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Economic and Philosophic Science Review

Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested. V. I. Lenin

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No 1252 October 12th 2004

EPSR 2005 Perspectives Draft.

The long-term loose planning by the American Empire bosses of world imperialism is to meet and "solve" the deepening economic crisis of "overproduction" by the system ("too much imperialism — see EPSR box on Marxism's classic analysis of economic crisis in an anarchic market-profiteering system), — given yet further evidence by the remarkably lame response by the "Opposition" in the USA and UK to the astonishing Iraq Survey Group final report which devastatingly admitted that the ostensible "justifications" put up for the invasion and occupation of Iraq were just a pack of silly lies.

There were no weapons of mass destruction at all in Iraq, and no preparations for any, and not the slightest remaining ability to produce any. Nearly 14 years of vicious economic sanctions on Iraq had bled the place dry.

And although making point-scoring remarks about "Told you we could have made fewer mistakes and handled things better" from both "Oppositions" in the USA and UK, there was not the slightest suggestion that this illegal, murderous, dangerous, and costly warmongering was going to be denounced by the "Oppositions", although now 18 months down the line of as humiliating a disaster and defeat as modern imperialism has suffered in a long time.

Why no denunciation? Because the ruling inner imperialist circles told all politicians from BEFORE the start of this latest round of warmongering that since the crushing of Serbia in 1999, there was still no better course for the American Empire to adopt to stay on top of the pile (and UK alongside it if it wanted to stay as a stooge), than to pursue new warmongering paths.

As the Bush administration itself has now openly admitted, Washington always knew that Iraq had no longer any weapons of mass destruction and therefore was not a danger to the world as painted. And also that Iraq had no connection at all to the terrorist attacks on the USA in Sept 2001.

The war to invade and crush and occupy Iraq was just a routine part of a fixed long-term warmongering programme to get the Empire through the imperialist economic crisis of "overproduction" by the decade end with no great losses to rival imperialist powers in trade war such as Japan, Germany, UK, or Prance, etc, and no great losses to upstart 'new' imperialist economies like Brazil, India, China, Nigeria, etc, etc.

The only way forward Washington can see is to put the whole world onto an "anti-terror" militarised footing, whereby all financial-legality and trade considerations go out of the window completely, leaving all nations just represented by their military power and their fascistic determination, and nothing else.

"Shock and awe" is the new world religion. "Smash the rogue states and all evil influences on Earth", and "pre-emptively strike at any who dare to try to catch up with USA weapons superiority".

That is the new world rule. And Saddam's Iraq was the next victim.

And the "Opposition" bourgeoisie know not to make a fuss or be drummed out of the imperialist circles for good by objecting too loudly to how badly the war has been handled, or how badly the international propaganda "justifying" the Western imperialist action has come across to the world, leaving the world more at risk of inevitable terrorist outrages from angry or frustrated people than ever before.

So what are this war's dimensions, and where has it got to now?
This is part of the preliminaries to World War III, there is no other historical pattern.

This imperialist economic "overproduction" crisis will NOT be "resolved" just by the American Empire beating up a few fringe players in the world economy which supply valuable raw materials or who are a source of cheeky and dangerous anti-Great Satan propaganda, or the possible vehicles of rogue "weapons of mass destruction" in time to come, following on the scare to America of 9/11, a complete one-off chance event of no long-term significance whatever, OTHER THAN its significance to tell the Empire that the world no longer will tolerate its domination and will no longer kow-tow to its cultural domination.

It will not even find a war "solution" when it reaches its REAL targets which are Japan, Germany, France and Britain plus all the smaller European monopolies, for having made it impossible for the American Empire to carry on ruling the world easily and smoothly as before when it was the world's immediate postwar top economic dog by an enormous distance, and unquestionable political supreme too.

And it is a routine historical conflict for inter-imperialist supremacy, such as has regularly taken place throughout the ages, repeatedly, one nation up for a while then another nation soaring ahead.

But the unique position of total superiority that WWII left the American imperialists in, plus the lateness for the whole imperialist system now, nearly wiped out by the last great surge (post 1945) of communist revolution, meant that imperialism's bosses agree with Washington that a 'firm international unchallengeable Gendarme must now take over the counter-revolutionary disciplining of the world to save it from communist revolution.

And from the West's agreed Cold War position, the "free World" has now reluctantly gone on
to tolerate a world dominated by the US-run 'war on terrorism", as the acceptable euphemism for PERMANENT BLITZKRIEGING COUNTER-REVOLUTION EVERYWHERE, dictated by the American Empire, the final "reliable" bastion of the capitalist/bourgeois international ruling class for the last 800 years of world history.

It is NOT a "historical religious crusade against the rise of militant Islam". This is lunacy. The Islamic culture has got into the anti-imperialist movement purely by the default of the collapsing Revisionist world communist movement, and by the spontaneous insistence of the Muslim countries' fighting masses, now denied any other leadership for the moment.

This Islamic connection to anti-imperialist resistance may possibly continue for some time, but it is purely incidental, and not at all fundamental to the struggle, which remains a CLASS and NATIONAL struggle to defeat the domination by the Western-oriented world imperialist RULING CLASS. Eventually, the serious science of Marxist-Leninist COMMUNIST REVOLUTION will be restored to the leadership of the international anti-imperialist class struggle.

When and how?

It is unknown and unknowable, but we can get to work.

The first CRUCIAL thing to establish and get agreement on is that without a PERSPECTIVE, the international masses are philosophically leaderless and cannot function properly, only very spontaneous and episodically.

That perspective used to be for world communist "revolution" of some vague kind (thanks to the hopeless vagueness and anti-revolutionary treachery of Revisionism}.

But it was SUFFICIENT, and it doesn't exist at all now, which has made ALL THE DIFFERENCE to the international anti-imperialist struggle.

A proper Marxist perspective (that the world MUST go to proletarian revolution eventually to save itself), MUST be re-established and accepted, and a revolutionary perspective based on the Marxist understanding that the EPSR has preferred to follow, namely that IMPERIALIST CRISIS sets the pace for world developments, and naturally FORCES the international masses to make a communist revolution/proletarian dictatorship to SAVE CIVILISATION eventually.

Imperialism teaches, or re-teaches the world communist revolution by driving it yet again to WORLD WAR and total destruction for civilisation, yet again.

Regard this as imperialism's TERMINAL CRISIS by all means. The world is hardly likely to get another chance than WWIII for ending for good this crazed, flawed cycle of ruling-class rivalries which have taken civilisation forward for 800 years, true, but which are no longer needed, and which can now only wreck everything that has been created by free market science and technology ingenuity of mankind.

Put it all now to work for a planned planet.

Alongside this understanding for an agreed international perspective towards a world proletarian dictatorship must stand an acceptance that every scrap of "anti-communism" and "anti-Stalinism" which helped imperialism win the Cold War was deeply flawed by its Marxist-Leninist inability to grasp that the dictatorship of the proletariat CHANGE OF POWER was and will always be the CRUCIAL development in teaching the world in time new socialist ways of genuinely internationally cooperating.

Stalinism was the greatest historical tragedy for mankind. But fighting it the WRONG WAY was an even bigger tragedy.

While much of Trotsky's better brilliant theory is still crucial reading, and while he personally always kept to the notion that it was proper to maintain UNCONDITIONAL SOLIDARITY WITH THE Soviet Workers State, in practice he always allowed all his followers and all his vast international bourgeois support to go to town on anti-Soviet and anti-Stalin stunt after stunt all his life long, and even worse after his death.

With the result that Stalinism doomed the world's first workers state, but Trotskyism failed to save it BECAUSE OF ITS OWN INTRINSIC FAULTS of individualism and personal vanity.

He was never a Bolshevik Communist in the way that the rest were. He was easily the most brilliant thinker after Lenin, but he could not read the world revolution.

It might have been led despite Stalin, if the planet had not succumbed to its childishness delight in wallowing in the triumph of the world's first workers state, imagining stupidly and fondly that no more serious theoretical work needed to be done and that Stalin's pathetic and paranoid shallow and vainglorious efforts would suffice.

What a sick joke on human history.

But even then, the Trots could not, postwar, denounce Moscow's stupid "peaceful coexistence" tactic and line with an agreed convincing world revolutionary perspective.

Never could any of them get away from their small minded anti-Stalin venom, playing into imperialism's hands, all the time that they were trying to halt the stupidities of Stalin, Mao, and the Communist International time servers.

Thus the world had a long round of failed workers states as its first historical experience of the new structure of civilisation. Hardly surprising, in the general historical pattern of things.

What's the harm, relative to what imperialism is doing to the world now??

Let's start again, and do much better next time.

And alongside the understanding of the catastrophes of Trot individualism must, come the understanding of the equal disasters for world philosophy and the anti-imperialist struggle of all single-issue "the personal is the political"campaigning such as feminism, black nationalism, environmentalism, gay rights, etc, etc, etc.

They have all done much brilliant and culturally-reforming work in their own right, and long may it flourish.

But their CRUCIAL give-away to the anti—communist counter-revolution lies in their not really massive objection to the notion that "everything can be achieved by reform", which so many of these single-issue campaigners instinctively love, NOT being nature's natural communist revolutionaries, class-war inspired.

It is NONSENSE. The prejudices endlessly, reborn by the capitalist system, will ALWAYS revert towards sexism, racism, homophobia, etc, etc, for AS LONG AS CAPITALISM continues.

Only a revolutionary world of workers states can seriously start to re-educate mankind into far more tolerantly philosophical ways about his own rotten continuing subjectivisms and bullying ambitions, which endlessly dictate these continuing, or reviving, or brand new prejudices.

It is coming back full circle now, with the world at last realising that reforms and protest pressure is one thing, but that imperialist world domination is something else altogether, and much much nastier than the problems that unresolved Stalinism ever created in the long run, and in total.

The world knows something wrong is going on in this war. This isn't "the end of history" and everlasting prosperity, democracy, and justice now we are "at last freed from totalitarian dictatorship", etc, etc, etc.

What is happening now is the most philistine degeneracy and lies ever to be imposed by "civilised world leaders".

But the planet is still too flattened by the self-liquidation of the anti-imperialist workers states to be able to respond properly, as yet, — apart from the Third World masses, of course, who are having a good go, spontaneously.

The world is currently waiting to see if "discipline" is to be imposed by American Empire blitzkrieg as the crisis deepens, or not.

Meanwhile, most of the "left" is still refusing to commit itself to a really specific revolutionary perspective, or to any perspective at all.

All "partyism" efforts are still pursuing a structural resolution, rather than an UNDERSTANDING OF POLITICS and PERSPECTIVE, which is the only real unifier.

All academic work is still pursuing historical point-scoring one-upmanship rather than doing the necessary and clever research in order to get back to a viable rough REVOLUTIONARY perspective for the future.

Their point-scoring academic bitterness against "terrorism" and "Islamic fundamentalism" is particularly stupid, since neither of these questions is the real long-term issue.

The question remains, is the world subject to Marx's scientific understanding that REVOLUTION is the way ahead for civilisation, or isn't it?

Pointscoring over the temporary passing phenomena of "terrorism" (and wrongly about it, too, from a Marxist-Leninist viewpoint, see chapter and verse in past EPSRs) and about Osama Bin Laden's Islamic nuttiness, is just a huge cop-out.

This current "balance" with the world watching and waiting to see the fate of the US blitzkrieging programme, now depends on how long the "overproduction" phase of imperialism can stagger on before collapse, and on how the neo-con Washington circles can play this warmongering, bearing in mind their domestic electoral difficulties, and the general hostility of ALL world opinion on one point or another.

Amazing, and encouraging to see debate breaking out in the Weekly Worker (apologies if it is an old long-running feature) on these issues at last:

by what power would the US prevent Asian capitalists from taking possession and denying the US its technical rents? The answer is, as long as the high-tech arms industry remains centred in the US and to a lesser extent Europe, and the US maintains massive military forces, the US can enforce its technical rents by military threat. This is the ultimate sanction behind the monetary manipulations which have already ravaged several east Asian economies and forced a good many local proprietors to sell up to US-based operators. It was also the ultimate sanction which backed British claims to 'dividends and pensions' before 1914.

Because states are not merely 'nations', but military apparatuses, the hierarchy of states in capitalist imperialism is neither absolutely fixed nor as fluid as Martin makes it. It is, rather, 'sticky'. A very, very rough metaphor would be geological movement and earthquakes. At the end of the day the actual displacement of a world hegemonic state requires its military defeat or overthrow. And this is the reason why the first half of the 20th century saw two world wars. This point, of course, returns to the original argument of my series: I think that AWL comrades tend to dematerialise the state and not grasp fully the implication's of the facts that states are bureaucratic-coercive apparatuses.


Nick shares with Martin the view that the recreation of formal colonial empires is impossible, in substance because imperialism created colonial nationalism, which led to the defeat of the old empires by bourgeois-nationalist movements in the former colonies; and that this, in turn, leads to the result that the imperialist powers can settle their differences without inter-imperialist war. I do not share this view.

In my view decolonisation resulted from a combination of US pressure on the former (primarily British and French) colonial powers, US geopolitics in relation to the USSR and, to a lesser extent, Soviet support for nationalist movements (as in Vietnam). The resulting independent states were almost all semi-colonial: that is, that though formally independent, they were actually subject to state-to-state dependency on the former colonial power or on the US. None of them, with the remotely possible exception of China, are in positions analogous to those of France and Germany in the 19th century. Nick seems to share this last understanding, but not the conception of the dynamics of decolonisation which underlies it.

In this context, I agree that direct recolonisation of, for example, India, in the short term, is unlikely. But this is not because formal empires have become impossible due to the victories of bourgeois national movements. The cause is that the US has more direct command of world politics and the world financial and trade regime than Britain had in the 19th century. There is no present space for any other state to opt out of the US-led regime in favour of its own protection regime unless the US consents. Even the EU is not in a position to do so, because the US has too much influence on EU internal politics.

In the very unlikely eventuality that the US state suddenly collapsed due to internal contradictions, the structure of the world order built round it would also collapse. There would then be a dynamic towards a struggle over who would emerge as the new world hegemon and what sort of world order they would create. In this case there would be dynamics towards trade blocs, recolonisation and inter-imperialist war.

This remote contingency is not a ground for present policy. The Socialist Workers Party, and much of the British left, responds to moves towards European unification with little Englandism, on the basis of the fear that a united Europe would set in motion a dynamic towards inter-imperialist war. It analyses Iraq as a process of recolonisation and hence infers that the policy of the anti-imperialist front should be applied. This is, as AWL comrades say, a mechanical-dogmatic and uncritical application of Bukhann's and Lenin's accounts of imperialism.

The practical significance of the analysis is that by the late 1990s it had become clear that world capitalism had not been set free fora new phase of growth, an imperialism of free trade, by the fall of the Stalinist regimes. On the contrary, the fall of the Stalinist regimes has tended to accentuate the internal contradictions of the US-led world order. These internal contradictions have been played out in the US not through embarking on wars of conquest as such, but through exporting destruction in order to keep its own financial system afloat. There is indeed a tendency towards war in the current decay of the US-led world order, but it is not a tendency towards inter-imperialist wars. It is towards one-sided wars of destruction like the US 'military interventions' of the last 20 years. And it is towards local and civil wars, tending to the decomposition of states into warlordism, as the world's poor among themselves scramble for the few crumbs left behind after IMF 'structural adjustment' policies, etc, have hoovered up the goodies to keep the US economy afloat. The AWL's version of the concept of sub-imperialism, and its own concept of 'paleo-imperialism, seem to me to utterly lack predictive power in relation to these developments.

How this issue feeds back into the original debate on Iraq is this. I have never suggested that imperialism as such is incapable of playing the 'progressive' role of extending capitalism. But this is not what is going on in the case of Iraq: rather the US presence in Iraq simply causes destruction and prevents the formation of an Iraqi state which could reconstruct. Nor is the US reconstructing the Middle East in the general interests of capital. Some US officials may have these ambitions. But the US state in its present form, and within the general framework of the US's role in the world economy in the last 20-30 years, is simply incapable of doing the job. Nor is this an unpredictable result. It was entirely foreseeable, not just on the basis of the analysis put forward in my series, but also on the basis of the better part of 30 years of US military interventions since the end of the Vietnam war.

In this context, Paul says that I "emphasis[e] exactly the kind of facile anti-imperialism that implicitly promote[s] the islamist 'resistance' to the occupation in the name of a mangled 'Leninist' defeatism". I invite readers, Paul included, to consult my draft Theses on the occupation of Iraq printed in the Weekly Worker(April 29) and available on our website, and see whether they think that this is an accurate characterisation of my position on Iraq. I think they will see that it is not. (These Theses were subsequently accepted with minor amendments by the July 24 aggregate of CPGB members.)

Other issues

Nick argues that Lenin genuinely identifies something new: the degree of concentration in the economy represented in terms of employment, the colonisation of Africa, the export of capital and the predominance of rentier income. He cites Lenin's statistics.

The problem is that the statistics, other than for employment, show major absolute increases relative to the baselines of the 1860s and 1870s, but are not adjusted for the absolute scale of capitalist economic activity; in the case of rentier income the changing forms of rentier income are not addressed. In relation to Africa, the prior colonisation of India is out of the picture. And in relation to employment it is not at all clear that the distribution is not a normal one. It is clear that there was something genuinely new going on in this period, but Lenin overstates the novelty (Harvey's Limits to capital, chapter 13, draws attention to Marx's discussions of many of the same issues). Lenin also overstates the terminal, 'highest phase' character of what was going on.

Nick's third section looks at the relation between the epochal limits of capitalism, Marxist theories of crisis and my discussion of global hegemon states. These are very important issues, and the formulations in my third article are certainly insufficient. But the issue requires a much fuller discussion than can be given here.

Paul argues that my references to "Tourette's syndrome, or Sean Matgamna's alleged original Healyism" betray ignorance of psychology and are irrelevant to the discussion. It was no more than a side comment. However, my reference to "a kind of political Tourette's syndrome" was — obviously — metaphorical. The metaphor draws on the most widely known symptom of Tourette's syndrome — 'coprolalia', or the compulsive introduction of obscene language into inappropriate places. My point is that AWL comrades suffer from an apparent political compulsive behaviour in which they cannot disagree with people in print without calling them stupid, mad, anti-semitic, etc. As to Sean's "alleged original Healyism", Sean's membership of the SLL in 1960-64 is a matter of public record from his own account of Militant in the 1960s on the AWL's website (
readings/trots/militant.html). The pattern in which the AWL violently exaggerates the significance of its disagreements with other comrades and organisations seems to me to be a fairly clear, if variant, form of the Healy tradition •

It would be good to get a national conference on "A revolutionary perspective for
Britain and the world".

Meanwhile,— to continue the struggle on the weekly propaganda war from imperialism, it is ridiculously wrong to link the world economic crisis to the oil shortages and price hikes caused by the Iraq war disaster.

The Iraq war was caused by the PRIOR world "overproduction" economic crisis of imperialism.

Its warmongering has only made an already disastrous and INSOLUBLE "situation WORSE for civilisation by insisting (inevitably, unfortunately) on going down the "war solution" route.

It will not possibly bring a "solution", no matter how well it goes for the American Empire.

As the Manifesto says it can only possibly bring another round of warmongering imperialist crisis.

Russian troops behaving like imperialist troopsSo Revolution is the only possible way forward for mankind.

And it has to be launched possibly in unfavourable circumstances when "bourgeois democracy" is preparing to go to more and more OPEN DICTATORSHIP to preserve capitalist rule.

At that point, with fully self-acknowledging fascist parties in office or not (an utterly IRRELEVANT Stalinist distinction which has pointlessly confused all workers history), the decision has to be taken that THE POWER MUST BE TAKEN BEFORE THEY COME TO KILL US ALL IN OUR BEDS.

Or die in the attempt. Exactly what should have been done in Germany in 1933. Or in Spain in 1936. Or all across Europe in 1945.

And imperialism is now preparing actively to wreck the world again so that it can keep in control. The Tories are ditching Europe so they can stick with the Empire for WWIII.
Imperialism has long outlived its historical usefulness.

It is long time that it was gone from the Earth.

Build Leninism. EPSR supporters.

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World Revolutionary Socialist Review

(edited extracts from a variety of anti-imperialist struggles).


The ending of the Second World War was accompanied by another wave of European immigration into Southern Rhodesia, resulting in the trebling of the white population from 80,500 in 1945 to 219,000 by 1960. As many of the new immigrants took to farming, the number of Europeans owning or working farms nearly doubled during this period from 4,673 to 8,632. This in turn led to further evictions, forced removals and expropriation of the blacks to make way for the newcomers — a process very similar to that put into effect by the Zionists in Israel/Palestine during precisely the same period. During the decade 1945-55, conservative estimates suggest that a! least 100,000 Africans were forced out of their land into the most inhospitable of Reserves - there to rot and eke out a miserable existence.

To add insult to injury, the white racist minority regime, having first created the conditions of overcrowding and degradation of land in the Reserves through a policy of segregation and brutal expropriation, then blamed the Africans for that state of affairs. That was precisely the meaning of the Native Land Husbandry Act of 1951, which was passed for the purpose of compelling the Africans to practise de-stocking and conservation measures on their land — measures which their conditions of existence would simply not allow.

The shocking state of affairs in the overcrowded Reserves so alarmed even the Catholic church, that Donal Lamont, the Bishop of Umtali, was constrained to ask in 1959: "Can you in conscience blame the African, if eking out a tenuous existence from the poor soil in an overcrowded Reserve, he is swayed by subversive propaganda; while close beside him there lie hundreds of thousands of hectares of fertile soil which he may not cultivate, not occupy, not grace, because although it lies unused and unattended, it belongs to some individual or group of individuals who perhaps do not use the land in the hope of profit from speculation? "

Rhodesia Front Government

With the onset of the Rhodesia Front government in 1962, even the pretence of any concern for African welfare was dropped. The policy of segregation, forced removals and brutal evictions was practised to perfection. The year 1969 witnessed the enactment of the Land Tenure Act. While it repealed the Land Apportionment Act, it re-enacted and strengthened further still the latter's provisions apportioning land in half — with each race getting 44.9 million acres. With whites, constituting less than 5% of the Rhodesian population at the time, receiving 50% of the country's best and most fertile land, and the blacks, accounting for more than 95% of the population, securing 50% of the country's poor soil, situated in areas of low rainfall, the conditions of overcrowding, overstocking, reduced agricultural productivity, horrendous poverty and environmental damage reached monumental proportions in the communal areas.

Second Chimurenga

These miserable and pestiferously pestilential conditions of existence that passed for life could not, and did not, fail to cause outrage among the African masses.

It was against this background of expropriation, of "forced existence in overcrowded Reserves with little in the way of health and education facilities, of being made to feel foreign in their own country, of having to put up with hellish conditions while a tiny minority of Europeans lived in a veritable paradise lording it over the African masses of Zimbabwe, that the latter, under the leadership of ZANU, embarked upon the Second Chimurenga.

Land figured most prominently during this struggle, the chief aim of the liberation struggle being, in addition to the achievement of political independence, the restoration to the African people of land stolen from them at gunpoint by a tiny group of European settlers. "Mwana Wevhu" (Child of the Soil) was the rallying cry of the nationalists in the years preceding the Second Chimurenga. This is how, Herbert Chitepo, the national chairman of ZANU, with his characteristic ability to hit the nail on the head, put it: "I could go into the whole theories of discrimination, in legislation, in residency, in economic opportunities, in education. I could go into that, but I will restrict myself to the question of land because I think this is very basic. To us the essence of exploitation, the essence of white domination, is domination over land. That is the real issue" (Herbert Chitepo, Speech on a trip to Australia, 1973).

Such was the centrality of the land question that all attempts at resolution of the Zimbabwe question that did not address this issue failed. The failure of the Geneva Conference in 1976 and the Malta talks in 1978 can largely be explained by their inability to tackle the land issue. Without an understanding of the land question, the Lancaster House Conference would have shared the fate of earlier attempts and ended up in failure.

The very first attempt at coming to terms with the reality by the US and British governments emerged in 1977, when Dr David Owen, British Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, and Andrew Young, US Ambassador to the UN, presented the 'Anglo-American' proposals, accompanied by pledges to set up a fund for compensation to white farmers for the loss of land at the hands of a future government of independent Zimbabwe. Under these proposals, the UK was to provide £75 million and the US $520 million. Earlier, in 1976, Dr Henry Kissinger's proposals for the resolution of the Zimbabwe question very much depended on the provision of $2 billion by the US for the purposes of buying out the settlers and resettling the Africans on land thus made available.

Lancaster House Conference

It was the promise given by the government of the UK, with the support of the US government, to set up a fund for financing the purchase of land from the white settlers, which made it possible for the Lancaster House Conference to succeed and enable the Patriotic Front (PF) to make the following statement on the final agreement: "We have obtained assurances that ... Britain, the United States and other countries will participate in a multinational donor effort to assist in land, agricultural and economic development programmes. These assurances go a long way in allaying the great concern we have over the whole land question arising from the great need our people have for land and our commitment to satisfy that need when in government".

Without such an understanding, without the above commitment given by the British and the US governments, it would have been impossible for the leadership of the PF to have accepted, let alone successfully sold to the Zimbabwean people, the agreement reached at Lancaster House. The people of Zimbabwe, who had lost 40,00 lives and undergone much hardship and suffering during the war of liberation would have fought in vain if a mere 4,500 farmers were to be left in possession in perpetuity of half the country's best land.

This fact was not lost on even the British government. Lord Carrington, who chaired the Lancaster House Conference in a statement released on 11 October 1979, clearly recognised the crucial significance of the land question and the "substantial" resources needed to redress the colonial legacy on the land question: "We recognise that the future government of Zimbabwe, whatever its political complexion, will wish to extend land ownership. The costs would be very substantial indeed, well beyond the capacity, in our judgement of any individual donor country and the British Government cannot commit itself at this stage to a specific share in them. We should however be ready to support the efforts of the Government of independent Zimbabwe to obtain International assistance for these purposes" (emphasis added).

Lancaster House deal - a messy compromise

For all the commitment made by the British/US governments, the Lancaster House deal was a messy compromise, which obliged the future government of an independent Zimbabwe to resort to the most expensive course of buying out white farmers piecemeal on the principle of willing seller/willing buyer. In addition, it was only too likely that the settlers would not part with prime land, with the government ending up buying less fertile pieces of land dotted all over the country, rendering any meaningful land reform planning and land use virtually impossible. Compulsory acquisition of land by the government was the obvious solution to the problem.

On 16 October 1979, Julius Nyerere, the then president of Tanzania expressed his view on the land question, saying that it would be impossible for a government in a free Zimbabwe "To tax Zimbabweans in order to compensate people who took it away from them through the gun. Really the British cannot have it both ways. They made this an issue and they are now making vague remarks mixing rural development aid with the question of land compensation. ... The two are separate. ... The British paid money to Kenya. That the future Government of Zimbabwe must pay compensation is a British demand and the British must promise in London to make the money available" (cited in the Utete Report, p. 17).

At the Lancaster House Conference, Britain, far from being an impartial broker, was mainly concerned to achieve three objectives:
1. Put an end to the armed liberation struggle led by the Patriotic Front;
2. Safeguard British economic interests, white-owned land ownership included; and
3. Maintain the continuation of British influence in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe.

With the aim of achieving the above objectives through the Lancaster House Agreement, Britain obtained the disarmament and demobilisation of the ZANLA and ZIPRA forces under a British dominated Commonwealth Monitoring Force; guaranteed 20% representation in parliament to the white minority, accounting for a mere 1% of the population, for a period of 7 years; and blocked radical land reform for 10 years by enshrining the willing seller/ willing buyer principle. During the ten-year period, the constitution could not be changed except with a 100% vote for the change, thus giving the white minority a complete veto in violation of all democratic norms.

The UK was eventually to pay £40 million - a paltry and grossly inadequate sum. This money was dispensed under the most difficult of conditions for Zimbabwe, for the latter had first to find funds for the purchase of land and then claim the money at the end of each year from the British government which, after scrutinising the books, would reimburse the Zimbabwean government on a 50-50 basis. Zimbabwe had to find a pound for every pound dispensed by Britain. In the end, the cash-strapped Zimbabwe government could continue no more with this arrangement, given the heavy demands on its resources from the needs of rehabilitation and reconstruction in the aftermath of the decade and a half of the war of liberation. By way of illustrating the paltry nature of the funds given by Britain to Zimbabwe, let it be said in passing that a whole 20 years earlier, the British government had paid £200 million to resolve a similar land problem in Kenya.

Under the Lancaster House constitutional dispensation, which made a sharp radical land reform all but impossible, between 1980 and 1990 the government of Zimbabwe managed to acquire only 3.5 million hectares and resettle 71,000 households. The communal areas continued, as heretofore, "to be overcrowded, overstocked and overgrazed. The government was under great pressure to do something about the land problem — and do it fast.

With the aim of accelerating the mechanism of land acquisition and resettlement, the government secured the enactment of the Land Acquisition Act, subsequent to the introduction in 1990 of Constitutional Amendment Number 11, both of which had the effect of releasing the government from the vice-like grip of the willing seller/willing buyer provision.

However, besides being expensive, the new process ground to a halt largely because of the fierce resistance of the commercial farmers. When, in December 1997, the government designated 1,471 farms for compulsory acquisition, 1,393 objections were lodged, of which 510 were upheld.

In sheer frustration at the antics of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), the late Joshua Nkomo pleaded with them in these reasonable terms: "I don't think we are being unreasonable if we say you commercial farmers, who own the best and the bulk of Zimbabwe's land because, of history, should share part of it with the indigenous, displaced and landless blacks who are the majority" (Joshua Nkomo, addressing commercial farms in Matabeleland, Zimbabwean Sunday Mail, 9 July 1989).

But to no avail. Confident of the support of imperialism, especially Anglo-American imperialism, the white farmers continued to be defiant and arrogant. Till the last, they insisted on being Rhodesians (Rhodies), refusing to behave as the citizens of the new Zimbabwe. In 1996, a mission sent to Zimbabwe by the then British Prime Minister, John Major, reported back, recommending further assistance.

However, in the May 1997 election, Major's Conservative Party was defeated, making way for Tony Blair's Labour government. On being approached by the Zimbabwean government, to bring to fruition the discussions initiated during the previous Conservative government, the Blair administration reneged entirely on Britain's Lancaster House undertakings to assist with Zimbabwe's land reform programme. Clare Short, the then newly appointed Secretary of State for International Development, in a letter dated 5 November 1997, wrote in these arrogant and patronising terms to Zimbabwe's minister of Agriculture and Land, Kumbirai Kangai: "I should make it clear that we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new Government from diverse backgrounds without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and as you know we were colonised not colonisers".

Labour government reneges on Britain's obligations

Clare Short went on to say that her government would find it "impossible" to support "... a programme of rapid land acquisition as you now seem to envisage", for such a programme would do damage "to Zimbabwe's agricultural output" and undermine "investor confidence".

Clare Short's letter was greeted with delirious joy and jubilation by the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) in Zimbabwe, for it effectively signalled an end to compensation money and, therefore, in their eyes, an end to land distribution. However, David Hasluck, who had been the Director of the CFU for 18 long years (1984-2002), was roused to anger by Short's letter to say: "1 believe a Conservative government would never have done that ... Clare Short knows damn well that there was a land issue at Lancaster House, how can she write a letter like that and expect to go forward?" (Exclusive interview published in New African Magazine, February 2003).

In this instance, it is extremely instructive that even Roelf-Pik Botha, foreign minister of apartheid South Africa from 1977 to 1994, concedes that on the land question it is Britain, not President Mugabe and his government, which must take the lion's share of the blame. In his article which appeared on 8 April 2004 in South Africa's This Day newspaper, subsequently reproduced in 25 April issue of Zimbabwe's Sunday Mirror, he reveals, inter alia, the following truths — dispelling the myths propagated by British imperialism: "Much of what went wrong in Zimbabwe is attributed to Mugabe's seizure of white commercial farms.

"In my opinion, Her Britannic Majesty's government shares part of the blame. The land issue has a long history. After missing out on the Witwatersrand gold rush, Cecil John Rhodes was irresistibly attracted by reports that King Lobengula's Matabeleland was rich in gold.

"He extorted a concession from Lobengula which enabled him to obtain a Royal Charter for his British South African Company (BSAC) with mischievous objectives. One of Rhodes' buddies, someone called Leander Starr Jameson, led British troops on a plundering invasion of the vast regions north of the Limpopo.

"The force occupied Mashonaland in 1890, establishing Salisbury as their headquarters.

"In 1893 Jameson took Bulawayo, deploying their deadly machine guns against the Ndebele fighters.

"The same Jameson led an invasion into Paul Kruger's Zulu-Afrikaanache Republick after Rhodes realised the republic would have far more rewarding loot than Mashonaland and Matabeleland.

"According to Terence Ranger of Oxford, most of the seizures of land in Zimbabwe by white settlers took place between 1898 and 1923. The pillaging of land in Zimbabwe under British colonial rule left scars which fuel black demands for restitution.

"A breakdown in the Lancaster House negotiations was threatening at one stage and I was requested to go to London to persuade Smith and Muzorewa not to pull out of the talks.

"I clearly remember that I pointed out to Carrington the determinative importance of a commitment on the part of Britain to pay for the adjustment of disproportional land ownership. The British government agreed to make funds available for buying white farms".

Botha then goes on to advise Britain not to shoot "straight from the hip" and instead to pursue the path of negotiations. He adds with great candour that "To shout at Mugabe publicly .. will not persuade him to change his ways. He believes he is on top of the world, a respectable and competent leader. He believes that he is being persecuted by other colonial powers for implementing a fair and reasonable land reform policy. And he is not alone in believing this. His popularity has been demonstrated repeatedly at meetings of African organisations ".

July 2000–August 2002

Zimbabweans were stunned by Clare:Short's letter, repudiating all British obligations under the Lancaster House Agreement. What is more, it could not have come at a worse time, for its arrival coincided with growing restlessness in the ranks of the land-hungry Zimbabwean peasantry. The latter, in an effort to put pressure on the government, resorted to militant protests and land occupations. In June 1998, in an unprecedented move, the villagers in Svosve communal areas occupied Igava farm and pledged not to leave until they received a written undertaking from the government to settle them. The Svosve incident was only a prelude to similar widespread occupations of commercial farms at Nayamadhlovu in Matabeleland, Nyamajura in Manicaland and Nemamva in Masvingo. Although, with great reluctance, the peasants obeyed the government's order to vacate the occupied farms, the first salvo by the land-starved peasantry had been fired. The government could not ignore these actions, more of which were to follow.

The response of the British government to the designation by the Zimbabwean government in 1997 of nearly 1,500 farms was predictably hostile. And it could not be otherwise, for any attempt to correct a historical injustice of such proportions was bound to meet with fierce resistance of vested interests of the European landowning gentry, which boasted among its ranks some members of the British House of Lords and other members of the British political elite, who owned vast areas of land in Zimbabwe as absentee landlords. A mere 4,500 white farmers and absentee landlords possessed as much land, only more fertile and productive, as the 13 million blacks.

Imperialist circles responded to the actions of the Zimbabwe government with a crescendo of abuse, denunciation and dire threats — accusing the Zimbabwe government of violating human and property rights, thus portraying the victims as villains, while working all the time for the maintenance of privilege in the name of human rights, rule of law and good governance. These imperialist outcries are best answered in the following words of Dr.I.S.G. Mudenge, Foreign Minister of Zimbabwe: "Whilst there was never an outcry over the violation of the human and property rights of the indigenous-blacks by the white settlers, the British authorities have suddenly become the champions of human rights now that their colonial injustices are being corrected, and their kith and kin are losing their colonial heritage of white privileges. The black majority, who are the victims, are now being portrayed as the villains".

Britain scuppers all attempts at an agreed solution

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean government persisted in its efforts to solve the land question amicably. To that end, it convened a Land Donors' Conference in Harare between 9 and 11 September 1998.

In his inaugural address to the Conference, President Mugabe was doing no more than painting a realistic picture of the state of affairs in the Zimbabwean countryside when he warned: "If we delay in resolving the land needs of our people they will resettle themselves. It has happened before and it may happen again" (cited in Utete).

No less then 48 countries, including Britain, and a few international organisations were represented at the Conference, which agreed upon a package of basic principles and a framework for international assistance for Zimbabwe's Land Reform Programme. The donors made promises to finance an Inception Phase, which was to be carried out in the first 18 to 24 months. This was to be followed by Phase II of a similarly donor-backed land acquisition and settlement programme.

However, owing largely to British opposition, none of the pledges of financial support given at this Conference were honoured. Adopting deliberately dilatory tactics, Britain refused to join the task force agreed to be set up to work out the modalities for the two-year Inception Phase and scuttled the agreement concluded at the Harare Donors' Conference. Britain was subsequently to use the pretext of "land invasions" for its refusal to back the land reform programme. The truth, however, is that these invasions did not commence in earnest until March 2000.

Zimbabwe made two further attempts at resolution of this question through the involvement of the UN and the Commonwealth. In September 2000, as a result of a meeting in New York between President Mugabe and Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, a Technical Mission under the aegis of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was despatched to Harare in October of the same year. In the end nothing came of this effort largely because of the dilatory tactics adopted by the UNDP, which were aimed chiefly at getting the government of Zimbabwe to abandon its Fast Track programme of land reform.

Likewise, nothing came of the Nigerian initiative, for the agreement hammered out by a committee of 9 Commonwealth Foreign Ministers at its meeting of 6-7 September 2001 in Abuja was frustrated by Britain's refusal to honour the commitments it made at Abuja.

Meanwhile, in February 2000, the government organised a referendum on a Draft Constitution which, if approved, could have furnished the basis for a durable solution of the land question. But the Draft Constitution was rejected to a large extent because of imperialist inspired and sponsored opposition. This constitution provided that there would-be no compensation for land, but only for improvements.

Thwarted thus at every step by the combined forces of imperialism and its stooges in Zimbabwe, ranging from the powerful European commercial farmers to the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change, a party sprung into existence by imperialism), and the rejection of the Draft Constitution, the government of Zimbabwe had no course open to it other than that of resorting to truly radical measures to solve the land issue if it wanted to honour the aims of the liberation struggle.

Even the Zimbabwe Catholics' Conference stated, as early as 1989, that "A war was fought and blood was spilt over the ownership of land. Lasting peace and prosperity can only be achieved if the land is shared equitably" (quoted in the Zimbabwean Sunday Mirror, 27 October — 2 November 2000).

The Zimbabwean government was further encouraged in this direction by the actions of the war veterans who, realising that imperialism and its stooges were hell-bent on scuppering the land reform programme, and being frustrated at the slow legalistic approach of the government, took matters into their own hands and, together with the peasants who had long attempted to occupy land, moved on to the white-owned farms.

Faced with this reality, the government could either endorse the actions of the war veterans and the peasantry, or use armed force to evict them and thus risk a bloody confrontation with erstwhile combatants. The latter would have been too ghastly for the government to even contemplate as the police and the army are headed by the former national liberation fighters. After all, far from being guilty of treasonable actions, the heroes of the war of liberation and the wider peasant masses were only attempting to correct a gross historical injustice.

The situation required urgent action by the government. To its great credit, the government of President Mugabe responded by the adoption of the Fast-Track Land Reform and Resettlement Programme (hereafter FTP) for the resettlement of the Zimbabwean peasantry, which had been starved of land for an entire century. The FTP began on 15 July 2000.

Fast Track Land Reform and Resettlement Programme

The fact that the FTP was being carried out under the legal framework of Zimbabwe did not prevent a ginger group of farmers of the CFU from resorting to the courts in a last ditch effort to prevent land reform being carried out.

Commenting on the activities and arrogance of this group of extremely reactionary white farmers, operating under the name of Justice for Agriculture (JAG), David Hasluck, made this pertinent observation: "But there is no point, in reality, no matter how much you believe in the law, to go to court and ask for something you are not going to get. Because the Chave Chimurenga is not about the law and the courts, it is about the revolution and the historic right that Clare Short says she doesn't acknowledge" (cited in Mudenge).

In the light of the foregoing, it must be stressed that the motive force behind the land distribution enterprise was the land-hungry peasant masses, who spearhead this campaign — not the government of Zimbabwe, nor ZANU(PF). All that the government did was, through its FTP, to attempt to manage the process in an orderly way by outlining the criteria for land designation and acquisition. Of course, no revolutionary process can be run to order, without infringement of rules and criteria, no matter how carefully crafted and managed. That is in the very nature of such a historical upheaval. In the words of Dr. Mudenge: "That a number of these control fences (criteria) erected by Government ended up being overrun in the process is now history, and is easily explainable on the basis of the century-long wait that the people of Zimbabwe were subjected to, as well as the attendant emotional, even sentimental attachment that the people of Zimbabwe have towards land, be it on the grounds of national sovereignty and pride, or colonial heritage".

It would have been a matter of eternal shame for a government headed by ZANU (PF), the leader of the successful war of liberation, to have left the land issue unresolved and have let a tiny minority of settlers monopolise the Zimbabwean soil. If we are to reproach the Zimbabwean government, should it in fact not be for not undertaking this land reform many years earlier? President Mugabe understood well the centrality of the land question as the key to the solution of other social, economic and political problems in Zimbabwe. Addressing a gathering of Catholics in Harare, on 30 July 2001, this is what he had to say on the question under consideration: "As in the past, the basis of conflict in contemporary Zimbabwe is the unresolved national question of land. It is also the basis of peace and all other rights that we wish for in a democracy. Its solution would enable us to end the two-nation, two-race model we inherited from colonialism. It would create opportunities for everyone and give a stake to the majority of our people, indeed it is the way to the recovery of our economy. This is why Land Reform is at the heart of the current struggle. We cannot relent on this one and we hope the Church will stand with and by us in resolving it.” (cited in Utete).

Under the FTP, the government pursued the policy of speedy identification for compulsory acquisition of not less than 5 million hectares of land for resettlement, the provision of basic infrastructure (boreholes, dip tanks and approach roads) and support services (tillage and agricultural inputs), creation of secondary infrastructure (schools, clinics and rural service centres), and simultaneous resettlement in all parts of the country to ensure the even and comprehensive implementation of the programme.

Initially the FTP was aimed at relieving the communal lands of overcrowding. It was later extended to include the creation of an indigenous commercial farming sector. Under the FTP, compulsory acquisition of land took place in accordance with the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, with the following categories of land being targeted for acquisition.
1 Derelict and under-utilised land;
2 Land under multiple ownership;
3 Foreign owned land;
4 Land contiguous to communal areas.

Excluded categories

Plantations engaged in large-scale production of tea, coffee, citrus fruit, sugar cane, etc.;
Agro-industrial properties engaged in the integrated production, processing and/or marketing of poultry, beef and dairy products, and seed multiplication;
Properties with Export Processing Zone (EPZ) permits and those with Zimbabwe Investment Centre (ZIC) certificates;
Farms belonging to Church and mission organisations;
Farms subject to Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements.


Under the FTP, the government opted for the policy of one-man-one-farm.

Landowners were also given the option to offer land in substitution for that identified for compulsory acquisition. Equally, if a landowner possessed a single farm, but in excess of the maximum allowed size, he could offer to subdivide it and hand over the relevant portion to the authorities.

Two Models

Under the FTP, two resettlement models were used. Whereas Model A1 was aimed at ridding the communal lands of overcrowding, Model A2 pursued the aim of indigenisation, that of creating a class of black commercial farmers. Model A1, being for the benefit of the generally landless peasantry has a villagised and self-contained variant, whereas Model A2 is divided into small, medium and large-scale commercial settlements.

Although it has been claimed in the imperialist print and electronic media that vast amounts of land had been seized from the European settlers and made over to Mr Mugabe's cronies, this is utterly untrue. The commercial sector aimed at preserving commercial farming and indigenising land ownership was open to any black Zimbabwean who could satisfy the designated strict criteria of eligibility. Just as many government supporters have received land under this scheme, so have the opponents of the government, including the Secretary General of the MDC, Welshman Ncube. Some privileged people defrauded their way into more than one farm, but they were exposed and had to return the excess land. Following the Utete Report two provincial governors lost their jobs. Mr Kaukonde, of the ZANU(PF) and Chairman of the Finance and Budget Committee, firmly stated that in Central Mashonaland there would be no land granted under Model A2 until Model Al had been satisfactorily completed in his province.

Equally, contrary to claims in the imperialist media that all European farmers have had their farms confiscated, there are today approximately 850 European farmers, with one commercial farm each, who continue to farm and live in Zimbabwe.

LALKAR September / October 2004

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World Revolutionary Socialist Review

(edited extracts from a variety of anti-imperialist struggles).

A very British jihad is a detailed if not fully integrated study of the relationship between empire loyalists at the heart of the British establishment and Ulster Protestant fundamentalism

[The] British military establishment identified Irish Catholics as their traditional enemy and Protestant loyalism as their natural ally.

Orange fascist community in 'Northern Ireland' in full cryIndeed, this identification is so ingrained at the core of the British ruling establishment that any British Government that attempts to develop a different strategy, however modest, will be actively thwarted from within its own body politic, Larkin suggests.

An example cited by Larkin is a televised speech to the nation by Harold Wilson in May 1974. In the original draft, Wilson was to address the nation on the collapse of the power sharing executive and the effect of the unionist strike on the cause for peace.

The speech contained references to a [unionist] rebellion against the British Crown which would be met by the full rigour of British troops and government. Wilson had given these very promises to Northern Ireland prime minister Brian Faulkner who was fighting for his political survival."

In the days leading up to the address, Wilson was advised that no such troop movements could take place and all references to vigorous action by the British Army against the strikers was excised from the speech.

"It seems that just as in the former Rhodesia, which had a white population the size of Stoke-on-Trent in England, Wilson had been advised that the British Army either could not or would not, deal with these right-wing rebels," says Larkin.

"Had the full might of the British Army been used to keep power stations and other essential services running, the strike would probably have collapsed. It was the British Army's policy which ensured that the strike was a success and the unionist leader Brian Faulkner's experiment in sharing power with Catholics collapsed."


In a dynamically presented and researched study, Larkin argues that we can only understand events that shaped the conflict in the North In the wider global context of "a massive international right wing offensive" — an offensive that included military coups, and attempted military coups, in Argentina, Chile, Greece and Spain and in which extreme right-wing elements within the British ruling elite subverted and gained control over key power blocs within the apparatus of state.

And as Larkin points out, the establishment and utilisation of state-sponsored death squads was a feature of all these right-wing strategists. “The Triple A death squads which stalked the streets of Buenos Aires in the mid-1970s in the run up to the coup in March 1976 carried exactly the same political message as their right wing allies in Chile, where there was a right- wing military coup in 1973.

“These dramatic and momentous worldwide developments carried a political message which was aimed not only at left-wing revolutionary groups but all progressive elements and can be summed up as: 'forget your dreams of equality and justice, we are here to snuff them out'."

Larkin acknowledges that the scale of state-sponsored death squad killing carried out in Ireland does not match the mass slaughter experienced in places like Indonesia and Argentina but Ireland, particularly the Six Counties, where most of the killing has taken place, is relatively small.

“The secret state's war in Ireland was up close and personal, and fed by two voracious types of paranoia which linked that war to worldwide events at the time. The first type of paranoia was the international and consciously created lie that Soviet style 'communism' was set to take over the globe. The second paranoia was the British ruling class's pathological distrust of the Irish."

Larkin names the network of plotters and their military and political allegiances at the heart of the British system and identifies their role in the developing conflict in the north of Ireland. It involves 'gentlemen's clubs' like the Monday Club, the Castlereagh Dining Club and the Clermont set, described by Larkin as British upper class fraternities.

“ The membership of these clubs may represent a rare breed but it also comprised the very top of the permanent government."

It involves agencies like MI6's Information Research Department (IRD), opened in Singapore in 1965 to spread disinformation and anti-communist propaganda and the Institute for the Study of Conflict (ISC), set up in 1968 with CIA backing. And it involves some of the most secret units within the British Army, veterans of the Special Operations Executive, the forerunner of the SAS. It involves pamphlets like "Ireland: Our Cuba" and “The strategic implications for the west of the international links of the IRA in Ireland" which, "despite the total lack of evidence, was to become a major plank in the British state's psychological warfare efforts against the IRA".

And if this still sounds remote from government, Larkin highlights the role of many of these key players in the covert war within the British Government. Robert Moss "who became well known for his attacks on the democratic regime of Salvador Allende in Chile" and "closely linked to the IRD operation in South East Asia, the Middle East and by 1973 in Ireland", went on to become a key speech writer for Margaret Thatcher.


Larkin suggests that the right-wing conspiracy at the heart of the British establishment gained control of the conflict in Ireland in 1974. Two significant factors are highlighted by Larkin, the success of the Ulster Workers Strike and the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, both secured with the assistance of the British military. Indeed, Larkin goes further by suggesting that the strike and the bombings of May 1974 represent a "quiet coup" which eradicated any chance of "appeasement".

For Larkin, this moment defines the point at which the northern nationalist community re-emerged as 'the enemy' and the 'only' British 'solution' to the conflict became the 'defeat' not just of the ensuing armed insurrection but also of Irish Catholic aspirations of civil rights, equality and democracy.

Larkin's use of the term 'jihad' does not refer to the crude notion of a religious war, the traditional view of the conflict as generated by 'two warring tribes' in which the British portray themselves as 'neutral' or 'peacekeepers'. In this 'very British jihad', Britain's interests were pursued by mobilising and supporting right-wing religious fundamentalism, which identified the same 'enemy'. In other words, British anti-Irish racism embraced Ulster Protestant fundamentalism's anti-Catholic hatred. I guess you could say it was a marriage, literally, made in heaven.

"It seems hard now to comprehend that the Protestant religion, even as recently as the 1970s, could present a standard around which English empire loyalists like Brigadier Frank Kitson and Ulster loyalists like the Reverend Ian Paisley could defiantly gather," says Larkin.

"But a new and secret 'model army' was gathered around the same Cromwellian standard in the 1970s, as Margaret Thatcher's supporters devised a 'quiet coup' within the corridors of power in the years before she became Prime Minister in 1979."

Larkin argues that, while the British paranoia of the 'communist' threat in Ireland was largely imaginary, for the local Protestant Ascendancy class "the real enemy was not some mythical monster of the left but rather Catholic emancipation, upon which they had pronounced a 'Holy War' to drive out Catholic 'traitors' as far back as 1920".

Larkin never considers the role of the US in Afghanistan and their initial sponsorship of the religious fundamentalism of the Taliban and (CIA trained) Osama bin Laden. In the late 70s and 80s the USA mobilised Muslim fundamentalists as a weapon in their 'war' against 'communism' in the Middle East.

By dragging the USSR into a protracted war in Afghanistan, America hoped to propel the USSR into financial bankruptcy and political collapse. It is an enduring irony that the greatest current perceived threat to western capitalism has emerged out of the very same extreme right-wing groups mobilised in its own 'defence'.


Larkin may not articulate it quite in this way, but in 'a very British jihad' the DUP is clearly identifiable as Britain's Taliban. "Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party and its Free Presbyterian support base has played a pivotal role in the jihad, maintaining both a murderous armed wing and a permanent resistance to change in the position of 'Ulster' as a bastion of Britishness and Protestantism," says Larkin.

Fundamentalist Protestantism provides the ideological underpinning of the conflict. Larkin illustrates his point with a quote from Paisley's Free Presbyterian newspaper, Protestant Telegraph. The message could not be clearer.

“There are those who mistakenly analyse the Ulster situation in terms of social and economic factors, in terms of politics or philosophies. These theories and analyses collapse because they ignore, deliberately or otherwise, the main key, and to us the obvious factor: Protestantism versus popery."

Within unionism's political leadership there are well-known rabble-rousers but Larkin does not see their role in the conflict as merely rhetorical. In his chapter 'Permanent Resistance', Larkin explores the way in which "the DUP manages its relationship with its paramilitary bedfellows" and the way the DUP "can have its paramilitary cake and yet still be seen to break the consecrated bread of constitutional politics".


Larkin chronicles Ian Paisley's relationship with a series of loyalist paramilitary fronts, from the 1950s up to the present day. In the 1950s, Paisley helped form the Ulster Protestant Action group and even had a branch of this militant loyalist organisation known as the 'Premier Branch'. This branch was based at Paisley's church in East Belfast.

"A good example of the kind of activities in which the UPA involved themselves was the open air rally in 1959 on the Shankill Road. With fiery oratory at the rally the good Reverend listed a number of houses and shops in this overwhelmingly Protestant area which were occupied by 'Papishers and Popesmen'. Catholic homes were subsequently attacked after the rally and slogans such as 'Taigs Out' daubed on the walls," says Larkin.

Paisley and his followers eventually broke away from the UPA but retained strong links with it and with the group that superseded it, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). The UPA became the modern UVF in 1966 but by this time Paisley was forming a new group.

The 'new' grouping, which was to work closely with the UVF, was called the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee and its paramilitary wing the Ulster Protestant Volunteers. The UPV was founded by Ian Paisley and Noel Docherty, owner of the Puritan Publishing Press and the publisher of the Protestant Telegraph.

When northern nationalists took to the streets in peaceful protests in support of basic civil rights, violent counter demonstrations were organised by Paisley's UPV. As Larkin points out, violence and the threat of violence did not emanate from the civil rights marchers but from unionism's fundamentalist wing. In Dungannon Major Ronald Bunting and B Specials who were also members of the UPV were involved in what the Cameron Commission called 'violent and irresponsible' counter demonstrations.

"In April 1966, Paisley drove Noel Docherty and Billy Mitchel, both Free Presbyterians and members of the UPV, to the house of James Murdock, a farmer in Loughgall.

"Murdock had good contacts with members of the B Specials who were quarrymen and it was via this relationship that the UPV and UVF in Belfast received its first explosives."

Paisley later claimed he knew nothing about UPV involvement with explosives after it was revealed that a series of bombings carried out in 1969 were the work of the UPV. Attacks on utilities threatening electricity and water supplies in the north were carried out by Paisley's UPV but the operations were deliberately attributed to republicans. It's a familiar tactic of the extreme right. The tactic was only exposed after a UPV member died in an attempt to blow up a power station in Ballyshannon.

Noel Docherty was subsequently jailed for his role in loyalist paramilitary violence but his colleague Ian Paisley "carried on his traditional tactic of setting up armed groups and then distancing himself from them as and when the moment required", says Larkin.


Larkin traces Paisley and the DUP's establishment of loyalist paramilitary fronts like the Ulster Clubs in which "leading loyalists like John Michael in the UDA were crucial" and Ulster Resistance in which the UVF played a central role".

Ulster Resistance was launched out of the shell of the Ulster Clubs in November 1986. At the time, the Irish News reported 2,000 people marching behind Peter Robinson and another loyalist, Alan Wright of the Ulster Clubs.

“The parade was led by a colour party and flanked by men in military style uniform. Later at a meeting in the Town's Central Markets building the crowd gave a tumultuous welcome to Ian Paisley as he entered the hall and marched to the stage where a maroon beret was ceremoniously placed on his head."

Larkin also traces Ulster Resistance's and the DUP's links in illegal loyalist weapons procurement, particularly in the smuggling of arms from South Africa's apartheid regime. Larkin highlights Noel Little, arrested in Paris along
with a UDR weapons instructor and another Free Presbyterian in April 1989. The trio were there to meet a South African arms dealer, Daniel Storm.

In the political row that ensued, the South African Government confirmed that the trio had been in South Africa in 1988. Larkin suggests that there is growing evidence that "there was not just one or two big arms shipments arranged via the Apartheid regime but rather a stream of weaponry of various sizes from Brian Nelson's trip to Durban in 1985 onwards".

Larkin contends that Ulster Resistance and Ulster clubs were centrally involved in illegal arms smuggling long before media exposure forced Ian Paisley to distance himself and his party. The fact that the DUP has largely avoided public scrutiny of its paramilitary activities and links, Larkin suggests, can only be understood in relation to the Protestant Fundamentalist role within the wider right-wing conspiracy.

"What other Irish political organisation would be able to stage open paramilitary displays and openly flout the government of the day with not just treasonable' invective but also secret conspiracies like arms smuggling and still be regarded as a fully constitutional party?"

Larkin brings the DUP's relationship with unionist paramilitaries up to the present day by exposing the party's close links with Billy Wright and the LVF. As an anti-Agreement and anti-peace process party, Larkin suggests that the DUP and elements within MI5 and Special Branch actively encouraged a unionist paramilitary split.

"It is no accident that the Reverend Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party very prominently took Billy Wright's side in the fallout with his erstwhile comrades in the UVF in Belfast. Nor is it any secret that right-wing fundamentalists and elements within the security forces saw Billy Wright as a God-sent champion in the fight against 'appeasement' of the IRA."

The most visible statement of DUP's relationship with the LVF occurred at a rally in Portadown in September 1996, at which DUP Reverend William McCrea shared a platform with Billy Wright. The rally was held in defiance of the Combined Loyalist Command, which had ordered Wright to leave the north. Wright had defied the loyalist ceasefire and ordered the sectarian killing of a Catholic taxi driver in support of the Orange Orders siege at Drumcree.

A very British jihad is a detailed if not fully integrated study of the relationship between what Larkin identifies as English empire loyalists at the heart of the British establishment and Ulster Protestant fundamentalism. Larkin suggests that this extreme right-wing alliance lies at the heart of the conflict in the North and, in the context of the current Peace Process, the continuing resistance to progressive change.

A very British jihad — Collusion, conspiracy and cover-up By Paul Larkin

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