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.
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.
The following post was originally written as a reply to discussion on Facebook. It is reprinted here to aid wider circulation and facilitate discussion on this important topic.
Kim Il Sung indicates the way to national liberation after the Pochonbo Battle
We are all agreed about the need to support the DPRK. The questions that have arisen here seem to be mostly attributable to the prejudices that we find hard to shake given the overwhelming anti-Korea propaganda to which we are all subjected on a daily basis.
While we may have recognised this in theory, it still leads to all sorts of spurious allegations being easily accepted as fact. For example, Comrade L’s allegation that there is “very little development of Marxist education among the masses” or that “the party meets very infrequently”.
I can see no basis in fact for these statements. Quite the contrary, evidence from comrades and friends who have visited the DPRK rather points the opposite way. They have found the people to be exceptionally well educated and informed about local, national and international matters - and Marxism is a central plank of the education system.
Here is a short video clip from the National House of Class Education in Pyongyang, for example.
There is an excellent article about north Korea from 2006 by Stephen Gowans that I would recommend everyone to read if they haven’t already. It gives a really comprehensive framework for thinking about and judging all information regarding the country and its leaders.
Growing up infected with imperialist arrogance it is easy for us to dismiss or ridicule the achievements or difficulties of others, and exceptionally difficult to really appreciate how far they have come and against what odds and at what price.
We are helped in this by all those on the fake left who, under the banner of ‘concern’ for the fate of the revolution, are always ready to agree with the imperialists that the socialism of any particular country is not true to Marx’s or Lenin’s aims or ideals - and to provide 101 unfounded assertions by way of proof that this is the case.
But what are the aims and ideals of socialism? Not to conform to some dogmatic formula for Leninist purity, but to free the toiling masses from imperialist and capitalist exploitation and build a society where production and distribution are collectively planned and based on need. To establish firmly the dictatorship of the proletariat to that end and to educate the masses so that they may fulfil the position of rulers while keeping the expropriated exploiters down.
In what way do comrades believe that the Koreans are failing to do this? Are they not rather to be congratulated on keeping closer to these aims than any other socialist country has managed to do, despite the hugely powerful forces ranged against them?
Despite the partition of their country, the hostility between their hugely powerful socialist neighbours (the USSR AND China - a conflict they were alone in managing not to get dragged too far into) and the permanent state of war between their country and the 37,000 US troops in the occupied south, they have developed industry and agriculture, built a strong army and a nuclear deterrent, weathered natural and political/economic catastrophes (floods, collapse of the USSR etc) and still managed not only to keep everyone fed but to provide them with jobs, houses, excellent education and modern health care.
All this in a country that was flattened by more bombs than Europe saw in WW2 and poisoned with more napalm than Vietnam.
I personally worry that the Koreans seem to have abandoned the recognisably scientific terminology of Marxism Leninism in favour of the apparently more fuzzy terminology of juche, which seems to me to lend itself more easily to revisionist or nationalist manipulation.
There are certainly plenty of charlatans masking their flunkeyism in ‘jucheist’ terminology. But should we necessarily blame the Koreans for that? In Stalin’s day, plenty of flunkeys inside and outside of the USSR masked counter-revolutionary positions behind pure ‘communist’ rhetoric. It’s just one aspect of the class struggle after the revolution. And we cannot deny that the Koreans have made use of their juche formulations to masterly effect.
When the USSR collapsed, the USA confidently predicted that the DPRK would follow within a few years - and did everything it could to accelerate the process. And yet the imperialists have consistently failed to bully, blackmail or otherwise coerce the Korean people into giving up their freedom.
One has only to look at Syria to see what kind of methods the imperialists use to divide people and set them against their leaders. Small divisions are made use of and amplified, and unlimited military and financial assistance is channeled to those that can be persuaded to turn against an anti-imperialist government. It is a phenomenal achievement of the Koreans that they have not allowed this to happen. Despite all the difficulties they have faced in the last 20 years, they have maintained a united front against the forces of the enemy - much to that enemy’s chagrin!
On the issue of the leadership, it seems to me that the choice of the successor has put to bed at least one of the common slanders: it is clear that the country is NOT a ‘one-man dictatorship’. Kim Il Sung was a revolutionary of exceptional calibre in world history, who inspired Koreans to incredible feats - he was a leading figure in the revolution and became a figurehead for the party that led Korea successfully through the most terrible trials. His son was an able successor, whose government was able to defend and sustain Korea’s independence when socialist countries were collapsing like ninepins.
Is it not possible that the people and the party have chosen the young Kim on the basis that he embodies their love of the revolution, as well as on the basis that they believe his life training has given him total loyalty to them and to the revolutionary cause? It is perfectly clear that, whatever his personal qualities, he is not governing alone - he is a figurehead for the dictatorship of the workers and peasants against all imperialist interference and capitalist roading. Hence the popular Korean slogan that the leader represents their ’single-hearted unity’.
Why should we sneer at these ‘undeveloped’ Koreans swearing ‘fealty’? Is it not possible that the love the Koreans show to their leaders is merely a symbolised form of their love for their revolution? Who are we, who have done so little to hurt the cause of imperialism, to damn those who have done so much and for so long? How can we, from our comfortable armchairs, appreciate what it means to have peace for your children after generations of genocides?
And how can we, the product of an alienated, fragmented society, imagine what it means to start to rediscover your collective humanity under socialism? We are so used to imagining that our inculcated cynical detachment is the pinnacle of sophistication that we don’t recognise a society that is socially in advance of our own!
The Koreans are proud of the things they have achieved and determined to protect the gains they have made, and it seems to me that their choice of leader is a reflection of that.
Comrade L asked about the lack of great Marxist texts forthcoming from Korea in the last few decades. But where have great Marxist texts come from instead? What is there that needs to be written that has not been covered for our era by the great founders of our movement?
Marx and Engels comprehensively analysed class society, defined scientific socialism and outlined the tasks of the proletarian movement. Lenin masterfully updated their theories for the era of imperialism and revolution. Stalin documented the struggle of the dictatorship of the proletariat before and after the seizure of power and outlined the economic problems of socialism. Mao set out tactics and principles for peasant countries fighting both feudalism and imperialism, as well as working out the principles for successfully waging guerilla warfare.
All revolutionaries since then have merely worked, in their own countries, to explain the principles set out in the works of the aforementioned - to apply the scientific approach to particular situations. Kim Il Sung was particularly talented in this regard, and his writings resonated with many all over the world. He was a great Marxist Leninist. In fact, despite all their brilliance, neither Mao nor Stalin saw themselves as adding to Marxism Leninism, but only as students of the subject - applying the science to the concrete conditions in which they found themselves.
Kim Jong Il wrote long articles on many topics, especially on the arts under socialism, in which he took a particular interest, but his works are ignored in the West. Then again, so are his father’s. And so are Stalin’s, so he’s in good company!
Mostly though, I think we need to remember that people generally, and leaders particularly, write about what is in front of them - writing is not something they sit down to do in the abstract; they do it because it answers a need.
Kim Il Sung wrote during a period of the advance of the world revolution, and much of his writing was concerned with the overthrow of imperialism and the development of revolutionary forces - mainly in Korea but also elsewhere. Kim Jong Il was writing at a different time, and his primary concern was with defending socialism in Korea in an increasingly hostile world, so it is not surprising if his work has less resonance elsewhere in the world. More to the point, neither of the Kims’ works are circulated widely because most of the so-called revolutionaries in the imperialist world don’t actually support Korea.
But their rejection doesn’t prove that Korea is ‘inward facing’, any more than imperialist attempts at economic strangulation prove that it is ‘isolated’. It is not Koreans who are isolated from us, but we who are cut off from them. Koreans know what is going on in the world, they study languages, geography, history and politics and they make a point of understanding the machinations of imperialism. They have had to to survive!
I really don’t think any of the above is particularly controversial to the comrades who are discussing here, but the tone of the discussion leads people to imagine a far greater disparity between their views than there actually is. Perhaps we need to learn a lesson from the Koreans and show some restraint. A little more humility would well become us all!
To: Central Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), Chairman Comrade Harpal Brar, Vice-Chairman Comrade Ella Rule, General Secretary Comrade Zane Carpenter
Upon the authorisation of the Respected Comrade Kim Jong Un, Supreme Leader of our Party, state and army, I would like to express gratitude for your condolence message to the Respected Comrade Kim Jong Un on the occasion of the passing away of the Great Leader Comrade Kim Jong Il.
We feel grateful to the Central Committee of the CPGB-ML for visiting DPRK Embassy, expressing their deepest condolence presenting the wreathes of flowers to the Great Leader Comrade Kim Jong Il and the Embassy, sharing the shorrows with the Korean People and holding the memorial meeting with solemnity during the mourning period.
Your Party’s sincere condolence supported and encouraged the Korean People’s struggle to build the socialist thriving nation, turning their sorrow and tears into strength and courage, closely rallied behind the Respected Comrade Kim Jong Un.
I take this opportunity to wish that a good and fraternal relationship between your Party, WPK and my Embassy will continue and develop in the future too.
HYON Hak Bong
Ambassador, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to UK
The Central Committee and the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the National Defence Commission of the DPRK, the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly and the Cabinet of the DPRK notify with bitterest grief to all the party members, servicepersons and people of the DPRK that Kim Jong Il, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, passed away of a sudden illness at 8.30am on 17 December 2011 (Juche 100) on his way to field guidance.
He dedicated all his life to the inheritance and accomplishment of the revolutionary cause of Juche and energetically worked day and night for the prosperity of the socialist homeland, happiness of people, reunification of the country and global independence. He passed away too suddenly to our profound regret.
His sudden demise at a historic time when an epochal phase is being opened for accomplishing the cause of building a powerful and prosperous socialist state and the Korean revolution is making steady victorious progress despite manifold difficulties and trials is the greatest loss to the WPK and the Korean revolution and the bitterest grief to all the Koreans at home and abroad.
Kim Jong Il, who was born as a son of guerillas on Mt Paektu, the holy mountain of the revolution, and grew up to be a great revolutionary, wisely led the party, the army and people for a long period, performing undying revolutionary feats on behalf of the country, the people, the times and history.
Kim Jong Il was an outstanding thinker and theoretician who led the revolution and construction along the path of steady victories with his profound ideologies and theories and remarkable leadership. He was also the outstanding and illustrious commander of Songun, a peerless patriot and the tender-hearted father of the people, who recorded the whole history of the revolutionary struggle with ardent love for the country and its people and noble dedication.
Considering it as his lifelong mission to carry to completion generation after generation the revolutionary cause of Juche started by President Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il pushed forward the revolution and construction in line with the idea and intention of the President and as his most loyal comrade-in-arms.
Kim Jong Il comprehensively developed in depth the Juche and Songun ideas, fathered by the President and glorified them as the ideas guiding the era of independence with his clairvoyant wisdom and energetic ideological and theoretical activities. He firmly defended and carried forward the revolutionary traditions of Mt Paektu, thereby giving a steady continuity to the Korean revolution.
Kim Jong Il, genius of the revolution and construction, developed the party, army and state to be the party, army and state of Kim Il Sung, put the dignity and power of the nation on the highest level and ushered in the golden days of prosperity unprecedented in the nation’s history spanning 5,000 years under the uplifted banner of modelling the whole society on the Juche idea.
Kim Jong Il set a great example in perpetuating the memory of President Kim Il Sung, thus making sure that the august name of the President, his undying revolutionary career and exploits always shine along with the eternal history of Juche Korea.
Kim Jong Il, great master of politics and illustrious commander, honourably defended the socialist gains and noble heritage bequeathed by the President, by dint of Songun politics despite the collapse of the world socialist system, the demise of the President which was the greatest loss to the nation, the vicious offensive of the imperialist allied forces to stifle the DPRK and severe natural disasters. He turned the DPRK into an invincible political and ideological power in which single-minded unity has been achieved and made it emerge a nuclear weapons state and an invincible military power which no enemy can ever provoke.
True to President Kim Il Sung’s behest, Kim Jong Il set a gigantic goal to build a prosperous and powerful country and led an all-people general advance for attaining it, thus making the drive for a great revolutionary surge rage throughout the country and bringing about great innovations and leaps forward on all fronts of socialist construction.
Kim Jong Il, father of the nation and lodestar of national reunification, led all the fellow countrymen to the road of independence and great national unity with his rock-firm will to implement the instructions of the President for national reunification and ushered in the 15 June era of reunification in which the noble idea of “By our nation itself” is materialised.
As a great guardian of socialism and justice, he conducted energetic external activities for the victory of the socialist cause, global peace and stability and friendship and solidarity among peoples under the uplifted banner of independence against imperialism, thus remarkably raising the international position and prestige of the DPRK and making immortal contributions to the human cause of independence.
In the whole period of his protracted revolutionary guidance, he valued and loved the people very much and always shared weal and woe with them. He continued to make difficult forced march for field guidance, making unremitting efforts and working heart and soul to build a thriving country and improve the standard of people’s living. He died from repeated mental and physical fatigue on a train in that course.
The whole life of Kim Jong Il was the most brilliant life of a great revolutionary who covered an untrodden thorny path with his iron will and superhuman energy, holding aloft the red flag of revolution. It was the life of the peerless patriot who dedicated his all to the country and its people.
He passed away to our regret before seeing the victory of the cause of building a thriving nation, the national reunification and the accomplishment of the revolutionary cause of Juche so ardently desired by him, but laid a strong political and military base for ensuring the steady advance of the Korean revolution through generations and provided a solid foundation for the eternal prosperity of the country and the nation.
Standing in the van of the Korean revolution at present is Kim Jong Un, great successor to the revolutionary cause of Juche and outstanding leader of our party, army and people.
Kim Jong Un’s leadership provides a sure guarantee for creditably carrying to completion the revolutionary cause of Juche through generations, the cause started by Kim Il Sung and led by Kim Jong Il to victory.
We have the invincible revolutionary army of Mt Paektu faithful to the cause of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the great unity of the army and people closely rallied around the party, the best Korean-style socialist system centered on the popular masses and the solid foundation of the independent national economy.
Under the leadership of Kim Jong Un we should turn our sorrow into strength and courage and overcome the present difficulties and work harder for fresh great victory of the Juche revolution.
Our army and people will hold leader Kim Jong Il in high esteem forever with unshakable faith and a noble sense of moral obligation. True to his behests, they will make neither the slightest concession nor any delay on the road of the Juche revolution, the Songun revolution but resolutely defend his undying feats and glorify them for all ages.
All the party members, servicepersons and people should remain loyal to the guidance of respected Kim Jong Un and firmly protect and further cement the single-minded unity of the party, the army and the people.
Under the uplifted banner of Songun, we should increase the country’s military capability in every way to reliably safeguard the Korean socialist system and the gains of revolution and make the torch lit in South Hamgyong Province, the drive for the industrial revolution in the new century, rage throughout the country and thus bring about a decisive turn in building an economic power and improving the standard of people’s living.
We will surely achieve the independent reunification of the country by concerted efforts of all Koreans by thoroughly implementing the Three Charters for National Reunification and the north-south joint declarations.
Our party and people will strive hard to boost friendship and solidarity with the peoples of different countries, guided by the idea of independence, peace and friendship, and build an independent and peaceful new world, free from domination, subjugation, aggression and war.
Arduous is the road for our revolution to follow and grim is the present situation. But no force on earth can check the revolutionary advance of our party, army and people under the wise leadership of Kim Jong Un.
The heart of Kim Jong Il stopped beating, but his noble and august name and benevolent image will always be remembered by our army and people and his glorious history of revolutionary activities and undying feats will remain shining in the history of the country forever.
• The UN General Assembly declared 10 December to be ‘Human Rights Day’ in remembrance of the adoption and proclamation of the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
• Cuba shows remarkable progress and achievements in the realisation of human rights for all its citizens.
• Cuba has a long and honorable history in cooperation with all mechanisms of human rights, which are applied on the basis of universality and non-discrimination.
• Cuba has ratified a considerable number of international instruments related to human rights.
• The constitution of the Republic of Cuba establishes the rights, duties and fundamental safeguards of citizens, as well as the foundations for its enforcement, realisation and protection.
• All churches and religious beliefs are respected without discrimination. There are four thousand religions and religious institutions.
• Freedom of opinion and speech has in Cuba its full realisation.
• Information and Communications Technologies is a commodity service for all the people and the training in its use is free of charge.
• Access to the internet is promoted by means of centres and institutions of social and community interest, and also taking into account the restrictions imposed by the blockade and our economic capacity.
• Cuba has health indicators similar to those of developed countries.
• All Cubans have access to quality basic services without discrimination, namely: education, health, social assistance and security.
• Education is universal and free of charge at all teaching levels.
• The Cuban people has made significant progress and continues to further its revolutionary transformations aimed at building an increasingly just, free, independent, equitable, democratic, comradely and participatory society.
Counterrevolutionary Flotilla from 9 December
• The so-called Democracy Movement based in Miami is a terrorist and provocative organisation, which was established on July 1995.
• This movement promotes the so-called flotilla, which has violated Cuba’s territorial waters.
• The so-called Maritime Operation will begin on 9 December, which, in spite of being promoted with a humanitarian content, has assumed a military training.
• This will be the 17th flotilla organised by the provocative Democracy Movement.
• Cuba, in turn, has decided to use diplomatic channels to warn the American government about this dangerous event.
• We have condemned the terrorist and provocative record of their organisers.
• Cuba warns about the incapability to control those ships and their crews involved, some of whom opt for violent confrontation between both nations.
• The tacit approval of the provocation by the American government highlights its subordination to the whims of the Cuban-American mafia in Miami.
• The forthcoming 9 December will go down in history without significance. It will be another day of public peace for Cubans; one of those days which help them forge a better life through their work and
• The provocative day is intended to create tensions between the United States and Cuba and support internal mercenary groupings.
• We firmly condemn the US government interference in Cuba’s domestic affairs.
Ladies in White
• The so-called Ladies in White are family members of counterrevolutionary prisoners, who were duly prosecuted by Cuban laws, with full due process.
• They receive financing and supplies from officials of the Interest Section, diplomats of some European embassies and anti-Cuban groups based in Miami.
• They go on political demonstrations under the close surveillance of diplomatic officials of the Interest Section and European embassies.
• These ladies claimed they were not politicians, that they were just demanding the release of their relatives in prison.
• Currently, these ladies’ husbands are free but they continue to receive resources and instructions from the US Interest Section as well as funding from notorious terrorists.
• During political demonstrations that take place in the streets of the capital city, these ladies are accompanied by other women who do not have any relative in prison but follow them for the payment they receive.
• The so-called Ladies in White have not been denied the right to go on political demonstrations and they have been doing so for almost two years. The Cuban government will never prevent its people from going out to defend their streets.
The Cuban Five heroes
• The five Cubans unjustly imprisoned in the United States are antiterrorist fighters.
• They were not seeking information related to US national security.
• They were trying to prevent the actions by the terrorist groups who act with impunity against Cuba from Florida.
• It has been proven that the nature of the case brought against the Cuban Five is, in essence, politically motivated.
• There have been numerous violations during trial and throughout the whole legal process.
• They have been imprisoned for 13 years already, which is a too long.
• The case of the Cuban Five has the support of governments, parliaments, religious, legal and human rights organisations.
• Personalities from all over the world, including 10 Nobel prize winners, have supported this cause.
• The habeas corpus presented in favor of Gerardo Hernández is the last legal resource within the US judicial system.
• The will of the US government to reject the habeas corpus in favor of Gerardo, will condition the decision that may be arrived at regarding the case.
• The new injustice being committed against the Cuban Five heroes, by imposing an additional punishment on René and make him remain in US territory, jeopardises his personal security.
• We make the US government responsible for the security and physical integrity of René González.
• By forbidding René to visit places visited by terrorists and violent persons in Miami, the US government acknowledges the presence of terrorists in its territory, which reveals once more, the double standard of the US policy in its struggle against terrorism.
• The only just and human decision that the US government should arrive at is to send René back to his homeland.
• The Cuban people appreciate the international solidarity, which is instrumental in the solution to the case of the Cuban Five.
• The Cuban Five maintain their unwavering resistance, unyielding resolve, optimism and conviction for victory.
• The US President Barrack Obama can use his constitutional prerogatives and release the Cuban Five.
The historian J A Getty, one of the most respected authorities on Soviet history, remarked of the Stalin era:
“For no other period or topic have historians been so eager to write and accept history-by-anecdote. Grand analytical generalisations have come from second-hand bits of overheard corridor gossip. Prison camp stories (‘My friend met Bukharin’s wife in a camp and she said …’) have become primary sources on central political decision making.
“The need to generalise from isolated and unverified particulars has transformed rumours into sources and has equated repetition of stories with confirmation. Indeed, the leading expert on the Great Purges has written that ‘truth can thus only percolate in the form of hearsay’ and that ‘basically the best though not infallible sources is rumour.’ As long as the unexplored classes of sources include archival and press material, it is neither safe nor necessary to rely on rumour or anecdote.”
The ‘leading expert’ to whom Getty was referring was, of course, Robert Conquest, whose emotionally-charged books on the Stalin era, such as Harvest of Sorrow and The Great Terror, did more than perhaps any others to ingrain in people’s minds the notion of Stalin as ‘the ruthless dictator’.
This image was, however, inherited from the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev whose infamous ‘Secret Speech’ at the 20th Congress of CPSU claimed to ‘lift the lid’ on the hitherto hidden terror of Stalinism. As Grover Furr notes in his book on the speech (provocatively entitled Khrushchev Lied):
“This speech is often referred to as one of the ‘revelations’ by Khrushchev of crimes and misdeeds done by Stalin. The issue of the ‘cult of personality’, or ‘cult of the individual’, around the figure of Stalin was the main subject of the speech …
“The ‘Secret Speech’ threw the world communist movement into crisis. But the claim was that all the damage done was necessary, prophylactic. An evil part of the past, largely unknown to the communists of the world and even of the USSR, had to be exposed, a potentially fatal cancer in the body of world communism had to be mercilessly excised, so that the movement could correct itself and once again move towards its ultimate goal.”
The fall-out from this speech cannot be underestimated. It led to a rift in the world communist movement between the two largest socialist nations, the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union (the ‘Sino-Soviet Split’ as it is referred to by historians), as well as a rift between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of Albania.
The Albanians and the Chinese rejected both the image of the Stalin era that was being presented by Khrushchev and the way that phoney image was being used as justification for revisions of the central tenants of Marxism Leninism. The anti-revisionist movement was thus born.
An equally important result of the ‘Secret Speech’ was that it reinvigorated the decaying Trotskyist movement. As Furr notes:
“Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin in the ‘Secret Speech’ echoed Trotsky’s earlier demonisation of Stalin. But in 1956 Trotskyism was a marginal force, its murdered leader most often dismissed as a megalomaniacal failure. Khrushchev’s speech breathed new life into Trotsky’s all-but-dead caricature of Stalin.
“Communists and anti-communists alike began to view Trotsky as a ‘prophet’. Had he not said things very similar to what Khrushchev had just ‘revealed’ to be true? They dusted off Trotsky’s little-read works. Trotsky’s reputation, and that of his followers, soared. That the ‘Secret Speech’ constituted an unacknowledged ‘rehabilitation’ of Trotsky was recognised by Trotsky’s widow Sedova who, within a day of the speech, applied to the Presidium of the 20th Party Congress for full rehabilitation for both her late husband and her son.”
Trotskyism thus re-emerged as a force within the working-class movement and, often trading off its apparently sharp-eyed analysis of the Soviet Union, rose to become one of the most persistent features of the western political spectrum.
Indeed, in a very real sense it may be said that the ‘Secret Speech’ was the birth of modern Marxism. After all, what modern strand of Marxism has not been shaped by its views on the Stalin era?
‘Western Marxism’ (the Frankfurt School, Hegelian Marxism etc) sought to develop a ‘non-totalitarian’ Marxism and much of its work is pregnant with ruminations about ‘terror’; and the necessity for the ‘freedom of the individual’ to safeguard against it. ‘Luxemburgism’ and ‘Anarchism’, which came to believe that the Leninist political project itself inevitably ended in tyranny and repression. And, of course, ‘Trotskyism’ which we have already touched upon.
The publication of Grover Furr’s Khrushchev Lied is therefore an event of great import. Having spent the past ten years buried in the infamous Soviet archives (or at least, those sections of it which are now available to be studied – much of the archives are still too politically-charged to be considered for opening by the current Russian government) he has now produced a book, based on his research, which makes an outrageous claim:
“Not one specific statement of ‘revelation’ that Khrushchev made about either Stalin or [Lavrenti] Beria [former head of the NKVD] turned out to be true. Among those that can be checked for verification, every single one turns out to be false. Khrushchev, it turns out, did not just ‘lie’ about Stalin and Beria – he did virtually nothing else except lie. The entire ‘Secret Speech’ is made up of fabrications.”
The book has already caused a storm in Russian academic circles and is beginning to make an impact in the United States, as well. As Professor Roger Keeran of Empire State College has remarked: “Grover Furr’s study demands a complete rethinking of Soviet history, socialist history, indeed world history of the 20th century.” This is not an overstatement.
Among the most important claims debunked by Furr are:
- Stalin supported and fostered a ‘cult of personality’. Furr demonstrates that not only did Stalin not actively foster any such ‘cult’, he spent a great deal of his time actively fighting against it. Khrushchev, on the other hand, emerges as one of the leading proponents of the cult, for his own self-serving political motives.
- Stalin embarked on ‘mass repressions’ within the Bolshevik party. This claim has already been tackled by earlier historians and writers (including Ludo Martens, in his book Another View of Stalin), but it is Furr who really puts it to bed, with reams and reams of primary sources to refute it. Furr also successfully rehabilitates Lavrenti Beria, the man who is often accused of being ‘Stalin’s executioner’ in his role as head of the NKVD.
- Stalin stifled internal party debate and ruled the Soviet Union as a ‘dictator’. Furr provides an impressive collection of primary sources, which document that Stalin was committed to internal party democracy and that he made no special fetish of his position of power.
In total, Furr identifies and debunks sixty individual lies or half-truths put forward by Khrushchev in his ‘Secret Speech’. The sheer number of major modifications to our common understanding of the Stalin era that are suggested by Furr is dizzying.
The beauty of Furr’s book, however, lies in the clarity of its argument and the author’s rigorous attention to good historiography. Every claim that Furr makes is backed up with primary or secondary sources of real weight.
The book’s structure speaks volumes about the intellectual integrity of its author: the first quarter of the book is taken up with directly examining and countering the claims made by Khrushchev, the second quarter is taken up by a wide-ranging discussion of the historiography of the Stalin era in general, while the entire second half of the book is taken up with a mammoth appendix documenting, and providing lengthy quotations from, Furr’s source material. The appendix alone makes for fascinating reading. In it, we find such nuggets as this comment in a letter from Stalin to Shatunovsky:
“You speak of your ‘devotion’ to me. Perhaps this is a phrase that came out accidentally. Perhaps … But if it not a chance phrase, I would advise you to discard the ‘principle’ of devotion to persons. It is not the Bolshevik way. Be devoted to the working class, its party, its state. That is a fine and useful thing. But do not confuse it with devotion to persons, this vain and useless bauble of weak-minded intellectuals.”
Or the documentary evidence of Stalin’s four attempts to resign his position as General Secretary of the CPSU (1924, 1926, 1927, 1952), as well as his attempt, in 1927, to abolish the position of General Secretary altogether. We can quote directly from the CC Plenum transcript of this last occurrence:
“Yes, it seems that until the 11th Congress we did not have this position [of General Secretary]. That was before Lenin stopped working. If Lenin concluded that it was necessary to put forward the question of founding the position of General Secretary, then I assume he was prompted by the special circumstances that appeared with us before the 10th Congress, when a more or less strong, well-organised opposition within the party was founded.
“But now we no longer have these conditions in the party, because the opposition is smashed to a man. Therefore we could proceed to the abolition of this position. Many people associate a conception of some kind of special rights of the General Secretary with this position. I must say from my experience, and comrades will confirm this, that there ought not to be any special rights distinguishing the General Secretary from the rights of other members of the secretariat.” [Emphasis added]
These are just two examples from what is a veritable goldmine of source material.
It is, however, the section on historiography which, in many respects, emerges as the most engaging. Furr’s sober approach to his subject matter deserves to be widely read and imitated and his comments on Soviet historiography are at least as persuasive as many of the ‘standard’ works on the subject. A good example is his discussion of ‘Torture and the historical problems related to it’, a question which any serious student of the Stalin era cannot avoid:
“The fact that a defendant was tortured does not mean that defendant was innocent. It is not evidence that the defendant was innocent. But it is often erroneously assumed to be … Establishing the fact that someone really has been tortured is not always easy.
“The mere fact that someone claims he confessed because he was tortured is hardly foolproof. There are many reasons why people sometimes want to retract a confession of guilt. Claiming one was tortured is a way of doing this while preserving some dignity. So to be certain a person was tortured there has to be further evidence of the fact, such as a statement or confession by a person who actually did the torturing, or a first-hand witness.
“When there is no evidence at all that a defendant was tortured objective scholars have no business concluding that he was tortured. This obvious point is often overlooked, probably because a ‘paradigm’ that everybody was tortured, and everybody was innocent, acts powerfully on the minds of both researchers and readers.”
Another engaging aspect of Furr’s work is the possible conclusion that it points towards, and it is this aspect that will probably most interest those readers who are already convinced of the ‘innocence’ of Stalin. Traditionally, it has been assumed by anti-revisionists that Khrushchev’s primary motivation in attacking Stalin was to lay the groundwork for his pro-market economic reforms and his counter-revolutionary modifications to Marxism Leninism. Furr accepts this as a likely primary motivation, but he adds to this another, more disturbing, possible motivation.
Furr returns to the right-Bukharinite conspiracy that was uncovered by the Moscow Trials in the late 1930s and notes the sheer number of those convicted as part of that conspiracy by Stalin and Beria who were ‘rehabilitated’ (often posthumously) by Khrushchev following his ‘Secret Speech’.
Among these are Ezhov, the man responsible for hundreds of thousands of wrongful imprisonments and thousands of wrongful executions as part of concerted campaign to ‘sow discontent’ amongst the Soviet people and lay the groundwork for a counter-revolution; Zinoviev and Kamenev, both of whom were working with Bukharin to aid the cause of hostile imperialist powers and remove the leadership of the CPSU; and Eikhe, the First Secretary who was deeply involved in the illegitimate repressions of the Soviet people, and many others. The chilling significance of this is best explained by Furr himself:
“[Iuri] Zhukov has argued that it was the First Secretaries, led by Robert Eikhe, who seem to have initiated the mass repressions [uncovered and exposed by Beria and Stalin in the late 1930s]. Khrushchev, one of these powerful First Secretaries, was himself very heavily involved in large-scale repression, including the execution of thousands of people.
“Many of these First Secretaries were themselves later tried and executed. Some of them, like Kabakov, were accused of being part of a conspiracy. Others, like Postyshev, were accused, at least initially, of mass, unwarranted repression of party members. Eikhe also seems to fall into this group. Later many of these men were also charged with being part of various conspiracies themselves. Khrushchev was one of the few First Secretaries during the years 1937-1938 not only to escape such charges, but to have been promoted.
“Might it be that Khrushchev was part of such a conspiracy – but was one of the highest-ranking members to have remained undetected? We can’t prove or disprove this hypothesis. But it would explain all the evidence we now have.”
The implications of such a possibility are, of course, massive. In particular, if Khrushchev could be proven to be a part of the right-Bukharinite conspiracy, it would have vital implications for our understanding of the birth of revisionism in the Soviet Union.
The difficulty for anti-revisionists up till this point has been to demonstrate how seemingly good communists could develop into enemies of the proletariat. This new theory, while not removing the difficulty entirely, would certainly tie it into more readily explicable phenomena, such as the right deviation that overtook Bukharin and others and led them to actively seek the overthrow of the Soviet leadership. Clearly, this is a point that will demand further examination.
If there is one major fault to be found in Furr’s work, it is his final conclusion. In the very last page and a half of the book he arrives at the somewhat dubious assertion that the rise of Khrushchevite revisionism and the right-Bukharinite conspiracy is to be explained by the faulty conception of socialism which Stalin inherited from Lenin and Lenin in turn interpreted out of the works of Marx and Engels.
This is not a conclusion which he has hitherto been building towards, nor is it one that he makes much, if any, sustained attempt to support in the page and a half that he discusses it. It feels a-priori, as if the author is trying to make his own personal belief about Marxism Leninism sit comfortably with the other conclusions of his research in a way that it simply does not.
To Furr’s credit, he wisely ends on the words “that is a subject for further research and a different book”, but nonetheless, one is left wishing he had simply left his own personal feelings on Marxism Leninism for that ‘different book’ and not tacked them, sloppily, to the end of what is otherwise a fantastic work.
Khrushchev Lied is a fascinating new perspective on the history of the Stalin era. The wealth of new research alone is worth the cover price, but the reader is also treated to an excellent discussion of historiography and some tantilising possible conclusions.
I would urge anyone with any interest whatsoever in either Joseph Stalin or the Soviet Union to read it, but also I feel certain that it will serve as a new vital resource for the anti-revisionist movement in its fight against the historical distortions perpetuated by the enemies of Leninism.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 5 November
On the outskirts of Beijiang, southeast of Beijing, a Chinese publicly-owned corporation SDIC has built what the New York Times refers to as a “technical marvel: an ultrahigh-temperature, coal-fired generator with state-of-the-art pollutions controls, mated to advanced Israeli equipment that uses its leftover heat to distill seawater into fresh water”.
The fresh water so generated costs twice as much to produce as what it sells for. However, per capita fresh water supplies are dwindling at an alarming rate. With most enterprises wealthy enough to set up such a project being capitalist enterprises tied to profitability, not many desalination plants, although desperately needed, are being produced. It is fortunate that China is still able to make an important contribution to the future of humanity.
China’s goal is to quadruple its production of desalinated water by 2020 from the current 180m gallons to about 800m, which will require 10-12 more plants like the one that has just been completed. Currently, less than 60 percent of China’s desalination equipment is domestic, with the rest being imported mainly from Israel, but China plans to increase its production of such equipment to provide 90 percent of its needs by 2020.
Meanwhile, on 1 November, China launched an unmanned spacecraft into orbit whose function will be to practise docking techniques to join with the Tiangong-1 or ‘Heavenly Palace’ experimental module launched on 29 September. Space exploration is another project that economic crisis tends to wipe off the agenda of capitalist countries.
The following resolution was vociferously opposed by the Executive Committee of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign at its AGM on 22 January. Since a resolution containing many of the same points had been passed virtually unanimously at the Stop the War conference last year, this came as rather a surprise to the comrade who moved the motion.
We will be writing in more detail about this soon, but in the meantime, a few of the arguments posed against the resolution went like this:
- The list of actions is ‘too prescriptive’; we can’t agree to it.
Rather strange given that most of the other resolutions also had lists of actions attached, which related to the specific spheres of action they were looking at (ie, boycott and divestment, trade-union work, student work etc). In fact, resolutions are by their nature prescriptive. That doesn’t mean the movers expect the actions suggested in it to be carried out exclusively.
Quite clearly, in this case, the idea here was to be complementary to other work being done by the PSC. Equally clearly, this argument is just a cover - perhaps for reasons that the opposers don’t feel comfortable sharing with the rest of us!
- We can’t put resources into campaigning/fundraising for the Gaza protestors; it’s a diversion from what we do.
Unbelievable, considering that it was PSC who called the demo at which these young people were arrested. And crazy, given that if we launched a big campaign to have the sentences overturned, we could really draw attention to the British state’s role in supporting Israel. Not to mention highlighting islamophobia, bringing many more young people and muslims towards the PSC and generally highlighting the issue that people have been criminalised for merely objecting to war crimes!
- We can’t promise to support all those arrested for opposing Israel’s war crimes (including the Gaza protestors); we don’t know who they might be.
The clear implication here was that some of the people being targetted for their principled stand, whether direct action activists or newly politicised young muslims, might somehow be ‘asking for it’!
- We can’t ask workers to refuse to cooperate with war crimes in the current climate, when they’re worried about losing their jobs.
Not sure we really need to comment on this, except to say that you could make the same argument about concentration camp guards! Either it’s a crime or it isn’t. Either we’re against the British state assisting in Israel’s crimes or we’re not. The fact is that we can’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to - but surely it’s our job to take the arguments to them and help them to make informed decisions? Why is it ok to campaign amongst union members as individuals around the boycott demands, but not to try to mobilise them collectively?
It’s also worth bearing the student example in mind. Two years ago, students were occupying their universities in support of the people of Gaza. The confidence and experience they gained in these actions no doubt contributed to the militancy we’re seeing today in the anti-fees movement and occupations. Far from making working people nervous, encouraging them to use their power to stop crimes against Palestinians might actually help them to get more militant in using their power against the current cuts in benefits, pensions, wages and public services!
It’s clear the above arguments don’t add up, so we have to ask ourselves, just what is it that the PSC national executive is really afraid of? If we want to build a MASS movement in support of Palestine, why are we afraid to try to mobilise broad sections of the working class or muslim communities? And why are we avoiding the question of REAL, CONCRETE solidarity with Palestine?
Jeremy Corbyn’s closing statement blethering on about Early Day Motions in Parliament was a joke. Anyone who knows anything about how the House of Commons works can tell you that EDMs aren’t even relevant within its walls, never mind outside of them. They don’t even get debated!
We were sad to see that not only Betty Hunter, but also PSC deputy chair Kamel Hawwash spoke most shamefully against the resolution, causing much confusion amongst those present as to what could be the reason for so much opposition to something so seemingly innocuous, and so obviously fundamental to our work as actively opposing Israel’s war crimes.
We were also sad at the way the whole debate was handled. It was clear from the inconsistency and illogicality of the opposing arguments that the reasons being put forward in such a hysterial fashion weren’t the actual reasons for the executive opposing the resolution. Several speakers said that ‘while there were many good things in the motion, it was impossible to support it all because of [insert spurious objection to half a sentence here]‘.
But if that was truly the case, why not contact the movers of the resolution about changing it, so as to let the good stuff through? Why not put forward amendments that we would all have had time to read and think about before the conference? Why wait and hijack everybody with an unexpected and baffling ‘controversy’ that many present were simply unable to unravel in the time available?
One possible answer is that the executive is afraid of attracting too much negative attention from the state if it openly supports either the Gaza protestors or the various direct-action anti-war-crimes activists, despite the fact that well publicised campaigns along these lines could do much to broaden the appeal of PSC and to extend the reach of our solidarity message (all of which could make a direct difference to Palestinians).
Another possibility is that the executive is afraid to upset the cosy relationship it has built with various Labour party and trade-union officials by raising the question of direct participation in war crimes by British workers - and their power to withhold that participation - within the unions, many of which spend their time trying to squash the notion of collective power, substituting instead the idea of individual pleas to the better judgement of managers and employers.
This fits with the current PSC strategy of spending much time and resource on ‘lobbying’ to ‘change the minds’ of MPs and MEPs, who are then allocated ‘good’ or ‘bad’ status according to whether they’re happy to sign up to one of the aforementioned Early Day Motions or similar. Instead of mobilising the real power of the British people from the street and demanding that the British state withdraw its support from Israel, many in the PSC leadership would like us to confine ourselves to going cap in hand to parliamentarians and asking them to be nicer.
And if nasty MPs, like those unreasonable employers who say no to trade unionists, decline to sign up to a ‘please be nicer to the poor Palestinians’ request? Well, we tried. Come back next year!
On a more optimistic note, despite the bullocking from the Executive Committee and their trade-union and Labour party friends, around a third of those present voted in favour of the resolution, and many members went away determined to discuss the issue in their branches. We hope they will make the arguments in favour there and come back determined to change the organisation’s policy next year.
Full text of the resolution follows.
No cooperation with war crimes: step up the campaign
In the last year, many important developments have taken place, which on the one hand make the work of actively opposing Israel’s war crimes more urgent, and on the other have created an atmosphere that is more receptive to our message.
In this context, conference notes the passing at the Stop the War conference of a motion calling on the coalition to “take the line of non-cooperation into as many arenas as possible”. This resolution included a detailed programme of activities that could take this work forward, some of which the PSC has already been taking the lead in.
Conference notes the attack on those condemning war crimes that was embodied in the draconian sentences handed down to the Gaza protestors. Congress further notes that these sentences were aimed not only at discouraging muslim youth from political activism, but also at dividing the anti-war and Palestine solidarity movements along racial lines, and branding Palestine solidarity as a ‘muslim’, rather than a human rights or anti-imperialist issue.
Conference condemns the murder by Israeli commandos of ten solidarity activists (nine at the time and one who died later) aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May, despite the fact that the UN had called for the ships to be allowed to pass. Conference notes the UN’s recent findings that these murders were illegal – another war crime to add to the many being committed daily against the Palestinian people.
Conference commends the excellent work done by PSC in getting an enhanced boycott motion passed at the TUC following the flotilla attack, and notes that the acceptance of much stronger language than previously used reflects the sea change in the attitude of many ordinary British workers towards Israel.
Conference further notes that in the atmosphere of international outrage that followed the flotilla murders, even Israeli-friendly politicians such as Cameron and Hague were forced to make statements condemning both the murders and the siege on Gaza.
Conference reaffirms its support for all those who have taken the lead in active non-cooperation over the past year, in particular for the EDO Decommissioners, for the Gaza protestors, and for the many British participants in siege-busting missions by land and sea to Gaza.
Conference notes that the landmark acquittal in the case of the Decommissioners can only facilitate more actions of this kind, since it not only sets a legal precedent, but is a reflection of the general sense of disgust against Israeli war crimes.
Conference reaffirms its belief that the majority of people in Britain are opposed to British imperialism’s support for the criminal Israeli state, and considers that the time is ripe to make active non-cooperation a central theme of our work. Conference therefore calls on the incoming steering committee to work with Stop the War and any other organisations that are willing in taking the line of non-cooperation into as many arenas as possible, including:
Putting on a fundraising concert to draw attention to the Gaza prisoners’ plight and to raise money towards a campaign to overturn their convictions.
Giving full backing, including maximum possible publicity, to all those groups or individuals, whether affiliated to PSC or not, who, like the EDO Decommissioners and the Raytheon activists, are targeted by the state for refusing to cooperate with, or for actively attempting to prevent the many crimes of the occupation, including: the frequent bombings and shootings of civilians; the destruction of Palestinian homes, farms, schools, hospitals, mosques and churches; the crippling siege of Gaza; the building of the apartheid wall, and the seizure of ever more land in Jerusalem and the West Bank for jewish-only settlement construction.
Building on our existing campaign inside the unions to draw attention to Israeli war crimes, and the complicity of the British government and corporations in those crimes, with the aim of passing in each of them, and then at the TUC, motions condemning those crimes and calling on workers to refuse to cooperate in their commission, whether it be by making or moving munitions or other equipment, writing or broadcasting propaganda, or helping in any other way to smooth the path of Israel’s war machine.
Building on the excellent PSC campaign to draw attention to pro-Israeli propaganda in Panorama and working with such groups as Media Lens (see, for example, their recent alert drawing attention to the media’s total bypassing of evidence revealing Israel’s starvation policy in Gaza) and others to draw in as many members and supporters as possible to an ongoing campaign to hold the media to account for their pivotal role in apologising for, covering up and normalising Israeli war crimes.
Continuing and increasing the work already done to make Britain a place where Israeli war criminals can get no peace, through the campaign on universal jurisdiction, through holding protests, through citizens’ arrests and through all other available channels, including using local, national and international courts to file charges and draw attention to the crimes of Israeli military, government and corporate leaders – and those in Britain who back them politically or financially.
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!
In my Reflection of 14 January, two days after the catastrophe in Haiti, which destroyed that neighboring sister nation, I wrote:
“In the area of healthcare and others the Haitian people has received the cooperation of Cuba, even though this is a small and blockaded country. Approximately 400 doctors and healthcare workers are helping the Haitian people free of charge. Our doctors are working every day at 227 of the 237 communes of that country.
“On the other hand, no less than 400 young Haitians have been graduated as medical doctors in our country. They will now work alongside the reinforcement that traveled there yesterday to save lives in that critical situation. Thus, up to one thousand doctors and healthcare personnel can be mobilized without any special effort; and most are already there willing to cooperate with any other State that wishes to save Haitian lives and rehabilitate the injured.
“The head of our medical brigade has informed that ‘the situation is difficult but we are already saving lives’.”
Hour after hour, day and night, the Cuban health professionals have started to work nonstop in the few facilities that were able to stand, in tents, and out in the parks or open-air spaces, since the population feared new aftershocks.
The situation was far more serious than was originally thought. Tens of thousands of injured were clamoring for help in the streets of Port-au-Prince; innumerable persons laid, dead or alive, under the rubbled clay or adobe used in the construction of the houses where the overwhelming majority of the population lived.
Buildings, even the most solid, collapsed. Besides, it was necessary to look for the Haitian doctors who had graduated at the Latin American Medicine School throughout all the destroyed neighborhoods. Many of them were affected, either directly or indirectly, by the tragedy.
Some UN officials were trapped in their dormitories and tens of lives were lost, including the lives of several chiefs of MINUSTAH, a UN contingent. The fate of hundreds of other members of its staff was unknown.
Haiti’s presidential palace crumbled. Many public facilities, including several hospitals, were left in ruins.
The catastrophe shocked the whole world, which was able to see what was going on through the images aired by the main international TV networks. Governments from everywhere in the planet announced they would be sending rescue experts, food, medicines, equipment and other resources.
In conformity with the position publicly announced by Cuba, medical staff from different countries – namely Spain, Mexico, and Colombia, among others - worked very hard alongside our doctors at the facilities they had improvised. Organisations such as PAHO and other friendly countries like Venezuela and other nations supplied medicines and other resources. The impeccable behavior of Cuban professionals and their leaders was absolutely void of chauvinism and remained out of the limelight.
Cuba, just as it had done under similar circumstances, when Hurricane Katrina caused huge devastation in the city of New Orleans and the lives of thousands of American citizens were in danger, offered to send a full medical brigade to cooperate with the people of the United States, a country that, as is well known, has vast resources.
But at that moment what was needed were trained and well-equipped doctors to save lives. Given New Orleans geographical location, more than one thousand doctors of the ‘Henry Reeve’ contingent mobilised and readied to leave for that city at any time of the day or the night, carrying with them the necessary medicines and equipment. It never crossed our mind that the president of that nation would reject the offer and let a number of Americans that could have been saved to die.
The mistake made by that government was perhaps the inability to understand that the people of Cuba do not see in the American people an enemy; it does not blame it for the aggressions our homeland has suffered.
Nor was that government capable of understanding that our country does not need to beg for favors or forgiveness of those who, for half a century now, have been trying, to no avail, to bring us to our knees.
Our country, also in the case of Haiti, immediately responded to the US authorities requests to fly over the eastern part of Cuba as well as other facilities they needed to deliver assistance, as quickly as possible, to the American and Haitian citizens who had been affected by the earthquake.
Such have been the principles characterising the ethical behavior of our people. Together with its equanimity and firmness, these have been the ever-present features of our foreign policy. And this is known only too well by whoever have been our adversaries in the international arena.
Cuba will firmly stand by the opinion that the tragedy that has taken place in Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, is a challenge to the richest and more powerful countries of the world.
Haiti is a net product of the colonial, capitalist and imperialist system imposed on the world. Haiti’s slavery and subsequent poverty were imposed from abroad. That terrible earthquake occurred after the Copenhagen Summit, where the most elemental rights of 192 UN member States were trampled upon.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, a competition has unleashed in Haiti to hastily and illegally adopt boys and girls. Unicef has been forced to adopt preventive measures against the uprooting of many children, which will deprive their close relatives from their rights.
There are more than one hundred thousand deadly victims. A high number of citizens have lost their arms or legs, or have suffered fractures requiring rehabilitation that would enable them to work or manage their own.
Eighty percent of the country needs to be rebuilt. Haiti requires an economy that is developed enough to meet its needs according to its productive capacity. The reconstruction of Europe or Japan, which was based on the productive capacity and the technical level of the population, was a relatively simple task as compared to the effort that needs to be made in Haiti.
There, as well as in most of Africa and elsewhere in the Third World, it is indispensable to create the conditions for a sustainable development. In only 40 years’ time, humanity will be made of more than nine billion inhabitants, and right now is faced with the challenge of a climate change that scientists accept as an inescapable reality.
In the midst of the Haitian tragedy, without anybody knowing how and why, thousands of US marines, 82nd Airborne Division troops and other military forces have occupied Haiti. Worse still is the fact that neither the United Nations Organisation nor the US government have offered an explanation to the world’s public opinion about this relocation of troops.
Several governments have complained that their aircraft have not been allowed to land in order to deliver the human and technical resources that have been sent to Haiti.
Some countries, for their part, have announced they would be sending an additional number of troops and military equipment. In my view, such events will complicate and create chaos in international cooperation, which is already in itself complex. It is necessary to seriously discuss this issue. The UN should be entrusted with the leading role it deserves in these so delicate matters.
Our country is accomplishing a strictly humanitarian mission. To the extent of its possibilities, it will contribute the human and material resources at its disposal. The will of our people, which takes pride in its medical doctors and cooperation workers who provide vital services, is huge, and will rise to the occasion.
Any significant cooperation that is offered to our country will not be rejected, but its acceptance will fully depend on the importance and transcendence of the assistance that is requested from the human resources of our homeland.
It is only fair to state that, up until this moment, our modest aircrafts and the important human resources that Cuba has made available to the Haitian people have arrived at their destination without any difficulty whatsoever.