We present below an excellent video made by Studio Joho and based on the book Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins.
Mr Perkins lives in hope that present-day imperialism is some kind of aberration; that we can somehow ‘return’ or ‘reform’ our way to a fairer and saner version of capitalism. This, however, is not the case. The imperialism we see today is the inevitable result of the development of the capitalism of yesterday.
Marxists long ago pointed out that humanity was faced with a choice between socialism or barbarism. There is no way back: the only way out is forward to socialism.
The article below is the text of a speech given by Comrade Khwezi Kadalie, Chairperson of the Marxist Workers School of South Africa, to CPGB-ML meetings in London, Bristol, Birmingham and Leeds during his speaking tour in February.
Or you can watch Comrade Khwezi’s inspiring speech on this video, which includes more detailed discussion on many of the points he raised following questions from the audience.
I would like to thank the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) for the opportunity to address this gathering. I would like to take the opportunity to extend to you, and to all the comrades, friends and fellow workers here, the most sincere, heartfelt and revolutionary greeting of the members of the Marxist Workers School of South Africa and, indeed, greetings from the proletariat of South Africa.
The policies of imperialism and our reactionary ruling capitalist classes have always been to divide people, to divide the working class, to set local workers against immigrant workers, to set full-time workers against part-time workers … and, of course, they set workers in the imperialist countries against workers in the so-called ‘third-world’ countries.
Our position is clear: the objective interest of the South African working class and the interest of the British working class are identical. We have a common enemy; we are united in a common struggle against capitalism and imperialism. And therefore we say: together, the working class in South Africa and Britain, and, indeed, all over the world, will struggle for a better world; a world in which there is no exploitation and oppression, a world in which hunger and ignorance are a thing of the past, a world in which those who produce the wealth in society, namely the working class, shall govern and benefit.
Together we shall struggle and together we shall be victorious in this struggle. It is for this reason that we are here to forge a bond of friendship and solidarity between the South African and British working classes; a lasting bond born out of the revolutionary struggle against capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination.
South Africa during and after Apartheid
Comrades, many working-class organisations, revolutionary parties and comrades and friends who joined us internationally in our struggle against Apartheid had very high expectations of the African National Congress. Millions of people knew the political programme of our national-liberation struggle – the Freedom Charter.
The Freedom Charter laid the basis for a free and democratic South Africa, in which black and white, coloureds and Indians would live as equals. The Freedom Charter demanded that the land should be given back to the people, and that the mines and the banks should be nationalised.
Clearly, neither the land issue has been solved nor have the mines and the banks been nationalised.
Instead, the international community are given conflicting information about the economic progress of South Africa, while at the same time being fed with rather sensational information about the president of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, and the president of the ANC Youth organisation, Julius Malema. Reported issues around Aids and crime have also tarnished the image of South Africa internationally.
To understand the present situation, we need to step back and recall our historical struggle against Apartheid, and we need to look at how the economic and social situation has changed under the ANC government.
During the anti-Apartheid struggle, the main contradiction was between the racist apartheid system and the black people of South Africa, namely Africans, Indians and coloureds. Therefore, the anti-Apartheid struggle was led by the national-liberation movement the African National Congress in alliance with the South African Communist Party and Sactu, the South African Congress of Trade Unions.
This alliance, under the leadership of the ANC, fought the apartheid system politically, through armed struggle, and by organising an international movement to isolate and boycott the apartheid system.
This heroic struggle of our people, fought over many decades and with untold sacrifices, cumulated in the 1990 release of all political prisoners, some of whom, like our leaders Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, had been incarcerated for 27 years. The apartheid regime had to legalise all banned political organisations like the ANC, SACP, PAC, AZAPO and others. Within four years of this change, the apartheid system collapsed and a democratically-elected ANC government was ushered in.
This new government took over the old state machinery, with all its structures, complete with the old civil servants who had served the apartheid system. In addition, the new dispensation was based on a bourgeois constitution, which had been negotiated between the rising ANC and the then ruling National Party in 1992/3.
Since 1994, therefore, South Africa has been a bourgeois democracy, in which the property rights of the ruling capitalist class are enshrined in the constitution and upheld through the laws of the country, as enforced by the police and the judiciary. It is precisely for this reason that, since 1994, the main contradiction in South Africa has been between the ruling capitalist class and the working class.
Yet all political parties in South Africa deny this fundamental fact.
From revolutionaries to reformists
During the years of Apartheid, the capitalist class that owned the means of production in South Africa ruled through the racist and fascist apartheid state; it ruled through brute force. Open and direct oppression, torture and killings, arbitrary arrests and mass intimidation of the entire black population was the order of the day in order to exploit cheap black labour, not only for the enrichment of the white capitalist class but for the social and financial benefit of the entire white population.
After 1994, when Apartheid was defeated by the national-liberation struggle, the main contradiction in South Africa became the contradiction between the ruling capitalist class and the working class. The ruling capitalist class started to rule through bourgeois democracy, the same kind of rule that Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto described as the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
Hand in hand with this transition, the African National Congress, our former liberation movement, has step by step over the years been ideologically transformed into a social-democratic party.
Opportunism has become a material force within the leadership. Indeed, the entire leadership of the African National Congress and the revisionist South African Communist Party has been socially corrupted. It has been bought into the middle class to such an extent that these leaders cannot see their own future and their own interest as being separate from the future and interest of the white bourgeoisie and of the of the emerging black middle class.
To this extent, neither the leadership of the ANC nor that of the SACP are any longer able to represent the objective interest of the rank-and-file members of their organisations. Nor do they represent the basic aspirations of their memberships any more.
The social base of both organisations is made up of ordinary working-class people and their families, who increasingly revolt against the opportunistic leadership. This finds its expression in the increasingly violent infighting at congresses and meetings, and in the emergence of factionalism within these organisations.
All political parties in South Africa deny the fact that the main contradiction in our country today is between labour and capital. It is for this reason that social democracy is flourishing.
The working class is told by its leaders that we all sit in the same boat – together with capital – and that we must all behave ‘patriotically’ to ‘strengthen South Africa together’. Meanwhile, the capitalists are retrenching and shedding millions of jobs. Unemployment has reached 46 percent, and poverty and hunger are spreading like wildfire. Yet the working class is told that the only answer is to hold out for better times and be more patriotic.
As the class contradictions between labour and capital sharpen, millions of workers are expressing their anger and frustration through militant strikes and protest. With falling numbers of workers registering to vote, and falling numbers of those registered bothering to turn out, more than forty percent of the voting-age population are now expressing their disillusionment by staying away from the polls.
All political parties, including the ANC and the SACP, in various ways and with various levels of intensity, are engaged in what Karl Marx described as perfecting the existing capitalist state.
The working class is told that the present stage of the revolution is the national-democratic revolution. In reality, this line is nothing but a call for open class collaboration with the ruling capitalist class, and therefore all policies and programmes, all campaigns that have been developed in South Africa over the past 17 years, are nothing but attempts to perfect the machinery of the capitalist state and increase the efficiency of the capitalist system of exploitation.
Of course, this is sold to the working class and the population at large as: ‘making South Africa internationally competitive’!
Key goals of the Freedom Charter
During Apartheid, 87 percent of the land was allocated to whites. This systematic and barbaric land robbery was the hallmark of colonialism and Apartheid in South Africa. But instead of carrying out a land reform to give land to the landless masses as the Freedom Charter demands, the government passes legislation to regulate the relationship between the white landlords and commercial farms and the farm workers.
South Africa has a race- and class-based education system: government schools for the working class, Model C schools for the middle class, and private schools for the bourgeoisie. Instead of scrapping the race- and class-based education system, which was developed under De Klerk, the last Apartheid President, the new government introduces one education reform after another in order to ‘improve’ the three-tier education system and make it more ‘efficient’.
In the industrial and economical sphere, the Freedom Charter states that the mines and banks should be nationalised. But here too, the government has instead passed legislation to increase the shareholding of black capitalists within the mining industry. And instead of nationalising the banks, the government negotiates with the monopoly capitalists to increase credit to black middle-class people.
In other words: reformism is the order of the day. Despite all the revolutionary rhetoric, which is sometimes voiced at Sunday speeches, reformism has become a material force within the political circles of the ruling ANC-SACP alliance.
Problems for reformists
However, the bourgeois system in South Africa faces one fundamental problem: it does not have the financial or economic potential, nor a coherent political national will, to bribe significant sections of the black working class into collaboration.
During the Apartheid years, the ruling class successfully created an all-white labour aristocracy, which has survived to the present day and is still nourished by the system. The system has failed, however, and indeed it never had any intentions, to create a black labour aristocracy.
Reformism therefore is a material force within state structures; it is the ideology of the middle class, including the emerging black middle class.
But reformism has failed to use its bribed black middle-class placemen to dominate the hearts and minds of the militant working class in South Africa, whose consciousness is being determined by the prevailing conditions of poverty, exploitation and alienation. In other words: the revolutionary spirit of the South African working class has not been broken!
This revolutionary class is struggling daily against capitalist exploitation; this class wants freedom from wage slavery; this class sees socialism as the fulfilment of its aspirations!
Over the years, so-called ‘neo-liberal’ policies have been introduced, such as the privatisation of state assets throughout our country in adherence to IMF and World Bank demands.
As a result, a few people have become filthy rich, and the profits of corporations and international monopoly capitalists have increased significantly. Alongside these gains for the exploiters come the usual burdens on the working classes: unemployment has skyrocketed, and poverty and desperation amongst urban workers and the landless rural masses have reached unprecedented levels.
The social situation of the working class and the landless masses has deteriorated to such an extent that the government has been forced to introduce social benefits in an attempt to take the edge off the people’s anger and desperation. Twelve million people in South Africa have become recipients of these benefits, without which there would be outbreaks of hunger and starvation in South Africa, although it is one of the richest countries on earth. Such are the realities of the so-called ‘free-market economy’!
South African revolutionaries and Marxist Leninists founded the Marxist Workers School of South Africa in order to educate workers about the historical responsibility of the working class, as the most revolutionary class in our society, to organise itself and take up the struggle for a socialist future. We have realised that wage slavery, poverty, crime, ignorance and underdevelopment can only be overcome when the working class has established a socialist system under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The unfolding class struggle of the South African working class is a struggle against the ruling capitalist class in South Africa. And it is at the same time part and parcel of the struggle of the international proletariat, of which we are a part.
Our struggle is part of the struggle of the international working class and oppressed people against capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination.
- It is for this reason that we support the land redistribution in Zimbabwe and the struggle of the Zimbabwean people under the leadership of ZANU-PF to defend its national sovereignty against British imperialism.
- It is for this reason that we call for the victory of the national-liberation struggle in Iraq and Afghanistan
- It is for this reason that we support the anti-imperialist national-liberation struggle of the Green revolution against the internal counter-revolution and the barbaric bombardment and re-colonisation of Libya by Nato.
- It is for this reason that we support the anti-imperialist Syrian Baath party and the coalition government in Syria, which includes the Syrian Communist Party, in its struggle against internal counter-revolution, destabilisation by reactionary Arab regimes and imperialist aggression.
- It is for this reason that we support the Palestinian national-liberation struggle for a united and democratic Palestine, in which muslims, jews and christians can live side by side in peace, free and liberated from the reactionary and racist ideology of Zionism
- It is for this reason that we support all socialist countries like the Peoples Republic of China, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Republic of Cuba and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Each of these socialist countries is at a different stage of development, but nevertheless they are all upholding socialism and developing their countries under extremely difficult conditions of world imperialist domination. Each of these countries is living proof that the working class can be the master of its own destiny.
We fully support the socialist countries in the defence of their hard-won victories and in the defence of their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
- It is for this reason that we build international relations with revolutionary working-class organisations and parties: parties that are based on Marxism Leninism; parties which understand that without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement; parties which have consciously broken all ties with opportunism, revisionism, social democracy and Trotskyism.
The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) is one such party that tirelessly exposes these petty-bourgeois trends within the working-class leadership; that supports the anti-imperialist struggles of the oppressed people, and that fights for the establishment of a truly revolutionary proletarian party of the British working class.
We would once more like to thank the leadership of the CPGB-ML for the invitation and the opportunity to address this meeting.
Long live the solidarity between the British and South African working classes!
Long live proletarian internationalism!
Workers and oppressed people of the world unite against imperialism!
Following the massacre at Mejer, in which 85 civilians were killed in a single Nato raid, Dr Moussa Ibrahim makes an eloquent plea on behalf of the Libyan people for journalistic integrity (9 August 2011).
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.
The BBC cannot be neutral in the struggle between truth and untruth, justice and injustice, freedom and slavery, compassion and cruelty, tolerance and intolerance.
Thus read a 1972 internal document called Principles and Practice in News and Current Affairs laying out the guidelines for the BBC’s coverage of conflicts. It appears to affirm that in cases of oppression and injustice to be neutral is to be complicit, because neutrality reinforces the status quo. This partiality to truth, justice, freedom, compassion and tolerance it deems ‘within the consensus about basic moral values’. It is this consensus that the BBC spurned when it refused to broadcast the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC)’s video appeal to help the people of Gaza.
The presumption that underlies the decision is that the BBC has always been impartial when it comes to Israel-Palestine. An exhaustive 2004 study by the Glasgow University Media Group – Bad News from Israel – shows that the BBC’s coverage is systematically biased in favour of Israel. It excludes context and history to focus on day-to-day events; it invariably inverts reality to frame these as Palestinian ‘provocation’ against Israeli ‘retaliation’. The context is always Israeli ’security’, and in interviews the Israeli perspective predominates. There is also a marked difference in the language used to describe casualties on either side; and despite the far more numerous Palestinian victims, Israeli casualties receive more air time.
Many of these findings were subsequently confirmed in a 2006 independent review commissioned by the BBC’s board of governors which found its coverage of the conflict ‘incomplete’ and ‘misleading’. The review highlighted in particular the BBC’s selective use of the word ‘terrorism’ and its failure ‘to convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation’.
These biases were once more evident in the corporation’s coverage of the recent assault on Gaza. A false sense of balance was sustained by erasing from the narrative the root cause of the conflict: instead of occupier and occupied, we had a ‘war’ or a ‘battle’ – as if between equals. In most stories the word occupation was not mentioned once. On the other hand the false Israeli claim that the occupation of Gaza ended in 2005 was frequently repeated, even though access to the strip’s land, sea and airspace remain under Israeli control, and the United Nations still recognizes Israel as the occupying authority. In accepting the spurious claims of one side over the judgment of the world’s pre-eminent multilateral institution, the BBC has already forfeited its impartiality.
The BBC presented the assault as an Israeli war of self defence, a narrative that could only be sustained by effacing the 1,250 Palestinians (including 222 children) killed by the Israeli military between 2005 and 2008. It downplayed the siege which denies Gazans access to fuel, food, water, and medicine. It presented Hamas’s ineffectual rockets as the cause of the conflict when it was Israel’s breech of the six-month truce on November 4 which triggered hostilities. It described the massacre of refugees in an UNRWA compound in the context of Israel’s ‘objectives’ and ’security’. The security needs of the Palestinians received scant attention. Selective indices were used to create an illusion of balance: instead of comparing Palestinian casualties to those suffered by Israel (more than 1300 to 13) the BBC chose to match them with the number of rockets fired by Hamas. No similar figures were produced for the tonnage of ordnance dropped on the Palestinians.
A parade of Israeli officials – uniformed and otherwise – were always at hand to explain away Israeli war-crimes. The only Palestinians quoted were from the Palestinian Authority – a faction even the BBC’s own Jeremy Paxman identified as collaborators – even though the assault was described invariably as an ‘Israel-Hamas’ conflict, much as the 2006 Israeli invasion was framed as an ‘Israel-Hizbullah’ war. This despite the fact that Israel made no attempts to discriminate between the groups it was claiming to target and the wider population. As one Israeli military official bragged, Israel was ‘trying to hit the whole spectrum, because everything is connected and everything supports terrorism against Israel’. Indeed, given the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths, it would have been far more accurate to describe the assaults as ‘IDF-Lebanon’, and ‘IDF-Palestine’ conflicts.
To be sure, Palestinian civilian deaths were mentioned, but only in terms of their ‘cost’ to Israel’s image. Where Israeli crimes were particularly atrocious, the BBC retreated to condemning ‘both sides’. Israeli civilian deaths were elevated to headlines; Palestinians relegated to the bottom. The aforementioned massacre of Palestinian refugees received the same amount of coverage as the funeral of a single Israeli soldier. A hole in an Israeli roof from a Palestinian rocket often received the same attention as the destruction of a whole Gazan neighbourhood. There was also no investigation of Israel’s widely reported use of White Phosphorus, and of the equally illegal Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) munitions. The coverage of the unprecedented worldwide protests was also minimal. Critical voices were by and large excluded.
If there were no occupier and occupied in the conflict; no oppressor and oppressed, no state and stateless; then clearly assisting victims on one side would compromise ‘impartiality’. This view posits the Palestinian population as a whole as an adversary to the Israeli war machine. The BBC’s decision not to acknowledge the victims of the conflict is a function of its biased coverage. When it spent three weeks providing a completely distorted image of the slaughter carried out by one of the world’s mightiest militaries against a defenceless civilian population, it is unsurprising that it should fear viewers questioning how such a ‘balanced’ conflict could produce so many victims. And if the Israelis are able to look after their own, why should the Palestinians need British assistance?
When there is no mention of the violent dispossession of the Palestinians, or of the occupation; no mention of the crippling siege, or of the daily torments of the oppressed, viewers would naturally find it hard to comprehend the reality. For if these truths were to be revealed, the policy of the British government would appear even less reasonable. As a state chartered body, however, the BBC is no more likely to antagonize the government as a politician in the government is to antagonize the Israel lobby. Indeed, the BBC’s director general Mark Thompson can hardly be described as a disinterested party: in 2005 he made a trip to Jerusalem where he met with Ariel Sharon in what was seen in Israel as an attempt to ‘build bridges’ and ‘a “softening” to the corporation’s unofficial editorial line on the Middle East’. Thompson, ‘a deeply religious man’, is ‘a Catholic, but his wife is Jewish, and he has a far greater regard for the Israeli cause than some of his predecessors’ sources at the corporation told The Independent. Shortly afterwards Orla Guerin, an exceptionally courageous and honest journalist responsible for most of the corporation’s rare probing and hard hitting reports, was sacked as the BBC’s Middle East correspondent and transferred to Africa in response to complaints from the Israeli government.
But this decision to refuse a charity appeal has consequences that go far beyond any of the BBC’s earlier failings: as the respected British MP Tony Benn put it, ‘people will die because of the BBC decision’. It is so blatantly unjust that the only question the BBC management might want to mull over is just how irreparable the damage from this controversy might be to its reputation. The organization that only days earlier was reporting with glee a letter by Chinese intellectuals boycotting their state media is today itself the subject of boycotts across Britain, not just by intellectuals, but by artists, scholars, citizens and even the IAEA. Much like Pravda and Izvestia during the Cold War, today it is the BBC that has emerged as the most apposite metaphor for state propaganda.
Muhammad Idrees Ahmad is a member of Spinwatch.org, and the co-editor of Pulsemedia.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear comrades, our ambassador to the UK was very happy to receive the invitation to this meeting to celebrate the October Revolution organised by the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), and he asked me to be here on his behalf.
We are very happy to have a meeting with our beloved comrades today. This is the first time that I have joined a meeting like this in London. I’ve stayed in London for three years, but we didn’t have much chance to get in touch with each other, so I’m very happy to be here with all of you. [Applause]
The Vietnamese people, under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam, at this moment are carrying out the policies of Doi Moi, which means ‘change’, in order to build up the country after a very long war.
Now we have achieved quite a lot of development, economically as well as socially. We have worked with many countries in order to attract foreign investment into the country in order to build up a strong economy and satisfy the needs of our people.
Some of you may know that in March this year Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung paid a visit to the UK, as well as Germany and Ireland. The connection between the UK and Vietnam is going well and is very active.
The October Revolution was, as Harpal just said, a unique revolution in the world. It opened a new era for the working class. Every year in our country, we always organise celebrations of the October Revolution and working people join in, in order to remember that very special revolution that opened a new era for our time; that opened the way for the working class to grow up and take the power and to build up an ideal society all over the world.
Thank you very much. [Applause]
Reply to Vietnamese comrade by Harpal Brar (CPGB-ML)
Thank you very much for coming and delivering this message on behalf of his Excellency the Ambassador for the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. We are very pleased to see you.
I am, perhaps, too young to remember anything about the Chinese Revolution, but I am old enough to remember about the Vietnamese Revolution.
When I came to this country, the Vietnam war was at its height, and I gained my political education to your country’s heroic efforts in defending your sovereignty and fighting for an advance forward. I was very much impressed, as indeed were all the comrades in our party, by what you have contributed by way of the defeat of Japanese imperialism, French imperialism and American imperialism, and we grew up shouting the name of Uncle Ho all over the place, and I want you to remember that. [Applause. Comrade Phong stands up to shake Comrade Brar’s hand]
Whether we have met before or not, I want you to take this message: we have always been friends of the Vietnamese people, and of their revolutionary struggle. We wish you well in improving the lives of your people, who fought for 40-odd years against various imperialisms, and perhaps much longer, ever since the colonisation of Indochina.
What you are doing for your people has our support; we hope that you are able to build a very prosperous society for the Vietnamese people, where every man and woman can stand with his or her head held high and be the members of a free society, rather than being subjected to oppression and exploitation by imperialism.
We are very, very pleased [to see you here]; Vietnam for us – at least for me – has a very special place, so let us not lose this contact; I hope we will be meeting each other again soon.