No 1587 15th December 2020
Flag-waving “British Empire” gunboat Brexit posturing over fishing rights and non-existent “achievements” in the Covid pandemic would be laughable if the Catastrophe-driven turn to inter-imperialist hostility was not such a deadly threat. Hollow as they are, the pretences reflect ruling class desperation and paralysis, driven by the greatest crisis collapse in all history dragging the whole world into barbaric conflict. The vicious warcrime chaos which has already destroyed half a dozen countries in the Middle East, is warming the world up for total World War Three destruction. Slump collapse hidden by Covid lockdown is pushing workers ever closer to stomach-churning desperation making it impossible to live the old way any more, but still the fake-”left” clings on to “democracy” and “pacifism” instead of explaining the need for worldwide revolutionary class war to end the degeneracy, grotesque inequality and tyranny for good. Build Leninism
The cynical, sleazily corrupt and totally incompetent Tory ruling class deserves total mockery for its pathetic schoolboy bragging about “British achievements” and “British values” over Covid and a Brexit gunboat “no deal”.
Claims of “world supremacy” from this moribund British imperialism, in relative decline for the last hundred years and now surviving mostly by assembling other people’s technology, and by the huge, parasitical City hedge-fund speculation, money-laundering and “management” spivery, servicing half the gangster sheikhs, drug kingpins, former dictators and oligarch carpet-baggers on the planet, are so idiotic and shallow that even Joseph Goebbels, famous for his “when you tell a lie tell a big one” propaganda, would have blushed from humiliation.
The pretence, that rushing through a Covid vaccine developed by Turkish immigrants in Germany, using freely-supplied Chinese RNA data, managed and backed by an American company, manufactured in Belgium, and distributed by an NHS staffed largely by overseas nurses, doctors and ancillaries, is some kind of victory for the fatuous British establishment, is so ludicrous it could kill satire forever.
Only the most diehard reactionary middle-class who service these rackets and addle-brained flag-waving fascists could really believe it, or rather want to believe it, to avoid seeing the reality of rapidly deepening capitalist Catastrophe, and the desperation of the ossified British ruling class’s total lack of competitive ability, barely able to keep its head above water and head-off inevitable class revolt against its vile and vicious profit system.
That Britain is one of the weakest links in the cutthroat monopoly capitalist struggle for markets (alongside Italy perhaps) has been obvious for decades, and as crisis deepens is underlined by this absurd boasting, when the only real “British achievements” around Covid are the corrupt crony “private sector” incompetence that has simply creamed off £billions in return for delivering complete confusion and the highest death toll in Europe, along with the least amount of financial support for the millions now facing terrifying unemployment, income collapse and housing breakdown.
The turn to whipped-up jingoism and Brexit aggression, is the only answer this floundering bunch of make-weights and gurning public school smirkers can now find to get out of the hole their class has dug, to threaten and bully the world into accepting their arrogance and privilege.
It is no joke at all however.
In fact it is the most serious element of all, telling the story that the 50-shades-of-pink fake-“left” still ignores, locked into their continuing revisionist brain-numbing notions of “stopping war”, or “winning over the Labour movement” – the unstoppable plunge of the entire capitalist order into the greatest crisis collapse of all time and the end point of cutthroat trade war in World War Three.
Capitalism is on path towards all-out inter-imperialist warmongering, intensifying the trade-war hostility that first broke out in earnest in the mid-1980s when the Thatcher/Reagan Anglo-Saxon axis redirected resources from the fabulously expensive “Star Wars” anti-Soviet Cold War intimidation (part of the USA’s anti-communist policing role on behalf of all imperialism – in return for the lion’s share of Third World superprofits, directly and via the dollar reserve currency racket) into commercial spying and financial manoeuvring.
More efficient rising rival industrial and commercial powers like Germany and Japan, and some new-kids-on-the-block such as Brazil, were all outcompeting it, and “eating its lunch”, (reducing the USA’s share of world GDP from 50% in 1945 to 25% in 1991, and now just 14%.)
The inherent contradictions in the world monopoly capitalist system, which can never stop driving it towards slump disaster even during its flashiest boom expansion, (and in fact because of that unrestrained, unsustainable growth creating a bubble that must burst) had already lurched in the early 1970s when Richard Nixon had to take the all-powerful dollar off the gold standard (and long-troubled British imperialism, dutifully being run by the craven grovelling of the Labour Party, was forced to take an IMF austerity-imposing bailout) as a first major turn downwards in the post-war “boom”).
By the 1980s and since, the story was of crisis after crisis as regional credit failures, state bankruptcies, currency collapses and Stock Market meltdowns have shattered lives from Latin America to south-east Asia, brought the Japanese to decades of stagnation and bankrupted whole countries (Argentina, Greece etc), all in the midst of war turmoil, and ever-growing anti-imperialist uproar.
These partial meltdowns, each ripping millions of lives apart, may have been temporarily overcome but are all part of the hugely complex worldwide monopolisation of capitalism (concentrating the power mainly of topdog US exploitation), and the simultaneous breakdown into the Slump disaster that finally erupted in full in 2008 in the global credit failures at the heart of the US Empire and its banking system.
Total catastrophe was put off only for a while by the gigantic bank “rescue” operation paid for by the squeeze on the international working class in austerity cuts, wage stagnation, further gig-labour slashing of conditions and security, the need for households to borrow up to the eyeballs, and above all by the pouring out of massive state credit (effectively dollar/Euro/pound printing).
But the QE credit props are giving way, as the “overproduction” (as far as profiteering is concerned) inherent in capitalism brings back the devastation of world economic breakdown, along with hugely intensified inter-imperialist cutthroat scrambling for what spoils they can still get from imploding markets.
The capitalist crisis cause of the renewed breakdown has recently been obscured by the Covid pandemic, providing an excuse for the meltdown (and perhaps allowed to run on by Trumpism for just that reason?), but it was already unrolling by the end of last year as the EPSR was warning, citing evidence from many bourgeois press accounts, and has only been accelerated by lockdowns, as will steadily become clearer whatever transient “bounceback” follows a vaccination programme and the restoration of production.
There is no “return to normal life” coming except for the ruling class and a small section of the upper middle class possibly, transiently.
Trade war and heated conflict is what Trumpism’s “America First” was all about before the pandemic, and in fact every American presidency from at least Clinton onwards which, if not so insistently, have put “American interests” forwards.
And now Biden does too (if the still festering Trumpite coup threat is deferred and overt fascist civil war is avoided for the moment).
In this desperate plunge of the whole world into chaos and breakdown, the desperate British ruling class, the oldest and most ossified of the major imperialist powers and least able to compete with its more efficient rivals, has been forced out in front with chauvinist diversions.
These sick monsters are whipping up demented and mindless Union Jack jingoism to blame other countries for the ruling class’ failure and mismanagement, while piling on the vilest scapegoating blame backwardness against whichever minorities can be found as suitable targets (the hapless and viciously mistreated Windrush generation still being deported and often without compensation from the fascist-minded Pritti Patel, Muslims across the board led by an Islamophobia-ridden Tory party, East European workers, etc; the genocidally land-robbed Palestinians and their supporters) to prepare the atmosphere for war.
It is a large part of what Brexit has been about.
As explained by the EPSR for decades, and throughout the referendum and since, the “leave or stay in Europe” argument has always been a conflict in the ruling class about how to survive the coming Slump and its intensification towards all-out hot war, and which side to take, – staying with the “safe” European bloc under the humiliating (to the rigid, harrumphing Empire wing of the ruling class) domination of powerful German imperialism or cutting loose, with the obvious hope of sheltering under the skirt of on-off ally American imperialism, despite the hard bargains that would be struck (as Trump made clear) on agriculture (the infamous chlorinated chicken, hormone laden beef etc) and many other trading sectors by a contemptuous US Empire.
These Brexiters are willing to pay almost any price (or rather for the workers to pay it) in order to be on the “right side” when the inevitable all-out destructive conflict begins in earnest (which Trumpism has made clear will be with capitalist rivals and especially the EU, despite the anti-China daily bogeyman hate rants).
There are no advantages for the working class in this choice either way.
It is being completely hoodwinked and stampeded behind ruling class war plans, which for all the hollowness of a burnt out British ruling class are still potentially deadly and about to get deadlier.
Every ruling class in capitalism makes sure it stays armed to the teeth in the sick antagonistic world created by centuries of capitalist rapaciousness with the arms industry a central part of “competition”, for its technological cutting edge, for its aggressive and intimidating bullying power and for the money it brings.
Those that fall behind face not just playing second fiddle but ultimately complete wipeout and destruction in a world of non-stop “winner-takes-all” savagery that will shortly have to be fought literally to the death or total capitulation – just as seen in the First and Second World Wars, with the “rival” challengers Germany and Japan virtually blotted out, and given a “second chance” only because they were needed for the anti-communist alliance to contain the rising Soviet camp and the anti-imperialism it helped.
They also faced revolution themselves as initial post-WW2 plans to demolish all the rivals industries began to stir such revolt – always on the rise anyway once a ruling class is defeated - that the victorious “allies” feared it running all the way to communist revolution, especially in Germany with already one third of the population on Moscow’s side.
No wonder that British imperialism hangs on tight to its “nuclear deterrent” and the American alliance that provides much of the Trident technology.
And no wonder that even as it mortgages its economy in tens of billions of debt, to try and survive the crisis collapse accelerated by Covid, it adds to the burden by upping the arms and military budget:
...that so many details relating to £16.5bn extra boost for defence spending remain unresolved.
Gone are plans to announce the extra funding at the same time as the grand outcome of an integrated review of defence and foreign policy after Brexit, which will now conclude in late January or early February, after an exit deal with the European Union might actually have been sealed.
Instead, along with the promise of new money are a handful of announcements, including a long-planned National Cyber Force of military hackers, a slightly less detailed and rather optimistic-sounding Space Command plus an agency specialising in artificial intelligence whose purpose is far from clear.
Even a breakdown of how the £16.5bn extra would be spread out over the four years was not immediately available, but that plus £5bn of existing commitments mean that the defence budget will surge by 10-15% a year from this year’s £41.5bn throughout the remainder of the parliament.
It might be tempting to conclude that defence always comes out on top under the Conservatives, but in reality defence spending has been falling in real terms every year since David Cameron walked into Downing Street in 2010, helped by the fact that ground forces have not been officially deployed in combat operations since Afghanistan in 2014.
What is surprising, however, is that the surge in spending is for a department noted for profligacy. At one point the Conservatives had claimed its books balanced, but as the National Audit Office recently noted, its equipment budget was £13bn short and veteran Whitehall insiders despair at the ability of the navy, in particular, to overspend.
Meanwhile, Downing Street has dug its heels in on a whole range of financial commitments, at a time when the pandemic has already wreaked havoc with the public finances. It proved quicker, when Johnson put his mind to it, to spend £16.5bn more on defence than £170m for free school meals in the Christmas holidays for English children.
“Guns not butter” was the slogan as the ruling class dragged the world into the 1914 Great War, the first of the titanic crisis conflicts of the imperialist epoch, slaughtering millions as the “Great Powers” slugged it out for re-division of the colonial spoils (see multiple Lenin writings), and here it is again (and due on a far bigger scale worldwide – the UK’s “contribution” a pinprick against the $-trillion escalations in Washington’s military output even under “no foreign-adventures” Trumpism and further for sure under Biden if he makes it to the White House).
International war and domestic repression is unstoppably the order of the day and has been obviously so since the US Empire launched the 1999 NATO onslaught on little Serbia, with non-stop attempts to “shock and awe” the world back to compliance with Washington diktat ever since, destroying country after country.
As well as suppressing and keeping in line all rising revolt from “upstarts” in the tyrannically exploited Third World, the aim was to warn all rivals of the ruthlessly imposition of blitzing destruction awaiting any major power challenges too.
But far from re-establishing the comfortable post-World War Two dominance of imperialism - headed by the all-pervading monopoly control by the US Empire and its dollar, sucking the world’s value output and raw materials inwards to maintain the grotesque wealth and control of the most powerful ruling class in history (propped up by the complacency of a Stars-and-Stripes middle class and corrupted class-collaborating layers of the better-off working class, sharing some of the superprofits), the result has been a disaster of military stand-off.
But invasion and blitzing has inflamed the already growing revolt everywhere by the near slave-driven world’s masses who can no longer stand non-stop tyranny and military domination and are now in permanent (if still sporadic) uproar.
“Terrorism” as imperialism labels all anti-imperialism, and “jihadism” has grown exponentially to threaten imperialist control everywhere, even as the inbuilt economic meltdown has intensified.
By 2011 this had moved up a notch to mass street revolt in the Arab Spring.
So too anti-imperialist sentiment like the wave of “left” nationalism across Latin America.
The sick response by Washington (and Britain trotting along behind) of brute destruction of the Middle East, balkanisations, coup and sabotage violence tried against Venezuela and Nicaragua, assassinations in Iran (courtesy of the Zionist occupiers in Palestine and the degenerate gangster tribal monarchs in the UAE and Saudi Arabia) and now non-stop warmongering in Yemen etc, has only added to the problems.
The ruling class was already staring into the abyss of total systemic failure at the turn of the century when it embarked on the New American Century re-colonising programme to reimpose its dominance by brute force.
It is now facing a collapse already a thousand times worse than it could see coming at the point, undermining all its confidence and capability even further.
Hence the desperate nastiness of the jingoism and flag waving, and the theatrical threats around the Brexit talks, pushing hair-raising military posturing to the fore (on fishing “rights” etc) which may be so much flummery and bragging but which could need only a spark or two, like a shot or drowned trawlerman, to become explosively dangerous.
Just how nasty this could become is already clear from the barbarism imperialism has been imposing on the world for two decades in its desperation.
Latest revelations from Australia underline the sheer depravity of imperialist operations in Afghanistan, here (below) limited to an investigation of “elite” forces, but in fact true for the whole Western operation at all levels, and from all the countries participating (as a recent BBC Panorama exposé on similar British and American “special forces” crimes and depravity revealed):
They were the elite of the elite among Australian soldiers, with a record of daring raids in Afghanistan. But a twisted and extreme warrior culture was being instilled, driving the commandos to glorify atrocity as they waged a methodical campaign to kill helpless Afghans and cover it up.
Commanders ordered junior soldiers to execute prisoners so they could record their first “kill.” Adolescents, farmers and other noncombatants were shot dead in circumstances clearly outside the heat of battle. Superior officers created such a godlike aura around themselves that troops dared not question them, even as 39 Afghans were unlawfully killed.
These are among the findings of battlefield misconduct, released on Thursday in a public accounting by the Australian military — a rare admission of abuses that often remain hidden during war.
The four-year examination by the inspector general of the Australian Defense Force is groundbreaking in its scope. It is the first time that a member of the American-led coalition in Afghanistan has so publicly, and at such a large scale, accused its troops of wrongdoing.
The inspector general’s inquiry, which examined the period from 2005 to 2016, stopped short of calling the killings war crimes. But the highly redacted report singles out “possibly the most disgraceful episode in Australia’s military history,” and calls for the criminal investigation of 19 soldiers.
The country’s military chief, Gen. Angus Campbell, said he accepted the findings and would eliminate an elite unit at the center of the investigation. The report also recommends that the Australian government pay compensation to the families of the Afghan victims.
The findings reflect the painful legacy of a wrenching 19-year conflict that has defied resolution, as violence continues unabated across Afghanistan. Peace talks are deadlocked between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and the country’s fate has been made all the more uncertain since President Trump’s order to further reduce American troops.
Australia’s military reckoning presents a stark contrast to how the United States has examined its own actions.
Mr. Trump recently pardoned three service members for war crimes and other unlawful acts. His administration has tried to block the work of an international investigator examining allegations of war crimes. And while there has been no small number of accusations of battlefield atrocities by U.S. service members, few have resulted in formal investigations, with American military officials portraying any such misconduct as rare.
U.S. investigations, when they have occurred, have generally centered not on entire units, but on individuals like Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who pleaded guilty to killing 16 civilians and is serving life in prison without parole. The focus on individuals has allowed special operations groups like the one at the center of the Australian report to avoid broader scrutiny.
In a statement, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said: “Only through a series of independent inquiries will we uncover the true extent of this disregard for Afghan life, which normalized murder, and resulted in war crimes. Only through further investigation, documentation and engagement with victims will victims’ right to truth and justice be met.”
Public awareness of potential abuses first emerged in 2017, when the Australian Broadcasting Corporation published allegations of unlawful killings of unarmed Afghan men and children after receiving hundreds of leaked Defense Force documents. This later prompted a raid on the office of the national broadcaster by the federal police and a failed attempt to prosecute the journalist who wrote the article.
The report released on Thursday documents a wide range of misconduct that the country’s defense chief called the product of a “distorted culture” in which “much of the good order and discipline of military life fell away.”
Some special forces members carried weapons or equipment that could be planted on corpses to make them look like legitimate targets.
The report placed the most responsibility on a small number of midlevel sergeants and their protégés for instigating and covering up the wrongdoing. It suggested that their motives included a desire to outscore other patrols in the number of enemy combatants killed, to clear at all costs the battlefield of people believed to be insurgents and to initiate new soldiers into a brotherhood of combat.
Professor Blaxland said the report’s findings reflected an ill-conceived national policy governing Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan that bred cynicism among some soldiers.
The caveats like “mid-level”, “some” soldiers etc are all part of a damage limitation exercise to try and head-off the appalled world reaction to the sheer degeneracy and fascism that is the reality of ever cruder “might is right” intimidation stemming from the monopoly capitalist ruling class and its failing domination, and which can only worsen ultimately all the way to the nuclear, biological and other horrors (wiping out life-critical national infrastructure with “cyber-attacks” for example) which are kept constantly under development and which will be used unless the whole system is overturned and a rational world starts to be built.
Far worse has previously been revealed anyway about torture, massacres, fascist depravity and civilian mass killing in the Afghan and Iraq wars, in wiping out “jihadism” and in the civilian killing in places like eastern Ukraine, only for disclosures to disappear from the public radar again, the perpetrators excused or shielded, and further investigation shutdown by government instruction while whistle-blowers, lawyers and journalists are variously censored, persecuted, barbarically mistreated, such as Julian Assange of Wikileaks foully banged-up in effective solitary and mistreated to the point of near judicial murder, or the solicitor Phil Shiner stripped of his professional standing for presuming to seek redress for Iraqi victims.
Dozens of journalists are slaughtered worldwide.
But as the world is shown over and over what a sick system it is dominated by, the fake-“left” fails to make the case, now so glaringly obvious, that only total overturn for capitalism can change anything, meaning all-out class-war revolution to build socialism under working class control.
Despite notional “Marxist principles” and even sloganising about “overturn” they never make clear the mindbogglingly devastating crisis nature of capitalism and its impact right now, nor the significance of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the only possible cure.
Instead they continue drag the working class back behind the parliamentary game, mostly through yet more rounds of hopeless “entryism” and the pretence that the thoroughly bourgeois Labour Party, can be “transformed” or provide the core for a revolutionary “mass party”, always ignoring ever cruder signs of its reactionariness, like the gross participation in the “left anti-semitism” inversion of reality, one of the most astonishing upside-down fascist propaganda campaigns in all history.
Those that at least denounce Labourism for the reaction it is - long nothing but an alternative management for capitalism, running its wars, oppression and anti-Sovietism with at least as much enthusiasm as the Tories themselves – still follow various parliamentary and reformist pacifism lines, failing to make revolution central.
One reflection of this is the way they have become tangled in the Brexit issue from the beginning, mostly supporting the leave campaign as supposedly getting workers out from under unnecessary regulations.
But the notion that the European Union is a monopoly “bosses” club from which workers need to escape, fostered by many of the fake-“left” groups (“left” Labourites, some trade unions, Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party, the Militant SP, the SWP among them) has been leading workers in entirely the wrong direction, helping foster the xenophobic flagwaving hysteria that the ruling class needs to escape its disaster.
Grossest of all has been the Stalinist Proletarian CPGB-ML jointly creating an overtly chauvinist “Workers Party of Britain” in a confusion-spreading Popular Front lashup with arch parliamentary opportunist and demagogue George Galloway, that uses Spitfire-style roundels as its symbol and, in a sick historical joke for these Stalinists with their Lalkar Indian workers connections, has even seen them standing silently while Galloway applauded the arch-imperialist Winston Churchill, rightly hated in Bengal and throughout India for his fascist-racist imposition of famine and disaster.
Nor do any of them draw the really important lesson from the Covid debacle, which is not simply the brilliant humanitarian organisation and competence of the Chinese workers state in coping with it by fast, well-organised lockdowns and testing, keeping the death toll to a minimum and quickly restoring economic production and daily life, but of the critically important centralised leadership and collective society discipline that allowed that to happen (as the EPSR has said over the last year).
The petty bourgeois Trots are blinded to such Leninist organisation anyway by their decades of hostility to all actual proletarian dictatorship, and “left pressure” democracy delusions mostly via bourgeois Labourism; the revisionists by their inability to draw out the revolutionary significance of how such workers states come into existence, and the need to maintain a constant understanding of revolutionary class war as the only means of “stopping war” and ending capitalism to build socialism.
Instead they wallow in assorted variants on Stalin’s mistaken “peace struggle” ambitions to “contain” imperialist belligerence and the determination to “avoid war” as the way forwards, socialism coming about eventually by the power of example.
Basic points against the British (and American) callous Covid mess might usefully be made, with the competitive race for a vaccine by private pharmaceutical combines chasing profit and “nationalist prestige” blocking the obvious need for coordination and scientific results pooling, and rational humanity.
Even then the bullshit British “greatness’ falls down, producing its own 70% effective vaccine (the one the plebs get), to supplement the more effective Astrazeneca dose’s 95%, but ignoring the already produced Sputnik V vaccine from Russia and several from China, all of them deliberately censored in the craven capitalist media coverage, for fear the working class might learn lessons about past or current workers states, however hamstrung by revisionism (or where some of the Soviet legacy is still tapped by Putin’s bonapartist balancing act between oligarch capitalist domination and a population that still hankers after the Soviet past), they were and are):
At the beginning of December RT reported:
At least 40 countries, representing more than half of the world’s population, have expressed interest in Russia’s coronavirus vaccine, the team behind it have said as mass vaccination begins in Moscow.
At a presentation to the United Nations on Thursday, scientists from the Gamaleya Institute, which developed the formula, said that preliminary orders have been placed for more than 1.2 billion doses. Trials involving 45,000 people across the globe have concluded that 95 percent of those given both doses of Sputnik V develop immunity to the virus.
On Wednesday, the vaccine’s creators released footage of vials touching down in India ahead of the start of studies into its efficacy there. A number of countries, including Hungary, Venezuela and the UAE, have already imported sufficient quantities to conduct their own tests. At the same time, the Philippines announced that it would work with Russia to secure access to supplies in order to begin mass immunizations early next year.
On Thursday, Mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin announced that residents of the capital would be able to access the vaccine from Saturday. Doctors, teachers and social workers will be first in line for appointments, and an “electronic immunization record” will be set up. According to Sobyanin, Muscovites will be able to get the jab at ‘vaccine points’ set up around the city.
And days before that:
There was no VIP on board the plane from China that arrived in São Paulo airport earlier this month, but the state governor, João Doria, nonetheless led a high-level welcome delegation gathered on the tarmac.
The masked dignitaries were there to mark the arrival of seven refrigerated containers of vaccines, posing for official photos with tiny vials that Doria hopes will end or at least slow the ravages of Covid-19 in the state he runs.
Brazil is among the countries worst hit by the pandemic, with over six million cases and nearly 170,000 deaths.
China has promised that 6 million doses of CoronaVac, made by the biotech firm Sinovac, will reach Brazil by January. São Paulo’s highly respected Butantan Institute, which is testing the vaccine, will get raw materials to make millions more.
The shipments to Brazil are part of a campaign of vaccine diplomacy that Beijing has mounted around the world. The fallout from the spread of Covid-19 has fuelled mistrust of China internationally, and damaged the global appetite for the exports which helped drive its growth.
A successful vaccine, provided at an affordable price, offers a potential route to address resentment and criticism of China’s early handling of the virus, as well as a financial boost for the country’s biotech firms. China manufactures around a fifth of the world’s vaccines at the moment but those are mostly for domestic use.
China has five vaccines in final-stage trials around the world, including in Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia. With the disease under control at home, there are not enough people getting infected to test them there.
President Xi Jinping promised in May to share China’s vaccines with the world, a stark contrast to Donald Trump’s administration, which at the time was focused on buying up large swaths of production of new vaccines to protect its own population.
China has also promised to make sure countries can afford vaccines, in July promising Latin American and Caribbean countries a $1bn (£750m) loan to buy them.
These vaccines, a quarter the price of the Western ones demonstrate further the advantages of a planned socialist society which has already demonstrated the humanity and efficiency of its collective organisation, disciplined and coordinated by the dictatorship of the proletariat (see past EPSR’s throughout the pandemic eg No 1576 07-05-20) under a centralised leadership.
But much better points could be made, not least by Beijing’s revisionist leadership itself, which despite its brilliant practical example, still remains hampered by the dire philosophical limitations of a revisionist past and the “don’t rock the boat” principles of permanent peaceful coexistence which developed in Moscow from the 1920s onwards, when revisionism began falling back from the understanding of the Leninist Bolsheviks that the only way forwards for humankind was to keep the revolutionary nature of world development and the class struggle to the fore in all analysis.
The “fuelling of mistrust” cited in the article above is not any objective response to China’s achievements of course but the result of a deliberate and massive Western CIA/MI6/Zionist and other Western intelligence agencies’ counter-revolutionary campaign to belittle and discredit its stunning success in containing and overcoming the pandemic.
Beijing’s Covid diplomacy combined with its Great Belt investment initiative is useful tactic to disarm imperialism and a powerful influence on the Third World but without constantly putting it in the context of the great capitalist crash, becomes same revisionist story essentially, whatever stronger flashes of anti-imperialist denunciation and “wolf-diplomacy” are seen - the latest against the brutal Australian warcrime massacres cited above.
These are still limited to the assertion of China’s own interests and defiance of Western interference, firmly enough eventually against the provocative Hong Kong counter-revolutionary “democracy” demonstrations, feudal breakaways in Tibet trying to restore religious serfdom, or attempts to stir up the continuing reactionary capitalist occupation of China’s Taiwan island (where the bourgeois Chang Kai Shek anti-communists retreated after their defeat by the communists in 1949 and were kept going with American guns and money, once more trying to stir this anti-Beijing reaction) but still relying on the same permanent peaceful coexistence with capitalism which the Soviet Union lived by and eventually liquidated itself by (see EPSR book Vol 13 on Gorbachevism and Vol 21 Unanswered Polemics).
Bringing one billion people out of poverty using a planned economy and equitable trade is a staggering achievement and in just decades compared to centuries of agonising capitalist exploitation and colonialism (though why parity with Western consumerism, high rise buildings and superhighways would be the right direction to go in anyway remains unanswered).
But it does not give the rest of the world, or even the masses in China, the remotest glimmer of how they move forwards, and even more significantly how the world stops the great Catastrophic breakdown.
Deliberately “not rocking the boat” too much, denouncing “terror” and “adventurism” and hoping to persuade the world to adopt socialism by example eventually, goes no further than Soviet revisionism and is always potentially prey to the same complacency which produced Gorbachevism.
Chinese nationalist determination never to suffer “coolie” imperialist racist humiliation again, and the encouraging Xi Jinping calls for revived Marxist education are good signs.
But still there is not yet the Marxist scientific warning needed that the crisis Catastrophe threatens the entire world until mankind grasps the nettle to make a revolutionary leap forwards, possible only with the highest level of scientific revolutionary leadership constantly fought for.
The ruling class will not give up its power however much its devastating crude plundering continues to threaten planetary destruction and poisoning, mass poverty and penury, and destruction of entire countries.
Nor can it be “tamed”, regulated, or “transformed” as more and more petty bourgeois voices are calling for, and the savagery of the crisis begins to sink in particularly in the light of the pandemic.
What the world needs is a defiant assertion that the dictatorship of the proletariat is the only path forwards for the masses on the planet everywhere, so far only ever established by the armed struggle against the always and inevitable violence of the bourgeoisie.
Delusions in “democracy” meanwhile help feed the non-stop provocatory demonstrations and colour-revolutions instigated by the CIA, MI6, Zionism etc from Georgia, and Venezuela, to the Ukraine Maidan, Iran, Libya, Syria, and Egypt’s Sisi coup, and against China itself in Hong Kong, Xinjiang etc.
Staggeringly, imperialist propaganda continues to pour out its lying hypocritical claims to be upholding such as “freedom”.
Helping bend public opinion in the West is continuing befuddlement about the dictatorship of the proletariat and shallow individual “freedom” and democracy delusions.
Workers states correctly keep track of non-stop anti-communist subversion and sabotage.
But the real police state reality of the West for bourgeois dictatorship is ignored, consigned to “inquiries” if ever forced into the open by public disquiet:
A senior Scotland Yard officer who was involved in monitoring leftwing activists went on to work for a corporately funded blacklist used to deny employment to thousands of trade unionists, a public inquiry has heard.
The disclosure will heighten concerns that the police spied on campaigners and then secretly shared information about them with the Economic League, an organisation created to prevent trade unionists from getting jobs.
The public inquiry into the undercover infiltration of political groups heard on Tuesday how the blacklist resulted in trade unionists getting divorced and losing their homes because of the stress of being denied employment.
The inquiry, led by the retired judge Sir John Mitting, is tasked with examining how the police set up a specialised undercover unit in 1968 that went on to spy on more than 1,000 political groups over the next four decades.
Undercover officers in the unit, who often took part in demonstrations relating to industrial disputes, reported to their superiors extensive details of the political activities of trade unionists. The secret files were maintained by the police.
On Monday, the inquiry heard evidence from an undercover officer who used the fake name Dick Epps to spy on leftwing groups in 1969 and 1970.
He said he remembered that as part of his induction, Lawrenson had given a lecture outlining his “assessment of the infiltration of the British political movement, particularly the trade union movement, by the Russians at that time … he strongly held the view that within 10 years of that particular time, Great Britain would be under the – his term – “yoke of communism”.”
In the late 1960s, Lawrenson held the rank of chief superintendent and supervised one of the Met’s Special Branch unit monitoring leftwing activists.
The Economic League was closed down in the 1990s after it was exposed by trade unionists and journalists. It was replaced by another operation called the Consulting Association, which was shut down in 2009 after an official watchdog ruled it was unlawful.
The relatives of dead children whose identities were stolen by undercover police officers have launched legal action against the Metropolitan police over their resulting trauma.
The bereaved families were devastated after discovering police spies who infiltrated political groups had used the identities of their young relatives without consulting or informing them.
Four families have started legal action against the Met, saying they are appalled and angered at the conduct of the undercover officers. Their legal action, which has been submitted in a formal claim to Scotland Yard, alleges the Met misused private information and intruded on their personal grief, causing them distress and damaging their mental health.
In a tactic that was used routinely for more than three decades, at least 42 undercover officers created fake personas based on the details of dead children.
Before the start of their deployments, the officers spent hours trawling through birth and death certificates in official archives to select suitable candidates. They were then issued with fabricated identity records, such as driving licences and passports, in the name of the dead child.
To make their fake identities more credible, the officers visited the neighbourhoods where the children had lived and even visited their graves. To familiarise themselves with the identity they were adopting, the spies also researched the children’s family members, including parents and siblings.
A declassified handbook, written by one of the spies, referred to the undercover officers “assuming squatters’ rights over the unfortunate’s identity for the next four years” – the typical length of a deployment.
Recently they discovered that an undercover officer had used Hartley’s identity to infiltrate two leftwing organisations, the Socialist Workers party and the Revolutionary Communist Group, between 1982 and 1985. Bennett said he was “totally disgusted” by the police’s conduct, adding that he never believed the English police would stoop to such depths.
But far worse than this was imposed for 30 years on the heroic and dogged Irish national liberation struggle to free the brutally partitioned off northern section of Ireland, parts of 6 counties ripped out of the 32 counties in 1921 by Black-and-Tan bayonet brutality, despite a massive all-Ireland electoral victory three years earlier with an 85% vote in favour of independence. Some “democracy”!
From the early 1970s there were outright massacres and a full panoply of concentration camps, internment without trial, routine nighttime civilian terrorising house raids, torture so degenerate the Europe Court of Human Rights stepped in to stop it (see book Cruel Britannia by Ian Cobain eg and EPSR Book Vol 8 on Ireland and Vol 22 Ireland Part 2 to come), outright censorship, bent and fixed Diplock courts, and above all a programme of fascist murder and terror largely sustained by SAS deathsquad assassinations (like the covered-up 1988 killing of three unarmed nationalists in Gibraltar), and the activities of colonist thug organisations like the UVF, infiltrated with state provocateurs and supplied with nationalist target names and guns by the UK’s very own SS organisations like the MI5, RUC Special Branch and the army’s Force Research Unit.
Much of this came out in the dogged fights for justice around such depraved incidents as the murders of solicitors Patrick Finucane and Rosemary Nelson but even then, distorted and covered up. Small wonder the Tories continue to refuse a proper inquiry:
On the afternoon of 12 February 1989 two loyalist gunmen used a sledgehammer to smash their way into the north Belfast home of Pat Finucane. The 39-year-old solicitor was sitting down to Sunday dinner with his wife, Geraldine, and their three children.
The intruders shot him twice, sending him crashing to the floor. While the children cowered under the table the killers stood over Finucane and put another 12 bullets into his face and head.
The ruthlessness was shocking but what made the crime reverberate down the decades was the drip-drip revelations of state collusion.
It emerged that the loyalist paramilitary intelligence officer responsible for directing Ulster Defence Association (UDA) attacks, Brian Nelson, was an agent controlled by the British army’s force research unit.
Finucane, a Catholic, had defended loyalist and republican paramilitaries but was especially well known for defending IRA members.
The murder ignited a political furore and led to the progressive exposure of links between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries.
The former chief constable of the Metropolitan police Lord Stevens held three successive inquiries into allegations of collusion. They exposed the activities of Nelson, a British army agent whose job in the UDA was to identify potential victims.
Three weeks before Finucane’s killing the then junior Home Office minister Douglas Hogg told the House of Commons there were a number of lawyers in Northern Ireland “unduly sympathetic to the IRA”. Hogg subsequently maintained that the timing of his statement was unfortunate and signified nothing else.
Ken Barrett, one of the UDA gunmen who shot Finucane, later fled to Britain where a BBC Panorama team recorded him claiming a police officer had told him Finucane was a senior IRA man. “The peelers wanted him whacked,” he was recorded as saying. “We whacked him and that is the end of the story.”
Nelson and Barrett were both convicted of murder but the Finucane family continued to lobby for a public inquiry.
In 2001 a political agreement between the UK and Irish governments established that an international judge would investigate the Finucane killing, among others, but David Cameron’s government reversed that decision in 2010. Instead it asked a former war crime lawyer, Sir Desmond de Silva QC, to review documentation about the killing.
De Silva, who did not have the ability to compel witnesses to testify, concluded in 2012 that “agents of the state” were involved but that there was no “overarching state conspiracy”. The QC noted special branch’s repeated failure to warn Finucane that his life was under threat, the Royal Ulster Constabulary’s “obstruction” of justice and MI5 “propaganda initiatives” that identified the solicitor.
Cameron apologised in the House of Commons to the Finucane family for “frankly shocking levels” of collusion but refused a public inquiry, citing the cost of the Bloody Sunday inquiry as one reason.
Geraldine Finucane and her three children – her son John is now a Sinn Féin MP for North Belfast – persisted and last year won a victory in the supreme court, which ruled that the original investigation into the murder was ineffective and failed to meet the standards required under human rights law.
More analysis on British defeats on Ireland and the latest Tory Brexit retreat is required (next issue).
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Developments in Ethiopia since the counter-revolutionary US-stooge TPLF gangster regime was brought down in 2018 following mass street protests and police butchery of scores of demonstrators is yet another example of the growing disintegration of US-imperialist influence around the world caused by the intensifying capitalist crisis that finally burst out into the open in 2007-08 and continues to hurtle towards total slump and war catastrophe. Bourgeois-nationalist moves by Addis Ababa to defuse separatist divisiveness are welcome only to the extent that they remove barriers to revolutionary advancement. Signs of renewed sympathy for Ethiopia’s past struggle to build communism points the way forwards.
The November 28th defeat on the battlefield of the bloody TPLF anti-communist tyranny that violently seized power in 1991 and overthrew Haile Mengistu’s Marxist-Leninist workers’ state, is welcome as a further blow to imperialism.
Washington is increasingly unable to continue shoring up its system of super-exploitation and plunder of the Third World by maintaining a network of bribed anti-communist stooges who could be relied upon to use US-military largesse to brutally suppress the emergence of revolutionary movements in their home and neighbouring countries, and to destabilise nearby anti-imperialist and communist states.
Instead US imperialism is now being forced by the growing conditions of the breakdown and collapse of its profit-driven system to retreat further into isolation and prepare for all-out inter-imperialist war as a last-gasp desperate bid to remain top dog.
Bitter divisions and civil war conflicts are erupting across the planet as local bourgeois forces struggle to respond to the increasing revolutionary turmoil they are confronted with in the absence of the levels of Western imperialist aid and arms they previously relied on to maintain their class rule.
The flare up of civil war tensions in northern Ethiopia, and subsequent military defeat and collapse of the deposed Tigrayan forces following their provocative assault on Ethiopia’s federal forces in Tigray’s regional capital Mekele in early November, is just one example of many.
Toppling of this anti-communist tyranny in 2018 from its position as the ruling authority over all Ethiopia (established by the Tigrayan thug-gangster Meles Zenawi) has led to the unravelling of US-imperialist interests in the region, particularly in Somalia which Ethiopia had occupied in 2006 on imperialism’s behalf to launch a dirty war on the anti-imperialist jihadist Al-Shabab movement.
Further examples of its total stoogery include its complicity in the CIA’s secret “black sites” prison torture programme; the hosting of US military installations used as launch pads for drone strikes on Al-Shabaab; and the establishment, with US military support, of a network of clandestine surveillance outposts to spy on local and regional insurgency movements.
All this and more is now all falling away as Abiy Ahmed’s new bourgeois-nationalist government, which took over in 2018, withdraws Ethiopia’s troops from Somalia and purges the military of reactionary and corrupt officials linked to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ethnic-based political and military front that dominated the deposed stooge administration, including those who led the war on Al-Shabaab.
Despite being bestowed a Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating a peace treaty with neighbouring Eritrea (usually presented as a reward for furthering imperialist interests – but with the potential to backfire, as the transformation of the once beatified recipient Aung San Suu Kyi into a petty-bourgeois hate figure for entering in an alliance with the anti-imperialist, bourgeois nationalist military leadership of Myanmar shows), and reported rumours that he had once been recruited by the CIA (he was Director General of the Information Network Security Agency that set up the above mentioned surveillance system, and one of its founders), his actions since becoming prime minister are not necessarily in US imperialism’s interests.
Although US president Trump has recently declared his intentions to follow Ethiopia by pulling troops out of Somalia (but not yet put into practice), his administration has, in fact, been steadily stepping up its covert war against Al-Shabaab, as Counterpoint reported as recently as May:
The public statistics show a considerable increase in airstrikes from Obama’s presidency. From 2009 to 2016, the U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced 36 airstrikes in Somalia. Under Trump, it conducted at least 63 bombing raids just last year, with another 39 such attacks in the first four months of 2020. The ostensible U.S. target has usually been the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab, but often the real—or at least consequent—victims are long-embattled Somali civilians.
Signs of US-imperialist irritation with the developments in Ethiopia can be seen in the recent provocative “advice” Trump gave to US-imperialism’s brutal Egyptian stooge dictator Al-Sisi, and his suspension of US aid:
Ethiopia on Saturday denounced “belligerent threats” over the huge dam it has nearly completed on the Blue Nile River, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said downstream Egypt will “blow up” the project it has called an existential threat.
… Trump made the comment while announcing that Sudan would start to normalize ties with Israel. Downstream Sudan is a party to the talks with Ethiopia and Egypt over the disputed dam. “They (Egypt) will end up blowing up the dam,” Trump said. “And I said it and I say it loud and clear … they’ll blow up that dam. And they have to do something.”
The U.S. president earlier this year told the State Department to suspend millions of dollars in aid to Ethiopia because of the dam dispute, angering Ethiopians who had accused the U.S. of being biased during its earlier efforts to broker a deal on the project among Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia walked away from those talks.
“They will never see that money unless they adhere to that agreement,” Trump said Friday.
Given the enormity of Ethiopia’s dam, Trump’s advice that it should be “blown up” may only be bluster, and the fact that it began construction in 2011 under imperialist-friendly Meles without any complaints from Washington suggests, at the very least, that it is aimed at intimidating Abiy into not pushing his campaign against the Tigrayans too far towards a general anti-imperialist fight.
The Chinese workers’ state’s involvement in financing the dam project would also have caused great unease, particularly, as Ethiopia’s biggest trading partner, it is already squeezing US imperialism out of markets it desperately needs.
More signs of disquiet are seen in the increasing sour reports from the reactionary bourgeois press - such as the following piece from the Guardian which resurrects the lie that the TPLF separatists had something to do with Marxism by encouraging petty-bourgeois adventure-romance fantasies of “young Tigrayan utopian revolutionaries in the mountains” fighting in the late 1970s and 1980s against “hardline and authoritarian” Marxists in Addis Ababa.
It was, in fact, funded and armed by the CIA throughout that period to launch a brutal and sustained war to break up Ethiopia’s former workers’ state led by Haile Mengistu and the Derg group of low-ranking military officers:
The TPLF was formed in 1975 at a time when hundreds of millions of people across Africa and the Middle East were demanding revolutions and liberation. Among those in Ethiopia calling for both were a dozen young men from the mountainous northern region of Tigray. Inspired by Marxist-Leninism, a profound sense of national identity, and the utopian slogans of the time, they imagined a brave new world for their country.
Only a year earlier, Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia, had been deposed and murdered by hardline Marxist army officers, who immediately set about imposing a harsh authoritarian rule. In Tigray, there had long been resentment at the power of the centralised Ethiopian state. Many remembered the Tigrayan armed revolt of 1943, which had been brutally put down. This time, the TPLF leaders vowed, they would triumph.
Why a group of young men supposedly “inspired by Marxist-Leninism” would go on to organise, with the CIA, thousands of “fighters” to sabotage Ethiopia’s struggle to build a genuinely socialist state goes unexplained, except to suggest that their “profound sense of national identity” was affronted by “the power of the centralised Ethiopian state”. But this only demonstrates that their “Marxist” posturing was always a fraud.
Whilst Leninism acknowledges and defends the absolute right of nations to self-determination in the abstract, in the age of anti-imperialist struggle each claim can only be judged on a case-by-case basis, looking at the specific social-historical context of each conflict individually and the overall balance of the class forces at play (including imperialist interests), so that a resolution can be found that removes any barriers to continued revolutionary advancement. Sensitivity to hurt national feelings and the complexity of deep-seated, ancient ethnic and tribal rivalries are also required.
However, this TPLF expression of Tigrayan national sentiment proved to be a totally reactionary force from its foundation just a few months after Ethiopia’s revolution in September 1974 when it declared its hostile opposition to the new revolutionary government - as were the numerous other stirred up separatist revolts (Oromo, Amhara, Ogaden, and others) that bedevilled Ethiopia’s socialist state throughout its seventeen-year history.
This also includes Eritrea’s reactionary separatist war against Ethiopian socialism, despite its far clearer history of separate national development and revolt, first against Italian colonial domination from the 1890s onwards and the British Military Administration from 1941, and then against annexation by the US-stooge Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1962 after he had reneged on a 1952 treaty that had established the Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Similarly, the ethnic Somali Ogadens had also been annexed by the feudal Ethiopian empire, in 1887. They were then taken over by Italian imperialism and incorporated into Italian Somaliland in 1936, and later came under British colonialist control, before finally being returned to Ethiopia in 1948 after US pressure.
Ogaden resistance meant that the Ethiopians were unable to effectively occupy the region until 1954-55. However, Ogaden separatism played a reactionary role when it escalated its military campaign for secession following the Ethiopian revolution. This led to an unnecessary all-out war between Ethiopia and Somalia’s workers’ state (led by Siad Barre) in 1977 after a Cuban proposal to solve the national question by establishing a federal socialist state of Ethiopia, Somalia and South Yemen was rejected.
The Somali intervention was only defeated because Cuba intervened militarily on Ethiopia’s side with arms provided by the Soviet Union.(Incidentally, it is more than just a coincidence that imperialism has had to launch years of genocidal warfare against both Somalia and Yemen and provoke vicious civil war strife to drown their latest expressions of revolutionary anti-imperialist sentiment in blood - given their past experiences of building socialist workers’ states.)
Still under intense counter-revolutionary pressure in Eritrea and Tigray, the Derg attempted to defuse nationalist discontent by granting autonomy to five regions in a new constitution in 1988, but they fell short of recognising the principle of socialist federalism as a result of the free self-determination of the nations and their voluntary association in a state of equals, as was proclaimed in the constitution of the Soviet Union.
The above bourgeois press quote attempts to encourage sympathy for reactionary TPLF nationalist separatism by conflating Selassie’s feudal empire with the Derg’s socialist state with abstract notions of a “centralised Ethiopian state” against which the Tigrayans are said to “resent”.
But this just ignores the revolutionary nature of history. States do not exist in the abstract. As Marxism understands, the state is the product of irreconcilable class antagonisms that necessitates a power standing seemingly above society to dilute class conflict and maintain the rule of a particular class (see Lenin’s State and Revolution, 1917).
The state that existed under Selassie strengthened its power through the process of centralisation in order to maintain the conditions necessary for the exploitation of the peasantry and workers on behalf of its feudal-aristocratic ruling class and the comprador bourgeoisie.
The Ethiopian Revolution toppled that state and the proletariat and poor peasantry, under the leadership of the Derg began the process of constructing a new socialist state of proletarian dictatorship which was capable of suppressing the deposed feudal and bourgeois forces and defending its socialist gains from imperialist sabotage and war provocations - including the CIA’s strategy of using historical national grievances to stir up divisive ethnic and religious conflict and destabilise the new state.
Whilst the task of the proletariat is to argue for the equality of nations and the end of national privilege, which includes demands for the recognition of the right of nations to self-determination, it is also for the fullest integration possible for workers of all nations.
Any support given by the proletariat to an oppressed national bourgeoisie’s struggle for secession is always conditional as its interests are only in securing the best conditions for waging the class struggle (as Lenin argued in The Right of Nations to Self-determination, 1914).
It was in the interests of the proletariat of all Ethiopian nations to ensure the survival and consolidation of Ethiopia’s new socialist state. The TPLF’s bogus “Marxist” posturing only provided a “left” cover to its pro-imperialist savagery and its deliberate encouragement backward tribal parochialism:
The TPLF’s success owed nothing to chance. Its leaders were ruthless and canny. They fought and destroyed rival rebel groups in Tigray and were careful to downplay their own Marxist views, which would be unpopular with the conservative, devoutly Christian rural populations that made up the TPLF’s initial support base. Instead, they emphasised the threat posed to local traditions and regional autonomy by the socialist policies of the regime in Addis Ababa.
The TPLF’s seizure of power following the collapse of Ethiopia’s worker’s state in 1991 (a tragic consequence of the Soviet revisionist leadership’s capitulation to defeatism and idiot liquidationism under Gorbachev, which led to the reduction, and then ending, of military aid in 1989, and its complete withdrawal of support in early 1990 just as the revolution was under serious threat from a major TPLF and Eritrean offensive,) is reported in glowing terms as the writer quickly slides past the gangster-cronyism of Meles’s regime, and ignores the billions of dollars of military and development aid poured in from Western imperialist sources to prevent the return of communism and set Ethiopia up as their regional policeman:
The fall of the regime left the TPLF’s leader, 36-year-old Meles Zenawi, in power and the army and intelligence services dominated by Tigrayans, who moved swiftly to consolidate their control in other sectors. Jobs were found for former comrades. Debretsion, the one-time wireless operator and by now a veteran close to Zenawi, was made the deputy head of the national intelligence agency, and later the minister of communications and information technology.
Debretsion’s career spans the two sides of Ethiopia under the TPLF-dominated coalition government from 1991. There was the construction of a carefully balanced ethnicity-based federal state, rapid development progress, massive infrastructure investment and stunning economic success, which has come close to banishing the hunger that once made the country infamous. Mekele thrived, its neat streets and electricity lines testament to the resources channelled to the TPLF’s stronghold.
But there was also repression so remorseless that it worried even the US, which saw Ethiopia as the cornerstone of its security strategy in the region and was prepared to tolerate most of the excesses of the TPLF leadership.
Meles died suddenly in 2012, and his handpicked successor, Halemariam Desalegn, proved too weak to manage growing tensions.
No explanation is given as to why, if there was so much economic progress and “stunning success”, “tensions were growing” and that “remorseless repression” was necessary to maintain power - so bad that “even the US worried about it” (allegedly - the only worries US imperialism would have had is that the TPLF’s criminal fascist brutally was going too far by exposing their “freedom and democracy” posturing as a complete fraud and stirring up further revolt).
The 2010-11 “Arab Spring” uprisings that resulted in the toppling of the US stooges Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Ben Ali in Tunisia and Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, after sustained mass protests, as well as further unrest across the region including Bahrain, Oman, Morocco and Jordan was, as the EPSR alone argued at the time, an historic leap in spontaneous revolutionary upheaval driven by the near-catastrophic collapse of the capitalist system in 2007-08.
The consequence for Ethiopia was the growing discontent amongst the politically marginalised ethnic groups that formed the majority in the nation against Meles until his death in 2012. The outcome was the resignation of Meles’ successor, Hailemariam, in 2018 and the ousting of the TPLF:
Discontent, especially among the two largest ethnic groups – the Oromo and Amhara – threatened the delicate compromise of the 1994 constitution, and representatives of the two communities eventually joined forces to outmanoeuvre the TPLF within the ruling coalition to get Abiy, who is of mixed Oromo-Amharic parentage, appointed as prime minister in 2018.
Abiy moved swiftly. Top TPLF officials were sacked from key security posts, generals were arrested on graft charges, and changes were introduced to counter the Tigrayan dominance of the armed forces. Political prisoners were freed from secret prisons, exiled dissidents were welcomed home, cumbersome state enterprises were privatised, and restrictions on the media were eased.
Abiy’s peace deal with Eritrea, which won him the Nobel peace prize, isolated the TPLF. By this summer, simmering tensions had risen further. The TPLF refused to hand over wanted fugitives or join a new political party set up by Abiy to replace the old ruling coalition, and it went ahead with local elections in Tigray despite polls being postponed nationwide owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
Observers said the decision was a “provocation”, even if supporters claimed it was a necessary defence of federal rights. Abiy’s office says the prime minister has tried to work with the TPLF but has been rebuffed.
The spark that set light to the tinder came in early November with an alleged raid by TPLF units on federal military bases in Tigray, in which many national army officers were killed and substantial quantities of hardware was seized. Abiy launched his offensive immediately.
Cynical SWP-Trot defeatism is unable to see the revolutionary momentum pushing these developments forwards. Their shallow and anti-communist “meet the old boss, same as the new boss” philistinism misleads the working class and plays into imperialism’s hands by suggesting that Abiy’s moves amount to nothing more than “repression” of the Tigrayans:
Meles’ successor was forced out in 2018 after years of demonstrations, strikes and road blockades. Abiy, who took over, was determined to reduce the TPLF’s influence. He speedily returned to repression. Now he has moved to war. But Tigray has a powerful military, with an estimated 250,000 troops. The TPLF has used rockets to attack Asmara, capital of Eritrea. This neighbouring country broke away from Ethiopia in the early 1990s and the TPLF says Eritrea is siding with Abiy. Some analysts say Ethiopia will become “Africa’s Yugoslavia”, the break-up of a state that will lead to years of violence involving Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Sudan. Ethnically-based killings have begun.
Amnesty International confirmed last week that “scores, and likely hundreds, of people were stabbed or hacked to death in Mai-Kadra town in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region on 9 November”. Ethiopia’s ordinary people will not gain from the victory of either side.
The last point leaves hanging the question of who committed the Mai-Kadra massacre of mainly Amharic migrant workers. By preceding it with statements about “repression” and “moves to war”, the reader is left with the implication that the Ethiopian federal forces were responsible. In fact, the witnesses quoted by Amnesty say that this mass slaughter was committed by defeated TPLF forces.
Far from stirring up ethnic tension, Abiy’s strategy appears on the surface be aimed at reducing regional divisions through the merger of a number of ethnic-based parties that formed the governing coalition into a single political party; the consolidation the state through a process of centralisation; and the implementation other measures aimed at ending nationalist clannishness and divisiveness.
To the extent that such moves break down nationalist antagonisms and divisions within the working class and weaken imperialist influence and control by purging the state of pro-imperialist TPLF influences, they can be seen as a gain for the urban and rural proletariat (“Ethiopia’s ordinary people”).
However, Abiy is not talking about the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the re-establishment of Ethiopia’s workers’ state, which is the only way the proletariat can overcome all the inequalities and antagonisms that drive ethnic, nationalist and religious divisions (and neither is the SWP).
No clear anti-imperialist statements from Abiy have been reported so far, and (from the available reports) he does not seem to have taken, or even advocated, any “left” reforms.
Aside from the declaration of peace with Eritrea, there is nothing to indicate that Abiy has recognised the abstract right to self-determination for the nations that constitute Ethiopia (without conceding ground to deliberate CIA-inspired provocations), and so the possibility that the latest developments have a chauvinist “greater Ethiopian” character cannot be ruled out.
Declaring for “victory” for Abiy’s side (rather than simply defeat for imperialist skulduggery) would therefore spread the dangerous illusion amongst the working class that such bourgeois nationalism is a solution to capitalist crisis and war.
Regardless of this, recent developments do reflect a growing revolutionary sentiment in Ethiopia. This is evidenced by the appearance of a photographed meeting in August 2018 between the former prime minister Hailemariam and Mengistu in anti-imperialist Zimbabwe (where Mengistu has been residing in exile since 1991) , and Hailemariam’s accompanying comment which expressed a wish to see
more former heads of government and state in my country contributing their parts in different capacity after peaceful transition of political power.
While reporting on this, the BBC let slip that the protests that precipitated Hailemariam’s resignation and the collapse of the TPLF regime contained pro-communist sentiments:
While the response to the photo has been largely critical, it is not to say that public opinion on Mengistu is unanimous, says BBC’s Amharic’s [sic] Kalkidan Yibeltal from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
Our reporter says prior to Mr Abiy’s reforms some opposition protesters used Mengistu’s photo - mostly on social media - to express their anger at the government.
Much of that anger has dissipated meaning people are also not afraid to show his image at public gatherings now.
This admittance of communist sympathies amongst the protestors raises further questions about Abiy’s motivations.
So far, his pan-Ethiopian moves have appeared to be taking the bourgeois-nationalist character of a national liberation struggle to purge the state of reactionary pro-imperialist elements, and a struggle to overcome ossified tribal structures within its federalism through the process of centralisation. However, the question of how genuine these moves are is now raised.
It is possible that the recent developments are part of a calculated attempt by imperialism to head off an incipient communist movement by backing way from the cruder fascist brutality of the TPLF and promoting Abiy’s more sophisticated, but perhaps less co-operative, bourgeois-nationalism.
This is conjecture at the moment, and caution is required. When the Derg took power in 1974, its class character had not fully developed. It also initially seemed to have the character of a bourgeois-nationalist movement, and some fake-“lefts” (eg – the Revolutionary Communist Group) fell for the fake “Marxist-Leninist” posturing of the Eritrean separatists and supported their reactionary imperialist-backed campaign to break up Ethiopia’s new revolutionary state.
Most of the Derg’s leading officers had been educated in the United States (including Mengistu) or had visited Western countries, and US military assistance initially continued - albeit at a reduced level - after the revolution, including the shipment of aircraft and tanks in 1975.
It only became clear that Ethiopia was on a conscious path towards socialist development when the Marxist-Leninist wing of the Derg, led by Mengistu, took over its leadership in February 1977, began to strengthen its ties with the Soviet Union and Cuba and ordered the closure of all US military facilities.
The world is on the cusp of a new period of titanic revolutionary transformations, driven by the world capitalist crisis and the irresolvable contradictions within the imperialist system that are driving it to breaking point and pushing the proletariat towards socialist revolution again.
This revolutionary process will continue to drive the events unfolding in Ethiopia (and the rest of the planet) regardless of what Abiy thinks he is trying to achieve.
The fight for a Leninist party of theory capable of building a correct revolutionary perspective through a polemical struggle for understanding against all-comers is urgently required in Ethiopia and everywhere else to make conscious the revolutionary nature of all world developments, and lead the proletariat internationally in its fight to overthrow imperialism and (re)build its own collective socialist states of party-led proletarian dictatorship.
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Further on the criticism of party debate and the influence of petty bourgeois ideology. Rejecting the theory of petty bourgeois individualism as a separate thing-in-itself “unconsciously” taking over psychologically. Petty bourgeois influence needs detecting in the battle for objective understanding but beginning by analysing the latest developments in the crisis and world class struggle against monopoly capitalist degeneration and exploitation
The need for revolutionary leadership in the working class grows more urgent daily.
Stomach-churning fear of unemployment, hunger, homelessness and destitution rapidly rises while the capitalist fatcats line their pockets on an ever more grotesque scale with crony contracts, hedge fund profiteering, monopoly bullying and inflationary rises on the Stock Exchange.
Desperation, inequality, and savage austerity already imposed for ten years will be hugely magnified shortly as the short-term Covid emergency credit measures come to an end and the full Catastrophic breakdown of the monopoly capitalist system makes its slump effects felt in full worldwide.
There will soon be no even halfway-plausible excuses for this disaster, inevitable within the contradiction-ridden boom-Slump monopoly capitalist system and on an ever-worse scale (far beyond the 1930s).
The ruling class has been cynically blaming the economic meltdown on the Covid pandemic (Trumpism even letting it run as a cover) but it was coming anyway, the second stage of the great bank collapses in 2008, held off only by insane money printing for ten years but reaching Catastrophic implosion point even before the virus struck.
The working class has been drenched with flag-waving jingoism, fascism and endless “war on terror” stunts meanwhile (America First, Brexit, French flagwaving, German nationalism, Italian neo-fascism, East European Catholic clerical-reaction etc etc etc) to dragoon it behind war hatred and conflict, the only “solution” capitalism has ever had for its inevitable collapse (see economics box).
This pivotal historical point, suddenly shifts the balance of class forces and sharpens all the contradictions of this rotten, stinking system, making much clearer the need for a revolutionary transformation of society – except it seems to the fake-“left” across the board with much of it capitulating in various ways to the chauvinist atmosphere around Brexit, all avoiding full on crisis understanding and none of it making clear the need for a class war overturn of the capitalist system ie revolution (despite lip service to “revolution”).
The sudden lurch has meant a need for the EPSR to rethink its own struggle for understanding and to overcome past weaknesses while not throwing away its strengths in developing the Leninist perspective of the need for class-war to replace capitalism with the dictatorship of the proletariat, led by a purpose-built revolutionary party waging a disciplined polemical struggle for the correct understanding of the constantly moving balance of class forces.
Only such a scientifically established perspective that gets it right can provide the leadership to end capitalism and build a planned and rational socialist world.
Two letters carried in the paper last week discussed this issue.
The difficulties were explored of allowing, and encouraging, unrestricted but comradely polemical debate to run its full course in the party and in the paper, holding the opposites in place dialectically in order to let the contradictions unfold - often when the argument becomes heated - thereby developing new understanding to guide practice and further theoretical development.
[Such democratic centralism is nothing to do with petty bourgeois notions of “open democracy”, and an eclectic soup of views being “allowed” or “tolerated” without any polemical movement towards an accepted conclusion, or the acceptance of different understanding on an “agree to disagree” basis as many attempts at socialist alliances have tried, always breaking apart eventually because such a false “unity” built on the “80% of things we agree on” is unstable and the conflicts will always surface.
Unity in the working class can only be achieved by battling questions out to an agreed understanding of what objective reality is, albeit there will be matters that have to wait for resolution while waiting for further evidence or further objective development.
The party starts with a core of understanding built as said in many past EPSR’s particularly under the editorship of Royston Bull:
The real debate certainly needs to be restricted to those genuinely dedicated to a Marxist-Leninist, workers-state, proletarian-dictatorship, revolutionary perspective. But within that framework (on the doubtful assumption than any membership would be left to the CP Revisionist groups, the SLP, or the ‘Socialist Alliance’ [Trotskyists] on such a basis), -- unrestrained polemics should roar forwards on every contested issue of anti-imperialist struggle since the Bolshevik Revolution (EPSR 1079 06-03-01 and see following quotes also).]
So too this conflict with Chris Barratt needs resolution after a long delay (a weakness in itself - since the issue should be fought out in front of the working class, the only basis on which it can be clarified. The smallness of the group and a sense it was “just a squabble” was the rationale, but mistaken).
In the last paper the responding letter accepted that while polemical struggle, the lifeblood of Leninist science, has never been blocked, is always invited, and is understood to be crucial, it had been pushed too rapidly to a conclusion, too sharply and one-sidedly in the past.
But some reservations about the initial letter were expressed and some points were not accepted, which gloss over past conflict in which the critic has flung around some lurid exaggeration and incorrect accusations that go far beyond “comradely criticism”, including exaggerated accusations of “violence”, and contempt for other comrades described as “lickspittles”.
These unnecessarily belligerent comments have helped block acceptance of the valid criticism of mistakes that have been made on polemical conflict, most notably that resulting in a painful split with comrades from the South-West a decade ago over the nature of Obamaism (EPSR 1357 29-09-09).
The EPSR was not wrong in its line at that time that Obamaism was a slick and cynical trick – above all with its use of single-issue reformist “Political Correctness” long adopted by the bourgeoisie to fool the working class, to rescue the discredited democratic pretence by which the ruling class maintains its rule (in fact a bourgeois dictatorship hidden behind the lie that “voting can change things”).
The disastrous failing of Bush’s “shock and awe” blitzing of Iraq and Afghanistan to forcefully put dominant US imperialism “back on top” for a “New American Century” by intimidating the whole world, had run into such trouble with the massive “terrorist” resistance it stirred up, that popular support and credibility was almost destroyed not only for George W Bush but for the entire structure of the “democratic presidency” itself (after decades of growing distrust).
The simultaneous breaking surface of the long brewing world capitalist economic crisis in America, in global bank failures, was making the full Catastrophic nature of imperialism clearer.
Obamaism was a desperate last card to head off the revolutionary implications, by corralling the ferment of discontent and potential revolt back into “democratic channels”.
The Republicans’ 2008 election loss was certainly a defeat, but it was not wrong to insist on exposing Obama-ism as continuing down the same fascist/imperialist path as the Bush warmongering, despite supposed troop withdrawals and reformist changes.
The opposition argued that while the Obama presidency was obviously a bourgeois imperialist regime, it still represented a defeat for the ruling class, obliged under “left pressure” to make concessions.
It decried as (just) a “conspiracy theory” the emphasis on the slick PC trickery saying it missed the importance of the defeat.
This was taken (correctly or not) as suggesting that Obama-ism was a “step forwards”, which run to its logical conclusion would be a reformist position leaving the working class taken in, rather than being warned of Obama’s utterly fraudulent nature.
But the nuances in the dispute would have better emerged with more confident leadership and a deeper grasp, giving the polemic more space rather then jumping the gun with assumptions about the opposing line which perhaps did not hear developments in the polemic (in short not listening fully).
An acrimonious split might have been prevented while emerging real events tested the differences in understanding – as the non-stop warmongering and reactionary nature of Obamaism has clearly done since (and its extension in Bidenism is already doing – another play of almost discredited feminism and “race equality” PCism larded with conscious claims to be “rescuing democracy”).
If real differences had still proved impossible to resolve ultimately, then at least the developed polemic would have allowed a better understanding of any underlying class positions.
Reconsideration of the conduct of that polemic is important for further development of the EPSR and its efforts to battle for Leninist perspectives.
The letter last issue (see EPSR 1586) from Chris Barratt, a comrade who separated from the EPSR in the wake of the split with the southwest, goes on to suggest polemical one-sidedness could even become an expression of petty bourgeois individualist attitudes hostile to communism.
Now, petty bourgeois attitudes are an endless danger until degenerate and slump-ridden capitalism is overthrown everywhere in the world and its poisonous influence is ended; middle class hostility to communism is part of that and in fact potentially for a long period afterwards while old ingrained attitudes persist, and are regenerated in a petty bourgeoisie which will only slowly be replaced as full socialist production and distribution develops.
The question is how to see and take up and expose such philosophical influences which permeate all society and surround everyone with non-stop philistinism, anti-communism and hostility to theory.
Based on an article drawn from the non-Leninist anti-capitalist movement (see last week) the comrade postulates that such individualism is sometimes a dialectical transformation into its opposite of inherent positive drives in personality established during childhood.
Such motivations usually pushing someone forwards to battle for communism become the opposite, he says, and are manifest as something he concretises as “PBI” (petty-bourgeois individualism) constantly trying to stop the fight for communism.
It is unconscious and has to be spotted by a number of symptoms he elucidates. Comrades can then be “helped” to overcome this.
There are various problems with this approach and not least in his symptom list which is an abstract way of presenting past allegations against the EPSR which are simply untrue, including the a wild and damaging accusation that the party has suffered from an atmosphere of violence just like the former Workers Revolutionary Party under Gerry Healy (as further discussed below).
But before those specific allegations are examined and a mistaken manner of challenging the party leadership, which stirred antagonisms (as the comrade has admitted) a philosophical problem needs considering.
That lies in the notion of individual personality defects which are unconscious and which have to be constantly challenged.
The difficulty appears in his point number 8 which says “If comrades are faltering in their grip of Leninism, the party should be trying to restrengthen their grip”.
As a general point that is incontestable; what else would the party be doing?
But the implication in this abstract presentation is that there is a fixed measuring post of “Leninism” against which comrades can be judged, instantly raising such questions as what is this Leninism? Who decides when people fall short or are simply raising new issues? How do they do it?
Secondly it implies that individuals need to be “kept up to the mark” with all the baggage that brings of demanding individual perfection or an approximation to it.
Taken to extremes, that leads to the kind of sectarian moralising “discipline” that has plagued the fake-“left” for decades, a whole slew of cults and guru-following groups and particularly much of the Trotskyist movement in which individuals are kept in line with bogus criticism and self-criticism (a typical treatment of “footsoldiers” in the WRP for example).
It fits entirely with their notions of a “perfect” revolution carried out by near “perfect” revolutionaries, and with their descriptions of all actual revolutions from the Soviet Union to North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and China, as “degenerated”, or distorted, (and therefore either not supportable, or even to be overthrown in so-called “political revolutions” as the Trotskyists said to undermine the Soviet Union for 70 years).
The actual substance of such “political” revolution was never anything but counter-revolution as most obviously made clear by the bogus “trade union” “left” movement Solidarnosc in Poland, which was no such thing but a hyped-up Vatican/CIA funded counter-revolution from the start and quickly making its Pilsudski-loving Catholic clerical reactionary nature clear, particularly once it gained power during the 1989-91 Gorbachevite capitulation and the liquidation of the USSR and the Soviet east European camp - see EPSR Book No 13 Gorbachevism).
But a “flawed” revolution implies an idea of a perfect template for how revolution should be, rather than an seeing the movement of real class forces and the living reality of a workers state with all its complexities and mistakes, constantly learning and developing.
Such ideas are pure idealism in other words, the fantasies of petty bourgeois sects who hate the reality of proletarian dictatorship and the actual struggle, warts and all, to build socialism.
It is no surprise that this new theory is built on an account borrowed from an activist group, which if not Trotskyist, is a long way from Leninism.
Its premise is also reminiscent of some of the single-issue groupings from feminism to black nationalism who declare that “unconscious racism” or sexism must be constantly called out, or even that it precludes participation by men, white workers etc. in these single-issue movements.
To say there is unconscious sexism affecting all men, or racism in all white people, is not incorrect; few brought up in imperialist society escape its pernicious divisiveness on every aspect of life, but the way to deal with it is not head-on confrontation, telling or blaming workers for being backward, which is as likely to drive them in the direction of reaction as some parts of Trumpite support or Brexit, have made clear.
Current suspicion of PC “wokeness” by many in the working class can be a healthy enough sign of distrust of middle class “left” posturing.
Obviously overt racism etc should always be challenged but as the EPSR has argued in detail for decades, (see eg No 1091, 1133, 1135 among many) the only way to end racism and all other double-oppressions is by ending the society that constantly generates and regenerates them, namely alienating and divisive capitalism itself.
Single-issue politics, is usually not only diverting attention from this revolutionary perspective but is hostile to it (which is why the bourgeoisie has had no trouble adapting to it, from the #metoo movement to the slew of women appointees calculatedly made for the coming Joe Biden administration (if there is no Trump coup).
The reality of the coming world revolution, as yet without conscious Leninist scientific leadership but already erupting in crudely spontaneous forms everywhere (“terrorism”, “jihadism”, street turmoil, riots, demonstrations, anarchic attacks, anti-racism etc etc), driven by the great Catastrophe, is that it will be carried out by a mass working class and other proletarian forces who are far from perfect, all distorted and damaged by the profit system that poisons all human society and development,
Such battered and “damaged goods” making up humanity, is all there is, and it is their self-knowledge of the need to change themselves, as well as the world, which pushes the masses into revolution.
Of course comrades in the revolutionary party should be far more advanced in their understanding and personal probity, willingness to sacrifice, honesty and hardwork, and advanced workers too coming towards the party, struggling for the highest standards.
But how to develop such qualities is complex and certainly not always done by confronting specific weaknesses head on.
Frequently it is in the course of developing a better overall perspective and deepening general dialectical materialist understanding that makes individual comrades aware of and able to correct their own shortfalls.
The answer to who decides “what is Leninism” is clearly the party, based around its core understanding (see quote above eg) but even that is not simple; it is a living, constantly developing understanding based on a huge body of past knowledge beginning with Marx, Engels, Lenin and others, as well as the continuing struggle for Leninist understanding since, on such issue as the titanic successes and leadership failings of the workers states (Soviet and still existing), fighting against the non-stop denigration of them by deluging anti-communist Western propaganda, while analysing revisionism’s mistakes leading to the pointless liquidation of the still viable and growing Soviet Union.
Much more work (Ireland, China, Labourism, party building in the SLP, the Arab Spring, Latin America etc etc) done by the EPSR, particularly in the period under the editorship of Roy Bull (and some developments since), has taken Leninism forwards and continues with the daily struggle to understand the world balance of class forces as new events and phenomena emerge, interpreted in the light of already developed understanding (which itself is further developed in the light of the new experiences and grasp).
Surely only in the battle to develop that understanding, including issues of party building and cadre development, will expressions of petty bourgeois hostility come to the surface in concrete circumstances and political issues?
In other words the battle to expose bourgeois and petty bourgeois influence is embedded in the constant battle for Leninist understanding of the objective world (including the party itself).
Without that what is to stop almost anything being pointed to and declared an expression of the “unconscious”?
Further difficulty becomes apparent as soon as the list of abstract “symptoms” is elucidated.
Without going over all 12 it can be queried for example how what is “unwarranted anger” (the point number one,) which allows for “warranted anger” presumably – again who judges, and what is to be done about heated discussions?
Party discipline in debate is vital of course, guided by firm chairing and many of the other points elucidated are also rational principles to follow.
But as soon as transgressions are deemed to be the expression of an abstract “PBI”, it creates the danger of creating an atmosphere of “witchunting” or exorcising demons, almost Jesuitical.
But the comrade argues, that does not deal with the insidious effect of such influences.
He wants the symptoms pinned down, virtually as “rules” (and in emails has suggested various formalising measures for “keeping notes” ) to “rein in” (???) the leadership.
The EPSR has argued against this approach many times, particularly for example against groups like Open Polemic which set out an elaborate structure of democratic approvals and regulations, for the so-called “multanimous party”, which it says must be in place before a group can begin making pronouncements about objective world developments.
Instead the EPSR argues, everything must begin with the attempt to understand the latest concrete world developments and what they say about the balance of class forces. Here, in full, is how it was put in one paper (EPSR No 803 23-05-95):
The search for a revolutionary party structure which will be ideal or make political catastrophe avoidable is empty formalism.
A party and a movement evolve out of the struggle for correct understanding. Specific ideas take shape inside specific human heads. The social nature of man and his thoughts about society lead him or her towards collective action.
The failures of resulting communist parties have always occurred because of a mistaken analysis of the world, not because of faulty party structures.
Communist discipline and democracy also flow out of the correctness of ideas, not out of constitutional rules.
The only possible basis for unity is not an agreed democratic structure for party decision-making but a correct analysis of the international class struggle. Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary practice, no united party struggle.
Ideas have to be fought for. The highest form of the class struggle is the struggle inside the revolutionary party.
The only worthwhile ‘rules’ are those dictated by the need to take theory into practice.
Argument can only go on for so long before the need to act arises. Once a decision to act has been clearly established in the eyes of most of the party, the requirement for the whole of the party to carry out that decision so as to test it in practice, (the only way to find out if the understanding is correct), – or at least not to sabotage the decision, – is obvious.
The party’s action is continuous, first and foremost in its non-stop analysis of the world and the need to put this forward in polemical argument.
Such matters are decided by leadership. Leaders emerge in the battle for correct understanding, proved in practice. In a party of permanently developing revolutionary theory, the consistent best sources of ideas will be obvious.
The democratic essence of a correct scientific analysis of international revolutionary class struggle lies in the fact that the right theory is going to lead quicker to the complete emancipation of the proletariat on a worldwide basis than anything else.
Lenin’s correct scientific objective understanding of the need for the Bolsheviks to seize power, when a majority of the central committee dithered in 1917, was the true democracy, – not the barren formality of the vote against him.
When a revolutionary party dares to act in the seizure of power, it invariably does so as a tiny minority of the proletariat and the intelligentsia, and would be voted down heavily if the decision were put to a ballot.
The true democratic spirit of Lenin’s understanding that the October 1917 seizure of power was the greatest event yet in the history of mass civilisation became formally obvious in the revolutionary wars when the main forces of the proletariat stood behind Soviet government, and in the subsequent development of the socialist camp, and the defeat of fascist imperialism. The temporary central committee vote against him was a nonsense, relevant only for showing that all formal democracy fetishism is an ass.
The encouragement which the Bolsheviks drew from beginning to win majority votes in the Moscow and St Petersburg Soviets was not because of having won formal democratic approval but because the science of Leninist theory was proving itself correct in practice.
It is not true that “democracy enables the party to consider and decide its line”, as the Open Polemic editorial claims. It is success in the struggle for scientific understanding which makes this possible.
And it was not a lack of democracy, or its cultist debasement, which steadily put the Stalinist majority of the CPSU onto the wrong path on so many questions. It was the philistine failure of understanding, an inability to grasp Marxism-Leninism well enough.
And to state that “the kind of relationship that the party has to the class as a whole is determined by the actual practice of democratic centralism within the party” is equally meaningless formalism. The CPGB died because it degenerated towards the same petty-bourgeois centrist mentality which Moscow’s bureaucratic revision of Leninism inflicted to a greater or lesser extent on the entire complacent Third International, – not from graft.
The eventual revisionist self-liquidation of the Third International and the CPSU was never a matter to be dealt with by Trotskyite hysterical despair, demanding ‘insurrection against counter-revolutionary Stalinism’ at every turn from 1923 onwards.
But even less is it a matter to be dealt with now by some completely delusory formalism setting out some supposedly cast-iron infallible structure for democratic centralism.
Dialectical materialist philosophy made massive inroads into civilisation through the 1917 Revolution and subsequent developments worldwide over the next 45 years, but all the time that advance was steadily petering out, even while still gaining new ground.
The imperialist resurgence of bourgeois idealism was still far from finished with. Currently, in appearance, it seems to have regained firm international supremacy with its ‘New World Order’. But just the faintest grasp of Marxist-Leninist science will explain how imperialist crisis is relentlessly preparing the ground for by far the deepest and most widespread revolutionary crisis that has ever shattered civilisation, and to which proletarian-dictatorship science can have the only possible answer.
It was the collapse in understanding of world proletarian dictatorship as the only possible future for mankind on the way to communist society which basically undermined the Third International and the CPSU, ousted by all the centrist-revisionist crap about Popular Fronts, peaceful roads to socialism, permanent peaceful coexistence, and the ‘quiet self-liquidation’ of imperialism.
It was insufficient confidence in the dictatorship of the proletariat which was the real evil of Stalinism, not insufficient confidence in democratic centralism. The KGB and the Berlin Wall needed to be bigger and better, not demolished. The entire Open Polemic campaign for foolproof Democratic Centralism has been barking up the wrong tree.
The OP critique of ‘leader centralism’ is just as off beam. Leadership just happens to be a fundamental building block of all social development, – in science, in art, in all public life in general. All new thinking must initially spark in individual human brains. To be frightened of leadership is to be absolutely terrified of Marxism-Leninism, – there never were more dominant leaders.
What makes good communists, who will eventually dominate world society, is the willingness to struggle for an independent grasp of what leadership science has already begun to prove is correct understanding of the world.
What stands in the path of such development is petty-bourgeois individualism, cloaked as a fetish for democratic centralism.
The development of communist cadres was of a far higher calibre when the Bolshevik party was ‘overly dependent’ on Lenin than in the last half of USSR history when the leaders themselves became a completely sad revisionist joke, impressing nobody, - exactly the opposite of what OP has implied.
The better the leadership in understanding the world, the better the cadres. The less authoritatively the leadership speaks in interpreting the world correctly, as in the last years of the idiots in charge of the CPSU, the more paralysed and useless the cadres become.
It is incorrect leadership in analysing the world situation properly which undermines the party’s relationship to the class, not ‘over-dependence’ on leaders, not a problem under Lenin.
And OP is equally wrong to attribute CPSU liquidation to strong leaders. It was exactly the opposite. Gorbachev was a totally philistine nerd, completely dominated by his wife’s Amex credit card. He had less communist conviction than the Kremlin cat. Study Leninism.
Of course in this article the danger of petty bourgeois individualism is pointed to - but emerging precisely in the proposed solution of trying to control difficulties by rules and formalities.
The point to take away is that it is in the continuing struggle to analyse all the world (including the party’s role in the class struggle and its internal relations) that the class forces become clarified, not in creating unprovable psychological categories.
Just what incidents and influences may have formed any individual character (and from what class direction) are often fascinating, and psychology can offer useful insights for specific questions (on understanding homosexuality for example and its obsessions pushing aside all other social and political questions, leading to anti-communist hostility).
But it is extremely difficult to research and identify for any particular individual, and is always to some extent a matter of conjecture however much biographical information might be discovered (and at this level its individualist nature is in itself dubious anyway - not for nothing is this a major category of bourgeois literature, reflecting the “great men” idealist approach to history).
As discussed above some of the comrade’s criticisms have been taken on board, with a measure of humble pie eaten, to improve comradely relations and the polemical struggle (though these are much advanced since the SouthWest issue).
But separating this party question from the overall battle for understanding is not correct.
The comrade does this constantly in the emails he sends, and has sent over ten years, always declaring the EPSR paper to be exemplary without much concrete comment, but then pouring out unconstrained criticism of alleged personal incidents.
This need to be dealt with, including as it does some extremely damaging allegations flung around.
It raises some important questions too about leadership.
So what is the history of this dispute?
It arose during the southwest polemic when he took the EPSR’s main line but suggested that the polemic had been too fierce. Subsequently some fractiousness developed in local work (with the leadership) around this issue but also, as he concedes, because of mental stress he was suffering.
Subsequently he raised a challenge to the leadership in a national meeting, calling for demotion of the chairman.
This was strongly resisted, not because of any proscription on challenges to the leadership at any point (the right of recall is a basic premise) but because of the manner in which it was done.
The challenge came at the end of a long discussion on the crisis, out of the blue, and with no former notification or indication to all the other supporters, that anything was amiss.
It amounted to a call for a complete shake-up in the group - in fact a challenge to its entire political line based on the notion that the chairman was incompetent, had effectively caused the hostility from the southwest by not allowing them to speak at a previous meeting and had impugned Barratt’s own contributions.
Now, despite the weaknesses accepted above on fully exploring the polemic, these were firstly contested points.
But even if such rough edges were to be debated, the call for total demotion would have left a giant vacuum in the continuation of the group and the paper, for various practical and political reasons at the time.
Without aggrandising the EPSR’s as yet still tiny group of supporters, it was reminiscent of Trotsky’s “shake-up” call at the Tenth Congress of the Bolshevik Party in 1921, decrying an alleged “bad spirit” in the trade unions, a call which Lenin denounced as damaging and disruptive threatening a dangerous split at that moment of besiegement, and one taking an even more bureaucratic approach to problems than the bureaucratic woodenness it was supposedly trying to deal with (see EPSR No887 21-01-97).
It poured a “spoonful of tar into a barrelful of honey”, ruining it all, was his famous phrase.
A central problem with this new call was what would replace the group’s leadership?
No answer was given but the implication was clearly the comrade himself should somehow take political command - though without taking on all the practical donkey work of producing, editing and often writing the paper, still to be done by the existing leadership.
This was nonsensical and reminiscent of similar calls in the past made by petty bourgeois breakaways: here is part of the response during dispute within the former ILWP, (International Leninist Workers Party), forerunner to the EPSR:
Allegations of the centre being rude to people down the phone and shouting at them, etc, are a monstrous invention. No such thing has taken place at all.
The decibels were certainly rising at the now notorious Saturday-night argument. But they were no worse or different from what has frequently been delivered by the chairman to the entire national committee on many a Saturday afternoon in the passion of emphasising a point. (ILWP Bulletin 476 04-01-89)
Some people may well find it intimidating, or somehow even pompous and posturing. But this pattern of personal characteristics, attractive or unattractive, has now been chairing the ILWP for nearly nine years. The time to change it, or to plunge the Party into crisis over it, is the very first second when better-quality scientific leadership ability has been discovered in the Party’s ranks.
No such claim was being made. Instead, all we are getting is the dirty insidiousness of sly innuendoes being spread around the Party as far and as fast as can be. No476)
The EPSR call, late in a meeting where nothing had been mentioned before was an ambush on comrades who knew nothing of the alleged fractiousness, and therefore was vigorously resisted.
The comrade complained at the time that he was not given adequate opportunity to make the case and that allegations against him of distortion and exaggeration were unfair.
So it was agreed he re-state the issue at the next meeting where the other comrades did not accept his challenge. He in turn then refused to accept the group decision.
It was raised in a third meeting and then finally a full fourth meeting was devoted to the issue, followed by a formal vote of confidence in the existing leadership (flaws and all).
During this whole period of nearly a year a stream of emails, test messages and phone calls was used to bombard other supporters with increasingly lurid allegations, denouncing the leadership for “understanding nothing about Leninism”.
Wild accusations were made of “violence”, a monstrous absurdity, based on a number of heated enough discussions during which such events as a comrade “jabbing their finger” (in the air it should be added, not touching anyone) or an irritated braking of a car suddenly (to demonstrate “jerkiness” after hours of complaints that driving was “too jerky” on the motorway), constituted “violence”; or similarly angry body language with “flaring nostrils” and a “bunched fist” displayed after the issue had become very heated constituted a “violent attack” (with a description of flailing arms added, that simply did not happen).
No attacks were ever made on anyone.
Worse followed as comrades were told that the leadership was a “Gerry Healy figure” and the party was now “just like the WRP”. In various phone calls, behind the back of the leadership, they were even told that the leadership was a “Stalin figure that would have would have you taken outside and shot”, an allegation of such monstrousness and damaging hostility that it virtually ruled out further rational discussion.
Staggeringly the comrade then complained because such dangerously inflammatory comments, which the bourgeois press would make a meal of, had caused an angry response.
Meanwhile supporters were told that unless they want along with all this outrageous hostility they were nothing but “lickspittles”.
As already said, despite the sometimes unskilled guiding of the polemic, no political issues have been suppressed or decreed out of bounds, (as was the problem in the WRP for example).
The comrade continued in all this to declare that he fully supported the EPSR and its paper, never explaining how it was supposed he should build the group while telling the world what a monster was at the centre (and editing the paper).
This stand off continued for some years, Barratt continuing to take the paper (and not criticising its line) but insisting he was going to build a separate group.
After some time he requested that he could receive a number of papers and has been carrying out polemics and meetings work where he uses the paper.
This was agreed by the EPSR on the condition that he make clear that he is not part of the group; much of his lurid criticism is not accepted.
There are dangers of political confusion in this but at this stage of very small numbers it was judged useful to promulgate the paper.
This odd rapprochement has also recently included discussion of the paper content and some useful contributions on developing world events and the balance of class forces.
But the allegations have continued and refusal to work with others, (raising a number of questions about individualism and refusal to accept leadership which could bear further discussion).
Why the change it might be asked? And is it really a change?
Which brings things to the current PBI theory. For various reasons the obvious contradiction of declaring support for the EPSR but standing separately against it, becomes a major obstacle when fostering ambitions and trying to win over others by using the paper.
Because of the crisis, and the contradictions which are intensifying rapidly, the EPSR’s revolutionary understanding is beginning to stand out more sharply against the great sea of fake-“leftism” still chasing Labour entryism, reformism and social-pacifism, all lined up imperialism’s “war on terror” denunciations and failing to see an ounce of the great turmoil in the world.
So abandoning the EPSR would be a bad idea and it makes sense to “resolve” the contradiction by being inside the EPSR “officially”.
But the hostile allegations continue in the new form of the “PBI” theory.
It follows a recognition by Barratt that the initial attempt to overthrow the leadership was “the wrong approach” as recently conceded (after many years).
Indeed it was more than an “approach”, using some valid criticism as a basis for a completely unwarranted (to use his word) attack on the leadership, and therefore the supporters group too (see the EPSR article above and the points on leadership, or Lenin’s points in “Left-wing communism” that it is an ABC principle that political groupings chose, and are guided, by leaders).
Much heat has been generated during this long period to deny that the comrade was making an “attack on the party” but what else would it be?
The new theory now dressed up this hostility in a theory which pretends it is supporting the EPSR but launches a monstrous attack on it - using the explanation that it is not the leadership that is being attacked but the PBI which has “overcome it” - unconsciously.
Barratt - who deems himself free of this problem “because he is in control of it” become the figure who can identify and “control” this unconscious force.
The group must hang on his judgement of all statements and discussion to get a stamp of “no unconscious PBI here”.
Eat your heart out, Max von Siddow.
This complicated psychological explanation repeats all the same allegations as before, dressed up as “symptoms” as set out above.
So for example the symptom of, or proscription against, violence in point number five is an imputation that “violence” was commonplace enough to make a special point about it, implying an atmosphere of violent bullying.
It is a total lie.
(And so little does it stand up that the comrade declared “you can edit that one out” when discussing the publication of his letter).
Many of the other points, set out rules which imply that the behaviours they deem symptomatic, are and have been rampant within the EPSR.
It is not the case.
Once this psychological theory has been built, a stream of vitriol can be unleashed against the leadership, and on contemptuously and arrogantly dismissed supporters (“lickspittles”) on the grounds that it is “not an attack on the leadership” but just against a “class force”.
If the leadership reflects such appalling characteristics who would come near it?
Tellingly the string of adjectives unleashed in the letter last issue are far more vicious than any the comrade has launched against the Trotskyist groups he has been debating with (a perfect valid and useful attempt to engage across the board and in some ways a good example) despite the continuing damage they do, and have done for nearly a century, in poisoning minds against the workers states and communism.
Exposing this mind rot and just as damaging revisionism is a crucial part of Leninist struggle.
From the other direction why would the EPSR continue to engage either?
Because the comrade has been around for a long time supporting the building of Leninism and can and does make useful observations.
That is no absolute criterion; plenty of excellent Marxist have had a long record before turning at moments of crisis - Karl Kautsky’s renegadeship as the First World War broke out is the most obvious example.
But it is a weighty factor.
Additionally, not all the criticism is invalid, and as discussed, it is accepted there have been some weaknesses in guiding the polemic.
And the general principle that bourgeois and petty bourgeois class force is constantly tying to derail objective Marxist-Leninist science is true.
One reason for the working class’ distrust of theory, particularly in empiricism saturated cultures like practical British imperialism is the suspicion they are having the wool pulled over their eyes (though the corrupting influence of British empire jingoism should not be forgotten - still being tapped for Brexit reaction).
Petty bourgeois misuse of Marxism, twisting things for anti-working class purposes is always present, constantly pumped out by 50-shades-of-pink fake-“leftism” in reams of showboating but turgid academicism, from which the shards of anti-communism need to be filtered out and exposed constantly.
The EPSR should be doing much more to expose them.
Decades of Revisionist retreat from revolution have misled workers with theories of “peaceful coexistence” and “peace struggle”, and the turn that led to in “parliamentary roads to socialism” disarming them of the need to fight class war to overturn the ruling class and establish the working class as the rulers through the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The result has been capitalism repeatedly crushing and slaughtering of any moves forwards, and constant attacks by imperialist skulduggery, subversion, coups, massacres and all-out war where necessary - Iran 1953, Indonesia 1965, Chile 1973, Latin American judicial coups, Egypt 2013, among others.
Even more poisonously the Trotskyist thread of bilious hatred of the workers states has poisoned minds for decades with its “Animal Farm” cynicism and tailending of the crass imperialist stoogery of the corrupted TUC/Labour tradition.
But that only underlines the need for the working class to get to grips with Leninist theory via its best elements joining the revolutionary party and studying the great body of Marxism (in particular the 100 volumes of Marx, Engels and Lenin) both on their own, in classes and best of all in the constantly updated party paper (which should include much more of this foundational material in its proper context, relating it to developments, to show its significance and making it easier to grasp).
And as they develop the struggle they will be part of the continuing development of theory themselves.
But that can only be built on the continuing struggle to understand objective developments in the Leninist party.
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Reexamining the Grenada revolution
Part Two (continued from issue No 1585)
This account (see last issue) corresponds with Coard’s description of the events as set out in the first volume of his memoirs, including the mysterious “Asian looking man” who is said to have fired the first shots and later disappeared. He, with three other men, was strategically placed in a verandah with an excellent view of the entrance to the fort. This has echoes of the CIA’s use of sniper fire to stir up unrest more recently in Venezuela, Ukraine and Syria.
It also gives additional details on the break-down of discipline amongst the soldiers in the fort who, it says, shot Bishop and the others in the heat of the moment following the ambush and killing of their much respected commander.
An important contribution towards any debate amongst those committed to re-building a revolutionary proletarian dictatorship understanding of these events is the contemporaneous analysis of Royston Bull published in book form by the EPSR [then the ILWP], that exposed Cuban revisionism for playing into the hands of US imperialism by undermining the Grenada revolution and slandering the NJM majority (and the complete silence of the Soviet Union’s revisionist leadership). [ILWP Books Vol12 Grenada]
The open letter concords with the EPSR’s understanding of the events at the time, and provides further details that back it up.
Cuba’s own heroic revolution under Castro’s leadership, was then, is now, and always will be a huge inspiration regionally and across the planet. The enormous strides it has made towards human development and the solidarity support it has provided to world’s impoverished masses, including now in combatting Covid-19, under its firm proletarian dictatorship is an invaluable lesson to the working class.
However, Havana’s revisionist theoretical shortcomings need to be challenged polemically if the international proletariat is to return to a Leninist-scientific understanding of world events, not least their betrayal of the New Jewel Movement at this most critical time for Grenada’s revolution. These questions still remain unanswered:
The Cuban comrades are now suggesting that the Coard-Austin majority faction in the leadership of the New Jewel Movement were fake ultra-lefts, - agents of imperialism:
“Look at the history of the revolutionary movement and you will find more than one connection between imperialism and those who take positions that appear to be on the extreme left. Aren’t Pol Pot and Ieng Sary, - the ones responsible for the genocide in Kampuchea, - the most loyal allies Yankee imperialism has in South-East Asia at present? In Cuba, ever since the Grenadian crisis began, we have called Coard’s group, - to give it a name, - the ‘Pol Pot’ group,” Fidel Castro told the huge Havana funeral rally on November 14.
The most glaring of many inconsistencies about this line is to explain why US imperialism took the enormous gamble of staging an extremely costly (in political terms internationally) wrecking invasion against the Grenadan socialist revolution if they had just got their own wrecking agents installed? And having ‘staged’ an invasion to oust their own men, why has US imperialism then detained and brutalised its Coard-Austin ‘agents’?.
Even stranger, why has US imperialism unleashed a NAZI-psychological warfare campaign on the island with lurid posters everywhere vilifying Coard and Austin as “the evil communists who tried to capture Grenada” while allowing their supposed ‘real enemy’ Maurice Bishop to be turned into a bourgeois national hero?
Another curiosity is what does Havana know about the Coard-Austin line? And if it does know something, why does it not discuss the political essence of the Grenadan problem, and expose what it thinks were the Leninist errors in this line?
The odd thing is that Havana has repeatedly insisted, with misplaced sanctimony, that it had never ‘stooped so low’ as to discuss Grenada’s internal problems in the course of its frequent meetings with Bishop. If true, this was a piece of non-Leninist nonsense. If not, it is pointless pretence.
Castro stressed again in his November 14 speech the “very close and affectionate links and the many fraternal hours” spent with Bishop, including as recently as October 7, - but again stressing that “nothing was said about the internal discussions”.
Castro then admitted: “Coard’s group never had such relations nor such intimacy and trust with us. Actually we did not even know that group existed.”
But in that case, firstly, how does Castro know anything about Coard and Austin’s ‘Pol Pot’ plans?
As already exhaustively analysed in Bulletin 214, the obvious beginnings of needless opportunist violence on Grenada (as enough of it as there was in any case – limited to one brief skirmish) – was entirely due to Bishop, and no-one else. Bishop tried arbitrarily to use his power as well as well-known prime-minister-figurehead to resist the properly arrived-at majority decisions of the revolutionary movement’s leadership for a long period of time, finally necessitating house arrest. And then the Bishop faction lawlessly raised a counter-revolutionary mob to storm the guards at Bishop’s house where he was under easy-going house arrest. At the same time [the] Bishop mob, then with Bishop at its head, lawlessly stormed Fort Rupert, once again disarming the guards there. For staging this Bonapartist putsch, the Bishop mob was put down. And there, all violence ceased; and Grenada was quickly back to normal. Every eye-witness agrees that the country was back to normal prior to the US imperialist invasion. Spreading this ‘Pol Pot’ rumour about Coard and Austin’s intentions merely plays into the hands of Washington’s ‘justification’ propaganda, just as the anti-Leninist swamp in Britain has done (see Bulletins 213, 214, 215).
There is much more equally inflammatory (and totally unsubstantiated) language in Castro’s speech against the Coard-Austin majority, (many with as long standing in the New Jewel Movement as Bishop,) - such as “hyenas..egged on by imperialism…using the dagger of divisionism…conspirators, tools of imperialism...the government of Grenada was morally indefensible”, etc.
Castro’s only concrete charges are precisely the issues which the NJM majority insistently properly discussed with Bishop inside the central committee, urging him for over a year to heed their criticism. These matters demand discussion, not sneers.
“Allegedly (?) revolutionary arguments were used,” Castro admits. “Invoking the purest principles of Marxism-Leninism and charging Bishop with practising a cult of personality and drawing away from the Leninist norms and methods of leadership.”
To which Castro tries two equally unsatisfactory replies. First he baldly declares, despite the evidence of a year’s constant complaints from the majority of the NJM leadership, mostly hardened revolutionaries of very long standing who had known Bishop intimately for nearly 20 years, - that “nothing could be more absurd than to attribute such tendencies to Bishop. It was impossible to imagine anyone more noble, modest and unselfish. He could never have been guilty of being authoritarian. If he had any defect, it was his excessive tolerance and trust.”
Circumstantial evidence is all against Castro on this. Why would anyone truly ‘modest and unselfish’ never have mentioned in hours of ‘intimate’ discussions with the Cubans such an extremely serious matter of a lack of confidence in his leadership by the majority of the NJM central committee? Surely this smacks of someone who was arrogantly contemptuous of his party’s feelings and opinions.
And why did these curiously close relations exist between Bishop and the Cubans, but the deputy leader of the NJM, and deputy prime minister, Bernard Coard, and the majority of the NJM leadership were almost totally unknown in Havana? Did Bishop in fact really keep everything to himself, in a one-man leadership, as his opponents accuse him of? If true (and Castro gives no evidence to the contrary), this reflects as badly on Castro as on Bishop. It was very short-sighted for Castro not to insist on getting to know the whole of the NJM leadership. Did they refuse, strangely, to become known? Castro does not say so, and it seems scarcely credible.
On smaller circumstantial points, which common language did Castro (Spanish-speaking) and Bishop (English-speaking) know sufficiently well for them to have talked long enough without interpreters to get to know each other so well; and what leadership work inside Grenada’s government and party did Castro observe as to form a judgment about Bishop’s relationships with his colleagues?
(Coard’s memoirs answers this last question: Coard sat opposite Castro as he talked in English for 17 hours with Sir Paul Scoon – the British Governor-General who led US imperialism’s post-invasion Nazi quisling administration for the restoration of bourgeois class rule – on a flight to Brezhnev’s funeral, despite giving Coard no indication of his English language skills in any of their prior meetings.):
Castro’s second reply to the NJM’s criticisms of Bishop is to charge the majority with being “a group of extremists drunk on political theory”. This is an extraordinary allegation which casts far more doubt on Castro than it does on the NJM majority.
If Coard’s majority had “extreme political theories”, let us hear about them. And let us hear those theories being subject to withering Leninist criticism (see Lenin volumes 1 to 45). The essence of Marxism-Leninism is to defeat revisionism by correct revolutionary theory. The mere jibe “extremists drunk on political theory” would indicate anti-Leninism on the part of the jiber. [November 24, 1983 – Bulletin 216]
Just look at how bourgeois anti-communists like Godfrey Smith jumps on such “extremists drunk on political theory” jibes to sneer at Grenada’s revolutionary leadership’s struggle to resolve the dispute:
The pattern for the first two days of the meeting was hours of long, repetitive rants about how badly the party was performing and the imminent demise of the ‘revo’. Leninist jargon hung in the air, thick and suffocating, like the smoke curling up from Bishop’s chain of cigarettes.
They were fervent, sincere ideologues in a headlong rush to achieve textbook ideological purity and fit people to theory. Years later, many years later, Cornwall [presumably CC member Leon Cornwall, one of the Grenada 17 and ambassador to Cuba until just before the invasion], who had by then renounced atheism for Methodism, would counsel that it is impossible to truly understand what was occurring back then without appreciating that they were like fanatics drunk on the religion of Leninism.
Despite misleadingly giving the impression that the NJM leadership was almost totally unknown in Havana, Fidel Castro had met Coard on at least four formal occasions according to Coard in his memoirs (as well as on the flight to Brezhnev’s funeral), and so had ample opportunity to get to know him.
Coard also met Raúl Castro once, and had at least 4 meetings with a “very senior member of the Cuban leadership”, the economist Carlos Rafael Rodríguez. He had also met other Cuban ministers responsible for various economic portfolios, and, as he was Grenada’s deputy prime minister, he was always met by one of Cuba’s four vice-presidents at Havana airport. And so Coard clearly didn’t refuse to be known.
All this adds to the questions raised. Why didn’t Castro say any of this at the time? What understanding did he gain from the meetings with Coard about his leadership work and his relationship with Bishop that led him to label Coard a “Pol Pot” figure and an “extremist”? And if he didn’t come to that conclusion from those meetings, where did it come from???
All this adds to the questions raised. Why didn’t Castro say any of this at the time? What understanding did he gain from the meetings with Coard about his leadership work and his relationship with Bishop that led him to label Coard a “Pol Pot” figure and an “extremist”? And if he didn’t come to that conclusion from those meetings, where did it come from???
Coard describes some excellent pieces of advice he received from Castro at their first meeting in July 1979 on how to deal with counter-revolutionary subversion, based on Cuba’s own experience of proletarian dictatorship:
“Do not give the enemy any room in which to operate … Imperialism will seek to exploit every grievance, every opportunity, to stir up confusion, dissent, opposition, aimed at weakening and ultimately destroying the Revolution. Their goal …. is not to improve the circumstances of those in need, but rather to restore their own rule through local agents.”
… “If one tiny piece of counter-revolutionary graffiti appears on a wall anywhere in Cuba, we treat it as an emergency. We mobilise the party and the people in that area to confront this development … We not only immediately remove the offending graffiti, we replace it with revolutionary slogans and messages all over. We take to the streets of that area in hundreds, even thousands. We let the enemy feel the full power of the Revolution!”
… “If … the enemy holds a public meeting, mobilize the people and hold one a hundred times larger the very next day. Redouble all the party work in that area immediately. Do house-to-house work. Involve all the people. Do not permit any grievance to fester and be used by anyone opportunistically … Above all, never, ever permit counter-revolution to control the streets! At the first sign of a counter-revolutionary demonstration, bring the masses out in their thousands, tens of thousands, even, to control all the streets in that area. Never cede any area to counter-revolution. If you do, they will use it as oxygen to breathe and grow stronger.”
He gave numerous examples of efforts to destabilise the Cuban Revolution over the years, and how the Cuban party and government dealt with these threats. He spoke of the role of their Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDRs) in these efforts.
… “Remember, … you have no choice, at this stage, but to be flexible in economic matters. But I would advise you never to waiver in matters of politics. Be firm in politics, flexible in economics!” [Coard, Forward Ever, chapter 18]
This advice correctly reinforced the NJM leadership’s own understanding of revolutionary dictatorship. Tragically, Coard has now retreated from this position and succumbed to general cultural-religious sentiment (and is perhaps still wrapped in regret for the death of Bishop, someone he had been close friends with since early childhood). He now argues that the firm dictatorship measures they correctly took to suppress counter-revolutionary subversion were a mistake and claims that, had elections been held within the first year or two of the revolution, the 1983 crisis could have been avoided:
We did not have the vision and the political maturity to see that we could defeat imperialism and its local allies over the long haul, even though it might have meant losing an election on the way.
This revisionist-influenced capitulation to imperialist “free and fair elections” illusion-mongering is disastrous.
Why should the Grenadian proletariat and poor masses have given up the revolutionary gains they had achieved through huge sacrifice for petty-bourgeois notions of “legal credibility”, particularly after the bloody experiences of “the democratic route to socialism” of Chile in 1973, or Guatemala’s “democratically-elected” Arbenz in 1954???
(Continued next issue)
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