Today is the anniversary of the death of Friedrich Engels, who, along with his comrade Karl Marx, was one of the fathers of scientific socialism.
Engels dedicated his life to the communist cause, and contributed immensely to the development of scientific socialism with invaluable works such as Anti-Dühring, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Dialectics of Nature, and The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.
He also participated in the revolutionary uprisings against the Prussian state in 1848-49, writing incendiary articles and supplying arms.
Although an intellectual giant in his own right, Engels is best known for his lifelong support of and collaboration with Marx, co-authoring the Communist Manifesto, editing Capital, and promoting communism in the First International.
Despite the best efforts of the bourgeoisie to misinterpret and manipulate his work, one simply has to read Engel’s own words to understand his ideas:
“A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois?”
– On Authority, 1872
Do yourself and the working class a favour: read Engels!
Cuban ambassador to the UK, Comrade Teresita Vicente, speaks powerfully at the CPGB-ML meeting to celebrate the 99th anniversary of the Great Socialist October Revolution held in Saklatvala Hall, Southall, West London on 5th November 2016.
Her full speech is now available to view in this video. Please watch and listen carefully to her words, and share her powerful message widely. You could not find a better antidote to the US election campaign!
Join Red Youth and CPGB-ML comrades to mark International Workers’ Day, on Friday 1st May 11:30am at Clerkenwell Green, to celebrate our proud history of working-class resistance!
May 1st is a significant day for workers across the world. It is a time to celebrate the hard-won victories of workers of all countries in our on-going struggle against exploitation and oppression, and show our continuing dedication to education, organisation, and action.
The working class do not march in protest on May Day, although there is plenty to protest about. Rather, the working class marches to demonstrate the power we have, to seize control of our labour, to oust the parasitic ruling class, and to build a future free from poverty and exploitation.
Keith Bennett gives an interesting presentation on the impact of the world capitalist economic crisis of overproduction upon the economic and social life of socialist countries, at a CPGB-ML seminar held as economic meltdown hit in 2009.
The classic case of a socialist country immune to crisis is provided, he says, by the Soviet Union in the 1930s, whose economic output increased 5-fold while the capitalist world’s declined, mired as it was in the great depression that followed the Wall Street Crash, and dragged on until it fuelled events leading to a second World War.
The Soviet Union, after temporary concessions to capitalism following the destruction of world war one, the civil war, and the war of intervention, put aside Lenin’s ‘New Economic Policy’ and embarked upon full scale collectivisation in the countryside, enabling increased agricultural production and rural prosperity. This in turn allowed the towns to grow, to be fed, and increase their industrial output. It was the economic, cultural and technical development consequent upon its socialist economy that enabled the Soviet Union to defeat German Nazi Imperialism in the Great Patriotic War (WW2) between 1941-45.
Keith goes on to discuss modern China, the inroads of capitalist economics into her social life, the extent to which she always had a dual economy, and the fact that China’s economy, while continuing to expand, has been adversely affected by the declining capacity of the capitalist world to absorb her exports.
Referring to the history of the world economy, Keith points out that Capitalism cannot offer a sustainable source of economic growth, peaceful or stable development, and remains inherently prone to crisis, dislocation, instability and war.
Capitalism, if allowed to flourish in the economic sphere, will inevitably seek political power, and to change the nature of the state to suit its interests, he concludes.
The divide between capitalists and workers, both politically and economically, is continuing to expand rapidly as we sink further into economic crisis.
Adding to the relative and absolute impoverishment of the working class in the material sense is the impoverishment of our minds. The most glaring example of our lack of class consciousness or of a Marxist understanding amongst Britain’s workers is all too apparent when we compare the prevailing social peace in the face of massive cuts in Britain with the dramatic fight-back that has been unfolding in the streets of Greece, Turkey and Spain in recent weeks and months. It is clear that we are suffering from a total malnourishment in theory and understanding.
The education of workers regarding the alternative to capitalism is hardly touched upon by our labour movement, and within the state schooling system it is conducted in no meaningful way whatsoever.
The education system works in tandem with the ‘justice’, media and religious establishments (to name but a few) to acclimatise us all to monotonous subordination and despair. The idea that another world is possible is never on the horizon. All of these institutions, it should be noted, are currently being removed from state control and placed into the hands of private owners in the hope that our parasitic ruling class can wring a few more drops of profit out of public institutions that have been bled white.
The purpose of schooling under capitalism is to train us for disciplined labour in the imperialist workforce – to instil us with the stamina to run on the hamster wheel of pointless employment (if we’re fortunate!) until we drop dead, or until we make it to some ever-receding ‘retirement’ age (assuming there will even be such a thing as a state pension by the time we make it to the age of 70!)
The modern curriculum seems to be saturated with mathematical equations whose usefulness is never made clear to us, with religious instruction that is utterly inane, and with repetitious emphasis on how to speak and spell ‘properly’ … even while we are given instruction in the works of William Shakespeare, who was famous for being the originator of so much English slang! How contradictory!
Our schools, and the whole grading and assessing system they buy into, teach us that we are only as good as the grades we receive on results day and the marks we are adjudged to have earned from our teachers. They teach us that the girl across the hall from you is better than you because the A* that she has received is better than your dismal C!
This is a system that inevitably benefits the bourgeoisie, and it is no coincidence that it does so. To earn your A* you must learn to be an excellent parrot – no individuality or criticism is permitted. Regurgitate your textbook onto your exam paper in order to demonstrate how Stalin killed all and sundry before brunch on an icy Russian winter’s morning. A* and place at university assured … along with access to a higher-paying job and a nicer level of life than might be open to some of your less fortunate friends.
But is the great Albert Einstein not proof that the current existing methods of assessment are incorrect, idealist and unfair? Poor old Albert was considered to be an ‘underachiever’ in school too!
Schools are not there to not teach us how to think critically, to pose alternative theories or to explore beyond the curriculum. Everyone has their own ways of thinking, their preferred learning strategies and their unique mix of abilities, yet we are taught, assessed and ranked through the same means.
The present exam system is a hegemonic ideological state apparatus enforced by the bourgeoisie. The whole purpose of exams is not to maintain standards but to ‘reward’ those with the right class background along with the most pliable working-class students with access to university places and jobs. It sets a pattern that is preparing us for our roles in society, all the while covertly teaching us to look down on people who earn less than we do because they must surely be ‘less intelligent’ or ‘less deserving’.
It’s important for us to realise that most people don’t get the grades they worked for so much as the grades their parents paid for. The entire public-school system is set up to make sure that A grades and access to Oxbridge are achieved as standard by anyone with a modicum of intelligence and pliability. Small class sizes, extra coaching, extra-curricular activities, internships, business and academic contacts and exam technique are all part of the package that ensure that the richest parents can expect their children to ‘achieve’ as expected.
To get the same grades as a state comp student requires far more discipline and motivation, especially if you come from a poor family where books and knowledge are not on tap at home and in which such attainment is not expected or planned for, either by your family or by your teachers. Yet still, to win this coveted prize requires students from all backgrounds to crush their critical faculties and teach themselves to become mouthpieces for the prevailing system – something that is far harder to do if your life experience is constantly teaching you that the system is not the ‘fair’, ‘democratic’ ‘meritocracy’ it pretends to be!
If schools endorsed the theories of Karl Marx, if they educated students on his revolutionary literature and explained the materialist conception of history, how quickly do we think the ‘great minds’ at the Department of Education would cry aloud that dictatorship and all the rest of it have long been done away with?
It is not that Marx’s theories are not relevant today or, as the bourgeoisie would have us believe, that ‘Marxism is dead’. Quite the opposite. The bourgeoisie are fully aware that his teachings are correct and that Marxism will never die while class society continues to exist. Indeed, they themselves desire to understand Marx’s ideas, the better to debunk them. Not a great house or public school in the country would be without complete without the works of Marx and Lenin on its shelves – but try finding them nowadays in your local library!
Unfortunately, all that working-class youth are likely to find on comprehensive or academy school shelves is Animal Farm, the objective of which is to hammer home that nonsensical view that ‘communism doesn’t work because everyone is naturally greedy and people won’t work together’. This ‘truth’ is handed down to us just 20 minutes before the next teacher tells us what a wonderful ‘Big Society’ we have in Britain, and how we all worked in common to bring understanding to the natives during the colonial era. What happy times.
Working-class youth needs to educate itself; to set its own programme and curriculum – one which reflects our life, our struggle and our conditions. Young people should educate themselves in the most advanced theory, Marxism Leninism. The CPGB-ML urges the youth of this nation to read the revolutionary and emancipating works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin so that they can prepare themselves to break out of the poverty and ignorance that has been assigned to them.
The youth of today is the wealth of tomorrow. Don’t let our school and our warped and class-ridden assessment system determine what you do with your life. Join the CPGB-ML, join Red Youth and be the change you want to see in the world. As Chairman Mao put it: “Dare to struggle; dare to win!” Or as Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto 165 years ago: “Let the ruling classes tremble at a communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”
Django Unchained is a beguiling film. ‘Beguiling’ may seem an odd adjective for a Tarantino blood-fest, but despite that director’s well-known penchant for violence being well to the fore in this tale of the pre-civil-war southern states of America, the film does charm the viewer. This is chiefly because of the engaging story, which grips from the opening shots, the clever, witty and often laugh-out-loud funny script and, above all, the stand-out performance of the supporting lead, German actor Christoph Waltz.
Only lately come to US films and international stardom (and until now mainly playing villains), Waltz plays a German immigrant doctor travelling as an itinerant dentist (we are never sure of his true qualifications, if any) but in reality operating as a bounty hunter, duly authorised, we are given to understand, by the US courts to capture wanted criminals “dead or alive”.
This being a Tarantino film, the Doctor (thus we will call him, as he is called this by all in the film) never bothers even to try to catch them alive. A corpse, duly produced and identified, is sufficient to claim the bounty, and no doubt less bother to transport to show the authorities than a living prisoner, and each ‘capture’ provides an opportunity for a display of crack shooting.
The Doctor character is handsome and erudite; a funny, charming and convincing con-man (as all con-men have to be, or they would never succeed). He fools everyone until the moment after the killing, when he produces the wanted poster/warrant from his inside coat pocket.
Slavery is the backdrop against which the story of the film plays out. The film is hyped by some critics as a serious exposé of the brutal reality of the slave system in the USA, which existed, and was the basis for much of the wealth of that country, from the late 17th century until the second half of the 19th century. Is that assessment of the film justified? We would have to say that no, it is not.
The film starts with a pair of travelling slave merchants, who are moving Django and a half-dozen other slaves along a remote woodland track in rural Texas. The Doctor, in his character of itinerant dentist in a horse-drawn closed wagon complete with a large model of a molar bouncing on a spring on the wagon’s roof, hoves into view.
It appears he has been looking for these particular slavers with the object of buying Django from them. He parries the slavers’ curious enquiries and concludes the deal after he has questioned Django to confirm that he knows and could identify three brothers who were the overseers at the last plantation he worked on before being sold away by the owner.
Once the purchase is completed and verified by a signed bill of sale, at the Doctor’s insistence, an altercation arises which is resolved, Tarantino-style, by the Doctor shooting and wounding one slaver and killing the other, tossing the remaining slaves the keys to their shackles and a rifle and giving them the choice of taking the injured and helpless surviving slaver back to the nearest town (in the hope that they might get their freedom as a reward), or shooting him and escaping to “a more enlightened part of this country” where they might be free.
The opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the film: comedy, irony, wit, with the doctor usually getting the better of everyone he meets through his quicker wits and greater intelligence, but with every dispute being settled summarily with casual, lethal violence.
Django, played by Jamie Foxx, is needed by the Doctor because the three overseer brothers are wanted ‘dead or alive’ and are the objects of his latest bounty hunt; the Doctor does not know what they look like, but Django does. The pair find the overseer brothers working under different names at a new slave plantation.
Django turns out to be a naturally accurate marksman with pistol and rifle. Having been given his freedom as his reward for his contribution to the success of the hunt, he agrees to the Doctor’s proposal that they work together as a team as bounty hunters in the mountains of the far West for the duration of the winter, with Django taking a third of the rewards earned. The Doctor trains him and Django practises until he is a perfect shot. They spend a ‘profitable’ winter together.
The story then changes gear and becomes almost a different film. Django has told the Doctor that he and his wife were sold separately (by express order of their owner) after they had tried to run away from the plantation together. He wants to find and free his wife so they can run away together again.
The Doctor has promised to help Django after the winter, although that means going back to Mississippi, where they were sold at slave auction, in order to discover his wife’s buyer and present whereabouts. This is a mission and a place that will be very dangerous for Django as an African American (‘Nigger’ in contemporary parlance), even one now a free man and with papers to prove his new status.
There is a stand-out performance by Leonardo di Caprio as the new owner of Django’s wife, ‘Monsieur’ Candie, owner of one of Mississippi’s largest plantations, ‘Candieland’, and scion of an old, rich slave-owning family. ‘Monsieur’ Candie (his title of preference) owns a string of slaves kept specifically to fight, bare-knuckled, to the death if required, the slaves of other plantation owners in a ‘sport’ called ‘Mandingo fighting’. It is through this pastime that our heroes make contact with him.
The Doctor is shown to view with distaste the violence of a bout he witnesses with ‘Monsieur’ Candie, and also the result of the latter’s subsequent command to an overseer that the dogs be let loose to kill a Mandingo fighter slave of his caught while running away in order to avoid having to fight further bouts. Django reminds the Doctor that months before he had told Django to shoot a wanted criminal “in cold blood in front of his own son” from a safe and hidden vantage point, afterwards giving the poster to Django as a keepsake (“You never forget your first bounty”).
The twists and turns of the plot thereafter we will not reveal. It is enough to say that there is an explosion of violence and killing before Django can ride off into the sunset together with his companion.
Why do we say that this film is not a serious exposé of slavery? Because essentially it just presents the same, dominant (if not sole) message of modern American cinema in another setting: which is that any wrong can be righted by individual, vigilante-type violence.
There is no reference, even in passing, to the economic basis of slavery as a system, or of the economic basis for its eventual abolition; it just seems to be the result of wicked, callous and ‘unenlightened’ men, with the way out therefore being through ‘enlightened’ men or individual gunfights.
The organised ‘Freedom Railroad’ is not mentioned even when the context invites it, as when the doctor suggests the slaves escape from Texas (an awful long way without help from the ‘more enlightened’ parts of the country he referred to as their possible destination), or when Django recounts the story of his and his wife’s failed attempt to run away.
Django refers to his lost love as his ‘wife’ throughout, though slaves in fact had no right to marry; they might be made or allowed to breed, or used (often) by their owners for sex, but if they formed relationships of their own choice these could be and often were broken at will by their owners, as the slaves were regarded as livestock, like cattle, not fully human.
Django and his wife are shown as rare exceptions to the rule of cowed and obedient slaves. He gives no clue to the feelings of his fellow slaves, even though the brutality of the system is shown.
The ‘solution’ to slavery is totally misrepresented in Django Unchained, and not by accident. The truth, however, is that slavery became uneconomic partly because of the development of technology (which meant brute strength was no longer the prime requirement for cultivation on the plantation), and partly because of the increasing cost and difficulty of controlling the slaves and putting down their repeated uprisings.
Slavery was (and still is) a class question – in its modern manifestations, it is a feature of imperialist exploitation, which was and will be defeated only by collective action by the oppressed people themselves, who in the current conditions of imperialism can only succeed if led by the revolutionary proletariat.
Slavery in Tibet was only ended when the region was liberated following the success of the Chinese revolution and the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Bonded labour in India (slavery by another name) and outright slavery in a number of African countries have not been affected by the ‘independence’ of those countries from direct colonial rule, since their local leaders still govern on behalf of the imperialists.
So long as surplus value can be extracted from another’s labour, there will be every form of exploitation, including slavery, even in the heartlands of imperialism.
See and enjoy the film, but do not be beguiled into buying into its ‘solution’.
Unemployment in Britain is now over 2.5 million, with young people being especially hit; people under 25 account for about 40 percent of the unemployed and according to latest figures youth unemployment stands in excess of 1 million. Any day you visit the jobcentre it is literally bursting with people competing for jobs and the chances of finding work are getting less and less. In our region so many factories, pits and traditional heavy industries have closed down that the only places to look for work appear to be Tesco, Asda and McDonald’s. This entire experience is depressing and degrading, how many times must you apply for a job and never even receive a response?!
Unemployment in Wales has been a serious problem for some years, but recent reports by the Office for National Statistics and subsequent work by University researchers show that the scale of the problem is huge. Two Welsh Council’s Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil now rank in the top ten of Britain’s worst hit areas with a study by Sheffield Hallam University claiming unemployment rates of 17% and 14.9%. The report claims that Wales is hit much harder by unemployment than official statistics for those claiming jobseekers allowance suggest. With thousands of school leavers entering the jobs market and thousands more being thrown off Incapacity Benefit by bonus hungry health ‘professionals’ at private company Atos; it leads any sensible and thinking person to ask, how are people in Wales supposed to find work?
How to fight back
In days gone by when the British working class had a strong militant communist party, mass marches, riots and street fighting with the police and state forces forced from local poor committee’s money and food to keep people from starving. All we remember of these days is the Jarrow March. But the reality of the fight for jobs back in the 1920’s and 30’s is much different from the toned down sanitised history we’ve been fed. A starting point for young workers must be to read Wal Hannington’s book Unemployed Struggles. Hannington was a leading member of the Communist Party of the time and led the National Unemployed Workers Movement. Radio 4 recently broadcast a biased history of these struggles, but the first hand accounts contained in the programme are well worth listening to and learning from. Listen to the unemployed struggles of the 20’s and 30’s.
“Capital hates the absence of profit or small profits as nature hates vacuum. If the gain is adequate, it becomes brave: if 10% of gain are secured, it is ready to invest in any place , 20% and it heats up; 50% and it becomes reckless; 100% and it tramples on all human laws; 300% and there is no crime that it dare not commit, even at the risk of the gallows. When it can make profit through disorder and discord, it encourages both, as evidenced by the smuggling and the slave trade”.