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.
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!
Public meeting on Saturday 12 June, 6.00pm in west London. Full details here.
HAVANA, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) — Child mortality rates in Cuba dropped to 4.7 out of every 1,000 newborns in 2008, the lowest in history, the Health Ministry said Friday.
The figure places Cuba among the nations in the world which have the lowest death rates for children under one year of age.
According to the ministry, there were 122,556 births in 2008, 10,184 more than in 2007 when the mortality rate was of 5.3 out of every 1,000 newborns.
A total of 579 newborn babies died in Cuba last year, due mainly to perinatal causes, congenital anomalies and infections.
Congratulations to the Cuban Communist Party and the Cuban people on the momentous occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban revolution. Below is an article on the subject from the latest issue of Proletarian.
Cuba special: 50 years of revolution
New Year’s Day is a day for celebrating, not only as it is the dawn of a new calendar year but also as it marks the triumphant day on which the Cuban people ousted the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, so ridding themselves of the shackles of capitalism and setting out on the road toward socialism.
This New Year, 2009, is especially significant as it will be the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution. No doubt there will be big celebrations across Cuba, and these are bound to be mirrored around the world by the masses of exploited and oppressed people who recognise the huge achievements brought about by the Cuban revolution and who hold dear the shining example of the Cuban people, who have demonstrated for half a century what working people are capable of when they take power.
A Spanish colony
Cuba spent some 400 years as a Spanish colony, having been ‘discovered’ by Columbus in 1492. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, a fierce anti-colonial struggle developed, lead by José Martí and the Cuban Revolutionary Party.
By 1897, the success of the independence movement seemed within reach, with the Spanish prime minister making the following statement: “After having sent 200,000 men and shed so much blood, we don’t own any more land on the island than what our soldiers are stepping on.” (Quoted in Prof J Cantón Navarro, History of Cuba)
However, just a few months later, in February 1898, the US battleship Maine blew up in Havana Bay and drew the US into a war with the Spanish. It is widely believed that the attack on the battleship was actually instigated by the US in order to pull Spain into a war for the ‘ownership’ of Cuba.
The US were the victors of that war, and so, in 1899, dominion over Cuba was transferred to the US, which granted nominal independence to the island in 1902, but retained economic control until the revolution in 1959.
A US neo-colony
The first half of the 20th century saw Cuba descend into a haven for drugs, prostitution and gambling, as the US ruling class, with the help of the Cuban comprador bourgeoisie, turned the small island into an offshore playground.
Successive Cuban governments showed themselves to be nothing more than puppets of US imperialism, maintaining the status quo and allowing the wealth of the land to be leeched by foreign imperialists while the average Cuban was left to serve the colonisers or starve.
Nevertheless, throughout this period, progressive forces continued to mobilise and struggle against the reactionary governments. The increasing strength of the movement was illustrated on 10 March 1952, when Fulgencio Batista, in a bid to prevent a communist candidate winning the elections, seized power by force.
Batista had been a military man for many years and had served the establishment well, suppressing uprisings during the 1930s and 40s. In 1940, he served a term of four years as elected president, during which time US trade relations increased and Cuba entered the second world war on the side of the allies.
Following the coup d’etat in 1952, Batista ruled Cuba with an iron fist. He abolished the constitution, dismissed the Congress of the Republic and firmly held open the door to US imperialism.
Fidel Castro, then a young revolutionary, denounced the coup and called on all Cubans to fight the dictatorship, warning: “once again there is tyranny, but there will also be men like Mella, Trejo and Guiteras [revolutionaries who had fought Spanish and US forces]. There is oppression in the homeland, but there will be a day of liberty again”. (Quoted in History of Cuba, op cit)
Following this call to fight, Castro got together with a group of other revolutionaries who had fought in previous uprisings, with the intention of carrying out an attack on the military regime and thus providing a catalyst for further uprisings.
The target of this attack was to be the Moncada Barracks, the second-largest barracks in Cuba, located a fair distance from any potential back-up forces, as well as being on the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba, where the independence movement had always been strong.
During the night of 26 July 1953, a group of 131 combatants led in three groups by Fidel Castro, Abel Santamaria and Raúl Castro attacked the barracks. Despite extensive and secretive preparation by Fidel and others, the first attacking column was intercepted by an unscheduled patrol of Batista’s forces, sparking a battle and alerting the rest of the barracks to the attack.
Almost all the combatants were captured, eight being killed in battle while a handful escaped. The following day, a further 50 fighters were executed as a warning to others. The rest were tried, along with others who had been rounded up but had no involvement in the attack.
It was during the Moncada Barracks trial that Fidel gave one of his most famous speeches, now recognised by his final statement: “History will absolve me”. Fidel used the speech to expose the brutality of the Batista regime, the downtrodden existence of the Cuban people and the need to fight for liberty and freedom.
He also outlined five revolutionary laws that would have been proclaimed if the attack had been successful. These laws were to “return power to the people”, “give non-mortgageable and non-transferable ownership of land to all tenants”, “grant workers and employees the right to share 30 percent of the profits of all large industry”, “grant all sugar planters the right to share 55 percent of sugar production”, and to confiscate “all holdings and ill-gotten gains … of previous regimes … Half of the property recovered would be used to subsidise retirement funds for workers and the other half would be used for hospitals, asylums and charitable organisations.”
The success of the defence team, in spite of limitations imposed on them by the court, meant that only 26 were found guilty, and a large proportion of these were given lenient sentences.
Movement of 26 July
Fidel, however, along with several others involved in the attack, was sentenced to 15 years and imprisoned in Isle of Pines. Two years later, following continued protests for their release, and in the face of increasing unrest, Batista granted the release of Castro and the other imprisoned combatants.
On their release, they were greeted with great popular acclaim and determined to continue the work they had started. So, in June 1955, Castro and several other revolutionaries who had attacked the Moncada Barracks held an official meeting and formed the Movement of 26 July (M 26-J).
As M 26-J increased its activity, so too did the repressive measures of the Batista regime. By July, Fidel had decided that, in order to effectively organise, he needed to leave the country and train elsewhere.
Mexico and Guevara
Having relocated to Mexico, Castro and several others set up camp, specifically choosing remote terrain similar to Cuba’s in order to prepare themselves for the next stage of the struggle. It was here that they met Che Guevera.
Che had fled persecution in Guatemala and, having met some of the M 26-J comrades previously, was introduced to Castro and so began his involvement in the preparations for the Cuban revolution.
M 26-J members in Mexico maintained constant communication with the workers’ and peasants’ struggles taking place in Cuba. Fidel wrote manifestos for the movement analysing the struggle and the tasks ahead, which were distributed in Cuba.
While the revolutionaries trained in Mexico, hardships suffered by the Cuban population under Batista increased the support for the goals set out by the M 26-J.
After a year of mobilising troops and building up the forces both in Mexico and in Cuba, the M 26-J planned coordinated attacks across the country, with the Mexican contingent travelling across the Gulf to reinforce the eastern front.
On 25 November 1956, from the port of Tupax, Mexico, the Granma, only a small boat, carried 82 members of the M 26-J across the Gulf of Mexico, aiming for Cuba’s eastern coast. However, the heavy load on the boat slowed the journey, delaying its landing to 2 December, two days after the attacks of the M 26-J were to be launched.
This proved almost fatal for the insurrection as, despite the forces within Cuba mounting uprisings and making some gains, they had not been the outright victors. The delay of the Granma meant that Batista’s forces were at the boat’s landing site within an hour with all the planes and troops they could muster.
In the face of this military onslaught, and against all odds, the rebels continued towards the mountains of the Sierra Maestra. However, a large part of their contingent was captured and over 20 executed on the spot. The remaining 10 members moved deeper into the mountains and regrouped, ready to continue the fight against the regime.
During the next 24 months, the 10 members of M 26-J in the Sierra Maestra recruited workers and peasants from across the countryside and towns as a fierce war ensued against the regime.
As Fidel recounted on the 40th anniversary of the revolution: “the infallible tactic of attacking the enemy when it was on the move was a key factor [to success]. The art of provoking those forces into moving out of their well-fortified and generally invulnerable positions became one of our commands’ greatest skills.” (Speech made in Céspedes Park, Santiago de Cuba, 1 January 1999)
By December 1958, the rebel army, with Fidel as commander-in-chief, and Che Guevara, Camilio Cienfuegos, Raúl Castro, Juan Alemida and Celia Sánchez as leaders of the columns, led the forces across the country taking city after city and growing in number by the day.
Che Guevara’s Column No. 8, by this time made up of 300 well-armed and experienced troops, was joined on 29 December by 5,000 recruits trained in the Escambray mountains in the battle for Santa Cruz.
This was the dictatorship’s last and most powerful stronghold. The rebels captured enemy positions one by one, cutting off communication and finally taking all government troops prisoner and seizing control of the city.
At 2.00am on 1 January 1959, Batista fled the country, leaving the rebel army victorious. Thus it was, five years, five months and five days after the attack on the Moncada Barracks, that the programme publicised during the Moncada trial for developing a Cuba for the Cuban people was finally put into action.
Soy Cuba – depiction of Cuban life
For a real flavour of this struggle, it is well worth watching the beautifully filmed and choreographed epic Soy Cuba (I am Cuba).
Using the lives of several Cubans, from a farmer forced to sell all his land to the United Fruit Company to a young girl living in a tin shack having to serve opulent US and foreign ‘diplomats’, it shows graphically the disparity between the life of a Cuban and that of the foreign and comprador bourgeoisie under Batista.
The film aptly portrays the struggle in the towns by the students and workers and how this eventually combined with the guerrilla war led by Fidel, Che, Camilo Cienfuegos and the other fighters and the thousands of recruits who joined the guerrillas from the countryside.
The film ends with the triumphant scene of the guerrilla army advancing victoriously towards Havana.
The revolution continues
The revolutionary government began by addressing the poverty, hunger and illiteracy that had plagued the lives of Cubans for the past century.
The sentiment of the five revolutionary laws outlined in Fidel’s ‘History will absolve me’ speech was put into action. In May 1959, under the Agrarian Reform act, Cuba began expropriating land and private property for the benefit of more than 100,000 rural families.
Rental costs were reduced by 50 percent. Social security measures were extended across the entire population.
The revolution embarked upon creating 10,000 classrooms for the 10,000 teachers without jobs to be able to teach the 600,000 children not then in school. They also began training voluntary teachers, who were then sent to wherever they were needed, thus becoming part of the campaign to rid Cuba of illiteracy.
By 1960, the government had nationalised more than $25bn worth of private property in Cuba, and on 6 August 1960, Cuba nationalised all US-owned property, as well as all other foreign-owned property.
This move unsurprisingly brought the wrath of the already fuming imperialist power. The US government seized all Cuban assets abroad and tightened the embargo that it had imposed following the success of the revolution.
Since 1962, the US has maintained a full economic blockade of the country.
Bay of Pigs
Cuba became one of US imperialism’s most hated states, not only because it seized assets previously under the control of US corporations, directly hitting the US economy, but also because of the example it set to all the downtrodden exploited masses in the US and elsewhere of what is possible when power is seized by the working class and peasantry.
Thus it was that the wrath of US imperialism was not only felt economically through the embargo but also militarily.
In 1961, the US staged an attack on the Bay of Pigs in an attempt to oust Fidel and the Communist Party from Cuba. The invasion was defeated, however, through the coordination of the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (who rounded up all pro-Batista and US forces, preventing them from mobilising a coup within towns), combined with a strong military response led by Fidel.
Economic blockade and subversive attack
Having failed to get rid of socialist Cuba by direct invasion in 1961, US imperialism has not relented and continues to this day in its attempts to undermine the revolution.
This is done through encouraging and financing counterrevolutionary and terrorist activities against Cuba, from backing Luis Posada Carriles, the self-confessed terrorist who has attacked Venezuela and Cuba and now is protected by the US, to funding Hermanos al Rescate (Brothers to the Rescue [!]), a terrorist group created in the US to attack Cuba.
The period from 1959 to 1997 saw “5,780 terrorist actions against Cuba, 804 of them considered as terrorist attacks of significant magnitude, including 78 bombings against the population that caused thousands of victims”. (‘Fifty years of US terrorism against Cuba’, Voltaire.net, 15 December 2005)
This is in addition to the economic blockade that the US has held Cuba under for almost 50 years, which prevents a vast number of goods entering Cuba, from food to medicine, affecting every area of Cuban life. Estimates in 2004 calculated the total direct damage to the economy caused by the blockade at $80bn. (‘The US blockade of Cuba’, Cuba Solidarity Campaign)
In 1992, just after Cuba had lost 85 percent of her trade with the Soviet Union following the latter’s collapse, the US senate tightened the blockade passing the Cuban Democracy Act[!], known as the Torricelli Act. The act, as outlined by Congressmen Torricelli himself, was designed to “wreak havoc on the island”, extending the blockade to countries outside the US and thus preventing the purchase of vital goods by Cuba.
Then, in 1996, the US passed the equally inappropriately titled Cuban Liberty and Democracy Solidarity Act, aka the Helms-Burton Act, extending the embargo to penalise any foreign company that trades with Cuba. It also called for more active interference in the running of the country, through funding subversive activity as mentioned above and increasing the use of external radio and TV broadcasts into Cuba from Miami, notably Radio Marti and TV Marti.
The Helms-Burton Act also further restricted the sale of Cuban goods within the US, which for a moment in 1999 was broken following Cuba’s development of a vaccine against meningitis B. After an outbreak in the US, the Treasury Department finally relented and granted a licence in 1999, having refused to do so for over 10 years.
It is in the face of this that the Cuban people, led by the Communist Party of Cuba, have not only survived but made massive strides in improving the standard of living of all Cubans.
A Cuban diplomat at a recent meeting of the UN member states, at which, for the 17th consecutive year, an overwhelming majority of members (96 percent) voted to condemn the US blockade, stated: “[The US] will never be able to bring the Cuban people to their knees. Neither blockades nor hurricanes will be able to take away our spirit. There will be no human or natural force capable of subjugating the Cuban people”. (‘UN General Assembly condemns US economic blockade against Cuba for the 17th consecutive year’, Cuba News Daily, 30 October 2008)
The Cuban people enjoy a standard of living incomparable in the western world. Incomparable not because of the material goods they have, as these are undoubtedly limited, but because of the freedoms that they benefit from: the freedom that ensures every Cuban lives under shelter, has the right to universal free education and access to a healthcare system that is not dependant on income. In short, the freedom to live a full life no matter who you are or which family you are born into.
Decent housing for all is a right guaranteed by the Cuban constitution. Homelessness is unheard of. Housing costs in Cuba have been maintained at a low level, with many either owning their homes outright or paying an average of 10 percent of income towards their homes.
This is in stark contrast to the insecurity of many in Britain, one of the world’s richest countries, where mortgage rates are such that house repossessions have increased by over 45 percent, with estimations of over 45,000 homes being taken back by lenders by the end of the year. (‘Figures from house repossessions soar to 12-year-high’, The Independent, 8 August 2008)
As for education, the initial ambition of the revolution to rid Cuba of illiteracy has long since been achieved, something not all so-called developed countries can lay claim to. Education is taken very seriously, with 10 percent of Cuba’s GDP being spent on providing free, universal education for all.
Education is compulsory to ninth grade, with one teacher for every 36.8 inhabitants, as compared to one teacher for every 802 inhabitants in the UK. (Figures from ‘Eye-witness to socialism: school education in Cuba’, Proletarian, February 2007)
Unlike the increasingly expensive university education that is a privilege rather than a right in the imperialist world, all Cubans can attend any of Cuba’s 47 universities free of charge. Scholarships are also open to less privileged students from Latin America, the Caribbean, and even the US and Europe, many of whom study medicine and are encouraged to return to their homelands after graduation to implement their skills there.
Before the revolution, only 8 percent of the rural population had access to health care, but today Cuba can boast of a system that provides free health care to its entire population, as highlighted in the recent Michael Moore film Sicko.
The doctor to patient ratio in Cuba is higher than any other country, with a doctor for every 169 inhabitants. In Britain, on the other hand, the average doctor has to attend to 600 inhabitants. The effect of this is that general check-ups are far more frequent and monitoring for potential illness or disease is much easier in Cuba.
Consequently, Cuban life expectancy matches that of the US or Britain, and is way above other developing countries, yet for a fraction of the cost, since the emphasis is on preventative medicine and full health, rather than the system only dealing with those who are already sick and in need of expensive treatments.
The advances in medical research and techniques in Cuba have also been astounding. Not least, the meningitis B vaccine previously mentioned, which was developed in the 1980s, despite the blockade severely limiting the medical supplies that are allowed into Cuba owing to the extent of US patents on treatments.
It is to the credit of the well-managed, centrally organised socialist system that it is able to provide treatment and operations for 11.2 million Cubans despite these limited supplies from abroad.
Cuba puts paid to myth of the ‘inefficiencies of public money’ that has been peddled by our bourgeoisie to justify the dismantling of the NHS in Britain. If the will is there, the funding and results can be found.
The difference between Britain and Cuba is not that the doctors and nurses in Britain do not care, but rather that that, in a system where profit is the driving force, corners will be cut wherever possible, whether the company in question is making cars or providing health care. In socialist Cuba, where people come first, health care, education, shelter and security are the focus, and everything else comes second.
The achievements Cuba has made have also benefited hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people across the globe.
During the 1960s and 1970s Cuba gave much-needed political and military support to independence struggles in Africa, not least those of Angola and Namibia. In 1979, Cuba’s military support to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua assisted them in the defeat of Somoza’s dictatorship.
Cuba’s medical expertise has been shared the world over, with over 25,000 doctors sent to 68 countries. This is in stark contrast to the ‘brain drain’ of doctors who are tempted away from third world countries to serve in the NHS in Britain.
Cuba has given support to many afflicted peoples at times of great need. After the south Asian tsunami, Cuba sent teams of medics to give support, as she did also in the aftermath of earthquakes in Pakistan.
It is also well known that after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2007, Cuba was one of the first countries to offer assistance in the form of 1,500 doctors. The US, despite a severe shortage, never accepted this offer.
In collaboration with Venezuela, the continent-wide Operación Milagro (Operation Miracle) has been underway for three years, treating vast numbers of poor people who have lost, or are losing, their eyesight, by providing free ophthalmology operations. Cuba provides the doctors and expertise while Venezuela provides transportation, accommodation and food, in effect giving sight back to over 6 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the potential for the programme to be extended even further.
As part of ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americans), Cuba and Venezuela have also agreed to share expertise and goods. Cuba is providing doctors, who work in neighbourhoods across Venezuela as part of Mission Barrio Adentro. In return, Cuba purchases crude oil at reduced rates.
Support socialist Cuba
The developments in Latin America as a whole have been tremendously positive for the small island of Cuba. From the collapse of the USSR in 1991 until recently, Cuba was an isolated socialist country, struggling alone in the Americas against the might of US imperialism just 90 miles to the north, with a host of US puppet regimes to the south.
Now, with Venezuela and Bolivia standing as strong allies, along with several other progressive Latin American countries, Cuba’s position has been strengthened. In addition, the increased trade links with China and Russia will also strengthen Cuba’s presence and stability in the region.
While capitalism is deep in crisis, the example that Cuba sets the working class and oppressed people should be broadcast as widely as possible. Cuba is a country that all progressive people should be proud of. When asked what alternative there is to capitalism, we should outline what the Communist Party of Cuba, supported by the people of Cuba, has been able to achieve in the face of constant imperialist aggression.
The proletariat in the imperialist countries must stand shoulder to shoulder with the Cuban people in their heroic defence of Cuban independence and socialism and against US imperialist bullying, trade blockades and threats of invasion and aggression.
Celebrate New Year’s Day this year with added vigour, remembering what has been achieved in Cuba and what could be achieved by a successful socialist revolution in Britain.
Comrades and friends, since we are all here tonight to celebrate the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917, it seems like a good moment to look back at the roots of Bolshevism, and the organisational principles which Comrade Lenin and the Bolsheviks espoused.
1898 Founding of the party – Economism – What Is To Be Done
The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) was founded officially in 1898, but its first stumbling steps were dogged by police suppression, ideological muddle and poor organisation. Things were made worse by the influence of the Russian opportunist trend known as ‘Economism’.
In the name of standing up for the interests of the working class, the Economists insisted on limiting the class struggle to purely ‘bread-and-butter’ industrial issues. They saw Lenin’s plans for a united and centralised political party of the working class as an unnecessary and artificial intrusion upon workers’ spontaneous industrial skirmishes. Their influence helped to perpetuate ideological muddle and lax organisation.
Under these circumstances, Lenin and his comrades – we cannot yet call them Bolsheviks – used the columns of the party paper, Iskra (Spark) to wage a relentless struggle against the disorganising ideas of Economism. By this means, the ground was prepared for the ideological and organisational consolidation of the party.
A key moment in this struggle came in March 1902, with the publication of Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? This work not only delivered a great blow against Economism, it also laid the foundations for the whole future Bolshevik approach to ideology and organisation.
Against the blind worship of spontaneity which characterised the Economists, Lenin asserted the vanguard role of the proletarian party. The party’s role was not to follow but to lead. And key to the development of this leadership role was the central, all-Russian party newspaper.
The purpose of the paper was not simply to comment and analyse but to organise. It was the paper’s job not only to weld the party ideologically, but also to unite local bodies within the party organisationally, as Lenin wrote that such a paper “is not only a collective propagandist and collective agitator, but also a collective organiser”.
These were not just very clever ideas on how to run a political newspaper, but an assertion of the indissoluble bond between the ideological and organisational make-up of the party – the unity of its theory and its practice. And the battle was not just against the Russian Economists, with their exclusive fixation on narrow trade-union struggles. Lenin makes it clear that these gentry were no more than a pale local variant of a virulent strain of opportunism which was international in scope.
There can be no better proof of the continued relevance of the organisational principles advocated by Lenin than the fact that they continue to provoke today’s opportunists just as badly as they did 100 years ago!
Lenin was clear that for the revolutionary movement to hold out, it needed a stable organisation of leaders to maintain continuity; and the bigger the movement grew, the more crucial would such an organisation be. The vanguard organisation would need to consist first and foremost of professional revolutionaries, trained in the art of outfoxing the political police. Far from limiting the scope of the movement, argued Lenin, such an approach to leadership would offer the best prospect of drawing the masses in ever greater numbers into working for the revolution.
It is legitimate for us to ask how much relevance these organisational tactics have for communists today. After all, we are not living in an autocratic state, we do not live under Tsarism, and perhaps we do not require a party leadership that has professional training in the art of combating the political police – yet.
However, as degenerate British imperialist society moves deeper into crisis, the retreat from bourgeois democratic forms is becoming daily more pronounced. Wars of national oppression abroad, erosion of civil liberties at home, cuts in public services, attacks on the pay and pensions of workers, the dismantling of the ‘welfare state’ and the spread of anti-immigrant propaganda – all these combine to create a harsher political climate for dissent of any kind.
The plunge into financial crisis and slump can be expected to intensify this process, precisely in the degree to which the bourgeoisie feel it more urgent to safeguard the exploited workers from the growth of communist influence.
This period of renewed crisis presents the proletariat with an immense historical responsibility, which it cannot hope to shoulder without the guidance and leadership of a party that has learnt to match ideological with organisational strength.
The working class may not yet require a party ‘professionally trained in the art of combating the political police’ – but we certainly do need a party that is no less professional in its approach to organisation than it is in its approach to ideology.
Second Congress of the RSDLP
In 1902, Lenin explained these organisational principles in his work, What Is To Be Done? In July 1903, the ideas advanced were tested out in political struggle at the Second Congress of the RSDLP.
Lenin and his comrades at Iskra submitted a maximum and a minimum programme for the party. The maximum programme dealt with the ultimate goal: socialist revolution and proletarian dictatorship. The minimum programme dealt with the bourgeois democratic phase of the revolution: getting rid of the Tsar, securing a democratic republic, limiting the working day and giving land to the tiller.
Mention of proletarian dictatorship ruffled some opportunist feathers, as did the prospect of an alliance with the peasantry and recognition of the right of nations to self-determination. But on all these issues, the Iskra view prevailed.
However, having failed in a direct assault on the Leninist programme, opportunism now turned its attention to the rules. Having failed to undermine the party’s ideology, opportunism now set its sights on the party’s organisation.
The opportunity for this mischief-making arose around the very basic question: what determines who is a member of the party? Martov could hardly disagree with the common-sense stipulations that party members had to stick to the party line and pay their subs. Where he got cold feet was over Lenin’s insistence that every member should submit to party discipline by working within one of the party’s organisations. The Short History of the CPSU(B) puts it in a nutshell.
“Martov regarded the party as something organisationally amorphous, whose members enrol themselves in the party and are therefore not obliged to submit to party discipline, inasmuch as they do not belong to a party organisation.” (Short History, p36)
To the untutored ear, the Martov approach to party building could sound very bold and revolutionary. Why not have done with it and say that every worker who downs tools and goes on strike demonstrates by his actions that he has the right to be in the party? But such phoney rank-and-file fervour conveniently forgets that it takes all sorts to make a strike, including non-socialists and anarchists.
And in any case, the real intended beneficiaries of Martov’s ‘come all ye’ approach to party membership were not workers at all, but unreliable bourgeois intellectuals eager to parade as progressive leaders but not prepared to “join an organisation, submit to party discipline, carry out party tasks and run the accompanying risks”. (Short History, pp36-37)
Even on the Iskra side of the argument, not all were wholeheartedly behind Lenin. Thanks to some of these wavering elements, Martov’s views on party rules were for the moment tolerated, and this was a temporary setback for the party. What was established at the Second Congress, however, was a clear distinction between the Menshevik and the Bolshevik positions on both ideological and organisational questions, a distinction which proved to be of great political value to the Bolshevik cause in the struggles to come.
It was in the elections at the conclusion of this Second Congress, in which Lenin and his followers secured a majority of the votes, that the two trends within the RSDLP started to be identified as Bolshevik (majority) and Menshevik (minority).
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
In May 1904, the essence of this key struggle over organisational principles was crystallised in Lenin’s work, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.
1. Lenin insisted that what was required was a vanguard party, arguing that “To forget the distinction between the vanguard and the whole of the masses which gravitate towards it, to forget the constant duty of the vanguard to raise ever wider strata to this most advanced level, means merely to deceive oneself, to shut one’s eyes to the immensity of our tasks, and to narrow down these tasks.” (Short History, p41)
The very word ‘vanguard’ has become anathema within the reformist left, drawing knee-jerk accusations of elitism and arrogance. Yet such accusations are no more than a smokescreen to cover the left’s abdication of responsibility towards the class they purport to champion.
2. Every member had to be working for a specific organisation of the party. “If the party were not an organised detachment of the class, not a system of organisation, but a mere agglomeration of persons who declare themselves to be party members but do not belong to any party organisation and therefore are not organised, hence not obliged to obey party decisions, the party would never have a united will, it could never achieve the united action of its members, and, consequently, it would be unable to direct the struggle of the working class.” (Short History, p41)
3. The party must struggle to guide all other organisations of the working class, not hiding behind a cloak of false modesty like the Mensheviks. To belittle the leading role of the party is, in fact, to weaken and disarm the proletariat.
Comrades here present know from experience that it is not always easy to combat Labour party influence in the unions. It is tempting to declare the struggle unnecessary (because ‘eventually the crisis will in any case loosen the ties that bind organised labour to social democracy’). It is tempting to declare the struggle impossible (because ‘social democracy is so ingrained in the trade unions – why waste the effort?’). It is not so unusual even to hear both optimistic and pessimistic versions expressed in one and the same breath!
But however the issue may be fudged, the fact remains: no matter how weak we may judge communist influence to be at present within the unions, the task remains to build a party that can guide all the other organisations of the working class.
4. The party must multiply and strengthen connections with the non-party masses.
For example, this is the light in which communists should see work with the anti-war and international solidarity movements, as well as with organised labour, however grandiose the term ‘masses’ may sound at this early stage of development.
5. The party will be a party of democratic centralism, with election from below and leadership from the centre. As Lenin puts it, “Now we have become an organised party, and this implies the establishment of authority, the transformation of the power of ideas into the power of authority, the subordination of lower party bodies to higher party bodies.” (Short History, p43)
The working class is not best served by a loose association of study and agitation groups, but by a party of democratic centralism, with a central committee, regions and branches.
6. All the comrades in the party must share a common proletarian discipline, binding upon all. And it is the duty of everyone to make sure this happens. The “class-conscious worker”, says Lenin, “must learn to demand that the duties of a party member be fulfilled not only by the rank-and-filers, but by the ‘people at the top’ as well.” (Short History, p44)
In short, the Mensheviks of yesterday and today want a party as a kind of club for ‘great thinkers’, unburdened with a lot of tiresome rules binding upon all without exception.
The Bolsheviks of yesterday and today demand a party that not only seeks ideological unity but also learns to consolidate that ideological unity by the material unity of organisation of the proletariat.
Lenin rubs this home in the final paragraph of One Step Forward.
“In its struggle for power, the proletariat has no other weapon but organisation. Disunited by the rule of anarchic competition in the bourgeois world, ground down by forced labour for capital … the proletariat can become, and inevitably will become, an invincible force only when its ideological unification by the principles of Marxism is consolidated by the material unity of an organisation which will weld millions of toilers into an army of the working class.”
1905 and the Third Congress
The eruption of revolution in 1905 created a new situation for the party. The divisions over organisational questions were now supplemented by open splits over questions of political tactics.
Where the Bolsheviks insisted that the bourgeois democratic struggle against Tsarist autocracy must not be left to the gutless bourgeoisie to lead, but must be conducted in a revolutionary manner under the leadership of the advanced proletariat and its party, the Mensheviks took the position that workers should leave leadership in the hands of the liberal bourgeoisie. The revolution was not socialist, so why should the workers get involved in leading it? This left-sounding posture merely served as a cover for the Mensheviks’ own inaction.
If the party was not to betray the trust of the masses, it had to resolve these differences without delay. This required the convening of a Third Congress, but when the Bolsheviks proposed this, the Mensheviks declined, preferring to sit on their hands.
The Bolsheviks then convened the Third Congress unilaterally, in April 1905. Sooner than attend, the Mensheviks responded by calling a congress of their own. The splitters’ congress duly committed the Mensheviks to the tactics of tucking in behind the liberal bourgeoisie, whilst the Third Congress of the RSDLP took on the burden of leadership which the Mensheviks insisted upon shirking.
When the Moscow proletariat began the armed uprising of December 1905, it was no accident that, out of a fighting organisation of about 1,000 combatants, over half were Bolsheviks.
It was not until 1912 that Menshevism was finally so discredited within the party that the Bolsheviks could finally release the party from the sapping influence of their opportunism and indiscipline. However, the lessons learned in those struggles proved invaluable to Bolshevism in the trials that lay ahead, both in making revolution and in defending proletarian dictatorship.
In that crucial year of 1905, when what some had belittled as ‘just’ organisational disagreements erupted into fundamental disagreement as to the whole character of the revolutionary development and the role to be played in it by the proletariat, another influential figure on the revolutionary left was to be found energetically taking the wrong side.
Insofar as he consented to being organised by anybody between 1903 and 1917 (the year which saw him jump ship into the Bolshevik ranks), Leon Trotsky was identified with the Mensheviks. So it was that, whilst the Bolsheviks were leading the Moscow proletariat in revolt in 1905, Trotsky and his fellow-Mensheviks, Khrustalev and Parvus, were using their ascendancy within the St Petersburg Soviet to obstruct plans for the uprising, refusing to arm the workers or bring them into contact with the soldiers of the St Petersburg garrison.
Trotsky and 1917
In fact, one way to gauge the organisational maturity of Bolshevism in finally leading the masses to seize the power in October 1917 is by negative reference to the shallowness of Trotsky’s ‘Lessons of October’. Such is the very revealing approach adopted by Comrade Stalin in his 1924 work, ‘The October Revolution and the tactics of the Russian Bolsheviks’.
Though Trotsky finally joined the Bolsheviks in 1917, it is clear from his analysis of the events of that world-shaking year (in his ‘Lessons of October’) just how poorly he grasped the complex character of Bolshevik leadership.
Having himself, for all those years, resisted being organised within the discipline of a communist party – feeling more at home in the world of cabals, factions and conspiracies – he now proved incapable of understanding how such a party could take on the task of organising the vast revolutionary masses of mother Russia.
Leadership, for Trotsky, was either a question of dazzling an audience with brilliant words, or of issuing military-style orders to the obedient ranks.
Comrade Stalin poured scorn on Trotsky’s ‘explanation’ of Bolshevik tactics as they evolved between April and October 1917. Trotsky talked as if, right from the word go, the Bolsheviks had a ready-made political army – as if it were only a question of conducting a few reconnaissance missions before sending in the masses to bring home the revolutionary victory.
“If one were to listen to Trotsky, one would think that there were only two periods in the history of the preparation for October: the period of reconnaissance and the period of uprising, and that all else comes from the evil one. What was the April demonstration of 1917? ‘The April demonstration, which went more to the ‘Left’ than it should have, was a reconnoitring sortie for the purpose of probing the disposition of the masses and the relations between them and the majority in the Soviets.’ And what was the July demonstration of 1917? In Trotsky’s opinion, ‘this, too, was in fact another, more extensive, reconnaissance at a new and higher phase of the movement.’ Needless to say, the June demonstration of 1917, which was organised at the demand of our party, should, according to Trotsky’s idea, all the more be termed a ‘reconnaissance’.
“This would seem to imply that as early as March 1917 the Bolsheviks had ready a political army of workers and peasants, and that if they did not bring this army into action for an uprising in April, or in June, or in July, but engaged merely in ‘reconnaissance’, it was because, and only because, ‘the information obtained from the reconnaissance’ at the time was unfavourable.
“Needless to say, this oversimplified notion of the political tactics of our party is nothing but a confusion of ordinary military tactics with the revolutionary tactics of the Bolsheviks.
“Actually, all these demonstrations were primarily the result of the spontaneous pressure of the masses, the result of the fact that the indignation of the masses against the war had boiled over and sought an outlet in the streets.
“Actually, the task of the party at that time was to shape and to guide the spontaneously arising demonstrations of the masses along the line of the revolutionary slogans of the Bolsheviks.
“Actually, the Bolsheviks had no political army ready in March 1917, nor could they have had one. The Bolsheviks built up such an army (and had finally built it up by October 1917) only in the course of the struggle and conflicts of the classes between April and October 1917, through the April demonstration, the June and July demonstrations, the elections to the district and city Dumas, the struggle against the Kornilov revolt, and the winning over of the Soviets. A political army is not like a military army. A military command begins a war with an army ready to hand, whereas the party has to create its army in the course of the struggle itself, in the course of class conflicts, as the masses themselves become convinced through their own experience of the correctness of the party’s slogans and policy.”
Comrades and friends, how much less is that ‘political army’ of the revolution ‘ready to hand’ in Britain today – to the dismay of all the would-be drill-sergeants of the revisionist and Trotskyite ‘left’? Where is it to be found?
Let us leave it up to these gentry to search for their ready-made army in the dwindling ranks of the imperialist Labour party. We will do better to recall those prophetic words of Lenin, way back in 1904, in One Step Forward.
“In its struggle for power, the proletariat has no other weapon but organisation. Disunited by the rule of anarchic competition in the bourgeois world, ground down by forced labour for capital … the proletariat can become, and inevitably will become, an invincible force only when its ideological unification by the principles of Marxism is consolidated by the material unity of an organisation which will weld millions of toilers into an army of the working class.”
There can be no better way to celebrate the proletarian revolution of October 1917 than to study for ourselves the real lessons of October, the heroism of the revolutionary masses and the revolutionary maturity of the Bolshevik party that led them.
The firmer these lessons are grasped, the surer can we be that our celebration of Bolshevik history tonight is but a foretaste of the communist future for which we struggle.
Long live October 1917!
Thank you very much. This is the third time I was invited here and the second time to celebrate and be with you on this special day of the October Revolution. I am honoured and am very happy.
The first time, I was a bit depressed. But for the third time, the second time of the October Revolution, I’m very happy. Happy for the simple reason that capitalism, imperialism, is in a serious general crisis. [Laughter and applause]
I live in a very small country, a small imperialist country. It’s called Belgium. I do remember, and I was watching, the day the Soviet Union was overthrown and the counter-revolution over the Soviet Union [took place]. The news: chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl comes with two books. One, in the left hand, the book of Lenin – Imperialism – and in the right hand, Das Kapital, and then he was laughing and he said ‘The day of Karl Marx and Lenin is finished!’
I knew he was attacking me, he was trying to make me depressed, to take some medicine or whatever [Laughter], but I knew that capitalism cannot survive.
But a lot of people believed it. It is very difficult to teach and to explain to young workers – every worker – women and men in the imperialist countries, about the Soviet Union.
I would like to share with you one aspect which was not mentioned: the achievements of the Soviet Union that were realised after the October Revolution, particularly under the leadership of Lenin and specifically comrade Stalin.
Stalin came from a very small, minute, nationality – Georgia. Is it possible for me to be a prime minister of this country? [Chair interjects: I don’t know, after Obama! Laughter]
The Soviet Union had a huge number of different nationalities. The Tsar, Russian imperialism and colonialism had abused and colonised, killed, eliminated, destroyed a lot of colonised nationalities within the Russian empire. But the Soviet Union could build and solve, for the first time in the history of humanity, the equality, the fraternity of all nationalities to live under one home with a new civilisation which is called the Soviet Union. [Applause] It never had been achieved [before].
We know that nationalism is a creation of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie looks for the market and it fights for the money. That great home, that great civilisation [the Soviet Union] was not right [to the bourgeoisie]. The enemy is not only the one who is outside standing with a gun. The enemy also plays a lot of ideological enemies, infiltrators.
The Soviet Union, after the Bolshevik revolution, the October Revolution, everybody ganged up on the Soviet Union. Fifteen countries, including the United States, invaded the Soviet Union, destroyed everything that had existed there, and killed 10 million Soviet people, which later on, even, they used that killing and famine as if it was Comrade Stalin that had destroyed Ukraine in 1932.
Lenin says in his marvellous work, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, ‘This happens to an individual: you make in life one step forward, you get drunk and you gamble, lose all your money, you divorce, you think too much, then you take two steps backward in order to come back. It happens to a nation, it does happen also to the class.’
The Soviets were invaded. All modern things were destroyed by the counter-revolution. Lenin says: ‘If there is no industry, there is no proletariat, let us concede.’ And that is Leninism, is Marxism, in the era of imperialism.
The tactic of Lenin, by introducing the New Economic Policy, NEP, was a temporary strategic withdrawal. But some crazy ones who are not really correct communists and Bolshevised in the party, believed that the NEP, the New Economic Policy, was in fact the policy forever.
Once Italian fascism took over in 1923/24, German Nazism was menacing, imperialism was in a crisis already by 1929, Comrade Stalin, he said: ‘If we don’t catch up, the gap between us and them is one hundred years, this beast will destroy us. Collectivisation and industrialisation [are what we need].’
When you just take one work of Lenin and you compare in his work, ‘Shame on America for the plight of the negroes’, in that wonderful work of comrade Lenin, the Afro-Americans today, the ex-slaves in the south, their literacy grade was higher than the Russian peasantry in 1918. When you compare Russia, the Soviet Union, in 1918, there was a 400-year gap between Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Have you ever seen a civilisation who closed the gap in eight years’ time? [Applause]
The Soviet people, they don’t exist anymore. Now they have become Chechens, Georgians, fighting one another one – tribes.
The richest man in Belgium is not a Belgian today; he’s a thief from Kazakhstan. [Laughter] Somalis, who speak one language, have one psychological make-up, one geographical territory, one religion, Islam, and even from Islam, sunni, and from sunni, one line, Maliki – they are now, today, clans and warlords, according to the imperialist media.
My country, Ethiopia, a poor country, or a country with a poor people but rich resources, sent troops when I was a young boy going to school. There was an Ethiopian musician who was singing about Ethiopian soldiers who were being brought in a train to go and fight on the American side in Korea. They died for nothing.
The nationality issues, the equality of people, it can only be solved under the Soviet type of system.
We know that most of our countries are multinational. Today, when you look in Africa, the imperialist media will tell you tribe X against Z, Z against W, W against this, while inciting and creating a proxy war. But one thing: they [the Africans] like a resistance that can shatter the American imperialist dream.
Afghani people resisting the unity of Nato provided the Pakistani people with the correct anti-imperialist leadership against these puppets who are trying to drag 140 million people of Pakistan into a serious problem.
Imperialism is seriously wounded. Comrade Harpal Brar is one of my teachers in one of his eloquent, wonderful works on ‘Capitalism and immigration’ in imperialist countries.
They don’t have children. In the city where I live, 100,000 people live, 30 percent of the population are pensioners. There are no children. In Spain, Italy [the same], by 2040, Russia’s [population] will be 30 percent reduced, Ukraine 40 percent. Not because people don’t won’t to have children, but because it has become impossible for young people to have a job, to have a decent shelter, they have to work flexible hours, they have temporary contracts.
I think that it’s not difficult; I wish I knew Russian to study. They have already now 18 years, the imperialist bourgeoisie, they have all the finest Soviet history, [but] they couldn’t even publish where are the 30 million gulags; they couldn’t produce even a film about it.
They used to inculcate us day and night that there was a famine in Ukraine, a deliberate famine and 10 million Ukrainians dead. There is no [evidence] today [of] that.
Young people in the imperialist countries have to be educated. I am happy for the young one, when she spoke, honest and decent. We, the older ones, we have to have the patience and we have to do all the maximum to win our young generation to realise our defeat and bring, as the Arabs say, for every oppressor class there is a day, and that day is the October Revolution. [Applause]
Thank you Comrade Harpal, and I’d like to thank the CPGB-ML for organising this great event.
People have stopped celebrating October it seems to me, and I think it very important to do so. And the best way to do so is to try and understand what socialism is about.
You hear this over and over again: Marxism is ‘economic reductionism’, Marxism is ‘economic determinism’, but actually, Marxism points to the one thing that is extremely important, which is that the economy really does determine and condition a lot of what goes on in society. Which is why today, to celebrate October, I’ve decided to talk a little bit about socialist economics in comparison with capitalist economics.
Now, the minute you mention socialism, you hear this tape running in your mind like Joti said, especially for our generation: socialism is equal to government, which is equal to lack of incentive, which is equal to inefficient; capitalism is equal to greed, profit motive, selfish motive and therefore it creates incentives for growth and it is equal to innovation.
This is the standard formula you get when you begin to study economics in O-levels and A-levels and it continues through university on to your PhD and so on and so forth. But in fact this is a load of, pardon the expression, BS. [Laughter]
The fact of the matter is that innovation, which is the bedrock of what drives the economy, does not occur because somebody or other sitting in their backyard decides to split an atom; clearly, you’d recognise that an atom cannot be split in your backyard!
Scientific innovation is really the product of research and development organisations, and the dominant research and development organisations in the world today, whether you look at the most advanced capitalist society or you look in the Soviet Union or anywhere else, you will discover that they are all funded by the government. None of them are under private control, whether you look at Nasa or anything else.
And the enormous spin-off of what we call the second scientific and technical revolution, the second industrial revolution, the creation of satellite technology, fibre-optics, [micro]chips, etc, etc that are used in computers and so many other things that we use in consumer electronics and so on today – those are all spin-offs of science technology that was created through Nasa and through other government-sponsored research and development organisations.
So this great worship at the altar of innovation is actually all occurring through government spending anyway. And this is something that is just obscured from everyone’s view.
The thing about socialist and capitalist economics is that there’s an interesting paradox. Everyone knows that the Soviet Union managed to defeat the largest army assembled in its day, which had the combined economic power of all of continental Europe behind it; that is, the fascist armies Germany, Italy and so many other countries. They defeated them all – one single country, one socialist economy with several republics within it – and then after that, and the devastation caused, in which 20-25 million people lost their lives in the Soviet Union and something like 70 percent of industry was wiped out, they rebuilt it all and became another superpower.
If I go back into history, they went through World War I, they went through a civil war, and each time, that society was entirely destroyed and then once again they were a superpower. How did they accomplish these fabulous miracles?
And then, suddenly we discover, in the 1970s and 80s, Gorbachev comes along and says ‘The Soviet Union is in crisis’. Why was the Soviet Union in crisis? Because, according to Gorbachev, it was no longer catching up with the West at the same rate as it was doing. It’s still catching up with the West, but it’s just not catching up with the West as fast as it was catching up with the West before. That was the big crisis.
Let’s accept Gorbachev for now. Why did the Soviet Union gradually slow down in terms of its economic development and growth?
For this, we have to go back to the reason why it grew so rapidly.
There was a time when the bourgeoisie required the mobilisation of workers and peasants; they made everything quite simple and said: ‘This is what we need; we need to get rid of that king, so come join us, we’ll get freedom, we’ll get democracy, come join us.’
Now is not that time. Now is the time that the bourgeoisie wants to make everything complicated. They don’t want to explain things to workers and peasants because they don’t want workers and peasants to be mobilised, and I can find no better example of this than in the field of economics, in which every little thing is completely obscured, abstracted into various mathematical formulas from which you can’t get your head out of [Laughter], so you don’t understand anything that’s going on.
Actual economics is really simple, and people just like making it very complicated. Even Marx’s Capital is actually very easy to understand. The language is difficult; he writes in German, his sentences go on for three pages [Laughter] – that’s what makes it hard! – but the concepts themselves are actually not hard at all to understand.
What drives growth? That’s the central thing that I want to get at today. What drives growth, ie, productivity, the capacity of society to produce more and more, is the fact that humanity creates, through social labour (all labour is social) implements, tools and machines that help humanity mobilise nature in a manner that is beneficial to humanity. That’s economic growth in a nutshell.
It’s not very complicated, is it? It’s just tools. It’s just machines. The development of tools and machines is economic development.
Now the thing about capitalism is that the very process that develops tools and machines and introduces them into the economy simultaneously displaces scores and scores, sometimes millions of workers from the economy, because machines take the place of workers, and unless new investment comes in, more and more workers will be displaced by machines.
So this means that the very process which increases the capacity of society to grow simultaneously decreases the capacity of society to purchase on the market what has been produced. And this causes a recurrent economic crisis.
Every time you go through the introduction of new machines into society, new technology into society, and you displace hundreds and thousands of people from the market, what is the result? There is a slump in demand and capitalists can’t sell their commodities, and as a result, you see economic crisis such as the one you’re witnessing today.
So how does socialism work? In socialism, in fact in every society, whether it’s capitalism or socialism, a certain percentage of your revenue or your ability to work (which is one and the same thing), is reserved for reinvestment into the creation of machines.
So, for instance, if we were one society [indicates audience in hall], we could say that these 10 people will be responsible for producing new machines that the other 90 people will be using.
In capitalism, the way that we determine whether it’s going to be 10 people or 20 or 50 that are going to be producing these machines is through the market mechanism of profit. And that is, that all the capitalists want to earn as much profit as they want to, so they will only build machines, and they will only build the type of machines, which earn them profit. That’s the bottom line. They will not build machines that will help people; they will build machines that will earn them profit.
So it is what Marx called the normalisation of the rate of profit (the equalisation of the rate of profit Adam Smith also talked about), which determines where that savings and reinvestment is going to go.
But in socialism, you don’t have to do it through the market; you can do it through a central plan. We can all get together and we can decide: ‘Ok, what we want to do, friends, in order to develop our society, is to increase the number of enterprises that are producing machines that are going to boost the productivity of our society.’
This is what Stalin called, very briefly and simply, the production of the means of production.
So the purpose of a planned economy is to increase the production of the means of production. Just think about it, it’s actually quite intuitive. Let’s say that these 10 people here were producing tractors and the rest of us were all peasants and were working the fields. Now, in a capitalist economy those 10 people would only produce enough tractors that they can sell them at a profit and that is what is going to determine how many tractors are going to be produced, when they are produced and how they are sold.
If we now suddenly overthrow the capitalist government and we have a socialist society, we can decide it’s not going to be 10 people that are going to be producing tractors, why not get all these 50 people on this side of the room to produce tractors. In fact, let’s forget about producing these tractors for a profit, for a profit we could maybe produce 50 tractors a year, now we are going to produce 150 tractors a year. Moreover, we are just going to give them out for free. Anyone that organises a collective farm can get a tractor.
Now, for all the capitalist economists, that doesn’t make any sense, they’re asking: ‘Why are you running all your tractor factories at a loss? You’re not making a profit! There’s no incentive, it’s all coming apart! Ah, the world is falling!’ [Laughter]
But think about it from the view of the entire economy. When there were only 50 tractors produced, or whatever the number it was that I spoke about earlier, the growth out of 50 tractors was going to be, say, 100 percent. Now that there are going to be 150 or 200 tractors, the growth is going to be three or four times that amount. Because the tractors are going into the fields and they are going to produce that much more. It’s really that simple.
So, what may be an economic loss to the individual enterprise producing the means of production is in fact of enormous economic benefit to the economy as a whole. That is why, during times of war, even capitalist governments decide to take industries, nationalise them, run them at a loss and ensure that thing is produced, that the thing that is required is produced in sufficient quantity. Mostly I am referring to the war industry, which is never run at a profit but run under a planned economy.
So, this is how the Soviet Union managed to perform its economic miracles. If you read Stalin’s great book Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, he says that the way to build socialism is to take those industries that are producing consumer items, take the extra revenue from those and cross-subsidise those industries that are producing machines, producing the means of production. And when those means of production go back to the consumer industries, everything is just going to grow.
And that is exactly how it performed their economic miracles.
In other words, sector A industries, the ones that are producing consumer goods, cross-subsidise the sector B industries, the ones that are producing the means of production. It’s just that simple, comrades.
With respect to China, Vietnam, Pakistan, India, the third world, there is a consistent problem of underdevelopment. It could be just that simple as well, if we could understand that we need to cross-subsidise those industries that have positive growth. In order to do that, you need a planned economy.
What happened in the Soviet Union with the rise of opportunism, what Mao Zedong calls modern revisionism, was that, somehow or other, these really important aspects of a socialist planned economy were thrown overboard. Instead, in their place was introduced the notion that every individual enterprise, not the economy as a whole but every individual enterprise, must run at a profit.
These were called the Lieberman reforms in 1965. Ninety thousand industrial units of the Soviet Union from the main industrial units, with the exception of the military, were under this plan reorganised. They were separated from the central plan, and the principles upon which they were reorganised were that the enterprise, instead of the plan, which was the case previously, would be the basic unit of the socialist economy.
In this, they said, in the new economy, the increased the role of profits increased the ‘real incentives’, which basically amounted to nothing other than increasing the incentives of mangers, middle men and technical managerial intelligentsia.
They said that development funds would no longer be supplied by the Gosplan, by the central bank, by this method of cross-subsidisation, but should be supplied either through loans, credit, or should be generated by the enterprises themselves. They thought that by increasing the rights of factory managers, they could somehow incentivise these factories to produce more.
In fact, they did the very opposite. They slowed down their own economic growth, gradually, even though the Soviet Union still grew at a phenomenal rate, but they slowed it down. They fractured up their social revenue into 90,000 little parts instead of centralising it all and utilising economies of scale, centralising all that scientific knowledge, centralising that revenue, utilising economies of scale to build bigger and better things.
They fractured their social revenue into 90,000 units, which is the number of enterprises that they had at that time, and, as a result, the economy slowed down. And when the economy slowed down, that slowing down of the economy ironically was used by what I would call liquidationists within the party, trying to destroy the party, to further justify the break-up of the Soviet Union, the break-up of socialism, the destruction of the planned economy and the eventual destruction of the soviet state.
The lesson to be learnt is, well, first of all, let’s call things by their right names. The Lieberman reforms were a step back toward capitalism, although they were at the time called a step toward socialism.
Every single step back from socialism since the 1950s has been covered up as a step forward towards socialism. Whether that is the new left, the Frankfurt school of thought, whether that is within the communist party, whether it is post-modernism, post-structuralism, all these things, all this ‘great advance’ is actually a step backwards. It’s always undertaken, because of the dominance of Marxism over the entire intellectual world, it’s always been justified as an ‘advance’.
This retreat, which caused the slow-down in the economy, was used as further justification for the complete break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.
We must learn from this history and we must conduct a ruthless ideological war against those people, those trends, those political ideas that pretend to be part of the working-class movement, but are actually representatives of ruling-class ideas within the working class.
Thank you very much. [Applause]
Reply to Taimur’s speech by Harpal Brar (CPGB-ML)
Precisely because these reforms were a step backwards to capitalism, rather than a step forward in the direction of what Khrushchev used to call the ‘higher stage of communism’, which they were going to achieve within 15 years, that’s why they malign the central planning during Stalin’s period of time by some lured stories.
If you read those stories, it sounded as though Stalin had steel for breakfast, more steel for lunch and even more steel for evening meals. And this because he was the evil-minded dictator who wanted to starve Soviet people of articles of consumption.
What people don’t realise is, as Taimur has told us, you can’t even actually expand on a large scale the production of the articles of consumption unless you’ve got the means of production to produce it. What’s more, the machines that produce those means of production, particularly machine-building industry, metallurgical industries, chemical industries, etc. You need all those.
Everything was on track in the Soviet Union, which is precisely why, between 1928 and 1941, June 1941, when the Soviet Union was attacked, her economy has actually gone up by ten times. After the devastating war, the Soviet Union rehabilitated its economy by 1948. From the middle of 1945 to the end of 1948 they had rehabilitated production to the pre-war level.
Then from 1948-51, the Soviet Economy had doubled in size again. Now, the stupid idea is that innovation took place in the Soviet Union because Stalin took a gun and said to their scientist: ‘You will produce this.’ Try and take a gun elsewhere! Everyone knows that Tsarist Russia was not bad at using guns. Why did innovation not come to Tsarist Russia and why to Soviet Russia? Precisely because of the collective efforts where people helped each other in solving the problems.
Transcribed from the rally held in Southall, London on 8 November 2008 to celebrate the 91st anniversary of the October Revolution. The video of this speech can be found at the CPGB-ML YouTube page.
Thank you, Harpal, for your wonderful and inspiring speech about the October Revolution and our Korean achievements.
As always, on behalf of my ambassador and all the other staff, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all the members and activists of the CPGB-ML on your support for our Korean revolution and the solidarity you’ve shown in our difficult times. Thank you very much.
On this occasion, also, I would like to congratulate all the members of the CPGB-ML on this very auspicious occasion of the [anniversary of the] October Revolution.
The great October Revolution in Russia, nearly a century ago, opened a new age for revolutionaries, for the working-class and progressive people all over the world, and gave them a bright hope. I think we can still hear the guns and cheers and see the red flags flying in the sky and feel the enchanted moment of that day, November 7th, 1917. [Applause]
The great October Revolution proved that the working class, when guided by correct and just ideology, and the wise leadership of their outstanding leader, could defeat the reactionaries of history – anti-revolutionaries – and thus build a new society and a new world.
The justness and vitality of the October Revolution has been proven throughout history. Comrade Harpal explained that very well in his speech: the socialist revolution and construction of socialist society in the Soviet Union, the defeat of fascism in World War II and the consequent victories of the socialist and people’s democratic revolutions and anti-imperialist national-liberation struggles throughout the world – Asia, Latin America, Europe and Africa.
And the Workers’ Party of Korea and the DPR of Korea have always regarded the October Revolution as an immortal achievement of not only the Russian communists and revolutionaries, but also of the Korean and world progressives and revolutionaries. [Applause]
Our party and government does continually safeguard the spirit and the principles of the October Revolution, through ups and downs, and, I think, will do the same in the future too.
Let me finish my short speech by reading an excerpt from a great work by Comrade Kim Jong Il, with a very touching anecdote from 2001 by him. You may all remember the work, but I will just repeat. It is a work written by him in 1996: ‘Respecting the forerunners of the revolution is a noble moral obligation of revolutionaries’.
“The cause of independence for the popular masses, the cause of socialism, is a national, and at the same time an international, cause. The Korean revolutionaries are genuine internationalists; they respect the revolutionaries, anti-imperialist fighters, anti-fascist fighters, progressive figures and revolutionary people of all countries, irrespective of their nationality, and duly appreciate their achievements.
“Our party and people respect Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin as the leaders of the working class and speak highly of their distinguished services. Reflecting the demands and aspirations of the working class, Marx and Engels, the first leaders of the working class, developed socialism from a utopian concept to a science and started the socialist and communist movement.
“Lenin inherited and developed Marxism to meet the change in the times and won the victory of the October Socialist Revolution by organising and mobilising the working class.
“Stalin, succeeding to the cause of Lenin, built the first young socialist state into a world power and defended the socialist fatherland from the fascist invasion, leading the army and the people. In their days, Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin represented the aspirations and demands of the exploited working masses, and the cause of socialism was inseparably linked with their names.
“The fact that imperialists and the traitors to the revolution viciously defame the leaders of the working class and abuse their leadership as ‘dictatorship’ or ‘infringement on human rights’ only proves that the leaders of the working class were zealous champions of the people’s interests and enjoyed their trust and support.” [Applause]
“Although the opportunists and the socialist renegades defaced the honour of the leaders of the working class and the revolutionary pioneers, they can never wipe out their names and their worthy achievements from history.
“Just as socialism is alive in people’s minds and is opening up the path to a new victory in spite of temporary twists and turns, so the honour and accomplishments of the leaders of the working class and the revolutionary forefathers be respected forever by the people as the socialist movement advances.
“Our party and people treasure friendship and solidarity with the peoples of various countries around the world and have given active support and encouragement to people who are fighting for socialism and for the cause of anti-imperialist independence.
“We have invariably been true to the internationalist principle and revolutionary obligation, both in the party and state relations with the socialist countries and in our relations with all the friendly countries and friendly people” like Britain.
“We remember our revolutionary comrades-in-arms and fraternal people who gave our people unconditional help and support in the hard times of our revolution and construction of socialism, and also people of all countries who support and encourage the just cause of our national reunification.” Thank you. [Applause]
And one last anecdote to prove this theory and principle. When our respected general visited Russia in 2001, he visited Red Square to pay a tribute to Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Great Socialist October Revolution. I think this anecdote will tell everything about his work and his ideology – everything. Thank you very much. [Applause]
Transcribed from the rally held in Southall, London on 8 November 2008 to celebrate the 91st anniversary of the October Revolution. The video of this speech can be found at the CPGB-ML YouTube page.
I’m going to talk a little bit more from the perspective of someone of my generation: what does October mean to me, and why do I think it should matter to other people like me?
You know, I’m a pretty normal(ish) middle-class, mother of one – perfectly good job, got a house, got a family – so why is it, living in the imperialist heartlands, that I should give a monkeys about the socialist revolution, and about standing here today to celebrate the 91st anniversary of the October Revolution, something that happened thousands of miles away, 90 years ago to people very far removed from the kind of life that I’m living? [From the floor: I quite agree with you!] (Someone agrees: why do I?!)
Now, I grew up at a time of rampant anticommunism; I grew up in Thatcher’s heartlands, one of ‘Thatcher’s children’, as our generation were called. We were taught to be selfish, we were taught to believe that it’s the law of the jungle, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and that capitalism really is the ultimate expression of ‘human nature’, and that by being selfish, by thinking only of yourselves, by just fighting for you – and maybe your offspring – you are just reflecting reality, and that if society teaches you to be that way, it’s because that’s how people are.
Bourgeois ideology was truly in the ascendant when I was growing up, and there was no-one really countering this barrage of propaganda.
We had English literature lessons where we read Animal Farm and learned to repeat that Stalin was a crazy, murdering, stupid butcher and Trotsky was the true leader of the revolution. We had history lessons where we learned that Trotsky led the Red Army to victory and Stalin somehow hoodwinked and then later personally bullied the Soviet people into following him.
What was the aim of all of this? The aim was to teach us that revolution is pointless; that, no matter what your intentions, if you try to change society, it will go wrong; and to negate the real building of socialism in the Soviet Union by slandering the leader of that building. By slandering Stalin, by telling you that Stalin was an evil murderer, they basically say that everything that was achieved in the Soviet Union wasn’t achieved; it didn’t happen; it wasn’t true.
We were taught all sorts of stupid truisms that we just learned to repeat. These things become axioms because people say them often enough: ‘power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely’. They’re the kind of things people say to you and they think they’ve clinched the argument; they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about, but they’ve learned to say them over and over again, and whenever you talk about socialism to people, they come out with the same things: ‘It’s a nice idea in theory, it could never work in practice’; ‘It’s never been done, has it?’
And people can say ‘It’s never been done, socialism’s never been built’ because we’ve been taught all these lies about the Soviet Union and about Stalin’s leadership of the Soviet Union.
Anti-Soviet slanders are in every field of life. I did a music degree and it’s amazing how it creeps in. You wouldn’t think you could go and study music at university and several times a week get some kind of anticommunist slander, but we did.
The great music of Stravinsky and Shostakovich was produced at the barrel of Stalin’s gun! [Laughter] Somehow or other, they made great music – it would have been much better if Stalin hadn’t been there, obviously; if they’d managed to escape to the West, which was obviously what really wanted to do, everything would have been much better for them!
The fabulous child care and maternity provision provided by the Soviet Union? The children were treated like automatons! Their mothers were forced to work! The profession care was impersonal and uncaring!
All the artists, musicians, dancers, gymnasts, athletes that were produced in such amazing quality by the Soviet Union? They were coerced! They were overtrained! It’s not really human to be so good at things … [Laughter]
The victory of the Red Army over fascism? The soldiers were starving! They were forced to fight! Their best commanders had all been shot by Stalin, probably personally! [Laughter]
And to cap all of this hostility from the official sources – from the press, from the school curriculum, from the media – we grew up with a left-wing movement that was pretty much saying the same thing – denouncing and disowning Stalin and all the achievements of socialism.
People in the trade unions, people in the Labour party, the Socialist Workers’ Party, the Communist Party – these were the people who you came up against, who told you they were socialists; that they believed in the working class – they all agreed. When I was growing up, whichever one of these shades of ‘left’ you cared to talk to, they would all tell you: Stalin was a mass murderer, probably Mao was too, and Kim Il Sung the same; socialism has never been put into practice anywhere; Marx wouldn’t have approved of Lenin’s revolution; Lenin wouldn’t have approved of Stalin’s building of socialism.
So essentially, every step of the way, our generation – and probably several before and several after – have been demoralised; they’ve been cut off from their own heritage; cut off from the knowledge that another world is possible and that they’re capable of building it. [Applause]
They’ve been cut off from the science of revolution and from the ideology that offers them hope for a future free from war, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, degradation and disease.
Such has been the success of this sustained propaganda campaign, that even the few socialists that did defend the Soviet Union when I was young didn’t do a very good job of it. We’ve been taught to feel so culturally alienated [from the Soviet Union] that it’s hard to bring it to life; it’s hard to believe it’s really as good as we wanted to say it was.
The repeated assertions that I talked about earlier create an atmosphere of overwhelming associations about what life in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe was like: inhospitable, joyless, we think of gulags in Siberia, everything was grey, everybody was a bit of an automaton, there was no choice, there was no inspiration, there was no magic to life.
Stalin’s name is a swear word; you can’t use it, it’s synonymous with fear and loss of liberty, with the evil KGB, and with a Big Brother culture, so that even those who’d understood in theory that yes, socialism is a good thing, and think that probably what happened in the Soviet Union might have been alright, they couldn’t find the enthusiasm, they couldn’t overcome this barrage of propaganda that had been instilled into them – all this prejudice – to find out for themselves, and to actually stand up proudly and say ‘You know what? This is nonsense! This is not the truth about socialism; this is not the truth about the Soviet Union.’
But we do need to understand the significance of the Soviet Union. We need to read works of literature produced in the Soviet Union. They bring to life life under socialism like nothing else can. And we should read books about the years when socialism was being constructed in the Soviet Union. Novels like How the Steel Was Tempered by Nikolai Ostrovsky, The Zhurbins, Ivan Ivanovich, or books like Soviet Democracy or The Stalin Era; books that describe the life of ordinary people at a time when the Soviet Union was going from strength to strength.
From the time of the revolution up until the time of Stalin’s death, if you read these works of literature, if you read the works of eye witnesses, [you find out that] the Soviet Union was the most incredible place to live, and the Soviet novels illustrate really beautifully how socialism can unlock the tremendous creative powers of working people, imbue them with a spirit of enthusiasm for their work and with a feeling that they really can achieve anything that they put their minds to.
We need to disseminate these works and ideas; there’s a much bigger audience for them than you might think, especially now.
At this moment now, the crisis of capitalism is really providing the best opportunity that I’ve seen in my lifetime to talk to people. Suddenly all sorts of people who wouldn’t have been able to get past the word ‘socialism’ and hear anything else that came out of your mouth – today you can talk to them about child care in the DPRK; you can talk to them about the building of socialism in the Soviet Union and they’ll listen to you; they want to hear; they’re interested in answers now.
For a long time, people here haven’t had such bad lives, and when things were getting worse for them, they believed what they were told. Comrade Brar referred to it earlier – when Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher turned around and said, ‘Well, you know, of course, we’d like to provide you with a perfect education system, perfect health care, but these systems are under strain, we just don’t have enough resources to go around; we can’t just be giving things out willy nilly; we can’t just provide houses to everybody – where will the money come from?’
Where will the money come from? That’s what we’re always told. And it’s an unanswerable question. Where will the money come from? Oh, well, ok, fair enough, there’s not enough money, so that’s just the way things are, right? And people have swallowed that.
But it’s very hard to swallow that when suddenly £500bn is found for the banks – out of nowhere, apparently! [Applause] And I think that’s been the most incredible wake-up call for everybody. While they see that their pensions, their health care, their education are all under threat, that they cannot rely on their pay packet being there next month, that they cannot rely on their house being there next year, but that actually money can be found for the things that matter to the ruling class – and suddenly you see what are the things that matter to the ruling class and what aren’t.
My generation was taught to be nihilistic and cynical, and yet, however much we’re told that that’s the normal way to be, we fight it! If human nature is to be selfish and greedy, why doesn’t being selfish and greedy make us happy? Why doesn’t it make us feel good about ourselves? Why is it that we search for some other meaning in our lives? [Chair interjects: That’s also part of human nature! Laughter]
Why is it that our grandparents look back so fondly on the second world war, a time of such hardship? They talk about the ‘war spirit’. What was the war spirit? It was the collective spirit.
The reality is that people are collective animals; we feel best when we are contributing to something that isn’t just yourselves, our own little lives in our own little boxes. We feel happiest when we are working for something that feels like it means something bigger; we feel happiest contributing to society.
But we don’t get that opportunity. We look for it; we try to find it; we try to tell ourselves that our jobs are meaningful and we feel bad if we can’t find a way to believe that.
Even those who are comparatively wealthy in our society don’t feel it. They don’t feel it because there’s constant insecurity. Even quite well off middle-class people are only a couple of pay packets away from destitution, from defaulting on the mortgage, from losing out on their pensions, from not being able to provide their children with what they need for a decent life.
And that’s in the good times! And as we see now, you can’t rely on the good times. You play the game according every way you’ve been taught and you win, you’re one of the lucky few who does everything you’re told and it works out for you – you’ve got your savings pot, you think you’ve got what you need for your pension, you’ve invested in a few properties.
But tomorrow, maybe the properties aren’t worth anything, maybe the money in the bank isn’t there any more, or it isn’t worth anything any more; maybe suddenly tomorrow you have to pay for health care you didn’t have to pay for before, or your pension’s taken away from you.
You can’t rely on anything under capitalism; there’s no such thing as security no matter how hard you work, no matter how much you accumulate. And that’s why, no matter how much people do accumulate in this society, as they’ve been taught to – accumulate to find happiness – they don’t feel happy; they don’t feel comfortable.
It’s the secret of middle-class whinging – all these well-off people who always have something to moan about! Everybody thinks if they had ten grand a year more, they’d be happy. But the people the next ten grand up, they’re not so happy either – they think they need another ten grand!
And then we compare that with the picture of life in a socialist country. Can you imagine living in a world where every job makes a contribution to building a better life for people? That in itself would be such a great motivator and inspirer! That in itself would unleash the creativity of so many people, bring out people’s natural collective spirit.
It’s very interesting to me; I recently spotted a bit of a pattern. We met a comrade from China and he was talking about life in China and achievements of the Chinese people in the last 50-60 years, and he said to me, ‘You know, we Chinese, we like to do things for ourselves; we don’t like to rely on others, we don’t like to exploit others, we like to build things ourselves – it’s just what we’re like. It’s because we’re Chinese.’
And we were watching a film about the Cuban revolution, and there was a Cuban bus driver, and the interviewer was asking him about the problems with the transport in Cuba because of the blockade, lack of petrol, lack of spare parts, and he said, ‘You know, we’re Cubans, problems are to be solved! It’s because we’re Cuban – we find solutions to our problems, we don’t moan about them, we get on with it, we fix things.’
And I bet if you’d gone to the Soviet Union, you’d have heard something very similar. North Koreans will talk about their self-reliance, their pride in being Korean and achieving things by themselves for themselves.
Now I hope our comrades from these countries won’t take it amiss when I say to them that my belief is that it’s not because they’re Korean or Chinese or Cuban that they feel this way about their people, about their country, about their lives; I think it’s because they live under socialism. [Applause]
I think a socialist society inspires them to build and to achieve; it makes them feel valued, it makes them feel part of something, it makes them feel that their work is useful. They can see the fruits of their labour in front of them and it comes back to them and to their neighbours a hundred fold.
Imagine never having to worry about paying the rent; never having to worry about health care, education provision for your children, university fees.
Imagine never having to worry about whether or not you’ll still have a job tomorrow; never having to worry about whether there’s going to be food on your table or your children’s table today or tomorrow.
Cuba’s achievements in the fields of health and education are relatively widely known now, but it’s not so well understood that it was the Soviet Union that pioneered all of that.
It was the Soviet Union that was the first to provide these kind of things – and that at a time, not only when they had just fought a very debilitating war – first the revolution, then the civil war, then the war of intervention – but when the rest of the world was going through the great depression – the mirror of the crisis we’re having now.
The rest of the world was plunged into total poverty, but the Soviet Union was going from strength to strength; they were providing facilities – first class, world class facilities – for ordinary working-class people of the kind that before then had only ever been dreamed about.
Like the Soviet Union before it, if you go to the DPRK today, something that hits people when they go there (and I’m sorry to say I never have yet, but it’s something that’s always related to me when I talk to people who have been) is that there are no advertisements on the streets. Can you imagine a life free from that bombardment of rubbish?
You don’t appreciate how much it oppresses you and weighs down on your mentality – all the time, in your face – you have to learn not to look around you; learn to walk around in your own little bubble to keep it out, blaring out at you. You’re not even free from it in a petrol station forecourt, in Sainsbury’s – they’re advertising at you non-stop, all the time.
To live in a place where not only do you not have that, but instead you have people’s art in the streets; celebrations – statues and posters – artwork celebrating the achievements of you and your fellow people.
Ordinary people’s buildings made beautiful – turned into palaces. They have children’s palaces in Korea, and the Soviet Union did just that sort of thing, constructing the most incredible, artistic buildings where ordinary people were every day, like the underground system in Moscow; places where ordinary people go made beautiful, to uplift them, to make them feel respected, valued; to make them care about their society and feel that they in turn were cared about.
Comrade Brar’s already talked about how the Soviet Union provided for mothers and children. It’s something you can’t underestimate the impact of – and so far in advance of the rest of the world. It’s the first place where they really showed that the liberation of women is about practical things – it’s not just about allowing women to take part in jobs, but freeing them to do so: providing the best possible child care, where you feel happy to leave your children; providing huge amounts of paid maternity leave, both before and after the baby’s birth, for the optimum health of the mother and the baby. I was reading recently how as soon as they knew a woman was pregnant, they’d move her into easier physical work if she was in something that was quite taxing. The day the baby and the mother came home from the hospital, who came to see them? Not just the nurse – an obstetrician! In the house!
They really, really cared about the health of women and of children. They set up crèches, laundries, kindergartens, public dining rooms – all the services that Comrade Harpal talked about before – to free women and allow them to really take their place in society, and to give children an equal start in life.
There was recently a report published by the World Health Organisation. It talked about health inequality in the world, and the conclusion that they [the authors] came to – well, the conclusion between the lines was, we need socialism! [Laughter] – they said: people need jobs, they need decent housing, people need access to culture.
They talked about illness prevention, which of course was the core principal tenet of the Soviet medical system, and they talked about children needing an equal start from the beginning.
They talked about the importance of pre-school education; they talked about the importance of involving the whole community in that type of pre-school education – it’s not just a question of sending them off to a kindergarten for a couple of hours and bringing them back again, but a whole community really needs to take part in that.
But you need to have a community to do something like that; people need to be organised as a community in order to implement those kind of programmes. There are only socialist countries in the world today that do that – it’s only in Cuba, it’s only in the DPRK where you see those kind of programmes in action – and it was in the Soviet Union that you saw them first.
Imagine living in a world where education throughout life was the norm; where opportunities to develop your potential are provided as a matter of course to everyone, at no cost, with no penalty to your family if you decide to take them up or to have a change of career – where you don’t have to worry whether your children are going to eat if you need to retrain.
We live in a society that criminally squanders and suppresses the creative and productive potential of the vast masses of humanity. Even the best off workers often feel isolated and insecure, and the vast majority are only ever one or two pay packets away from destitution.
None of the main contradictions of imperialism can be solved without proletarian revolution. We will never have job or housing security or secure pensions as long as imperialism exists.
Our job as socialists under capitalism is to use the daily and hourly crises of imperialism to expose the system and explain to workers that as long as this system continues the rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer, the crises will get deeper, the wars will become bigger and bloodier.
October showed us we have nothing to lose and everything to gain from the socialist revolution, which will free us all from poverty and insecurity. [Applause]
October proved that work under socialism is transformed from meaningless drudgery into a vehicle for unlocking the potential and creativity of the working class.
And it was October that proved that while imperialism continues to oppress and plunder and drench the world in blood, there is only one thing that can usefully be done with your life, with my life, with anybody’s life, and that is to join the fight against imperialism, to join the fight for more Octobers. [Applause]
Reply to Joti’s speech, Harpal Brar
Thank you very much Joti, but you were quite wrong in saying that I’d spoke your speech earlier; it’s quite different. And to the extent that there is some repetition, then I think it’s perfectly alright. As the old Latin saying goes: Repetition is the key to learning!
You have talked of the power of advertisements. We must advertise our ideology – the more often we speak about it, the better. I hope each speaker will be able to repeat some of the things, because they are essential.
We are in a minority and we’ll never become a majority unless and until we actually continue to insist on speaking the truth, whatever the cost.
We’ve somehow been thrown back in the imperialist centres to being in a similar position to that of the early christians – you know, you’re hounded from place to place, but you’re nevertheless able to convey what they used to call ‘the lord’s message’. [Laughter] In our case, it is the message of the working class.
We are the majority. Why are we such fools that we accept the propaganda of the tiny minority that actually keeps us in subjugation? We shall not accept that as being the fate of humanity.