This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
The congress hopes to see the victory of Hugo Chávez in the presidential elections now being held in Venezuela in recognition of his valiant defence of Venezuela’s political and economic sovereignty and promotion of the interests of the broad masses of Venezuelan people throughout the time that he has held the country’s presidency.
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress recognises that the imperialist beasts of the USA, Britain and France planned, financed and played the major role, assisted by their various middle-eastern puppets, in the overthrow of the popular Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi.
This congress notes that they, through the trickery of a UN resolution to impose a ‘no-fly zone’, supposedly to ‘protect’ the Libyan people, used the combined air power of Nato member states to carpet-bomb and destroy Libyan airports, military bases, media stations, hospitals, schools, electricity and water supplies, general infrastructure and residential areas alike.
Congress further notes that, even with the great military advantage that this onslaught from outside gave the rats of the Transitional National Council (TNC), they were so numerically weak and lacking in any support within Libya that they could not make decisive use of this advantage. So it was that Libya was flooded with military ‘advisors’ from the imperialist regimes and elite troops from all the neighbouring states that were under the sway of imperialism.
This congress applauds the heroic struggle that the Libyan people and their army waged against Nato’s proxy forces on the ground, despite the horrendous effects of the imperialists’ all-out air war, noting that they held out for more than six months until the capture, torture and public murder of the leader of Libya’s green revolution, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Congress also sends a red salute to the brave green fighters in Libya, who are continuing to put up resistance to imperialism and its puppets today.
Closer to home, this congress condemns the disgusting role played during the war on Libya by the ‘left’ supporters of imperialism – the social democrats, revisionists and Trotskyists. In Britain, the worst of these enemies of the international proletariat once more proved themselves to be the Labour party, the SWP, Counterfire, the CPB, and the ‘anti-war’ umbrella group in which many of those parties’ spokespeople play a leading role: the Stop the War Coalition (StW). StW held a single nationally-organised demonstration over the issue of the overthrow of the sovereign state of Libya by imperialism – but they held it outside the Libyan embassy supporting the imperialist-backed TNC and opposing the anti-imperialist leadership of Colonel Gaddafi!
This congress affirms that imperialism is the main enemy of the international working class, and that US imperialism, as the biggest and most powerful imperialist state, is the biggest enemy to world peace.
Congress further affirms that in an imperialist war the duty of the working class in an imperialist country is to work for the defeat of its own government. And an essential part of that process must be exposing and leading workers away from the misleadership of social democracy and its revisionist and Trotskyist hand-maidens, who will try with all their guile to keep workers tied to the imperialist war machine through revolutionary-sounding phrases and lies.
This congress resolves to continue working to show our class that we do have the power to stop the imperialist war machine by starving it of all the necessary supplies for its wars of brigandage, whether those supplies be weapons, transport or soldiers!
Congress further resolves to use all means at the party’s disposal to disseminate information about the ongoing battle in Libya, in order that British workers should understand that there is a popular resistance movement fighting to rid the country of imperialist forces. Our party will continue to expose the vile and rapacious doings of the TNC rats who now hope to rule Libya (with imperialist troops stood at their shoulders). These villains have murdered, kidnapped, raped, looted and evicted from their homes those supporting or suspected of supporting the green resistance. From the earliest days, even before coming to power, it was well known that the TNC rats were lynching black Libyans, as well as other black Africans working in the country, and our party will continue to remind the world of this fact.
Finally, this congress resolves to continue pointing out that this bloody war was brought upon the Libyan people in order to grab the country’s oil, to remove its anti-imperialist leadership, and to kick open the door to the re-conquest of Africa. The freedom and protection of the Libyan people was never a real reason for waging the war – except, perhaps, in the minds of a few simple souls who simply cannot, or will not, see the jackboot an inch from their face, even when it is pointed out to them.
This congress remains confident that the Libyan masses will rise again to rid their land of the imperialist puppets and bring the imperialists’ dreams of world domination to nought.
Long live the memory of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, hero of the Libyan and African peoples!
Victory to the anti-imperialist peoples!
Death to imperialism!
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress notes and reaffirms the principled and unwavering support for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) upheld by our party since its foundation and reiterated at successive congresses.
Since our last congress, the WPK and the entire people of the DPRK suffered the most grievous loss with the sudden passing away of their respected leader Comrade Kim Jong Il. Comrade Kim Jong Il was not only the outstanding leader of the Korean people but also a senior leader of the international communist movement and of the global struggle against imperialism.
In assessing the life and work of Comrade Kim Jong Il, this congress notes in particular that:
- He led the people of the DPRK during the ‘Arduous March’, when the destiny of the revolution lay in the balance, preserving the independence of the country, as well as its socialist character, at a most difficult time.
- He worked tirelessly for national reconciliation and reunification under the banner of ‘By our nation itself’.
- He safeguarded and enhanced the security and sovereignty of the country against imperialism by developing the DPRK’s independent nuclear deterrent.
- He preserved and reinvigorated the DPRK’s traditional friendly relations with China and Russia.
- And he led the DPRK’s national economy onto a path of revival and development after a period of severe trials.
Congress pays the highest tribute to, and lowers its red banner in memory of, Comrade Kim Jong Il. Our party once again extends its heartfelt condolences to Comrade Kim Jong Un, the fraternal WPK and the entire Korean people.
Although suffering this grievous loss, congress notes that the heroic Korean people have turned grief into strength. They have rallied around Comrade Kim Jong Un as the leader of the party, state, army and people. Comrade Kim Jong Un is giving bold and dynamic leadership, introducing timely policies to further develop the national economy and improve people’s living standards, so that the Korean people will be able to fully enjoy the benefits of socialism and not have to tighten their belts again.
This congress extends its warmest fraternal greetings to Comrade Kim Jong Un and expresses its support for his leadership in the struggle to safeguard his country’s independence and security and to build a thriving socialist society.
Congress reaffirms that to develop friendship and solidarity with socialist Korea remains an important task of our party. To do so successfully inevitably entails a sharp struggle with various kinds of opportunism. The greatest obstacle is presented by the social democrats, Trotskyites and revisionists. The social democrats and Trotskyites are universally hostile to the DPRK, seeking through their slanders to disintegrate the struggle against imperialism and to disguise their own treachery to socialism. By and large, the revisionists, too, act to avoid their responsibility to extend support to the DPRK and its socialist cause under this or that spurious pretext.
Congress notes that a further specific problem in the case of Korea solidarity work is the existence of certain micro-sects, whose sole purpose is to spread slander and to practice the most shameless self-promotion based on obsequious and revolting acts of sycophancy. Such behaviour succeeds only in inviting ridicule and is quite alien to working people. Moreover, lurking behind the sycophancy is a reactionary political agenda, hostile to Marxism Leninism, and which seeks to isolate and weaken the DPRK and the Korean people, in the service of imperialism – in particular by seeking to undermine their fraternal ties with the People’s Republic of China. Such counter-revolutionary behaviour is an active disservice to the just and vital work of building friendship and solidarity with the Korean people, and our party has been correct to openly oppose and condemn this line and its perpetrators.
This congress welcomes the fact that, in the period since our last congress, our party has continued to strengthen its fraternal and militant relations with the WPK. The visit by our delegation in September 2010 and by our delegates to the April 2012 celebrations of the centenary of the birth of President Kim Il Sung were important occasions in this regard.
Congress resolves to further strengthen our party’s fraternal relations with the WPK as a priority of our international relations work. It further resolves to campaign more dynamically in solidarity with the DPRK, introducing its actual situation, tasks and achievements to British working people as widely as possible, through meetings, in our publications, and in other ways.
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress condemns the ongoing unjust imprisonment and detention in the United States of Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, the Cuban citizens who went to the United States with the aim of infiltrating Miami Cuban circles for the purpose of finding out in advance about any intended terrorist attacks being prepared against Cuban national interests. Their arrest and conviction on charges of espionage against the US and conspiracy to commit criminal acts constitute one of the most glaring indictments of the US legal system.
This congress notes that even ex-US president Jimmy Carter has been shocked at the treatment meted out to these men, known to the world as the Miami Five, and has said: “I believe that there is no reason to keep the Cuban Five imprisoned. There were doubts in the US courts and also among human-rights organisations in the world. Now, they have been in prison 12 years, and I hope that in the near future they will be released to return home.”
Congress further notes that recent evidence shows that the US government was paying journalists in Miami to keep writing tendentious articles about the case at the time that it was being heard with a view to influencing public opinion, the jury, and the likely outcome of the trial. At the time of the trial it was well known that the Miami press was printing such material, and application was made several times for a change of venue for the trial because the publicity was ensuring that there was no way a trial in Miami could be a fair one. However, the judge refused to countenance a change of venue. One can surmise what would have been the effect on the judge’s career had she flown in the face of government expectations in this regard!
This congress believes that, even if the Five had been guilty of the offences with which they were charged, the sentences imposed on them would be considered totally disproportionate in any country that laid claim to being observant of human rights. These patriotic comrades were convicted on 8 June 2001 and sentenced to four life terms and 75 years in December 2001.
Congress notes that, on 9 August 2005, after seven years of unjust imprisonment, the Miami Five won an unprecedented victory on appeal. In a unanimous 93-page decision, a brave three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions and ordered a new trial. The court rightly called their prosecution “a perfect storm” of pervasive community prejudice, government misconduct and extensive negative publicity before and during the trial. However, the Bush administration appealed, and exactly one year after the favourable ruling granting the Five a new trial, the full panel of the 11th Circuit Court ruled to reverse their decision. The Cubans’ convictions were reinstated, although later court decisions reduced the sentences of Fernando González, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero. René Gonzalez has already been released (on 7 October last year) but is being kept in the US on three years’ probation, so that he cannot return to Cuba but has to remain in Miami, where he is at risk of being murdered by Cuban expatriate terrorists.
Congress further notes that there are ongoing appeals for habeas corpus, which have been given added impetus through the discovery of the large payments made by the US government to journalists reporting on the trial to the prejudice of the defendants. The appeals have been heard and the outcome is awaited. In the meantime, Gerardo is serving two life sentences and cannot under US law be paroled, while the current release dates of Ramón, Antonio and Fernando are:
- Ramón: 30 October 2024
- Antonio: 18 September 2017
- Fernando: 27 February 2014
This congress joins with the Cuban government, all the people of Cuba, and all of progressive humanity the world over in calling for the immediate release of the Miami Five, their immediate return to Cuba and significant compensation to be paid to them for the long years of unjust imprisonment, which have robbed them of years of their lives.
It is with the deepest grief that the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) announces that our beloved Comrade Jack Shapiro, Honorary President of our party and of Hands off China!, passed away from illness in the early morning of Friday 29 January 2010 at the age of 93.
Comrade Jack was a staunch Marxist Leninist, a proletarian revolutionary, a long-tested communist fighter and an implacable foe of revisionism and opportunism.
Born into the working-class jewish community in east London, he served a full eight decades in the communist movement; decades that took him from a young teenage militant in the ranks of the Young Communist League to Britain’s most cherished veteran communist fighter.
From the moment he took his place in the ranks of the proletarian army, he stood in his place, fighting for the liberation of mankind. He never once looked back, but always forward to humanity’s brilliant communist future. He never once regretted the choice he made. Whilst every victory inspired him, no difficulty or setback could ever daunt him.
To paraphrase the words of Ostrovsky in <em>How the Steel Was Tempered</em>, our Comrade Jack can have no regrets for a cowardly and trivial past. In dying, he can truly say that all his life and all his strength were given to the finest cause on earth, the liberation of mankind.
Comrade Jack’s early political life was marked by intense class struggle against rapacious sweatshop employers, slum landlords, bigotry, antisemitism and the rise of fascism; in defence of the Soviet Union, of Joseph Stalin, of the Spanish Republic and of the Chinese people’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression.
Throughout his eight decades of political life, Comrade Jack was as firm as a rock in his defence of the principles of Marxism Leninism. He defended the Marxist-Leninist theory of the state and the dictatorship of the proletariat. He knew that without revolutionary theory there could be no revolutionary movement and he studied hard throughout his life up to his final days. He knew that labour in the white skin could never be free if in the black it was branded, and that the movement of the proletariat in the advanced nations would be a fraud and a humbug if it was not most closely united with the struggle of hundreds of millions of colonial and neo-colonial slaves for their national liberation.
The struggle against zionism was no exception. The Palestinian, Lebanese and other Arab peoples had no better friend and comrade-in-arms than Jack. One of his very last political acts was to generously donate to the Viva Palestina! convoy that has just returned from carrying much needed relief to the people of Gaza.
He knew that “women hold up half the sky” and his own long marriage, friendship and comradeship with Comrade Marie was a true example of how human beings should live.
To Comrade Jack, the socialist countries, especially the Soviet Union of Lenin and Stalin, the first country in which his own jewish people knew freedom, and the People’s Republic of China, were the apple of his eye, and no task was greater than their unyielding defence. For him, every step taken by the socialist countries in the building of a free, prosperous and happy life was but a harbinger of the future new world where every child would know oppression and exploitation only as a topic taught in history classes.
With such bedrock principles, from the first, Comrade Jack opposed the revisionist <em>British Road to Socialism</em>, both for its parliamentary cretinism and abandonment of the dictatorship of the proletariat as well as its betrayal of the peoples fighting British imperialism for their complete freedom. He strongly supported the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and its great leader Comrade Mao Zedong, in the international fight against modern revisionism.
Comrade Jack’s relationship with the Chinese revolution was a special one indeed, ever since his much loved brother and comrade Michael Shapiro took up work with the Xinhua News Agency in Beijing in 1949 at the request of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and stayed in China till he breathed his last.
Comrades Jack and Michael and their wives Comrade Marie and Comrade Liu Jinghe formed a single proletarian fighting unit, uniting the communists of Britain and China across continents and oceans. Senior Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping described Michael Shapiro, who accompanied the Chinese People’s Volunteers in Korea during the most bitter days of war, as a “staunch international soldier and sincere friend of the Chinese people”. These fitting words equally describe his dear brother Jack. It is indeed appropriate that his final speech should have been given from his wheelchair on 3 October 2009 at our party’s celebration of the 60th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese revolution.
Having staunchly fought against revisionism for more than half a century, going through many twists and turns, Comrade Jack greeted the foundation of our party with almost youthful enthusiasm. He joined our ranks, accepted the post of Honorary President, gave us wise advice and counsel, and generously supported us in every way. To us, he was truly a star shining in our sky, a living link to the October Revolution and to the Third Communist International. He was also a friend and a man whose impish sense of humour made light of every difficulty, whether political or personal.
Jack’s passing is a sad and irreparable loss to our young party. But we take courage from, and will never forget, the rich legacy he has left us.
Comrade Jack, with our heads bowed but our fists raised, we offer you our reddest of red salutes. You have earned the right to take rest. You will live forever in our hearts.
ETERNAL GLORY TO COMRADE JACK SHAPIRO!
Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
29 January 2010
VIDEO: Jack speaking against zionism at a meeting during the Gaza massacre, January 2009
VIDEO: Jack speaking on the advances of Chinese socialism, October 2009
VIDEO: Jack speaking on how Chinese socialism serves the disabled, October 2008
LETTER: Condolences received from the CPA (M-L)
The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) resolutely condemns Israel’s despicable and cowardly military onslaught against the people of Gaza, and it reaffirms its unreserved solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Israeli brutality and arrogance
Since the start of Israel’s bombing campaign, on 23 December 2008, several hundred Palestinians – including many children – have been killed, and thousands more have sustained critical injuries. Israel claims that its targets have been exclusively military, but this is manifestly false. For example, more than 50 people (including an entire family of seven young children) were killed when, on 7 January, Israel bombed a UN school being used as a refugee centre.
In the past few weeks, Israel has clamped down even further on supplies of medicines, food and electricity, further exacerbating the already vast humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. This is not ‘targeted action’; it is collective punishment. Israel has rejected international calls for a truce, and refuses even to let foreign journalists into Gaza. It wants to hide its brutal Nazi aggression from the rest of the world. Having for so long painted itself as a little jewish David in a sea of Arab Goliaths, Israel does not want the world to see the true nature of its “struggle for existence” – that is, murder and criminal occupation.
Israel to blame for breakdown of the ceasefire
Predictably, Israel has claimed that its actions are a legitimate response to Palestinian rocket attacks since the collapse of the ceasefire in late December. This sentiment has been implicitly (and in some cases explicitly) backed by the self-appointed ‘international community’, which has long relied on Israel as its policeman in the Middle East. As hi-tech bombs were raining down on Palestinian civilians, George Bush thought it appropriate to say: “I understand Israel’s desire to protect itself and that the situation now taking place in Gaza was caused by Hamas”. His successor, Barack Obama, stated on a recent visit to Sderot (an Israeli town near Gaza): “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that, and I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”
As we have said before, one cannot equate the violence of the oppressed with the violence of the oppressors. Israel is not under siege; it is not an occupied country; its citizens (at least its jewish citizens) are not denied their basic human rights; its water, electricity and medical supplies have not been cut off; it is not in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, Gaza has over the last two years been effectively turned into a giant concentration camp. Gazans cannot move in or out of their country; the supply of food, electricity, water and medicines has been cut off; frequent Israeli bombing raids take place; the unemployment rate exceeds 80 percent and the people are living a miserable existence well below the poverty line. Are the Palestinian people expected to simply give up their right to existence? The right to resist occupation is enshrined in international law, and the Palestinian military resistance to Israeli occupation is legitimate and laudable.
Still, one does not need to accept the legitimacy of the Palestinian rocket attacks in order to condemn the massacre that is taking place in Gaza. According to detailed information released by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a grand total of 15 Israelis have died as a result of Qassam rocket attacks since these were first fired over seven years ago (in October 2001). Meanwhile, over 500 Gazans have been killed by the Israeli military in the last two weeks alone. These lopsided figures alone are enough to give lie to Israel’s claim that it is simply protecting its citizens from rocket attacks.
If Israel genuinely wanted to stop the Qassam rocket attacks, it could have done so very easily by complying with the terms of the ceasefire, under which it was supposed to lift the blockade against Gaza in order to end the humanitarian crisis there. However, deliveries from aid agencies have been all but completely blocked for several months. Observers from the Red Cross have noted the spread malnutrition across Gaza. Israel completely failed to respect the ceasefire terms, and therefore should not be surprised that the ceasefire has collapsed. As has happened many times before, Israel has violated the terms of a ceasefire and used the Palestinian response to ‘justify’ the unjustifiable.
Israel’s real agenda is clear enough: not happy with the democratic choice of the Palestinian people, it is seeking regime change in Gaza (having already effected regime change in the West Bank). Recently, Foreign Minister Livni stated: “The state of Israel, and a government under me, will make it a strategic objective to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza. The means for doing this should be military, economic and diplomatic.” It would be difficult to be clearer than that. Israel and its imperialist backers (including Britain) want to see a Palestinian administration that is willing to squash the struggle for an independent Palestine and that will accept a Palestinian ‘state’ composed of multiple disconnected Bantustans whose borders are controlled by Israel.
From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free
With its military attacks and its continued settlement activity in the West Bank, Israel has made the two-state solution unachievable. In so doing, it has created the conditions for a one-state solution, and with it the end to the whole racist idea of an ethnically cleansed jewish state.
We reiterate the call of Khaled Meshaal, leader of Hamas, for a renewed intifada against Israel. Only through the intensification of the Palestinian resistance will Israel be forced to recognise the right of the Palestinians to freedom from colonial occupation. We have full confidence in the ability of the Palestinian resistance to deal a heavy blow to the Israeli military. As the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine put it in a recent statement: “We will get out from underneath the rubble and fight until the last breath.” As Marx once wrote, “the nation that oppresses another nation forges its own chains”. The British working class must do everything within its power to support the cause of Palestinian liberation.
The CPGB-ML condemns the massacre that is currently being perpetrated against the people of Gaza by the Israeli state. We join with all progressive and freedom-loving people around the world in calling for the immediate cessation of Israel’s bomb attacks, and we state our unreserved support for all Palestinian groups involved in Gaza’s defence.
Over the last two days, nearly 300 Gazans have been killed in air raids, with up to 700 others wounded. Saturday (27 December) was the single deadliest day in Gaza since the 1967 war.
Predictably, Israel has claimed that its actions are a legitimate response to Palestinian rocket attacks since the collapse of the ceasefire last week - Israel says militants have fired 110 rockets into Israel over the last few days. This sentiment has been implicitly (and in some cases explicitly) backed by the self-appointed ‘international community’. As hi-tech bombs were raining down on Palestinian civilians, that seasoned stooge Zalmay Khalilzad, US ambassador to the UN, had the audacity to claim that “the way forward from here is for rocket attacks against Israel to stop, for all violence to end”.
What a joke! Imagine the outcry in the imperialist press if 300 supporters of the ‘Movement for Democratic Change’ were killed by Zimbabwean state forces – the various bourgeois scribblers would be lining up to condemn Zimbabwe, and the plans for a commemoratory rock concert at Wembley Stadium would be well under way.
As we have said before, one cannot equate the violence of the oppressed with the violence of the oppressors. Israel is not under siege; it is not an occupied country; its citizens (at least its jewish citizens) are not denied their basic human rights; its water, electricity and medical supplies have not been cut off; it is not in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, Gaza has over the last two years been effectively turned into a giant concentration camp. Gazans cannot move in or out of their country; the supply of food, electricity, water and medicines has been cut off; frequent Israeli bombing raids take place; the unemployment rate exceeds 80 percent and the people are living a miserable existence well below the poverty line.
Are the Palestinian people expected to simply give up their right to existence? The right to resist occupation is enshrined in international law, and the Palestinian military resistance to Israeli occupation is legitimate and laudable.
Still, one does not need to accept the legitimacy of the Palestinian rocket attacks in order to condemn the massacre that is taking place in Gaza. According to detailed information released by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a grand total of 15 Israelis have died as a result of Qassam rocket attacks since these were first fired over seven years ago (in October 2001). Meanwhile, close to a thousand Gazans have been killed in Israeli military raids this year alone. These lopsided figures alone are enough to give lie to Israel’s claim that it is simply protecting its citizens from rocket attacks.
Israel’s agenda is clear enough: not happy with the democratic choice of the Palestinian people, it is seeking regime change in Gaza (having already effected regime change in the West Bank). Foreign Minister Livni said in an interview with the BBC: “We took Hamas by surprise, we targeted Hamas headquarters, so this is the beginning of a successful operation, I hope, but the idea is to change realities on the ground.”
Recently, Ms Livni told a meeting of the Kadima party that she would topple Hamas if she was elected prime minister in the coming general election, saying: “The state of Israel, and a government under me, will make it a strategic objective to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza. The means for doing this should be military, economic and diplomatic.” It would be difficult to be clearer than that.
If Israel genuinely wanted to stop the Qassam rocket attacks, it could have done so very easily by complying with the terms of the ceasefire, under which it was supposed to lift the blockade against Gaza in order to end the humanitarian crisis there. It totally failed to respect those terms, and therefore should not be surprised that the ceasefire has collapsed. As has happened many times before, Israel has violated the terms of a ceasefire and used the Palestinian response to ‘justify’ the unjustifiable.
We reiterate the call of Khaled Meshaal, leader of Hamas, for a renewed intifada against Israel. Only through the intensification of the Palestinian resistance will Israel be forced to recognise the right of the Palestinians to freedom from colonial occupation.
NB. While Israel’s crimes are being ignored, 10 people protesting outside the Israeli Embassy in London have been arrested by police under trumped-up charges (our party comrade, who is among those arrested, is being charged with “threatening words and behaviour”). We call for the immediate release of these ten people, whose only ‘crime’ is demonstrating their support for, and sympathy with, the people of Gaza.
Support the uprising of workers and young people in Greece
At the time of writing, the mass-scale political unrest in Greece shows little sign of slowing down. This series of demonstrations, occupations and strikes erupted when, on 6 December, a 15-year-old student, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, was murdered in the streets of central Athens by police guards. Although the police have implied that Alexandros was engaged in “deviant behaviour” (not that this would warrant being shot through the heart), all eyewitness reports stated that the police officers involved were not attacked by Alex and his friends and were not in physical danger at any time. The shooting represents an increasingly authoritarian and repressive approach being taken by the Greek state, in particular towards young people.
Within a few minutes of Alex being pronounced dead, young people, students and workers came out onto the streets of Athens in protest. Huge demonstrations took place, spreading quickly from Athens to many other cities, including Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Komotini, Kastoria, Petras, Tripoli and more. Over the following days, thousands of high school students marched against local police stations, students occupied university campuses, pupils occupied schools and workers went on strike. At the time of writing, dozens of universities are still being held under occupation by students and professors, including the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the National Technical University of Athens and the Athens University of Economics and Business. The teachers’ unions estimate that around 600 schools are under occupation by pupils. Some actions have been particularly daring: according to Kathimerini (an English-language newspaper in Greece), a “group of around 30 protesters forced their way into the headquarters of state broadcaster ERT and interrupted a news broadcast featuring Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. For about a minute, the protesters stood in front of the camera holding banners reading ‘Stop watching, get out into the streets’”.
A one-day general strike on 10 December, called before the shooting of Alexandros in response to the government’s handling of the economic crisis, gained momentum and brought the country’s economy to a standstill.
Solidarity actions have taken place in dozens of countries around the world, particularly in Europe. In Austria, thousands of demonstrators protested outside the Greek Embassy in Vienna; in France, some 3,000 demonstrators gathered outside the Greek Embassy in Paris; there were demonstrations in over 20 German cities; and hundreds protested in Dublin, Istanbul, Seville, Madrid, London, Copenhagen and many other cities in solidarity with the workers, students, youth and unemployed people of Greece. Clearly, the bourgeoisie worldwide is shaking in its shoes as a result of the uprising in Greece and its international significance. IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned there was a risk of social unrest spreading unless the global financial sector shared wealth more evenly (See ‘Greek police teargas youths in 2nd week of protests’, Reuters, 15 December).
Brutal response of the Greek state
Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis quickly vowed to put an end to the work of “the extremist elements who exploited the tragedy”. (‘New protests planned after looters rampage in Athens’, AFP, 8 December), and indeed police forces were deployed in huge numbers against every demonstration and occupation.
According to the Telegraph of 12 December, Greek police had in the preceding five days released 4,600 canisters of tear gas – so much that they were having to appeal to Israel and Germany to provide fresh supplies. (‘Greece “runs out of tear gas” during violent protests’). It should be noted that tear gas is not as innocuous as it might sound. It is a chemical compound that irritates the cornea and conjunctival membranes, resulting in a severe burning sensation in the eyes, streaming tears, severe skin irritation, irritation of the upper respiratory tract (leading to breathing difficulties) and panic. It can induce temporary blindness, nausea and, in the case of allergic reaction, anaphylaxis and death.
Arrested demonstrators have been tortured, and people around the world have been shocked to see the images of Greek police beating peaceful demonstrators. Even Amnesty International, hardly an agency of proletarian insurrection, have issued a statement saying that its members have witnessed “officers involved in policing the riots engaged in punitive violence against peaceful demonstrators, rather than targeting those who were inciting violence and destroying property … In this context, [Amnesty] is concerned about the ill-treatment of two of its members, who were beaten with batons by the police.” (‘Greek police use punitive violence against peaceful demonstrators’).
In an effort to justify the extraordinary brutality employed by the state forces, the government has been painting the protesters as “a small group of hardcore anarchists”; however, even the international imperialist press admits that the number of protesters runs into the hundreds of thousands. The government and the right-wing media have been trying to scare the Greek population with stories about ‘hooded youths’, condemning protesters for coming to demonstrations with masks. In our humble opinion, if state forces are likely to use tear gas, it is a sensible protester that wears a mask as this offers some protection from the state’s chemical assault.
It is almost certainly the case that there are agents-provocateurs involved at some level on the fringes of the Greek uprising, just as agents-provocateurs are involved at some level on the fringes of every important mass movement. However, it is crucial that we do not join with the bourgeois press in overstating the importance of such groups and individuals; they must not distract from the struggle that is taking place, and the state must not be allowed to use them as an excuse for its brutality. Take the example of Iraq: there are agents-provocateurs in Iraq who try to divide Iraqis by planting bombs in market places and the like. The imperialist press tries to paint the actions of these small organisations as reflecting the will of the Iraqi resistance as a whole. They try to accentuate their role and use them as an excuse for the most brutal acts of repression. We are not, and have never been, fooled by these games, and they certainly do not stop us from calling for victory to the Iraqi resistance. Similarly, such games must not detract from our support for the legitimate popular struggle that is taking shape in Greece.
Alienation of the workers and young people from capitalism and social democracy
The protests in Greece indicate very clearly that the masses of the Greek population are deeply at odds with the Greek state. On the economic front, there is increasing unemployment (especially among young people) and poverty pay. Social welfare is under attack, especially in the areas of education and healthcare. Minimum needs are not being met, but the government is set to inject 28 billion euros to ‘save’ the banking system.
Concurrent with the reduction in living standards has been a visible increase in political repression by the state. This year, dozens of demonstrators have been arrested and tortured by police, and Greek police are becoming notorious for their use of torture and excessive use of force, particularly towards workers and young people.
The workers and youth have stopped believing in the benevolence of the state, and are starting to understand – albeit at a relatively primitive level – that capitalism is the cause of their problems.
At the same time, there is growing alienation of the Greek masses from social democracy. It is telling that one of the buildings occupied in recent weeks was the central office of the country’s main labour union, the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE). This would appear to indicate a certain antipathy between the disaffected Greek workers and the trade union bureaucracy, whose role in recent decades has been to consistently undermine workers’ struggle and to support the perpetuation of capitalism (not unlike the main elements of the trade union bureaucracy in Britain).
Workers in Britain and elsewhere must support the uprising in Greece. Whatever its immediate results, its long-term significance will be the re-awakening of the Greek workers, students and peasants. Huge swathes of the population are increasingly falling outside the sphere of influence both of the state and its agent in the working class movement, namely social democracy.
The developments in Greece are making the capitalists and social democrats in all countries tremble. For too long have the European working masses been passive victims, or active co-conspirators, as the imperialists have ruthlessly grabbed and exploited the world’s land, mineral wealth, markets and labour. The current capitalist crisis of overproduction will not only expose the decadent, parasitic, moribund nature of the capitalist system, but will again reveal the means to effect a cure – not by “enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” but rather, through concerted mass action, “to take up arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them”.
Alexandros Grigoropoulos and all the nameless, faceless victims of imperialism will then not have died in vain.