Thursday 7th November 2013 marked the 96th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, and this little introductory video is just to give you a flavour of the celebration that was held by the CPGB-ML at a packed meeting in Saklatvala hall, Southall on Saturday 9th November 2013.
Great speeches from the representatives of Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea, as well a Katt Cremer from the Party and Angela and Dan from Red Youth.
This video explains why we celebrate, what we are trying to achieve and why we have every reason to be optimistic about the future.
WHEN their hair was chopped off—as it had to be when they joined one of the Soviet Union’s three women-only air-force regiments—some of the women looked just like boys. Add in the bulky flight jackets, the too-big trousers and the size 42 boots, all made for men, and they could have passed for male pilots, just about. Not Nadia Popova. Somehow she managed, with a cinched waist here and a few darts there, to look like a Hollywood star. Between sorties she would fluff her hair, pressed flat by her leather flying helmet, in her tortoiseshell mirror (as at the centre of the picture above). Before each flight she would pin to her uniform a beetle brooch, which also served as a lucky charm. Beside her wooden cot in whatever shed they were sleeping in—once a cowshed—she kept a white silk blouse and a long blue silk scarf, in case she had to make a really feminine impression.
This was also the young woman—she was 19 or 20 then—who could turn her aircraft over and dive full-throttle through raking German searchlights, swerving and dancing, acting as a decoy for a second plane that would glide in silently behind her to drop its payload of bombs. That done, the second plane would act as decoy while she glided in to drop bombs herself. She made 852 such sorties in the second world war as a pilot in the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, later named the 46th Guards in honour of its courage. Once, over Poland in 1944, she made 18 sorties in a single night. The aircraft were old two-seater biplanes, PO-2s, originally training planes, made of canvas and plywood with open cockpits. When it rained, water ran over the instruments; when the planes were shot at, shrapnel tore the wings to shreds. There was no radio and, to save weight, she never wore a parachute. If you were hit, that was it.
She was a wild spirit, easily bored; she loved to tango, foxtrot, sing along to jazz. It made her feel free, which was also why at 15 she had joined a flying club without telling her parents. A pilot had landed his aircraft one day outside their town, Donetsk in Ukraine, astonishing as a god fallen to earth, in his leather jacket. From that moment she too wanted to soar like a bird. Walking towards a plane, every time, she would get a knot in her stomach; every time she took off, she was thrilled all over again.
Often she flew in pitch dark and freezing air. In an aircraft so frail, the wind could toss her over. Its swishing glide sounded, to the sleepless Germans, like a witch’s broomstick passing: so to them she was one of the Nachthexen, or Night Witches. To the Russian marines trapped on the beach at Malaya Zemlya, to whom she dropped food and medicine late in 1942, she sounded more like an angel. She had to fly so low that she heard their cheers. Later, she found 42 bullet holes in her plane.
Loving life as she did—running barefoot in the grass, exulting in the cherry trees that flowered outside her bedroom window—it was odd that she had suddenly wanted “the freedom to die”. It took no time, though. The moment the German invasion was announced, in June 1941, she abandoned the dance-dress she was ironing and ran to the airfield. She was one of the first to enlist in her regiment, demanding to be a fighter pilot. Soon enough, too, she had personal reasons to hate Germans. They killed her brother Leonid in the first month of the war. In August 1942, having crash-landed her plane in the North Caucasus, she saw Stukas bombing the desperate columns of refugees on the road. Her family home was commandeered by the Gestapo, the windows smashed and the cherry trees cut down.
The worst, though, was to lose friends. Eight died in a single sortie once when she was lead pilot, as hulking Messerschmitts attacked them in the dazzle of the searchlights. To right and left each tiny PO-2 went down like a falling torch. She never cried as much as when she returned to base and saw the girls’ bunks, still strewn with letters they had never finished writing. She was tough (“No time for fear”) and surprised at her increasing toughness as the war went on. But she was a woman, too.
The military men never let them forget it, mocking “the skirt regiment” even when its members had become heroines in the press. The women expected it, and did just fine without them. It was fun, though, to organise dances with the men; many of them fell in love; and so did Nadia Popova, with a blue-eyed heavily bandaged pilot she spotted under a tree, another god fallen to earth. He warned her not to make him laugh, as she clearly wanted to, because his wounds hurt. She read him poetry instead, and when she found her Semyon again for good it was at the Reichstag in Berlin in 1945, where they wrote their names in victorious pencil on the walls.
Instead of her beetle brooch she eventually wore on her smart dark suit the medal of a Hero of the Soviet Union, the Order of Friendship, the Order of Lenin and three Orders of the Patriotic War. With enormous pride she sported them, a beaming blonde among the men. She admitted she stood gazing at the night sky sometimes, wondering how she had ever managed to perform such feats up there. Well, came her down-to-earth answer, because you had to; and so you did.
Comrades and friends assembled in Saklatvala Hall on Saturday and celebrated both the defeat of US imperialism in the Korean war and the attacks on the Moncada barracks led by Fidel Castro which heralded the beginning of the Cuban revolution.
Members of the Kim il Sung Socialist Youth League performed revolutionary songs and cpgb-ml artists performed classics such as Joe Hill with everybody finishing with the Internationale.
A history of the communist movement in Britain has now been uploaded to our youtube and can be seen here presented by cpgb-ml member -and former CPGB and NCP member- Steve Cook:
A video of the Internationale performance is here.
I recall that when Cllr Forman introduced her Kier blacklisting motion to the Labour Group earlier this year, much was made of the partnership deal with Kier Services where Harlow Council retained 10% of the shares.
So, naturally, I request that the Labour Group use it’s 10% stake to demand that Kier Services negotiate with UCATT on the pay issue to defend workers’ interests just as vigourously as it did to defend Kier’s over blacklisting.”
In response to the request on behalf of the interests and rights of workers, Mark Wilkinson responded,
” I am sure the labour group will do everything possible to support this issue.”
Red Youth supports wholeheartedly the actions of Harlow Trades Council in bringing this matter to the attention of local trade unionists. What is to be seen yet again is the willingness of the Labour party to serve big business interests rather than the working class! If all trades council’s were as quick to challenge such behaviour the movement would be in a much better place!
The comments of Mark Wilkinson are a clear indication of how little regard the Labour group leaders have towards workers’ interests. Red Youth rejects the words of ‘reassurance’, and suggests that any affiliation with Labour is one for the benefit of the capitalists rather than the workers.
All the good intentions in the world can’t cure hunger and illiteracy. Numerous reports and scientific discoveries by NGO’s and Charities prove quite clearly that capitalism is bad for your health, sanity, education and all round wellbeing! The latest report from Save the Children reaffirms what we already knew – but if we’re serious about ending hunger and illiteracy then we need to end the system which creates these evils; monopoly capitalism viz. Imperialism!The following has been written by a Red Youth and Communist Party activist as comment on the news story reported by the BBC here.
Last year, in May 2012, Save the Children declared in their pamphlet “Nutrition in the First 1,000 Days” that “The focus is on the 171 million children globally who do not have the opportunity to reach their full potential due to the physical and mental effects of poor nutrition in the earliest months of life.” A year on, Save The Children has issued a new report indicating a direct link between malnutrition and illiteracy and has vowed to take their message, with the backing of some recognized big-wig authors, to London on June 8 for the G8 “summit on global nutrition”. Leading campaigner Julia Donaldson has declared, “Leaders attending this summit have a golden opportunity to stop this. They must invest more funding to tackle malnutrition if we are to stop a global literacy famine.” (BBC, Authors back ‘malnutrition hits literacy’ study – 28/5/13)
All socialists and progressives will be quick to agree with both the general findings of the report and condemn the scourge of hunger and illiteracy. Indeed we commend and salute the authors for bringing such crimes against humanity to the attention of the world’s media. But what must be understood is that this “golden opportunity” perceived by Save the Children, Ms. Donaldson and many supporters, is doomed to abject failure and is nothing but badly misguided good faith on their part. We expect absolutely nothing more than bureaucratic blubber and crocodile tears from the leaders of the G8; for malnourishment and illiteracy are not mere unfortunate side effects of imperialism’s worldwide operation, they are in fact the integral and logical results of monopoly capital’s drive for maximum profit and the inevitable product of a system that protects the private individual accumulation of wealth, a wealth that has been created through hard work of millions of workers in the fields, farms and factories, a wealth stolen and concentrated in the hands of the few.
Illiteracy & imperialism
Illiteracy has historically been one of capitalism’s primary tools in the suppression of class struggle and their ongoing monopoly on knowledge and technology. In the imperialist epoch this process has taken on the form of the technological enslavement of developing nations to their imperialist master’s. No phone networks without Vodafone, no electricity grid without Siemen’s, no medicine without Glaxo Smith-Kline etc etc. No wonder the technological developments that occur in China, Iran, DPR Korea and other independent nations bring the fury of the western governments and their media; incredulous at developing technology in these countries, particularly annoyed by the increasing technical development of the military in these countries, enabling them to defend their sovereignty and independence against imperialist aggression. Does the west really worry that China is ‘exploiting’ Africa? The same west that colonised Africa, stole the land from her people’s and enslaved and transported millions! Worries about their exploitation by China?! Perhaps they are more concerned that Chinese phone networks, Chinese mines, Chinese technicians and engineers are delivering the kind of technological improvements to Africa that will enable her people’s to stand on their own two feet, free of the IMF and World Bank!
Illiteracy & Culture
The indoctrination of British youth, the promotion of materialistic, self-obsessive behavior has driven the working class into blind and submissive moral acceptance of the domination of the idea’s, norms and behavior of the ruling class, helped along by the powerful privately-owned corporate media working in the interests of capital it has become cool to champion “The Apprentice” and decidedly uncool to go against the grain. Empathy with one another and our common struggle has been contaminated with selfish greed, alienating humans from their natural empathy towards one another, our common struggle and our desire to cooperate in a social environment to fix common problems. These natural instincts are replaced by senseless competition and mutual distrust, a pitting of one against another in a battle for survival and a race to the bottom.
The seemingly endless cycle of exploitation of working-class families will continue for as long as the working-class allows itself to be subjected to the orders of the exploitative class. The daily grind and increasing hardships create a no win situation for imperialism. To increase profits to the maximum it must impoverish and drive down the living standards of the masses of people – but in so doing it creates it’s own gravediggers. The only way to put an end to the poverty and neglect facing the 170 million + children talked about in the report, as well as their families, is to put control of production into their hands – into the hands of the working-class. The working class must seize state power and wield it in its own interests.
Socialism and class politics points the way
Take the example of the Cuban revolution. To this day, Cuba is labeled a third world country, despite boasting average literacy attainment far higher than that of its former oppressor, the USA, and maintaining the welfare of the people despite an endless list of items embargoed by the imperialists, banned from entering the country by US imperialism and it’s allies! Against imperialism, against the odds, Cuba has defied what capitalism says is possible and proven that an organised, disciplined and clearly defined working-class agenda is the only way to put an end to the demons of hunger, destitution, illiteracy and cultural oppression that haunt the world’s working class and the oppressed nations.
If Save the Children imagine that their discovery of c+h=i [children+hunger=illiteracy] is new they should look to the example of the Black Panther Party (BPP), who introduced food before school programmes in the 1960’s! Thousands of poor children in their community, who were suffering terrible poverty and malnutrition, and who would normally go to school without a meal were fed by the BPP programmes. The Panthers realised way back in 1960’s America that a hungry child can’t concentrate properly in school, that hunger prevented them from learning and developing, that an empty tummy inevitably led to illiteracy and unemployment! It’s not rocket science.
The way forward
Only the direct actions of the working-class can change the world. No amount of charitable donations and hand-me-downs from the G8 leaders will ever free children from the slavery they face at the hands of imperialism. Only a scientific, socialist approach to running society, a system and state run by the workers themselves can execute the demands of working-class.
The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win!
Demonstrations have taken place across Britain this weekend in opposition to the hated “Bedroom Tax”.
Blaming the poor for poverty
When the Bedroom Tax comes into force on 1 April, 14 percent will be cut from housing benefit for households with one ‘spare’ bedroom and 25 percent from those with two or more.
An estimated 660,000 working-age social tenants across the country will be hit, losing an average of £14-16 per week, and facing the stark choice of moving home or being forced into even deeper poverty. Evictions and debt levels will skyrocket.
In order to justify this move, politicians and journalists have been spinning a fairy tale of housing ‘shortages’, but it is actually one- and two-bed flats that are in short supply, so where are people supposed to ‘downsize’ to?
If our rulers really want to do something about the affordable housing shortage, why not set rent controls in the private sector, build lots of new social homes and requisition all those empty ‘deluxe’ flats?
It’s a classic privatisation strategy – first reduce the amount and quality of a service, then blame the service users for the problem and use it to justify the next privatisation move! How many times have we been told that our NHS is under threat because poor people are suffering from diet- or smoking-related ailments, or that burdensome pensioners are ‘bed-blocking’?
The answer? Instead of creating new hospital wards and putting more nurses and doctors into them, more outsourcing to dodgy profiteers and more cuts in bed and frontline staff numbers to pay more PFI debts!
In reality, this tax has nothing to do with ‘freeing up social housing’; it is a callous scapegoating of Britain’s poorest people – after all, only those who are claiming benefits will have to pay, even though many of them are already impoverished to the point of malnutrition.
Disabled people, single parents who are not designated as the ‘main carer’ for their children, couples sleeping apart owing to medical conditions … all will be hit. Children of the same sex will be required to share a room until they reach 16, and of the opposite sex until the age of 10.
Labour party hypocrisy
Grassroots campaigns to oppose the tax have been launched by workers all over Britain. But a dangerous pattern is emerging as these campaigns take shape – their hijacking by Labour’s so-called ‘left’ wing and the exclusion and silencing of all non-Labour-affiliated organisations and individuals.
Many supposedly ‘non-aligned’ events have been seized and monopolised by a ‘committee’ that has censored anyone who tries to tell the truth about Labour’s support for and implementation of the capitalists’ cuts. Non-Labour people have been systematically blocked from Facebook event and campaign pages all over the country.
The hypocrisy is staggering. Labour, far from building new homes, recently oversaw 13 years of sell-offs and privatisation that massively accelerated the ghettoisation of Britain’s remaining social tenants, while ‘Red Ed’ Miliband, in whom we are asked to put our hopes of a ‘worker-friendly’ capitalist government next time around, has actually endorsed the bedroom tax.
When it comes to cuts, privatisation, and all other attacks on working people’s living standards, the Tories, Labour and LibDems are all as bad as each other, because they all serve the same capitalist interests. The ‘debate’ that they distract us with is only about how soon or how fast to make the cuts that capitalists demand – or who to blame, and where to wield the knife first.
What they are all agreed on is that British imperialism must at all costs be saved from the current crisis, which is the deepest ever seen – even worse than the fabled Great Depression of the 1930s, which led to WW2 and the deaths of millions of poor people all over the world.
Let us recall that the $20bn cuts ‘required’ to be made to our health service were first announced by the Labour government – and that all the parties agreed with them. They also all agreed that £1bn on bombing Libya’s hard-won infrastructure – health, education, housing, industry, electricity and water – into the dust was money well spent.
Desperate to stop workers drawing the obvious conclusion that no capitalist party can serve their interests, Labour has been working hard to rebrand itself as the ‘anti-cuts’ opposition. Glossy leaflets and online campaigns abound, but the concerted effort to remove all other voices from the bedroom tax campaign is proof that the party is not interested in uniting the opposition and defeating the tax, but only in getting a bit of free advertising. Labour’s fake ‘opposition’ to cuts is just a cynical PR exercise.
If more proof is still needed of this, let us look at the case of Newcastle’s Michael McDonald. As an anti-cuts organiser, he must be a thorn in the side of the Labour-led council that is busy implementing drastic cuts in the city.
Following an anti-cuts demo in February, where Mr McDonald told council-leader Nick Forbes what he thought about these attacks on Newcastle’s poorest, this Labour scoundrel sent police to drag McDonald out of his bed and charge him with a ‘public order’ offence!
The Labour party’s true role as policeman of the workers’ movement could not have been more clearly illustrated!
To injure one is to injure us all
We need to understand that no representative of a capitalist party is on the side of the workers, however much (s)he may pretend to be. Nor is anyone who tries to incite us to blame each other for the poverty in which we find ourselves.
It is not immigrants, fat people, poor people, smokers, benefit claimers, council-house tenants, hoodies or pensioners who are ‘bleeding the country dry’ but the free-market-fundamentalist gangsters who rampage all over the globe in search of profit, profit and more profit.
Today, our forces are divided, not only by the racism and scapegoating that we are encouraged to indulge in, but by the pigeon-holing of struggles as ‘separate’ issues, each one of which is presented as being relevant only to a small minority of people.
We have lost sight of the fact that ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’, and so our forces are dispersed and our attention is diverted by every new media-created distraction.
If we unite, however, we can use our collective power to sabotage all attempts to make us pay for the capitalists’ crisis. A real tenants’ movement, instead of Almo-led eviction organisations, is needed to defend our homes.
If we join together we can refuse to be resettled or moved. We can patrol our estates and stop bailiffs from evicting our fellow tenants. We must defend ourselves – and our neighbours – from the thugs and hired servants of the rich.
And we must refuse to let our campaign groups be hijacked by Labour politicians who do nothing to defend the working class from the assaults of capitalist bloodsuckers. They are helping the state to rob the poor to pay the rich – kick them out of our communities!
Red Youth sheds no tears at the death of Margaret Thatcher today. Thatcher caused immense harm to British youth throughout the 1980’s, enacting a number of reactionary Employment Acts which helped destroy job security for young people and laid the basis for the reactionary policies pursued by John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in subsequent years. In 2013 the number of young people out of work, with no opportunity to study or build a future is a direct result of the anti-working class agenda she forced upon the British people with the aid of a servile trade union movement which was firmly tied to social democracy and which betrayed the working class by its refusal to stand with Arthur Scargill and the National Union of Mineworkers during their heroic stand 1984/5. The job today, as it was then, is to break the link between social democracy and the workers movement, to forge a strong and disciplined Communist Party capable of leading the working class out of the abyss and towards a bright socialist future. We publish below one of the finest and most dignified statements made today, that of comrade Gerry Adams:
“Margaret Thatcher did great hurt to the Irish and British people during her time as British Prime Minister. Working class communities were devastated in Britain because of her policies.
Her role in international affairs was equally belligerent whether in support of the Chilean dictator Pinochet, her opposition to sanctions against apartheid South Africa; and her support for the Khmer Rouge. Here in Ireland her espousal of old draconian militaristic policies prolonged the war and caused great suffering. She embraced censorship, collusion and the killing of citizens by covert operations, including the targeting of solicitors like Pat Finucane, alongside more open military operations and refused to recognise the rights of citizens to vote for parties of their choice.
Her failed efforts to criminalise the republican struggle and the political prisoners is part of her legacy. It should be noted that in complete contradiction of her public posturing, she authorised a back channel of communications with the Sinn Féin leadership but failed to act on the logic of this.
Unfortunately she was faced with weak Irish governments who failed to oppose her securocrat agenda or to enlist international support in defence of citizens in the north.
Margaret Thatcher will be especially remembered for her shameful role during the epic hunger strikes of 1980 and ’81.
Unlike our political opponents the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist Leninist) and Red Youth do not sneak about behind the backs of other groups who profess to be communist but with whom we have differences; we do not seek to hide our differences (like the Communist Party of Britain) but rather we wish to have them out in the open so the points can be debated. Nor do we reduce our political differences with others into personal gossip and rumour mongering. So many on the so-called ‘left’ retreat to the safety of the chat room and online forums to spread gossip and rumour, unable to deal in an honest and upfront manner with political disagreements. Where differences of opinion exist, we aim to deal with the political aspect openly and forthrightly. It is in this spirit that the friendly journal Lalkar has written a critique of the RCG position on Syria which can be read below. We are sure that this open polemic with those who genuinely seek to chart an anti-imperialist path for the revolutionary forces in Britain will be welcomed by all sincere communists and anti-imperialists:
Revolutionary Communist Group: sitting on the Syrian fence
From the very start of the turmoil in Syria, Lalkar, and its sister publication, Proletarian, have been crystal clear in their exposition of the realities of the situation – namely that what the country was facing was not primarily the result of any internal contradictions within Syrian society, but rather an externally directed campaign of aggression and terrorism waged by imperialism, both directly and through its regional surrogates, Turkey, the reactionary Arab states and statelets and the zionist colonial settler state of Israel, against practically the last remaining independent, anti-imperialist state in the Arab region, which, moreover, adheres to a broadly socialist orientation.
Everything that has transpired over the last nearly two years has borne out the accuracy of our analysis all too clearly. As a result, whilst our line of calling for ‘Hands off Syria’ and ‘Victory to Assad’ has remained consistent, and consistently correct, our political opponents in the anti-war and working class movements have had to slither and slide hither and thither as the inexorable unfolding of events has inevitably served to expose and highlight their opportunism.
Thus, for example, the Trotskyites of Counterfire, the main, but not only, source of misleadership and demobilisation in the Stop the War Coalition, took more than a year (not to mention the additional time they had already spent cheering on counter-revolution in Libya) to get off the imperialist fence and concede that the anti-government violence in Syria is essentially reactionary.
Even now, they refuse to prioritise the Syrian crisis in their organised inactivity of pointless protest, rather claiming to focus on a possible future war against Iran, despite the fact that the actual war being waged by imperialism in Syria is not least directed at opening the road to Tehran and, needless to say, reserving their greatest venom for those who draw the logical and correct conclusion that if one is to call for the defeat of imperialist war, one must also call for the victory of those fighting against imperialism – and in Syria this must mean the government and armed forces led by President Assad.
Within the constellation of opportunist trends that refuse to take a clear cut anti-imperialist stand, a particularly crafty and disingenuous role is being played by the Revolutionary Communist group (RCG) and its newspaper Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI).
An article in the current (December 2012/January 2013) issue of FRFI contains some useful information on the dirty role of British imperialism in fomenting the war against Syria and correctly concludes: “For communists in Britain, it is essential to expose and oppose the role of British imperialism. We cannot let there be a repeat of 2011’s imperialist slaughter with no real domestic opposition.”
Yet what is the RCG’s reason for opposing David Cameron’s plans to overtly arm the terrorists in Syria? With a sanctimonious air worthy of a country parson, the comrades inform us:
“Syria’s battlegrounds are already awash with foreign weapons: the Syrian army killing with Russian and Iranian products, and the rebels armed by more than three dozen countries including more than half of the membership of NATO.” (‘Syria: British imperialism takes the centre stage’)
Yet, for Marxists, it should be axiomatic that weapons, and even “killing”, per se, are not the issue. The issue is who is wielding the guns, who is killing and who is being killed and, to sum up it all up, which class interests are being served? As Lenin rightly put it:
“We would cease to be Marxists, we would cease to be socialists in general, if we confined ourselves to the Christian, so to speak, contemplation of the benignity of benign general phrases and refrained from exposing their real political significance.” (‘Bourgeois pacifism and socialist pacifism’, Collected Works, Vol. 23)
Such pious phrases as the above quoted one from the pages of FRFI would, frankly, generally pass almost without notice in the pages of mushy liberalism produced by the various Trotskyite and revisionist groups in Britain.
But the RCG made a name for itself by claiming to stand for the militant defence of national liberation movements and all those fighting imperialism – as the very name of its newspaper seeks to convey.
In particular, this organisation staked out its political territory by excoriating almost the entire British left for its shameful failure to wholeheartedly support the Irish people’s national liberation struggle. And it took solidarity with the Irish and South African struggles onto the streets in a generally militant and dynamic way. Today, it seeks to mark out similar terrain for itself with its campaigning in solidarity with socialist Cuba.
Why then does the RCG allow itself to slip into this sort of ‘plague on both your houses’ agnosticism, so characteristic of the petit bourgeoisie, in the case of Syria?
An article by the same author, Comrade Toby Harbertson, in the previous (October/November 2012) issue of FRFI sheds some more light on this.
Again, the article contains much that is correct and useful, both in terms of outlining facts concerning imperialist aggression against Syria, as well as in exposing the hopelessly reactionary position of the Trotskyite Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), the organisation from which the RCG originally emerged. Comrade Harbertson also correctly notes that:
“ When considering Syria, the bottom line for imperialism, given the increasing capitalist crisis, is that it will not allow a politically independent country, which has not fully opened its borders to imperialist capital, and retains a strong military, to remain at the heart of the Middle East .”
Pretty clear one might think. Alas, the analysis of imperialism, and its opponents, goes downhill from that starting point. Having exposed the SWP (largely out of its own mouth) for its reactionary positions down through the decades, from Hungary, through Czechoslovakia, to Poland, Afghanistan and Ireland, the RCG asks: “In the case of Syria, are the SWP supporting reactionary forces once again?”
Alas, the RCG’s answer is not the clear-cut one that one might reasonably expect. In the blink of an eye, this “politically independent country, which has not fully opened its borders to imperialist capital” is transformed into a “ repressive government”, as Comrade Halbertson declares:
“ Popular resistance to the Ba’athist state no doubt exists and it is clear that some Syrian people were, and are, demonstrating against the repressive government .”
Like numerous other opportunist currents, although not the incorrigibly reactionary SWP, which does not even bother, the RCG has to try to square the circle of how these supposed demonstrations against a repressive government have mysteriously mutated into an imperialist war of aggression. Shamefully, the RCG’s contortions on this point lead them to even give partial absolution to the terrorist Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is guilty of countless atrocities:
“ Any popular uprising has been hijacked. In Syria, this process has accelerated in the last few months as earlier attempts such as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) lacked structure and gave too much room for hostile and unreliable Salafist and Wahabist groups to challenge for influence .”
The article also asserts that: “The repressive government of Assad and the Ba’athists was complicit with the suffering of the Palestinian people, [and] supported the imperialist invasion of Iraq.” (‘Syria: covert intervention and the failure of the British left’)
In raising such issues, the RCG is revisiting the events of decades ago (which arose from the deep splits among anti-imperialist forces in the Middle East as well as the bourgeois national limitations of the Ba’ath Party) and, in a quite dishonest manner, is presenting them as though they happened only yesterday. Even if they had, what purpose would be served by dwelling on them now, when the country is in a life-and-death fight for its very existence? But in referring to the cases of Palestine and Iraq, the RCG refers to events respectively in the mid to late 1970s and at the beginning of the 1990s, events which our comrades rightly criticised at the time – a time, incidentally, long before the present President Assad came to power.
However, it is one-sided, to say the least, to focus on these (unexplained in the article) events of long ago, without any reference to more recent and more relevant facts concerning Syria’s stance and actions with regard to both Palestine and Iraq.
At least until the last few months, Syria has been home to 11 Palestinian resistance movements. Unlike any of the other Arab countries bordering Palestine, Syria is the one country where the Palestinian population has enjoyed full economic and social rights, including to live where they choose, to build their own homes, to freely choose their occupation or profession, and to enjoy free education and medical care. Syria has been, and remains, an honourable member of the ‘axis of resistance’, providing vital aid to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, which inflicted the greatest military defeat on the Israeli aggressors.
With regard to the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, not only was this firmly opposed by Syria – Damascus opened its borders both to Iraqi refugees and to resistance fighters entering Iraq to fight the occupation.
As all of this is doubtless well known to the writers and editors of FRFI, and to the leaders of the RCG, their above quoted formulation is both reactionary and dishonest.
We make these points not because the RCG enjoys any great influence in the movement, but rather because its stubborn refusal to fully settle accounts with its Trotskyite origins leads it again and again to smuggle reactionary ideas into its ostensibly militant and anti-imperialist propaganda and practice, thereby promoting the very opportunism that it so vociferously claims to decry. Such a stance can only serve to misguide honest people and hinder the building of a genuine, strong and united anti-imperialist and communist movement. The good comrades in and around the RCG, and the whole working class movement, deserve better.