The World Socialist Website (WSWS) is the portal of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). The WSWS is among the best left-wing Trotskyist sites on the planet. In fact, not all non-Trotskyist people who access the WSWS know that it is a website for a Trotskyist organization. And even less that this organization is called the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). By dedicating themselves to the virtual world, they bring good information and have become experts in it.
But, virtue turned into addiction. The ICFI became sectarian, ultimatist in relation to union struggles, completely capitulated to virtual militancy, on the internet, and rejected all union activity of the working class on principle.
The ICFI-WSWS is opposed to working in workers’ unions on the grounds that they are run by reactionary bureaucrats – which has been true for 200 years and worldwide, but does not justify resignation – as is very clear and wordy here in this anti-union “training course” of the organization’s leader:
1. Why are unions hostile to socialism? By David North, 15 June 2019
2. That same position is here:Postal worker must draw some immediate conclusions, and one of them must be to take this current action out of the hands of the union and form rank and file committees. This really is a life and death issue. (Communication Workers Union folds 48 hours after Royal Mail threatens 20,000 jobs, Thomas Scripps, 2 May 2020).
3. And also here where the workers’ unions, led by bureaucrats, equals the Democratic Party of the US imperialist bourgeoisie:But yesterday’s stunt constituted an effort by the Democratic Party, the unions, and their hangers-on to disrupt and gain control of this growing movement of workers against the efforts by the corporations to force them to continue working during the pandemic under unsafe conditions .. ..Workplace committees are also necessary for workers to defend themselves against the efforts of the Democratic Party and the unions to hijack and disrupt their struggles. (May 1 “general strike” at Amazon: A failed adventure by theDemocratic Party and the unions, The International Amazon Workers Voice, 2 May 2020).
Union activity is the basic working class par excellence, it is its first awareness of the political struggle against bosses, businessmen, police and the capitalist state. Without going through this school and without discovering the limits of that school, it is difficult for workers to acquire revolutionary consciousness, class consciousness as a class for themselves, communist consciousness.
The ICFI abandoned the working class and became useless for mobilising the masses in their place of work, study and housing. They believe that they can completely replace unions with “grassroots committees” as led by the ICFI itself. It is “take it or leave it”: they carry out militancy directly in the ranks of the ICFI, or nothing. They do not consider the level of understanding of the workers or their expectations on the subject.
We believe that Parties, Unions and the Grassroots Committees are all useful and that they fulfill different functions. We need to bring the masses to revolutionary conclusions, based on common experience with them. For ICFI, unions are instruments as evil as the Democratic Party, they are also bandits. And the reality is not like that, black or white, no matter how bad the union bureaucracies are anywhere in the world. They are very gangsterish and bourgeois in the USA, but they are also in South Africa, Argentina and Brazil. We cannot help workers to overcome their illusions in the union struggle through ultimatums. Trade unions are a historic achievement for the working class. They suffered degeneration, along with the degeneration of capitalism towards barbarism, but they are still an instrument that needs to be regained from the hands of union bureaucracies for workers in their daily political struggle. And even if this reconquest is not carried out, this struggle is important to advance the workers’ consciousness.
Lenin was outspoken in the aftermath of the Russia revolution against such ‘principled’ refusal to engage with mass trade unions:
“We are waging a struggle against the ‘labour aristocracy’ in the name of the masses of the workers and in order to win them over to our side; we are waging the struggle against the opportunist and social-chauvinist leaders in order to win the working class over to our side. It would be absurd to forget this most elementary and most self-evident truth. Yet it is this very absurdity that the German ‘Left’ Communists perpetrate when, because of the reactionary and counter-revolutionary character of the trade union top leadership, they jump to the conclusion that . . . we must withdraw from the trade unions, refuse to work in them, and create new and artificial forms of labour organisation! This is so unpardonable a blunder that it is tantamount to the greatest service Communists could render the bourgeoisie. Like all the opportunist, social-chauvinist, and Kautskyite trade union leaders, our Mensheviks are nothing but ‘agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement’ (as we have always said the Mensheviks are), or ‘labour lieutenants of the capitalist class’, to use the splendid and profoundly true expression of the followers of Daniel De Leon in America. To refuse to work in the reactionary trade unions means leaving the insufficiently developed or backward masses of workers under the influence of the reactionary leaders, the agents of the bourgeoisie, the labour aristocrats, or ‘workers who have become completely bourgeois’… ” (Lenin, Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder, May 1920)
As Comrade Trot 20 years later, Trotsky returned to the same point and was equally incisive:
“From what has been said it follows quite clearly that, in spite of the progressive degeneration of trade unions and their growing together with the imperialist state, the work within the trade unions not only does not lose any of its importance but remains as before and becomes in a certain sense even more important work than ever for every revolutionary party. The matter at issue is essentially the struggle for influence over the working class. Every organization, every party, every faction which permits itself an ultimatistic position in relation to the trade union, i.e., in essence turns its back upon the working class, merely because of displeasure with its organizations, every such organization is destined to perish. And it must be said it deserves to perish. “
(Leon Trotsky, Trade Unions In the Epoch of Imperialist Decay, August 1940).
In this respect, ICFI’s anti-union sectarianism has made it become a functional grouping under the control of that wing of imperialism within the US Democratic Party which continues to control the majority of the hearts and minds of the proletariat in the heart of the imperialist monster, in the most powerful country To paraphrase Lenin, ICFI’s leftism “amounts to the greatest service that the communists could provide the bourgeoisie.” In this case, the ICFI has the aggravation against itself of providing this service to the US imperialist bourgeoisie, the most exploitative and oppressive of the world working class.
It is true that because there is no alternative to the left of the Democratic Party to fight for the consciousness of the American proletariat. In 2016, in the industrial belts of the USA, especially in the workers’ cities of the so-called rust belt, workers who felt threatened by competition from Chinese industrialists voted for Trump’s protectionism.
With the wearing down Trump’s influence, a fraction of the left of the Democratic Party has again seduced the workers, though the social-imperialist Bernie Sanders. At this time when Sanders betrayed the most recent and perhaps historically greatest wave of socialism in US history, despite Bernie Sanders, it would be important to have a revolutionary Trotskyist organization capitalizing on disillusion within the immediate struggles, the union struggles of the important American proletariat, but the WSWS is relatively good for information, but not for organizing the fight against imperialism. Now, with the pandemic destroying the main card in Trump’s sleeve, full employment, with growing disillusionment with the two wings of imperialism, class conscious and communist workers’ reorganization is the order of the day, so it is important to build a independent workers’ party.
The pandemic is expanding social control and generating a new cycle of capitalist accumulation
April 29, 2020
We are in a transition to another cycle of capitalist accumulation, a relatively new phenomenon, a cycle that is being born through the greatest planetary catastrophe since the Second World War. Capitalism’s impotence in the face of Covid-19 has created expectations that the tragedy would be a moment of renewal; that a period of greater solidarity would open up, of Keynesian capitalism, of nationalization, and the universal basic income. These illusions in the regeneration of post-coronavirus capitalism are materially based on the emergency measures taken by a number of governments.
This was and continues to be the illusion of a broad spectrum of left-wing intellectuals. They believe that all this is possible without a tenacious struggle by the working class to defeat the bourgeois offensive, which has a series of extreme right and neoliberal-libertarian governments at its forefront.
Work Intensification and Compression of Wages
With the world pandemic established, the lumpenization of the most populous layers of the proletariat seems to have become the plan of the exploiting classes. The miserable economic aid packages for informal workers, for a few months, point to this. It is worth remembering that informalization is a predominant policy in the world. According to the International Labor Organization (2015), 60.7% of the world labour force has no permanent job. In many countries, such as Brazil, informality reaches half the workforce. In other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, informality is even greater.
During the pandemic, the Bolsonaro government’s aid to informal workers was $100. Bolsonaro initially considered paying $35. In other countries, such as Thailand, it reaches $170 dollars a month. This is still very little because it is much less than the average wages of the countries themselves. In turn, this average is often below the vital needs of a family of workers. According to the Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies (DIEESE) of Brazil, in March the minimum wage needed should be approximately $780.
The number of workers who signed up to be able to receive the miserable aid exceeds by two or three times the number expected by the government. $ 100 is little more than half the $ 183 minimum wage in Brazil for formal workers and almost eight times less than the necessary wage suggested by DIEESE. After quarantine, with unemployment and underemployment much higher than the current ones, which affect, respectively, 13 and 30 million workers, the working class is induced to get used to surviving on half or less of the salary they received before the pandemic.
Then a new minimum wage floor is created, lowered, formally or informally, because in times of calamity capitalist anarchy increases. Wages are compressed below their value, for the class as a whole and, in increasingly broad sectors, also for new technological applications.
Once again, the overexploitation of the working class, about which Ruy Mauro Marini had written, deepens when the wages paid are below the value of the labour force, preventing this class from reproducing in its normal conditions of life. It will also deepen the degree of exploitation of work by new technological tools that extend the journey and occupy the moments of the workers’ day and night to the maximum, now with work also at home. The intensification of work and the compression of wages below their value are two countervailing tendencies to the fall in the rate of profit, already pointed out by Marx in Capital, used by capitalists to avoid or get out of crises for more than 120 years. Since then, mediated by the social gains and defeats of the exploited majority, exploitation and its mechanisms have become more complex. Forced to survive and adapt with incomes well below the vital minimum, barbarism leads most human beings to live as a human sub-race.
Fatalism and Class Intent
This perverse element of overexploiting work is combined with suspected health procedures for SARS-CoV-2. For example, the so-called “herd immunity”, which was explicitly adopted by Great Britain until the moment when the Prime Minister himself also contracted the virus. Minimizing the severity of the problem, conscious neglect and fatalism with the loss of thousands of lives, especially of the working population, reveals a certain amount of intent. The pandemic, which victimizes social classes unequally, is used, objectively, as a weapon of class war. If it wants to survive and live, the working class can by no means accept the fatalistic predictions of its enemies as “normal”, “inevitable” the high number of deaths. The class cannot passively accept its suffering and extermination.
This is not based on reason, and illusions abound in those who hope that these governments and bourgeois states will take measures favourable to the majority of the population. These illusions become true hallucinations faced with the bailouts of those capitalists who can be rescued from the new financial crisis and competition among them for those who will take the lead in the new cycle of capital accumulation. It was these governments and states that made the living conditions of the working masses so vulnerable, with ultra-parasitic measures against the subaltern classes (euphemistically called neoliberalism). The greatest proof of this was the collapse of almost all national health systems within less than two months of the new virus.
Brutalism, Coronocracy, …
Achilles Mbembe, who coined the term “necropolitics”, already pointed out before the pandemic that we were moving towards regimes that he called “Brutalism”. This is the title of his work published in early 2020. According to the Cameroonian philosopher, the final project of “Brutalism” would be the transformation of humanity into matter and energy, when all spheres of existence are crossed by capital and the ordering of society it is defined by the same digital computing orientation. If it is correct, the pandemic represents a leap, or an acceleration in that state of affairs. Many analysts around the world, probably among the first, was the journalist Eshrat Mardi of the Tehran Times, who have used the term “Coronocracy” to refer to repressive and centralizing measures.
The government of Israel, in the state that already had a Nazi-Zionist character against the Palestinians, headed by the arch-corrupt Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who would face trial for corruption, took advantage of the moment to establish measures that increase surveillance over citizens, opportunely closed the courts (the Israeli Federal Supreme Court), increased the repression of the Palestinians, without allowing any interference, instituted that the Zionist Army is the maximum sanitary authority, above the Ministry of Health.
In Hungary, Viktor Orbán gained the to govern by decree, creating an indefinite state of emergency and threatens with imprisonment of up to five years to anyone who publishes information that contradicts government guidelines, that “obstruct or prevent the effective protection of the population”.
In Peru, Congress passed a law that gives police and military personnel legal immunity for injuring or killing people on grounds of violating social isolation orders. Something similar to the “exclusion of illegality” for police officers, defended by ex-minister Sérgio Moro and Bolsonaro. Agents of repression would have full rights to execute the population under subjective justifications such as “surprise, fear or violent emotion”. Trump made a 180-degree turn, from disdain for the pandemic to definitions like: “absolutely critical”, “invisible, incredible enemy”. The President of the United States recommended an injection of disinfectant into the body would be beneficial in killing covid-19. Desperate and ignorant, dozens of people followed Trump’s recommendation. The New York poison control centre received 30 calls related to the use of disinfectant in the 18 hours following the president’s suggestion.
When workers are weakened, their class enemies, the bosses, ride roughshod over them. Without organized and victorious resistance from the oppressed peoples and the working class, the prospects point to a severe stage of barbarism that we are experiencing. The situation of the working class, which was already precarious, is now globally catastrophic. The “new great depression” (terminology of journalist Pepe Escobar) has been closing millions of companies. Unemployment soared. According to optimistic ILO estimates, 25 million jobs will be lost. But in the United States alone, whose Trump administration celebrated “full employment”, it now reaches almost 20% unemployment. If this is so in the richest country on the planet, how will it be in the rest? Even France, representative of the sixth world economic power, has been unable to defend its citizens from the virus, 23,000 French have died, 10% of all deaths in the world by the covid-19 so far.
In this desperate situation and with the over-supply of labour power, there is a brutal drop in the wages of formal workers and civil servants. However, the prospects of barbarism are much, much worse for precarious people of all kinds, immigrants, women.
Governments have been taking advantage of the pandemic to impose states of siege against the masses, to enslave them and to increase preventive social control in the face of latent rebellions. Everyone knows that the poor and exploited people are being dragged quickly into a situation of desperate struggle for life. Thus, populist measures do not regenerate health systems or rebuild the living conditions of the working class. In fact, capital is taking advantage of the brutal drop in working life conditions to exterminate part of the surplus unemployed army, militarize social life and expand the police state.
The “Anti-Authoritarian” Manifesto of Neoliberals
In this scenario, about 150 neoliberal intellectuals, right-wing opportunists, in a list headed by former governors, aspiring to return to power in their countries in the Ibero-Latin American region launched the manifesto “Que la pandemica no sea un pretexto el autoritarismo ”, Organized by the” Fundación Internacional para la Libertad “(FIL), chaired by Mario Vargas Llosa, a former leftist writer who became a neoliberal politician in Peru. The manifesto was also signed by the former presidents of Spain (Aznar); Argentina (Macri), Mexico (Zedillo and Vicente Fox); Colombia (Uribe); Uruguay (Lacalle and Sanguinetti); El Salvador (Cristiani) and Paraguay (Franco). The following is a list of businessmen, economists, and coup institutions like the “Mises” Institute of Brazil or the Venezuelan “Vente”, an opposition party that has unsuccessfully tried to dissociate its image from drug trafficking.
The manifesto criticizes:
“In place of some understandable restrictions on liberation, in several countries there is a confinement with minimal exceptions, the impossibility of working and producing, and the informative manipulation […] has suspended the state of rights and, even, representative democracy and the justice system […] in the dictatorships of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua the pandemic serves as a pretext to increase political persecution and oppression ”.
Obviously this is a gamble and a long shot. Macri, for example, is a long way from returning to being president of Argentina. In this and the next presidency. But who knows? Much may change (for the worse) post-pandemic. In addition to the profile of the subscribers, the text leaves no doubt that it is nothing more than a manifesto of US foremen, and, more likely, the fraction of the imperialist bourgeoisie within the Democratic Party. In the text of the neoliberal manifesto, nationalist governments like Venezuela and Nicaragua, and the Cuban workers’ state are attacked as dictatorships. No mention is made of the true dictatorships, instituted by coups d’état on the Latin American continent, as recently occurred in Bolivia, where presidential elections were suspended indefinitely long before the start of the pandemic.
These lords, like Aznar, and their parties, like the PP, were driven out of power by political wear and tear by the population of their countries, due to their policies of neoliberal oppression and plundering of the State, privatizations and diverting of public resources to private mafias, of which they were political representatives. They were mainly responsible for making the health systems and living conditions of the working masses, who are now semi-defenseless, vulnerable to the pandemic. Now, these very same gentlemen, try to present themselves as an alternative to the current governments, taking advantage of popular dissatisfaction that they know will explode soon.
The traditional right reorganizes itself in the name of democratic and civil liberties and against authoritarianism. Increasing authoritarianism is in fact an opportunistic move by several governments to centralize political power. Bolsonaro mobilizes his neo-Nazi base and threatens the closure of the Supreme Court and parliament (as Benjamin Netanyahu did in Israel) but due to his political fragility he has not been taking all possible advantage of the moment for his dictatorial aspirations. Like the manifesto, Bolsonarism is against quarantine and accuses those who defend it of measures against the pandemic of “conspirators to impose a communist globalist dictatorship”. Bolsonaro could also quietly signed this neo-liberal manifesto headed by Vargas Losla. But, certainly, most subscribers would not want the Brazilian neo-Nazi to join because they do not want to be labelled authoritarian and because exactly when executing the manifesto’s political and economic program, it made Brazil the new world epicenter of the pandemic.
Different bourgeois fractions dispute the barbarism that results from the association pandemic-economic crisis. Each fraction relocates, elaborates the strategic program that is most convenient for them, moves, rearticulates and makes the agitation corresponding to its strategy. The majority of the world population, the main victims of this process, need to carry out similar movements, but in reverse, against the exterminating classes and for humanity.
The tragedy is already happening, we have no doubt about it. The question now is what to make of the tragedy that the world system of capital has brought upon us. On the one hand: death, overexploitation and brutal oppression. On the other hand, the revolutionary struggle for socialism, for survival and for a dignified life for the majority.
Starmer’s Labour: A Racist Party led by Pogromists
We Need an Internationalist Working-Class Party!
The recently leaked 851 page report on The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019, tells a lot of the story of the drive to destabilise and defeat Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership over that period. It is highly informative and a crucial primary source on the most scandalous, anti-democratic political attack on the labour movement and its political expression by class-enemy forces in British history for close to a century, since the aftermath of the Russian Revolution in the 1920s and the forged ‘Zinoviev letter’ that was used to overthrow the first minority Labour government in 1924.
It is very important despite the politics of its authors, which reflect the politics of the Corbyn leadership and its functionaries who had themselves capitulated to the political basis of the witchhunt even as they were being targeted by it. There is still decisive evidence in it, amounting to definitive proof, of a deliberate attempt to defeat the Labour Party under Corbyn’s leadership and sabotage its activities by people employed by the party as functionaries, whose job was to advance the party and fight to win elections for it, not to conspire to bring about election defeats and overthrow the leadership.
There is also considerable evidence in it that those who smeared the left as racists and anti-Semites were and are the most despicable racists and bigots themselves, that thought nothing of joining in racially abusive campaigns against ethnic minority politicians like Diane Abbott and activists who supported Corbyn because of his reputation as a long-time opponent of racism and defender of the rights of immigrants etc.
The report reveals much about the racism, corruption and mendacity of the Zionists and Blarities who managed to get Labour referred to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), now pretty much a Tory puppet itself, for supposed ‘institutional racism’ against Jews. This ‘racism’ involved not expelling Palestine supporters and opponents of Zionist racism quickly and ruthlessly enough for the Zionist racists, both within and without Labour, who engineered the whole referral business in the first place, as a classic manoeuvre by pogromists and racist terrorists to cast themselves as victims, and their victims as monsters, a technique which the Zionists copied from Nazism.
The EHRC is essentially a Tory stooge body, which for instance has done nothing to investigate and condemn the crimes of the Tories against ethnic minority populations, against women, or other minorities. Most notably it has had nothing to say about the Windrush scandal, the vile racist persecution of Afro-Carribbean and other immigrants from the 1950s to the 1970s with theoretical citizenship rights who have been deprived of all rights including that to medical care, deported and often died because of this persecution. The failure to do anything about this marks the EHRC as a tool of racist governments. But precisely because of this it is likely to come up with some kind of hostile judgement against the left and anti-Zionists.
The response of the new Starmer leadership of the party to the leaked report has not been to address the numerous despicable acts of corruption and racism that it reveals, but to seek to suppress the report and launch a hunt for the whistle-blowers that leaked it. It seems the reason that the report was leaked is that Starmer planned to suppress it as evidence and not submit it to the EHRC investigation, as it contained too much damaging information about the activities of the Blairite/Zionist faction that Starmer was always part of.
Labour Zionism’s Big Fat Racist Lie
The cause celebre of the right-wing, neo-liberal, pro-capitalist witchhunt and counterattack in the Labour Party against the influx of left-wing inclined, working class members mobilised behind Jeremy Corbyn since 2015, has been outrageously false allegations of anti-Jewish racism.
The technique used was similar to the techniques of lying used by supporters of Hitler and Stalin in the mid-20th Century, that of telling huge, outrageous lies against political opponents, projecting onto the targets calumnies that the liars were guilty of themselves. These are similar to the lies of Hitler and Goebells that ‘the Jews’ were seeking ‘world domination’ while Nazi Germany sent its armies across Europe, East and West, and while it and its allied forces attacked and waged war on enemies on every continent in pursuit of just such an imperialist domination.
Or the lies of Stalin, that the Communist Left Opposition, who fought for world revolution and working-class democracy against the degeneration of the October revolution, were in league with Hitler against the USSR, when in fact it was Stalin who made pacts with Hitler, who trusted Hitler not to attack the USSR to the point of leaving it open to devastating attack in the Summer of 1941, which was no surprise to Oppositionists, but was to Stalin. His regime, while smearing the left as Hitler’s agents, handed over communists to the Gestapo when it suited them, to get rid of left-wing opponents of Stalin such as Marguerite Buber-Neumann, the partner of the leading German Communist dissident Heinz Neumann, previously murdered by Stalin.
The Zionist lies against the Labour left are of a similar ilk to those of Hitler and Stalin. These false allegations have been hurled over and over again against people whose overwhelming Impulse has been hostility to racism, to the racism of the Tories and their Blairite predecessors, to the anti-immigrant and racist persecution that was and is still involved in the ‘hostile environment’ against immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees, overseas students, ‘unskilled’ migrantsn(e.g. many in the NHS) and other victims of the racism that certainly did not begin when Theresa May was put in charge of the Home Office by David Cameron.
In the thirteen years of Labour rule that preceded 2010, one grotesque bigoted thug after another abused migrants and roared their hatred of them: Straw, Blunkett, Charles Clarke, Jacque Smith, Alan Johnson. T hese are some of the worst chauvinists, migrant-baiters, torturers and racists, particularly Islamophobes, who ever personified the foul British imperialist Home Office.
But through the power and mendacity of the billionaire-owned, utterly corrupt and anti-democratic capitalist media, supplemented by the thoroughly purged, neoliberal-dominated BBC and other terrestrial broadcasting media, a lie was propagated, that was not so much widely believed, but accepted as the basis for a witchhunt. Even to the point that ‘comedy’ sketches appeared on some TV shows about the alleged hatred of Corbyn and Labour Party members for Jewish people and their resemblance to the Nazis.
This indicates not only corruption of the media and the crude intrusion of ruling-class politics into something that passes for ‘entertainment’, but a serious cultural decline in British society itself. It is also true that the main vehicle for this was Blairism, from the purging of BBC journalism by Alastair Campbell in the 2000s to the insidious commodification of liberal anti-working class bigotry under New Labour through the likes of Little Britain and Catherine Tate’s shows, with their lampooning of ‘chavs’ and supposedly sham-‘disabled’ figures of ‘fun’. They were grist to the Tory mill – Ian Duncan Smith’s televisual Dür Stürmer. More recently we saw sketches on Tracy Ullman’s show portraying Corbyn as a crude anti-Jewish racist in the most pathetic non-impersonation that, if those doing it had the slightest bit of cultural self-awareness, would embarrass the institution that once ran genuinely amusing satirists like Mike Yarwood.
The connection of Tracy Ulllman with Blairism is through Neil Kinnock, with whom she made videos in the 1980s when he was the left-bashing, anti-union Labour leader who fought long and hard to reconcile Labour with Thatcherism, stabbing in the back striking miners, printers, dockers … you name it, and laying the basis for Blairism. This is all part of the cultural corruption of the BBC by Blairite luvvies, who can sneak in where stuffed-shirt Tories – apart from perhaps Boris Johnson himself – would still have risked being lampooned like Sir Gerald Nabarro was by the Goodies and Monty Python in earlier, less repressive times.
Kinnock’s offspring Stephen Kinnock today is an arch-Blairite and one of Labour’s saboteurs, who preferred a Tory victory, as was visible by his obvious mortification and shock on election night in 2017 when Theresa May lost her majority. He was right in tune with the Labour apparatus that, as the leaked report exposes, actively fought to sabotage Labour’s 2017 and no doubt 2019 Election Campaigns.
Starmer: the Revenge of the Neoliberals
The election of Keir Starmer as Labour’s leader in April was the revenge of Labour’s contingent of the neo-liberal bourgeois elite for the ‘aberration’ of Corbyn’s election in 2015. Starmer’s election was a complete stitch-up and the mechanism of that stitch up is now clear. To obtain a place on the ballot, each candidate for leader had to get 10% of Labour’s MP’s and MEP’s to nominate them. In 2015 the percentage was higher at 15% but the left was more marginal; Corbyn was ‘lent’ some nominations by MPs who did not vote for him in the leadership election. This was because there was great trepidation among sections of Labour MPs that the party faced terminal decline in its fortunes after two Election defeats: that of Gordon Brown in 2010 and then Ed Miliband in 2015. The Tory-lite neo-liberal politics of the Blair/Brown period had led to Labour losing millions of its working class base and being reduced to a tiny rump in Scotland, among other places, particularly in 2015
The one-person-one-vote electoral system that was set up by Ed Miliband after the Collins review post-2010 was an attempt to revive some sort of popular enthusiasm for Labour by means of a ‘democratic’ gimmick. Labour would allow non-members to pay a one-off fee to become ‘registered supporters’ and have a vote in the election of the Labour leader, and also allow members of affiliated trade unions, instead of voting en bloc as previously, to have individual votes on a similar basis. Each vote from such ‘affiliated supporters’ and registered supporters being equal to those of party members themselves. The Electoral College that previously elected the leader was thus abolished. The idea was something akin to holding ‘primaries’ in the manner of parties in the United States ,and to generate enthusiasm for Labour as a result of ‘popular involvement’, and thus hopefully avoid a similar fate to the Greek PASOK. This social-democratic type party had, through adopting neo-liberal politics and alienating its working-class and left-wing base of support, declined to the point of no longer being a major party. It was taken for granted that these changes would mean a further dilution of Labour’s organic link with the organised Labour movement and lead to further defeats for the left.
But the neo-liberals miscalculated. Labour had lost a large chunk of its left-wing and working class base during the Kinnnock, Brown and Blair years, and Blair in particular had won elections by moving to the right onto Tory political territory in a period when the Tories themselves became dysfunctional and deeply divided, mainly over Europe. Blair had won over part of the Tories’ base of support not by ideologically combatting and defeating the Tories, but by posing as an alternative Tory Party. Hundreds of thousands of Labour supporters had taken to abstaining in elections as a protest against this right-wing politics, or voting Labour with great reluctance and unease.
Miliband’s scheme was first implemented in 2015 after Ed Miliband’s feeble soft-left campaign lost the election for Labour, as he ran on a programme that said austerity was not really wrong but ‘too far too fast’ and promised to ‘control immigration’, issuing special Labour Party mugs proclaiming this. Despite Miliband’s lip-service to the need for ‘working class representation’, his campaign inspired no-one. The Tories gained a working majority in parliament that they did not expect, and nor were they overjoyed about. The Cameron leadership preferred the coalition with the Lib Dems which kept the lid on some of the contradictions in the Tory Party particularly over Europe. With an overall majority Cameron had no choice but to carry out his unwanted promise of a referendum on Britain’s EU membership, which had fateful consequences later.
But Miliband’s emphatic loss of the election led to a popular backlash against neoliberalism among Labour’s base far greater than the limited leftward shift that had led to soft-left Miliband defeating his openly Blairite, neocon brother David for the leadership after the 2010 defeat. The Collins ‘reforms’ allowed hundreds of thousands of former Labour members and left-inclined younger working-class supporters to either get votes as ‘registered supporters’, or though their trade unions, without actually taking the step of joining the Labour Party. When Corbyn was put on the ballot with borrowed votes from some right-wing or soft-left MPs worried that if he were excluded the contest would be seen as a sham, the stage was set for rapid growth of the number of these supporters propelling Corbyn to victory on the basis of his reputation as one of the die-hard opponents of Blairism, its privatisations and openly anti-socialist attacks on traditional Labourism, and Blair’s neocon imperialist wars such as the invasion of Iraq.
Since then the priority of the bulk of Labour’s MP’s and apparatus has been to undo the victory of Corbyn that was the result of that seemingly almost accidental set of circumstances, which were in fact not accidental at all, but organically linked to Labour’s specific set of contradictions as a bourgeois workers party, and the specific relationship with neoliberalism as a predatory ruling class project that has been able to extend its tentacles within the working class movement, threatening social-democratic reformist parties like Labour with destruction.
A Rigged Election
It is very clear how the left was emasculated and, despite appearances, a genuinely democratic leadership election was denied to the Labour membership in 2020, after the sabotage and the internal destabilisation that played a major role in Labour’s General Election defeat. The mechanism was simply Zionist blackmail. All candidates for the leadership, quite early on in the campaign, were confronted by this, in the form of demands from the Board of Deputies of British Jews to sign up to ’10 demands’ including support for ‘fast track’ expulsions of Labour members at the behest of the racist Zionist factions within Labour, an anathema against even left-wing Jewish groups such as Jewish Voice for Labour, and a refusal to stand on platforms with or show solidarity to leftists accused of ‘anti-Semitism’ by the Zionist racists. Not to sign up for such demands would have brought the entire weight of the media, the Zionist apparatus, and the Labour apparatus down on the heads of the candidate who refused to sign. So the political cowards all signed up.
At a hustings organised by the Jewish Labour Movement, all of the leadership candidates declared they were either ‘Zionist’, or a ‘supporter’ of Zionism as did Starmer. Including the ‘continuity Corbynite’ candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey. It is an outrage that a racist anti-Arab movement that defends the Nakba or ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from their homeland (and is actually affiliated to the Israeli ‘Labour’ Party that constituted the government that carried it out!) should get to hold a Labour hustings.
Starmer in an interview expanded on his own statement of sympathy for Zionism by saying
“I do support Zionism. I said that last night. I absolutely support the right of Israel to exist as a homeland …. I said it loud and clear – and meant it – that I support Zionism without qualification.”
This happened concurrently with the blatant rigging of the elections for the Labour NEC by the repeated suspensions of left candidates for phoney allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’. The members, it is clear, were not to be allowed to have a say on any of this. This Sword of Damocles could easily have been used in the leadership election itself if the need had arisen. Only in the deputy leadership election was some laxity allowed on this, as Richard Burgon managed to get nominated and refuse to sign up for the BOD’s demands. But such was the demoralisation induced by the election defeat, the witchhunt and this blackmail that Starmer, who to give himself left-cover, endorsed the soft-left Angela Rayner (who also signed up for the BOD’s demands) as his running mate, won with around 56% per cent of the vote, much less than Corbyn who in 2015 and 2016 achieved 59.5 in 2015 and 61.8% respectively.
Another index of the anti-democratic stitchup in 2020 is in the turnout. In 2015 and 2016 the turnout was 76% and 77% respectively, whereas in 2020 it was only 62%: a massive drop. In fact more Labour Party members and supporters did not vote: 293,450, than the 275,780 that voted for Starmer in all categories as part of his victory, which clearly indicates that large sections of the membership considered themselves disenfranchised by the choice that was on offer. Long-Bailey’s capitulation to the racist, Tory BOD meant that she could not credibly be seen as a genuine candidate of the left and therefore large numbers of left-wing members did not see her as worth supporting.
A Pogromist Takes Control
The identification with Zionism of Starmer and all of his rivals for the leadership, his support ‘absolutely’ for Israel’s ‘right to exist’ as a homeland, and his statement that he supports Zionism ‘without qualification’ means that Starmer has, with crystal clarity, stated his adherence to a genocidal, far right, racist ideology. It has been extensively documented, and is not disputed by reputable historians, that the formation of the state of Israel was indissolubly connected with the expulsion of between two thirds and three quarters of the indigenous Palestinian Arab population. The foundation and existence of Israel would not have been possible without the majority of the population being Jewish. But the way this was achieved was the only way it could ever have been achieved: by a massive pogrom to drive out the Arab civilian population wholesale. These people were brutally driven out of their homeland to create the Jewish ‘homeland’ Starmer supports as part of his ‘without qualification’ support for Zionism.
In this you could in some sense claim that Starmer is acting in the traditions of Labourite social- imperialism, and its support for the British Empire, which was the sponsor of the Balfour Declaration in 1917, addressed to the leading British Rothschild, which promised a Jewish ‘national home’ in the Middle East as a quid-pro-quo for support by prominent US Jews for the United States entering the First World War on Britain’s side. Or at least that is how it was sold. It is also in the tradition of Labour’s support for the British Mandate in Palestine, which allowed the Zionists to expand their settlement project and eventually take control of Palestine and expel the Palestinians, with the rather obvious support of Attlee’s Labour Party at the time.
In those days, the Labourites ironically could say that they were behaving as a classic social-chauvinist party and defending the ‘welfare’ of the British Labour movement though defending British colonial policy against the colonial peoples. Today that is not really true as the British colonial presence in the Middle East is long gone. The relationship of Starmer’s leadership with the Zionists is direct and largely unmediated: a bloc forged through the destabilisation of Corbyn’s leftist Labour leadership by forces that were acting out of the Israeli Embassy, as revealed in the Al Jazeera documentary The Lobby, which also revealed attempts by the Zionists to unseat politicians they regarded as unsympathetic in the Conservative Party, for instance Alan Duncan. The relationship between the Labour leadership and neo-liberalism, which is a largely post-WWII phenomenon with a close relationship with Zionism, is significantly different to the old relationship of the social chauvinist Labour bureaucracy with the British Empire. Which underlines that Blairism is somewhat different to the old right-wing Labour politics represented by MacDonald and Attlee.
In qualitative terms, the Nakba was a racist crime comparable to slavery and the Nazi holocaust. In stating that he does “absolutely support” Israel’s “right … to exist as a homeland” and that he supports Zionism “without qualification”, Starmer is confessing, and boasting of, his approval of the massive pogrom of the Nakba, the massacres at Deir Yassin and Tantura, at Dawaymeh, the use of typhoid as a bioweapon in Acre and Gaza, the whole genocidal edifice of the Zionist Plan Dalet to dispose of the Arab population as extensively documented by the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe in his seminal work The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2007) and the premeditated motivation of which was documented equally extensively by the Palestinian historian Nur Mashlala in his work Expulsion of the Palestinians: the Concept of ‘Transfer’ in Zionist Political Thought (1992).
There is no political difference between publicly announcing one’s support for this racist crime and any other. In saying that he supports Israel’s right to exist ‘absolutely’ and the political Zionism that created it ‘without qualification’ he is saying that the Arab victims of the Nakba count for nothing. He is saying about those Arab victims what the racist pro-slavery United States Supreme Court Judge Richard Taney said about the freedman slave Dred Scott in the notorious Dred Scott judgement of 1857, when Scott sued for his freedom from being re-enslaved. In his judgement, Taney and the majority of the pro-slavery Supreme Court threw out Dred Scott’s suit with the judgement that blacks were:
“beings of an inferior order…; and so far inferior, that they had no rights that the white man was bound to respect”
This notoriously racist judgement, far from being accepted by anti-racists, was one of the key flashpoints that set off the American Civil War which destroyed slavery.
Indeed, this is not the only parallel that is obviously posed by Starmer’s position. His position amounts to unconditional support for a programme that involves getting rid of an unwanted population of Arabs without which Israel’s existence ‘as a homeland’ would be impossible because there would be an Arab majority. There is no difference in principle between defending that and defending Hitler’s mass murder of the Jews. The logic of seeking the removal of an entire population or ethnic group to make way for another is … genocide. And indeed, the Israeli treatment of the Palestinian Arab population clearly fits the definition of genocide in the UN’s own Convention:
“In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
a) killing members of the group;
b)Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Israel is clearly guilty of (a), (b) and (c) at least. The deliberate blockage of access of pregnant women to medical care at Israeli checkpoints – a common occurrence – is a manifestation of (d). Israel does not seem to be guilty of (e). But it is not necessary, as the definition itself makes clear, to satisfy all the above criteria for the crime of genocide to be committed.
The killings of members of the group took place in numerous wars against the Arab civilian population beginning in 1947-8, as did the causing of serious bodily and mental harm to members of the group. The prolonged traumatisation of the population particularly in Gaza from regular, one-sided wars against a people that has been sealed up in what amounts to a huge concentration camp whose borders are controlled by Israel, the bombings, the shooting of protesters, the repeated ‘buzzing’ of the civilian population by supersonic Israeli aircraft, the deprivation of water and medicine: all are designed to cause serious bodily and mental harm to members of the group, to destroy at least part of the Arab population through making their land uninhabitable and thus forcing the dispersal and exile of the rest.
The only fig-leaf that the Labour Zionists have to hide their genocidal racism is their support for the two-state solution. This signifies that in their view, the Arab victims of Israeli crimes should be happy with a small fragment of their original homeland that would be obviously under Israeli domination. But that is not incompatible with a genocidal programme either. The Nazis, before they definitively decided upon extermination as their ‘solution’ to the existence of the Jewish population that they evidently did not want, explored the idea of using the island of Madagascar as a place where Jews could be exiled to. In fact the two-state solution is something Israel has often talked about but never agreed to. For one simple reason: a Palestinian state, even a small and weak one, would have more legitimacy internationally than Israel could ever have. Because it would be a state of an indigenous people, and not a settler state build on stolen land.
This is why Israel will never permit the emergence of a genuine Palestinian state; the Oslo agreement did not create such a state and was never intended to do so. What all wings of political Zionism are for, including the supporters of Israeli Labour in the Jewish Labour Movement, is a pseudo-state controlled by Israel in the manner of the current Palestinian authority, which is similar to the Vichy state in France under Nazi occupation and whose main function is to repress Palestinian resistance to Israeli crimes.
While there may be some utopian reformers, such as Norman Finkelstein, George Galloway and in his earlier period the late Edward W Said, who once put forward the idea of a genuine Palestinian state alongside Israel as the best that can be achieved under today’s political conditions, all of those people were compelled by developments in the real world to accept that this idea is in fact impossible to achieve. Today the two-state solution is simply a con-trick to justify demobilising the anti-racist struggle against Zionism in favour of something akin to the kind of reservations native Americans were imprisoned on as part of the genocidal colonisation of their homeland by European settlers.
This fig-leaf cannot hide the fact that Starmer is a genocidal racist and pogromist, and that Labour is now dominated by a far right, racist political trend with real similarities to the genocidal politics of Nazism. The political Zionists who dominate Labour today are as sinister and dangerous to the workers movement as neo-Nazis and the labour movement needs to be educated and won to recognise this.
Some on the left may try to play this down, and pretend that this is not a qualitative intensification of the Zionist trend that has long existed within Labour. But this is not a peripheral matter as it was back in 1945 when despite a deeply rotten pro-Zionist policy that approved of the Nakba in an international manifesto before it actually happened, Labour was still seen as a reformist party and was responsible in office for the creation of the NHS and much of what in the post-WWII period constituted the welfare state.
Nor are we even back in 2003 when Labour in power invaded Iraq in lockstep with George W. Bush and the very Zionist Project for the New American Century, but it was still claimed that this was really about some kind of liberal ‘humanitarian intervention’ on behalf of an oppressed population. Completely mendacious though that was, it was still somewhat in keeping with the traditions of pro-imperialist Labourism in its claim that Labour could shape imperialism in a ‘progressive’ direction. The pro-Zionism and thereby the acute racism was partly hidden and implicit.
But this was the central issue in the witchhunt against Corbynism, it was central in the Labour leadership campaign when all the candidates declared themselves either as Zionists or supporters of Zionism ‘without qualification’ and it has been central in Starmer’s leadership since as he has vowed publicly that ‘anti-Semitism’, which he defines as opposition to Zionism, will not be tolerated. It is also central to the leaked report. Therefore it is essential to examine this question in full and bring out its implications for working class politics in Britain in full.
Corbyn’s capitulation, and his symbiotic competition with the Zionists
The Labour Party’s tolerance of this genocidal racism is the monstrous fact that ought to spring out at anyone discussing the whole furore against so-called ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party, aimed at the left and supporters of the Palestinians. Corbyn’s definitive capitulation seems to have happened after the Zionist furore over the Mear One Brick Lane mural in 2018, which was deemed ‘anti-Semitic’ despite depicting half-a-dozen prominent magnates, including John D Rockerfeller, J. P. Morgan, Andrew Cargenie, and the bourgeois mystic Aleister Crowley, only a couple of whom, Rothschild and Warburg, were Jewish, sitting on the backs of the world’s poor.
Corbyn apologised for non-existent ‘anti-Semitism’ for having defended this mural six years earlier in 2012, when the story was dug up by the Zionist press, and after that was basically a broken man. There had been capitulations before that. Corbyn had abjectly failed to defend a number of left-wing people targeted by Zionists, such as Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein and Gerry Downing, and he had indulged the activities of Jon Lansman, who had destroyed democracy in Momentum and was purging it of anti-Zionists. But Corbyn’s capitulation over Mear One was a tipping point. This led straight to Corbyn’s acceptance, in stages, of the racist anti-Arab pseudo-definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ promoted by the pro-Israel International Holocaust Remembrance Association, whose whole purpose is to exploit the memory of the Nazi holocaust to justify Israeli racism today.
To expunge the ‘stain’ of anti-Semitism, his appointee, the new General Secretary Jennie Formby, as detailed in the report, embarked on a war with the remaining apparatchiks of the former Blairite GenSec Ian McNichol, as to who could be the most efficient witchhunters of supposed ‘anti-Semites’. Along the way, Labour’s most radical left-wing MP, Chris Williamson, the only one prepared to oppose Corbyn from the left, and prepared to defend leftist victims of the witchhunt, was hounded out by Formby. Which of course was a predictably suicidal strategy, as the most consistent reactionaries are invariably the practiced, committed right-wingers; when the left tries to outdo the right in chauvinism and reaction, it rarely succeeds. Those so inclined usually support the original article, not the imitation.
The capitulation to Zionist racism by the Corbynites is shown clearly in this passage from the report, which is a quote from Jeremy Corbyn as part of a primer on ‘anti-Semitism’ as part of his attempt to conciliate the Zionist witchhunters and show he was ‘doing something’ about anti-Semitism;
“In response to 19th Century European antisemitism, some Jews became advocates for Zionism, Jewish national self-determination in a Jewish state. Since the State of Israel was founded in 1948, following the horrors of the Holocaust, Zionism means maintaining that state. Jewish people have the same right to self-determination as any other people. Many Jewish Israelis are the descendants of refugees fleeing the Holocaust or from across the Middle East who faced discrimination after the founding of the State of Israel. Most British Jews feel connected to some extent to Israel and many have friends and family there.
There are many forms of Zionism both in Israel and around the world and for many Jews, Zionism represents national liberation. The concepts of Israel, Zion and Jerusalem run deeply in Jewish religion, identity and culture, and for many are symbolic of a homeland, refuge, or place of safety. The sensitivities around these concepts should be considered before using them.
Note the sudden jump over decades of history, and the thinly-veiled use of the Nazi holocaust to excuse the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, and to say that it is an expression of the right of Jews to ‘self-determination’ which they apparently have the same right ‘as any other people’. These are key tenets of Zionist ideology, and note what is missing from this passage. The discussion of the ‘sensitivities’ of Jews is to the fore; concern for the ‘sensitivities’ of the Arab victims of Israel is completely absent. Yet there is an oppressor-oppressed relationship between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs and for a supposedly anti-racist party, Labour,and Corbyn in this passage, clearly regards the nationalism of the oppressor as paramount over the national rights of the oppressed.
In fact, the idea that the ‘the Jews’ have the same “right to self-determination as any other people” depends on the idea that the Jews are a nation. But that is disputed by Marxist anti-Zionists, and is evidently untrue if you look at Jewish communities around the world, who may have elements of a common culture defined by religion, but do not have a common language in everyday discourse, and above all, do not have a common territory that they inhabit on a stable basis where they are a majority population and can exercise this ‘self-determination’ without violating the rights of others.
Nations have the right to self-determination, as they can liberate themselves from national or colonial oppression without fundamentally violating the rights of others. Jews are not a nation and their ‘self-determination’ is therefore a reactionary utopia. Zionism’s reactionary utopia has created an unstable semi-national formation that exits internationally, including in Israel, without a territory that it can inhabit without oppressing and dispossessing others.
‘National liberation’ through pogroms and ethnic cleansing
The Corbyn passage quoted above is disgustingly racist in its real content because of its use of the term ‘national liberation’ to describe the creation of the state of Israel. ‘Liberation’ as a concept implies ‘freedom’, and the concept of the ‘liberation’ of ‘Israel’ as defined by political Zionism (the only kind of Zionism that matters today) implies that Palestine needed to be ‘liberated’ from something to become ‘Israel’. What is this ‘something’ from which the future Israel needed to be ‘liberated’ to make this ‘homeland, refuge, or place of safety’ possible?
The obvious answer is its majority Arab, indigenous population. In other words, in order to become a Jewish ‘homeland’, ‘Israel’ had to be ‘cleansed’ of its Arab population, or at least enough of them to make a Jewish majority state possible. In the parlance of the Nazis, in their persecution of the Jews in Europe, when a country, or town, or village had its Jewish population removed, or murdered, the place was declared to be Judenrein, – cleansed of Jews, or free of Jews. The concept of ‘national liberation’ laid out here is identical, as there was no foreign oppressor these Zionists were fighting. They were fighting all along to ‘liberate’ the land from the Arab population themselves.
The equation between the Nakba and the Jewish exodus in the years following 1948 from the Arab states surrounding Israel, which was actively fought for by Israel against the original Arab response to Zionism, which, far from expelling Jews, involved banning emigration to Israel, is also mendacious.
This is the underlying issue that makes the whole ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign against the left an outrageous lie. The entire thrust of the Zionist campaign against Corbyn was anti-Arab racism right from the very start, and Corbyn’s leadership began to fail the moment he made concessions to that. And he, and Formby, made major concessions to the point that there was a competition between them and the right wing as to who were the best smearers against the genuine left.
There are quite a number of outrageously racist, pro-Zionist statements in the Corbynite material that is used to illustrate they are not soft on ‘left-wing anti-Semitism’ at all: they can be just as racist as the right-wing when it comes to smearing the left. For instance, there is the following statement about the Nazi holocaust relative to other genocides, given the authority of both Corbyn and Chakrabarti:
“not only Holocaust revisionism, but also any attempt to ‘diminish’ the Holocaust through comparison with other genocides, had ‘no place in the Labour Party’”
This is clearly racist, and designed for the victimisation of non-Jewish oppressed minorities. It clearly states that other genocides and racist atrocities are of lesser importance than the genocide of Jews.
Why is this important? Because in social and economic terms, Jews are in a much stronger position than quite a number of non-white and Muslim oppressed populations today, and are in a position to exercise power over them. This is not an abstract and moralistic debate about which group was the most victimised in ancient history, but really about who oppresses whom today. And it is very clear from simple observation that Jews do not suffer today from disproportionate poverty, police harassment, racist deportations, massively disproportionate imprisonment, or habitually being targeted for racist attacks. Those in history whose victimisation and massacre the Labour Party deems less important than those that once suffered from anti-Semitism, do suffer from systematic oppression today.
Formby/Rich’s Zionist Blood-Libels: Black Socialists = David Duke!
This racist logic was in turn the grounds for the racist expulsions of the black-Jewish woman comrade Jackie Walker, for daring to ask why Holocaust Memorial Day does not commemorate the victims of slavery and colonialism, and long-time black activist Marc Wadsworth, who dared to complain that non-whites were being ignored and not represented at a Labour press conference that supposedly was about racism.
Both were falsely accused of ‘anti-Semitism’ and thrown out amid such smears, though it is notable that in neither case did the Labour Party dare to formally expel them for ‘anti-Semitism’ – it used the ‘disrepute’ clause instead. What was notable was that all through the saga of the prolonged suspensions of Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth, the Corbynite leadership in classically cowardly fashion kept its head down and said nothing while the right-wing went for these comrades.
But this very Corbynite report clearly supports these expulsions, and reveals much about the thinking of the Corbynites and Formby. In the case of Jackie Walker, it make use of a letter from Dave Rich, a leader of the so-called Community Security Trust, to promote the following amalgam regarding her views on the co-responsibility of some Jews – some of which were her own ancestors – for slavery:
“This relates to an untrue and antisemitic theory that Jews were the major figures behind the slave trade. It is a theory that was first published in coherent form by Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam in a 1991 book called The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews. According to the Nation of Islam, the book “conclusively proved that Jews were in fact at the very center of the trans-Atlantic slave trade as merchants, financiers, shippers, and insurers and among the leading international marketers of the products of African slave labor.
“The theory that Jews were behind the slave trade is an antisemitic conspiracy theory specifically constructed to appeal to the black community and to divide them from the Jewish community. Farrakhan wrote and published his book in order to stir up antisemitism amongst African-Americans, as this article explains. The book has wider appeal, though, as antisemites of all types like it: for example David Duke; German Holocaust Deniers (this is from Germar Rudolf’s website); Islamist extremists at Radio Islam.”
So Jackie Walker’s observations as person of mixed heritage about the responsibility of her ancestors on one side for the oppression of her forebears on the other side, is twisted by this fascistic Zionist hack into an amalgam with David Duke, by involuntary association with Louis Farrakhan, who is in turn involuntarily associated with Duke!
It is worth noting that what Dave Rich and David Duke have in common is that they are both clearly supporters of racist oppression. Duke as a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan needs little introduction in that regard, though he has spent several decades after leaving that position trying to project a different image by dressing in smart suits rather than white sheets and running in Democrat and Republican primaries. But Dave Rich has views about Palestinians that are arguably not a million miles removed from those Duke holds about blacks, as shown by this passage from his book The Left’s Jewish Problem :
“Comparing the plight of the Palestinians with the Holocaust performs several functions. Its political goal is to undermine the idea that the Holocaust provided a moral justification and a practical need for the creation of a Jewish state.”
loc 2875, Kindle edition
This is linked, once again, with the racist perspective put forward in the passage from Corbyn quoted earlier about Zionism and the foundation of Israel as ‘national liberation’. It is pretty explicit in saying that the Nazi holocaust provides a moral justification for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. In other words, that the ‘practical need’ for a Jewish ethnic state overrides the rights of the Palestinians, and any demand that their rights be regarded as equal to those of Jews, and any assertion that systematic racism against them is on the same level as similar racism as Jews, is illegitimate as it undermines the ‘moral justification’ for a Jewish ethnic state being established at Palestinian expense. It is doubtful if David Duke would be so brazen today in denying the right of blacks to equality with whites. The racism of the people who put together this report is shocking.
And here is the real reason for the racist amalgam mentioned earlier between ‘Holocaust Revisionism’ and people who dare to say or believe that other genocidal acts of racial oppression in history can be legitimately compared with the Nazi genocide. As the newly Zionised Corbynite report says:
“not only Holocaust revisionism, but also any attempt to ‘diminish’ the Holocaust through comparison with other genocides, had ‘no place in the Labour Party’”
Translated, this means that any attempt to make ‘comparisons’ between other forms of racism and the past suffering of Jews is ‘anti-Semitic’ because it denies the right of racist Zionist Jews to claim their ‘national liberation’, and their ‘moral justification’ for oppressing others.
On this basis not only are Palestinians, descendants of those who were forcibly expelled from what is now Israel, excluded from their own homeland, as justified by the likes of Dave Rich citing the Nazi holocaust, but those Palestinians who managed to escape this fate and remain in their homeland, second class citizens. There is no equal ‘Israeli’ nationality; Israeli citizens are divided into Jewish, Arab and ‘other’ nationalities, and under both the old ‘Basic Law’ and the newer, more explicit ‘Jewish Nation State’ law, the state, the land, and the country itself, belong to the Jewish ‘nationality’, not all its citizens.
On the same basis, non-Jewish migrant workers who work in Israel are unable to obtain citizenship because they are not Jewish. There are a considerable number of mainly female Filipino migrants in Israel doing caring and domestic work. Woe betide any who get pregnant, as they face deportation as the idea of non-Jewish children being born in Israel is contrary to the ethos of this racist state.
Likewise Africans who have sought asylum, and been unfortunate enough to take refuge in Israel face racist campaigns to deport them on the grounds that “If we don’t stop their entry, the problem that currently stands at 60,000 could grow to 600,000, and that threatens our existence as a Jewish and democratic state” says Netanyahu (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/may/20/israel-netanyahu-african-immigrants-jewish). This is what the ethnic nationalism that says that any equation of racism against other peoples with racism against Jews, implicit in the above amalgam, justifies in ideological terms. And one of Israeli’s most prominent Rabbis felt free to make a speech comparing black people with monkeys.
The Labour Party is now institutionally Jewish supremacist and therefore institutionally racist against all other oppressed groups, not just Arabs. This is why Jackie Walker was expelled for comparing the ‘African holocaust’ with the genocide of the Jews. This comparison can only be ‘offensive’ to someone who considers that black people are racially inferior to Jews and therefore black slavery and colonialist racist crimes are unworthy of being mentioned alongside the Nazi anti-Jewish genocide. This is particularly clear when you look at the murder of 10 million black African Congolese by King Leopold II’s Belgium at the turn of the 20th Century. Labour Party ‘guidance’ that forbids comparing the two events (Leopold’s crimes exceeded even Hitler’s!) express anti-black racial supremacism, pure and simple.
This is why Marc Wadsworth was expelled for complaining bitterly about the lack of representation of non-whites at a Labour press conference ostensibly to discuss racism, in which a well-known right-wing MP was seen to openly collude with the journalists from the foully racist Daily Telegraph, whose overt Zionism and dog-whistle racism against non-whites is no secret. In the Wadsworth case the case against him was so flimsy and obviously a complete and utter pack of lies that the Corbynite report-writers had difficulty in cobbling together a rationale for defending it at all. So they put together a feeble caricature of his defence campaign to justify suspending those who supported him.
As part of some ‘guidance’ on when to suspend members drawn up by Laura Murray, we find the following outrageous slur against his defenders (the ‘guidance’ is apparently divided into ‘columns’, with individual ‘columns’ dedicated to particular targets):
“One column is dedicated to ‘Defence of Marc Wadsworth’, and a suspension is recommended in cases where a defence of Marc Wadsworth involves ‘allegations that there is a Jewish war against black socialists such as Marc Wadsworth’.
Quite obviously this is an attack on the right to criticise the racism of Wadsworth’s accusers. The view that the smears against him had racist motivation is widely held, and completely obvious – a no-brainer. The smear that this is seen as a ‘Jewish war’ is worthy of a Sun journalist and implies that anyone who says his accusers, many of who were Jewish Zionists, were racist were accusing all Jews of being involved. But there is absolutely no reason why anyone would think that as many of Marc’s most outspoken defenders were strongly anti-racist Jewish Labour Party members. This is obviously a witchhunter’s racist fantasy, projecting their own racism onto anti-racists – a classic Zionist symptom.
The Labour Party may delude itself that because it attacks open white supremacism it cannot be institutionally racist. But Jewish-Zionist supremacism is a close relative of white supremacism, as the alliance of white supremacists and Zionists around Trump testifies, to the point that many of Trump’s white supremacist groupies embrace Zionism and give themselves political cover by calling themselves ‘white Zionists’. Embracing Jewish supremacism while denouncing white supremacism is an utterly duplicitous position. It amounts to throwing racism out by the front door only to allow it to stroll back in by the same front door with a rather obvious disguise.
This is so because in this period of neoliberal reaction Jewish-Zionist supremacism and white supremacism are partners. While there are some tensions at times between Jewish-Zionist supremacism and white supremacism, the former is usually the senior partner. Precisely because the history of the 20th Century inflicted material and ideological defeats on white supremacism, but in the same period Jewish-Zionist supremacism became much more powerful because of the creation of Israel as a transplanted capitalist-imperialist power in the Middle East, joining the dominant imperialist forces worldwide. So much so that its supporters, reactionaries emerging from the Jewish people who had provided many of the victims of the previous wave of world reaction prior to WWII, i.e. fascism and particularly Nazism, played a major role in bringing into being the current wave of world reaction that threatens the world with barbarism, that is post-WWII capitalism in its neoliberal form.
Such is the weight of Zionist racist bigotry and corruption of the right-wing of the Party that both the Zionists and the Corbynite converts to pro-Zionist witchhunting have had to confess, albeit in a manner that is remarkable in its disingenuousness, that what they falsely characterise as a wave of ‘anti-Semitism’ was provoked by the behaviour of the right-wing themselves. Thus the Corbynite report quotes the Zionist right-winger Adam Langleben making this strange admission:
“The blame I think, lies with the moderates who ran the Labour Party in the run-up to Jeremy Corbyn’s election. In that, by creating an atmosphere where anyone who had tweeted that they once voted Green was expelled or suspended or their membership was revoked from the Labour Party, it enabled a conspiracy theory to develop around the idea that the Labour establishment was trying to stop people from taking part in Labour Party democracy. And I think that was the sort of root as to how this sort of antisemitic conspiratorial thinking started in the party.”
But of course, as the report itself makes clear, the Labour apparatus was indeed involved in massive corruption, frameups and lies against Corbyn-supporters in 2015 and again during the ‘chicken coup’ in 2016. Even that bureaucratic chicanery is the tip of a very huge iceberg. The elephant in the room is the domination of the Labour Party right-wing, and now the party itself through Starmer, by organised racists, the JLM and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) supporters of this racist Middle Eastern imperialist state that is involved in a slow-motion genocide of the Palestinian people, now being manifested by Israel seeking to stop Palestinians protecting their people from Covid-19, closing clinics etc.
In around 99% of the cases of supposed ‘anti-Semitism’ documented in the report, the ‘evidence’ is simply doctored, mangled mendacious rubbish designed to slander left-wing, anti-racist people as anti-Jewish racists. But in a marginal number of cases, sometimes involving people not even on the left, there is evidence of some confusion about things like the truth of the Nazi genocide, and similar things.
In fact it not only the anti-democratic bureaucratism that Langleben confesses to that gave rise to that marginal phenomenon, but even more the blindingly obvious racism of the corrupt bureaucrats themselves. Insofar any marginal manifestations of genuine, incipient anti-Semitic rhetoric have crept into this situation at all, this is similar to the confusion about WWII and European history that sometimes manifests itself in the Middle East, the Arab world, and even among a fringe of very alienated anti-racist Jewish people. This fringe aspect, insofar as it exists, is entirely the responsibility of the Zionist racists who dominate the Labour Party and proved it by destroying Corbyn’s leadership.
Zionism, Neo-Liberalism and World Reaction
This brings us to the question of how it is possible, in terms of Marxist sociology and materialist analysis, that a far-right, bourgeois supremacist trend such as Zionism can come to play such an unusual role in the British Labour Party. Why is it that all candidates for the Labour leadership election that were voted on by the membership should swear what amounts to an oath of loyalty to the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD), a Jewish communal group that whose leaders were quite open about their applause for the Conservative Party in the recent General Election? A group who applauded the ascent of the candidate of the nationalist right, Boris Johnson, to the leadership of that party a few months earlier? This has to be one of the weirdest events in British Labour history.
This is very strange if you consider that Labour is a bourgeois workers party that was founded by parts of the labour bureaucracy under pressure from below, to give partial expression to the desire of the British working class for some sort of independent class party of their own. The party was always fundamentally deformed by the pressure of imperialism; its form of class politics always had pretty tame limits. Its bureaucracy always had a strategy of seeking crumbs for the workers from the table of British imperialism and later of the United States as British imperialism declined and increasingly became a junior partner of the US. However it did have a sense of party and class sentiment even when it involved itself in coalition agreements with bourgeois parties to its right. The idea that it would invite supporters of its main opponent party to interfere in its leadership election, in the guise of representing an ethnic minority closely associated with an overseas imperialist power, and offer such people control over its membership and disciplinary processes, is pretty strange.
One thing the Labour Party is not is a tribune of the oppressed. If Jews today were an oppressed group subjected to systematic discrimination and marginalisation in British society, then they would struggle to obtain any sympathy at all from the Labour establishment. Racial abuse of oppressed minorities is rife in Labour: the abuse of Labour’s most prominent black female political figure, Diane Abbott, far exceeds that directed against any other. Yet Zionist Jews as a particular minority communal group are able to get special treatment to the sense that all candidates for the leadership pledge it their special protection.
All through the report, the phrase “Jewish stakeholders” keeps occurring. It’s an intriguing concept and very revealing. Only Jews, and only pro-Israeli Jews at that, are referred to in this way. No other ethnic minority groups, or their organisations, are referred to as ‘stakeholders’. The way it is used and the deference shown to these ‘stakeholders’ by the apparatus on both sides of the divide, is such that the word ‘stakeholders’ comes almost to have the sense of ‘shareholders’. Ordinary Labour Party members are certainly not treated as ‘stakeholders’. Actually the use of this term makes it quite clear that the Corbynite authors of the report quite consciously see Zionist Jews, those who defend the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, as a rightly privileged group within the Labour Party, even those Zionist Jews who openly support the Conservative Party. The authors of the report clearly think this is good and proper. To others, it is both racist, and deeply bizarre, counterposed to the very existence of Labour as a supposed party of ‘labour’.
The question is: what does this signify? Actually it signifies the renewed dominance over the Labour Party of neo-liberalism, and the party’s incipient liquidation as in any meaningful sense a political expression of the workers as a class. Neoliberalism has re-taken the Labour Party after an aberrant, almost accidental, period of ascendancy of the left. But the leaders of that left capitulated under sustained political pressure from the neoliberal wing of the party, which is not really analogous to an old-fashioned labour bureaucracy in the mould of the party apparatus in the days of Keir Hardie, Ramsay MacDonald, Anuerin Bevan, Harold Wilson and Michael Foot.
The old type labour bureaucracies rested on mass working class organisations where workers to a very large extent worked in mines, factories and other large workplaces or concentrations of workplaces that had a real collectivity and class consciousness and were able to keep the privileged labour bureaucracies to a degree in check. There were limits to what such old style labour bureaucracies could get away with.
But there are very few limits to what the neoliberal ‘left’ bureaucracy can get away with. Such collectivism was linked to the classic reign of what is known as finance capital, the original basis of imperialism, which Lenin correctly defined as the union of industrial capital and banking capital, which sought to dominate the world through the export of part of its capital, and particularly sought domination over the underdeveloped parts of the world through colonialism and struggle to redivide the world and monopolise markets and sources of raw materials.
However, there has been a further development of imperialist capital beyond these classical forms, catalysed by the further decay of capitalism as classically expressed in Marx’s law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. The fall in the rate of profit meant that the classical unity of industrial and banking capital exploiting a large scale industrial proletariat in the advanced countries became less and less profitable, and so industrial capital increasingly sought to do away with the proletariat, or as much of it as possible, in the classical imperialist countries, and migrated to underdeveloped countries in search of cheap labour to manufacture goods, the bulk of which at least initially were still for realisation in the advanced countries, thus raising the rate of profit. At the same time, the further decline in profit rates gave rise to drives in the imperialist centres to privatise everything that moved. Everything from prisons to public housing, from air traffic control to schools to hospital cleaning to probation officers, everything that could possibly if privatised be squeezed to obtain a morsel of profit and hence raise the overall rate of profit, was so privatised.
This also modified the phenomenon of finance capital as a fusion of banking and industrial capital. The migration of important sections of industrial capital from the main imperialist countries, even though the funding, as before, came from the imperialist banking arm, produced a geographical separation between industrial and banking capital even though they remained a unity under the system of finance capital. This produced an emanation of finance capital which some Marxists, entirely reasonably, call financial capital, to distinguish it from finance capital in its classical form. Its function is not the methodical exploitation of the proletariat to generate surplus value, but tricks and novel methods of seemingly extracting value from nothing, by such means as the creation of asset price inflation (closely linked to the concept of ‘fictitious capital’), ‘futures’, or other innovative ‘financial products’ which also have the effect of seemingly conjuring up new value from nothing. Such as credit-default-swaps, which played a major role in the late-2000s financial crisis. Of course, speculation is not new under imperialism, but there are also questions of degree.
All these things today, more than in the earlier period of imperialist finance capital, constitute a unity. Indeed a key part of Marxist analysis and Marxist economics today must consist of the unravelling and detailed elaboration of how these things work. That is not the purpose here, however. It is rather to paint a broad-brush picture of what is going on as pointers for further work.
The classic era of finance capital was the period between the two world wars and in some ways the personification of finance capital, in its pure form, was fascism and Nazism. The state became simply the servant of finance capital, and employed both its own forces and an extra-legal army of plebeian, but anti-proletarian, thug-auxiliaries to forcibly brutalise and intimidate the concentrated industrial proletariat into conformity and compliance with the dictates of finance capital. This was only possible because of the betrayals of the labour bureaucracies, both social-democratic and Stalinist, of those imperialist countries, who between them colluded with the imperialist bourgeoisie to defeat revolutionary trends in the main advanced countries.
Today, with the modified finance capital and the expansion of financial capital and its increased importance, we see a different kind of capitalist reaction. Instead of the corporate state, in the mould of Mussolini, where capital appeared to fuse with a powerful economic state, we see the minimal economic state being touted, in the spirit of the likes of Ayn Rand, a key neoliberal ideologue, where the state is supposed to leave the economy alone as much as possible and merely act as an enabler for money making.
These are different models of capitalist reaction, which belong to different eras, fascism in the early period of imperialism, neoliberal reaction today. Both seek to subjugate the proletariat, fascism by brute force and political atomisation, neoliberalism by using economics to undermine the cohesion of the proletariat as a force within the classical imperialist nation-state by exporting their jobs and reducing them to insecure mass casualisation at best, if not starvation and permanent lumpenisation. This has also produced a nationalist, pro-imperialist backlash, as per Brexit and Trump.
This modified period of imperialism, where financial capital has become qualitatively more ascendant than in earlier periods of capitalist imperialism, is what we live under today. The key reactionary figures of finance capital now are not the Hitlers and Mussolinis, but the Friedmans, the Hayeks, the Rands, the Thatchers and Reagans, the Trumps and Boris Johnsons. Not the street-fighting leaders of brownshirts and dictatorships centred on industrial power, but the ideologues of the social and political dominance of money makers above all others, and the social marginalisation of the working class. Though that does not exclude, in turn, the emergence of neo-liberalised forms of fascism also, indeed these are also manifest today in the Tommy Robinson type milieu. But they are marginal.
In any case, this is what has undermined the Labour Party, and produced a new breed of ‘labour’ politician who is not a mere servant of finance capital in a political sense, like the old labour bureaucrats who fought for national welfare states and supported their ‘own’ imperialist countries’ struggles to maintain imperial influence, while trying to ‘humanise’ this imperialism. The old Labour bureaucracy was personified by Attlee, who while conceding independence to India (he really had no choice) nevertheless fought brutal colonial wars in Malaysia (including Singapore) and Indonesia, also helping the French back into Indo-China, and crushed the nascent Kenyan independence movement and workers movement. This kind of social chauvinism linked ‘welfare’ to support for colonial oppression.
But it is somewhat different to the ‘labourism’ of Blair and Peter Mandelson, with his infamous statement as to how Labour is ‘intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich”. The former was subordination to finance capital, the latter is subordination to financial capital. This is not, by the way, a moral difference. Both of these things are deeply reactionary and the social-imperialism of old-Labour was itself mortally antagonistic to socialism. It is however a sociological difference – the old social imperialist bureaucracy still had a material connection to organised labour, if only as a parasite upon it. Whereas New Labour has no such necessary connection at all.
And this is where Zionism comes in. The ideologues of reaction based on finance capital were not generally Zionists, or particularly sympathetic to ‘national’ aspirations of Jews at all. They tended to regard Jews with suspicion, in part because of the role of many prominent revolutionary Jewish intellectuals in the workers movement in the earlier period of capitalism, a reactionary suspicion which to a degree made the dominant ideologues of finance capital somewhat suspicious of even Jewish bourgeois. Their model of capitalism involved the banks financing the development of industrial capital; speculation was regarded as a source of instability if anything.
But after the second world war, with defeat of Nazi Germany, the profound discredit of fascism and Nazism, the formation of the state of Israel, and the long boom occasioned by the newly conquered world hegemony of US imperialism, a boom that lasted for nearly three decades, new forms of reaction emerged in the form of neo-liberalism in which Zionists played a crucial role. Look at the ideologues of neo-liberalism: while some, such as Thatcher and Hayek, were not Jewish, many other prominent ideologues, such as Rand, Friedman, Joseph, Sherman, Kissinger (one of the key architects of the Pinochet coup which used the Chilean people as guinea pigs for Friedman’s theories) were both Jewish and strongly pro-Zionist.
This incidence of Jewish-Zionists playing a prominent role in neo-liberal politics is just as striking at the prominent role that Jewish intellectuals played in the early working class and revolutionary movement. Both have deep roots in Jewish history; the progressive ideologues in the history of struggle against persecution and oppression that particularly arose in the late medieval and early capitalist eras when the Jewish merchant people-class, as Abram Leon described them, a commodity trading but not commodity-producing class in pre-capitalist societies where production was not generally for sale on the market, was rendered obsolete by the rise of capitalism as an economic system based on generalised commodity production.
The counterposition between the unambiguously progressive role of Jews in the working class movement in the pre-Hitler period (indeed that is precisely why Hitler had so many Jews murdered), and the reactionary role of Jewish-Zionists today, is a concrete example of why no people in history can be said to be either wholly progressive or wholly reactionary. It is also an example of how in the real world, Hegel’s observation about phenomena being transformed into their opposites, is manifested in reality.
But what we are interested in here is in accounting for the role of Zionism in neo-liberal capitalism. This is obviously simply a product of the fact that Jews, even today, are the remnants of a medieval commodity and money-trading class, which has long since dissolved into other classes. Insofar as a remnant of this trading and financial class was assimilated to the modern bourgeoisie, it tended to be biased towards that part of modern capitalism that was more concerned with money-trading and the like. Hence the connection of Jews with financial capital is no great mystery in class terms.
What to do now?
And likewise the role of Zionism in a dissolving bourgeois workers party whose bureaucrats and privileged layers are in transition from being lackeys of finance capital in the old sense, with its more concentrated industry and proletariat, to being lackeys of today’s imperialism with its qualitative enhancement of financialised capital. In a sense the phenomenon of a bourgeois workers party becomes obsolete when the bourgeoisie becomes interpenetrated with the elite of such a party though financialisation and the professionalisation of the bureaucratic elites, who then become socially very similar to the financial elite, no longer really a caste of labour bureaucrats in the old sense. To a degree this has also happened to large, white collar trade unions, but much more with the elite of a bourgeois labour party, which really is wide open to such a transformation into a naked tool of the wealthy.
Thus properly understood, the Blairisation and Zionisation of Labour heralds the destruction, the undermining, of the historic possibility of that kind of party which embodies a class contradiction, the bourgeois workers party, as subservience to the bourgeoisie leads, in this day of deindustrialisation, low profit rates and financialisation, to the party becoming very visibly a tool of the super-rich, and thus losing its whole reason for existence. This is known as Pasokification, after the miserable decline of the Greek social democratic organisation PASOK after it capitulated wholesale to neoliberalism. PASOK’s role was filled by the rise of SYRIZA, which looks to be at the beginning of a similar decline after it too capitulated to austerity in the Greek debt crisis of the early 2010s.
The strategic aim of Marxists in working with layers of militants such as those who are currently leaving the Labour Party in droves and beginning to coalesce around initiatives such as that of Chris Williamson, has to be to create a genuine working class party, where the functionaries are materially and politically subordinate to the working class membership, not the other way round. A key part of the political basis for such a party must be to draw a very hard line against Zionism, which is playing an insidious role as an anti-working class, destructive far-right force, seeking to destroy any trace of working class politics and consciousness in Labour. But the possibility of such regressions can only be fully overcome by the struggle for political clarity and for a revolutionary programme that can consciously put an end to capitalism itself.
On this first of May, the working class faces the terrible pandemic conditions of Covid-19 which has unleashed a latent world capitalist crisis. This situation has causes the worst death toll since World War 2. Its causes are linked to the antagonistic relationship with nature that capitalism has imposed upon humanity through its drive for profit above all considerations of sustainability and rationality, which has so destabilised the climate as to threaten human existence. As well as the immediate danger of large numbers of the vulnerable, the sick, the disabled and the aged dying or being incapacitated from the disease, workers and the oppressed face an unprecedented danger of loss of livelihood and in many places even mass starvation from the huge economic crisis of capitalism that the pandemic has crystallised.
In the imperialist countries, economies are being kept afloat by massive government borrowing which will be a source of acute economic convulsions even after the pandemic for many years to come. After the credit crunch and near financial collapse of 2007-2010, the poor were victimised by a decade of savage austerity and attacks on the social wage to an unprecedented degree. After this crisis similar things will be posed and the ruling class will likely again come for the working class to make them pay for the crisis. Though this will be more dangerous for the ruling class as it is increasingly clear to the masses that the cause of the massive weakness in health systems that have made the pandemic so much worse for the population is rooted in the previous vicious austerity attacks. That gives hope that militant working class resistance can emerge to confront the entire logic of capitalist profit that stands behind this crisis.
In oppressed and semi-colonial countries the situation is much worse and more threatening, as the public health systems are much poorer, when they exist at all, than in the imperialist countries. In Africa, in much of semi-colonial Asia, in Latin America and Oceania, quarantines and lockdowns have often been harsher and enormous numbers are suffering huge hunger and deprivation as the meagre benefits that many survive on in the imperialist countries simply do not exist. Huge numbers of workers in the informal or black economy have no income at all during the quarantine and are struggling to avoid starvation. As well, semi-colonial countries face imperialist aggression which continues despite the pandemic, as with Trump’s continuing attacks and threats against Iran, the bombing of the population in Somalia, recently resumed, and the sending of US warships to threaten Venezuela amid phoney allegations of drug trafficking from the US narco-lords. A particularly frightening example is occupied Palestine, where the Israeli occupiers have brazenly attacked medical facilities set up to treat Palestinian victims of the pandemic. Thus the Israeli genocidal drive against the Palestinian people is intensified, exploiting the pandemic as a weapon.
The Trump threats of aggression against China, the pretext being the preposterous lie that Covid-19 was produced in a Chinese laboratory, is another example of imperialist aggression against nations from the Global South that do not fit in with imperialisms world domination. We call for defence of underdeveloped and non-imperialist capitalist nations such as Iran, China, Venezuela, Somalia against imperialism as well as defending the remaining workers states of Cuba and North Korea against imperialism and counterrevolution.
In Argentina, the “progressive” Peronist government of Alberto Fernández, who took a series of statist measures in the face of the pandemic. Today he is surrounded by right-wing governments, some directly of coup origin. In the name of its economic protectionism, the Alberto Fernandez government unilaterally distances Argentina from Mercosur, which is hegemonized by neoliberal economic trends, while seeking to negotiate the issue of debt inherited from Macrismo that the Alberto Fernandez government itself assumed. even without investigating it. This also includes the possibility that in the face of an unpayable debt, Argentina will definitely go into default. Today, in front of quarantine, workers face the blackmail of the employers on the reduction of wages to keep their jobs with the complicity of the union bureaucracy. It is in this context that Alberto Fernandez has managed to agree on governance – and in some cases co-opt – to the bureaucracy of the trade union centrals. All in a context where the pseudo-Trotskyist left is unable to advance in an independent regroupment of the working class.
Bolsonaro’s neo-Nazi government leads the Brazilian population to their deaths. The coronavirus became an incidental ally in the class war. The phenomenon of Bolsonarism is a type of colonial Nazism, born in the country with the deepest slave tradition of the bourgeois era. The government is supported politically by generals and socially by bankers, benefiting them from positions and capital like no other in history. Bolsonaro will only fall if one of these two powerful social actors drops his thumb. But all fractions of capital agree with the economic policy inspired by the Pinochet dictatorship. Brazil’s military summit organizes, organically and officially, the Southern Command of the US Army. The government also relies on the police and police forces (militias), which are more numerous than the armed forces. The country has a long tradition of death squads that acted even during the PT governments against landless, homeless and indigenous people.
Bolsonarism does not exist as a national, centralized and partisan force, but the militiaman leads a Nazi movement without a party, assisted by the Trump administration and strategists like Steve Bannon. The mass base of Bolsonarism, which articulates their social consensus, is the sectors linked to the informal economy, where petty bourgeois tendencies, even with consumption levels below the proletariat, are enhanced by individualization and entrepreneurship. There, the ideology of prosperity and neo-Pentecostalism, the Universal Church and other sects that are associated with the governing Bolsonarist sect develop from the ideological instance. But the aspirations of the governing nucleus have not yet converted the Brazilian state into a fascist state. Workers’ organizations have not been wiped out. The unions did not suffer state intervention. The proletariat has not been physically repressed on a large scale, mass arrests, tortures and deportations are not taking place as in times of classical fascism. A system of administration that is profoundly dominant of the masses has not yet been imposed to prevent independent action and organization by the proletariat.
Thus, the social force capable of overthrowing the militia president would be the numerous Brazilian working class. But the hegemonic political directions of the proletariat are deeply conciliatory and bourgeois for 15 years of class collaboration. The leaderships of the PT, PCdoB, PSOL, CUT, MST, MTST support their conciliation policy in the fact that the working class is on the defensive, due to the economic recession (unemployment) and now by the pandemic. Among these contradictions lies the strength of the Bolsonaro government. Without popular resistance at the height of the capital’s offensive, the Planalto Palace became the headquarters of a laboratory of the world extreme right. Not by chance, it was in Brazil and not in Mexico or Indonesia, equally populous semicolonies, where the coronavirus exploded with the greatest mortality among backward and dependent capitalist countries. All of this leads us to believe that in Brazil the government is not mistaken, but it would have already consciously assumed the massacre of the population. Against this government and this tragedy we defend an anti-fascist workers’ united front policy that brings together its mass organizations for the struggle. The immediate fight is in defense of broad labor rights, by guaranteeing jobs and wages in the quarantine that is economically guaranteed by the State and employers.
In Bangladesh the working class are those minimally educated people who engage in “manual labor” with little or no prestige. Unskilled workers in the class— dishwashers, cashiers, maids, and waitresses— usually are underpaid and have no opportunity for career advancement. They are often called the working poor. Garment workers are often forced to work 14 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. During peak season, they may work until 2 or 3 am to meet the fashion brand’s deadline. Their basic wages are so low that they cannot refuse overtime – aside from the fact that many would be fired if they refused to work overtime.
Minimum Wages in Bangladesh is expected to reach 8000.00 BDT/Month by the end of 2020, according to Trading Economics global macro models and analysts expectations. In the long-term, the Bangladesh Minimum Wages is projected to trend around 10000.00 BDT/Month in 2021, according to our econometric models. on the other hand The tea garden workers of Bangladesh lead a poor life due to their low income (less than US$1 for a day’s work from sunrise to sunset), which is much lower than that of the Indian tea garden workers. As a result, the workers are not able to consume sufficient food and nutrition.
Health safety condition of labour class in Bangladesh is not so good It is estimated that over 11,000 workers suffer fatal accidents and a further 24,500 die from work related diseases across all sectors each year in Bangladesh. It is also estimated that a further 8 million workers suffer injuries at work – many of which result in permanent disability. Although little research has taken place in Bangladesh, it is internationally recognized that most occupational deaths and injuries are entirely preventable, and could be avoided if employers and workers took simple initiatives to reduce hazards and risks at the workplace.
In Britain workers are facing a right-wing populist Tory government, led by Trump-ally Boris Johnson that has become a byword for cavalier disregard of public health, initially boasting of a strategy of promoting ‘herd immunity’ through allowing the disease to rampage through the population. The Prime Minister even managed to infect himself as a result of this strategy. They have been forced to partially retreat by intense popular pressure, and to institute a widespread lockdown with school and shop closures and an incomplete state-funding of the wages of some laid off workers and underwriting of small businesses, though this was done reluctantly and is full of holes. The Labour Party’s former left social-democratic leadership was recently ousted after an election defeat that was in part engineered from within, by its own neo-liberal right-wing, and is now in practice an echo of the ruling Tory party over most issues. The workers movement needs to regroup around a revolutionary programme by means of political clarification within the large layer of disillusioned Labour supporters who may well regroup around expelled left figures like Chris Williamson, and to prepare to fight against a likely renewed austerity once the pandemic is over.
In light of the above, the following revolutionary groups of the working class send greetings to the exploited classes and their organizations internationally, as well as to all the oppressed peoples and strata of the population on the occasion of May 1, on this international day workers of protest and resistance this year 2020, as part of the strategic struggle for the international socialist revolution.
Frente Comunista dos Trabalhadores (Brazil)
Socialist Fight (Great Britain)
Socialist Party (Bangladesh)
Socialist Workers League (United States)
Tendencia Militante Bolchevique (Argentina)
Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight (Great Britain)
The Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight gives full support to Steve Hedley, Assistant General Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), against the vicious attacks by the Tories and the Murdoch press propaganda machine.
Steve Hedley has been suspended from his position after he recently made ‘offensive’ remarks on Facebook. Replying to another comment on a Facebook post, he said: “I don’t want to offend you, but if Bojo pops his clogs, I’m throwing a party.” He later added: “I hope the whole Cabinet and higher echelons of the Tory party have been touching various bits of him.” These remarks followed Johnson’s admission into St. Thomas’s Hospital on 5th April after his Covid-19 symptoms worsened.
The Murdoch press, who have been fawning over themselves in their support for Johnson for years, described Steve Hedley’s comments as ‘vile’. These attacks from these gutter rags are not new. The propaganda against the RMT has been going on for years with attacks on Bob Crow who always confronted the government and its media lackeys, simply because the RMT is one of the last remaining militant trade unions representing its workers. As a direct result of this attack on him in the Murdoch Press, the bureaucrats in the RMT have capitulated to this right wing attack suspending Steve from his position pending a disciplinary investigation.
In a joint letter/statement on 10th April sent to the RMT membership, President Michelle Rodgers and General Secretary Mick Cash said: “Steve Hedley’s comments do not represent the views of this trade union and are wholly unacceptable.” He added: “The comments have attracted widespread negative media coverage which has led to an extraordinarily large volume of complaints, from both RMT members and the public, through social media and also directly to the union and our staff with unprecedented levels of hostility.” A spokesman for the RMT said: “Following a meeting of the union’s National Executive a decision has been made to suspend senior assistant general secretary Steve Hedley with immediate effect while a formal investigation takes place into his conduct.” We suspect that the majority of members actually support Steve Hedley, and it is they alone who should democratically decide who represents them, not the right wing establishment and the union bosses kowtowing to pressure from Murdoch et al.
Some people may have mixed views on the remarks made by Steve Hedley, as to whether his personal remarks in a personal social media post were ‘offensive’ and in keeping with someone in his position as a representative of a trade union. What is offensive are the Tories attacks on the working class. Where is the outrage about someone who is homeless dying on the streets every 19 hours, the reliance on food banks and 4 million children languishing in poverty in the fifth richest nation, the cut in 17,000 hospital beds since 2010, or deliberately allowing people to succumb to COVID-19 with lack of testing and adequate provision of PPE to frontline NHS staff? These are the issues that should animate people, not this faux outrage against someone who expressing his personal views on someone that has been a champion for the ruling class with their attacks against the poorest in society.
The attacks on the working class in this country are integral to the class project of the Tories, this is not new. When Nye Bevan delivered his most famous speech, on the eve of the creation of the NHS at the Belle Vue Rally in Manchester on 4th July 1948, he said “So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin,” he went on. “They condemned millions of people to semi-starvation. I warn you young men and women, do not listen to what they are saying, do not listen to the seductions of Lord Woolton. They have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse.” His own bitter experiences growing up in Wales led him to have a deep hatred of the Tory party; a party that consistently objected to the forming of the NHS and the ‘Welfare State’ in the first place. Bevan was not wrong then and Steve Hedley is not wrong now. We do not give sympathy to those that are waging war, an ideologically driven class war, against the workers and poor of this country.
These recent attacks from the right wing and the gutter press come on the back of a deliberate targeting of the RMT, which has been brewing for some time. It was no coincidence that Steve Hedley was violently attacked outside a London pub on 14th July 2018 by fascist Tommy Robinson supporters. Steve and his kind of union militancy represent organised labour, and also have a history of fighting racism and homophobia. These attacks from the right on the RMT have been drip fed in the media, whether it was Bob Crow going on holiday, which incidentally came from Boris Johnson himself when he wrote an article for the Telegraph in 2014, or the attack on Steve Hedley accusing him of anti-Semitism in November 2019 with calls for him to resign when a video surfaced of him berating Richard Millett – a hardened Zionist, in a speech attacking the oppression of the Palestinians in 2011.
Johnson’s dislike of the RMT has been simmering since last November when there were calls for action to be taken against the union for its planned 27 day strike against South Western Railway in December over safety concerns in operating trains without guards with the imposition of driver only operations. The government’s response after its December election win was to deliver a Queen’s speech that contained 30 bills, which included further anti-strike legislation. The proposed legislation will ensure a minimum level of service on various modes of public transport, including trains and buses, has to be maintained during strikes. The Tories have a majority of 80 MPs, which allows them to continue their full frontal attacks on the working class, an extension of where Thatcher and Major left off. The speech includes for the first time ever new legislation that effectively bans strike action. The upholding of the right of workers to withdraw their labour and the improvement of conditions in the workplace is an abomination for the Tories, who see it as something to be crushed.
Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, stated that “It is a basic right for workers to be able to get to work,”….. “The ability of a few people to prevent everyone from being able to earn a living has to come to an end. The new law will prevent London being brought to a standstill, with all the additional environmental damage done by people reverting to cars. There will be a bare-bones service provided, preventing ordinary workers being effectively held to ransom.” The safety of the public and workers is being used as a subterfuge to smash the union under a pretext of the environment and the rights of other workers. This attack on the last vestiges of union and worker militancy is in keeping with the Tories’ drive towards the Singapore model come post Brexit, which this Queen’s speech was all about.
Support for Steve Hedley has been widespread amongst comrades on the left, who can see that this is another step on the journey by both the Tories and the neoliberal Blairites who have now reclaimed the Labour Party as their own. The attacks on Steve is part of a concerted attack on the left by Tories and Blairites, and their capitulators and agents in the unions. An open letter has been submitted to the Morning Star, which has been refused publication by its editor, Ben Chacko. This can only be interpreted as further capitulation to right wing pressures and shows how the trade union bureaucracy, even the ‘lefts’, act as agents of the bosses in the workers movement when the chips are down. Indeed Steve Hedley is being punished by the ‘left’ bureaucracy – whose house organ is the Morning Star – not for the first time – for going further than worthies like Cash and Rodgers are prepared to go in opposing the bosses.
It is true that the labour movement started in Europe during the industrial revolution. Previously, the idea faced great resistance. However, the labour movement was active in the early to mid-nineteenth century and various labour parties and trade unions were formed throughout the industrialised world. The labour movement has a very long past in this region, though industrialisation took place very late in Bangladesh. The beginning of labour agitation in the Indian sub-continent was in Bengal.
In 1860, there was a strong protest against the inhuman working conditions and hardship of cultivation workers. A further organised form of trade union activities in this region was started thereafter. Unfortunately, illiteracy and disunity among workers, the negative attitude of employers and unnecessary politicization hampered trade union growth in Bangladesh. This article made an attempt to analyse the historical context as well as the plight of the industrial workers and trade unions and their impact on the overall productivity of the workers in Bangladesh.
The trade union movement in Bangladesh has a very long history. The beginning of labour agitation in India was in Bengal. In 1860 in Bengal a noted dramatics and social reformer Dinbandhu Mitra along with some of his journalist friends protested the inhuman working conditions and hardship of cultivation workers. He wrote a drama title Nil Darpan. A drama about slave like behavior to worker by the cultivator Nil. This drama had a great impact in the minds of people and the social elite. People realized the deplorable and inhuman conditions of workers. This was beginning of the labour movement.
Some years latter, in 1875 Sarobji Shapuri in Bombay made a protest against poor working conditions and brought this to the notice of the Secretary of State for India. The first Factory Commission was, thereafter, appointed in 1875 and as a result the Factories Act,1881 was enacted. But this Act did not reflect the aspirations of workers. There was no provision for child labour and women workers. Another Factory Commission was appointed in 1884. In the same year a conference of the Bombay (presently Mumbai) factory workers organised by N.M. Lokhande had demanded a complete day of rest on Sunday, half an hour recess each working day, working hours between 6.30 a.m. and sunset, the payment of wages not later than 15th of the month, and compensation for injuries.
In 1889, in Bombay, workers from spinning and weaving mills demanded Sunday as a holiday, regularity in the payment of wages, and adequate compensation in cases of accidents. But trade union activities in this region of the Indian sub-continent started in the 18th century.
The trade union movement then was generally led by philanthropists and social reformers who organised workers and protected them against inhuman working conditions. One of them was Anusuyaben Sarabhai. She was daughter of a mill agent in Ahmedabad. She had visited England and seen for herself trade union activities there. After returning to India in 1914, she began working among textile workers and poorer sections of the society in Ahmedabad.
She established schools and welfare centres and worked for the betterment of the workers and poor people. In 1917, the workers of Ahmedabad mills resorted to a strike to demand an increase in wages. Anusuyaben was among the leadership in that strike. Ahmedabad textile workers organised themselves in a trade union under her leadership on December 4, 1917. it is notable that the Russian socialist revolution also influenced Indian working people.
The strike was a success and workers got a wage increase. The first regular Union was formed in Ahmedabad in 1920 for the Trestle Department Workers. This was followed by different trade- or craft-based Unions. The same year another trade union was formed in Madras with the name of Madras Labour Union. This was formed by B.P. Wadia under the leadership and guidance of Dr. Mrs. Annie Besant. But the growth of the trade union movement gained momentum at the end of the First World War. Industry and trade had grown following the War. Many trade unions were formed throughout India. There were a number of strikes during 1919 to 1922. The Russian Bolshevik Revolution created a reaction in India, as it did elsewhere.
The Bolshevik triumph demonstrated that an organised working-class movement could seize state power. The communist movement in India organised the workers in trade unions with as objectives: first, to secure immediate goals such as higher salaries and better working conditions; and ultimate goal to build a long-range movement that would topple the bourgeois state and free India from British rule. This speeded up the pace of the trade union movement. In 1920 the All-India Trade Union Congress was formed. This was initiated by forces of different ideology. The communist and also nationalist forces were there.
Later, after the independence of India, the labour leader associated with the National Congress Party left AITUC and formed the Indian National Trade Union Congress in 1947. The colonial ruler finally introduced the Indian Trade Union Act, 1926. Before that the Indian workers were denied the fundamental rights of freedom of association. The Indian Trade Union act, 1926 was enacted with a view “to provide for the registration of Trade Unions and in certain respects to define the law relating to registered trade unions.” The right to strike and lock-out were ultimately recognised in India indirectly under the provisions of the Indian Trade Dispute Act, 1929.
The act provided for an ad-hoc Conciliation Board and Court of Inquiry for the settlement of trade disputes. The Act prohibited strikes and lock-outs in public utility services and general strikes affecting the community as a whole. In Pakistan era there were three main national centres in the then East Pakistan: the East Pakistan Federation of Labour, the Mazdoor Federation and the communist-led Purbo Pakistan Sramik Federation. Beside these central federations, the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP)-led Chotkal Sramik Federation had a great and significant role in organising jute mill workers. The jute mill workers strikes in 1964 and 1967 were launched by this industrial federation.
In the March 1971 civil disobedience movement against the Pakistani Military rulers, trade unions had played an important role. They virtually took over management of industry and executed the orders they received from Bangobandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
After the independence of Bangladesh, the government had to take over the industries and establishments that were abandoned when the owners left Bangladesh for Pakistan. After independence the ownership structure in the industrial sector was: Pakistani Private Ownership: 47% EPIDC: 34% Bangladeshi Owners: 18% Foreign Owners: 1% Abandoned industries and EPIDC. Together this was 81% and was taken over in March, 1972 of which 77% were kept nationalised and the remaining 4% were offered for sale.
These taken-over industries were put under different sector corporations.
Furthermore Jute, Textile, Sugar and Financial Institutions and big industries were nationalised. Suddenly trade unions found they had to play a big role to manage and run the industries and establishments in absence of owners and managers, which they were not prepared for. For time being they became managers of many industries and establishments. Many self-seekers had also joined trade unions to seek personal gain. In 1972, Bangladesh adopted the Industrial Relations Ordinance 1969 with a view to regulating labour relations and disputes in the country. May Day, the 1st of May was declared a national holiday. An Industrial Worker’s Wage Commission was constituted in 1973 to fix wage levels and other benefits for the industrial workers in the public sector. The State-owned Manufacturing Industries Workers (Terms and Conditions of Service) Act was enacted to implement the wage scale and fringe benefits determined by the wage commission.
Restrictions and Bans on Trade Union Activities:
After the liberation of Bangladesh workers enjoyed a great deal of freedom and trade union rights. Most of the plant level trade unions had joined with the ruling party trade union center Jatiyo Sramik League. Many new plant level trade unions were registered. The trade unions were powerful contenders for authority over factories, mills and establishments abandoned by previous owners and subsequently taken over by the government. The political local elite had joined trade unions to control and benefit from the taken-over industries and establishments. Traditionally most of the workers were from outside of the workplace localities and from different districts and now local people wanted to have jobs there, as industrial workers were better paid than in the informal sector.
There were many riots between locals and non-locals in different industrial districts. The worst situation had arisen in the Chittagong and Tongi industrial districts. The local ruling party leadership, in order to grab the unions there, had started agitation against non-local workers, for the trade union leadership were non-locals. Control over the trade unions would gain the local elite gains much. The first being that they can buy the products at the mill rates and sell on the market at high rates; second they can supply raw materials to the mills at high rates, and third by inducting their own people as workers and employees they can have control over the establishment and local politics. The mill rates and market rates of cotton yarn, fabric, jute product, butter oil and many other products differ very much. One could become millionaire overnight by having a dealership of Kohinoor Chemical Company, a cosmetic and toiletries industries, or have an allotment of the quota for cotton yarn from Muslin Cotton Mills of Kapasia or a quota of the allotment of matches from Dhaka Match Factory of Postogola.
Agenda and issues of Trade Union Movement:
There was a shift of government in August 1975, which was followed by a shift in economic policy as well. The socialistic policy of the Mujib government was abandoned and privatisations began, which were initiated by the succeeding government of Ziaur Rahman. Privatisation started with disinvestment and denationalisation of state owned enterprises (SOEs). All the governments till now continued the same economic policy. The present Awami League government in order to make the privatisation process of SOE’s faster formed a new institution called The Privatisation Broad, which is entrusted with the responsibility of selling off those SOEs identified for privatisation. Among disinvested industries a government survey from ministry of industries has found a few of them only running fully, some are partially and a large number are not functioning at all. The workforce in those industries has been drastically reduced.
The leading sectors like jute and textile where traditionally trade union movement was strong got weakened due to loss of the jobs of their members. To protect employment and trade union rights trade unions got united, formed Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad (SKOP) in 1983, and launched a series of action programmes to press their demands including job security, higher wages, trade union rights and others. In 1984, government and SKOP came to an agreement that a wages commission be set up to recommend a new wage structure. But it was implemented only in the public sector. Another important issue was the job security of disinvested industries and no further disinvestment without consulting workers. This part of the agreement was also not respected by the government. There was also an agreement that the government form a commission to draft a democratic labour legislation.
National Minimum Wage:
At present the main agenda of the Trade Union movement is a National Minimum Wage. But there is tremendous opposition from the employers to fixing a national minimum wage. They argue it should be sector wise. There are many sectors whose employers have no ability to pay such a minimum wage. Trade Unions argue that the Minimum Wage has to be looked upon as a basic right, a minimum requirement for leading a healthy working and social life. This will have to be uniform for all. They further argue that the labour is not a commodity. It is both, input into production as well as the object of production. Minimum wages are a signal to society that this is what is expected and nobody will fall under. It is also a very important incentive for business to upgrade, for certain wage structures force competitive high roads by cutting wages and degrading working conditions. Trade Unions also demand that there should be regular readjustments of wages in line with the rate of inflation.
Violation of trade union rights;
From the beginning of 80’s a new non-traditional industry, the garments industry has emerged. And now the growth of employment there nearly is 45 lakh (4.5 million) and the workforce mostly are women and not organised in trade unions. The employers do not allow workers to form trade unions. The Ministry of Labour is suspiciously silent about violations of trade union rules. The government also forbids trade union activities in the EPZ (Export Processing Zone).
Now, government is having pressure put upon it from the USA and also from the ILO to open up trade union activities in EPZ. Industries in the EPZ’s are allowed duty-free imports of raw materials and other components; they do not have to pay excise duty on local goods and are eligible for tax holidays. The idea is to create an environment that is conducive to facing competition in the export market. So that investors will be attracted to invest here and it will increase employment, revenue and technology transfer. All most all EPZ’s elsewhere offer similar packages to foreign investors.
Now the questions are these, how much local employment is being generated by these industries in EPZ’s and how much transfer of technology has taken place in reality from these industries? How much port and other charges have we received from them, how much profit sharing we could make from them? Till now existing two EPZs employ less than one lakh (100,000) workers and most of the industries here are textiles, shoes and other small scale industries where small number of workers are employed and no high technology is adopted.
But we are offering these investors remarkable amounts of land, power supply, infrastructure facilities etc. The question is also why should trade union activities be prohibited there? The government cannot restrict human rights of its citizens for the cost of foreign investment? Moreover, this is not the only issue that investors need. Peace and non-disturbance in worker relations will certainly attract the foreign investors, but the foreign investors are also need congenial atmosphere, infrastructure like banking, communication support and facilities, those are more important to them than the benefit of no trade union activities.
The Structure of Trade Unions:
The Industrial Relations Ordinance, 1969 (as amended up or date) is intended to regulate trade union activities and permit workers to organise themselves into trade unions. The trade union is required to be registered with the Register of Trade Unions. The trade unions in Bangladesh may be divided in structure into three categories, the first is basic trade union – a primary organisation of workers at their workplace. The second is the Industrial Federation or trade federation compose of a number of basic trade unions related to the same type of industry, such as Jute Workers Federation, Textile Workers Federation, Garments Workers Federations, and the third is National Trade Union, a federation of basic unions irrespective of job categories.
A National Federation may be constituted by two or more basic trade unions irrespective of their trade. Apart from these there are craft unions, though there are not many. This is organised craft-wise like Railway Karigar Union, an union of technicians of Bangladesh Railway or Biman Cabin Crew union. Non-employees and non-workers cannot be elected to the committees of a basic trade union but can be elected to the committee of Industrial Federation and National Federations. But they cannot be more than 20% of the total number of committee members.
Under the rules no unregistered trade union or federation of trade unions can function as a trade union. In case there is only one registered trade union in an establishment or a group of establishments, that trade union is deemed to be a collective bargaining agent for that establishment or group, provided it has a minimum membership of one-third of the total number of workers employed in the establishment or group of establishments. In case there is more than one registered trade union, upon receipt of an application from any trade union or management of the establishment, the Register of Trade Unions determines the bargaining agent through a secret ballot for a period of two years. But they have to get a minimum of one-third of the total number of votes of the workers employed in the establishment or group.
There was no restriction before for non-workers to be members of trade unions; the restriction came when the then-military government amended the Industrial Relations Ordinance on 26th July 1980. The tradition and history of trade unions of Bangladesh was always that non-workers took leading roles in organising the trade unions. It is always social or political activists who organise the trade unions. The neighbouring countries of Bangladesh like Sri Lanka, India and others have no restrictions on this, only the proportion of committee members from outside is defined.
The ILO’s conventions also do not have any restrictions on outsiders. Trade unions have to submit an annual statement of their income and expenditure, assets and liabilities in the prescribed form to the Register of Trade Unions, the changes of office bearers should also be intimated to the Register of Trade Unions. A person shall not be entitled to be a member or officer of a trade union formed in any establishment or group of establishments if he is not actually employed or engaged in the establishment or group of establishments.
Registration of Trade Unions:
For the registration of trade unions the applicants have to apply to the Joint Director of Labour and Register of Trade Unions while fulfilling certain requirements and procedures. For Industrial and national federation or national unions the Director of Labour and Register of Trade Unions office is responsible for registration. The National Union means those have members throughout the country – such as banks, railways and others. The trade union executive committee shall consist of 5 to 30 people depending on its membership. Up until l 50 members the committee will consists of 5 persons, and 30 committee members where there are more than 5000 union members. The applicants for union registration have to submit all the applications of membership of the proposed union in a prescribed form and also the register of membership, and the resolution of the meeting where the decision was taken to form a trade union, a list of committee members, a list of general members and the constitution of the union along with the application.
The constitutions should provide the name of the trade union, objects for which the trade union has been established, purpose for which the general fund of a trade union shall be applicable, the maintenance of a list of the members of the trade union, the admission of who shall be persons actually or potentially employed in an industry or establishment with which the trade union is connected, the payment of a subscription by members of the trade union, the executive and the other office-bearers of the trade union shall be appointed and removed, the manner in which the rules shall be amended, safe custody of funds and audit, the manner in which the trade union may be dissolved. The State-owned Manufacturing Industries Workers Ordinance, 1985 restricts collective bargaining in the nationalised sector on certain issues like wages, leave, house rent, conveyance allowances, medical allowances, festival bonuses and provident funds. A number of Acts and Ordinances provide that the Industrial Relations Ordinance 1969 shall not apply to certain establishments.
Labour Movement (to 1947)
Prior to 1947, there were only a few industrial concerns in the eastern part of Bengal (Present day Bangladesh). These included about 25 tea gardens in Chittagong and Sylhet employing about 12,000 labourers, 6 cotton textile mills (four in Dhaka and one each in Kushtia and Khulna) employing about 10,000 workers. There were also some workers in Chittagong port. The tea-estate labourers were mainly recruited from aboriginal tribes of Chhotanagpur region. Others were mostly local people from both Hindu and Muslim communities.
The first signs of labour unrest were seen during the days of the khilafat and non-cooperation movements (1920-22). The striking tea-garden workers from Chargola Valley in Sylhet (Assam) left the gardens in an exodus. Men of the East Bengal Railways and Chandpur Steamer Services started sympathetic strikes in May 1921. Striking coolies, stranded at Chandpur, faced great hardships. But it was politically regarded as a great victory of the Bengal Non-cooperators. Finally in August 1921, at Gandhi’s request, the strike was called off. The unrest in Chittagong by Burma Oil Co workers in April-May 1921 under the leadership of JM Sengupta created quite a stir.
In 1927, the Dhakeswari Cotton Mills Workers’ Union was founded. But the union was weakened by a series of strikes called within four months of its formation. Due to the Great Depression the labour movement, however, slowed down. The communist activists were mainly behind the movement but the non-communists like the official Congress and anushilan samiti, backed by the management opposed the communists’ tactics of militancy and thus acted as a constraint on any long-drawn movement. The cotton workers’ strikes in 1937-40 may be regarded as the turning point of the movement both in frequency and intensity. Mention may be made of four strikes in Mohini Mills, Kusthia (Feb-May, 1937; July-September, 1937; August-October 1939 and February-April, 1940) and the strikes in the Dhakeswari Mills (July 1939 and January-February, 1940). The movement failed to generate steam. Naturally it had a demoralising effect on the Communist-dominated Workers’ Union and no further movement was on record up to 1947. The Wartime was a period of ‘uneasy calm’ in Dhaka. The immediate post-war years witnessed the revival of militant labour agitation leading to strikes in Acharya Prafulla Chandra Mill, Khulna (December 1945 – January 1946) and the four mills in Dhaka (February-May 1946).
Since 1942 the Chittagong tea garden workers were connected with the activities of the local Communist Party. They organised a few strikes around specific economic issues in the post-World War II period, with little success. With the partition, the Communist organisers, mostly Hindus, left for India. The immigrant tea-labourers of Chhotanagpur had no desire to go back to their place of origin. Left without leaders, the labour organisation became very weak. The workers of EB Railways were best organised and politically most conscious. But they were divided between nationalist and Communist dominated unions.
Trade Union Movement
The trade union movement organised activities of workers to improve their working conditions. In the early stage of industrial development when there were personal contacts between employers (master) and workers (employee), there was no need of any organisation to determine relations between the two. But under the modern factory system the personal touch is absent and the relations between the employer and the worker have come under strain. The conflict of interests between buyer and seller of labour power has become conspicuous and this has led to the rise of trade union movements throughout the world. The tradition of the parallel development of the nationalist and the trade union movement, which had originated in British India continued through the Pakistan period down to the birth of Bangladesh.
For the first time in India the Bombay Mill Hands Association was formed on 24 April 1890. This gave impetus to the trade union movement in British India. The establishment of ILO in 1919 provided a source of inspiration for the workers to organise themselves and shape their destiny. India’s membership of the same exerted great influence in the formation of a central organisation of workers called ‘All India Trade Union Congress’ (AITUC) in 1920 for the purpose of conducting and co-ordinating the activities of the labour organisations.
The period from 1924 to 1935 may be considered as the era of the revolutionary trade union movement. MN Roy, Muzaffer Ahmed, SA Dange and Shawkat Osmani led the trade union movements and as a result the political consciousness among industrial workers increased. To control the movement, the British government adopted ruthless measures (eg, Kanpore Conspiracy Case and Meerat Conspiracy Case) against the militant workers and trade union leaders, but no strategy could suppress the trade union movement; rather the colonial resistance invigorated the movement against the colonial power. Later, the trade union movement was closely linked with nationalist movements and the working class started vigorous struggle for emancipation from extreme repression and economic exploitation by the colonial regime.
At the time of Partition of Bengal (1947), most trade union leaders were Hindus and when they migrated to India, a void was created in leadership in the trade union movement of Pakistan, especially in its eastern wing. Moreover, the institutions to advance workers’ interests were mostly situated in areas outside Pakistan. There were barely 75 registered trade unions in the whole of Pakistan, compared to 1,987 in undivided India in 1946. Of this small number of trade unions, the larger share fell to West Pakistan, leaving only a very few for the eastern wing, where there were only 141 factories with 28,000 workers and 30 unions in all with a total of 20,000 members.
During the Pakistan period most trade union leaders held conflicting views and the trade unions were fragmented and weakened. As a result, the trade union movement met a setback and the trade union activities passed into the hands of petty bourgeoisie leadership. Moreover, the trade union movement in Pakistan was characterised by fragmentation of unions, prolonged strikes, retaliatory lockouts and picketing which sometimes led to violence.
As the trade union movement in Bangladesh originated in British India and Pakistan, it naturally retained its old character of working more as a nationalist force against colonial domination than as a class force vis-a-vis capitalist exploitation. As a result, the trade union movement of the region that had gained momentum in the hands of political leaders stood divided along the political and/or ideological lines in independent Bangladesh.
During this period, the trade union movement was marked by direct interference by the government and the ruling party in its internal affairs. In many industrial belts terrorism was let loose by the men of the labour front of the then ruling party and these tried to drive out the honest trade unionists from the leadership of the unions. Moreover, the barring of outsiders from trade union leadership at the basic union level made the process of union hijacking very easy and turned the workers into a very weak and defenceless community.
In the early 1980s, the military government of Bangladesh banned all trade union activities in the country. Then an alliance of the National Federation of Trade Unions (NFTUs) emerged in the name of SRAMIK KARMACHARI OIKYA PARISHAD (SKOP) to establish the democratic rights of workers as well as to fulfil their economic demands. Most NFTUs were in SKOP and since 1983, most trade union movements in Bangladesh have been organised under the leadership of SKOP.
The opportunism and lenient attitude of the trade union leaders including SKOP gave the ruling regimes a chance to disregard the agreements signed between the government and the trade union leaders. At present, the leaders of nineteen of the twenty three NFTUs are included in the SKOP. After its formation, SKOP submitted a 5-point charter of demands for establishing their democratic rights and higher wages through rallies, torch processions, demonstrations, strikes, hartals, blockades etc.
Ironically, SKOP failed to yield any tangible results for the working class people of the country. The effectiveness of the trade union movement under the leadership of SKOP gradually weakened because most SKOP leaders have political affiliations and therefore, cannot escape the influence of their respective political parties. Moreover, the lack of active support by the major political parties to SKOP’s programmes, excessive pressures on government by the private employers and donor agencies to disregard SKOP’s demands using repressive measures to disrupt the trade union movement, forcible occupation of unions, bribing of trade union leaders, opportunistic and compromising attitude of the union leadership rendered the SKOP demands ineffective. In fact, SKOP has become a moribund forum of the working class with little to offer to the country’s future trade union movements.
Health Care Issue:
For the workers of Bangladesh do not have separate health care facilities like separate hospital or health insurance for them. The proposed health policy for Bangladesh has recommended to have separate health care system for workers in Bangladesh. Only workers and employees in the government or private sector gets cash money at the fixed rate of Tk.150 and Tk.200 for medical care with their wages and salary every month. This is so meagre it does not help workers when they get sick. Moreover they do not know what to do where to go to get proper medical care.
At the primary level of sickness they usually go to any pharmacy to get some drugs. If they are not cured by the drugs given by salesman of drug store they go to any physician either homeopath or allopathic or kabiraj nearby. In many cases if sickness is serious in nature like cholera, pox, tuberculosis, heart diseases or any mental disorder some patients go to spiritual healers. When sickness gets complications they try to get admission in government hospitals. But the government hospitals are always crammed with excessive numbers of patient so without having connections it is difficult to get admission there.
If they are able to get admission to hospital they have to pay for medicine, pathological tests and other examinations done in private laboratories or clinics. In most cases these have to go to private hospitals; those are expensive. They have to sell their land and other assets (if they have any) to meet the expenses. Many of them who cannot afford such expenses have to die without having proper medical care. Health care is primarily provided by the government, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MHFW). Some multisectoral projects in various ministries having health, family planning, nutrition components are also under MHFW. There are also municipalities, municipal corporations, army, police and railway departments which have health programmes. Many NGO’S have also health and family planning programme. The Directorate of Labour has a wing for family planning and nutrition for workers.
There are several workers’ welfare centres run by the Ministry of Labour at different industrial estates to provide emergency medical care, but in reality workers do not get any medical care there. Usually workers also do not visit there for they think it is useless to go there. Doctors and welfare officers are supposed to be there but they hardly ever can be found. If they are at all available in these centres medicine and equipment are not there. There is no need to explain why proper health care is not only a basic right of a worker but also it helps increase productivity. It will reduce mortality rates and thereby enhance the life expectancy as well as improve the efficiency of labour. It will reduce working days lost for sickness. The workers are also in need of specialised health centres where occupational diseases can be cured.
A recent study on tannery workers at Hazaribag in Dhaka done by The Society for Environment and Human Development revealed that the average longevity of a worker is below 50 years. Almost 90 per cent of tannery workers die before they reach the age of 50 due to their unhygienic work environment and lack of proper medical care. About 58.10 per cent of workers suffer from ulcers, 31.28 per cent have high blood pressure and 10.61 per cent suffer with rheumatic fever. Assistant Director of Health Dr Mohammad Hassan Ali said industrial pollutants, liquid waste and leather dust are the main cause (reports published in Daily Star on 28 February 2000).
Similar cases are also those of jute and textile workers, who suffer from asthma and other breathing related-diseases from jute and cotton dust. Trade Unions of Bangladesh are always demanding separate health care systems — clinics, health centres and hospitals for workers. If a separate health care system can be developed it will reduce the pressure on public health services also. Furthermore these will expand the facilities of medical care in the country from generating their own resources. A pilot health insurance project for workers was conceived by German Technical Assistance (GTZ) an autonomous implementing agency of German government for project aid.
While I was catering at first I found that many of us were not very enthusiastic about this idea as it will not provide “cash money to build hospitals or buy ambulances.” The Bangladesh government had also no plan at that stage to have any workers’ health scheme. It took some time to realise the possibilities and future of this kind of health project. The Ministry of Labour and Human Resources had agreed to propose a pilot health insurance project to the German Government for their assistance. Even the Employers Associations’ attitude was positive to the proposed project.
After long consultations with workers representatives and employers, the Labour Ministry and GTZ had finally came out with a pilot project scheme The project was intended to start in the second half of 1998 and should cover in its initial phase at least five factories with at least 2,000 workers, predominantly women and their dependents, approximately 5,000 to 7,000 population. Building on positive experience gained, documented and disseminated and supported by the Employers’ Associations including the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association—BGMEA, a substantially wider participation of employers was expected to be achieved still with the first phase of the project.
The project will be jointly implemented by the Ministry of Labour with the involvement of related ministries, Employers Associations and Trade Unions. The idea was tri-partite approach. Provision for health services will be arranged according to their capability, with GOB, private sector or NGO service providers. Technical support will be provided by GTZ, Germany, based on jointly developed annual operational plans and with consideration of local capacity and contributions. But the project did not materialise as the German government finally did not approve the project. This project could have been a good beginning of a workers health scheme. Out of this project a comprehensive, larger health scheme could have developed, in the beginning covering industrial workers and later it could further cover informal sector workers.
A example can be cited here: news published in a Bengali newspaper about a garments industry is being in arrangement with a non-profit health organisation, Community Health Service, for health services for their workers. India and Pakistan also have health schemes for workers of industries and in organised sectors. On my recent visit to Pakistan and India I had experienced an impressive health care scheme for industrial workers in Punjab province of Pakistan while I was going on a study tour on Industrial Relations in Pakistan along with other trade union friends organised by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies. And this health scheme is funded by employers only. No contribution from the government. Only in initial period of the scheme the government provided infrastructure support.
The scheme is called the Employees’ Social Security Scheme and was introduced in Pakistan in 1967 under the provision of Provincial Employees Social Security Ordinance. Under this ordinance the Punjab Employees Social Security Institution came into being. The main objective of PESSI is to provide comprehensive medical cover to the secured workers for work-time injuries. Presently over 498,000 workers employed in more than 24,000 industrial and commercial establishments and more than 30 lakh (3,000,000) of their family members are receiving benefits from the scheme. It has 13 local and 14 sub-local offices to give service to workers. The main source of income of PESSI is the Social Security Contribution collected from the notified industries and commercial establishments at a rate of 7% of the wage paid to their workers who are drawing wages up to Rs.3000 per month. The workers once covered under this scheme remains secured even their wages exceed the ceiling of Rs.3000. But in those cases the percentage increase in Social Security Contributions against the wage exceeding the ceiling of Rs.3000 is not payable by the employer.
PESSI provides comprehensive medical cover to the workers and their family members including consultations, indoor and outdoor medical treatment, and emergency medical care. There are clinics for primary medical care for outdoor patients; small hospitals have beds for 30 to 50 patients. Large hospitals have more than 100 beds with specialists of medicine, surgery, gynaecology, TB, pathology, orthopaedics, radiology, cardiology, dentistry etc. Even high-tech medical care like cardiac surgery, dialysis centres are there. PESSI has 117 ambulances available at different hospitals and primary medical care centres. Every patient admitted to the hospitals is paid diet expenses at the rate of Rs.40 per day. The TB and cancer patients are paid a rate of Rs.50 per day. The scheme is administrated by a governing body comprise of employers, workers and government. India has also similar health schemes like Pakistan. The workers who earn RS.3000 or less are covered by this scheme.
It differs state to state about the coverage of scheme. Some states it is covered to all non-seasonal factories using power and employing 10 or more employees and factories not using power but employing 20 or more persons. Seasonal factories, mines and plantations are excluded from the coverage. The scheme provides seven types of coverage, maternity care, benefits for dependents, disablement assistance, funeral expenses and rehabilitation allowance. Except medical care, most of the others benefits are in cash. The ESI scheme is run by the ESI corporation, comprises representatives of the Central and State governments, the medical profession and the parliament.
A Medical Council advises the Corporation on all matters concerning medical care. Three categories of medical care are provided under the scheme: restricted medical care, expanded medical care and full medical care. All the insured persons are provided full medical benefits irrespective of whatever the required facilities in Government or other institutions. Family members get restricted or expanded medical care but not full medical care. The non-medical benefits are sickness, disablement and dependants’ benefit. These are paid in cash as compensation. The financing of the scheme is mainly through contributions from the employers and employees.
The Government of India does not make any contribution but the State governments share the cost of medical benefits to the extent of one-eighth of specified items of expenditure on such benefits. The employer contributes 4 percent of the wages and employees 1.5 percent to the scheme. The ESIS caters service only in organised industrial sectors, it does not provide health security to the large number of workers engaged in the informal sector. Furthermore, Indian labour leaders complain that the quality of service offered by the ESIS medical centres is poor.
As many as 32 central federations until now are registered. No central federation has such strength that they can launch a nationwide struggle independently. They do not have such organisational or financial resources either. Almost all political parties have a trade union. All these except a few trade unions, mostly depend on support and financial help from the political party. That is also a reason that the ruling party’s trade union centre has much more affiliated unions than others. When there is shift of government there will be a shift in affiliations also. The trade unions here also depend on support from International Trade Union Federations and Foundations. They get funds from International Trade Union Federations and Foundations for holding seminars, publications and other activities.
They get free passage to go abroad to attend seminars and meetings. Foreign visits are so frequent for some trade union leaders that they are almost preoccupied with arrangements for travel – procuring visas, preparing seminar papers and others and left hardly any time to do trade union work. This has become an important aspect of the trade union movement here. An example can be cited here, Jatiyo Sramik League, labour wing of Awamy League recently affiliated to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. Formerly it was with the former Soviet Union-led World Federation of Trade Unions.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and socialist states in Eastern Europe WFTU had lost its membership and resources and is now not in a position to offer free air tickets for foreign trips and hospitality in Hotel Metropole or Hotel Ukraine in Moscow to its affiliates in developing countries. Though AL chief Sheikh Hasina took a personal initiative in the beginning of eighties to get SL affiliated with WFTU, SL did lost no time to shift to ICFTU. Though there are mounting pressures for trade union unity from the workers, the trade union movement, initially set up as an extended hand of a political party, continues to function more or less as an extended hand of the political party of its affiliation.
Human society today stands at a level of development in which man has become the master of human beings. People have become victims of exploitation, oppression, torture and deprivation. However, in the hostility of human civilization, human beings were very supportive, cooperative and very close to each other. The society was a good shelter for all. But the evolution of time has created social classes in society. One class buys labor and the other sells labor. Those who sell labor are poor and those who buy labor are the owners of the means of production and the wealthiest. Social power, prestige and domination are all occupied by them. The powerful layer enforces laws, sets wages, sets the standard for crime and punishment. In all these cases the number of poor people in society is of no value to the opinion of the working class.
Human society is now doing whatever it pleases them to do, as the animal society is ‘insisting on its origin’ – that is, wealthy wealth owners, consuming more and more living a life of luxury. On the other hand, the working class is living twice in food. A few people have secured all their wealth. Whenever poor working people want to protest, this law has come along in the name of law, in the name of discipline, and sometimes with the help of religion. Much has happened and this time the change in production relations has become inevitable through social revolution.
There is no alternative for establishing a new society and an independent socialist society by abolishing the existing capitalist social system to protect the health of all people, including the working class, eliminating unemployment, poverty, social unrest. To end the plunder of capitalism, the state system, imperialism, we have to build a society where there is no human dominance over human beings. People will not exploit people. They will manage themselves. Non-state, non-capitalist socialist self-managed social system. All production systems will be owned by people of the society, including mills, factories and agricultural farms. There will be no volatility of personal ownership. The word employment will disappear forever. People will be completely free.
The Socialist Party – working with and for preparing people for changing existing society by organizing, educating and providing training. The society is working to establish a system where no unjust working period, no hierarchy, will be able to manage the entire production system, under mutual Aid.
We reprint below the response by Ukrainian Anti-Fascists and Communists to a 3 April letter of solidarity from Communists and and Anti-Fascists from the UK and elsewhere.
Below that we reproduce the joint letter itself. It was addressed to the Communist Party of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Borotba as a jointly signed letter by all those who have supported the Solidarity with the Fascist Resistance in the Ukraine campaign in London in recent years
It was initiated by the New Communist Party through the umbrella campaign , and endorsed by our international tendency, the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International (LCFI). Our British LCFI Section, the Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight, signed this, together with our sister British LCFI section, also currently known as Socialist Fight, as well as three overseas sections of the LCFI, from Brazil, Argentina and the United States. Also signing were the UK Posadist group.
It is a source of pride that our small currents stand out as those who have kept the flame of solidarity alive on this important political struggle against reaction in this period.
From: Редакция сайта “Вперед” Sent: 13 April 2020 06:02 To: New Worker Subject: Re: Solidarity with Ukrainian anti-fascists
We send solidarity greetings from the UK to all those living under a fascist-infested illegitimate government in Ukraine, defending and building the anti-fascist people’s republics in the Donbas, and to the hundreds of thousands forced into exile by political repression, attacks by fascist gangs and economic austerity.
Although we have had no recent Ukraine anti-fascist solidarity actions, we have by no means forgotten your struggle and the sacrifices you are making.
We were intending to begin organising another Ukraine anti-fascist solidarity protest in London in the near future, but unfortunately events in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic have overtaken us.
All of us have been working hard on other political issues, including helping to organise a very successful meeting attended by 400 people in central London on March 3rd which exposed the lies, tampered and falsified evidence being presented at the current MH17 trial in The Hague.
Ever since the February 22 2014 Ukraine coup we have been aware of the illiegal nature of that regime change, the open involvement of actual fascists in the government, police and armed forces, the complete suppression of democratic rights and freedoms in Ukraine, and the physical attacks on political parties, trade unions and even the courts.
We have not forgotten the heinous crime at the Odessa Trade Union House on 2nd May 2014 and the many other outrages perpetrated by the fascist bands, and we have not forgotten the criminal, barbaric ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ launched in April 2014, unleashing all-out war against civilian anti-fascist protestors in Donetsk and Lugansk.
We know that the fighters of the people’s Donbas and Lugansk People’s Militias are making daily sacrifices in the front-line trenches, and that civilians – women and men, children and the elderly – are being killed and injured every day in attacks by the Ukraine armed forces and the fascist brigades.
In our solidarity work for the anti-fascists in Ukraine we are also faced with confronting the lies and whipped up hysteria against the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin, which have continued for almost a decade.
We have no illusions about the capitalist, oligargic nature of the Russian Federation, but we reject the attempts to portray it as totally undemocratic, and we call for an end to the trade sanctions the constant western interference designed to economic instability and provoke protests. And this coming from governments which kiss the feet of the reactionary fuedal monarchs of the Middle East, and instigate coups and regime change from Brazil and Bolivia to Hong Kong.
Above all we are aware of the vital support given by the Russian Federation to the Donbas people’s republics, the generous hospitality extended to large numbers of Ukrainian exiles, and its open condemnation of the fascists in Ukraine.
We also applaud the the sacrifices made by the Russian volunteer fighters in the Donbas, by the Russian Federation’s armed forces to defend the popular front government in Syria, and the strong support the Russian Federation has extended to Cuba and Venezuela.
This anti-Russian hysteria has created a poisonous atmosphere in which anyone challenging the lies and false flag operations of of US-EU-NATO imperialism risks being labelled as a Russian asset, in a repeat of the anti-communiist witch-hunts of the 1950s.
Unfortunately many progressives, social democrats, trade unionists, and even the anti-fascist and anti-racist organisations on Britain, have fallen for this demonisation, even though it is clearly a repeat of the lies and fake news used against Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gadaffi and Hafez al Assad. This has prevented them from even discussing the most dangerous revival of fascism in the whole of Europe.
Once again we renew our support and solidarity with your organisations, which will continue as long as it takes until democracy has been restored throughout Ukraine, and communists, socialists and anti-fascists are allowed to operate freely again.
Andy Brooks New Communist Party of Britain
Ian Donovan Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight
Gerry Downing Socialist Fight
Bridget Dunne Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU)
We reproduce excerpts from the first conversation between comrade Humberto Rodrigues (FCT-Brasil) and Frank Fitzmaurice (SF-Great Britain) on 02/09/2017. Frank passed away on April 7, 2020. In the expression above, which headlines this piece, Frank summarizes the turn that affected the International Workers League, an international current of which the PSTU is the Brazilian section. The conversation also addresses the WRP, ISL, Nahuel Moreno, “democratic revolutions” in Libya and Syria, …
This is also published in Portuguese by our Brazilian comrades here
Humberto Rodrigues: Hi Comrade.
Frank Fitzmaurice: Hello Humberto.
Humberto Rodrigues: For a long time, I want to talk to you, we need to strengthen our bonds of friendship. Forgive me for my confused use of the English language.
Frank Fitzmaurice: Your English is fine. How are you? A lot better than my Portuguese, which is non-existent.
Humberto Rodrigues: No problem. What is your political origin?
Frank Fitzmaurice: I was in the WRP with Gerry [Downing, head of Socialist Fight]. After we expelled Healy, our group started talks with the LIT [International Workers League] and joined that organization in 1988 and became the English section, the ISL [International Socialist League, in Portuguese]. [After 2011] Some of us left after disagreements over the policy on Libya.
Humberto Rodrigues: Very progressive the rupture of you. It is truly a dialectical rupture. While the LIT followed a path, you went the opposite way.
Frank Fitzmaurice: It was more the way the debate was handled in our branch. Would have stayed in but could not debate properly
Humberto Rodrigues: Why?
Frank Fitzmaurice: Think the LIT has regressed really badly. Don’t think they got over the death of Moreno
Our branch was suffering because our leader, Bill Hunter was getting very old, in his nineties, and his faculties were declining, so differences came out.
Humberto Rodrigues: Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Brazil, … in all these countries, the LIT supported the policy of imperialism. In all the LIT supported the coup against the bourgeois ruler who was pro-BRICS.
Frank Fitzmaurice: they have fallen off a cliff.
Humberto Rodrigues: In my view, I believe that support for the “democratic counterrevolution” against the “Stalinist dictatorships” in the USSR and Eastern Europe had already pointed out the morenismo in favor of a pro-imperialist policy, but what happened after the crisis of 2008 was amazing. Stalinophobia of the 1980s and 1990s became “dictatorophobia” that followed the democratic public opinion of imperialism.
Frank Fitzmaurice: Yes, Bill [Hunter] wrote some good stuff against this view of “democratic revolutions”. We joined because we thought that their split with Unified Secretariat was based on principles and we liked Moreno’s anti- guerillaist platform. Above all, we agreed that we should join organizations in struggle and not be afraid to be in a minority.
Humberto Rodrigues: Undoubtedly, in the 1980s, Morenism was more progressive than Mandelism (and the USFI’s capitulations to foquismo, social democracy and, finally, Perestroika). But, from 1989 to 1991, Morenism evolved to increasingly pro-imperialist positions. Like supporting UN blue helmets in the Balkans.
Frank Fitzmaurice: Yes “an ultra-left pro-imperialist twist” sums them up. We gradually came to realise that the discussion had become one way. They sent some very good comrades over in the early days.
Humberto Rodrigues: Good. But, in any case, I consider it a non-materialistic stupidity to believe that the blame for any degeneration after Nahuel Moreno is to be attributed to NM and to his legacy. There was, without doubt, a leap in quality in the LIT program, particularly from Libya.
Frank Fitzmaurice: If Moreno had lived things may have turned out differently. We put into practice going into movements and we learned a lot and it certainly developed us.
Humberto Rodrigues: To assert that LIT’s current policy is NM’s fault is a spirited conception, of Allan Kardec and not of Karl Marx.
Frank Fitzmaurice: Yes there was a further degeneration, could not be blamed on Moreno
Will try to send some of Bill Hunters stuff to you, think you will like it.
Humberto Rodrigues: Okay … In Brazil, the PSTU lost more than half of its militants for supporting the coup against the PT.
Frank Fitzmaurice: That is a qualitative degeneration. The developement of the capitalist crisis, especially since the crash of 2008 has thrown all the left into turmoil. The LIT are by no means alone in giving in to the humanitarian interventionalism, in fact the majority have.
Humberto Rodrigues: Yes. I agree.
Frank Fitzmaurice: Off to bed now. Will write something for you tomorrow on that. Goodnight
We are sorry to announce the passing of Frank Fitzmaurice, a member of Socialist Fight and the LCFI, and formerly part of the originally pro-Moreno International Socialist League in Liverpool, a component of which fused with the old Socialist Fight in 2018. This grouping, of which Frank was a part, had its roots in the old Workers Revolutionary Party, and the grouping which Frank led was one of those that struggled out of that appallingly deformed organisation and attempted to re-found an authentic Trotskyist and Bolshevik tradition. We hope to publish more on Frank in due course but right now we express our condolences to all his family, friends and also all fellow comrades.
On 4th April the result of the Labour Party leadership election was announced and true to form and the prediction of the bourgeois press, Sir Keir Starmer was announced as the new leader of the opposition. Starmer, the establishment stooge, has hammered the final nail into the coffin of the Corbyn project.
Corbyn’s leadership success in 2015 paved the way for the Labour Party to be dragged, albeit kicking and screaming, from the Blairites and over to the left of the political spectrum. The Party attracted a membership of over 560,000, making it the largest political party in Western Europe. These members brought in both class consciousness and hope of reform of the bourgeois political system in the interests of ‘the many, not the few’, which at one point seemed to promise real change. The political landscape in Britain had and still has changed, despite those hopes within the Labour Party being snuffed out by the bureaucratic layer at the top and within the trade unions, protecting ruling class interests. This hope suffered terminal damage with the devastation of the general election defeat in December 2019.
Corbyn’s capitulation to the Zionist smears by constantly apologising and throwing principled anti-racist comrades under the bus on spurious accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’, the adoption of the IHRA, and the treachery of Lansman, Hodge et al, doomed the Corbyn project. It exposed him as unprincipled and weak and was a major factor (amongst others) in Labour’s disastrous general election result.
A Neoliberal Stooge
The general election defeat was a major blow to the left, and it has left many members and voters completely disillusioned and looking for a new political home. Many of these people are left in the wilderness and considering their Labour Party allegiance, as the natural establishment heir to the throne emerges to be crowned. Starmer, a Knight of the Realm, was involved in the 2016 ‘chicken coup’ attempt to oust Corbyn. His establishment credentials include being in the role of Director of Public Prosecutions during the period (2003-2009) when infiltration of environmental and leftist groups was being carried out by the state, and in 2011 when a trial of environmental activists collapsed due to the CPS (of which he was the Head of and was present in court) covering up vital evidence.
He has been responsible for overseeing the criminal activity of his imperialist paymasters, including in 2012, when he announced that MI5 and MI6 agents would not face charges of torture and extraordinary rendition during the Iraq war, concluding that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. As an MP, he voted against an investigation into the Iraq war. He also fast tracked the extradition of Julian Assange, who as part of Wikileaks exposed imperialist crimes against the people of Iraq. He disregarded legal precedents by advising Swedish lawyers not to question Assange in the UK, and in so doing prolonged Assange’s legal purgatory, denied closure to his accusers in Sweden, and essentially ensured Assange would face the threat of extradition to a show trial in the US.
Starmer’s crowning is just a continuation of protecting the establishment under the pretext of being the leader of the ‘opposition’ in a ‘socialist’ party. His immediate olive branch to Johnson to work together in a ‘time of national crisis’ obfuscates his real purpose. Starmer immediately signed up to the Board of Deputies of British Jews’ 10 demands and declared his sympathy for Zionism. In February of this year he told the Jewish News that “I support Zionism without qualification.” He declared in his victory speech, “Anti-Semitism has been a stain on our party” vowing to “tear out this poison by its roots.”
This is code for a purge of the left, of anti-racist campaigners and pro-Palestinian activists and supporters, on the basis of the far-right, Goebellsian blood libel that to condemn the racism of Zionism and the Israeli state is in some way a racialised attack on Jews. In fact Labour is now dominated by anti-Arab, Zionist racism and under Starmer’s leadership and the dictatorship of the IHRA fake-definition, should be considered an anti-Arab, racist party.
At all points of his career Starmer has put his ‘left credentials’ to use to ensure that the bourgeois state is protected at all costs, such as: altering legal guidelines so that those improperly claiming benefits could be charged under the Fraud Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years; removing the financial threshold for such cases, allowing the government to waste endless resources arresting and incarcerating people who had claimed minimal amounts of money; drawing up rules that gave police officers more power to arrest demonstrators, including vague guidelines allowing scarfs to be classed as ‘masks’ and placards classed as ‘weapons’; being found by a Parliamentary Select Committee to have restricted the scope of the tabloid phone hacking investigation; and having abstained on the Tory Welfare Bill in 2015, which introduced a series of drastic cuts to social spending that disproportionately affected women, children and the disabled.
He replaced ‘leftists’ Barry Gardiner and Ian Lavery and brought the likes of Rachel Reeves into the Shadow Cabinet. The same Reeves, who in 2013 as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, claimed that “Labour will be tougher than the Tories on benefits” and earlier as a Blairite minister called for the eviction of the unemployed from council housing. Expecting these careerists to have any sympathy with the working class in the current economic crash would be like inviting a fox into a hen house and hoping it will behave itself.
Tactics and Strategy Toward the Labour left
For all the crowing of the right wing, the fact is that Keir Starmer has a much flimsier mandate as Labour leader than Corbyn had in 2015 and 2016. His supporters claim he has 56% of the vote, whereas in both earlier leadership contests, Corbyn received just shy of two thirds. Equally importantly, more Labour members did not vote at all in the 2020 leadership election than voted for Starmer. This has created a situation where a Scottish socialist, Sandy McBurney, who is often quite close to our comrades in terms of tactical understanding of the nuances of the Labour Party and its politics, projected:
“I think a future split of the Labour left is very much on the horizon. Sir Keir will be expelling many on the left and anyone who tries to organise against the expulsions. So we will have de facto an organisation that is mainly outside the Labour Party. Will our perspective just be to try to get back in? Or will it be trying to build a socialist current that stands for a mass socialist party and that calls a spade a spade i.e. that the Labour Party is led by an anti-socialist and the PLP is dominated by anti-working-class servants of capital. Look what has happened to social democracy in Europe? Should socialists be fighting to be in the French Italian, German or Spanish social democratic parties?
“Obviously not. Take the blinkers off. It is highly unlikely that the left will ever win over the Labour Party to socialism. Things are a lot later and have moved on from that. The Labour right and the capitalist class has shown it won’t accept even a mild left leadership of the LP. Are we not going to learn from that? A socialist takeover of the Labour Party is now ruled out. The right won’t make the same mistake again. But you can be sure that the Labour right is going to expel those socialists who won’t kowtow to their anti-working-class politics. They will try to integrate some as long as they keep their mouths shut but the right is out to purge the hard left with slanders about antisemitism etc.”
This has to be the tactical approach of Marxists to the radicalised and alienated, and quite massive Labour left, of maybe 200-250,000 militants or so. We need a lifeboat, an organising centre for the creation of a genuinely anti-capitalist, anti-Zionist mass workers party, and revolutionaries need to be sharpening up their programmatic approach to create a bridge between the alienated, but still to a very large degree left-reformist consciousness of this advanced layer, and the objective need for a revolutionary anti-capitalism, i.e. the programme of socialist revolution. This may involve blocs with principled left socialists of reformist or centrist consciousness, such as Chris Williamson and others, but our overall aim as revolutionaries must be to fight for a revolutionary programme among these vitally important vanguard layers of working class and allied militants.
The British road to socialism through the bourgeois parliamentary system is an illusion. The capitalist class will use all bureaucratic means necessary to frustrate, divert energy, and where necessary corrupt means with the support with their lackeys in the capitalist press to prevent any real change in the interests of workers. Crumbs will be given piecemeal here and there, some minor reforms, some concessions, but nothing substantial, to ensure that the working class are kept subdued and the protection of capital in the hands of the ruling class is kept in place.
The Labour Party has a track record of leading workers down a dead end and some of the most terrible of British imperialist crimes have happened during times of having a Labour government in power. However, the Tories response to the current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that the ruling class fear the class consciousness again developing within the masses. The majority now understand the importance of cleaners, nurses, delivery drivers, supermarket and factory workers and not the CEOs of large corporations that are now squealing to be bailed out.
The likes of Branson, the multi billionaire who evades taxes living on his own island, requesting government assistance while he lays off his workers is causing resentment amongst the masses, who now see the stinking hypocrisy very clearly. To placate the majority, financial promises and concessions have been made by Johnson and his Chancellor. The ruling class fear people on the streets as they have seen in France, the emergency powers rushed through Parliament, which were supported by Labour, show this.
If they believe that another round of austerity will solve the financial hole that they have now dug themselves into they are sorely mistaken. The genie will not go back into the bottle. The crisis has shown neoliberal economics has to be pulled out by its roots and the trunk and branches of capitalist system completely destroyed for humanity to have any chance of survival, and to realise its true potential to live in a more just and equal world; a world where capitalist class dictatorship is overcome and replaced with the class dictatorship of the working class and the oppressed, the great majority of humanity, as a bridge to a rational, sustainable and egalitarian world order, or world socialism to put it straightforwardly.
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