We reproduce this excellent article from Workers World with thanks.
Hollande: 'This is an act of exceptional barbarity.'
Assad: 'That's not what you say when you send them my way.'
By Sarah Flounders
How do we put in perspective the international media focus on the massacre of 12 journalists in Paris on 7 January at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, notorious for its racist anti-muslim caricatures and lack of response to the routine, daily, racist police murders of black youth in the US? Why were any protests banned in France of 15 journalists who were killed among the 2,000 deaths in the Israeli assault of Gaza this past summer? Don’t those lives matter?
The Charlie Hebdo assassinations strengthen the hand of the state, which is using them in an ideological offensive — even if the state had a role in arming and training the killers.
Why are other murders not mourned, not respected, not even reported — even the murders of other journalists? A crucial role of the corporate media is to try to shape the perception of which lives matter.
Consider the mass outpourings following several different, very public killings in the US. Hundreds of thousands of youths have been in the streets again and again in the US confronting the refusal of the state to prosecute killer cops — even when their murderous crimes have been seen on video by millions.
Hundreds of thousands of people were in the streets of Paris on 11 January. French, other European, US and Israeli politicians led the march honoring the slain journalists.
Twice, on 27 December and 4 January, thousands of police in uniform from all over the US converged on New York City for separate funerals of two police officers shot in their patrol car on 20 December. Jet Blue offered free flights to all police traveling nationally to the funeral. The US vice president, New York state’s governor and the city’s mayor attended the funerals. Roads in the areas were closed; giant outdoor TV screens were erected.
Not a free speech issue
The French government’s protection of the racist journal Charlie Hebdo had nothing to do with protecting freedom of speech. This is a deception that must be confronted. In 2012, the same government that protected this vile publication banned any demonstrations or protests or even public prayers opposing the racist publication.
French law allows for the prosecution of ‘public insults’ based on religion, race, ethnicity or national origin. But the racist, sexist, bigoted, grossly insulting cartoons in Charlie Hebdo magazine were never once a source of any successful legal action.
However, France did ban anyone from even protesting the cartoons that insulted muslims or the prophet Muhammed.
In 2012, as protests swept the muslim world in response to an anti-muslim film made in the US, French interior minister Manuel Valls said prefects had orders to prohibit any protest and to crack down if the ban was challenged. “There will be strictly no exceptions. Demonstrations will be banned and broken up.” (Daily Mail, 21 September 2012)
Even prayer meetings and street prayers were banned. (CNN, 19 September 2012)
In the same week, Charlie Hebdo put out an extra run of cartoons featuring a grossly obscene caricature of a naked prophet Mohammed. The magazine was given extra police protection.
Freedom of speech and of the press is hardly sacred in France. It was punishable by a year in prison to even post on the internet a notice of a demonstration opposing the Israeli onslaught on Palestine during the Israeli 2014 summer offensive on Gaza.
France was the only country in the world to bar all demonstrations and protests in any form supporting Palestine during that time. The penalty was one year in jail and 15,000 euro fine.
It is worth noting the double standard: There is no similar crackdown against the current right-wing, fascist demonstrations against immigrants.
Role of Nazi caricature
Charlie Hebdo serves a very important purpose for French imperialism, and that is why its virulent racism has been protected at the very time that protests against it are prohibited.
Charlie Hebdo may have run cartoons to ridicule the powerful 40 years ago, when it claimed to be left wing, irreverent and nonconformist. But there is a big difference between satire ridiculing the powerful — a French tradition going back to Voltaire — and the current imagery promoting fear and loathing of the oppressed and powerless. The latter is right-wing and fascist in character.
In this period, when muslims are facing increasing, extreme right-wing attacks, and fascist mobilisations are growing in Europe, Charlie Hebdo functions as did the Nazi publication Der Sturmer, with its vehemently anti-semitic caricatures. Jewish people in Der Sturmer, as muslims in Charlie Hebdo, were depicted with exaggerated facial features and misshapen bodies. Both publications use obscene, sexually explicit caricatures.
The Nazi newspaper’s caricatures were part of a policy to make jews an object of hatred, fear, ridicule and disdain. At the end of World War II, Julius Streicher, the editor of Der Sturmer — though he didn’t run death camps but used the press to incite hatred — was put on trial, convicted of crimes against humanity and executed.
Charlie Hebdo is protected because it hardens the population against muslim people in order to divide the population. The French government has announced a grant to Charlie Hebdo of 1 million euros, and Google donated 250,000 euros.
Charlie Hebdo is not freedom of expression and freedom of press. It is an instrument of war mobilisation. It ran cartoons demonising Serbs during the Nato campaign against Yugoslavia, and it supported Nato’s attack on Libya.
No free press
Although ‘free speech’ and ‘free press’ are being lauded and glorified in the murder of the French journalists, no such thing exists in any capitalist state. The press in France or in the US is not free, open or accessible.
The media are owned by and serve the interests of the ruling class. What can be said and who can say it is tightly controlled. The corporate media in capitalist society are owned to serve class rule. What is covered depends entirely on who can pay for publication or airtime.
A handful of multibillion-dollar media conglomerates control almost all information, culture and entertainment in the western capitalist countries — though in the past decade social media and the internet have opened a few tiny cracks in this overwhelming corporate control [just as small-scale people's printing presses did formerly].
The media industry has an enormous impact in shaping which lives have value and which deaths go unreported, unmarked or consciously covered up.
The hundreds of thousands of deaths in wars initiated by US imperialism, and with the full support of French and British imperialism, are unmarked, unmourned and callously labeled ‘collateral damage’. The media ignore or barely mention the enormous toll in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. No mass sympathy is created when a US drone wipes out a wedding party in Pakistan or a whole village with a hellfire missile.
The assassinations of journalists in these wars are hardly noted. There were no state funerals for the 166 journalists killed in Iraq under US occupation. Chelsea Manning is in prison for releasing videos of US helicopters gunning down two Reuter’s camera operators in Iraq and then circling back to kill the family who stopped their van to try to help them.
According to the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms, 15 journalists were killed in the 2014 Israeli bombing of Gaza. They “were killed in civilian sites that are supposed to be safe for civilians”. Eight media centres were targeted and bombed.
US bombers targeted and destroyed the RTS, Radio TV Serbia, in the 1999 US/Nato war on Yugoslavia, killing 17 journalists.
The most dangerous country in the world for journalists is Honduras. Since the US-backed coup, 46 media and information workers have been assassinated.
The International Federation of Journalists sharply criticised Nato’s 2011 air strikes against Libyan television, which killed three people and injured 15. The IFJ stated that the strikes violated international law and UN resolutions.
If a free press existed, then Chelsea Manning would not be in prison or Edward Snowden and Julian Assange on the run, living in exile.
What media are even allowed coverage in imperialist countries demonstrates how little freedom of the press is respected. For example, Press TV, an Iranian news channel broadcasting in English, is banned from broadcasting via satellite throughout Europe, Canada and the US. Al-Manar, a Lebanese satellite station affiliated with Hezbollah, has also been banned by France, Germany and the US.
Both Press TV and Al-Manar have protested, to no avail, that this is a grave breach of freedom of speech. While both news channels are available via the internet in limited form, Apple and Google have removed Al-Manar mobile apps.
National oppression and racism in France cannot be ignored. There are 5.5 million residents of African origin, many of them born in France and most of them citizens. A large number are from muslim backgrounds [usually from former French colonies], although not all are practicing. They are isolated by poverty in suburbs that have high unemployment, inferior schools and substandard housing.
Just as prisons in the US, overwhelmingly imprison black and brown youth, so too do French prisons. About 60 to 70 percent of all inmates in the country’s prison system are muslim, according to muslim leaders, sociologists and researchers, though muslims make up only about 12 percent of the country’s population. (Washington Post Foreign Service, 29 April 2008)
Imperialism needs hatred of targeted peoples. Western politicians have cynically used islamophobia to advance right-wing political agendas and curtail freedoms.
Regardless of whether a police conspiracy is ever exposed, we do know that the French ruling class and the corporate media are always primed to take full advantage of such acts to reinforce the repressive state apparatus and sow division among the working class.
There should not be an iota of confidence in the news stories of this massacre at Charlie Hebdo. We know only what we are being told in the corporate media by French military police and state intelligence agencies.
We do know that three men, who are now dead, were tools of imperialism in their wars of conquest in Syria and Libya. More than 1,000 French citizens of Arab and North African descent have been recruited, trained, armed and used as weapons conduits, saboteurs and terrorists in the efforts of US, France, Britain, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to overthrow the government of Syria.
This leads to the fundamental question of whose policies are responsible for the massacre and who gains from the massacre?
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, US imperialism, aided by the old colonial powers of Europe, has been engaged in a whole series of wars to reconquer countries that had achieved a high level of development based on sovereignty and control of their resources.
In their frantic efforts to recolonise Iraq, Syria and Libya, they have cynically whipped up sectarian divisions, organised deadly militias and promoted fanaticism and anarchy. That has aroused deep-seated rage against the US, France and Britain.
It is also highly unpopular that French imperialism is widely involved in Africa — primarily in the majority-muslim countries of Mali, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast and Djibouti, and in Abu Dhabi on the Arabian peninsula.
The French ruling class wants to divert mass attention from its expanding wars and increasingly militarised society. The mobilisations claiming to defend a free press by defending racism must be opposed and countered.
The following statement was issued by the politburo of the Syrian Communist Party in Damascus on 24 September 2014.
Syria will not kneel down.
In the early morning of 23 September 2014, US imperialism, with its allies and agents, began hostile armed actions on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic. These actions are a flagrant violation of international law, which prohibits the violation of the sovereignty of independent states.
These hostile actions are being carried out under the pretext of ‘fighting terrorist organisations’. But the organisations in question were created in the laboratories of the imperialist intelligence agencies, especially those of the Britain and the US, with the active participation of the zionists. They were formed with the aim of creating a pretext for imperialist intervention and aggression against countries in the region, especially Syria, owing to Syria’s long opposition to imperialist and zionist hegemony, for which stand our people have made great sacrifices.
The experience of our people, and of the peoples of the world, absolutely proves that we are right to place no confidence in the words of the imperialists generally, and in those of US imperialism – the leader of world terrorism – in particular.
It is delusional to imagine that we will be able to neutralise the USA, which is the main enemy of our people and of the national liberation of our homeland, as well as being the enemy of the freedom of all the peoples of the world. The Syrian Communist Party calls on all patriots in Syria to defend the homeland, to protect national sovereignty, and to be on their guard against imperialist conspiracies and tricks.
No pretext of US imperialism, even that of ‘fighting terrorism’, can justify the violation of our national sovereignty. Our people are struggling bravely against the terrorist gangs, and making good progress in this battle. The latest developments confirm that the brave Syrian army, which depends upon the support of the masses, is defeating the obscurantist terrorist gangs.
That is why the imperialist agencies are making a push to speed up their aggressive moves against Syria. The Syrian people will continue to fight, as they have in the past, and will courageously resist any aggression against their national independence and dignity. The victory is ours.
We confirm once again that our fight is not just a duty, but that our victory is assured, and that our defence of our homeland is first and above any consideration.
Syria will not kneel down.
Two years ago, our party conducted some thorough Marxist research into the question of Scottish nationalism. We took a scientific look at the question of Scottish independence in order to find out whether there is any truth to the assertion made by nationalists that Scotland is an oppressed nation in need of liberating from the English imperialist yoke.
This question is of vital importance for communists in Britain today. If we are serious about organising for the revolutionary overthrow of British imperialism, we are going to need the maximum possible unity of the working class in order to achieve that. Everything that divides workers weakens our movement and undermines our chances of success in the class struggle – sexism, racism, ageism, ableism, regionalism … and nationalism.
What is nationalism?
Nationalism is a bourgeois ideology, since nations in the modern sense only appeared in the capitalist era. This can be confusing to understand, since there were feudal kingdoms and loose associations with the same names and similar languages in many parts of the world, but it is important to recognise that these were not nations in the modern sense. Some of these feudal communities went on to develop into modern nations. Others disappeared or were subsumed.
The true nation only appeared on the scene historically with the development of capitalism, as the expansion of commodity production and markets broke down the barriers between previously self-sufficient and isolated feudal fiefdoms and united them in the interests of trade and commerce – bringing a single infrastructure and language, a single set of laws, taxes and customs, and the massive expansion of the capitalist division of labour that made the average individual much more dependent on many others (spread across the entire national territory) for the necessaries of life.
The Marxist definition of a nation is quite precise: “A nation is a historically-evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture.” If a group of people lacks even one of these characteristics, they cannot be considered to be a nation. (JV Stalin)
That is why Marxists refute the idea of a ‘jewish nation’ or a ‘muslim nation’, for example. Because a shared religion among people spread across the globe does not make for a nation. There are jewish Americans, jewish Iranians and jewish Germans, and the jews in each of these cases share a language, territory, culture and economic life with their fellow Americans, Iranians and Germans. Likewise, there is no such thing as a ‘black nation’. Black Americans, black Congolese and black French people may share a colour of skin, but their language, territory, economic life and culture are those of America, Congo and France respectively.
Like everything else in human history, nations are a transitional phenomenon, and their lifespan is actually destined to be rather short in the overall scheme of things. Nation states are the form that capitalist class rule took in western Europe, while in the East, where capitalism arrived on the scene somewhat later, multinational states are the norm. Along with classes and the state itself, nations will gradually disappear after capitalism has been replaced everywhere with socialism.
Nationalism is therefore an ideology that has developed out of capitalist production relations, and which reinforces capitalist society. It encourages workers to identify their interests with that of their ‘country’, which means identifying more with their own exploiters than with the exploited peoples of other countries. That is why Marx famously wrote that workers have no country, and why the communists adopt the red flag of the workers rather than identifying with national symbols.
Nationalism and national-liberation
That being the case, one might wonder why we should ever give our support to a national movement. Paradoxically, in the era of imperialism, nationalism in the countries that are oppressed and superexploited by the imperialist powers can very often play a progressive role. It can encourage the oppressed to unite against their oppressors and rise up against them, since the national bourgeoisie is also suppressed by imperialist rule and stopped from developing. In these cases, the workers and the independent-minded national bourgeoisie (as opposed to comprador sections of the bourgeoisie who facilitate imperialist exploitation and oppression) have a shared goal and can become temporary allies, despite their class antagonisms as exploiters and exploited.
When Stalin wrote his famous work on the national question in 1913, his conclusions were endorsed by Lenin and by the international communist movement. He showed that in the interests of the maximum unity of the working class, the rights of oppressed nations to self-determination – ie, to be free to organise their lives and economies without interference from imperialist powers – must be respected and fought for. He showed that the struggle of the oppressed peoples for national liberation is a part and parcel of the proletariat’s struggle against imperialism.
He explained that only by recognising and fighting for the rights of the oppressed could workers in the imperialist countries free themselves from the superiority complex that kept them siding with their own exploiters and looking down on the superexploited masses – and that this attitude kept workers in the imperialist countries tied to their own ruling classes and separated from the exploited of the world, who ought to be their biggest ally in the struggle for revolution. This division was and is a major barrier to the development of a real revolutionary movement in the imperialist countries.
On the other hand, Stalin showed that only by having complete freedom to finally determine their own destiny would workers of the oppressed countries ever let go of their own national prejudices and come to see their common interests with workers from the oppressing countries.
National oppression is therefore a bar to the unity of workers and peasants all over the world against their common oppressors, and is thus an impediment to socialist revolution. That is why Marxists support the national-liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples, and why we demand their complete freedom of self-determination. We are supporting these national-liberation struggles because of their democratic and anti-imperialist content, not because we are in favour of encouraging nationalism.
We in the CPGB-ML take these lessons from history very seriously. Of all the people who call themselves communist in Britain, we are the only ones who really take our duties towards the oppressed of the world to heart. Ours is the only party that constantly seeks to show British workers the connection between the superexploitation of workers and peasants abroad and the strength of our ruling-class enemies at home.
Unlike the Trotskyists, we do not try to tell workers in the oppressed countries how they should conduct the struggle against imperialism. We recognise their rights unconditionally and give them and their chosen leaders unstinting support, no matter how they are demonised in the imperialist media. Alone among the British ‘left’ parties we opposed the wars against Libya and Syria from the very beginning – and supported the anti-imperialist leaders of those countries against imperialist vilification.
Unlike the revisionists of the CPB, we do everything in our power to expose the imperialist nature of the Labour party and break the working class’s illusions in social democracy. We do all we can, small as we are, to promote unity with the oppressed masses of the world and to break the connection between the working-class movement and the imperialist stooges who currently control it.
Unlike every other party and supposed ‘solidarity’ movement, we try to show workers in Britain what our rulers on no account wish them to understand: that we have the collective power to stop British imperialism from functioning – whether it is waging illegal wars abroad or making draconian attacks on the working class at home – and should organise ourselves to use it.
No cooperation with British war crimes. No cooperation with capitalist austerity. Workers have the power to stop the wars and stop the cuts. These are our core messages to workers in Britain.
But the same seriousness we apply to our support for the oppressed peoples abroad applies to our waging of all other aspects of the class struggle. This is not a game or a passing popularity contest, but a deadly serious endeavour. We have no hope of winning in the long run if we refuse to take a scientific approach to all important questions; if we pander to popular prejudice and are scared to tell workers unwelcome truths.
The lessons from science and from history are clear. We support the independence movements of the oppressed nations because that weakens imperialism and enables workers to unite on the basis of equality. We do not support anything that divides the working class for no good reason. The coming struggles will be hard enough; we have no business making them even harder by allowing ourselves to be corralled into smaller and smaller groups.
Building for revolution in an imperialist country
Alongside the conclusions discussed above, Stalin also showed very clearly that to demand ‘self-determination’ for every group of workers that has fallen into nationalism is a backward and not a progressive step. He was adamant that unless a group really can be scientifically determined to be a nation in the modern, capitalist sense of the term – and can be shown to be being oppressed and superexploited by imperialism – there is no basis and no justification for dividing the working class.
At all times and in all cases, the paramount consideration for revolutionary Marxists must be the achievement of the maximum strength and unity of the working class. If the development of the capitalist state has already brought together various disparate groups of workers from pre-existing groups or feudal societies and welded them into a single nation (albeit with some differences in their historical backgrounds and local customs), it is not the job of the communists to go re-dividing those peoples along lines that were long ago obliterated in all meaningful ways. That is merely to help the capitalists in their aim of dividing in order to rule.
At the time when Stalin wrote his pamphlet on the national question, the working and oppressed masses in the Russian empire, just like workers today in Britain, were suffering from deep demoralisation. The 1905 revolution had been defeated, and this defeat had led many to believe that the revolution would never happen. After all, at that point, before the success of the 1917 October revolution, Marxism still seemed to many to be an untested theory. As the revolutionary tide receded, nationalism rose to take the place of internationalism and revolution.
In this situation, bourgeois ideology was in the ascendant. Marxism seemed to have been disproved, and many groups sprang up claiming that the solution for their particular group of workers was ‘national self-determination’. Essentially, they said, “Forget about the revolution, forget about socialism, forget about solidarity … if we can get language rights and ‘cultural autonomy’ for our little group, we don’t need to care what happens to anyone else.”
And before they knew it, workers who had been standing together in struggle one day were acting as strike-breakers against their fellows the next, because they had started to identify themselves as being from different ‘national’ groups. Alongside this, they were voting for ‘representation’ in parliaments and other talking shops not on class lines but on ethnic ones, supporting all kinds of anti-working-class scoundrels on the basis of a shared ‘national identity’.
Scottish nationalism serves imperialism
That is why, before coming to a conclusion on the question of Scottish self-determination, we conducted research into the question of Scottish nationhood. And the conclusion we came to was clear: there is no such thing, in the scientific sense, as the ‘Scottish nation’. There may briefly have been an ‘English nation’, which developed out of the feudal kingdoms of England, but that too is long gone. In its place there long ago developed the British nation – into which both English and Scottish rulers and workers alike were amalgamated. This has been an established fact for some 250 years.
There is no evidence to back up the claim that the Scots are being kept down as a nation and denied their right to self-determination in the United Kingdom.
The Irish, on the other hand, have clearly been oppressed for centuries – their people starved, their language and culture suppressed, their resources looted – with the native rulers expropriated and feeling the jackboot as well as the native workers and peasants. Hence the constant resurgence of armed struggle by the Irish people over the years. And hence the fact that the core tenets of the Irish peace process are all about redressing the basic inequality of treatment between the settler-colonial and native populations (protestants and catholics; unionists and nationalists).
There is an interesting point that no Scottish nationalist ever seems to have an answer to. If Scotland is a colony of ‘English imperialism’, how on earth has it managed to win its chance for ‘freedom’ without any kind of struggle?
Where in the world did a colonising power ever give up its hold on power and ability to loot superprofits voluntarily? Where in the world did an oppressed and colonised people ever win their freedom without mobilising a fierce struggle by the masses, usually including the use of arms?
We have seen centuries of armed and political mass struggle by the oppressed and superexploited masses of Ireland, but no such struggle has ever been remotely on the cards in Scotland. If the people of Scotland have really been oppressed and exploited by ‘English’ overlords for so long, we have to ask ourselves: why has such a struggle not materialised?
And then we have to ask ourselves something else: what kind of freedom fighters ever included in their list of demands that they should be ‘allowed’ to keep the key elements of their oppression intact after liberation?
And yet, these are precisely the ‘demands’ of the Scottish nationalist leaders. They wish to keep the British Queen as their head of state, keep the British pound as their currency (“The pound … is as much Scotland’s pound as the rest of the UK’s,” says Alex Salmond), keep the British army regiments currently based in Scotland (and soaked in the blood of the oppressed of the world) as their army, and keep their membership not only of the imperialist EU but even of the nuclear warmongering Nato alliance. Indeed, Alex Salmond has made it clear that the SNP’s commitment to a ‘nuclear-free’ Scotland is of secondary importance to a retained membership of nuclear-armed Nato!
Meanwhile, the Queen, the army and British financial control are precisely the bastions of British imperialist domination that centuries of Irish struggle have been aimed at removing from Irish soil!
It seems from this that what is on offer is not ‘national liberation’ or ‘independence’, but the division of the working class into hostile camps, alongside the continued unity of the exploiters. Business as usual for British imperialism, in fact.
What difference would it really make to workers in Scotland if Britain’s Trident missiles were shoved over the border to Berwick or Bowness? Would they be less likely to suffer the effects of nuclear fallout from such a move? Would a Nato-aligned Scotland be any less culpable for the use of nuclear weapons by the Nato alliance?
Those who imagine that they are ridding themselves of a large section of exploiters in voting for independence should consider carefully: Alex Salmond will not be the last representative of the British ruling class in ‘independent’ Scotland; only the most visible one. Just as in the case of ‘Westminster rule’, the real decisions will continue to be made by the British billionaire class behind the scenes.
The SNP leadership may seem to represent a less seasoned brand of exploiters, but, make no mistake, they and their replacements will simply be what all other British politicians are and have been for centuries – the public face of a very old, very experienced and very cunning ruling class.
All Alex Salmond’s statements about Nato, the Queen, the pound, the army and so on, are simply his job-interview promises to that class. In effect, he is telling his bosses: “Don’t worry, I understand what is required of me and will do the job you need me to do.” And just as in the case of Cameron, Blair and co, voting out Salmond would simply bring another Salmond clone into his place.
So what would the ‘independence’ that is on offer (as opposed to the imaginary castles-in-the-sky of various ‘left-nationalist’ illusion-mongers) really mean for workers in Scotland?
The reality, far from being the socialist paradise that is painted by the ‘left-wing’ supporters of nationalism in Scotland, will simply be a race to the bottom, as the governments in the two territories compete to ‘attract investment’ and to prove their subservience to monopoly capital by lowering wages, lowering corporation tax, removing workers’ rights, removing environmental protections and so on. The break-up of the union carries the prospect of an even faster erosion of the rights of the working class, helping our rulers to lower workers’ pay and rights more quickly than if they had to continue with a full-frontal attack on the entire British workforce in one go.
After all, breaking up the NHS into regional groups and attacking them with different levels of ferocity has been of great assistance in the work of reprivatising Britain’s health service. Workers in Scotland have been lulled into a false sense of security that if they keep voting nationalist the cuts will never come to them, while the workers in England have been left to stand alone against the worst of the attacks so far.
Of course, experience of such things teaches us that the ruling class is expert at picking us off bit by bit in order to achieve its aims. There is every reason to suppose that NHS privatisation will come to Scotland – and will be even harder to resist by workers in Scotland who have seen them happening elsewhere and will have been told that there is no alternative, and who will receive no back-up from their compatriots over the border in England.
The prospect of a destructive race to the bottom is perfectly illustrated by Alex Salmond’s proposal to cut corporation tax in an independent Scotland. Salmond has stated that: “Corporation tax rates remain an important tool for securing competitive advantage and for offsetting competitive advantages enjoyed by other parts of the UK, notably London.”
Even bourgeois critics of this policy have pointed out that “Alex Salmond wants to turn the nations of the UK into competitors, with the risks to jobs and conditions that would involve.”
This is a law of economics under capitalism, and especially in times of crisis, when unemployment is climbing ever higher and workers are desperate for whatever they can get. Whichever side of the separation border has better protections for workers, higher taxes and so on, will be bound to be seen as less ‘attractive’ to ‘investors’ (capitalists), since anything that benefits workers cannot help but impact levels of profitability.
So investment will flock to the more ‘flexible’ side of the border, and the cry will go up on the other side … we, too, need to be more ‘flexible’ and ‘attractive’. Down will come the wages, the corporation taxes and other ‘barriers’ to profit-taking. Back will come the exploiters to reap the rewards … until the workers on the other side of the border can be forced to accept even worse pay and conditions in the interests of ‘job creation’ and ‘competitiveness’.
In effect, the implementation of the border will help to speed up the process of ‘persuading’ British workers to accept the same kind of pay and conditions as are standard in the oppressed countries – and to lessen their collective resistance. Such a future has appeal to the ruling class, but it is hardly the manifesto of a liberation struggle! Meanwhile, the Scottish nationalists are working hard to prove to the capitalists that this is a game they are more than willing to play their part in.
‘Progressive’ nationalism: a mirage
All the ‘progressive’ arguments in favour of Scottish independence ignore these facts, basing themselves in shallow, short-sighted and sentimental arguments that mistake wishes for truths and dreams for reality.
Here are just a few of the more widespread examples of wishful thinking by the independence supporters of Britain’s ‘left’:
1. The Tories will be decimated in Scotland, and this will be good for workers, who will finally get local powers instead of being ruled from Westminster.
This argument replaces the realities of class struggle with the illusions of bourgeois politicking. Anyone who knows anything about capitalism and the bourgeois state can tell you that there is no essential difference between any capitalist party in Britain today.
What good does it do to the workers of Scotland if they simply replace the Conservatives, Labour and LibDems with the SNP? They all serve capitalist imperialism. They are all parties of war and austerity. Recent history is enough to show us that any number of Labour or SNP landslides will still bring war, genocide and looting abroad, and privatisation, crisis and austerity at home, because these are built into the system that all the British bourgeois parties serve.
We are told that people in Scotland didn’t vote for the Tories and it’s a travesty of democracy that they should have to be ruled by them.
But workers didn’t vote overwhelmingly for the Tories in plenty of other parts of Britain. Most of the poorest workers didn’t vote at all. The first-past-the-post system and the constant changing of electoral boundaries (gerrymandering) mean that by upping their vote from 32.4 to 36.1 percent of votes cast (ie, a less than 4 percent rise), the Tories in 2010 were able to increase their number of seats in parliament from 210 to 307 (a 46 percent rise). Meanwhile, the LibDems, on whom so many well-meaning liberals placed their hopes in 2010, raised their votes from 22 to 23 percent but actually lost five seats.
Likewise, we are told that most Scottish people don’t support the policies being implemented by the Tory-led coalition, and this proves they are being ‘undemocratically’ and unfairly treated.
Once again, though, this actually applies to workers all over Britain, who overwhelmingly reject the wars and austerity of both the current ConDem and the previous Labour government. Should we therefore be arguing for the republic of Yorkshire or the republic of Merseyside? These regions, too, have large populations of disenfranchised workers, who never voted Tory, feel disconnected from London and have seen their industry and services decimated.
Even the hatred for ‘London’ is misplaced and confused. London may be where the City bankers are based, along with the Westminster quislings, but it is also home to some of Britain’s poorest people. And Londoners don’t generally vote Tory or UKIP either. Should they be given their own republic to free them from this democratic deficit?
Neither the separation of Scotland from Britain, nor a change in the voting system will fix these problems for workers. The capitalist parties will do what the capitalist ruling class requires them to do, no matter how people vote or how many of them take to the street to express their ‘peaceful opposition’.
If the Iraq war taught us nothing else, it surely taught us that. A landslide Labour electoral victory and two million marchers on the streets had absolutely no impact on the dominant section of the British imperialist ruling class’s will or ability to wage a genocidal war that the people of Britain – and even a section of the bourgeoisie – were absolutely opposed to. That is the truth about our much-vaunted ‘democratic’ system.
Progressive people should be using those facts to expose the institution of British bourgeois democracy entirely and to build a movement for its revolutionary overthrow, not as a justification for dividing the working class and propagating the (totally false) illusion of a ‘fairer deal’ for just a few of them. The truth is that the struggle for a better deal for workers will actually be much harder to wage in a smaller country with an even further weakened working-class movement, where workers have been turned away from class struggle and persuaded to pin their hopes on nationalist illusions.
Meanwhile, as far as local powers go, this is also a demand of workers everywhere, and fully supported by communists. We want ‘devo-max’ for every part of Britain, not just for Scotland or Wales. Indeed, local councils with elected representatives, which are actually empowered with tax-raising and decision-making powers, are one of the many concessions granted to workers – along with council housing, a health service, free education etc – that have been under attack in the years since the overproduction crisis took hold in the late 1970s.
The lesson of this is that we cannot trust the capitalist system to be run in the interest of workers. Everything we win in the course of class struggle can be taken away again if we let down our guard. The only way to keep hold of the gains we make is to get rid of the capitalist system and establish socialism. A lack of local powers is not an argument for nationalism; it is an argument for socialism.
2. The SNP is anti-war and will take Scotland out of Nato. No more imperialist wars for Scottish workers to fight in.
Replacing the Tories with the SNP will not change the requirements of the imperialist ruling class by one iota, and the SNP has shown that it understands this and is ready to serve that class just as faithfully as Labour, the Tories or the LibDems.
That is why, the closer it gets to the possibility of an ‘independent’ Scotland, the more of the SNP’s progressive-seeming policies (which were only ever there as window-dressing to attract voters) are being ditched. The promise to keep Scotland in Nato, along with reassurances about the importance of ‘Scotland’s’ British army regiments, are a sure sign that the warmongering requirements of the ruling class remain a key factor in who can and cannot get elected – and what they will have the power to do (or not) – north of the border should ‘independence’ come to pass.
Those who spread the illusion that Scottish nationalism is somehow ‘anti-imperialist’, and that an independent Scotland will see the Scottish ruling class opting out of imperialist wars altogether, are lying to themselves and to the workers. There might be disagreement between members of the ruling class over this or that war, but the overall policy of warmongering is not going to change, since that is at the root of the wealth of the British ruling class – both north and south of the border.
The French ruling class did not take troops into Iraq. Does that mean they stopped being imperialists and warmongers? One has only to look at the crimes committed by French imperialist troops in recent times in Libya, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and more by the ‘socialist’ government of Hollande to see that disagreement over one particular war doesn’t mean an end to imperialist war in general.
3. The SNP has a more progressive manifesto for education and health care in Scotland. Independence will allow them to carry these out.
It is true that the SNP, like Plaid Cymru and even the LibDems (until they were so deservedly exposed by joining the coalition government in 2010) have or had stated policies that were considerably to the left of the last Labour government on most social issues – hence their relative rise in popularity at a time when the working classes have been so thoroughly disillusioned with Labour and demoralised by the failure of the trade-union and social-democratic movements to represent them or struggle for their rights.
Both the Welsh and the Scottish national assemblies have been allowed some power to reject privatisation and cuts in these vital services. What is not clear is that this is a situation that would continue after ‘independence’.
On the contrary, there is every reason to believe that allowing the nationalists some financial scope to appear progressive on these fronts has objectively paid dividends for the ruling class. It has broken the unity of the fight to save services (since Welsh and Scottish voters think they are not affected) and given a massive boost to nationalist sentiments (thus keeping workers away from revolutionary ideology at a time of crisis, just when they need it most).
But the post-independence race to the bottom would be very likely to see these small gains eradicated. And, indeed, such petty gains are small beer indeed compared to the goal of a socialist Britain. Are we really prepared to sell ourselves and settle for so very little?
Not jobs, pensions, housing, health care and education with security, equality, freedom, dignity and the end of class exploitation and rule, but a slightly-less-buggered-up health service and slightly-less-shitty education policies? Frankly, we deserve a little better than to sell our birthright for such a mess of pottage!
4. British imperialism will be weakened by the departure of Scotland from the UK, and that will be good for workers at home and abroad.
There is no evidence that this is anything more than wishful thinking on the part of those who assert it. As indicated above, the Scottish nationalists, as represented currently by the SNP, have expressed their intention of setting up a ‘state’ that keeps all the important pillars of British rule intact – the army, the monetary union, membership of the EU and Nato, the Queen (spokesperson and figurehead of a united British ruling class).
Moreover, BBC propaganda has been extremely sympathetic to Scottish nationalism. It long ago changed the status of Wales and Scotland from ‘regions’ to ‘nations’ in its coverage, and it has given an open platform to nationalists from every walk of life to make their case most forcefully and without interruption. Given how infamous the BBC is for vilifying and misrepresenting every real opponent of British imperial interests – from Palestinian and Irish freedom fighters to the leaders of socialist and anti-imperialist states like Fidel Castro or Robert Mugabe – this is strange indeed.
Taking the BBC as a barometer of class sentiment, this readiness to disseminate nationalist ideology is hardly the behaviour of a class that feels its interests to be threatened. On the contrary, the coverage has all the elements of a massive sideshow – a huge and fraudulent sleight of hand that is being perpetrated on the workers of Britain, with the same mock debates, fake ‘choices’ and personality politics that characterise all our electoral charades.
And now the latest rumour is that Rupert Murdoch is getting ready to back the ‘Yes’ campaign. A more hard-headed and warmongering member of the imperialist ruling class would be difficult to find. He may talk about his Scottish forefathers, but he calculates with his blood-soaked wallet.
5. To campaign for a ‘No’ vote in the referendum is to side with the BNP, the unionists and the Orange Order, and therefore it must be against the interests of the working class.
This argument is as unscientific as all the rest, and has its roots in an emotive, tribal approach to class politics. While such instincts often serve progressive workers very well, they are not infallible and are all-too open to manipulation when not firmly rooted in a scientific analysis – just as a hatred of racism can turn into a hatred of all white people and a belief in black nationalism if the roots of racism are not properly understood.
Identifying ‘unionists’ as the enemy based on an allegiance to and sympathy with Irish republicans means ignoring the very real differences in the class positions of unionists in Glasgow and unionists in Belfast. The unionists in Belfast are a settler-colonial population who were for centuries granted significant material privileges in return for acting as local tools of the British imperialist ruling class – in much the same way as Israeli workers are rewarded for keeping the Palestinian people down.
Just as they did for the Israelis or South African whites, the material conditions of the Irish unionists produced a culture of racist supremacy and violence, which, alongside the well-deserved hatred of the native-Irish masses, pushed them to identify themselves with their own exploiters to such a degree that nothing short of destroying the sectarian northern-Irish statelet could open their eyes to their idiocy – by first removing the material basis for their supremacist ideology.
The tribal aspect of this ‘protestant-catholic’ or ‘unionist-republican’ rivalry has been transplanted wholesale to cities in Britain that have a sizeable Irish-immigrant population, and has been a very useful tool for the British ruling class in keeping workers divided. Glasgow, in particular has suffered from this, and seen it entrenched via the football terraces.
But, while the Irish have suffered the fate of every immigrant population into Britain in their time as cheap labour and easy scapegoats, the differentiation between these groups of workers, however real in the past, has its basis today more in perceived than in real differences, as the Irish have been assimilated and fresh waves of immigrants have arrived in Britain’s cities. Today, newly-arrived workers from eastern Europe or Africa are far more obvious scapegoats for working-class ire in Scotland as elsewhere, but the tribal identities of protestant vs catholic are kept alive in Glasgow in particular via the football rivalry of Rangers vs Celtic, just as the England vs Scotland divide is kept alive in the field of international football.
Meanwhile, our party has to take a position based on a clear understanding of the question, and not out of a fear regarding whom we might seem to be associated with.
There is emotive rubbish being talked by charlatans on both sides of the referendum campaign in Scotland, and working-class people are taking up the cudgels on both sides too – for a whole variety of real or perceived reasons. Our job as communists is to try to provide some clarity and some rational, class basis for taking a position. And our position must always be based on what is going to be in the long-term interests of the revolutionary movement.
Because UKIP are opposed to Nato’s war in the Ukraine, should we suddenly abandon a correct analysis and join the side of Nato? Of course not. We must demonstrate clearly the difference between taking up a position based on Little-England racism and one that is based in proletarian internationalism – and then do everything in our power to show workers why it is in their interests to accept our analysis and join the struggle for revolution.
The unionists want British workers to identify with the class interests and the national symbols of our oppressors. They want to divert the anger of workers down a blind alley and dissipate their energies into pointless activity. We communists, on the other hand, want to show workers that their interests lie in the maximum unity of all British workers against all British oppressors. We want them to identify their interests with the oppressed everywhere, to discard the blood-stained Cross of St Andrew along with the blood-stained Union Jack (the Butcher’s Apron, as the Irish so aptly refer to it), and to build a movement for overthrowing imperialism and building socialism.
But we will not do that without understanding clearly who are our friends and who are our enemies. The fact that good, well-meaning and generally progressive people have been misled must not prevent us from “seeking truth from facts”, as Mao so profoundly expressed it.
Nationalism vs communism
The fact that many progressive Scots wish to see British imperialism weakened, and hope that by voting for independence they will achieve this aim, does not prove that that is what will actually happen.
What we are witnessing in Scotland today has its echoes all over Britain. The outward appearance may be more progressive, since many left-wing workers support the call for independence, but it is essentially a mirror of the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment among impoverished and misguided English workers, arising from the same demoralisation and the same frustrations.
All over Britain, revisionism and the disappearance of a real, class-conscious communist movement left the most militant workers bereft of leadership and guidance. The Labour party, in which they had been encouraged to put their hopes, has proved itself irrevocably to be a tool of imperialism. It is clearly not in the interests of workers to continue voting for it or supporting it.
So as war and crisis bite ever deeper, workers have been asking themselves what the solution is. And into the gap left by the communists has crept nationalism. In England, this takes the form of anti-immigrant sentiment. That immigration is a ‘problem’ is a ‘truth’ so universally acknowledged that it is very hard to persuade workers that they have been duped on this issue.
In Scotland and Wales, a more progressive-seeming brand of nationalism has been offered up as the ‘answer’ to the problems of capitalism. But its effect is the same – it gives workers a scapegoat for the ills of capitalist society. “Don’t blame capitalism, blame the immigrants!” say the BNP and EDL to angry and disillusioned workers in England. And the media agrees. “Don’t blame capitalism, blame the English!” say the SNP and Plaid Cymru to the angry and disillusioned workers in Scotland and Wales. And the media agrees.
That people are in the mood to fall for this misdirection is a sign that they understand that something is wrong and that something must be done. They have understood that this society is not serving them, and given up hopes of a worker-friendly Labour government. So far, so good. But without a clear analysis and leadership, it can be very hard to understand where all the various ‘solutions’ on offer will really lead.
Back when Britain had a strong communist movement, nationalism among class-conscious workers was almost non-existent. This explains why there is such a generational divide amongst working-class voters in Scotland today – older people are far, far less likely to vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum, because they belong to a generation amongst whom it was generally understood that class allegiances were paramount.
No argument has yet been put forward to convince us that Scotland’s rulers will cease to be imperialists after a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum. Therefore all that nationalism does in such a context is to teach workers in Scotland to identify their interests with those of imperialism. This is an outcome devoutly to be unwished!
As communists, our job is to propagate a scientific understanding in order to help workers discard harmful popular prejudices. If we don’t do that, then there’s really not much point to our existence, since it is only through discarding the prejudices that keep us shackled to imperialist ideas that we will be able to build a movement capable of smashing imperialism and building socialism.
When we in the CPGB-ML argue against a ‘Yes’ vote at the coming referendum, we do so not because we wish to endorse the rule of the Westminster spivs or because we consider ‘rule from London’ a good thing, but because we wish workers to understand that it is not ‘the English’ who are their enemies, but the British ruling class. And because we wish to create a movement that is as strong and unified as possible that will have a fighting chance of overthrowing this wily class of bloodthirsty exploiters.
Say no to bourgeois nationalism, which ties workers to imperialism and turns us into tools of our own oppression. Say yes to working-class unity, yes to revolution, and yes to a socialist future for all British workers!
The national question in Scotland, Lalkar, September 2012
Scotland: a part of the British nation, Proletarian, December 2012
JV Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, 1913
Party members from Merthyr, Swansea, Runcorn and Bristol brought our flags to Llanelli on 16 August to join the annual commemoration of the Llanelli 1911 rail strike, honouring the memories of the two workers slain by the British army.
The murder was in brutal retaliation for the occupation of Llanelli rail station – an occupation which had succeeded in blocking the passage of a strike-breaking train, bringing all rail traffic to a halt. The two murdered comrades, Leonard Worsell and John John, were simple bystanders, viciously struck down by a military in complete panic at the sight of a risen working class.
About a hundred people marched behind the band from the rail station to the town hall, pausing outside the house into which the two dying men were taken.
In the town hall square, the organisers invited all who wished to speak to step forward. Whilst there was the expected point-scoring between Labour and Plaid reformists, most speeches celebrated the courage and solidarity of the working class in the face of state oppression.
Our comrade pointed out that the violence inflicted on workers during the major industrial conflicts between 1908 and 1914 was soon to be dwarfed by the mass murder of workers in the imperialist war. He noted that both the ‘Great Unrest’ and the war itself had been the inevitable consequence of imperialist crisis, as was the current drive to austerity and war.
We had to understand that austerity and war were not simply the ‘policy’ of this or that government, but the inevitable road taken by imperialism in time of global overproduction crisis. Our choice was between poverty and war under capitalism, or peace and prosperity under socialism.
We then marched up the hill to Box Cemetery to honour the graves of the two fallen comrades.
CPGB-ML banner and flags on the Llanelli rail commemoration march, August 2011
Iris at the memorial meeting for Godfrey in 2012, and in Shackleton Hall, Birmingham with Godfrey and Katt in 1984.
Always there, always inspiring others – an unflappable leader, and a humble servant of the working class.
It is with great sadness that the CPGB-ML has to announce the death of one of its key founder members, Comrade Iris Cremer. She died peacefully on the evening of Wednesday 2 April, just five weeks after she had been diagnosed with an aggressive and already far-advanced lung cancer. Comrades and family were at her side.
Iris leaves behind a daughter, Katt, and a grandson, Fred – along with a host of honorary sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, grandsons and granddaughters to whom she was a mother, sister, aunt and grandmother in all the ways that really count.
Iris’s contribution to the British working-class movement was incalculable. For 45 years she worked tirelessly and without ego, thinking only of what needed to be done and what would bring British workers closer to socialism. To her own convenience or preference, she was utterly oblivious.
Despite the heartbreak of losing her lifelong partner, husband and comrade-in-arms Godfrey Cremer two years ago, Iris never flagged in her commitment or her activity. Quite the reverse in fact – after his death, Iris not only carried on determinedly with her own work but also did everything she could to fill the huge gap that Godfrey had left in our ranks.
As a couple, Iris and Godfrey set the bar high. With a common purpose in life, the strength of their union was reinforced daily, and their shared priority was always to get the work done, come what may. On the morning of their wedding, they were writing a leaflet for a Palestine demo. And on the morning of the day she died, Iris instructed her daughter Katt to hold off calling the ambulance for 40 minutes while acetates for printing the latest issue of Proletarian were printed out. She left home for the last time content in the knowledge that the printing workers could carry on and that the paper would be published by nightfall.
It was Iris and Godfrey’s great sadness to live in a country and at a time when the communist movement was temporarily retreating. Nevertheless, Iris was the stuff that revolutions are made of – dogged, determined, completely single-minded and utterly uninterested in herself. She would have been as at home on the Long March as she was mailing papers and manning literature stalls – no sacrifice or difficulty was too much for her, and nothing made her hesitate in her commitment.
Iris was a hard taskmaster – but because she drove herself far harder than she drove anyone else, and because she never criticised or scolded, she was able to encourage people to work without them realising she had done so – usually with a smile or a kind word, and always with an understanding tone to her voice that made those she spoke to feel special and valued.
Together with Comrade Godfrey, she lived a life that, just as much as anything they read at study classes hosted in the Cremers’ living room, taught a whole generation just what it meant to really be a communist. Their selfless, work-focused home was as warm and welcoming a place as any of us have ever known, and their example lives on in all who had the good fortune to experience their generous hospitality and gentle guidance.
Indeed, in this world of alienation and stress, where so many people are searching fruitlessly to find individual paths to personal fulfilment, Iris and Godfrey had found a formula for true happiness. A shared purpose and a life dedicated solely to that goal and lived entirely for others kept them calm despite the mountains of work that constantly confronted them, and kept them positive and determined despite the apparent enormity of the task they had set themselves.
Iris’s many political contributions are too numerous to be listed here. Having met her close comrades the Brars in the women’s movement in the late 1960s, she went on with them and Comrade Ella Rule to form the Union of Women for Liberation and then the Association of Communist Workers in the early 1970s.
A committed proletarian internationalist, she opposed British imperial policy in all its forms. In her younger years, she was especially active in the anti-Vietnam war movement, and in her solidarity with the Irish and Zimbabwean armed struggles. Later on, she gave the same dedication to opposing the British imperialist wars against Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria – never giving an inch to the imperialist propaganda that threw so many in the anti-war movement off their course.
Her hatred of imperialism and its divide-and-rule policy meant that she was equally active in opposing racism at home on the streets of Britain. In fact, she gave many years of her life to working for a progressive organisation of which she was not even a member – the Indian Workers Association (IWA-GB) – since she believed that it gave opportunities to bring revolutionary theory to at least some of the masses in Britain at a time when the revisionist CPGB (and later the CPB) and others who called themselves communist were abandoning that task.
Through the ACW, and through her practical support for Comrade Harpal Brar’s work as editor of the IWA’s journal Lalkar, Comrade Iris was part of a small but vital movement to keep Marxist-Leninist science alive in Britain. To this end, she spent a small legacy when her uncle died in 1979 on buying a printing press, to which she and Godfrey were chained from that moment forwards.
From the time of her involvement with those organisations there is hardly a single ACW or IWA leaflet, nor a single issue of Lalkar or of our own party’s paper Proletarian, that Iris did not have a hand in producing. Understanding the vital importance of theoretical understanding as a guide for the working-class movement, she gladly took on any and every practical task to facilitate bringing the knowledge and the masses together – whether writing, laying out, printing, collating, posting or selling on the streets.
No meeting was too small for her to attend, and no potential comrade too marginal to be worthy of her full attention. If she thought it might further the cause of humanity’s liberation, Iris, like Godfrey, was totally unstinting of her time.
She was also a great organiser upon whom a whole host of practical responsibilities rested. Almost every party stall, demo contingent and public meeting in London was run under Iris’s watchful eye – delegating where possible or simply doing herself what needed to be done to make sure that every event was as successful as possible.
For many years she was also one of the main driving forces behind the Stalin Society. The society was formed in 1991 when a group of anti-revisionist communists that included many of our own leading comrades came together in response to the collapse of the USSR, and in opposition to the deluge of anti-Soviet and anti-Stalin propaganda that followed the collapse. Understanding that the attacks on Stalin were in fact attacks on Leninism and on the building of socialism, the society set itself the unfashionable task of defending the world’s first and mightiest socialist state, and of countering the plethora of lies about its achievements and its leadership.
As secretary of the Stalin Society, Comrade Iris for years coordinated its programme, managed the practical aspects of meetings and communicated with the society’s members. She was greatly cheered in her last months to see the establishment of a host of new Stalin Societies around the world. Many of these have been directly inspired by the work of the British society, and all of them are a recognition of the fact that the question of Soviet socialism and Stalin’s leadership of socialist construction is becoming more, not less relevant as time goes by and as the crisis of the capitalist system deepens.
It was the great joy of both Iris and Godfrey’s life to see their long years of struggle come to fruition in the founding of our own party 10 years ago. They had put huge efforts over seven years in the attempt to build Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (SLP) into a real alternative to the social-democratic left in Britain, and into bringing a Marxist understanding to the party. However, having been eventually expelled by Scargill and his acolytes for this activity, our founding comrades decided that the time was ripe to found a new, truly revolutionary party in Britain.
Long years of even harder work followed, as our small band had to establish a presence on the ground, to develop a consistent policy and analysis that could demonstrate our worth and seriousness to British workers, and to break through the barriers of hostility and suspicion that greeted our arrival on the political scene.
Iris and Godfrey threw themselves into this work. They never doubted that it was the right thing to do, or that it would eventually succeed. In the last weeks of both their lives, the subject to which their conversation turned again and again was the great encouragement they felt when looking at the direction and growth of our party, and at the seriousness and commitment of its new young cadres.
Comrade Iris lived her life for the struggle – she was truly the stuff that revolutions are made of. As we bid a last farewell to one who was a mother, an aunt, a sister and a comrade to so many, we make the only tribute our fallen comrade would ask of us – we promise that the example she set us will strengthen our resolve and that we will continue to struggle until the final victory of socialism in Britain.
Red salute to Comrade Iris Cremer, soldier of the revolution.
Iris’s funeral will be held on Thursday 17 April. All comrades and friends are invited to come and give her the send-off she deserves.
Fallujah in Iraq, destroyed by Nato's stormtroopers in 2004
Sirte in Libya, destroyed by Nato's luftwaffe in 2011
By Felicity Arbuthnot, via Global Research
“Hypocrisy, the most protected of vices.” Moliere (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, 1622-1673)
Last week, a little more was learned as to the circumventions in Whitehall and Washington delaying the publication of the findings of Sir John Chilcot’s marathon inquiry in to the background of the Iraq invasion.
The UK’s Chilcot Inquiry, was convened under then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, to establish the decisions taken by the UK government and military, pre and post invasion. It ran from 24 November 2009 until 2 February 2011 and cost an estimated £7.5m. The as yet unpublished report is believed to run to 1,000,000 words.
The stumbling block – more of an Israeli-style ‘separation barrier’ in reality – has been the correspondence between Tony Blair and George W Bush, prior to an invasion and occupation that former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan finally told the BBC was “illegal”, and that “painful lessons” had been learned. ‘Lessons’ clearly not learned by the current British government. (16 September 2004)
The communications, in Sir John Chilcot’s words to former Cabinet Secretary Lord O’Donnell, related to “The question of when and how the prime minister (Tony Blair) made commitments to the US about the UK’s involvement in military action in Iraq, and subsequent decisions on the UK’s continuing involvement, is central to its considerations.” (Guardian, 17 July 2013)
Further: “Chilcot said the release of notes of the conversations between Blair and Bush would serve to ‘illuminate Mr Blair’s position at critical points’ in the run up to war.”
The inquiry had also been seeking clarification from O’Donnell’s successor, Sir Jeremy Heywood, regarding inclusion of references to “the content of Mr Blair’s notes to President Bush, and to the records of discussions between Mr Blair and Presidents Bush and Obama”. The wall remains in place.
Sir Jeremy Heywood, now the country’s most senior civil servant, was Tony Blair’s private secretary during the period of the trans-Atlantic lies that led to the Iraq war and during the creation of the Blair regime’s ‘dodgy dossiers’.
Interestingly too: “O’Donnell had consulted Blair before saying the notes must remain secret.” Effectively, one of the accused – in an action that has destroyed a country, lynched the president, murdered his sons and teenage nephew and caused the deaths of perhaps one and a half million people – is deciding what evidence can be presented before the court. Chilcot has seen the documents, but seemingly needs the accused’s permission to publish them.
A stitch-up of which any ‘rogue’ or ‘totalitarian’ regime would surely be proud.
Centre to the dispute between the inquiry, Cameron and his ennobled gate keepers is material requested for inclusion in the final report: “to reflect its analysis of discussions in Cabinet and Cabinet Committees and their significance”.
The documents being denied to the inquiry include 25 pieces of correspondence sent by Tony Blair to George W Bush and 130 documents relating to conversations between these lead plotters of Iraq’s destruction. Additionally: “dozens of records of Cabinet meetings”.
Ironically, on 31 October 2006, David Cameron voted in favour of a motion brought by the Scottish National Party and Wales’ Plaid Cymru (‘The Party of Wales’) calling for an inquiry into the Blair government’s conduct of the Gulf war.
On 15 June 2009, in a parliamentary debate, the terms of the Chilcot Inquiry were presented in detail, duly recorded in Hansard, the parliamentary records.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Blair’s successor stated: “In order that the committee is as objective and non-partisan as possible, the membership of the committee will consist entirely of non-partisan public figures acknowledged to be experts and leaders in their fields. There will be no representatives of political parties from either side of this House.”
David Cameron, then Leader of the Opposition stated piously:
“The whole point of having an Inquiry is that it has to be able to make clear recommendations, to go wherever the evidence leads, to establish the full truth and to ensure that the right lessons are learned … in a way that builds public confidence.”
Cameron was particularly concerned about: ‘openness’. How times change.
Further, said Cameron:
“The inquiry needs to be, and needs to be seen to be, truly independent and not an establishment stitch-up … The prime minister was very clear that the inquiry would have access to all British documents and all British witnesses. Does that mean that the inquiry may not have access to documents from the USA … On the scope of the inquiry, will the prime minister confirm that it will cover relations with the United States …”
Cameron concluded with again a demand for “openness and transparency”.
In response, Gordon Brown stated:
“I cannot think of an inquiry with a more comprehensive, wider or broader remit than the one that I have just announced. Far from being restricted, it will cover eight years, from 2001 to 2009. Far from being restricted, it will have access to any documents that are available, and that will include foreign documents that are available in British archives. [Emphasis mine.]
However, four years is a long time in politics, and last week, as David Cameron traveled to Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, it transpired that the documents Sir John Chilcot had been pursuing and been denied for six months have been also blocked by: “officials in the White House and the US department of state, who have refused to sanction any declassification of critical pre-and post-war communications between George W Bush and Tony Blair”.
David Cameron is apparently also blocking evidence “on Washington’s orders, from being included in the report of an expensive and lengthy British Inquiry.”
However, ‘shame’ clearly not being a word in Cameron’s lexicon, he landed in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon, a British Colony 1815-1948) as the above shoddy details broke, in full colonial mode.
Spectacular welcoming ceremonies barely over, he launched in to an entirely undiplomatic, public tirade, at this gathering of the ‘Commonwealth family of nations’ alleging that his host, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was guilty of war crimes during the civil war with the Tamil Tigers.
It is not disputed that, as in any conflict, terrible crimes were committed on both sides. But these are accusations from the man both covering up the genesis of massacres of genocidal magnitude – and who enjoined in the near destruction of Libya, the resultant lynching of the country’s leader, the murder of his sons and small grandchildren and uncounted others in another decimation of a country that had threatened no other.
Cameron’s Libya is Blair’s Iraq. As in Iraq, the dying continues daily.
The pontification also from a prime minister backing funding for the cannibalistic-orientated insurgents in Syria – the beheading, dismembering, looting, displacing, kidnapping, chemical weapons lobbying, child killing, infanticide-bent crazies – including those from his own country.
In Sri Lanka, he demanded the country ensure “credible, transparent and independent investigations into alleged war crimes” and said if this did not happen by the March deadline he arbitrarily imposed, he would press the UN Human Rights Council to hold an international inquiry.
Further: “truth telling”, he said, was essential. To cite hypocrisy of breathtaking proportions has become a redundant accusation, but words are failing.
In the event Cameron “left Colombo having failed to secure any concessions from President Rajapaksa or persuade fellow leaders to criticise Sri Lanka’s record in a communique”. (Guardian, 16 November)
As the prime minster slunk out, President Mahinda Rajapaksa delivered an apt, withering reaction: “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” he responded.
Ironically, in spite a tragic recent past, Sri Lanka is the only country in South Asia rated high on the Human Development Index. The UK and ‘allies’ recent victims Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan barely make it to the bottom.
David Cameron returned to Britain still having to grapple with how to evade delivering truth to the Chilcot Inquiry.
Hopefully, he will read a letter from writer Lesley Docksey:
“It was British taxpayers’ money that funded the Chilcot Inquiry, and this taxpayer wants her money’s worth. All the British government papers concerning the sorry affair of an invasion of another country belong to this nation – not to the United States, not to Tony Blair and not to the current government. Taxpayers aren’t here to save the faces of politicians.
“Nor is it, in the words of the Cabinet Office, ‘in the public’s interest’ that exchanges between the UK prime minister and the US president are kept secret’ – sorry, ‘privileged’ – from those who are paying their wages. The phrase ‘in the public interest’ only ever means the interests of the government of the day.
“Unless Sir John Chilcot and his team can publish a full and honest report, no lessons will be learnt by future governments. But then, if those lessons were learnt, and we the public knew (as in fact we do) what they were, this country would find it difficult to ever invade anywhere ever again.
“So, Sir John, in the words of a former PM, the Duke of Wellington, ‘Publish and be damned!’” (Independent, 18th November 2013)
Oh, and as David Cameron was lecturing Sri Lanka on ‘transparency’, the Conservatives were removing “a decade of speeches from their website and from the main internet library – including one in which David Cameron claimed that being able to search the web would democratise politics by making ‘more information available to more people’”.
“The party removed records of speeches and press releases from 2000 until May 2010. The effect will be to remove any speeches and articles during the Tories’ modernisation period …”
Comment again redundant.
Oxfordshire comrades are raising money to support the Red Youth delegation to the World Festival of Youth and Students in Ecuador this December. Over £900 has already been raised from previous efforts and there is more planned this month.
Please consider making a donation: http://www.gofundme.com/4o87rw
Please give as much as you can, it all adds up and so no matter how small or large, please contribute and spread the campaign to others you know. Donations will be processed through Paypal, which ensures simple and safe processing even for international donations.
More information about where the money is going:
Every four years thousands of young people from over 120 countries come together to share ideas and information to advance the struggles for peace and solidarity. This December Ecuador is hosting the 18th World Festival of Youth and Students under the slogan ‘Youth unite against imperialism, for a world of peace, solidarity and social transformation!’
Red Youth is coordinating a delegation of young people from Britain to take part in the festival and give them the opportunity to share their experiences and learn from others in our common struggle for a better world.
The money raised will assist with travel expenses to enable as many young people to go as possible. This will be a really useful experience for all those who we are able to send over and so please dig deep and think of all those miles being run for a good cause!
Your support is very much welcomed and appreciated!
“It’s a proxy war by outside forces and the world must stand up against it.”
Human shields from Britain are greeted as they cross the border into Iraq, February 2003
Arriving first in Syria
by FRANKLIN LAMB
A sort of roller-coaster atmosphere pervades Damascus these days, with both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ news rippling through the airwaves every quarter hour or so. Much of the population monitors it all closely. People listen; they read; they discuss their interpretations of the latest media reports or the rumours circulating – wondering, surmising, deliberating on the timing of the now-assumed American attack on their country.
In the very popular Abaa coffee house, on the edge of the old city, in what is called the Sarugha section, customers, many of them students, enjoy the fine cool mist that is sprayed from ceiling pipes, providing welcome relief from the 37 degree celsius temperatures prevailing outside.
You want a Damascus tradition? Gathering at the Abaa is it. Many are glued to their laptops or else in animated conversation, analysing the extent and likelihood of the strike upon their homeland by those who profess to be acting out of ‘humanitarian’ concerns.
This observer often meets interlocutors in the Abaa because it’s very pleasant. It is large with dozens of tables. It is also cheap and two blocks from my hotel. I have noticed that common greetings are changing from “kif hallack” (how are you?) and “Arak lahekan” (see you later), to “Get home safely” and “Good luck with the checkpoints.”
But there is also a growing esprit de corps, a coming together of much of the population, as the countdown to the firing of the American missiles begins. Much in evidence also is a rallying around the Assad government – the opposite, one would presume, of what the White House had hoped would result from its threats.
A good friend from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARCS) described how her friends are preparing for the American attack. “We gather our important documents, birth, marriage certificate and passport and make photo copies. Then we leave them with friends in ‘safe’ areas or even bury them somewhere. No one knows how bad the Americans will bomb us. At work we have been told during our final practice drill that the next siren will be the ‘real thing’ and we will do as we have planned for.”
SARCS, by the way, has been providing some amazing rescue and medical services for Syrians and Palestinians during this expanding crisis.
“Many of my friends and family are leaving,” she added. “But it’s not easy, and is very expensive now to go to Lebanon, and they don’t want us – and my family has decided to stay in our home no matter what happens in the coming days.”
One topic getting a lot of attention here is the reluctance of the American public to attack Syria, and whether or not Obama will ignore it. “What kind of democracy do you have that your president can ignore the will of the American public?” this observer is frequently asked.
One soldier stationed with his unit outside my hotel seemed to speak from his heart: “You Americans claim you are trying to help the Syrian people. Every child knows, both here and in your country I think, that the coming attack will make things much worse for the Syrian people and many others. The American people are good and we hope they can control their government, but we are preparing for the worst.”
The government is assuring the public that Syria is ready for the American attack and that public services will continue. Round-the-clock images of heroic Syrian army exploits air on local TV channels, along with martial and patriotic music. Meanwhile, youngsters, students, and workers have begun gathering at presumed targets to offer themselves as shields while challenging President Obama to bomb them.
Interestingly, an international human shield movement is also coalescing, say informed sources here. One initiative reportedly will bring 1,000 Americans, along with thousands of others, to Syria within the next ten days to guard likely bomb sites – not so very different from efforts to protect Palestinian homes from bulldozing in Occupied Palestine.
Here are some descriptive specifics that have been disclosed to this observer from an international organising committee working round-the-clock to bring the human shield initiative into being:
“International Human Shields coming to Syria in solidarity with the Syrian people and in an effort to send a global message and hopefully deter an American attack next week.
“Timing – While moves can be made fast and with all other key elements in place, time is not in our favor. Ten more days for preparation would be ideal. The HS initiative assumes that it must be done in such a way that very little time lapses from the official announcement of the action to the actual arrival of the human shields on the ground in Syria.
“Impact – In order to achieve a significant impact, the objective is to have at least 1000 Americans and several thousand international human shields deployed in Syria. Ideally, this would include at least one representative from every UN Member State, and would serve as evidence of the true ‘international community’ opposing the American attack.”
The US activist-based steering committee is quickly bringing together professionals in IT, marketing, logistical planning and implementation, public relations, accounting, documentarians, and experienced project managers.
Ferries from European ports will need to be arranged to carry significant numbers of human shields from major European cities. Ideally, several jumbo jets will be chartered from some of the world’s major cities to carry those joining the effort.
“HS/Government Relations – The first objective of the enemies of Syria will be to portray the human shields as nothing more than pawns of President Bashar al-Assad. This was precisely what the mainstream media did in 2003, presenting human shields as pawns of Saddam.
“To be effective, the human shields must be seen not only as independent supporters of the people of Syria, but also as representative of the will of the vast majority of people around the world—namely those opposed to the pending US-led western attack.
“To this end, the HS should work with prominent leaders in the civilian sector of Syrian society. No effort should be spared to produce daily news stories of HS and Syrian people working hand-in-hand to protect the country from the ongoing foreign-instigated aggression. Once again, many details here need to be discussed and agreed upon if any action is to reach its full potential.
“Strategy – The sites that HS deploy to must be very well publicized and must be identified as protected sites under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
“The White House is saying that they are not going to attack infrastructure (as they did with Iraq in 2003), but in point of fact, the infrastructure must be attacked if the goal is to drive Syria into the stone age and to make it so weak that Israel, through its Takfiri agents, will eventually take the country over. Moreover, it is well known that the Syrian people and military cannot be defeated without massive attacks on the infrastructure.
“Therefore it becomes absolutely vital that human shields deploy to all power plants, water treatment facilities, bomb shelters (should they exist), civilian communications sites, food storage facilities, and any other sites critical to the civilian population.
“As for military sites, although I personally feel such deployment would be morally defensible, the power of HS in the public relations realm would probably be significantly compromised, and intelligent public relations is absolutely critical.
“At this point, a comprehensive list of protected sites needs to be produced immediately, and the sites will need to be verified by the most independent sources we can manage to obtain. UN representatives or former representatives, human rights attorneys, legal experts, and others of this type all could render invaluable assistance in this.
“Deployment to sites not specifically listed in the Fourth Geneva Convention should also be undertaken, including ethnic and religious minority communities whose members are deathly afraid of the foreign invaders/terrorists. Special emphasis should be placed on christian populations as the western audience, sadly, has more sympathy for christians than muslims.
“Public Relations - It cannot be over stated that smart public relations strategies are the key to success.
“Our goal is to personalise the people of Syria and show their suffering through the eyes of the HS. This can be done with effective daily reports to be uploaded on the internet and reported by legitimate news agencies such as Press TV, RT and Telesur.
“A massive effort must be made to educate the public about the reasons for the Fourth Geneva Convention (FGC) and the imperial powers’ undeniable record of knowingly destroying the lives of ‘protected persons’ as defined in the FGC. Essential to this effort are well-spoken Arabic/English speaking spokespersons.
“We should be ready to provide evidence of any attack on such sites the moment it happens, and to have legal briefs prepared so as to immediately charge the aggressors with war crimes. This is why it is critical that the HS are almost exclusively at sites that are protected by the FGC.
“We cannot necessarily stop them from doing what they intend to do, but we can make their aggression harm them far more than Syria and its people in the end. Herein lays the power, using the enemy’s momentum against him in the most advantageous way possible.
“Note: a contract has been drafted to protect human shields in their home country courts against the accusation that they are aiding and abetting and providing material support to a foreign power that is considered hostile. Human shields are acting in a manner consistent with, and in promotion of, international law and to save innocent, civilian lives.”
Time will tell which Americans will arrive first in Syria, the military or the American public. Many Syrians are today praying it will be the latter and have pledged to join them to defeat the coming aggression.
Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon and can be reached c/o firstname.lastname@example.org
US soldiers protesting military strikes against Syria are taking to Facebook to voice their opposition to a war.
With the ruling class split over the ‘wisdom’ of an all-out attack on Syria (ie, some of our rulers have realised that imperialism might not win and that more war might just be counterproductive at home), more and more evidence is filtering through from marginalised ‘alternative’ media sources into the public eye.
Here are just a few of the articles currently circulating that together confirm what communists and anti-imperialists have said all along: that it is the Nato imperialists who are perpetrating illegal massacres and deliberately stoking up a sectarian and potentially genocidal war in Syria, and that the Syrian government and army are waging a heroic battle for national liberation from this fascistic neo-colonial onslaught.
The job of all anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and progressive people is to show the British working class that they have the power to stop the war criminals in their tracks. The corporate media, the munitions industry, the transporting and logistics as well as the forces themselves are all operated by workers. If we don’t do the work, these criminal wars cannot be fought!
‘Doctors’ behind Syrian chemical weapons claims are aiding terrorists (Land Destroyer Report)
Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) is fully funded by the very same corporate financier interests behind Wall Street and London’s collective foreign policy, including regime change in Syria and neighbouring Iran. Doctors Without Borders’ own annual report includes as financial donors Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Google, Microsoft, Bloomberg, Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, and a myriad of other corporate-financier interests.
Syria: The questions that must be answered before any aggression (Dissident Voice)
Why do you not explain to your citizens that President Assad has the support of the vast majority of the population of his country and would you please draw up a list of the popularity ratings of the 30-odd terrorist/opposition groups fighting against the State?
US planned Syrian civilian catastrophe since 2007 (Press TV)
While the UN and nations across the West feign shock over the growing humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in and around Syria, the goal of a violent sectarian conflict and its predictable, catastrophic results along with calls to literally ‘bleed’ Syria have been the underlying strategy of special interests in the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and their regional partners since at least 2007.
News of chemical weapons attack in Syria published one day before massacre happened (Voice of Russia)
This evidence shows that the terrorists massacred people then recorded the scenes to deceive the world.
‘Rebels’ admit responsibility for chemical weapons attack (Info Wars)
Syrian ‘rebels’ in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta have admitted to Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak that they were responsible for last week’s chemical weapons incident which western powers have blamed on Bashar al-Assad’s forces, revealing that the casualties were the result of an accident caused by rebels mishandling chemical weapons provided to them by Saudi Arabia.
Syria (In Gaza)
What a potential bloody ‘humanitarian’, ‘right-to-protect’ (right to bomb and pillage) intervention will do is rape yet another country of everything, including its culture, history, identity, and of course people … and further colonial interests and power in the region of Syria, Palestine, Lebanon … and on to Iran.
The American people have spoken: calls to Congress 499 to 1 against Syria war (Global Research)
Americans are slamming at least 24 members of Congress with thousands of phone calls and emails, urging lawmakers not to approve a military strike on Syria.
Russia releases key findings on chemical attack near Aleppo indicating similarity with rebel-made weapons (RT)
Russia’s foreign ministry has criticised the “flawed selective approach” of certain states in reporting the recent incidents of alleged chemical weapons use in August. The hype around the alleged attack on the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta showed “apparent attempts to cast a veil over the incidents of gas poisoning of Syrian army soldiers on 22, 24 and 25 August,” the ministry said, adding that all the respective evidence was handed to the UN by Syria.
Five things anti-war activists should know about Syria (FightBack! News)
The notion that there is a ‘red line’ that no one is allowed to cross is cynical at the core. Iraq is saturated with cancer-causing depleted uranium from US bombs. The US military used the chemical weapon white phosphorus in Fallujah and Israel used white phosphorus in Gaza in a manner that violates the Geneva Convention. Chemical weapons are a pretext to do what the US government, weapons manufacturers, Israel, and the Saudi ruling class wants to do - bomb Syria.
While Syria doesn’t have much oil, there is a whole lot of it in the neighbourhood. The conflict in Syria has been ongoing because it is being used as a geopolitical chess piece by the West. The point of the attack is to defeat Syria so the US can next move onto Iran and strike at other forces that are opposed to US domination.
Syria’s real ‘crime’ is to remain independent, ignoring the agenda of US empire in the Middle East and befriending the patriotic peoples of Iran, Lebanon and Palestine. The US speaks of chemical weapons, hoping that we have forgotten their plan for ‘regime change’ in Syria. The US government has no right to determine who should lead the Syrian government.