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Engraving of Lenin busy studying

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 1285 January 23rd 2006

Rising tide of Third World leftism further underlines the historic watershed reached by the capitalist exploitation system as its underlying crisis relentlessly deepens. But the temporary hiatus in overt warmongering and apparent retreat from blitzkrieging neo-colonialism will not last – capitalism needs warmongering as the only solution it has ever had to its increasingly desperate over-production crises. Stripping human rights, and escalation of torture and arbitrary imprisonment, asbos and other clampdowns are all aimed to suppress working class resistance and particularly development of vital Leninist understanding, the vital content for any new workers party.

In the teeth of the greatest warmongering crisis in history, and the relentless fascistisation of society to back it up, the timidity and emptiness of the half-hearted calls for a “new mass workers party” by some of the more “left” of class-collaborating trade unionism is simply stunning.

And the academic, inadequate unrevolutionary responses by the tired “theoreticians” of the Trotskyite and revisionist fake-”left” reflect their decades of futile, empty and predominantly anti-communist posturings.

The founding aim would be to “unite the strongest possible forces to build a powerful working class party that is capable of effectively opposing the anti-union laws, cuts, privatisation, environmental degradation and war” the campaign mouths mechanically on an initiating website and at a deliberately restricted London meeting.

But how might that be done, given that more than 100 years of identical reformist “uniting” and “opposition” has not only failed to achieve any such aims but has for years been taken backwards by the very “mass” party which was set up in the first place, - namely Labour, - is not addressed.

And how might it deal with the enormous upheavals facing the entire planet as the world plunges deeper and deeper into the greatest crisis ever of the monopoly capitalist exploitation system, threatening endless blitzkrieging destruction against numerous small anti-imperialist struggles, and escalating repression in the heart of even the richest imperialist nations, as “human rights”, freedom to “protest” and “democracy” are stamped upon. What will it say about the feverish warmongering atmosphere being created — the only solution this system knows to its intractable “overproduction” problems?

That there is a giant vacuum in leadership for the working class — and a greater need than any time in history — is indisputable. The devastation of the inevitable economic disintegration and slump turmoil that boils and rolls beneath the whole over-inflated imperialist world trading system, increasingly ready to break into the open imposing potentially disastrous conditions worse than the 1930s, makes it increasingly urgent to build the clearest understanding in the working class.

The world faces the greatest oncoming economic and political disaster in all history — but old-style trade unionism and the fake-”lefts” propose “more picketing”.

The working class’s giant fighting capacities are not going to be unleashed with pointless unachievable calls to “stop the war” or even by simply “legalising” solidarity action again and secondary picketing, valuable though that might be.

Only by tackling the most fundamental questions about continuing class rule, thrown up by the return to warmongering of the capitalist system, can a party hope to do anything useful and offer the working class the real answers it needs rather than the gutless posturing, compromise and retreat from confrontation that is the essence of all reformism and fake-”leftism”.

Imperialism is more and more under siege by the billions it has brutally tyrannised and exploited for so long, just as its economic crisis is reaching breaking point.

An entire 800 year history of piratical plundering and predatory control of the planet is now hitting the buffers, no longer capable of taking mankind forwards as its violent but vigorous class rule once did, but simply stifling human potential and genius — and now threatening to wipe it out.

There is only one answer — ending the class rule and exploitation of capitalism and the tangling internal contradictions of its central profit-making rationale, which are the cause and foundation of all the inequality, hatred, bitterness, destruction and oppression on the planet at all times and now are showing a return to the worst fascist and barbaric warmongering nightmares once again.

That can only mean the revolutionary overthrow of the whole system, finally to create the space for the working class majority to build peaceful and cooperative integrated socialist society, and give mankind its first crack at universal rationality.

And that means a working class consciously grasping the need for such a struggle with all the social, economic and political understanding necessary to do so — only possible with a revolutionary party and leadership, based on the deepest continuing battle for scientific revolutionary philosophy.

But no such possibility is even hinted at by the sponsors’ “declaration” of the need for a new movement — and the word revolution does not appear anywhere, or in the discussions all around by the 57 varieties of fake-”lefts” who continue to saturate the working class with the misleadership of their muddles, confusions and sometimes outright anti-communist betrayals.

It is not a small omission. And it is nothing accidental from these 57 varieties of posing posturing and outright confusion mongering who have always avoided the revolutionary issues (except in safe little boxed off token articles put in their papers for show and “left” image — with a content little better than the shallow spin of the labourites in its meaninglessness.)

There is no way the working class can get from this anything like the perspective it urgently needs. That is, that massive turmoil of imperialist warmongering and destruction now besetting the planet is now the dominating pattern of world development, throwing into insignificance the tiny crumbs of peaceful steady development, health service and educational reform progress etc granted by the ruling class over the decades to head off any deeper struggle (and only in the very richest centres of imperialism at that with the billions of the Third World proletariat simply continuing to be exploited to the hilt by western tyranny).

The dangers are escalating rapidly by the day, and demand far deeper responses than simply routine defence of the “right to solidarity action”, or “living standards”, as important as these things remain.

The blitzkrieg barbarities on Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq, the ever accumulating revelations of torture, destruction, imperialist arrogance and ignorance, and its imposition of endless human misery are the new realities being set up for the whole planet, the first opening shots in a slide towards the universal conflict and destruction of a Third World War.

Or rather they are the return to the old realities, the norm for capitalism and its piratical exploitation system, and the inevitable end point of its greed and grasping accumulation for the sake of profit rather than human need.

As the EPSR alone has long been warning the working class, war and destruction is the only mechanism the ruling class has ever had, to extricate itself from the desperate contractions which accumulate within the profit system, as the ever growing mountains of capital, all seeking to make a “healthy profit”, clog its worldwide globalised trading and production network with overproduction and over-investment.

To quote the original Communist Manifesto:

It is enough to mention the commercial crises that, by their periodical return, put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production.

The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property.

And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand, by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented. (see also economics box).

But there are no longer enough “new markets” in an imperialist epoch which has spread the tendrils of capitalist relations further and more universally across the planet than at any point in history, extending the crisis to unprecedented levels. Already the huge instabilities of the monopoly imperialist stage of capitalism have been driven beyond slump into international war three times, with increasingly widespread horrors and destruction, in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the mainly European First World War and the tens of millions slaughter of the 1939-45.

The battle of the unevenly developed monopoly imperialist powers to sort out a new power balance has been accompanied by ever greater destruction of capital and production resources, to cripple the rivals and simultaneously create space for more capital to go through another cycle of accumulation and dominance.

Since 1945 the overwhelming supremacy of American imperialism and the extension of credit with new and sophisticated market technologies has stretched production and international trade and exploitation to an unheard of inflationary extent, sustaining the expansion of capital over 60 years, despite endless crisis wobbles.

Contradictorily the existence of the workers state Soviet Union and the temporary balance of power with imperialism post war may have helped imperialism because of the additional stability given to the world production, just as the enormous growth of the revisionist Chinese workers state has very temporarily saved parts of the capitalist economy from imminent bankruptcy.

But every patched-up extension of the “boom” has fed back deeper and deeper contradictions into the already unstable capitalist exploitation system, so that the crisis now runs deeper than at any previous point in history. The tensions between the major imperialist blocs are reaching breaking point.

The destruction required now, and the inconceivably magnified firepower and technology of the imperialist war machinery, means the potential devastation facing the world is on a new scale, as the savaged masses in Iraq and Afghanistan have already begun to experience.

These opening shots were intended by the neo-con dominated US Empire as just as “demonstration pieces” helping get the world mentality back into the warmongering frame and to let all the challengers to American imperialism (and its tailending UK stooges) know just what is in store for anyone who wants to argue back, using some of the most despised and demonised regimes on the planet as targets to make it easy to whip up the necessary blitzkrieg frenzy, already stirred up with the entirely specious “war on terror” propaganda.

The entire system is increasingly even further out of balance by the extraordinary and unheard of deficits now run by the US empire, unable to produce anything like the massive quantities of wealth it requires to sustain its ruling class in the most grotesquely obscene levels of luxury and privilege ever known in history.

The most powerful country on the planet is now also the most indebted, only able to sustain its insatiable and every growing demand for the goods produced by the entire planet with larger and larger IOU paper dollar bills. If the debtors come knocking for the real value owed to them this huge inflationary structure of meaningless paper money will crash to the ground.

“Shock and awe” is intended to make clear to any who dare speak up to reclaim their real value just what fate awaits them, by underlining the hardware power and the fascist ruthlessness of the US ruling order. And Bush has made it overtly clear that anyone who begins to develop weaponry capable of matching the US will be smashed down.

But the more and more obvious failure of its neo-colonialist bludgeoning to pacify or suppress the rising tide of Third World hatred for imperialism around the planet and its rejection of any more of the tyranny and exploitation it has suffered for centuries, has brought the capitalist system to a cross roads.

The profound difficulties of the defeats and disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan now are doubly emphasising the terrifying problems of the crisis, They just get worse and worse as capitalist press reports make clear:

A suicide bomber on a motorbike killed 20 people and injured at least 30 in the Afghan border town of Spinboldak yesterday, the deadliest in a recent spate of attacks, officials said.

An unidentified man drove near a crowd of about 100 people watching a wrestling match at a fair in the town, a key crossing point into southern Pakistan, and detonated explosives strapped to his body, said Kandahar provincial governor Asadullah Khalid. He said that 20 people were killed, including the bomber, and more than 20 wounded. Rafiq Tarin, a government administrator in the neighbouring Pakistani town of Chaman, said more than 30 people injured in the explosion were treated in a hospital there. Many were in a critical condition.

It was the third bombing in two days in Kandahar province, a former Taliban stronghold, and the bloodiest in a series of about 25 suicide attacks across the country in the past four months.

Hours before, a bomb hit a convoy of Afghan army trucks carrying troops in the provincial capital of Kandahar, killing four people and wounding 16. On Sunday, a suicide car bomb there killed a senior Canadian diplomat and two civilians, and wounded three Canadian troops.

Suicide bombing is a relatively new tactic in Afghanistan and recent attacks reinforce fears that such assaults based on those in Iraq will increase.

The inspiration of this Third World resistance and nascent revolutionary struggles (which is what they are, however contradictorily led in unscientific religious mumbo-jumbo, limited petty bourgeois nationalist perspectives etc, and however crudely “terrorist” in their militancy) is now inspiring a growing momentum of rapid anti-imperialist political development.

The falling apart of the endless compromising and collaborationist illusions of the old Arafatite Palestinian Authority (and the corruption and degeneracy it produced) in favour of Hamas, now rapidly maturing from pure militancy and guerrilla struggle into coordinated political and militant struggle, is one of the most significant signs of the enormous momentum lying with the most downtrodden and heroically resistant of peoples, who have had no choice but to fight.

There is a huge way to go before the monstrous genocidal imperialist arrogance concentrated in the fanaticism of the Zionist occupiers in Palestine is finally defeated — and the limited unscientific religiosity of Hamas and Islamic Jihad may well need to be eventually bypassed as well to get there - but the victory achieved in Gaza in pushing out the Zionists for the first time ever has been reinforced by the endless difficulties and demoralisation for imperialism generally in the whole Middle East.

It is the revolutionary class-war hatred nature of open struggle against the imperialist occupations which has produced this enormous upsurge and the defeat suffered by bogged down imperialism, which every fake-”left group runs away from in one form or another, usually joining with imperialism to “condemn terrorism” and attacking as “reactionary” the ideologies that have surfaced to take the leadership.

But it is the material reality of up upwelling militancy which is the key element, not the as yet confused, unformed and unscientific conscious forms which temporarily (on the historical timescale) have filled the vacuum which Moscow-inspired revisionist delusions and compromise left in mass leadership because of its failure to understand and seize revolutionary movement (in Iraq in the 1950s, in Iran on the overturn of the Shah in 1978 etc etc).

There is every chance that such militancy can mature or merge into more disciplined and mass Marxist proletarian struggle as the crisis pushes development.

But raising such possibilities is by no means the same as uncritical support for the “resistance” as, for example, the revisionist dunderheads in the new Proletarian group misleadingly say, instead of correctly grasping and explaining the Marxist policy of complete support for all defeats for imperialism without giving any credence to unscientific or non-Marxist leadership.

These renamed Lalkarites are simply opportunistically riding the success of the resistance, just as they piggy backed on narrow-minded trade-unionist bureaucratic reaction of the Scargillite SLP for so long, by avoiding the fight for scientific revolutionary understanding, and all polemics.

Marxism needs to be rebuilt urgently — independent of the current leaderships — to develop the conscious struggle for the clearest scientific grasp of events, which alone can guide the masses through the most complex ups and downs of the struggle and in the balance of class forces worldwide which underpin it, and which ultimately take the masses forwards into building planned socialism. the only possible future for mankind to end the degeneracy and destruction of imperialism.

The same is true in South America where the impact of the rising world struggle has boosted the long term example of communist Cuba and its massive social achievements, internally and in aid to other world struggles, and the dogged determination of the still continuing guerrilla war struggle of the Colombian FARC masses against one of the most grotesquely barbaric CIA sponsored and trained death squads oppressions of all time,

The left movements range from the tide of populist “revolutionism” which has swept across Venezuela, and Bolivia, to the anti-imperialist tone of the capitalist regimes in recently bankrupted Argentina, and now even in the faintest of echoes in Chile’s reformist parliamentary changes.

None of these are Marxist communist movements and some of them may not be long in exposing their uselessness as any kind of progress for the working class — least of all the pale-”left” reformist government elected in Chile — but others are less clear.

It remains to be seen how far the anti-imperialism of petty bourgeois nationalism of Hugo Chavez will be pushed by its need to tap into mass working class struggle, with talk of arming the masses for defence against American sponsored counter revolution, and seizures of imperialist owned plantation land, the creation of a new trade union movement to go past the reactionary CIA dominated structure of the past.

Chavez declares himself no Marxist. But Cuba was a nationalist struggle transformed by the needs of the struggle against counter-revolutionary subversion into a consciously communist state after Castro had taken power (though sadly afflicted with revisionist illusions,).

The terrifying experiences of six decades of death squads and torture throughout South America by US trained and guided reactionary forces — and most of all the monstrous torture and massacres of the working class in Chile after the disastrous (and revisionist reinforced) illusions in “democratic and peaceful achievement of socialism” of the tragic Salvador Allende were slaughtered by the Pinochet coup in 1974 — will have been burned into mass memory but need to be made continually conscious by a Marxist understanding — as do the lessons already learned in Brazil for example by the compromises, corruptions and betrayals of the supposedly “left” Lula movement.

But the necessity to consciously battle for Marxist understanding, in conflict at times with the half-formed and mistaken illusions of the mass movement, does not equate with unprincipled and sinister attacks on these leaderships mounted by the twisted deviousness of the Trotskyite groups, most notably the Spartacists whose deliberately academic wooden “analysis” simply characterises Chavez as a “bourgeois” and therefore a “counter-revolutionary” to be opposed and “brought down” by the working class, (on a par with the equally poisonous “political revolution” fraud against the Soviet states to throw the workers state baby out with the revisionist bathwater, by which the Trots helped bring about the 1989 liquidation of the titanic achievements of the 1917 revolution.

This policy also happens, conveniently, to try and line the working class up with the repeated CIA-guided attempts of the middle class reactionary layers in the country to overturn this thorn in the side of imperialism which is “infecting” mass enthusiasm throughout the continent for seizing and controlling the assets so long plundered by imperialism.

Venezuela is no imperialist power, (and Chavez no imperialist), but a small and until recently completely tamed client state of the biggest imperialist of all, the USA.

It is currently struggling to throw off the dominance of the United States and the US stooge layer of its own bourgeoisie — a petty bourgeois anti-imperialist struggle which is necessarily merging in elements of the working class and peasantry. How far that will push Chavez — or whether he will be a fake-“left” obstacle, eventually, to the need for the working class to establish its power in the only way possible - the dictatorship of the proletariat — is undecided.

Utmost caution, and equally so of the new Evo Morales elected presidency in coup ridden Bolivia — is vital, and the most urgent need to puncture any illusions in the masses about what can be achieved by “democracy” is crucial. And that means building revolutionary Leninist understanding.

But it is also important to grasp what a further defeat it is for imperialism to face these multiplying struggles which reveal and add to the growing insurgency across the planet. Even if this is still small compared to the massive wealth and capacities of imperialist firepower, it is throwing the entire system into an increasingly paralysed chaos and incoherence, hammering the confidence of the ruling class as is increasingly visible in failing “popularity”, increasing numbers of disquieted intellectual and petty bourgeois voices being raised and recriminatory infighting and blame placing, as the press accounts are showing:

The Bush administration is under more pressure over its handling of the war in Iraq after Paul Bremer, the former head of the coalition provisional authority, claimed his request for more troops was rejected by the Pentagon and the White House.

Mr Bremer, the man most commonly associated with implementing postwar policies that led to the rise of the insurgency, has claimed that senior US military officials including the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, tried to make him a scapegoat for their failings.

...he had misgivings about coalition troop levels and raised the issue a number of times with administration officials, including George Bush.

He also defended his decision to disband the Iraqi army, often cited as one of the main reasons for the rise of the insurgency as it put out on the street a mass of trained but disgruntled men, saying most Iraqi units had disbanded in the wake of the invasion anyway and a recall would have ended up with a largely Sunni force.

Mr Bremer, a career diplomat, also attacks the US’s allies, including Britain, for being “weak-kneed” and getting “cold feet” over plans to arrest the militant Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

...In a passage that reiterates his claim, Mr Bremer rounds on Spanish forces for failing to support US troops under fire in Najaf. “They are sitting in tanks around the compound and doing nothing,” he wrote, quoting from notes he made at the time. “It’s a perfect outrage - I call it the ‘coalition of the not-at-all-willing’.”

In the book, Mr Bremer says the Pentagon was guilty of “institutional inertia” and blames Mr Rumsfeld and other military leaders for being determined to reduce US troop levels even in the face of the growing insurgency. “We’ve become the worst of all things: an ineffective occupier,” he says he told Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser.

Mr Bremer pours scorn on the Iraqi exiles who formed the initial Iraqi governing council in 2003. “They couldn’t organise a parade, let alone a country,” he writes.

In Britain the deepening nervousness of the ruling class is palpable in the growing fears about Blairism’s capacities to hold the line against what will become an increasingly rebellious working class as slump realities bite deeper and the transient superficialities of dumbed-down consumerism lose their grip.

Such astonishing events as the call to impeach (!!) Tony Blair for the Iraq war debacle by senior military figures, not because they have objections to warmongering as such — they support the most monstrous British interventions from the overtly imperialist Falklands war under Thatcher to the disgusting blitzkrieg bullying of tiny Serbia in 1998 — or even the “justice” of the Iraq war — but because it has gone deeply and profoundly wrong.

The sinister background threat of military coup is obviously there from a ruling class which is losing all confidence that its old ways of keeping control through the illusions of “freedom and democracy” now have any capacity to keep the lid on forthcoming upheaval and rebellion, which they know the crisis will create.

The bankruptcy of the desperate efforts to create a “new but clean Tony Blair” in the Tories' David Cameron, with the most unbelievable and laughable lies about “concern for ordinary people” equally reflect the fears in the ruling class that its “parliamentary democracy” fraud has almost burnt out, and that the Blairites are now totally exposed for the liars, cheats and Goebbels-warmongering monsters that they are.

Blairism was already a last desperate throw for the increasingly despised parliamentary game of lies, corruption, backscratching and fraudulent reformist promises, using all the tricks of modern advertising and media manipulation to sell a non-existent set of “Emperor’s new clothes” of supposed advances in living standards and “gains” for workers in education, hospitals and so forth, to the working class, even as the underlying economic conditions deteriorated still further.

The bourgeoisie and middle class was kept sweet meanwhile via the sleazy reality of continued back-door fire-sale sell-offs of priceless state assets and resources to the bourgeoisie, and the use of state funding to maintain otherwise bankrupt capitalist “enterprises” with lucrative privatisation deals, guaranteeing a fixed profit for years onwards, in the face of market realities where the profit rate had long gone through the floor (see falling rate of profit in Marx’s Capital eg).

And all that was only possible by riding on the back of yet further enormous dollar deficit creation by the Bush-ites which will eventually reinforce a world credit implosion.

But even that thin New Labourite gruel (which only piles up huge future debt and tax burdens on the working class for decades to come under the best of circumstances and total disaster once the slump hits) is drying up as pensions are axed and hospitals turn patients away, unemployment climbs again and state and private debts reach unprecedented and unsustainable levels.

There is no room any more for “concessions” to the working class and the maintenance of a bought-off privileged layer of well-off workers (relative to the Third World) to support a bourgeois Labour Party (as it always has been).

It is possibly a measure of its desperation that the ruling class still hangs on to Blair even after the credibility of the entire Blairite experiment has been destroyed, by the exposure of its Goebbels lies over Iraq, because it is too nervous to give ground to any of the usual “alternatives” however safely embedded in the parliamentary racket they are.

Even the Lib-Dems are seen as too much with the faint illusion of “principles” against the warmongering (though they suspended their opposition once it started) and the threat to move “left” of New Labour. It could be far less than coincidental that two personal scandals in a row have hit them, especially as the ‘crimes’ in themselves are usually tolerated and covered over in the great parliamentary racket; if tippling too hard was really a serious problem then why does the House of Commons have more non-stop cheap bars per square metre than virtually any other part of the country?

Even Gordon Brown, touted as New Labour alternative to Blair has had to try and prove his reactionary credentials with his call for a “Britishness Day” in a crude attempt to revive the chauvinism which has been a mainstay of past imperialist populism and warmongering.

But the derision and hostility evoked has only further underlined the difficulties facing the ruling class:

... we have developed an almost infinite capacity to forget our own atrocities.

Atrocities? Which atrocities? When a Turkish writer uses that word, everyone in Turkey knows what he is talking about, even if they deny it vehemently. But most British people will stare at you blankly. So let me give you two examples, both of which are as well documented as the Armenian genocide.

In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, published in 2001, Mike Davis tells the story of famines that killed between 12 and 29 million Indians. These people were, he demonstrates, murdered by British state policy. When an El Niño drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan plateau in 1876 there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India. But the viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent its export to England. In 1877 and 1878, at the height of the famine, grain merchants exported a record 6.4m hundredweight of wheat. As the peasants began to starve, officials were ordered “to discourage relief works in every possible way”. The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited “at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices”. The only relief permitted in most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state of starvation was turned away. In the labour camps, the workers were given less food than inmates of Buchenwald. In 1877, monthly mortality in the camps equated to an annual death rate of 94%.

As millions died, the imperial government launched “a militarised campaign to collect the tax arrears accumulated during the drought”. The money, which ruined those who might otherwise have survived the famine, was used by Lytton to fund his war in Afghanistan. Even in places that had produced a crop surplus, the government’s export policies, like Stalin’s in Ukraine, manufactured hunger. In the north-western provinces, Oud and the Punjab, which had brought in record harvests in the preceding three years, at least 1.25m died.

Three recent books - Britain’s Gulag by Caroline Elkins, Histories of the Hanged by David Anderson, and Web of Deceit by Mark Curtis - show how white settlers and British troops suppressed the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya in the 1950s. Thrown off their best land and deprived of political rights, the Kikuyu started to organise - some of them violently - against colonial rule. The British responded by driving up to 320,000 of them into concentration camps. Most of the remainder - more than a million - were held in “enclosed villages”. Prisoners were questioned with the help of “slicing off ears, boring holes in eardrums, flogging until death, pouring paraffin over suspects who were then set alight, and burning eardrums with lit cigarettes”. British soldiers used a “metal castrating instrument” to cut off testicles and fingers. “By the time I cut his balls off,” one settler boasted, “he had no ears, and his eyeball, the right one, I think, was hanging out of its socket.” The soldiers were told they could shoot anyone they liked “provided they were black”. Elkins’s evidence suggests that more than 100,000 Kikuyu were either killed or died of disease and starvation in the camps. David Anderson documents the hanging of 1,090 suspected rebels: far more than the French executed in Algeria. Thousands more were summarily executed by soldiers, who claimed they had “failed to halt” when challenged.

These are just two examples of at least 20 such atrocities overseen and organised by the British government or British colonial settlers; they include, for example, the Tasmanian genocide, the use of collective punishment in Malaya, the bombing of villages in Oman, the dirty war in North Yemen, the evacuation of Diego Garcia. Some of them might trigger a vague, brainstem memory in a few thousand readers, but most people would have no idea what I’m talking about.

...the dominant system of thought in Britain “promotes one key concept that underpins everything else - the idea of Britain’s basic benevolence ... Criticism of foreign policies is certainly possible, and normal, but within narrow limits which show ‘exceptions’ to, or ‘mistakes’ in, promoting the rule of basic benevolence”. This idea, I fear, is the true “sense of British cultural identity” whose alleged loss Max laments today. No judge or censor is required to enforce it. The men who own the papers simply commission the stories they want to read.

The similarities between April 2003 (Iraq) and British policy in Sri Lanka in 1815 were uncanny. Determined to remove the King of Kandy, who controlled the mountains of the island’s interior and was the last bastion of independence, the British conspired with local nobles to topple the autocratic ruler.

But, instead of withdrawing as the nobles had been led to believe, the British stayed on in Kandy. “You have now deposed the king, and nothing more is required - you may leave us,” one of them said in polite desperation.

...The Americans haven’t (left Iraq), and nor did the British. The result was a guerrilla insurgency that the British put down with enormous savagery...

As the Sinhalese insurgency grew, Brownrigg advised London not to tolerate “the disgrace of a great military nation being expelled by a band of semi-barbarians without discipline and but little courage”. He recommended that “the people must be driven to peace by starvation and burning”. Captain Ajax Anderson promised, “We’ll track the savage to his den with famine, sword, and flame,”..

The Sri Lankan atrocities were among the earliest in a long line of imperial barbarity....

I remember once squeezing into a Kabul bookshop that was little more than a cupboard in the wall with barely enough room for its elderly owner and one customer. From the packed shelves he offered me the memoirs of a 19th-century British officer. It had a chapter called The Cruelty of the Afghan.

Claiming “the Afghan imbibes a taste for violence with his mother’s milk”, the officer described being sent to rescue a small group of troops ambushed by Afghan fighters on a mountain road. As he drew near, he saw the men were dead. The only Afghan in sight was a boy of about seven struggling to behead one of the corpses with a knife. This was meant to be a story about Afghan cruelty, and the officer apparently saw no irony in recounting (I foolishly did not buy the book so my memory of the exact wording may be faulty): “The busy little urchin did not apprehend my approach. I took him on the point of my bayonet and tossed him over the cliff.”

It would be nice to think that this kind of barbarity was confined to the phase of imperial acquisition, or that what was politically correct in the 19th-century became unacceptable later. Alas no. The placid years of settlement in Africa and Asia were shot through with racist arrogance and contempt for local cultures, apartheid in practice if not in name. Those Britons abroad who made an effort to learn languages and study religions, and came to admire the traditions and practices of the people they ruled, were always a tiny minority. And when the natives got restless, brutality quickly resurfaced. Two books that came out last year on Britain’s suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya in the 1950s uncovered brutality and mass murder, ordered by the British authorities, on a scale that matched Kandy in 1815.

A year or so ago Gordon Brown said it was time Britain stopped apologising for the empire. If only Britain had started to. Instead we have seen a flood of new books and articles glorifying it, while school texts still take the most benign approach to our imperial record...

We need less jingoism, not more. And does Gordon Brown not detect a false echo to his claims regarding our virtues, our sense of fairness etc? Tell that to those who are currently incarcerated without trial and those who have suffered at our hands in Iraq.

J Severs

The Scottish, Irish and Welsh celebrate their national days. We English do not. Give us April 23, St George’s Day, off. It’s all a load of nonsense but at least the weather is good in late April.

Alan Fox

If people are proud of being British, why can’t they think of a British way of celebrating Britishness, instead of just copying the French and Americans?

Jon Wilson

Gordon Brown wonders why other countries have “unifying” days but the British do not. The reason is that in many countries - for example, India (August 15) or Kenya (December 12) - such days often commemorate freedom from British colonial rule.

Vani Borooah

As patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, I recommend calling it scoundrel day.

David Partridge
Bridport, Dorset

I would suggest June 15 (warm, long daylight hours, the height of summer), commemorating the signing of the Magna Carta - the start of this nation’s progress towards a parliamentary democracy.

Phil Williams

Let’s copy the Americans who, on July 4, celebrate that they no longer have to have anything to do with Britain. Having seen what the US is doing around the world we should celebrate on that day for exactly the same reason.

John Loader
Ely, Cambs

Since America, France and Russia’s national days celebrate the overthrow of despotic and tyrannical systems, why don’t we first have a revolution - and then choose the day it finishes ?

Owen Ephraim
Chelmsford, Essex

In this kind of atmosphere, the result of three major World War defeats for the capitalist system’s lying claims to ultimately offer peace, growth and prosperity (not to mention its countless interim wars, coups, assassinations, bribery, torture and corrupt bribery to maintain its dominance) it is a major task for the ruling class to convince workers that the return to yet more warmongering is a solution to the problems facing the world.

The upheavals of rebellion on the planet are not the cause of anything but are caused by the tyranny of capitalism.

None of which will stop the ruling class continuing its headlong plunge into war, as the continuing demonisation of “rogue” regimes like Iran, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan and others make clear. It has no other solution, and no ruling class, let alone one as hugely powerful and armed to the roots of its hair at this has ever willingly given up its wealth, power and privileges and quietly walked out of history.

But if the hatred of imperialism and the resultant insurgency has been multiplied ten thousand times by the brutal intervention within Iraq, the impact outside has been even greater.

Even less than Iraq, Iran will not be any kind of a walkover as the bourgeois commentators have expressed:

Nothing I have read or heard in recent weeks suggests that fighting Iran over its nuclear enrichment programme makes any sense at all. The very talk of it - macho phrases about “all options open” - suggests an international community so crazed with video game enforcement as to have lost the power of coherent thought.

Iran is a serious country, not another two-bit post-imperial rogue waiting to be slapped about the head by a white man. It is the fourth largest oil producer in the world. Its population is heading towards 80 million by 2010. Its capital, Tehran, is a mighty metropolis half as big again as London. Its culture is ancient and its political life is, to put it mildly, fluid.

All the following statements about Iran are true. There are powerful Iranians who want to build a nuclear bomb. There are powerful ones who do not. There are people in Iran who would like Israel to disappear. There are people who would not. There are people who would like Islamist rule. There are people who would not. There are people who long for some idiot western politician to declare war on them. There are people appalled at the prospect.

The only question for western strategists is which of these people they want to help.

Of all the treaties passed in my lifetime the 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) always seemed the most implausible. It was an insiders’ club that any outsider could defy with a modicum of guile. So it has proved. America, sitting armed to the teeth across Korea’s demilitarised zone, has let North Korea become a nuclear power despite a 1994 promise that it would not. America supported Israel in going nuclear. Britain and America did not balk at India doing so, nor Pakistan when it not only built a bomb but deceitfully disseminated its technology in defiance of sanctions. Three flagrant dissenters from the NPT are thus regarded by America as friends.

I would sleep happier if there were no Iranian bomb but a swamp of hypocrisy separates me from overly protesting it. Iran is a proud country that sits between nuclear Pakistan and India to its east, a nuclear Russia to its north and a nuclear Israel to its west. Adjacent Afghanistan and Iraq are occupied at will by a nuclear America, which backed Saddam Hussein in his 1980 invasion of Iran. How can we say such a country has “no right” to nuclear defence?

None the less this month’s reopening of the Natanz nuclear enrichment plant and two others, though purportedly for peaceful uses, was a clear act of defiance by Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Inspectors from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) remain unsure whether it implies a secret weapons programme but the evidence for this is far stronger than, for instance, against Saddam Hussein. To have infuriated the IAEA’s Mohamed ElBaradei takes some doing.

As Saddam found, deviousness in nuclear matters is bound to arouse suspicion. Either way, the reopening yielded a strong diplomatic coalition of Europe, America, Russia and China in pleading with Ahmadinejad to desist. On Monday, Washington’s kneejerk belligerence put this coalition under immediate strain. In two weeks the IAEA must decide whether to report Iran to the UN security council for possible sanctions.

There seems little point in doing this if China and Russia vetoes it or if there is no plan B for what to do if such pressure fails to halt enrichment, which seems certain.

A clear sign of western floundering are speeches and editorials concluding that Iran “should not take international concern lightly”, the west should “be on its guard” and everyone “should think carefully”. It means nobody has a clue.

I cannot see how all this confrontation will stop Iran doing whatever it likes with its nuclear enrichment, which is reportedly years away from producing weapons-grade material. The bombing of carefully dispersed and buried sites might delay deployment. But given the inaccuracy of American bombers, the death and destruction caused to Iran’s cities would be a gift to anti-western extremists and have every world terrorist reporting for duty.

Nor would the “coward’s war” of economic sanctions be any more effective. Refusing to play against Iranian footballers (hated by the clerics), boycotting artists, ostracising academics, embargoing commerce, freezing foreign bank accounts - so-called smart sanctions - are as counterproductive as could be imagined. Such feelgood gestures drive the enemies of an embattled regime into silence, poverty or exile. As Timothy Garton Ash wrote in these pages after a recent visit, western aggression “would drain overnight its still large reservoir of anti-regime, mildly pro-western sentiment”.

By all accounts Ahmadinejad is not secure. He is subject to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His foe, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, retains some power. Tehran is not a Saddamist dictatorship or a Taliban autocracy. It is a shambolic oligarchy with bureaucrats and technocrats jostling for power with clerics. Despite a quarter century of effort, the latter have not created a truly fundamentalist islamic state. Iran is a classic candidate for the politics of subtle engagement.

This means strengthening every argument in the hands of those Iranians who do not want nuclear weapons or Israel eliminated, who crave a secular state and good relations with the west. No such argument embraces name-calling, sabre-rattling, sanctions or bombs.

But this piece this misses the most critical point of all, that the neo-colonialist adventures and warmongering of imperialism are nothing to do with maintaining a balanced and stable world with “senior” imperialism in charge, nor even as the trivial “left” cliché perspective would have it of extending imperialist rule and “control of oil”.

This is a deliberate strategy to get imperialism off the hook of the worst trade war slump crisis it has ever delivered to the planet through the contradictions of its defunct and pointless outmoded profit system. It wants war at any price ultimately, the only strategy being for the Empire to stay on top by getting in first.

And if it can’t be done by whipping up sufficient war fever it must be done by coercion.

Blairism remains the ruling class option temporarily because it swings ever closer to closet Mosleyism, backdoor spin-disguised fascism trying to sneak in the relentless erosion of human rights and the restoration of medieval levels of torture, imprisonment without trial or rights and arbitrary state control which capitalism needs to impose its will as the “democratic” illusions are increasingly stripped away.

It is a shadow of the strutting aggressiveness of the 1930s Blackshirt movement and its Nazi mentors in Germany because that has already been a complete disaster, stimulating the huge round of additional revolutions and struggles which erupted after the Second World War, a mere 12 years after the supposed “1000 year Empire” had been smashed apart by the Soviet Red Army stimulating a revival of the working class communist spirit across Russia and Europe.

Only the tragic dumbing down and relentless philistinism of modern western capitalist society and its saturation by shallow consumerism, glitz and “celebratory” antics in place of any struggle to understand society, allows this disgusting New Labourite game to continue at all.

Sadly the recent Big Brother attempt to break through this wall of glitz with some politics has turned into opportunistic buffoonery, not because there is anything wrong in trying to use any particular platform to get the politics across — there is a well tested Leninist tactic of using parliamentary participation precisely to denounce all parliament for the lying fraud and deadly trap it is for the working class (keeping it in thrall to the actual dictatorship of capital which it disguises) — but because the politics of Respect are opportunist to the core.

Despite some at times excellent knockabout abuse of imperialism, opposition to, and denouncing of, warmongering and reactionaries of all kinds, Galloway and Respect steer firmly away from any mention of revolution and firmly towards continuing to tie the working class yet again to the “parliamentary road” as Galloway makes explicit in interviews if pressed and as the laughably named Socialist Workers Party implies with every part of their “practical” politics from calling for the support for New Labour in two elections, for arch-opportunist Ken Livingstone and for Galloway too, and their failure ever to mention revolution.

The posturing antics of George Galloway are safe enough for the ruling class — and may yet be useful despite the hypocritical and sanctimonious press mockery of his TV participation, with Respect kept in reserve as a desperate “left” feint if required in crisis moments, and genuine centrism and a potential revolutionary leadership gets going.

Meanwhile there is no indication that the new “mass party” being touted by the RMT union and others is anything but another onion-layer of this already failed reformist and class collaboration illusion which the working class has rightly rejected across the board by its abstention from election and cynical contempt for all bourgeois politics.

It offers the usual flim-flam. “A fundamental break with the big business parties which currently dominate politics, giving workers the opportunity to resist the neo-liberal capitalist agenda and fight for a socialist programme - including a living minimum wage, full trade union rights and for fully funded, democratically controlled public services”

But what is needed is the most determined battle and struggle with the working class to win an understanding that Leninism is something else entirely to that contemptuous and lying game, and that only revolution is the answer to the coming chaos. Build Leninism.

Don Hoskins

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World Revolutionary Socialist Review

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

Donaldson exposure

Republicans must thwart securocrat agenda

British psy ops and black propaganda - next phase of the Peace Process?
Sinn Fein analyses the implications of the exposure of a British informer in its Stormont government team. It was the police accusations of “spying” against this group which were used to justify yet more stalling of the snail’s pace British withdrawal from Ireland and progress towards eventual unity by suspension of Stormont.

The reality of agents placed within republicanism to work against Irish independence is nothing new. The recruitment and operation of agents, and use of counter-intelligence operations by British agencies against the struggle for independence are as old as the struggle itself.

Yet there are wider implications, which stem from [Denis] Donaldson’s exposure. They underscore the fact that the structures, systems and paraphernalia of Britain’s armed campaign in Ireland remain operational. It is why the Six County Executive and All-Ireland political institutions were brought down in 2002.

This represents an acid at the heart of the Peace Process. It undermines the British Government’s purported commitment to developing a real conflict resolution process. It causes political instability. Republicans need to recognise this is precisely what is intended by those opposed to the Peace Process. We need to stop this happening. Similar challenges confronted other liberation struggles at seminal moments.

Counter Strategies in South Africa

The exposure of this agent, followed by psni visits to some Belfast republicans over Christmas ostensibly to warn them of their outing as informers succeeded a recent battery of political policing actions in the Six Counties and ongoing activities by unionist death squads. This all resonates with events in South Africa ten to 15 years ago, albeit on a different scale.

Despite the historic turn of events in 1990-91, the Apartheid regime had not fully resolved to sue for peace and democracy. Even after the anc decided to ceasefire and later dump arms, those within the state’s political establishment and intelligence agencies opposed to change tried repeatedly to undermine these historic initiatives and in doing so, cause disarray among the forces of progress. In the four years of stop/start negotiations leading up to the 1994 elections, 20,000 people died in violence instigated by state-sponsored death squads. Key anc leaders were assassinated. Black propaganda operations were targeted against the anc and other tactics were deployed to frustrate the momentum for political change and growing support for the anc.

In the last few years a catalogue of overt and covert intelligence operations have been launched against republicans and the wider Peace Process. The most incontrovertible of these was the collapse of the political institutions by psni Special Branch. We have come to expect that these operations intervene in direct proportion to Sinn Fein’s continued success at winning the battle of ideas across the island. Nevertheless it is difficult not to conclude from the mounting evidence in recent years that British policy in this process has been driven by an intensive counter-intelligence strategy incorporating the use of agents, electronic surveillance, various espionage tactics, black propaganda, and increasingly, psychological operations (psy ops). It amounts to the prosecution of a dirty war, conducted with the complicity of a compliant media.

The Political Detectives and TCG

Those responsible for directing this political dirty war, cut their operational teeth during the 1980s and 1990s during the shoot-to-kill policy, when the death squads were reorganised and rearmed, and throughout the period of collusion killings and assassination of republican activists. Since then they have made the transition from ruc Special Branch to become the political detectives of the psni , and in the process have imbued their war mentality into the senior command structure of that force. Throughout this period these same elements have worked in harness with British intelligence. The anti-republican culture they have brought into the psni will continue for as long as this force remains integral to the military intelligence and spying functions of the Tasking and Coordinating Group (tcg). The tcg harmonises the activities of psni and British agencies in the Six Counties, and reports to the Joint Intelligence Committee; a sub-committee of the British Government.

As republicans consider the future intentions of and operational interaction between the political detectives and their peers in British Intelligence agencies, we need to reflect laterally upon the ramifications, which are thrown up. Can and should they be judged as a monolith? Are these agencies all operating in unison? Are they operating to a common strategy against the republican project and the Peace Process? Are they singularly or collectively operating in conformity with, or in contradiction to British Government policy?

Ultimately, only the British Government can answer such questions.

Whether some, or all of these forces are working to destabilise the Peace Process, some issues are beyond dispute. The decision to create conditions leading to the exposure of Denis Donaldson was calculated to precipitate a new political crisis; by either seeking to provoke a reaction from the ira, or impel him to seek sanctuary with these same agencies, thus creating a pretext for the imc to smear republicans in its next report. The Christmas visits in Belfast, clearly prove that the psni remain locked into this particular tactic; and we may expect more of the same. Those who hoped to engineer a new crisis but failed, will seek to exercise whatever leverage they still can from Donaldson’s betrayal to create other political difficulties. This indicates the Peace Process is in a phase of intensified psy ops and black propaganda targeted against Sinn Fein, and aimed at popular opinion. Indeed if some of Britain’s security agencies are operating to their own agenda, we may well be entering the most dangerous period of the process to date.

Psy Ops to Continue

Regardless of individual emotions initially triggered by Denis Donaldson’s exposure, republicans need to assess it dispassionately.

The political sub text in which the intelligence agencies operated was to use a negatively inspired imc report in the new year to subvert the prospect of political talks; provide a renewed pretext for unionist intransigence; contribute to concretising direct rule; and, deny republicans the political initiative. Neither should we underestimate the hostility within the policing establishment and intelligence agencies towards republicans successfully negotiating acceptable policing arrangements, as a motivation for what has happened, and what may yet unfold.

Having failed in their initial intention, it is inevitable that the securocrats will seek to play the Donaldson episode out as an ongoing psy op, aimed at destabilising internal republican unity and political cohesion, and sucking momentum out of the Peace Process.

Ending Political Policing

Our political programme in the New Year needs to be driven by determination to prevent this happening, and thwarting the agenda of the securocrats and reactionary unionism. We need to ensure the tactics of our opponents do not deflect us from continuing to build political strength and winning the battle for hearts and minds or contaminating republican political unity and cohesion.

The combined efforts of republicans in the next few months need to concentrate on confronting the role of political policing and ensuring the reinstatement of the political institutions. This requires visibility and high impact campaigning nationally and internationally, aimed at mobilising popular opinion for an end to political policing and restoration of the political institutions.

What we must do

For the British and Dublin Governments, the sdlp, and progressive unionism, they must decide if they really want the institutions reinstated. If so, their battle is with those elements of the political establishments and intelligence agencies, in Britain and the North who do not. They have a choice to make between creating a consensus for democratic change, or subordination to the securocrat strategy of long-term direct rule.

The biggest choice however, rests with the British negotiators, and whether they will confront the threat to democracy in Ireland from within their own system.

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