a kind of ‘punctuated’ herd immunity, and that the government has no intention of taking the measures necessary really to safeguard the wellbeing of those unemployed, elderly or impoverished workers from whom it makes little money, and therefore sees only as a burden.
“For effective protective measures – including the reversal of NHS privatisation, investment in public services, the creation of decent jobs and livelihoods for working people – undermine the very essence of the government’s goal, which is to safeguard the interest of the billionaire class at all costs, and at workers’ expense.”
He was not talking of public health measures here, not about measures to limit or suppress the disease. He was also talking of measures to ‘revive’ the economy, even at risk of greater Covid infection. Indeed, at times he attacked Johnson from the right, for being too hesitant to send working class children into schools, before any section of the population was vaccinated because no vaccines were yet available:
“So, let me send a very clear message to the Prime Minister: I don’t just want all children back at school next month, I expect them back at school. No ifs, no buts, no equivocation,”
The schools were not only re-opened; parents were forced under threat of fines and criminal penalties to send their kids to school, which was the first time the government had tried to enforce this on families that feared Covid infection since the beginning of the pandemic.
Starmer is on the warpath against the left. A direct expression of this was his sacking of the sometime leftist Rebecca Long-Bailey as Shadow Education Secretary as the result of an ‘anti-Semitism’ smear. But as Skwawkbox revealed at the time, the real reason was her support for the teachers’ unions’ opposition to unsafe reopening of schools:
“Rebecca Long-Bailey has been sacked after a massive internal row over the Labour leadership’s support for Boris Johnson’s back-to-school push – after a doubling of school infections followed even Johnson’s abortive plan to push children and teachers back into the classroom”
This rushed and unsafe reopening of schools was the starting point of large-scale Covid infections in the Autumn of 2020, the emergence of the Kent variant, and the enormous second wave that followed from that, effectively tripling the number of deaths from the first wave over the winter. Not only that, but the Kent variant made Britain into ‘Plague Island’ because of inadequate testing and tracing, siphoned off to mates for a fast billon or forty, and was allowed to spread from here around the world because of inadequate emergency health-related border restrictions (by people who pride themselves on demanding border restrictions for racist and xenophobic reasons). Dominic Cummings has exposed some of the outrageous sayings and doings of Johnson over this whole period. But on the core issue, Johnson had Starmer’s support.
Not only Johnson, but also Starmer, have a mountain of corpses on their hands. They represent together a kind of brotherhood of social murder. They are both killers.
Break with Re-Blairised Labour
Starmer is on a rampage against the Labour left and those who ever supported Jeremy Corbyn. His vendetta against those on the left who have in any way objected to previous Zionist-led purges within Labour, is characteristic. He inspires no one at all -certainly not working-class traditional Labour voters, who stay at home. He has been losing by-elections to the most corrupt, decrepit government imaginable. He only survived by the skin of his teeth in Batley and Spen because of Matt Hancock’s exposure and fall. His task as a mercenary for the bourgeoisie is to destroy the political element of the labour movement and politically erase all class-conscious elements.
But he can only succeed if the left accepts Labour Party fetishism and refuses to break with the organisational framework of the Labour Party. These circumstances have created a historic opportunity, and necessity for class conscious elements in Labour to defy its rigged structures and found something new. We have the opportunity to build a mass, subjectively socialist party based on the hundreds of thousands of left activists who joined Labour to support Corbyn’s challenge, and who have nothing in common with the Starmer Blairites. It is desperately necessary to begin this in the coming months. The October conference of Resist – Movement for a People’s Party (https://resistfest.co.uk/) looks like a starting point for this and we urge all socialists to join and participate in this.
While 2020 was seen as the year that unleased COVID into the world, which in many ways was a product of exploitation of the natural world, 2021 has commenced with a series of apocalyptic weather driven disasters across the planet, with one scientist describing one cataclysmic mass die off along Canada’s Pacific coast as a-one-in-a-1000-year-event.
The planet is accelerating towards the point of no return with extreme weather events which have also taken place in the heart of industrialised wealthy Europe. The political response to this is woeful, despite offering mealy mouthed words to placate the masses, action speaks louder. The G20 meeting in Italy, which was attended by energy and environmental ministers from the world’s richest nations concluded on Friday 23rd July, with a statement issued on the Sunday. The conference failed to produce agreement on the phasing out of coal. Objections were voiced by China, Russia, India, Turkey and the Saudis who were among those defending the use of the fossil fuel. Indonesia, which is one of the world’s biggest coal producer has announced that it continues to extract and burn this fossil fuel well into 2050.
The British minister, Alok Sharma, who will chair COP 26 in Glasgow in October afterwards claimed:
“It is frustrating that despite the progress made by some countries, there was no consensus in Naples to confine coal to history.”
But this statement belies the fact that permission was granted in October last year to open a new deep coal mine in Cumbria, The British government washed its hands of this decision before taking a U-turn and suggesting it will now look at the decision after suffering a huge backlash. The British Home Secretary described Extinction Rebellion as “so called eco-crusader turned criminals” who threaten the UK’s way of national life with the British government introducing the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021, in a sordid attempt to remove the right to protest on the streets. Despite climate change being the biggest threat, Johnson and his criminal government seem to be putting all of their efforts in stifling debate and civil liberties. The G20 nations during the period of 2015-2019 provided $3.3 trillion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, the same cabal of wealthiest nations account for 74% of all global carbon emissions that drive global warming.
The biggest culprits providing subsidies are China, Russia, India and Saudi Arabia, all countries that opposed any agreement in Naples. However, this doesn’t let countries like Australia, Canada or the US off the hook, all countries that increased their subsidies. The UK meanwhile provides the biggest subsidies out of any European country on top of which it is the third biggest global villain responsible for airline emissions with most of the Tories supporting Heathrow’s expansion plans. If the government, who act for the interests of the ruling class, were so concerned with climate change they wouldn’t have withdrawn subsidies for solar panels or campaigned so hard for fracking before it was ceased due to environmental damage and seismic activity.
This reliance on fossil fuels and the extraction and environmental degradation that surrounds their use is responsible for the immense suffering of many around the globe, it is generally the poor that bear the greatest burden and suffering from the effects of climate change. Since 1970, 60 % of all invertebrate animals; mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have all been wiped out by human activity. Rapid soil erosion has led to a catastrophic decline in pollinating insects and is creating barren landscapes hostile to holding life. Capitalism with its insatiable hunger for infinite profit cannot cure its greed in a world with finite resources as it attempts to funnel wealth into the hands of a decreasing minority, while most of the world’s population live below the poverty line. The ruling class obsession with GDP, which is used as a barometer for how well they are profiteering from on the backs of the working class, doubles approximately every 24 years. This is unsustainable and is leading to biological annihilation.
In June and July of this year just as the uber wealthy capitalists Branson and Bezos used their ill-gotten gains to show off in space, burning huge amounts of fuel in the process in their attempt to commodify space, the world witnessed natural devastation across the globe on an unprecedented scale that now has scientists worried that we are indeed approaching the apocalyptic abyss. The climatic disruptions included:
The Amazon – Long considered the lungs of the world, the Amazon rainforest was seen as a carbon sink. Satellite studies taken over a decade now shows that the Amazon is now a net contributor for CO2 into the atmosphere, it emits more than it takes in for the first time ever, emitting a billion tonnes, an increase of 20% released more than it absorbed. This is mostly due to increased temperatures, droughts, and deforestation through timber, beef and soy production, which Bolsonaro has doubled down on and promised to continue.
Canada and the US – Extreme temperatures along the Western seaboard of Canada and the US have seen the thermometer rise to 121 degrees Fahrenheit. This has led to the deaths of 500 people and wildfires. Marine biologists estimate that more than a billion marine animals perished as the ocean waters overheated along the coastline. Reports of dead and dying rock fish, oysters, mussels, clams, sea stars, etc. will have an inevitable effect on the water quality. Invertebrates and molluscs are water filters, which in turn will impact upon the plant life supporting the ecosystem below the surface. At the time of writing this article, 86 large wildfires are burning throughout the US, collectively burning 1.5 million acres of land.
China – Record breaking rainfall has been reported in central China leaving 51 dead and 1000s trapped as cascading water flooded cities and outlining areas. Reservoirs and dams reached breaking point with 11cm of rain falling in just 2 hours. There were reports of 25 people dead in Hanan Province and 500 people had to be rescued from the underground system in Hanan when the railway tunnels flooded.
Europe – Even the wealthiest nations in Europe have not been spared from the effects of climate change. London experienced flooding throughout large parts of the capital as one month’s worth of rain fell in a few hours. Flash flooding in Germany and Belgium resulted in the deaths of 196 people as rivers burst creating landslides as buildings and vehicles were washed away.
Greenland and Antarctica – In March of this year, a study undertaken by an international team of 89 polar scientists was published in the journal ‘Nature’. The publication was a culmination of a study that used data taken from 11 satellite missions between 1992 and 2018 and showed that the ice sheets are losing ice 6 times faster than they were in the 1990s. Greenland and Antarctica have lost 6.4 trillion tons of ice since the 1990s and if this continues at the same projected rate, will result in a rise of sea level of 17 cm by 2100. This will be catastrophic for many people living on coastlines and will inevitably lead to mass migrations and the need for more cities to be built, which potentially would require adding to our already overspent carbon budget.
Socialism or Barbarism
The effects of climate change are undeniable, the science is well documented and is no longer disputable, despite the attempts of rogue demagogues like Trump or Farage who want to lead us all to hell in a handcart. The ruling class, who only have a short term narcistic view of life, are playing Russian roulette with the rest of us. We are at the tipping point of an ecological crisis of our own making, which is responsible for seeing numerous species become or in danger of becoming extinct. Since 1900 climate change and environmental damage caused by human activity has led to the increased loss of different species outside of what would be considered as natural extinctions. This has resulted in 69 different species of mammals, 158 species of fish, 146 species of amphibians and 24 species of reptiles being lost forever. These are only the species that we know about.
We are witnessing the height of what many scientists now call the Anthropocene, and under capitalism it is endangering many other lifeforms that humanity relies upon, and human civilisation itself. As Rosa Luxemburg once declared, we are faced with ‘Socialism or Barbarism’. No longer can humankind rely on Capitalism, which has accelerated us towards this extinction, it is folly to rely on the greed of the free market to lead us away from falling into oblivion. Global climate catastrophe requires an international response, and this can only be achieved through the masses of the working-class taking control of their own destiny and having a planned economy specifically geared to need and not profit. This economy would need to consider sustainability and reliance on new greener technologies, organised and dedicated towards the preservation of humanity and other life forms that we share the planet with.
We need a programme of transitional demands to build a bridge between the struggle for reforms in the here and now, and the socialist programme of the revolution, as Trotsky pointed out. But actually the environment makes this more urgent because only global economic planning can actually carry out the necessary technological and civilisation-reorganising changes necessary to fend off disaster. So in a sense, the demand for such planned changes, to abolish and replace fossil fuels and other harmful things, like non-degradable plastics production and mass production of ruminant meat (another potent source of greenhouse gases) is such economic planning. So in a sense, the demand for such planning for this practical purpose, of saving the natural world and human civilisation, itself becomes both a transitional demand and a key part of the ‘maximum’ part of the revolutionary programme itself.
This article is in the new issue of Communist Fight. However since it went to press the UK Supreme Court refused to hear Craig’s appeal and he has already outrageously been jailed.
Craig Murray, journalist-blogger, British Ambassador to Uzbekistan 2002-2004, and anti-war activist, has outrageously been sentenced to 8 months in jail for his blogs in defence of the former Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, who was acquitted by a jury of 13 sexual assault charges in March 2020. Craig is planning to appeal this to the Supreme Court in London.
The Salmond case looks like a political frame-up related to differences within the Scottish National Party, with the current SNP First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond’s successor. We do not give any political support to either side, though Salmond has a degree of support among more left-wing Scottish Nationalists who are critical of Sturgeon’s leadership for being too conciliatory to Westminster and NATO. These are illusions: in his later years Salmond capitulated over NATO membership for a putative independent Scotland. He is an untrustworthy left nationalist and former Labour left, not some kind of revolutionary figure.
However, the jury in his case were clearly convinced that the case was a frameup and threw it out. That has upset some people in the current Scottish establishment. The case against Murray for ‘jigsaw’ identification of some of Salmond’s alleged victims seems bizarre. He never named them. He did in an anonymous way give his views of the motives and factional relationships of those he considered were behind the prosecution. The Scottish judges say that was enough to identify them to a knowledgeable person, or researcher.
Even if this were true, however, similar details appeared in other publications that covered this controversial trial, and Murray contends that his coverage, though politically no doubt sharper, contained no more circumstantial information than these. It may be correct to forbid the identification of accusers in sexual assault cases but that cannot mean, in a highly political case like this, supressing from public view the likelihood, which appears to have convinced the jury, that this case may be politically motivated, and in what way. That goes beyond protecting putative victims into an attack on the right of the public to know about important political matters.
Murray is not popular with the ruling class, a thorn in their side since his refusal to go along with imperialist-backed torture while he was ambassador, for which he was hounded out, and the prominent role he has played campaigning against the Iraq War, now for Julian Assange. As revolutionaries, opponents of imperialist war, and defenders of basic civil and democratic rights, we say: Hands off Craig Murray! Drop the charges and quash the sentence!