BUAFS banner in Trafalgar Square on May Day 2015
A comrade from Bristol Ukraine Anti Fascist Solidarity (BUAFS) was invited to speak at a recent public meeting in London organised by Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in the Ukraine (SARU). We reproduce his remarks below.
We are talking today specifically about the way that the imperialist media serve a vital propaganda role in selling us their agenda of war and austerity. Other speakers have given many telling examples of this manipulation of public opinion.
In Bristol, we try to expose this manipulation by mounting a weekly picket of the BBC in Whiteladies Road. We do this to draw attention to the lies the corporation tells about the conflict in the Ukraine and Donbass, and to point out how this conflicts with the vaunted status of the BBC as a paragon of ‘objective’ and ‘balanced’ journalism. It lays claim to that status, so it’s right that we should demand that it be held to account for failing to live up to it.
However, in reality, we should not be so surprised about the BBC’s behaviour. Its journalists are just doing their job, serving as part of the propaganda machine for the imperialist ruling class. When push comes to shove, that is the basic purpose of every organ of mass media in imperialist society. How could it be other? The capitalist media are bought and paid for, and capitalism gets what it pays for. In that sense, we have nothing to complain about.
But if the real function of the BBC and the rest is not too hard to grasp, what have we to say about the role of some of those in ‘left’, ‘anti-war’ and trade-union circles who help to grease the wheels for war by going along with the reactionary propaganda? I’m thinking about those who in words ‘opposed’ the bombing of Libya, yet rowed in with all the vilification of Muammar Gaddafi by which imperialism sought to justify that bombing.
Or those who went along with the hate campaign against Bashar al-Assad and the progressive leadership of Syria – a hate campaign that acted as a smokescreen for the West’s proxy war of subversion against
an independent Arab state whose secular and progressive character posed a threat to imperialist dominance in the Middle East.
What do we make of those who peer down from a great height upon the inhabitants of the Donbass fighting for their lives against Kiev’s stormtroopers, only to pronounce them to be ‘Putin’s useful idiots’?
In my innocence, I had hoped to come here tonight in a cloud of glory, bearing glad tidings that Bristol Trades Council had decided to cough up £50 and affiliate to SARU. The Bristol branch of Community Unite earlier this year passed a resolution to affiliate, and went on to propose to the trades council that it follow suit.
Sadly, this initiative was ambushed by some very vocal delegates to the trades council, who ‘explained’ that the fascist coup that removed the democratically-elected Yanukovych government was in fact a “popular uprising”, that the subsequent elevation of Poroshenko to the presidency was “legitimate”, that his government was not fascist, that the Donbass resistance were no more than stooges for Putin and that the conflict in the Ukraine was not about anti-fascist resistance but was essentially a turf war between rival oligarchs.
To make this unashamed rehearsal of the standard BBC/Fox News Big Lie more palatable to a trade-union forum, matters were given a workerist twist, appealing for “solidarity with workers throughout the whole of the Ukraine”, carefully ignoring the fact that the fascist aggression dished out by the Kiev junta’s forces is actually the military wing of the IMF-imposed austerity being imposed on all Ukrainian workers.
This stunt recalls the dishonest ‘neither green nor orange’ pose that was assumed in the 1970s and 80s by those who sought to justify their enmity towards the Irish national struggle by making spurious appeals to the “unity of all workers” (all workers, that is, in ‘Northern Ireland’ – ie, the colonised six counties).
Regrettably, these lies about what is really going on in the Ukraine were enough to stampede the trades council away from supporting the resolution, which was formally remitted (kicked into the long grass). Fifty pounds here or there will not break our campaign, but this setback usefully illustrates just how crucial is the role of social democracy in making workers vulnerable to capitalist war propaganda, softening up our resistance.
It is important to challenge the media lies. But it is at least as important to challenge those on the social-democratic ‘left’ who help to give those lies currency in the working class. We can’t get rid of media lies, but we can make a start on challenging the social-democratic politics that rob workers of any ideological defence against those lies.
When the manufactured paranoia about Russia has been so eagerly embraced by many on the ‘left’, for example, it will take no more than one or two well-orchestrated false-flag operations for war fever to sweep the board.
What is the antidote to this war fever? The short answer is: to build an anti-war movement in the working class; a movement that identifies imperialist crisis as the driver of war, which supports all those engaged in resistance against imperialism and which leads a campaign of active non-cooperation with the war effort.
Do we possess such a movement now? Sadly not. The Stop the War Coalition, in the name of ‘broadening the appeal’ of the movement, withheld its support from the Afghan resistance and the Iraqi resistance. It likewise withheld support from the progressive governments of Gaddafi’s Libya and Assad’s Syria. Now it opposes the Russian bombing campaign against Islamic State in Syria.
And, of course, it withholds support from the Donbass resistance – always in the name of ‘broadening the movement’. Yet, far from ‘broadening’ the anti-war movement into the mass of the working class, this approach has narrowed the movement to a dwindling support base consisting mostly of a pacifist-minded middle class.
Our task must be to break down the social-democratic walls that separate workers in Britain from all their oppressed brothers and sisters who are fighting against imperialism – be it in Palestine, Syria, the Donbass or wherever.
The imperialist ruling class that plunges one country after another into war is the self-same imperialist ruling class that imposes austerity at home. By recognising that imperialism is our common enemy and linking arms with those engaged in resistance against imperialist meddling, we can unite in an anti-war movement that stands on solid anti-imperialist foundations.
I believe that this can be done in Britain, and that our support for the struggles of the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk could be a step in the right direction.
It is in that spirit that we continue our solidarity work in Bristol. Let me take this opportunity to invite comrades to come and visit our picket outside the BBC in Whiteladies Road, every Monday from 5.00pm to 6.30pm.
Also, let me remind you about the public meeting we are holding on Saturday 24 October in the Terrace Room of Barton Hill Community Settlement, 43 Ducie Road, Bristol (BS5 0AX), from 2.00pm to 5.00pm, on the subject of imperialist crisis and the drive to war in Europe.
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.
Rape, torture, ethnic cleansing and even cannibalism are everyday tactics for the terrorist gangs rampaging through Syria on behalf of western corporations.
The imperialists backing terror groups in Syria don’t care what crimes are committed as long as they get their hands on Syria’s resources and remove the country from the anti-imperialist axis of resistance (primarily now Syria, Hizbollah and Iran) in the Middle East.
Anyone who tries to tell us that this is a ‘civil war’ or a ‘popular uprising’ against a ‘dictator’ is simply repeating (or in the case of the likes of the SWP, embellishing) imperialist war propaganda (a war crime) and effectively apologising for these horrendous atrocities.
Such propaganda is a war crime because it normalises illegal, aggressive wars. It is aimed at stopping us doing our duty, which (under international law) is to OPPOSE, DISRUPT, SABOTAGE and REFUSE TO COOPERATE with the ILLEGAL war effort.
The author of the article quoted below is no friend to the Assad government, having clearly imbibed plenty of western propaganda himself, but the information his article contains gives a shocking picture of the behaviour of Nato’s attack dogs in Syria.
Minority groups – shiites, christians, jews, and others – represent an estimated 20 to 30 percent of Syrians. Members of virtually all minority communities have been targeted by one rebel group or another, due, at least in part, to their perceived support of the secular regime, which largely protected minorities from islamist violence …
Earlier this month, an opposition brigade commander ate a body organ from a dead government soldier in front of a video camera and promised to do the same with others, boasting about slaughtering – and eating – members of the Alawite community to which Assad belongs.
“I swear to God, soldiers of Bashar, you dogs – we will eat your heart and livers! Takbir! God is Great!” commander Khalid al-Hamad with the ‘Independent Omar al-Farouk Brigade’ says in the video, words that he later defended in interviews with Western media outlets.
“Oh my heroes of Baba Amr, you slaughter the Alawites and take their hearts out to eat them!” After the brief speech, the sunni rebel took a bite out of the organ in a video that drew international condemnation …
Countless numbers of christians have been forced to flee into neighbouring countries to avoid the brutality and slaughter. The ancient christian communities, which were protected by the secular Assad government, feared genocide … Analysts said those concerns were well founded.
Such a development would also be in line with what has occurred in other nations where the US government has intervened. In Iraq, for example, the ancient christian communities were all but eradicated following the American-led, United Nations-approved military invasion and occupation. Many fled to Syria.
Following the Obama administration-backed so-called ‘Arab Spring’, christians are also under fire in Egypt, Libya, and other nations. President Obama’s unconstitutional war on Libya led to ethnic cleansing of blacks by US government-backed ‘rebels’ as well.
Taken from ‘Syrian rebel alliance openly threatens ethnic cleansing‘ by Alex Newman, New American, 27 May 2013.
Margaret Thatcher and the Wicked Witch
So the first fruits of the Leveson Inquiry’s push for press censorship turn out to be a BBC ban on playing ‘Ding Dong! the Witch is Dead’.
How successful this belated attempt to starve Judy Garland of the oxygen of publicity will be in suppressing unseemly public glee at the passing of Baroness Thatcher is doubtful.
But if Sunday’s unlikely victim of nervous self-censorship is just a musical theatre child prodigy from the thirties, we can be sure that future victims will include those with the ‘bad taste’ to speak out against the criminal wars and domestic repression engineered by our ‘democratic’ rulers.
With the NUJ busy patting Leveson on the back and the BBC jumping into self-censorship without waiting to be pushed, only journalists of unusual courage can be expected to resist the big freeze that’s coming.
Who can doubt now the urgent need to build a movement of collective non-cooperation with the war plans of our masters, at home as well as abroad?
Even comrades can take time out to watch TV and catch up on the propaganda given out not on the news or in documentaries, but in regular drama or comedy programmes. On Sunday 31 March there were three high-budget dramas on offer. Foyle’s War (ITV), The Village (BBC1) and The Labyrinth (Channel 4).
Foyle’s War, which makes a hero of a detective turned MI5 agent in the immediate post-war period, lends itself to propaganda, but it is cleverish and nuanced and avoids the obvious howlers by having what it presents as a ‘balance’ of Labour and Tory supporters among the secondary characters.
That does not mean that Foyle’s War is not poisonous, though. It most certainly is. One of the murder victims on the night in question turned out to be an NVKD agent and, for the benefit of the young and/or ignorant in the TV audience, the NVKD was described as the “Russian Gestapo” and all references to Stalin bracketed him with Hitler.
There is no doubt at all that Foyle’s War is being used as yet another vehicle to merge Stalin and Hitler in the public mind.
There were also more domestic bits of propaganda in the show. One of the characters was standing as the Labour candidate in a by-election. He was presented as high-minded and principled, while his election agent, who wanted to use (wait for it) information received about the Tory candidate having been a black-market profiteer, is painted as unprincipled for wanting to use ‘dirty tricks’ and talk about ‘personalities’ rather than policies.
Put aside what we all think about the Labour party (now and in the 1940s) and think of the propaganda agenda behind this condemnation of the election agent for revealing that the opposing candidate was a black marketeer. Foyle’s War presents the revelation in the press as ‘dirty tricks’, while the actual crime of black marketeering is sidelined as irrelevant.
This is exactly the thinking the ruling elite want us to have in the post-Leveson world. Doubles all round for Foyle’s War for toeing the bourgeois line.
As to the other two Sunday night offerings, The Labyrinth was an overblown costume drama which presented the cathars as a wonderful bunch of people unfairly persecuted by catholic villains, the catholics in question being presented as so stage-evil the show could have been written by a bunch of UDA men.
The cathars were all so long ago, it might not seem to matter, but nothing is too remote to be used for bourgeois propaganda. The cathars actually make unpleasant heroes: cack-handed Malthusians before their time, they believed the world was ruled by the devil and that it was wrong to have children as birth trapped a wonderful free-roaming soul in an evil material body.
Last, but certainly not least, the cathars thought suicide was not only acceptable but desirable as it purified the soul.
Arguably, the Catholic Church did the world a favour (for once) by getting rid of these miserable negative lunatics, but here in 2013, when the bourgeoisie wants us to think ‘There is no alternative’ to the capitalism-devil that rules the world (and those of us who don’t like it can go top ourselves), we find the demented cathars glorified on mainstream TV.
Co-incidence? Not on your nelly/telly.
Lastly there was The Village, trailed as the thinking person’s Downton Abbey. Over endless episodes, beginning in 1914, it is supposed to show a hundred years of English history through the life of one Derbyshire village in general and through the life of one working-class man in particular.
About 8 years old when the story begins, ‘Bert’ has a mad drunk violent father whose behaviour would be considered extreme and unacceptable among the very worst of the urban criminal lumpenproletariat, and would just not have been tolerated in a small village where people and families had not only all known each other for generations but were quite often related.
This confusing of the working class with a savage and drunken lumpenproletariat is now a cultural commonplace, and reinforcing this deliberate conflation is the essential propaganda message of The Village. But there are other pernicious messages, too.
As we approach Cameron’s great First World War Commemoration Bonanza, perhaps the most important (in the first episode and presumably beyond) was the presentation of the reaction of the village population to the first world war. Not one dissident voice was raised on The Village. Instead, the very moment war was declared, all the young men marched off happily.
In reality, there were many immediate volunteers, cock-sure they would be home by Christmas, but to present the entire working-class population as willing volunteers is a travesty of the truth.
Two days before war was declared (on 4 August 1914), there was a massive anti-war demonstration in Trafalgar Square. Much like the massive demonstration against the Iraq war, the protest was ignored by the ruling elite (then fronted by the Liberals), who went to war anyway to protect their masters’ profits.
No doubt in years to come the bourgeoisie will try to present support for the Iraq war as universal too, but we know that was not so, and we must also remind a new generation (who will inevitably get caught up in the coming propaganda-fest) that the millions who endured or died in the great working-class massacre of WW1 were the victims of capitalism – and most of them had the nous to know it.
The true spirit of '45: A Soviet soldier hoists the red flag over the Reichstag in Berlin, marking the complete defeat of Nazi fascism.
There are some good bits in Spirit of ’45, the new film from Ken Loach. Some of the interviews and archive footage about working-class life in the 1930s are a poignant and timely reminder of the social horrors inflicted by capitalism in the throes of a global overproduction crisis – right down to the vermin-infested blankets and deadly absence of health care.
And the juxtaposition of such cruel personal reminiscence with the end-of-war scenes of jubilation and hope from 1945 could have set the context for a much more interesting film, taking a fresh look at the birth (and premature death) of the welfare state.
Instead, we are offered yet another panegyric on the supposed achievements of ‘old’ Labour ‘heroes’ like Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison.
Not a word is said about the imperialist superprofits upon which the ruling class crucially depended to subsidise these temporary and partial concessions to the working class.
Not a word is said about the poisonous pro-imperialist policy of the Labour government, hell-bent on preserving those same superprofits, no matter what the cost to the hundreds of millions of people locked in colonial bondage around the world.
Most glaring omission of all: not a word is said about the popular levels of enthusiasm aroused by the heroic exploits of the Red Army in putting fascism to the sword and in defending its own, infinitely superior version of a state that put the welfare of workers at the top of every agenda.
It was that threat of a good revolutionary example set by the Soviet Union that emboldened workers to demand “no return to the ’30s”. And it was the special role of Labour imperialism to help deliver a ‘welfare state’ – a pale capitalist imitation of the Soviet original – in such a way as would simultaneously tie the working class to the colonial agenda of monopoly capital and clear the way for the post-war reversion to anti-communist red-baiting (on a script written by Orwell, another of Loach’s ‘heroes’).
All of this is a closed book for the filmmaker.
Starved of any international context, the film stumbles on impressionistically, locked always behind the little-British narrowness that remains the trademark everywhere of ‘left’ social democracy.
After airing some woolly criticisms of the earlier shortcomings of the reforms (same old managers at the National Coal Board, failure to nationalise all transport), the film hastens on to the sudden arrival of the Bad Fairy, Thatcher, and her (unexplained and apparently personal) crusade to smash everything up.
Just one of the film’s talking heads makes a single brief reference to the overproduction crisis, but beyond that there is no attempt to explain what was fuelling the assault upon workers’ conditions and rights. In fact, having finished its history-hopping journey from the ’30s through ’45 to the advent of Thatcherism, nothing remains but to open the screen to a few soundbites from some pale anti-communist ‘left’ luminaries like Tony Benn, John Rees and Alex Gordon, before the film finally runs out of steam and the credits roll.
As the deepest ever overproduction crisis is pushing Britain’s ruling class to accelerate its dismantlement of the welfare state, Spirit of ’45 is an opportunity missed to examine not only what brought Britain’s hard-bitten imperialist rulers to make such serious concessions to workers in the first place, but also why those concessions were only ever going to be temporary while the capitalist system remained in place.
These are questions whose answers are urgently needed to permeate the workers’ movement if we are going to be successful in breaking out of the downward spiral of imperialist poverty, crisis and war. Lasting rights for workers will not be won by going back to the ‘good old’ reformist dreams of ’45 – days that inevitably led to where we are today – but by smashing the capitalist system and going forward to build socialism.
'Kiringul', which translates as 'Kirin's lair', is one of the sites associated with King Tongmyŏng, the founder of Koguryŏ, an ancient Korean kingdom.
Did anyone see the feeble little piss-take Ian Hislop and co did last week on Have I Got News For You about gullible north Koreans supposedly believing in unicorns?
The real story turns out to be that archaeologists from the DPRK have found some interesting evidence that an important ancient city that features in folk legends might have been situated close to the present day Pyongyang.
Legend has it that in ancient times a famous king founded the city. The ‘unicorn’ just comes into it as a mistranslation of a Korean word denoting a mythical beast on which the king was supposed to ride.
Turning this straightforward story about an archaeological dig into a slander about thick Koreans swallowing commie lies may pass for cutting edge satire at the BBC but will only fool the terminally credulous.
Are thick Brits now to be pilloried for believing in giants (who else would inhabit the Giants’ Causeway?), in dragons (what else did St George fight?), or in (most far-fetched yet) the honesty and objectivity of the BBC lie machine?
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress salutes the people and leaders of Syria in their continuing resistance to the murderous islamist rebellion fomented by the West, and sends its congratulations to the Syrian army for the strenuous measures it has been undertaking in Aleppo and elsewhere against the armed rebellion and its foreign auxiliaries.
Congress denounces the vicious imperialist meddling in Syria’s internal affairs, which has for its goal the forcible removal of Syria’s president and the sectarian destruction of Syria’s unity and independence.
Congress further denounces the role played by Turkey in providing the rebels with a military base area, the role played by Saudi Arabia and Qatar in arming and funding the insurgency, and above all the barely-concealed imperialist, primarily US imperialist, hand that lies behind the proxy war being fought out by the incompetent thugs of the misnamed ‘Free Syria Army’ (FSA).
In particular, this congress denounces the pipsqueak British foreign minister William Hague’s recent proposal to funnel “humanitarian aid” through the FSA.
This congress applauds the steadfast refusal of both Moscow and Beijing to aid and abet the West’s criminal adventure in Syria, and congratulates them on having decisively wrested the diplomatic initiative from the warmongers, leaving imperialism without a fig-leaf to camouflage its warlike intentions.
This congress notes with satisfaction the declaration by Iran’s envoy Saeed Jalili that Iran stands with her neighbour in an “axis of resistance” which cannot be broken, and urges British workers to likewise stand shoulder to shoulder with Syria in our own unbreakable “axis of resistance”.
This congress reaffirms its belief that an anti-imperialist victory for Syria will in turn weaken imperialism’s axis of oppression – a welcome setback not least for our own British imperialist ruling class.
Congress therefore calls on workers in Britain to refuse to cooperate with the criminal aggression against Syria, whether by fighting directly, making or transporting arms, or assisting in the broadcast of slander and lies demonising the Syrian leadership, and resolves to do all in its power to spread awareness of the need for such active non-cooperation.
Victory to Syria!
Victory to President Assad!
Death to imperialism!
In response to the irresponsible, hypocritical and reactionary behaviour of the Birmingham Amnesty International group and their plans to push war propaganda on the streets of Birmingham, comrades from Red Youth, CPGB-ML, AIWAA, IWA(GB) and others prepared a counter-demonstration on 12 April in Birmingham.
It is the firm conviction of these comrades and other anti-imperialists that we cannot allow what happened in Libya to be repeated in Syria. It is also their firm conviction that if Stop the War Coalition is incapable of opposing this warmongering then it is up to communists and revolutionaries to get on with the task alone.
The following statement was distributed and communicated to the Amnesty dupes:
Amnesty allows itself to be used as a tool for war, ethnic cleansing and imperialist aggression
We have no doubt that Amnesty International contains a number of well-meaning supporters, people with genuine compassion. It is from this belief that we are outraged by the continual stream of lies, hypocrisy and war propaganda that emanates from Amnesty International, hoodwinking its members, volunteers and the general public alike into supporting acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing and regime change.
It was precisely the above which was the outcome, indirectly and not so indirectly, of the position adopted by Amnesty International in relation to the war against Libya. Amnesty always seems quick to make claims of rights abuses when it serves the interests of imperialism, echoing the lies and misinformation of the corporate western media machine. But it is strangely slow to learn the awful lessons that echoing such lies enables real atrocities to be committed by imperialist forces – and on an incomparably larger scale than the often non-existent ‘abuses’ they claim to be ‘reporting’ in the first place.
Having made a host of inflammatory and ultimately false statements in the French media alleging the use by Colo-nel Gaddafi of ‘mercenaries’ during last year’s predatory war of aggression by Nato, Amnesty International President Genevieve Garrigos was forced to admit five months later that there had been no evidence to support any of her claims.
An investigation by Donatella Rivera exposed Garrigos who had peddled inaccurate information and lies. Garri-gos eventually admitted in an interview: “Donatella was right to verify if we actually found mercenaries. And we didn’t.” (A video of this interview and copy of the state-ment can be seen at redyouth.org.)
As a result of the spurious information, lies and falsifications she and her team put out, Garrigos helped stoke the fires of war. She helped to cause the unnecessary suffering and death of tens of thousands of Libyans, including untold numbers of black Libyans. It is now widely known and reported by the UN Human Rights Council and by Human Rights Watch that the Libyan ‘rebels’ whom Amnesty was so quick to champion were in fact the ones committing ethnic cleansing of black Libyans in Tawergha and beyond.
It is therefore out of a genuine concern for the many honest supporters and champions of human rights who undoubtedly reside within Amnesty that we protest against the campaign’s persistent use of slander, innuendo, half-truths, untruths, rumour and damned falsification – all presented to the world as fact.
It is with this knowledge, and with a real love for freedom, democracy and liberty, that we call on Amnesty’s anti-Assad protesters to correct their position on the question of Syria and oppose the dirty war propaganda that emanates from the Birmingham group of Amnesty.
Amnesty calls for ‘defiance’
A leaflet advertising a demonstration in Birmingham on 12 April 2012, and seemingly produced by Amnesty International’s Birmingham group, calls for people to “Stand for Syria, in solidarity – in defiance”. This piece of war propaganda claims that there have been five decades of human-rights abuses in Syria, that there has been a 14-month ‘brutal crackdown’, and that hundreds have been mistreated and tortured. The intention of the leaflet is to create the impression that there exists in Syria a most despotic and cruel regime; a regime that tortures, punishes and imprisons hundreds, nay thousands, of its own citizens, including children.
Whilst Amnesty claims that there have been five decades of repression in Syria, the truth is rather different. The Syrian people enjoy a standard of living envied by many in the Middle East. The country’s long-standing commitment to secularism has ensured a relatively peaceful and prosperous half-century for its people, who come from many different nationalities, cultures and religions. Which other country in the Middle East provided safety and refuge to millions of families who fled Iraq during the last Iraq war? What other country has done so much to assist the Palestinian struggle for national liberation?
Since the outbreak of the imperialist supported violence last year, regular demonstrations have been held across Syria, with tens of thousands of people from all sections of this diverse society showing their support for the president and government, and not for the anti-government militias.
It is with this in mind that we must ask ourselves what role Amnesty is playing in calling demonstrations that imply tacit support for the gang of terrorist mercenaries calling themselves the ‘Free Syrian Amy’. Not least as the FSA are assembled, supplied, supported and sheltered by such standard-bearers of freedom and democracy as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, the United States and Turkey.
Once again, Amnesty International is doing the dirty work of imperialism. It is providing whatever pretext can be found for the overthrow of a legitimate government, a legitimate president, and the murder, torture and butchery of soldiers who comprise the regular standing army of the Syrian republic.
But who the hell are the directors of Amnesty to interfere, in complete violation of international law, with the internal business of a sovereign state?
Whilst Israel pushes ahead with its policy of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, Amnesty turns a blind eye and (in Birmingham at least) organises no protest. Whilst Israel is gripped by the heroic struggle of Palestinian hunger strikers and freedom fighters, Amnesty has chosen this moment to talk about Syrian prisoners.
Whilst Saudi troops commit acts of ferocious barbarity in Bahrain, Amnesty Birmingham wants us to “push for an end to the bloodshed in Syria”!
Whilst black Libyans are butchered every day by racist, terroristic ‘rebels’ as a direct result of the horrendous and catastrophic war, allegedly waged for ‘humanitarian assistance’ and delivered by the F16s, stealth bombers and tomahawk missiles of the imperialist armies, Amnesty International wants to provide a pretext for further carnage in Syria!
The truth about Syria is that it is a thorn in the side of imperialism in the Middle East. Its long-standing commitment to independence and national sovereignty has incurred the wrath of the United States, who long ago marked the country out as a part of the ‘axis of evil’.
Learn the lessons of history
In campaigning for a return to the Russian presidency, outgoing prime minister Vladimir Putin said that Moscow would not allow a replay of the events in Libya: “Learning from that bitter experience, we are against any UN Security Council resolutions that could be interpreted as a signal for military interference in domestic processes in Syria.”
In seeking to overthrow the patriotic and progressive government in Damascus, imperialism also seeks to deliver a knockout blow to Hizbollah, thereby strengthening Israel. Above all, in seeking to destroy its most significant regional military ally, the attack on Syria is a vital stepping stone to yet another war of aggression, this time against Iran, beyond which lies the global conflagration that confrontation with China and Russia would entail.
We must not fall for the war propaganda used to ‘justify’ imperialist aggression, and certainly should take no part in spreading these lies and falsifications.
In a very real sense, Syria today stands in the same place, as did the Spanish Republic in 1936. British workers and progressive people need to stand in their place, demanding:
Hands off Syria! Victory to Assad!
Invisible Children's founders pose with members of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army in April 2008
‘Going viral’ refers to the phenomenon of a video or website becoming popular, or at least widely known, via the medium of public sharing.
In the age of social networking this is no longer as impressive as it once was, but nonetheless it was certainly surprising when Kony 2012 – a short documentary which purported to dish the dirt on a fundamentalist christian terrorist organisation in Uganda, known as the Lord’s Resistance Army, and its not-so-charismatic leader Joseph Kony – ‘went viral’ a few weeks ago. And it was even more surprising when, just as his popularity was peaking, the director of Kony 2012 was arrested for public masturbation.
So, masturbation aside, what on earth is going on here?
Kony 2012 is the 11th documentary released by an allegedly not-for-profit organisation called Invisible Children. All eleven documentaries produced by Invisible Children have been about the same subject – Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.
The name ‘Invisible Children’ refers to the group’s principal gripe with the LRA, namely, its use of child soldiers in its war against the Ugandan state. Not content with merely documenting the situation in Uganda, however, Invisible Children seeks to prescribe a solution: it wants US military action both in Uganda and in central Africa more generally. This is not a covert objective, but a stated goal of the organisation.
In fact, Invisible Children has been widely recognised for galvanising public support around the US senate’s Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, passed in 2010 – an act which led to the active deployment of US troops in Uganda.
Invisible Children is not just an advocacy group, but also an active supporter of imperialist causes in Africa. It channels a sizable percentage of the revenue it accrues through donations and merchandise sales directly into the Ugandan army and government, as well as the armies and governments of several other central African states.
Once again, these activities are not covert, but public. The founders of the organisation have gone so far as to be photographed posing with members of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, all three of them proudly carrying weapons that their organisation, or others like it, probably helped pay for.
The reality is that Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army are a bugbear whose relatively minor role in African regional politics has been grossly distorted by Invisible Children. This was the point made by three commentators writing in the US establishment’s Foreign Policy journal in November of last year: “[Invisible Children] manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasising the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.”
Moreover, though Invisible Children continues to focus on the LRA’s activities in Uganda, most experts are now questioning whether the group still operates in Uganda at all.
Arthur Larok, the director of Action Aid in Uganda, has criticised Invisible Children on precisely this point: “Six or 10 years ago, this would have been a really effective campaign strategy to get international campaigning. But today, years after Kony has moved away from Uganda … I’m not sure that’s effective for now. The circumstances in the north have changed.”
These changed circumstances are also highlighted by the freelance journalist Michael Wilkerson, who has pointed out that “in 2006, the LRA was pushed out of Uganda and has been operating in extremely remote areas of the DRC, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. … the small remaining LRA forces are still wreaking havoc and very hard to catch, but northern Uganda has had tremendous recovery in the six years of peace”.
So why do Invisible Children continue to act as though Uganda is the LRA’s main base of operations and, moreover, that the LRA are a serious threat? The answer is either shameful ignorance or deliberate deception. Whichever of these two is the correct answer, Invisible Children’s shortcomings as documentarians have certainly been helpful in furthering the foreign policy aims of the United States.
As senior research fellow at the Makerere Institute of Social Research in Uganda, Adam Branch, has pointed out, the popularity of Invisible Children’s campaigns “[has been] an excuse that the US government has gladly adopted in order to help justify the expansion of their military presence in central Africa”.
More specifically, by appearing to be ‘responding’ to misguided public pressure on Uganda, the Obama administration has been given a useful cover for expanding its military presence in the country at precisely the time when its unpopular, pro-western government, and the lucrative oil contracts that it can dispense, are under threat from the population whom it has been exploiting.
Invisible Children and its supporters, whether they realise it or not, are playing a significant role in supporting western imperialism in central Africa. Through their ignorance of the complex reality of African regional politics and their naïve prejudices and faith in the altruistic motivations of imperialism, they have given ammunition (both figurative and literal) to the worst forces of reaction and obscured the fact that American troops in Uganda are not there to help the children of central Africa, but to help the US imperialist aims of monopolising Africa’s oil and mineral wealth and trying to undermine China’s ability to trade on the continent.
If people in the imperialist countries are serious about helping the people of central Africa, it is not Joseph Kony they need to focus on, but imperialist looting – and the military force it uses, both directly and indirectly, to back that up. As Adam Branch has said: “In terms of activism, the first step is to re-think the question: Instead of asking how the US can intervene in order to solve Africa’s conflicts, we need to ask what we are already doing to cause those conflicts in the first place. How are we … contributing to land grabbing and to the wars ravaging this region? How are we, as US citizens, allowing our government to militarise Africa in the name of the ‘War on Terror’ and its effort to secure oil resources?”