Recently, the world learned of the death of Robert Conquest, a ‘historian’ and author who worked for the Information Research Department (IRD) – an innocuously-named operation set up by the Labour government to produce and spread influential anti-communist propaganda throughout the British media and arts.
Establishment obituaries have been quick to promote Conquest’s credentials as a singularly brilliant scholar who was responsible for revealing the ‘horrors’ of the USSR. They quietly ignore his strong connections with semi-fascist and anti-communist propaganda organisations, and his deeply contentious use of ‘sources’ for his allegations that approach outright academic fraud.
Reproduced below is a statement from renowned Soviet historian Grover Furr on Conquest’s work and legacy, which stresses the importance of understanding biases and motivations behind ‘academic’ works that amount in many cases to ‘propaganda with footnotes’.
We reproduce below a letter to Red Youth from a young comrade from south-east England focusing on the racial segregation that is driven into the British public through capitalism’s most insidious tool – the private media.
Such contributions are an essential part to the building of a organised mass-movement against the imperialist ruling class. Only by uniting as a class, rather than reacting as artificial divisive groups, can we defeat the parasitic forces of imperialism and secure a peaceful and prosperous future for all.
“Capital is an international force. To vanquish it, an international workers’ alliance, an international workers’ brotherhood, is needed. We are opposed to national enmity and discord, to national exclusiveness. We are internationalists.” (Lenin)
Dear Red Youth,
It is often thrown around in our society that immigrants are to blame for the unemployment of millions of British people. In fact, such things are disseminated daily in the press, acting as the mouthpiece of the capitalist government. People rely on these mouthpieces for news, and therefore are willing to accept most things printed in them, regardless of whether or not the press has committed various atrocities to breach the privacy rights of thousands, such as hacking into and snooping around texts, e-mails, phone calls, etc., with people seeing it as “gossip” that’s perfectly acceptable to get in on and swallow up.
The Daily Mail (or the ideological compass for UKIP) once reported that “29,000,000 Bulgarian and Romanian people” are apparently going to immigrate to the UK when the border restrictions are lifted in 2014! This is nothing short of nonsense straight off the bat given that the combined population of both Romania and Bulgaria just passes 28.5 million people! Are all of the people from both countries suddenly going to immigrate to the UK, leaving the countries completely empty?
But what we must analyse further is why people immigrate to the UK.
The first point is simply wanting a better life elsewhere. There seems to be such a problem with this in Britain, and what often follows is nothing short of racist rhetoric, usually blaming such immigrants for the downfall of Britain, the loss of the apparent “British culture” we once had, and an array of other fallacious appeals that rely on a memory of Britain that never existed.
Capitalism, and in particular its highest state of oppression imperialism, is one of the main reasons as to why people come to the UK, and often it is to escape war zones and poverty implemented by the colonial warmongers themselves armed with weapons and drones funded by international corporations such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola to name just two. Their funds are just as criminally gained through deforestation to clear paths for factories, farms and capital outputs, and for building factories that pollute the air and rivers of the East and the world.
This example of imperialism’s thirst for super profits and maximising avenues of profitable investment at the expense of the people is just one of many.
The war on Iraq waged by western imperialism through its stooges Blair and Bush was under the guise that the Iraqi government was stockpiling weaponry capable of decimating the west “within 45 minutes”. These claims were found to be baseless, and no such weaponry was ever found once Hussein had been successfully overthrown and executed.
In the pursuit of these make believe aims, two million Iraqi lives were lost— the lives of innocent men, women and children. And what has happened since? Interestingly enough, it should be noted that, since the overthrow of Hussein and the failure to find weaponry, many U.S.-based oil reserves – protected by the American army – have been established in Iraq, as Iraq was (and, for that matter, still is) known as the fifth largest oil reserve in the world. This should come as no shock that invasion happened, as it was in the real pursuit of the benefit and profit of large and expansive oil companies, based mainly the west. And what were the cost of these huge profits and the concentration of capital? It was blood of many thousands of men, women and children.
Imperialism is monopoly capitalism, it is capitalism in its highest form, and it is the gravest threat to the welfare and lives of all people.
Because of these hideous affairs, it should serve as no shock that people wish to flee their countries which have been turned into a war zone. Iraq is just one of the few examples, and even older examples would include India at the height of the British Empire. On more than one occasion, starving Indian workers and peasants were met only with gunfire and steel, not with the help that they required despite serving Britain’s manufacturing needs after having their raw materials and natural resources practically torn from their own lands. This is, as stated, the highest development of capitalism. One country isn’t enough for the endless demands of the profiteers, so they look to export capital to other areas where they are able to extract super profits from the toiling colonial slaves, British colonialism and imperialism spanned a large portion of the planet at one point, colonising many countries.
Furthermore, what of the claims that immigrants come to the UK for welfare?
It is a fact (not a myth, but a fact) that immigrants to the UK have helped build this nation for centuries, there are NO “indigenous” Brits, and with fewer than 10 per cent of recent immigrants actually claiming welfare (equates to around 600,000 out of approximately 9,000,000 foreign nationals residing in this country) a huge majority of foreign nationals are happy to work, pay taxes, bills, and contribute to our on-going cultural development, contrary to popular belief.
The media does not make things so easy as that however. To those who acknowledge this fact an equal supply of misguiding lies make claims that “they take jobs away from British people” to further drive racial division between the working class and further maintain the rule of the exploiting capitalists.
It is not foreign nationals who should bear the brunt of racist nonsense and be blamed for the downfall of Britain, but the bourgeois class who have driven us down into the ground regardless of the length of the dole ques.
Right back at the start of this letter, I stated that it is the capitalist mouthpiece (i.e. the mass media) that is quick to disseminate anti-immigrant propaganda. Millions upon millions of newspapers — which recycle the bourgeois nonsense — are printed and sold daily. From this, think of the sheer amount of people that this information is reaching; it would stretch to nearly every single corner of the UK, resulting in millions in the form of profit for the owners of the media empires. And often it is known for the bourgeois press to recycle and exaggerate sheer nonsense for the sake of “attracting customers”, profits and sales, and expansion.
To conclude, it must always be borne in mind that, if it serves the relevant interest of the bourgeoisie, more often than not, they will repeat it. This is why, often, complete fallacies are recycled and spouted within capitalist press — it serves their interests, and it serves to make profit, so their logic would be: why not? A lot of the time, the press will exaggerate, twist and distort things out of shape to their liking, because it also serves to help maintain their class domination.
In reality, the reasons as to why immigration even happens en masse is often down to the sheer atrocities of capitalism, creating war zones and unsafe environments abroad for the sake of capital, profit, expansion, etc. And, often, war zones lead to the establishment of military-protected oil zones, factories, and workshops. Imperialism makes life unbearable for the vast masses of the planet. Imperialism brings the workers to the proletarian revolution!
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’.
Red Youth and CPGB-ML member Jamie speaks at a meeting to celebrate the 94th anniversary of the Great Socialist October Revolution, at Sak Hall in west London.
He outlines the relevance of the October Revolution to working class youth in Britain today, and its key lessons.
Chiefly, he points out the necessity of forming an organization and studying our exploitative society and the alternatives, in order to make our struggle effective; of confronting and opposing the mis-leadership of the social democratic ‘Labour’ Party, the enemy within the working-class movement; and the importance of imparting the spontaneous resistance that is rising around us (Student EMA and university fees protestors, Occupy Wall St and the LSX, union strikes, and the ‘London Riots’…) with class-conscious and revolutionary perspective.
These are the lessons we all must learn if we are to building effective resistance to the attacks of a political and economic order that is in its most profound crisis, and ultimately overthrow the British, American, EU and NATO criminally corrupt, venal and genocidal ruling monopoly capitalist class gangsters.