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.
On 15 August, comrades from Swansea, Merthyr, Runcorn and Bristol attended the annual commemoration of the part played by Llanelli workers in the rail strike of 1911.
This national strike raged with particular ferocity in Liverpool, where two workers were shot dead by the military, and in Llanelli, where two workers were likewise shot and another four perished in the subsequent struggle against the police and army.
All 500 of Llanelli’s railmen came out in support of the strike, and an estimated total of about 5,000 workers were involved in the occupation of both the town’s level crossings, bringing all rail transport to a halt.
Our party has supported the commemoration of this event every year since the centenary in 2011, recognising it as a milestone in the history of the British working class.
After the hundred or so participants had marched from the railway station to the town centre, we paused for a rally before climbing the hill to Box Cemetery, where our party comrades took their turn to lay flowers in memory of the workers slain by the army. The socialist choir Cor Cochion sang the International in Welsh.
A number of speeches were made at the rally, with the need for unity a strong common theme, but with differing notions of how this unity is to be forged.
Least appropriate for the occasion was the contribution from the Labour MP for Llanelli, whose feeble excuses for having abstained from the vote against austerity cuts drew some well-deserved barracking. One local shouted that the Labour party had had dominance in Llanelli for over 90 years and they had done very little for the town.
In truth, her eulogy for class compromise could hardly have been less in keeping with the true spirit of 1911 – a spirit of courage, solidarity and revolt.
Our own party’s speaker brought greetings to those gathered from the CPGB-ML, and then continued:
“We meet here today to commemorate the part played by the working class of Llanelli in the national rail strike of 1911, and to mourn the deaths of comrades Leonard Worsell and John John.
“The army acted in panic on that day, driven into frenzy by the success with which Llanelli railway station was shut down and occupied by the workers, who were acting in solidarity with railway workers all over Britain.
“This display of the collective strength of the working class – not only by rail workers but also by tin-plate workers and others – should remind us all that, given the right leadership, workers have the power to shut down capitalism for good. We just need to use it.
“With its Trade Union Bill, the government plans to criminalise any meaningful exercise of the right to strike. For public-service workers, no strike ballot will succeed unless at least 40 percent of the total electorate vote to strike.
“To put this in context, the recent Tory victory at the polls, heralded by the media as a ‘landslide’, was voted for by just 22 percent of the electorate.
“If a strike ballot survives all the obstacles thrown in its path by the new bill, other rules are planned that will conspire to remove the sting from industrial action.
“Two weeks notice of a strike will have to be given – to give the employer ample time to hire in agency workers to break the strike. When it comes to picketing, a member of the union will have to make himself known to the police and be available to them at all times. That person will then be accountable for the way the picket conducts itself.
“It is not hard to see what this will mean in practice, when even the most polite effort to dissuade workers from crossing the picket line can be interpreted as ‘intimidation’. To cap it all, supposed infractions of picketing rules will no longer be treated as civil offences, but as criminal offences.
“Capitalism is in the midst of an overproduction crisis which will be deeper than both of those which resulted in the two great wars of the last century. That is why imperialism is imposing crushing austerity at home and generating criminal wars abroad.
‘And that is why the right to strike, the right to resist against the imposition of austerity, the right to resist against warmongering, will increasingly be criminalised.
“Repressive moves against asylum seekers, so-called ‘benefit scroungers’ and disaffected youth are preparing the way for repressive moves against anyone who says NO to austerity, NO to fascism and NO to war.
“That is why, as well as remembering the fallen comrades John John and Leonard Worsell, we also remember Private Harold Spiers, who, when ordered to turn his weapon on his fellow workers, threw down his gun, preferring to face court martial sooner than commit a crime against humanity.
“Since the Nuremberg Tribunal that followed WW2, it has been established that ‘just following orders’ is no defence. It is time for the organised working class to stop following unjust orders and unjust laws.
“It is time for the unions to organise a movement of non-cooperation with warmongering, non-cooperation with austerity, non-cooperation with capitalism.
Yvonne (Cuba Solidarity Campaign) and Giles (CPGB-ML)
Another successful meeting was held in Bristol, in a series of such meetings hosted by CPGB-ML across the country to mark the great contribution Comrade Chavez has made to the progressive movement. The meeting, held on Thursday 14 March, attracted a range of people including some from Poland and Spain as well as local Bristol residents.
The local organiser of Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Yvonne, spoke first recounting the solidarity and camaraderie between Cuba and Venezuela and also personally between Fidel and Chavez. Yvonne echoed the sadness that had been felt in Cuba at the loss of Chavez at such a young age and remarked that it had only been a couple of years ago that Fidel was fighting illness and Chavez had been the one to visit his hospital bedside.
She also highlighted the benefits that had been brought to the region through the creation of ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean, and CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
Following Yvonne’s contribution, Comrade Giles of the CPGB-ML gave a well-informed speech explaining the context that lead to Chavez getting elected in 1998, the attempted coup against him in 2002 and the development and achievements of the Bolivarian revolution, with statistics and commentary about how the lives of the majority of Venezuelans have been positively affected.
Giles also showed Chavez’s international solidarity and his courage in standing firm in support of the countries who are defending their sovereignty against the might of imperialism. Giles spoke of Chavez’s support for Ahmadinejad in Iran, Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Al Assad in Syria, and Gaddafi in Libya, all of which typified his determination to stand on the side of the oppressed.
A lively discussion followed the presentation with additional comments made about how the media is used to create a false impression of these leaders. An example from Spain was ofthe paper El Pais constantly referring to Chavez as a dictator and carrying misinformation about the advances made in Venezuela. It was agreed that this the same as happens in the newspapers in Britain and is done deliberately to try and deflect peoples’ attention away from the idea that there is an alternative to capitalism.
The conclusion of the meeting gave its full support to Venezuelan government as it stands firm to defends the gains that have been made over the last 14 years. Imperialism will no doubt be working hard to attempt to roll back these achievements and will use any trick it can to get back control of the wealth of Venezuela. It is therefore our internationalist duty to stand strong and vigilant in opposing any such attempts by imperialism.
Just as Comrade Hugo Chavez was a staunch defender of those who stood on the axis of resistance in the face of imperialist hegemony, we must learn from this great example and also stand firm in solidarity with our comrades, brothers and sisters in Venezuela.
A final red salute to our comrade Hugo Chavez.
Hasta la Victoria Siempre!
Bristol CPGB-ML will be hosting another public meeting Fighting for communism: the future that works! on Thursday 4 April, 7.30pm at Hamilton House, 80 Stokes Croft, Bristol BS1 3QY. The meeting will be a short film showing followed by discussion. All are welcome, we hope to see some more new faces.
Iris Cremer, a founding comrade of the CPGB-ML, speaks at the memorial meeting for her husband Godfrey Cremer in Saklatvala Hall, Southall on 12 May 2012
The following tribute was delivered by Comrade Iris Cremer to the memorial meeting for Godfrey Cremer held on 12 May 2012.
Once again I thank every one of you for the comfort and strength your words have given to all of Godfrey’s extended family, friends and comrades. So many of you here, as well as in messages from across the world from Havana to South Africa to Pyongyang, have expressed respect and thanks for the warm-hearted and articulate way that Godfrey supported their causes.
I have been very privileged to spend over 40 years with a husband, friend and comrade who has worked tirelessly to build a world free from racism and imperialist wars, and for a society in which all peoples could live in peace.
I still want to highlight the three Cs that I dealt with at the funeral – his compassion, his creativity and his communist principles. They are such significant aspects of Godfrey’s world outlook.
He looked after everyone he met – family, friends and passers by – he treated all with respect and kindness – becoming ‘uncle’ to so many young friends. But his compassion extended way beyond individual acts of concern.
He started to look for other ways to solve the problem facing people in the UK, as well as across the world. This became a driving force that saw Godfrey campaign for racial equality – working with the IWA(GB) as well as professionally; and an ardent anti-imperialist.
Right up to the days before his death he was exhorting us to protest against the attempts of imperialism to overthrow the legitimate government of Syria – it is entirely appropriate that on the front page of the latest Lalkar, his picture appears just beside the article on Syria.
He not only grew to have a well-formed political outlook, but he was a proper teacher. With images, analogies, poetry, music and photography he found ways to describe the most complex of historical and scientific ideas.
In studying Marxism, his careful use of words helped so many youngsters, and those not so young, to grasp the meaning of a new world outlook.
It was his experiences in the ’60s and his concern for people that brought him to espouse the ideals of communism. During events in the early ’70s we met Harpal and a few others and began to build an alternative to the existing political parties – a genuine communist party in Britain.
However, to implement this work Godfrey also saw the need for two other Cs – Craftsmanship and Courage
I came to see the need for an alternative to capitalism through an emotional response to the experiences I found in Africa in the 1960s – as a volunteer teacher in Tanzania I, fortunately, learnt both of the devastation that imperialism had caused to the peoples of southern Africa and learnt about the spirit of resistance that Julius Nyerere’s Ujamaa gave a voice to, and saw the support that the Chinese were giving, for instance in building railways, etc.
On the other hand, Godfrey was far more rational. His experiences in the anti-Vietnam war days also drew him to find out about ‘alternatives’ and he pursued it in a thoroughly logical manner – studying Marxism as a science.
He would be first to admit that he did not study sufficiently, but I know for sure that even with him in hospital in those final days was a copy of Fundamental Problems of Marxism by Plekhanov. He studied and thought through all the problems he faced, be it:
mastering the printing press – this May (issue 212) was the first Lalkar we have done without his guidance since 1979 – and it was hard – particularly wanting to keep up to his standard, and with his face smiling back at us on the front cover [Katt and I used all our strength to achieve what we knew he expected of us],
sorting out how to build literature stalls (transforming a children’s buggy into a mobile stall – using one that he found discarded near a skip! – and then revising it to increase its mobility, cos it was not quite right!), or
organising the communist movement – endlessly meeting comrades, discussing with comrades both to organise national and London regional activities.
He was a true craftsman who fine-tuned his knowledge and approach according to the prevailing circumstances and would turn his hand to anything.
His contributions to Marxist study schools and circles will be sorely missed. From study circles in the 1970s in Tottenham with Harpal and Ella and others, to curry and communist study in Southall, to CPGB-ML party schools, Godfrey has been a stalwart who carefully analysed and honestly answered questions with clarity and relevance, along with his jokes and analogies.
It was with immense pride that Godfrey became a founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) in 2004 and could see his hopes and desires of his life’s work beginning to really bear fruit. And he would thus encourage party members to study and be optimistic, adhering to the words of Kim Il Sung, who said in 1962:
“In order to make our party members indomitable fighters who are always optimistic about the future of the revolution, it is necessary to intensify their Marxist-Leninist education. Without a clear understanding of the laws of social development and the inevitability of the triumph of socialism and communism, one can neither have faith in victory nor have the high-toned spirit and combativeness to withstand any difficulty.”
Which bring me to my last C.
To have spent four decades with Godfrey, and shared a common world outlook, has indeed been a privilege and a joy. His firm adherence to principles gave him a great confidence and courage, which may seem at variance with his gentle warmth.
In fact, his thorough scientific understanding of dialectics and materialism gave him enormous strength in his convictions. He has not only stood up for many who faced racial discrimination – both in his professional work and in conjunction with the Indian Workers Association GB, but he has always been at the forefront of those challenging the rule of British imperialism at home or abroad – particularly in relation to Ireland in the Troops Out Movement, in the Zimbabwe Solidarity Front, and most recently in the Stop the War Coalition. His work has been exemplary both in terms of arguments won and lessons learnt.
Having worked so closely, pretty much as a double-act, for so long I feel that now, in this difficult period, I have a strength built from my life with Godfrey. I often say to people that I feel like part of his spine is holding me up to ensure that his work goes on.
Katt too has learnt how to be strong from Godfrey’s example – so I feel confident that our political work will continue. We have an expanding party that is mobilising the next generation to carry on the struggle.
However, we will all sorely miss his expertise in science, particularly the biological sciences. From Darwin through to the Soviet biologist Lysenko, Godfrey was at the forefront of a Marxist scientific analysis based on his own scientific training and a Marxist analysis. He controversially defended Darwin’s materialism and the Soviet agronomist Lysenko by making detailed presentations on their work – which few others have done.
But the essence of that biological work is that only the new Soviet state could truly enable resources to be used for the benefit of the vast masses of the people. Godfrey’s research dealt with developments in agriculture, but the lesson is similar for other areas of life.
One hundred years ago, Michurin, a Russian biologist, was struggling to improve fruit plants in pre-revolutionary Russia. Twenty years later he said that the Soviet system “had given me everything I need – everything an experimenter can desire for his work. The dream of my whole life is coming true: the valuable new fruit-plant varieties which I have bred have gone from the experimental plots, not into the possession of a few kulak money-bags [rich farmers], but into the far-flung orchards of the collective and state farms.”
He wrote to Stalin thanking him for building a new world in which “the creative energy surging among the millions of workers and peasants of the Soviet Union fills me too, old man that I am, with eagerness to live and work under your leadership for the good of the socialist development of our proletarian state”.
The ‘eagerness’ of this Soviet agronomist reminds me so much of Godfrey’s enthusiasm for building a new society.
Our tribute to Godfrey must be to use the strength that Godfrey has given us to build a powerful communist movement that can lead to a bright future for all humanity.
A Red Salute to Godfrey – my comrade, my friend and my husband.
Joti Brar of the CPGB-ML speaks at Godfrey Cremer's memorial meeting in Saklatvala Hall, Southall on 12 May 2012
The following tribute was delivered by Comrade Joti Brar to the memorial meeting for Godfrey Cremer held on 12 May 2012.
Words I would say to Godfrey if he was still here
I would say thank you for being such a rock in my life. For showing that it is possible to be true to your principles in small as well as big ways.
For offering such a shining example of a life well lived. For showing such warmth, generosity and loyalty in your relationships with friends, family and comrades. For demonstrating such selflessness and humility despite your obvious talents in so many spheres. For setting such a shining example of persistence and of devotion to everything that is most important in this world.
Thank you for magic tricks and shoulder rides. For infant school pick-ups and trips to the zoo. For study classes, spare beds and safe havens. For eternal patience and good humour. For taking me completely into your heart and your family. For giving me the best sister anyone could ask for. For coming to the hospital when our Josef was born, for putting away the cot we couldn’t bear to see, and for remembering our littlest comrade at the last.
I haven’t words to express what your presence has meant in my life. A visit to your house was always an adventure. Just the knowledge that you and Iris were in my world gave so much childhood reassurance.
It was in your home and under your gentle guidance that I took my first steps into the movement. Where I read Lenin and Stalin and learned to take a scientific view of the world. In your home I attended political meetings and took part in my first practical activities. In your home I learned that it was possible to overcome all barriers to political commitment. In your home I learned that no detail is too small to pay attention to in the service of the working class.
In your home I felt loved and secure and free to develop. You and Iris had the knack of treating everyone as special and it made your home the most welcoming I have ever known.
What else would I say?
Only that I hope to do better in following your example. Only that I will not forget the promise I made to you in the hospital: we will finish what you and your comrades have started.
We will build the party that you worked so hard to bring into existence. We will turn it into a real fighting force for revolution. We will do everything we can to bring about the society that you longed for so ardently all your life.
And finally, paraphrasing Bobby Sands, I would say that our final tribute to your inspiring example will be the laughter of our children’s children’s children.
We miss you Godfrey. We wish you hadn’t left us so soon. But we are so glad we had you and we are determined that you will live on in us. We are determined to make you proud.
With love, with respect, and with the reddest of red salutes, I would say what you said to me when we talked about your prognosis: no regrets.
Wilf Dixon of the Stalin Society speaks at Godfrey Cremer's memorial meeting in Saklatvala Hall, Southall on 12 May 2012
The following speech was delivered by Comrade Wilf Dixon to the memorial meeting for Godfrey Cremer held on 12 May 2012.
Comrades and friends, thank you for giving me this chance to make a few remarks from the Stalin Society to this commemoration today. I am proud to do this because I had a profound respect for comrade Godfrey Cremer and believe his political clarity and method of work are things to be emulated.
The abrupt passing of comrade Godfrey Cremer came as a shock to us all and this shows how much we will miss his dedication and clarity of thought in dealing with complex ideological and political issues. Although I found comrade Godfrey a very approachable and friendly person, a quality which has been repeated in many of the tributes that I have heard and read, I knew him primarily through my involvement in the Marxist-Leninist movement and since the foundation of the Stalin Society after the total collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Comrade Godfrey was an internationalist striving to support those peoples and nations at the brunt of western, particularly United States, imperialist hatred and demonisation. That is, those nations and peoples who strive to resist imperialist dictate in order to build their own economy and independence politically or militarily.
As a communist inside the belly of the beast of British imperialism, he understood and was guided by a profound grasp of the importance of struggling against the chauvinism and imperialist mentality as it affects in particular the working class with racist ideas and its would-be leadership or mis-leadership with opportunism.
One of my earliest occasions to have contact with Godfrey was in the Troops Out Movement, whose leadership displayed much the same characteristics as can be witnessed today. Comrade Godfrey’s contribution was guided by the Marxist precept that no nation that oppresses another nation can itself be free.
Further, as a member of the Stalin Society, and I must say that he is not alone in this, he jealously defended Comrade Stalin and the Soviet Union under his leadership from slanderous lies and the attempts to rewrite history. For every one like Comrade Godfrey defending Stalin, it seems there needs to be 100 bourgeois or revisionist scribblers who can so readily find a publisher for the shallowest of lies and distortions. Such is the value to the working class of propagandists like comrade Godfrey.
Apart from his regular contributions in the meetings themselves, I would like to draw attention to his contribution on Darwin in the bicentenary year of his birth on 12 February 1809. In an address to the Stalin Society in commemoration of Charles Darwin and his work culminating in the The Origin of Species, Comrade Cremer, whilst paying tribute to Darwin’s consistent scientific method, showed his own grasp of dialectical and historical materialism. Comrade Godfrey, who I believe had taught and was qualified in the natural sciences, used his knowledge to criticise eugenics and other racist distortions of Darwin’s concept of the ‘survival of the fittest’.
Also, in a different address to the Stalin Society, and in the spirit of swimming against the tide, he fought to rescue from unjust criticism the work of Soviet agro-biologist Lysenko on the effects of the environment on inherited characteristics. In the modern world of science, which neglects the environment in favour of almost exclusive research on genetic manipulation, this is a positive thing to do.
Swimming against the tide, particularly in imperialist Britain, must be the spirit of any communist seeking to make a contribution to building a revolutionary communist party based in the working class and oppressed peoples. The bourgeoisie and its propaganda is powerful in the imperialist heartland.
In this situation, it is particularly necessary to go lower and deeper among the masses. In order to do, this it is important to be of a modest character and be able to listen to the masses and isolate the backward ideas from the progressive.
I believe comrade Godfrey displayed much of these qualities of modesty and readiness to listen. His contributions to society meetings would pick at the subject, drawing attention to facts and revealing the aspects of something from different angles and by so doing win conviction.
Comrade Godfrey paid attention to detail. I thought I might be alone in making this point but I see that this quality has been remarked on by many others. He took on the big and little issue with the same care.
For example, he regularly carried out the, some would think menial, job of ensuring the availability of coffee and refreshments at society meetings. But no job is too menial and life is made up of many small and apparently inconsequential things. Dialectics tells us that qualitative leaps derive from quantitative changes.
It is of no consequence, but I drink decaffeinated coffee and appreciated that Comrade Godfrey made sure it was available. But anecdotes aside, comrade Godfrey will be remembered for his patience and care with his comrades and friends.
As a member of the society, and I am sure I express the feelings of the Stalin Society as a whole, I would like to send condolences to Godfrey’s partner for 40 years and Secretary of the Stalin Society, Comrade Iris, and her daughter Katherine. Comrade Godfrey’s passing has left a great hole in the society which will not be easily filled.
For Iris, Katherine and their family this is also a profound personal loss. But I hope they will take heart from the memories and political legacy he has left behind which will live on in the minds of all those who have known him or come into contact with his political work or writings.
I’m speaking on behalf of the Stalin Society, but I think the following remarks by Comrade Mao Zedong best express how I would like to finish up this short tribute.
“All men must die, but death can vary in its significance. The ancient Chinese writer Sima Qian said, ‘Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather.’ To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather. Comrade Chang Szu-the [The Comrade for whom Mao Zedongng spoke these words. For us here today let us substitute the name of Godfrey Andries Cremer] died for the people, and his death is indeed weightier than Mount Tai.” (‘Serve the People’, 8 September 1944)
Comrade Godfrey’s life is one of a communist serving the working and oppressed people, and his death is indeed heavier than Mount Tai.
In concluding, I would like to state my own determination and make my own appeal to use this occasion of remembering Comrade Godfrey Cremer’s life also an occasion to learn from his qualities and example in deepening the theory and practice of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong as applied to the conditions of Britain.
Long live the memory of Comrade Godfrey
The future is bright.
Imperialism and all reactionaries are indeed paper tigers.
The article below is the text of a speech given by Comrade Khwezi Kadalie, Chairperson of the Marxist Workers School of South Africa, to CPGB-ML meetings in London, Bristol, Birmingham and Leeds during his speaking tour in February.
Or you can watch Comrade Khwezi’s inspiring speech on this video, which includes more detailed discussion on many of the points he raised following questions from the audience.
I would like to thank the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) for the opportunity to address this gathering. I would like to take the opportunity to extend to you, and to all the comrades, friends and fellow workers here, the most sincere, heartfelt and revolutionary greeting of the members of the Marxist Workers School of South Africa and, indeed, greetings from the proletariat of South Africa.
The policies of imperialism and our reactionary ruling capitalist classes have always been to divide people, to divide the working class, to set local workers against immigrant workers, to set full-time workers against part-time workers … and, of course, they set workers in the imperialist countries against workers in the so-called ‘third-world’ countries.
Our position is clear: the objective interest of the South African working class and the interest of the British working class are identical. We have a common enemy; we are united in a common struggle against capitalism and imperialism. And therefore we say: together, the working class in South Africa and Britain, and, indeed, all over the world, will struggle for a better world; a world in which there is no exploitation and oppression, a world in which hunger and ignorance are a thing of the past, a world in which those who produce the wealth in society, namely the working class, shall govern and benefit.
Together we shall struggle and together we shall be victorious in this struggle. It is for this reason that we are here to forge a bond of friendship and solidarity between the South African and British working classes; a lasting bond born out of the revolutionary struggle against capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination.
South Africa during and after Apartheid
Comrades, many working-class organisations, revolutionary parties and comrades and friends who joined us internationally in our struggle against Apartheid had very high expectations of the African National Congress. Millions of people knew the political programme of our national-liberation struggle – the Freedom Charter.
The Freedom Charter laid the basis for a free and democratic South Africa, in which black and white, coloureds and Indians would live as equals. The Freedom Charter demanded that the land should be given back to the people, and that the mines and the banks should be nationalised.
Clearly, neither the land issue has been solved nor have the mines and the banks been nationalised.
Instead, the international community are given conflicting information about the economic progress of South Africa, while at the same time being fed with rather sensational information about the president of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, and the president of the ANC Youth organisation, Julius Malema. Reported issues around Aids and crime have also tarnished the image of South Africa internationally.
To understand the present situation, we need to step back and recall our historical struggle against Apartheid, and we need to look at how the economic and social situation has changed under the ANC government.
During the anti-Apartheid struggle, the main contradiction was between the racist apartheid system and the black people of South Africa, namely Africans, Indians and coloureds. Therefore, the anti-Apartheid struggle was led by the national-liberation movement the African National Congress in alliance with the South African Communist Party and Sactu, the South African Congress of Trade Unions.
This alliance, under the leadership of the ANC, fought the apartheid system politically, through armed struggle, and by organising an international movement to isolate and boycott the apartheid system.
This heroic struggle of our people, fought over many decades and with untold sacrifices, cumulated in the 1990 release of all political prisoners, some of whom, like our leaders Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, had been incarcerated for 27 years. The apartheid regime had to legalise all banned political organisations like the ANC, SACP, PAC, AZAPO and others. Within four years of this change, the apartheid system collapsed and a democratically-elected ANC government was ushered in.
This new government took over the old state machinery, with all its structures, complete with the old civil servants who had served the apartheid system. In addition, the new dispensation was based on a bourgeois constitution, which had been negotiated between the rising ANC and the then ruling National Party in 1992/3.
Since 1994, therefore, South Africa has been a bourgeois democracy, in which the property rights of the ruling capitalist class are enshrined in the constitution and upheld through the laws of the country, as enforced by the police and the judiciary. It is precisely for this reason that, since 1994, the main contradiction in South Africa has been between the ruling capitalist class and the working class.
Yet all political parties in South Africa deny this fundamental fact.
From revolutionaries to reformists
During the years of Apartheid, the capitalist class that owned the means of production in South Africa ruled through the racist and fascist apartheid state; it ruled through brute force. Open and direct oppression, torture and killings, arbitrary arrests and mass intimidation of the entire black population was the order of the day in order to exploit cheap black labour, not only for the enrichment of the white capitalist class but for the social and financial benefit of the entire white population.
After 1994, when Apartheid was defeated by the national-liberation struggle, the main contradiction in South Africa became the contradiction between the ruling capitalist class and the working class. The ruling capitalist class started to rule through bourgeois democracy, the same kind of rule that Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto described as the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
Hand in hand with this transition, the African National Congress, our former liberation movement, has step by step over the years been ideologically transformed into a social-democratic party.
Opportunism has become a material force within the leadership. Indeed, the entire leadership of the African National Congress and the revisionist South African Communist Party has been socially corrupted. It has been bought into the middle class to such an extent that these leaders cannot see their own future and their own interest as being separate from the future and interest of the white bourgeoisie and of the of the emerging black middle class.
To this extent, neither the leadership of the ANC nor that of the SACP are any longer able to represent the objective interest of the rank-and-file members of their organisations. Nor do they represent the basic aspirations of their memberships any more.
The social base of both organisations is made up of ordinary working-class people and their families, who increasingly revolt against the opportunistic leadership. This finds its expression in the increasingly violent infighting at congresses and meetings, and in the emergence of factionalism within these organisations.
All political parties in South Africa deny the fact that the main contradiction in our country today is between labour and capital. It is for this reason that social democracy is flourishing.
The working class is told by its leaders that we all sit in the same boat – together with capital – and that we must all behave ‘patriotically’ to ‘strengthen South Africa together’. Meanwhile, the capitalists are retrenching and shedding millions of jobs. Unemployment has reached 46 percent, and poverty and hunger are spreading like wildfire. Yet the working class is told that the only answer is to hold out for better times and be more patriotic.
As the class contradictions between labour and capital sharpen, millions of workers are expressing their anger and frustration through militant strikes and protest. With falling numbers of workers registering to vote, and falling numbers of those registered bothering to turn out, more than forty percent of the voting-age population are now expressing their disillusionment by staying away from the polls.
All political parties, including the ANC and the SACP, in various ways and with various levels of intensity, are engaged in what Karl Marx described as perfecting the existing capitalist state.
The working class is told that the present stage of the revolution is the national-democratic revolution. In reality, this line is nothing but a call for open class collaboration with the ruling capitalist class, and therefore all policies and programmes, all campaigns that have been developed in South Africa over the past 17 years, are nothing but attempts to perfect the machinery of the capitalist state and increase the efficiency of the capitalist system of exploitation.
Of course, this is sold to the working class and the population at large as: ‘making South Africa internationally competitive’!
Key goals of the Freedom Charter
During Apartheid, 87 percent of the land was allocated to whites. This systematic and barbaric land robbery was the hallmark of colonialism and Apartheid in South Africa. But instead of carrying out a land reform to give land to the landless masses as the Freedom Charter demands, the government passes legislation to regulate the relationship between the white landlords and commercial farms and the farm workers.
South Africa has a race- and class-based education system: government schools for the working class, Model C schools for the middle class, and private schools for the bourgeoisie. Instead of scrapping the race- and class-based education system, which was developed under De Klerk, the last Apartheid President, the new government introduces one education reform after another in order to ‘improve’ the three-tier education system and make it more ‘efficient’.
In the industrial and economical sphere, the Freedom Charter states that the mines and banks should be nationalised. But here too, the government has instead passed legislation to increase the shareholding of black capitalists within the mining industry. And instead of nationalising the banks, the government negotiates with the monopoly capitalists to increase credit to black middle-class people.
In other words: reformism is the order of the day. Despite all the revolutionary rhetoric, which is sometimes voiced at Sunday speeches, reformism has become a material force within the political circles of the ruling ANC-SACP alliance.
Problems for reformists
However, the bourgeois system in South Africa faces one fundamental problem: it does not have the financial or economic potential, nor a coherent political national will, to bribe significant sections of the black working class into collaboration.
During the Apartheid years, the ruling class successfully created an all-white labour aristocracy, which has survived to the present day and is still nourished by the system. The system has failed, however, and indeed it never had any intentions, to create a black labour aristocracy.
Reformism therefore is a material force within state structures; it is the ideology of the middle class, including the emerging black middle class.
But reformism has failed to use its bribed black middle-class placemen to dominate the hearts and minds of the militant working class in South Africa, whose consciousness is being determined by the prevailing conditions of poverty, exploitation and alienation. In other words: the revolutionary spirit of the South African working class has not been broken!
This revolutionary class is struggling daily against capitalist exploitation; this class wants freedom from wage slavery; this class sees socialism as the fulfilment of its aspirations!
Over the years, so-called ‘neo-liberal’ policies have been introduced, such as the privatisation of state assets throughout our country in adherence to IMF and World Bank demands.
As a result, a few people have become filthy rich, and the profits of corporations and international monopoly capitalists have increased significantly. Alongside these gains for the exploiters come the usual burdens on the working classes: unemployment has skyrocketed, and poverty and desperation amongst urban workers and the landless rural masses have reached unprecedented levels.
The social situation of the working class and the landless masses has deteriorated to such an extent that the government has been forced to introduce social benefits in an attempt to take the edge off the people’s anger and desperation. Twelve million people in South Africa have become recipients of these benefits, without which there would be outbreaks of hunger and starvation in South Africa, although it is one of the richest countries on earth. Such are the realities of the so-called ‘free-market economy’!
South African revolutionaries and Marxist Leninists founded the Marxist Workers School of South Africa in order to educate workers about the historical responsibility of the working class, as the most revolutionary class in our society, to organise itself and take up the struggle for a socialist future. We have realised that wage slavery, poverty, crime, ignorance and underdevelopment can only be overcome when the working class has established a socialist system under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The unfolding class struggle of the South African working class is a struggle against the ruling capitalist class in South Africa. And it is at the same time part and parcel of the struggle of the international proletariat, of which we are a part.
Our struggle is part of the struggle of the international working class and oppressed people against capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination.
- It is for this reason that we support the land redistribution in Zimbabwe and the struggle of the Zimbabwean people under the leadership of ZANU-PF to defend its national sovereignty against British imperialism.
- It is for this reason that we call for the victory of the national-liberation struggle in Iraq and Afghanistan
- It is for this reason that we support the anti-imperialist national-liberation struggle of the Green revolution against the internal counter-revolution and the barbaric bombardment and re-colonisation of Libya by Nato.
- It is for this reason that we support the anti-imperialist Syrian Baath party and the coalition government in Syria, which includes the Syrian Communist Party, in its struggle against internal counter-revolution, destabilisation by reactionary Arab regimes and imperialist aggression.
- It is for this reason that we support the Palestinian national-liberation struggle for a united and democratic Palestine, in which muslims, jews and christians can live side by side in peace, free and liberated from the reactionary and racist ideology of Zionism
- It is for this reason that we support all socialist countries like the Peoples Republic of China, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Republic of Cuba and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Each of these socialist countries is at a different stage of development, but nevertheless they are all upholding socialism and developing their countries under extremely difficult conditions of world imperialist domination. Each of these countries is living proof that the working class can be the master of its own destiny.
We fully support the socialist countries in the defence of their hard-won victories and in the defence of their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
- It is for this reason that we build international relations with revolutionary working-class organisations and parties: parties that are based on Marxism Leninism; parties which understand that without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement; parties which have consciously broken all ties with opportunism, revisionism, social democracy and Trotskyism.
The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) is one such party that tirelessly exposes these petty-bourgeois trends within the working-class leadership; that supports the anti-imperialist struggles of the oppressed people, and that fights for the establishment of a truly revolutionary proletarian party of the British working class.
We would once more like to thank the leadership of the CPGB-ML for the invitation and the opportunity to address this meeting.
Long live the solidarity between the British and South African working classes!
Long live proletarian internationalism!
Workers and oppressed people of the world unite against imperialism!
The following article will be presented to a workshop at Occupy Bristol tomorrow.
Iranian protesters during a demonstration in front of the British Embassy, in Tehran, on Tuesday 29 November.
Shock-horror: Iranians invade our embassy!
There was a big splash in the media at the end of November. The headlines were screaming about Iranian government agents attacking the British Embassy in Tehran.
Western governments lined up to say what a terrible affront this was against international law; what uncivilised behaviour this was. Statesmen pointed to a recent report from the IAEA (the UN’s nuclear watchdog) suggesting that there was now evidence that Iran is trying to make a nuclear bomb.
It was clear what capitalism wanted everyone to believe: Iranians are a bunch of wild-eyed Islamist fanatics hell-bent on plunging the world into nuclear war, and the only thing standing in their way is the glorious ‘international community’.
Why do they want us to believe this story? Because our masters want to get rid of the government in Tehran and replace it with another that will do their bidding. Why? Because they need to reinforce their stranglehold on the oil market and their geopolitical power in the region, and an independent, anti-imperialist Iran is getting in their way.
And why is it so urgent to attack Iran right now? Because the capitalist system is in such a deep crisis of overproduction that the only solution is for imperialism to plunge deeper into war – or for imperialism itself to be overthrown.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why those Iranian students might have been angry enough to want to occupy the British Embassy.
Back in 1953, Iran had an elected, secular government, led by Mohammad Mossadeq. This was overthrown in a coup engineered by British and US imperialism, which then planted in its place the Shah of Iran. Under the Shah’s bloody repression, Iran was plunged back into feudal backwardness, with a government that served the interests of the West.
In 1979, popular revolt ousted the Shah. Early hopes that this would develop in the direction of socialist revolution were dashed, as the mosque benefited from the relative weakness and disarray of the socialist forces. Yet henceforth Iran continued to be a thorn in the side of imperialism.
Least welcome of all to western imperialists has been the advent of the populist Ahmadinejad government in 2005, standing on a broad base of support from the poorest sections of society, supporting the Palestinian struggle against zionism and championing the independence and sovereignty of the Iranian nation.
In particular, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been associated in the western press with the development of Iran’s nuclear industry. Imperialism pretends to have proof that Iran, under the cover of a civil nuclear programme, is really aiming to produce its own bomb. There are two points to make here.
First: the countries with the worst track record of war crimes in the last half century, America, Britain and Israel, have more nuclear weapons than any other nation. Israel alone possesses around 200 ready-to-go nuclear weapons. Under these circumstances, weaker countries might be well-advised to equip themselves with the best defence equipment available.
Iraq and Libya both conceded to imperialist pressure to give up their nuclear weapons. North Korea declined. Which country has yet to be invaded and occupied?
Second: contrary to what is implied in the most recent IAEA report, it remains the case that there is no evidence that Teheran is currently trying to make a bomb – and America knows it. The panic around the imaginary bomb is being whipped up purely and simply to bump public opinion into support for further aggression against Iran.
For years, exhaustive and intrusive inspections have been carried out within Iran, and for years the IAEA itself had the honesty to conclude that there was no proof to back up the allegations, despite enormous pressure from imperialism.
How the US nobbled the nuclear watchdog
In 2009 the former IAEA chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, came to the end of his term of office. Washington never liked ElBaradei, who entertained an inconvenient belief in the neutrality of UN bodies and took his job too seriously for America’s liking.
This time they went to work, lobbying hard to bump a rank outsider, Yukia Amano, into the top position. Secret US diplomatic cables released on WikiLeaks reveal him to be “solidly in the US court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons programme”, and report that “Amano’s first bilateral review since his election illustrates the very high degree of convergence between his priorities and our own agenda at the IAEA. The coming transition period provides a further window for us to shape Amano’s thinking before his agenda collides with the IAEA Secretariat bureaucracy.”
So having got all their ducks in a line, the White House was able to sit back and wait for a newly tractable IAEA to dish up its ‘dodgy dossier’ on 8 November. On the back of this fiction Washington managed to steam-roller through the IAEA’s board of governors a resolution expressing “deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear programme, including those which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions”.
However, Washington had failed to get Iran reported to the Security Council or to impose a deadline for Tehran to comply with the latest demands. Clearly the need was felt to ratchet up the campaign of intimidation another notch. To this end, on 21 November, the US, Britain and Canada announced unilateral sanctions against Iran’s banking and energy sectors. France put in a sly kick too, urging world powers to boycott Iranian oil and freeze (ie, steal) her financial assets. China and Russia have joined Iran in denouncing these new sanctions.
The dirty war
Meanwhile, behind all this fabrication of evidence, diplomatic arm twisting and economic blackmail, imperialism has long been engaging in a brutal campaign of espionage, terrorism, assassination and sabotage against Iran.
Leading Iranian scientists have long been targeted for assassination. Recent examples include the car bombs that claimed the lives of two university professors, Majid Shahriari and Fereydoun Abbasi last year, and the booby-trapped motorcycle that slew another professor, Masoud Ali-Mohammadi.
Now, with rival Republican contenders for the presidency striving to outdo each other in fascist zeal, the ‘secret’ war against Iran is the best-advertised in history. According to AFP, Newt Gingrich “proposed at a 12 November debate that Washington kill Iranian scientists and disrupt Tehran’s suspect nuclear programme – ‘all of it covertly, all of it deniable’.
“In that same forum, Santorum said the United States must do ‘whatever it takes to make sure’ Iran does not develop a nuclear programme – then wondered whether Washington may already be heavily involved in doing just that. ‘There have been scientists turning up dead in Russia and in Iran. There have been computer viruses. There have been problems at their facility. I hope that the United States has been involved with that,’ he said. ‘I hope that we have been doing everything we can, covertly, to make sure that that programme doesn’t proceed,’ he said.” (8 December 2011)
There can be no doubt that Washington, London and Tel Aviv are already up to the neck in dirty tricks without the need for further prompting from the Tea Baggers. The ‘computer viruses’ to which Santorum referred clearly has in mind the Stuxnet cyber assault on Iran’s nuclear programme launched last year.
Nor are the attacks confined to cyberspace. In mid-November a missile-testing base near Tehran suffered a blast that reportedly killed over 30 members of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps, including a leader of Iran’s missile programme, Major General Hassan Moqqadam. Time Magazine said this was the work of Mossad.
Then at the end of November there was a further blast, this time at a uranium processing plant in Isfahan. Israel’s former director of national security, Major-General Giora Eiland, bragged that the explosion was no accident, adding that “There aren’t many coincidences, and when there are so many events there is probably some sort of guiding hand, though perhaps it’s the hand of God.”
Curiously, none of the dirty tricks practiced by Washington and Tel Aviv excites anything like the manufactured outrage that greeted the B-movie fiction spun around a non-existent Iranian government plot to bump off the Saudi ambassador to the US.
29 November demonstration against the British embassy
So maybe now it’s easier to grasp why Occupy Bristol and Occupy London were joined by Occupy the British Embassy.
The self-appointed guardians of ‘democratic western values’ send saboteurs and death squads into other people’s countries at will, safe in the knowledge that the ‘international community’ will not raise a finger to stop them. But just let some enraged Iranian students lob a few bricks at the British embassy and pitch a portrait of the Queen out of the window and the UN Security Council cannot restrain its righteous indignation, condemning the demo “in the strongest terms”.
William Hague whinged that Iran had “committed a grave breach” of the Vienna convention. Obama declared himself “deeply disturbed” by what had happened, the German foreign minister fulminated against this “violation of international law”, whilst his French counterpart agreed that “the Iranian regime has shown what little consideration it has for international law”.
As for the nonsense that the occupying students were just acting as agents of the government, this hardly squares with the fact that the demonstrators in the end could only be restrained by the government’s own security forces using tear gas to clear the embassy compound! (We need hardly add that, had the demonstrators instead got themselves tear-gassed protesting against Ahmadinejad, they would at once have been hailed by the bourgeois media as peaceful democrats cruelly repressed by a tyrannical regime.)
Iran stands firm
Imperialist aggression against Iran is driven not only by the desire to humble an anti-imperialist force and strengthen and extend the imperialist stranglehold on resources and markets in the Middle East, but also by the strategic goal of containing Russia and China, a fact which is not lost on either country.
China champions Iran’s right to develop its civil nuclear industry, and neither China nor Russia has any interest in collaborating with the West’s sanctions campaign. This position constitutes an unwelcome stumbling block for the warmongers.
This challenge to imperialist world domination, taken together with the courageous anti-colonial resistance being mounted in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Somalia, all add to the perils awaiting the warmongers should they persist.
Nor should imperialism dismiss lightly Iran’s own ability to defend herself, even without the bomb she is accused of coveting. The recent successful downing of an advanced US RQ-170 drone over the eastern part of the country, one of many drones in routine violation of Iranian airspace, not only exposes US covert operations and demonstrates Tehran’s vigilance but also delivers sensitive military intelligence into anti-imperialist hands.
Iran’s struggle to defend herself demands the warmest support from all those in the anti-imperialist movement, not least those resisting imperialism within the belly of the beast itself.
After all, who better upholds the anti-capitalist aims of the Occupy movement than those brave students who dared to occupy the British embassy in Tehran? The students put it very well themselves, in a letter explaining their actions.
“‘We have occupied the British embassy to voice support for the 99 percenters of the world and in opposition to the policies of the world arrogance,” the letter said on Saturday. ‘We as the students who have occupied the British embassy in Tehran announce explicitly that we are standing for our historical decision and will humiliate Britain and make it regret,’ it added.
“The Iranian students called on the students, elites and truth-seeking people across the world to attack the interests of Britain in their region and stop London from looting their countries and nations any further.”
By giving active solidarity to those who stand in defence of Iran, Syria and other anti-imperialist countries under attack, we the 99 percent will strengthen our hand against the same imperialist enemy that is currently demolishing welfare, looting jobs and driving us into poverty and war.
Victory to the Iranian resistance against the imperialist warmongers!
Victory to the 99 percent!
On Monday 5 December, Stop the War Coalition held a rally at Conway Hall headlined Don’t Attack Iran. Everyone in the hall (apart from the usual smattering of MI5 agents) was in agreement: none of us wanted to see Iran attacked.
From the platform, a very frail looking Tony Benn spoke first, confiding to us that when he was minister for energy (years ago when even I was young), some unidentified bloke in his ministerial office had helped Israel to “British” nuclear secrets. If that wasn’t bad enough, Benn also found out and all the “waste” plutonium from “our” civil nuclear industry had been secretly shipped off to America to make nuclear bombs.
Benn said he hadn’t found out about either of these outrages until after he left office. Which says it all about the effectiveness of Stop the War Coalition’s brand of ‘anti-imperialism’.
Not one of the speakers, including George Galloway, who (despite a terrible chest infection) headlined at his tub-thumping and fiery best, had any suggestions about what to do apart from march about with our banners and protest.
We were told to go back to our workplaces and trade unions and “expose” the media lies about Iran; but the speakers’ only stated aim was to bring more people out on the streets of London to wave banners and protest at some undeclared date in the future.
Most depressing of all was the quick mention of Syria in passing. No question of any ‘Don’t Attack Syria’ campaign. We were just told to watch our email inboxes as Stop the War Coalition planned to call us all out – you guessed it … to wave banners and protest at Downing Street at 5.00pm on the day Syria was attacked (or maybe the day after, the speaker wasn’t too sure).
Syria did better than Pakistan, as while all the speakers agreed that Pakistan was under threat, there was not even a suggestion of going to Downing Street with banners to protest over any attack on that benighted country.
So what is to be done? Well, when Stop the War Coalition does call us out, we will (as always) troop along with our banners and protest, but that by itself will do nothing. Two million of us waved banners and protested to stop the war in Iraq, and the imperialists laughed.
We have to do much more and something else. We have to go to the Stop the War national conference and demand something more than mere banner waving and protesting and wondering why these naughty imperialists won’t listen to reason.
During June-July, South Africa will host the World Cup, the greatest event in international football, for the first time on the African continent. This is a reflection of how far the country has come, as a non-racial democracy, respected by the world, since the dark days of apartheid.
But in this World Cup, there will be just one team representing a nation where sport does not serve the interests of big business, but rather those of the working class; one country where football, and all sports, are at the service of people’s enjoyment, education and health; where there is opportunity and access for all; and where sport is used to promote international friendship and peace, rather than jingoism and chauvinism. That country is the socialist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
This is the second time that the DPRK has qualified for the World Cup. In the 1966 World Cup, hosted and won by England, the DPRK shook some of the giants of world football, knocking out Italy and taking on Portugal in the quarterfinals. No other Asian team had ever advanced so far in a World Cup. And, although eventually succumbing 5-3 to Portugal, at one point the DPRK was 3-0 up.
Prior to the 1966 World Cup, Korean leader Comrade Kim Il Sung had told his country’s players: “European and South American nations dominate international football. As representatives of the Asia/Africa region, as coloured people, I urge you to win one or two games.”
Cabinet papers released 30 years later show how, in 1966, the British Labour government tried to prevent the DPRK team from playing in the World Cup, only relenting when it was pointed out that FIFA might take the competition away from them. But they did insist on some petty and vindictive restrictions, such as not allowing the DPRK national anthem to be played before games.
However, the attitude of the British working class towards their brothers from Korea was very different from that of the imperialist Labour Party. The people of Middlesborough, where most of their games were played, took them to their hearts and remember them to this day. As Pak Do Ik, who scored the winning goal against Italy, put it many years later:
“The English people took us to their hearts and vice versa. I learned that football is not about winning. Wherever we go … playing football can improve diplomatic relations and promote peace.”
When the DPRK players travelled to Everton’s Goodison Park ground in Liverpool for their final game, more than 2,000 local people travelled with them from Middlesborough to cheer them on.
This year, the DPRK is drawn in the ‘Group of Death’, against Brazil, Portugal and the Ivory Coast, meaning that the largely unknown DPRK players will find themselves pitted against such contemporary legends as Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Didier Drogba. But, as ever, the DPRK has some powerful defensive deterrents, as well as means of attack, like Jong Tae-Se. Known as ‘Asia’s Wayne Rooney’, this third generation Japanese Korean plays for J-League side Kawasaki Frontale.
To celebrate the DPRK’s success in again making it to the World Cup, the CPGB-ML is hosting a showing of The Game of Their Lives.
This inspiring and award-winning 2002 documentary tells the full, extraordinary story of the last time this small but fearless nation took on the giants of world football. There will also be speakers from the CPGB-ML and other friends of Korea, as well as refreshments.
All friends of Korea and anti-imperialist football fans are welcome!