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voice of anti-capitalismThe truth is out: money is just an IOU, and the banks are rolling in it

David Graeber, theguardian.com
Back in the 1930s, Henry Ford is supposed to have remarked that it was a good thing that most Americans didn’t know how banking really works, because if they did, “there’d be a revolution before tomorrow morning”.

Last week, something remarkable happened. The Bank of England let the cat out of the bag. In a paper called “Money Creation in the Modern Economy“, co-authored by three economists from the Bank’s Monetary Analysis Directorate, they stated outright that most common assumptions of how banking works are simply wrong, and that the kind of populist, heterodox positions more ordinarily associated with groups such as Occupy Wall Street are correct. In doing so, they have effectively thrown the entire theoretical basis for austerity out of the window.– moneyTo get a sense of how radical the Bank’s new position is, consider the conventional view, which continues to be the basis of all respectable debate on public policy. People put their money in banks. Banks then lend that money out at interest – either to consumers, or to entrepreneurs willing to invest it in some profitable enterprise. True, the fractional reserve system does allow banks to lend out considerably more than they hold in reserve, and true, if savings don’t suffice, private banks can seek to borrow more from the central bank.

The central bank can print as much money as it wishes. But it is also careful not to print too much. In fact, we are often told this is why independent central banks exist in the first place. If governments could print money themselves, they would surely put out too much of it, and the resulting inflation would throw the economy into chaos. Institutions such as the Bank of England or US Federal Reserve were created to carefully regulate the money supply to prevent inflation. This is why they are forbidden to directly fund the government, say, by buying treasury bonds, but instead fund private economic activity that the government merely taxes.

It’s this understanding that allows us to continue to talk about money as if it were a limited resource like bauxite or petroleum, to say “there’s just not enough money” to fund social programmes, to speak of the immorality of government debt or of public spending “crowding out” the private sector. What the Bank of England admitted this week is that none of this is really true. To quote from its own initial summary: “Rather than banks receiving deposits when households save and then lending them out, bank lending creates deposits” … “In normal times, the central bank does not fix the amount of money in circulation, nor is central bank money ‘multiplied up’ into more loans and deposits.”

In other words, everything we know is not just wrong – it’s backwards. When banks make loans, they create money. This is because money is really just an IOU. The role of the central bank is to preside over a legal order that effectively grants banks the exclusive right to create IOUs of a certain kind, ones that the government will recognise as legal tender by its willingness to accept them in payment of taxes. There’s really no limit on how much banks could create, provided they can find someone willing to borrow it. They will never get caught short, for the simple reason that borrowers do not, generally speaking, take the cash and put it under their mattresses; ultimately, any money a bank loans out will just end up back in some bank again. So for the banking system as a whole, every loan just becomes another deposit. What’s more, insofar as banks do need to acquire funds from the central bank, they can borrow as much as they like; all the latter really does is set the rate of interest, the cost of money, not its quantity. Since the beginning of the recession, the US and British central banks have reduced that cost to almost nothing. In fact, with “quantitative easing” they’ve been effectively pumping as much money as they can into the banks, without producing any inflationary effects.

What this means is that the real limit on the amount of money in circulation is not how much the central bank is willing to lend, but how much government, firms, and ordinary citizens, are willing to borrow. Government spending is the main driver in all this (and the paper does admit, if you read it carefully, that the central bank does fund the government after all). So there’s no question of public spending “crowding out” private investment. It’s exactly the opposite.

Why did the Bank of England suddenly admit all this? Well, one reason is because it’s obviously true. The Bank’s job is to actually run the system, and of late, the system has not been running especially well. It’s possible that it decided that maintaining the fantasy-land version of economics that has proved so convenient to the rich is simply a luxury it can no longer afford.

But politically, this is taking an enormous risk. Just consider what might happen if mortgage holders realised the money the bank lent them is not, really, the life savings of some thrifty pensioner, but something the bank just whisked into existence through its possession of a magic wand which we, the public, handed over to it.

Historically, the Bank of England has tended to be a bellwether, staking out seeming radical positions that ultimately become new orthodoxies. If that’s what’s happening here, we might soon be in a position to learn if Henry Ford was right.Enemy Is Profit

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voice of anti-capitalismThe sigh of the oppressed

Gerry Downing, Socialist Fight Group
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

Gerry Downing looks at the origins of monotheism and assesses the attitude of communists towards believers

Abraham Leon’s book The Jewish question: a Marxist analysis has the following to say about the Jewish religion: “Whereas catholicism expresses the interests of the landed nobility and of the feudal order, while Calvinism (or Puritanism) represents those of the bourgeoisie or capitalism, Judaism mirrors the interests of a pre-capitalist mercantile class.”

Leon quotes Marx approvingly from On the Jewish question: “We must not start with religion in order to explain Jewish history; on the contrary the preservation of the Jewish religion or nationality can be explained only by the ‘real Jew’, that is to say by the Jew in his economic and social role.”

The view that the ‘ancient Hebrews’, which refers in the first place to Abraham’s tribe of nomadic sheep-herders, believed in one abstract, invisible god is incorrect. This is mythology, which projects modern values and ideas onto an ancient society to prove some linear continuity. In fact ideas of a deity and religious beliefs have changed out of all recognition since 1900 BC.

Abraham’s nomadic Hebrews settled in a small part of Canaan about 1900 BC and remained semi-nomadic. Their chief god was El. Yahweh (Jehovah) was the god of the Canaanites. Later historical revisions ignored El and gave Yahweh as the only god of the Israelites. In fact during the time of the two kingdoms Yahweh was the northern god and El the southern god. They had no idea of a single god and such an idea did not exist in the planet at the time. The religion of Abraham was polytheism, not monotheism.

The religion of Moses
The religion of Moses was more advanced and did not advocated constant warfare to destroy the gods of other tribes, as long as they did not interfere with Yahweh’s domain. It was the development of a municipal god to replace and include Abraham’s tribal gods. The Hebrews had left the land of Canaan because of famine and came into closer contact with the more advanced culture of the Nile. There is no historical evidence that they ever settled in Egypt. In fact the historical record for the reign of Ramesses II is well nigh complete and there is no mention of any major exodus of slaves from the kingdom.

They did not assimilate into this culture because their nomadic animal husbandry would not allow it. The Bible tale that Moses was raised as an Egyptian nobleman because he was found floating in a basket in the Nile by Pharaoh’s daughter is probably simply a means of saying that the leaders of the Hebrews adopted some of their religious views from the Egyptians.

Where did the religion of the Egyptians come from? There is a quote from Marx that explains: “The necessity for predicting the rise and fall of the Nile created Egyptian astronomy, and with it the domination of the priests as directors of agriculture.” [1] God made himself known to Moses not from the burning bush or from the posterior of Yahweh, but from the social necessity of the Egyptian peasants to know when the Nile would flood so they could regulate their seasonal activity of sowing and harvesting. And only the priests knew that. The peasants had no idea how they knew this and the priests were not going to tell them because knowledge was indeed power. So the ignorant peasants readily believed that the priests were passing on the knowledge of when this was to happen because only god could know that and the priests must therefore be his representatives. The pharaoh was a god because he was the chief priest who knew everything, although there quickly arose a certain, often ill-defined, separation between religious and secular rule. This was not simply a conscious con trick, but a social necessity.

Whilst the Israelites lived in Egypt, the pharaoh Akhenaton had attempted to impose an early form of monotheism in the form of worship of the sun god, Aton, but the society reverted to their traditional gods on his death, and he himself had insisted on remaining a god. The advance to a multi-people empire and towards monotheism was thwarted for that time and the city built by Akhenaton in honour of the new god fell into ruins after his death. But the time for these ideas had arrived and was bound to circulate in an advanced culture like Egypt.

Moses supposedly created the Arc of the Covenant at Mount Sinai, where the god of Israel dwelt after the exodus. True, he was only visible as a sunburst, but, as he lived in that wooden box, he was remarkable small and not very abstract. Moses developed a primitive form of monotheism, dispensing with the multitude of lesser gods like the golden calf, in his own society and for his people alone. Yahweh was, after all, only the god of Israel. The religion of Moses was inspired by Egyptian culture, but retained the old Hebrew tribal deity. In fact the majority of the ‘Israelites’ who departed in the exodus may have been Egyptians.

Moses elaborated the Ten Commandments as new precepts to form the legal basis of a settled and more peaceful community. It was not a religion of one god overseeing all the peoples of the world onto whom humanity projected their idealised selves. It was a halfway house that had not yet developed the notion of one god for everybody. They just did not consider such a state possible because it was not possible at that stage. It was the later rise of great multi-people empires that posed this question.

Paul Lafargue
Over a hundred years ago, Paul Lafargue, explained the evolution of the belief in one god thus: “The idea of god, planted and germinated in the human brain by the unknown elements of the natural environment and the social environment, is not something invariable: it varies on the contrary according to time and place; it evolves in proportion, as the mode of production develops, transforming the social environment.

“God, for the Greeks, the Romans and other ancient peoples, had his dwelling in a given spot and existed only to be useful to his adorers and hurtful to their enemies; each family had its private gods, the spirit of deified ancestors, and each city had its municipal or state god. The municipal god or goddess dwelt in the temple consecrated to him or her and was incorporated into the image which often was a block of wood or a stone; he or she was interested in the fate of the inhabitants of the city, of these alone. The ancestral gods concerned themselves only with family affairs. The Jehovah of the Bible was a god of this kind; he lodged in a wooden box called the Arc of the Covenant; which was carried along when the tribes changed their location; they put it at the head of the army, that Jehovah might fight for his people; if he chastised them cruelly for their infractions of his law, he also rendered them many services, as the Old testament reports.

The Greeks and Romans, like the Jews and the first christians, had no thought of their god being the only god of creation: the Jews believed in Moloch, Baal and other gods of the nations with which they warred as firmly as in Jehovah “¦ The municipal divinities, which belonged to the warlike cities of antiquity, always at strife with neighbouring peoples, could not answer the religious needs which mercantile production created in the bourgeois democracies of the commercial and industrial cities, obliged on the contrary to maintain pacific relations with the surrounding nations. The necessities of commerce and industry forced the new-born bourgeoisie to de-municipalise the city divinities and create cosmopolitan gods “¦ These new divinities, Isis, Demeter, Dionysos, Mithra, Jesus, etc “¦ still took on a human form, though the need was beginning to be felt for a supreme being which should not be anthropomorphic; but it is not until the capitalist epoch that the idea of an amorphous god has imposed itself, as a consequence of the impersonal form taken on by the property of corporations.”

Lafargue here clearly spells out the reasons for the rise and development of monotheism: commercial necessity to trade peacefully. This had superseded the previous necessity, which was to advance by capturing your neighbour’s territory by war. Notions of god and versions of monotheism continued to be developed from the ancient primitive municipal monotheism of middle antiquity to the sophisticated supreme being of the French Revolution and Hegel’s ‘absolute idea’, as humanity’s productive forces gave rise to new social necessities.

Trade routes
Look at any map of trade routes from antiquity to the modern epoch. Almost all show major routes through or near the ancient land of Palestine. It was the land of the Canaanites, a great trading people. The invading Philistines (who gave their name to Palestine) took on much of the culture of the Canaanites, like the Israelites. They invented an alphabet because they needed to tally and record their trading activities, so the ship’s captain and crew would not rip them off.

The Israelites learned to write from the Philistines (presumably between wars). So it is easy to understand that the record of what happened to the Hebrews from Abraham to Moses is second-hand and written to suit the politics of a later epoch. From 1100 to 539 BC the Phoenicians – the name given to the northern Canaanites by the Greeks – traded and settled the Mediterranean lands, just as the Jews did later and for the same reason: location and opportunity. It is entirely unremarkable that the Jews followed and developed this long tradition.

It is part of the mythology of Judaism, developed by the Zionists, that a nomadic tribe could have been culturally more advanced than the Canaanites because of their monotheism. The archaeological dig at Hazor, northern Israel (1955-58) settled all these arguments against the fundamentalists. Modern dating techniques enabled the archaeologists to outline a precise chronology. In the 13th century BC Joshua led the Israelite hosts which defeated Jabin’s city of Hazor (the biblical account that places the battle later under judge Deborah’s leadership was proved incorrect) and burned it to the ground. “Then, in a very long processes, some of those sites began to be resettled by the still nomadic Israelites, who slowly but surely turned the settlements into proper cities, particularly from the time of the Kings onward.”

Further excavations discovered a foundation deposit, which consisted of a jug containing a figurine of a war deity. This was immediately prior to the rebuilding of the city by Solomon soon after 1000 BC. This is a classic example of a more advanced people being conquered by a primitive but more warlike people, who then assimilated the religious culture and customs of the defeated people over a period. They adopted some of their gods like Baal and Hastoret.

The kingdom of the House of David arose around 1000 BC. Yossi Swartz wrote: “The priests of the kingdom tried, according to the records in the Old testament, but without much success, to enforce the belief in one god, Yahweh. How could these priests enforce the god who resided in Jerusalem, on the people of a village who believed that they must serve their local god who does not have to travel far to punish them?”

Following the return of the Israelites to the land of Canaan the next great learning experience was the defeat of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar and the exile of the ruling class to Babylon. There they learned the most advanced trading practices from the most advanced civilisation of the age, the Babylonians. Here the most important Talmud was written which laid down the religious, social and political norms to enable a trading and money-based ruling elite to function without continual inner conflicts.

Yossi Swartz explains: “The defeat of Israel by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC led to the assimilation of the Israelite peasants into other nations, and hence the legend of the 10 lost tribes. Two hundred years later the Babylonians destroyed the kingdom of Judah and the Jewish aristocracy was exiled to Babylon. During the Persian empire established by Cyrus, this aristocracy was sent back to Palestine as political agents of the empire.”

Modern Jewish culture
This was the real beginning of modern Jewish culture. During the Babylonians exile the prophet, called Isaiah the Second because of similarities with the first Isaiah, elaborated the modern Jewish god. His monotheism was universal and not held in by national boundaries. The old God of Israel was a sunburst in a wooden box, which the Philistines were able to capture. The new God of Israel had become too widely travelled and too ambitious to be confined in a small land, let alone in a wooden box. He had to be made suitable for a far-flung trading people, most of whom now lived in the diaspora. However, despite this development, elements of the exclusive ideas that went back to Abraham’s Yahweh survive to this day and have re-emerged over the centuries whenever the Jews found themselves embattled.

The ready acceptance of the new monotheism proved that its time had come. Cyrus, the victorious Persian king, defeated and subjugated all the mercantile trading rivals of the Jews (the Philistines and Phoenicians/Canaanites) and they now seized control of the trade routes as his agents and then spread throughout the territory of successive imperial powers as traders and merchants. Martin Gilbert’s Jewish history atlas gives us a picture of what the next period was like. His maps show growth of the diaspora (500 BC to 100 AD).

The Jews, he says, “moved about freely as traders” and “established flourishing communities” under the protection of the Greek and Carthaginian empires all along the coasts of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, Gilbert writes. The Sinai frontier, near the ancient land of Goshen, the home of Jacob, Joseph and Moses, was repopulated by the pharaoh with 30,000 Jews in 270 BC, the origins of the large Alexandrian Jewish community.

The Jewish risings against Roman rule paint a very different picture than the standard Zionist one. The Jews revolted against Rome in Judea twice, in 66-73 AD under the leadership of the Zealots, and Bar Kochba in 132-35 AD. However, they rose up also in Cyrenaica (the land around modern Benghazi in Libya), in Syne on the Middle Nile, in the entire delta of the Nile, in Cyprus and in Mesopotamia (all between 115 and 117 AD), according to Gilbert’s map.

Contrary to Zionist myths, the brutal suppression of the Bar Kochba revolt by the Roman general, Hadrian, was not the origin of the diaspora. That was the trading lifestyle of the ancient Jews and the far earlier conquests explained above.

The bulk of world Jewry was already far from home. The war between the Romans and the Jews was a clash of cultures, which reflected conflicting economic interests. Basically Rome was subduing the Mediterranean lands to extract tributes to feed the ever growing parasitic nobility and restless plebeian masses at home and they wished to appropriate the money that flowed from the activities of Jewish traders and cash-crop farmers.

Universal monotheism
Bruno Bauer’s theses are by far the most logical on the history and origins of early christianity. According to Bauer, christianity was first postulated by the Alexandrian Jew, Philo Judea, and developed by the Roman Stoic philosopher, Seneca.

Its fundamental tenets were: “the inborn sinfulness of man; the logos, the word, which is with god and is god and which becomes the mediator between god and man; atonement not by sacrifice but by bringing one’s own heart to god; and finally the essential feature that the new religious philosophy reverses the previous world order, seeks its disciples amongst the poor, the miserable, the slaves and the rejected and despises the rich, the powerful and the privileged – whence the precept to despise all worldly pleasure and to mortify the fresh “¦ And, as we see, we need only the keystone and we have the whole of christianity in its basic features: the incarnation of the word becomes man in a definite person and his sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of sinful mankind.”

In 313 AD the Roman emperor, Constantine, chose this religion above two others. It had been modified since its development 300 years before from a primitive redistributive consumer communism of the poor Jews of the Roman empire to one that could suit the needs of Rome. Constantine found he could easily adapt christianity to the pressing need to have a unifying ideology to bind together and oppress a far-flung multi-people empire.

This new christian religion excluded all other gods and forbade its followers from believing in them. As part of the dialectic of history christianity also hailed the fall of the world of antiquity as a victory of the spirit over the flesh and the just reward for corruption. It became the ideology for spreading the new empires that emerged out of the dark ages at the end of the first millennium.

A will o’ the wisp
You will note that in the search for the origins of a universal monotheism we are constantly frustrated by the realisation that every form of monotheism we examine is not really monotheism at all. Right up to Constantine’s adoption of christianity all religions acknowledged and believed in other people’s gods, as well as adoring and obeying their own (as interpreted by a privileged priesthood).

Even christianity is not really a universal monotheism. There is the doctrine of the trinity – three gods in one, and one god in three – although believers were bound to acknowledge under pain of the inquisition that each of these ‘persons’ was individually god. And then there was the anthropomorphic belief in Jesus Christ as god, made man, made god again; and all the saints, who are sort of minor gods (leaving aside how we may rationalise or adore the Virgin Mary) the faithful may worship if they choose. In fact there is a logical argument that the only real monotheistic religion is islam and that must surely explain its remarkably progressive nature from the 7th to the 15th century.

Contemporaneously with the religious wars in Europe in the 17th century, deism – a new form of monotheism that was more genuinely and rationally universal – developed. This rejected all religious practices associated with formal religion (which they blamed for Europe’s devastation) and ascribed to the supreme being the role of creator and initiator of motion. This was the divine watchmaker theory. Miracles – the fundamental method used by all religions to get the believer to suspend their critical, logical judgement – were rejected. The English philosopher, Anthony Collins (1676-1729), was the chief theorist of this school. Abraham Lincoln was a deist.

The Irish philosopher, John Toland, was the first to coin the term ‘pantheism’ in 1705 to describe the new logical religion. There was a long line of antecedents who had developed this idea. Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant and Hegel were ideological pantheists, as were several of the romantic poets.

However, having achieved its highest development, monotheism also signalled its logical downfall. Learned opinion speculated that Collins and Toland were covert atheists, as well they might. Because to a materialist philosopher like Collins and a follower of the famous Jewish philosopher, Spinoza (mind and matter are one substance, Spinoza believed), it must have been an obvious step to ask, if the creator created everything and gave it motion, who created the creator? Once miracles were denied, deism logically led to atheism by a small step. The poet, Shelly, made this small step and got expelled from Oxford by the high Tory gentlemen who led that establishment and banished from his father’s house forever for this ‘crime’.

When the perfect and logical monotheism was achieved, atheism was just too tempting as the next step. Back to fideism and the Bible then with its talking donkey and snake. Napoleon had to restore catholicism in France to end the revolution.

Religion within the limits of reason alone is one of the most famous books of the idealist philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). The ‘absolute idea’ of Georg Hegel (1770-1831) pushed god to his furthest limits. It was a great feat for Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-72) to interpret Hegel materialistically. Feuerbach’s problem arose from the fact that, like Hegel, he was unable to identify practice, where humanity changed the world and the changed world changed humanity, as the subject-object of history. It only required Marx to read Feuerbach’s work to successfully turn Hegel on his head (or set him on his feet) to identify the social necessity of the productive forces to develop, driving the class struggle as the motor force of history, and not the intentions of god or man.

After that there was no more seeking the truth about god by honest bourgeois philosophers. The truth was out and its acceptance or rejection now became part of the class struggle itself. Atheism, particularly in the working class, is seen today as a threat to the system because a fundamental element of social control has been overturned.

Religion today
Modern religions have become the expressions of the material interests of a particular ruling class or a section of that class in a particular historical setting. No Marxist would deny that that the heretical sects of the Middles Ages represented the first failed attempts of early mercantile traders to free themselves from the feudal ignorance and oppression of the church. Lutheranism and Calvinism represented the ideology of a rising bourgeoisie.

Without that understanding conflicts like the 30 years war in Germany (1618-48), when a third of the population (seven million out of 20) perished, are totally meaningless. At the time they explained it as people gone insanely bloodthirsty for their version of the love of christ, but, of course, they fought over their material interests in the final analysis – and we must stress ‘final analysis’, because we are sure that very few of them thought of it in that way at that time.

No religion can be a mixture of conflicting viewpoints reflecting the mixture of classes. All religions are a false illusion, a fundamentally idealised and incorrect view of the world, which can only strengthen oppression by preventing the oppressed from seeing that the causes of their oppression (material and psychological) are in this world. They are based on ignorance of two types: the ignorance of the primitive and uneducated of the reasons for all natural phenomena; and the ignorance of the causes of social and economic phenomena like booms, slumps, wars and revolutions. The intellectual representatives of the bourgeoisie must reject Marxism, the only explanation for and way out of these crises if they are to serve their masters, because to accept it would be to accept the inevitable demise of capitalism.

These ideas are lodged in the social relations of production that the oppressed of every age must enter in order to live. Religion is subservience in a mystical cloak, which can only serve the interests of the ruling class, in the short and long term, no matter what episodic religious conflicts might break out. The ‘mixture’ notion of Judaism is an implicit defence of the rabbi and the Zionist rulers of Israel.

Of course, religious views are more complex than simply representing a straight rationale of one’s life activity. They develop in a much more complex way. In classical Marxist understanding there is the religion of the oppressor and the religion of the oppressed. This is how Marx tackles the question:

“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.

“The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusions about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusion. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of woe, the halo of which is religion.

“The task of history, therefore, once the world beyond the truth has disappeared, is to establish the truth of this world. The immediate task of philosophy, which is at the service of history, once the saintly form of human self-alienation has been unmasked, is to unmask self-alienation in its unholy forms. Thus the criticism of heaven turns into the criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of right and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.”

Marx is here dealing with religion as a whole, not just the religion of the oppressed. But he does not see any side of religion as progressive – no, it is all reactionary and must be overcome in order to achieve liberation. It is the illusion that we must get rid of in order to rid ourselves of the “condition which needs illusions”. Any religious ideology represents a reactionary element of a people’s culture, because it must represent the domination of some ruling caste over the mass of the people. It is a vehicle for internal social control by the rabbi, priest, vicar or ayatollah, all of whom make a very good living disseminating magical nonsense on behalf of the ruling elite.

In Jewish history these elites were kings and rabbis (when a theocracy ruled) and today it is the state of Israel in the main, where elements or theocracy are stronger that anywhere else, apart from in the states of its bitterest enemies like Iran and Syria. In other cultures and states it is the established church or its equivalent which provides this prop.

Religion of the oppressed
Having said all that, it is necessary to stress that Marxists do differentiate between the religion of the oppressor and the religion of the oppressed (as we do with all manifestation of oppressive bourgeois ideology, including racism, sexism, homophobia, etc in the ranks of the working class and oppressed). These prejudices may not sit as firmly in the mind of a worker, particularly when he of she is moving into conflict with their employers or is beginning to see the need to tackle the system as a whole. A space is opened for progressive and revolutionary propaganda.

This is how the early Bolsheviks tackled the religion of the oppressed in the muslim countries of Soviet central Asia. They approached the oppressed women in particular with extreme sensitivity. The revolutionary women of the Zhenotdel in the early 1920s donned the paranja (a garment that totally covered the face without even openings for eyes and mouth) to get the ear of oppressed women.

Dale Ross (DL Reissner), the first editor of the Spartacist League’s Women and Revolution, explained that method and history well in her article ‘Early Bolshevik work among women of the Soviet east’ (No12, summer 1976). She goes into great detail to explain the difference between the Bolshevik method of approaching this work and both the Menshevik and Stalinist method. Her article points to the fact that failure to distinguish between the religion of the oppressor and the religion of the oppressed has disastrous consequence for socialists. There is no need to ask which method the PDPA and the ‘Red Army’ operated in Afghanistan. Or which method the Spartacists’ International Communist League supported so uncritically after 1979.

“The Bolsheviks viewed the extreme oppression of women as an indicator of the primitive level of the whole society, but their approach was based on materialism, not moralism. They understood that the fact that women were veiled and caged, bought and sold, was but the surface of the problem. Kalym (the bride price) was not some sinister plot against womankind, but the institution which was central to the organisation of production, integrally connected to land and water rights. Payment of kalym, often by the whole clan over a long period of time, committed those involved to an elaborate system of debt, duties and loyalties which ultimately led to participation in the private armies of the local beys (landowners and wholesale merchants). All commitments were thus backed up with the threat of feuds and blood vengeance.

“…Lenin warned against prematurely confronting respected native institutions, even when these clearly violated communist principles and Soviet law. Instead he proposed to use the Soviet state power to systematically undermine them while simultaneously demonstrating the superiority of Soviet institutions – a policy which had worked well against the powerful Russian Orthodox Church.

“”¦ Then on March 8 1927, in celebration of International Woman’s Day, mass meetings were held at which thousands of frenzied participants, chanting ‘Down with the paranja!’ tore off their veils, which were drenched in paraffin and burned. Poems were recited and plays with names such as ‘Away with the veil’ and ‘Never again kalym‘ were performed. Zhenotdel agitators led marches of unveiled women through the streets, instigating the forced desegregation of public quarters and sanctified religious sites.”

The consequences of these brutal Stalinist methods were the same as they were in Afghanistan 60 years later: “Women suing for divorce became the targets of murderous vigilante squads, and lynchings of party cadres annihilated the ranks of the Zhenotdel. The party was forced to mobilise the militia, then the Komsomol, and finally the general party membership and the Red Army to protect the women, but it refused to alter its suicidal policies. The debacle of International Woman’s Day was repeated in 1928 and 1929 with the same disastrous consequences, exacting an extremely high toll on party cadre.”

Only the method of the early Bolsheviks will work to defeat the rise of fundamentalism today. That requires a comprehensive understanding of religion, its origins and methods of control. This article is dedicated to beginning anew that task.Voag-Logo-catapult2

Housing-For-AllSale Of Small Council Homes Condemning Thousands To The Bedroom Tax – The VOAG Investigates

Thousands of one and two-bedroom council homes have been sold off since 2010, preventing tenants affected by the “bedroom tax” from downsizing to avoid the penalty, research by The Independent shows.

The controversial policy is meant to free up social housing space by encouraging hundreds of thousands of tenants to move to smaller properties, by cutting their benefits if they have a spare bedroom.

But figures obtained by The Independent show that a severe shortage of smaller council homes across the country is being exacerbated by the right-to-buy scheme – leaving many victims of the bedroom tax with no choice but to accept reduced benefits.

In the areas hardest hit by the housing crisis, more than two-thirds of council homes sold off under right-to-buy since the Coalition came to power had one or two bedrooms, figures obtained under Freedom of Information show.

Central London is suffering from the biggest sell-off of small homes. In Camden, 81 per cent of properties sold since 2010 had two bedrooms or fewer, and 49 per cent had one bedroom. Figures for Hammersmith and Fulham show that 77 per cent of sales were of small properties.

In Southwark, 74 per cent of those sold were small, with 32 per cent one-bedroom properties, and in Lambeth, 74 per cent of its right-to-buy sales were of the smallest homes.

Brighton and Hove council has sold 111 properties since 2010, of which 74 per cent had one or two bedrooms. Although Bournemouth council sold just 20 homes, all of them were small.

The analysis of 125 council areas found that of 14,616 properties sold across England, 45 per cent had one or two bedrooms. About 61 per cent of England’s total social housing stock is made up of one- or two-bedroom properties, suggesting that some councils appear to be selling off a disproportionate number of smaller homes.

Alison Garnham, the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said the figures exposed the bedroom tax as “a hasty shambles” which had forced some of the most vulnerable children into unfit housing. “It’s often pushing them into the worst quality housing in the private sector – places that aren’t fit for habitation because of problems like damp and mould.”

Labour’s shadow housing minister, Emma Reynolds, said: “The truth about David Cameron’s bedroom tax is that there are simply not enough smaller homes for people to move to. With the Government failing to keep its promise on replacing every home sold through right-to-buy with a new home built, the shortage is getting worse.” Labour plans to scrap the policy if it wins a majority in next year’s general election.

Government efforts to reform the welfare system have resulted in tenants being moved out of expensive areas. But even those cities receiving families who are priced out are losing smaller properties through right-to-buy. In Hull, for example, 44 per cent of houses sold since 2010 had one or two bedrooms.

The housing charity Shelter urged the Government to review the bedroom tax in the light of the findings. “This research points to a serious contradiction at the heart of government policy,” said Roger Harding, Shelter’s director of communications, policy and campaigns. “Unless sufficient one- and two-bed homes are made available the bedroom tax is an unfair penalty on people who have no choice but to stay where they are.”Voag-Logo-catapult2

SF Meeting
Speakers

Peter Banda, Acting GS General Industries Workers’ Union of South Africa (GIWUSA)
Shaheen Khan, chief co-ordinator, Bolshevik Study Circles (ex-RMG).
Latief Parker, Critique journal Editorial Board
Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the RCIT
Gerry Downing, Secretary Socialist Fight Group
Chair, Laurence Humphries, Socialist Fight CC
Shaheen Khan speaks of their work with the Workers and Socialist party (WASP )

“Some of our comrades in the North are members of WASP. Our relationship with WASP starts off with the work our comrades did in the mine workers strike of 2012.
Two of our comrades were part of the mine workers committee in Rustenburg and one in Carletonville, and other comrades regularly attended the WASP meetings in Johannesburg.
I have been asked to do Marxist classes with the youth in the Socialist Youth Movement as well as the National Transport Movement.
We have also hosted WASP in Potchefstroom where they addressed Civic and Youth groups. Our view generally is that we support the WASP in the forthcoming elections and will participate actively to promote a vote for the WASP.”Rebuild The Fourth International

SF Logo2As the situation in Ukraine worsens, the fascists become more violent, and the Crimea prepares to secede.

Meanwhile, the debate on the left is proceeding on drearily predictable lines. One side stresses the unarguably grim nature of Putin’s regime and plays down the [very] dark side of those it chooses to support, the other side does the same but the other way round. Both sides shamelessly cherry-pick such data as are to be had and are equally handicapped by knowing little or nothing about the region and even less about the EU. Rather than scooting off to do some work (read a book or two? perish the thought), name-calling becomes the order of the day and the discussion becomes increasingly sterile.

That said, there’s something odd about how everyone is banging on about Putin’s “invasion” of the Crimea without noticing one key point. By any reckoning, it’s a funny sort of invasion. Western incursions into e.g. Iraq typically involve the preliminary destruction of key targets in extensive (but “precision”) bombing of key cities, tens of thousands of troops crossing borders, columns of smoke over villages, pitiful streams of refugees, “collateral damage” and all the bizz. (It’s what you join the army for.)

All we had here was a few goons slipping out of the local barracks (handily, already sited in the “invaded” country), changing into scary uniforms c/w Halloween hats and standing outside the other side’s office looking very tough indeed. OK, it may have escalated a bit since then but not a single fatality can as yet, it seems, be blamed on the Russian military. What kind of invasion is that?

It occurs to me that the hysteria over Russian sabre-rattling is down less to the impact of military “atrocities” and more to the fact that there is little or nothing that the EU or the US can do about Russia’s not entirely unreasonable (and certainly predictable) defence of its interests. Sanctions? Forget it, the Germans would never wear/can’t afford them. Cut off the gas? Neither side wants that. Invade? C’mon. The EU/US axis has over-reached itself in its hubristic zeal to humiliate Moscow, itself a declining power. The Atlantic Powers are still smarting from their humiliation over Syria. And so on.

I wonder if the real risk is not that some dirty, face-saving deal will be struck, that the US will, as it usually does, declare a victory and leave and that the EU will pick up the tab for Ukraine’s unpaid bills and set about “liberalising” the economy (aka flogging off the silver and screwing the poor) to get its money back. Meanwhile, just as happened in the Balkans twenty-odd years ago, the fiasco has unleashed some very grim forces on both sides whose victims will be left to defend themselves with little by way of succour, the Eurocrats having scuttled back to Brussels and the US having found a new game to play. One has to hope that the Ukranian left is up to the challenge and that the western left does not move on with the same aplomb as its masters.enemy is at home

SF Logo2“Defeat imperialism and Nazism in Ukraine!
United Front with Putin, the devil and his grandmother!”

Statement by the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International. 8/2/2014
“Defence against fascism is not an isolated thing. Fascism is only a cudgel in the hands of finance capital. The aim of the crushing of proletarian democracy is to raise the rate of exploitation of labor power. There lies an immense field for the united front of the proletariat: the struggle for daily bread, extended and sharpened, leads directly under present conditions to the struggle for workers’ control of production.” Leon Trotsky, The United Front for Defence, A Letter to a Social Democratic Worker, (February 1933), http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1933/330223.htm

A Nazi-dominated government
Make no mistake; the recent events in the Ukraine signal that the international proletariat faces the most serious threat to its organised existence since the dark days of February 1933 when Trotsky wrote these words. Look at what Wikipedia reveals of the nature of the Svoboda party:

“In 2004, (Svoboda) party leader Tyahnybok was expelled from the Our Ukraine parliamentary faction for a speech calling for Ukrainians to fight against a “Muscovite-Jewish mafia.” Svoboda advisor Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn established a “‘Joseph Goebbels Political Research Centre” in 2005, later changing “Joseph Goebbels” to “Ernst Jünger.” Mykhalchyshyn wrote a book in 2010 citing works by Nazi theorists Ernst Röhm, Gregor Strasser and Goebbels. Elsewhere Mykhalchyshyn referred to the Holocaust as a “period of Light in history”.” Svoboda (political party), From Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VO_Svoboda

There are seven ministers from the far-right in the new Ukrainian government; Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Sych is from the neo-fascist Svoboda party. The World Jewish Congress has called for the EU to ban this party but the EU has no problem with fascists when needed to crush the working class. Immediately after the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych from power on Feb. 22, the Ukrainian Parliament repealed a controversial law passed in 2012 that allowed the use of “regional languages” – including Russian, Hungarian, Romanian and Tatar — in courts and certain government functions in areas of the country where such speakers constituted at least 10 percent of the population. This is a list of other t acts voted through the Ukrainian parliament by the Nazi-led government: 4201 – Bill to ban Ukrainian Communist Party activity. 4217 – Bill to redress antecedents of the Soviet occupation of Ukraine. 4176 – Bill to repeal law penalizing Nazi propaganda. 4184 – Bill to place V. Avakov as minister of the interior and members of “Right Sector” party on ministry staff (Avakov also belongs to the party which many consider fascist).4215 – Bill to establish a “Pantheon of national heroes.”4203 – Bill to curb state spending.4215 – Bill to pay tribute to participants in the clashes during peaceful demonstrations.4197 – Bill to place “Svoboda” party member Α.Mahnitskogo as Prosecutor General.4204 – Bill delineating the duties of the President of the Uraine.4191 – Bill to place “UDAR” party member V.A. Nalivaychenko as overseer of Ukrainian Security Agencies4211 – Bill to fire incumbent officers and personnel of security forces and replace them with new personnel (the latter are believed to be members of extreme right wing groups).

U.S. imperialism is more consistent in defending the interests of finance capital and therefore prefer fascism rather than just an alternative right-wing who are pro-European. But Workers Power thinks: “This was the result of the USA’s successful efforts to frustrate the plans of German imperialism and its Ukrainian client Vitali Klitschko, whose Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform received nothing in the anti-democratic distribution of spoils. The US imperialists would rather have “their” people in power – even if that means getting into bed with the fascists of Svoboda.” http://www.workerspower.co.uk/2014/03/ukraine-kyiv-regime-rules-under-fascist-whip/ Ukraine: Kyiv regime rules under fascist whip, http://www.workerspower.co.uk

It is no coincidence that since the Second World War, the U.S. assumed the role of policeman of the planet and supplanted Nazism in the art of keeping control of the planet for the finance capital. Learning and applying an opposite and symmetrical method of permanent revolution, we find that only after the dictatorship of the proletariat can it crush fascism, as the USSR did against Hitler. Capitalist “democracy” is unable to perform a consistent struggle against fascism, because when capitalism feels threatened sufficiently it resorts to fascism. As Trotsky observed: “Moreover, if it often impossible to make the army march against the people. It begins by disintegrating and ends with the passage of a large section of the soldiers over to the people’s side. That is why finance capital is obliged to create special armed bands, trained to fight the workers just as certain breeds of dog are trained to hunt game. The historic function of fascism is to smash the working class, destroy its organizations, and stifle political liberties when the capitalists find themselves unable to govern and dominate with the help of democratic machinery.” The collapse of bourgeois democracy, From Whither France? 1934

Anti imperialist and Anti fascist United Front
We are for an Anti imperialist and Anti fascist United Front with Russia and Ukrainian workers and for armed workers defence squads and permanent revolution to win the struggle. This means a united front without political support with Putin, with the Eastern oligarchs or with the devil and his grandmother to smash these “storm troopers of finance capital”.

If Russia invades to seize the east of the Ukraine, thereby smashing the fascist there the working class should form a united front with them, knowing that on the morrow they would have to fight their former allies and whatever government the Russians might install in the east as representatives of the oligarchs there who would then form a new alliance with western Imperialism.

Thus did Lenin form a temporary cease fire alliance with Kerensky against the main danger, the Kornilov coup attempt in August 30 (12 September) 1917. It was a change of tactics forced by events and here is how he explained it: “Even now we must not support Kerensky’s government. This is unprincipled. We may be asked: aren’t we going to fight against Kornilov? Of course we must! But this is not the same thing; there is a dividing line here, which is being stepped over by some Bolsheviks who fall into compromise and allow themselves to be carried away by the course of events.

We shall fight, we are fighting against Kornilov, just as Kerensky’s troops do, but we do not support Kerensky. On the contrary, we expose his weakness. There is the difference. It is rather a subtle difference, but it is highly essential and must not be forgotten.

What, then, constitutes our change of tactics after the Kornilov revolt?We are changing the form of our struggle against Kerensky. Without in the least relaxing our hostility towards him, without taking back a single word said against him, without renouncing the task of overthrowing him, we say that we must take into account the present situation. We shall not overthrow Kerensky right now. We shall approach the task of fighting against him in a different way, namely, we shall point out to the people (who are fighting against Kornilov) Kerensky’s weakness and vacillation. That has been done in the past as well. Now, however, it has become the all-important thing and this constitutes the change.” https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/aug/30.htm

Whilst we recognise that any Russian military invasion would be primarily aimed at securing the privileges of the Russian bourgeoisie, nevertheless it would be in opposition to the main enemy, Western Imperialist finance capital and their Nazi-front government. The working class should fight side by side with the Russian troops and their supporters in the East against the Nazi-led government in order to defeat them and all the better to prepare the overthrow of their temporary allies on the morrow just as Lenin did in September 1917. And it is not a question of supporting the “lesser evil” but one of tactical orientation to face the main danger. As Trotsky explained in December 1931:

“We Marxists regard Brüning and Hitler, Braun included, as component parts of one and the same system. The question as to which one of them is the “lesser evil” has no sense, for the system we are fighting against needs all these elements. But these elements are momentarily involved in conflicts with one another and the party of the proletariat must take advantage of these conflicts in the interest of the revolution. There are seven keys in the musical scale. The question as to which of these keys is “better” – do, re, or sol – is a nonsensical question. But the musician must know when to strike and what keys to strike. The abstract question of who is the lesser evil – Brüning or Hitler – is just as nonsensical. It is necessary to know which of these keys to strike. Is that clear? For the feeble-minded let us cite another example. When one of my enemies sets before me small daily portions of poison and the second, on the other hand, is about to shoot straight at me, then I will first knock the revolver out of the hand of my second enemy, for this gives me an opportunity to get rid of my first enemy. But that does not at all mean that the poison is a “lesser evil” in comparison with the revolver.” Leon Trotsky, For a Workers’ United Front Against Fascism (December 1931) http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1931/311208.htm

The working class in the Ukraine must defend all ethnic minorities, Tartars, Hungarians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Moldovans, Jews, etc. However we have no faith in Zionism to defend Jews here, as the Zionist leaders collaborated with Hitler during WWII the Zionist in the Ukraine are giving full support to the anti-Semitic coupists government. Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Alexander Dukhovny met US Secretary of State John Kerry on 4 March and said; “The bulk of the Jewish community supports the protests…The protestors fought for freedom and democracy, for European values and standards.” The Jewish News 6 March 2014 P. 2

If Russia does invade their army will not attack the workers and revolutionaries will urge Ukrainian troops workers organisations to fraternise with the Russian troops. We fight for the solidarity of the Russian working class with the Ukrainian working class against the Nazi-dominated pro-Imperialist government.

Workers United Front or Popular Font?
“Ah” but some have objected, “yours is not a Workers’ United Front because it contains Russia and the Eastern Ukraine bourgeoisie, the corrupt oligarchs. This is not the Trotskyist a Workers’ United Front but the Stalinist unprincipled opportunist Popular Front you are proposing here.” Ukraine is not an imperialist country but a semi-colonial country which formed part of the degenerated workers state that was the USSR until its collapse in 1991. Its capitalist class emerged in alliance with Boris Yeltsin and US imperialism as corrupt oligarchs. However the emergence in 2000 of Putin as Russian President marked an assertion of the rights of the national bourgeoisie to retain more of the profits from the exploitation of the workers in Russia in opposition the dominance of Wall Street’s and its allies’ finance capital. A similar process, took place in the Ukraine with the conflict between Yushchenko and Yanukovych during the Orange Revolution of 2004 and then between Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko in 2010. Behind the conflicts of the oligarchs was the conflict between US/EU finance capital and the national bourgeoisie, a “semi-oppressed, semi-oppressing” class in the semi colonies, which Russia had then become. Therefore our tactics must be based not only on the Workers United Front but also on the Anti-Imperialist United Front as outlined by the Revolutionary Comintern at the Fourth Congress in 1922:

“The workers’ united front is the slogan advanced in the West during the transition period, characterised by the organised gathering of forces. Similarly in the colonial East at the present time the key slogan to advance is the anti-imperialist united front. Its expediency follows from the perspective of a long-drawn-out struggle with world imperialism that will demand the mobilisation of all revolutionary elements. This mobilisation is made all the more necessary by the tendency of the indigenous ruling classes to make compromises with foreign capital directed against the fundamental interests of the mass of the people. Just as in the West the slogan of the workers’ united front has helped and is still helping to expose the social democrats’ sell-out of proletarian interests, so the slogan of an anti-imperialist united front will help to expose the vacillations of the various bourgeois-nationalist groups. This slogan will also help the working masses to develop their revolutionary will and to increase their class consciousness; it will place them in the front ranks of those fighting not only imperialism, but the remnants of feudalism.” Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 5 December 1922, VI. The Anti-Imperialist United Front, https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/4th-congress/eastern-question.htm

But with the difference that today feudalism and its remnants are long gone and the working class in the more advanced semi-colonies are far more numerous, powerful and better organised than in Lenin’s or even Trotsky’s time. One only has to look at the TU federations in South Africa, Brazil, India or Egypt to appreciate this.

What type of Imperialism?
Nevertheless, as Trotsky explains: “We do not and never have put all wars on the same plane. Marx and Engels supported the revolutionary struggle of the Irish against Great Britain, of the Poles against the tsar, even though in these two nationalist wars the leaders were, for the most part, members of the bourgeoisie and even at times of the feudal aristocracy… at all events, Catholic reactionaries. …To speak of “revolutionary defeatism” in general, without distinguishing between exploiter and exploited countries, is to make a miserable caricature of Bolshevism and to put that caricature at the service of the imperialists.” Leon Trotsky, On the Sino-Japanese War, http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1937/10/sino.htm

”But at least you must concede that Russia is Imperialist” our critics object “Russia and China are Imperialists like the US, UK, France Germany and Japan surely?” They are not imperialist in the Marxist sense of the word, only in the sloppy sense of wanting to expand their sphere of influence, as Trotsky explains here in relation to the Former USSR in 1939:

“History has known the “imperialism” of the Roman state based on slave labor, the imperialism of feudal land-ownership, the imperialism of commercial and industrial capital, the imperialism of the Czarist monarchy, etc… However, in contemporary literature, at least Marxist literature, imperialism is understood to mean the expansionist policy of finance capital which has a very sharply defined economic content. To employ the term “imperialism” for the foreign policy of the Kremlin – without elucidating exactly what this signifies – means simply to identify the policy of the Bonapartist bureaucracy with the policy of monopolistic capitalism on the basis that both one and the other utilize military force for expansion. Such an identification, capable of sowing only confusion, is much more proper to petty-bourgeois democrats than to Marxists.” http://www.revolutionaryhistory.co.uk/state-cap/fourth-international/state-capitalism/again-and-once-more-again-on-the-nature-of-the-ussr.htm

Therefore we are not facing two imperialist blocs, the U.S. and EU, on one side, and the Eurasian bloc, Russia and China on the other. Russia is an immense bourgeois nation with military independence against Western imperialism, responsible for providing 30% of the gas to Europe, but the export of capital does not predominate over the export of goods (gas, weapons) in the Russian economy.

Beginning with the US/EU-sponsored attack on Yugoslavia in 1995 and 1999, Libya and Syria in 2011 and now in the Ukraine we are told by many on the far left that these are proxy inter-imperialist wars and so we must either support the pro-western Imperialist side fighting for “democracy” (which never comes) or we can take no side for the working class. This is in line with Marxist principles that we should be dual-defeatist in inter-Imperialist wars. But we cannot even fit it into that scenario, the best of these far left groups are third campists, the worst are unashamed supporters of their own ruling class. These are demoralised centrist forces who cannot see any alternative to ‘democratic’ Imperialism and now champion its every lie and every item of war propaganda in support of their regime change global offensive.

In 1916 Lenin provided a careful, 5-point definition of imperialism: “(1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy; (3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; (4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and (5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.” Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, A POPULAR OUTLINE, http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/ch07.htm

Since he wrote that a number of things have changed. The results of two world wars and the collapse of the USSR in 1991 have led to the global dominance of the USA as the sole world superpower. The ‘Imperialism’ of Russia and China are substantially different; pre-imperialist may be a better term.

Imperialism today
Today London continues to top the list of the world’s leading financial centres, with New York close behind in second-place, according the latest edition of The Global Financial Centres Index. Sometimes referred to as Ny-Lon, these two cities have dominated global finance for the past couple of centuries.

Hong Kong and Singapore rank third and fourth, with Zurich in fifth place. Tokyo, Geneva, Boston, Seoul, and Frankfurt round out the top 10. Cities in the United States and Canada take the next seven spots, with Chicago in 11th, Toronto 12th, San Francisco 13th, Washington, D.C. 14th, Vancouver 15th, Montreal 16th, and Calgary 17th. Moscow is nowhere and its “imperialism” is so far from that of the US that there is just no comparison.

If we look at a few other economic and military statistics we find that all those countries that some on the left call Imperialist just do not figure in the top flight at all; they either have puny economic and military might, have no multi-national companies in the world’s top 2000, have no foreign military bases i.e. they cannot compete in all spheres with the USA and its close allies UK, France, Germany and Japan.

1. Top 2,000 multi-nationals We have abstracted these details from Forbes 2,000 top companies which gives a good indication of the balance of global economic forces: Of the top 2,000 firms in the world on 17 April 2013 the USA has 543, Japan 251, China 136, UK 95, France 64, South Korea 64, Canada 64, India 56, Germany 50, Switzerland 48, Hong Kong-China 46, Australia 42, Taiwan 41, Brazil 31, Italy 30, Russia 30, Spain 28, Holland 24, Sweden 23.

Banks and diversified financials still dominate the list, with a combined 469 (down 9 from last year) companies, thanks in large measure to their sales and asset totals. The next three biggest industries by membership are oil & gas (124 firms), materials (122 firms) and insurance (109 firms). [20]

When the list first appeared in 2004 the US had almost 1,000 on it, but that decline, whilst real, is offset by the dominant position of the US dollar as the world’s reserve trading currency enforced by its military might and by locating company HQs abroad to take advantage of small economies with very favourable corporate tax regimes from which profits are repatriated to the US. For instance Ireland’s 17 companies apparently place it in the same league as South Africa, Mexico and Saudi Arabia, a ridiculous comparison. In reality up to half of those companies are not really Irish at all except in name. Take its top company, Accenture plc, which is “engaged in providing management consulting, technology and outsourcing services”. It is 318th on the list with a market capitalisation of $53.34 Billion and is clearly a US trans national corporation.

2. Top Stock Exchanges Here are the statistic for the top ten stock exchanges ($US billions) 1. NYSE Euronext, United States/Europe, $14,085. 2. NASDAQ OMX Group, United States/Europe, $4,582. 3. Tokyo Stock Exchange, Japan $3,478. 4. London Stock Exchange, $3,396. 5. Hong Kong Sock Exchange, $2,831. 6. Shanghai Stock Exchange, $2,547. 7. TMX Group, Canada, $2,058. 8. Deutsche Börse, Germany, $1,486. 9. Australian Securities Exchange, $1,386. 10. Bombay Stock Exchange, $1,263. Note the two US stock exchanges are as big as the next eight combined.

3. Ranking by Gross Domestic Product The ranking of countries by Gross Domestic Product, this time the top 20: (Millions of $US), World $70,201,920. 1. United States $14,991,300, 2. China $7,203,784, 3. Japan $5,870,357. 4. Germany $3,604,061. 5. France $2,775,518. 6. Brazil $2,476,651. 7. United Kingdom, 2,429,184. 8. Italy $2,195,937. 9. India $1,897,608. 10 Russia $1,857,770. 11 Canada $1,736,869. 12. Australia $1,515,468. 13. Spain $1,478,206. 14. Mexico $1,155,206. 15. South Korea $1,116,247. 16. Indonesia $846,834. 17. Netherlands $836,823, 18. Turkey $774,983. 19. Switzerland $660,762. 20. Saudi Arabia $597,086.

Again the US, with its close allies Japan, France and the UK outstrip all others by a huge margin:
4. Biggest military Expenditure: The top 15 for military expenditure. ($US billions): 1. United States $682.0. 2. China $166.0. 3. Russia $90.7. 4. United Kingdom $60.8. 5. Japan $59.3. 6. France $58.9. 7. Saudi Arabia $56.7. 8. India $46.1. 9. Germany $45.8. 10. Italy $34.0. 11. Brazil $33.1. 12. South Korea $31.7. 13. Australia $26.2. 14. Canada $22.5. 15. Turkey $18.2. Note the US expenditure is equal to the combined total of all the other 14 on the list.

5. Fleets, aircraft carriers and military bases worldwide The US has five battleship fleets, the Second Fleet in the Atlantic, the Third Fleet in the Eastern Pacific, the Fifth Fleet in the Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean, the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean and the Seventh Fleet in the Western Pacific. No other nation gets a look in here. This is a list of the aircraft carriers in service in 2013: United States 10, Italy 2, United Kingdom, 1, France 1, Russia 1, Spain 1, India 1, Brazil 1, China 1 and Thailand 1.

6. The Transnational Institute reports on overseas military bases: Foreign military bases are found in more than 100 countries and territories. The US currently maintains a world-wide network of some 1000 military bases and installations (outside the US, 2,639 including US home bases in 1993). In addition, other NATO countries, such as France and the UK have a further 200 such military locations within the network of global military control. The biggest “host” countries are those that once lost a major war in which the US was involved. Germany, Italy, Japan and Korea are the four biggest ‘hosts’. France and the UK mainly have bases in the remains of their colonial empires. The UK is strong in the South Atlantic and around the Mediterranean; France is strong in the South Pacific and in Africa. Russia currently has six military facilities in former Soviet Republics and India has one in Tajikistan. China currently has no US-style overseas bases.

It is not sufficient to take just one index to determine whether a country is imperialist. For instance if we take GDP alone immediately the question of GDP per capita arises. It is the relationship between the nations that is the crucial question; is that nation oppressed by the big Imperialist powers or is its economy integrated into the world Imperialist structures to exploit other nations for the mutual benefit of both? These are sometimes called piggy-back Imperialist powers; they follow and penetrated markets opened up by the big powers. On all those indices Brazil, South Africa, and India are not Imperialist powers. Neither are Russia and China on the majority of them. Bur “how different is the relationship today between Russia and China to the world market and that of Russia in 1917, which Lenin was very sure was an imperialist power on the basis of economic statistics?” our critics ask.

In his Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism, the section on finance capital Lenin makes this differentiation which has enormously advanced since 1945. He points out that in 1910: “Together, these four countries (Britain, France, the USA and Germany) own 479,000 million francs, that is, nearly 80 per cent of the world’s finance capital. In one way or another, nearly the whole of the rest of the world is more or less the debtor to and tributary of these international banker countries, these four “pillars” of world finance capital.” http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/ch03.htm

What path for human liberation; hypocritical Christian morality or revolutionary Marxism?
It is not a question of supporting Assad or the Taliban or reactionary anti-Imperialist forces against their own working class or supporting women’s oppression at their hands. No, it is a question of fighting Imperialism and seeking its defeat. Of course it is true bourgeois nationalist regimes like that of Gaddafi in Libya or Assad in Syria would fight on behalf of Imperialism if it suited them. Remember the many favours Gaddafi did for the West; how can we forget that the terrible Tel al-Zaatar massacre during the Lebanese Civil War on August 12, 1976 was facilitated by Assad’s father Hafez al-Assad? And also fundamentalists fight on behalf of imperialism for instances in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, in Libya, and now in Syria. But when they are fighting against it as in Mali, Palestine and the Hezbollah in Lebanon we must be with them.

The question is, are they fighting for or against Imperialism right now? Principled Marxists must fight Imperialism alongside those who are fighting it right now to the point politically of forming an Anti-Imperialist United Front in practice, either by means of formal agreement if possible but at any rate politically against Imperialism and its proxies. We insist this is an absolute imperative for every revolutionary socialist. Imperialism imposes an anti-human mode of production on the entire planet that causes the alienation that is so oppressive that it distorts all human relationships everywhere, it causes great personal unhappiness and mental illness, it brings war and famine to humanity whose material recourses and technological advancement are such that every reasonable want and need of every human being on the planet could be satisfied right now if these were deployed in a rational and planned manner. And that is before the great leap in human wealth and culture a global planned economy would bring. Imperialism gives humanity a glimpse of what is possible only to deny its benefits to the great bulk of humanity and leave us contemplating the obscene spectacle of the greatest gap between the poor and the rich the world has ever known; the richest 1% of adults alone own 40% of global assets and the richest 10% of adults account for 85% of the world’s total wealth. In contrast, the bottom half of the world’s adult population own barely 1% of global wealth.

If we understand fully what imperialism is we must take the side of all anti-Imperialist fighters, not uncritically, not foolishly to risk their own lives or concede to them the mantle of socialism or communism or indeed any consistent anti-Imperialism at all. But in a principled manner to fight together to defeat the central enemy of all oppressed humanity in order to expose the inconsistencies of the existing leaders of the semi-colonial masses and TU bureaucratic misleaders everywhere and thereby lay the basis for a true revolutionary internationalist anti-Imperialism, a reforged Fourth International. This will strengthen the internationalism and fighting capacity of the working class in the semi-colonial countries as they see revolutionary forces in the metropolitan countries fighting on their behalf against their own imperialists. And it will encourage the working class in the metropolitan countries to reject their own imperialist rulers and embrace the common cause of workers’ internationalism. Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains!

And what does Imperialism do? We can do no better that to quote William Blum from Killing Hope to establish the main enemy beyond any doubt: “Post-cold war, New-World-Order time, it looks good for the MIIC (Military Intelligence Industrial complex) and their global partners in crime, the World Bank and the IMF. They’ve got their NAFTA and their GATT World Trade Organization. They’re dictating economic, political and social development all over the Third World and Eastern Europe. Moscow’s reaction to events anywhere is no longer a restraining consideration… Everything in sight is being deregulated and privatized. Capital prowls the globe with a ravenous freedom it hasn’t enjoyed since before World War I, operating free of friction, free of gravity. The world has been made safe for the transnational corporation.” “If you flip over the rock of American foreign policy of the past century, this is what crawls out; invasions, bombings, overthrowing governments, occupations, suppressing movements for social change, assassinating political leaders, perverting elections, manipulating labor unions, manufacturing “news”, death squads, torture, biological warfare, depleted uranium, drug trafficking, mercenaries… It is enough to give imperialism a bad name.” — William Blum, Killing Hope

We have comprehensively demonstrated that US-dominated finance capital Imperialism is the main threat to the entire working class and oppressed on the planet. There are, of course, secondary enemies in the national bourgeoisie of the oppressed nations but in all of politics and all ward and threats of war we must identify this main enemy and seek to baulk its projects and defeat its aims by whatever tactical alliance with the devil and his grandmother are necessary. Such is the Marxist programme for world revolution. enemy is at home

How science is telling us all to revolt

Is our relentless quest for economic growth killing the planet? Climate scientists have seen the data – and they are coming to some incendiary conclusions.

Naomi Klein speaks to The VOAG (Well kind of)Irrigation

In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012, Nature published a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.

Some scientists need no convincing. The godfather of modern climate science, James Hansen, is a formidable activist, having been arrested some half-dozen times for resisting mountain-top removal coal mining and tar sands pipelines (he even left his job at Nasa this year in part to have more time for campaigning). Two years ago, when I was arrested outside the White House at a mass action against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, one of the 166 people in cuffs that day was a glaciologist named Jason Box, a world-renowned expert on Greenland’s melting ice sheet.

“I couldn’t maintain my self-respect if I didn’t go,” Box said at the time, adding that “just voting doesn’t seem to be enough in this case. I need to be a citizen also.”

This is laudable, but what Werner is doing with his modelling is different. He isn’t saying that his research drove him to take action to stop a particular policy; he is saying that his research shows that our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability. And indeed that challenging this economic paradigm – through mass-movement counter-pressure – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe.

That’s heavy stuff. But he’s not alone. Werner is part of a small but increasingly influential group of scientists whose research into the destabilisation of natural systems – particularly the climate system – is leading them to similarly transformative, even revolutionary, conclusions. And for any closet revolutionary who has ever dreamed of overthrowing the present economic order in favour of one a little less likely to cause Italian pensioners to hang themselves in their homes, this work should be of particular interest. Because it makes the ditching of that cruel system in favour of something new (and perhaps, with lots of work, better) no longer a matter of mere ideological preference but rather one of species-wide existential necessity.

Leading the pack of these new scientific revolutionaries is one of Britain’s top climate experts, Kevin Anderson, the deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which has quickly established itself as one of the UK’s premier climate research institutions. Addressing everyone from the Department for International Development to Manchester City Council, Anderson has spent more than a decade patiently translating the implications of the latest climate science to politicians, economists and campaigners. In clear and understandable language, he lays out a rigorous road map for emissions reduction, one that provides a decent shot at keeping global temperature rise below 2° Celsius, a target that most governments have determined would stave off catastrophe.

But in recent years Anderson’s papers and slide shows have become more alarming. Under titles such as “Climate Change: Going Beyond Dangerous . . . Brutal Numbers and Tenuous Hope”, he points out that the chances of staying within anything like safe temperature levels are diminishing fast.

With his colleague Alice Bows, a climate mitigation expert at the Tyndall Centre, Anderson points out that we have lost so much time to political stalling and weak climate policies – all while global consumption (and emissions) ballooned – that we are now facing cuts so drastic that they challenge the fundamental logic of prioritising GDP growth above all else.

Anderson and Bows inform us that the often-cited long-term mitigation target – an 80 per cent emissions cut below 1990 levels by 2050 – has been selected purely for reasons of political expediency and has “no scientific basis”. That’s because climate impacts come not just from what we emit today and tomorrow, but from the cumulative emissions that build up in the atmosphere over time. And they warn that by focusing on targets three and a half decades into the future – rather than on what we can do to cut carbon sharply and immediately – there is a serious risk that we will allow our emissions to continue to soar for years to come, thereby blowing through far too much of our 2° “carbon budget” and putting ourselves in an impossible position later in the century.

Which is why Anderson and Bows argue that, if the governments of developed countries are serious about hitting the agreed upon international target of keeping warming below 2° Celsius, and if reductions are to respect any kind of equity principle (basically that the countries that have been spewing carbon for the better part of two centuries need to cut before the countries where more than a billion people still don’t have electricity), then the reductions need to be a lot deeper, and they need to come a lot sooner.

To have even a 50/50 chance of hitting the 2° target (which, they and many others warn, already involves facing an array of hugely damaging climate impacts), the industrialised countries need to start cutting their greenhouse-gas emissions by something like 10 per cent a year – and they need to start right now. But Anderson and Bows go further, pointing out that this target cannot be met with the array of modest carbon pricing or green-tech solutions usually advocated by big green groups. These measures will certainly help, to be sure, but they are simply not enough: a 10 per cent drop in emissions, year after year, is virtually unprecedented since we started powering our economies with coal. In fact, cuts above 1 per cent per year “have historically been associated only with economic recession or upheaval”, as the economist Nicholas Stern put it in his 2006 report for the British government.

Even after the Soviet Union collapsed, reductions of this duration and depth did not happen (the former Soviet countries experienced average annual reductions of roughly 5 per cent over a period of ten years). They did not happen after Wall Street crashed in 2008 (wealthy countries experienced about a 7 per cent drop between 2008 and 2009, but their CO2 emissions rebounded with gusto in 2010 and emissions in China and India had continued to rise). Only in the immediate aftermath of the great market crash of 1929 did the United States, for instance, see emissions drop for several consecutive years by more than 10 per cent annually, according to historical data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre. But that was the worst economic crisis of modern times.

If we are to avoid that kind of carnage while meeting our science-based emissions targets, carbon reduction must be managed carefully through what Anderson and Bows describe as “radical and immediate de-growth strategies in the US, EU and other wealthy nations”. Which is fine, except that we happen to have an economic system that fetishises GDP growth above all else, regardless of the human or ecological consequences, and in which the neoliberal political class has utterly abdicated its responsibility to manage anything (since the market is the invisible genius to which everything must be entrusted).

So what Anderson and Bows are really saying is that there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which may be the best argument we have ever had for changing those rules.

In a 2012 essay that appeared in the influential scientific journal Nature Climate Change, Anderson and Bows laid down something of a gauntlet, accusing many of their fellow scientists of failing to come clean about the kind of changes that climate change demands of humanity. On this it is worth quoting the pair at length:

 . . . in developing emission scenarios scientists repeatedly and severely underplay the implications of their analyses. When it comes to avoiding a 2°C rise, “impossible” is translated into “difficult but doable”, whereas “urgent and radical” emerge as “challenging” – all to appease the god of economics (or, more precisely, finance). For example, to avoid exceeding the maximum rate of emission reduction dictated by economists, “impossibly” early peaks in emissions are assumed, together with naive notions about “big” engineering and the deployment rates of low-carbon infrastructure. More disturbingly, as emissions budgets dwindle, so geoengineering is increasingly proposed to ensure that the diktat of economists remains unquestioned.

In other words, in order to appear reasonable within neoliberal economic circles, scientists have been dramatically soft-peddling the implications of their research. By August 2013, Anderson was willing to be even more blunt, writing that the boat had sailed on gradual change. “Perhaps at the time of the 1992 Earth Summit, or even at the turn of the millennium, 2°C levels of mitigation could have been achieved through significant evolutionary changes within the political and economic hegemony. But climate change is a cumulative issue! Now, in 2013, we in high emitting industrial nations face a very different prospect. Our ongoing and collective carbon profligacy has squandered any opportunity for the ‘evolutionary change’ afforded by our earlier (and larger) 2°C carbon budget. Today, after two decades of bluff and lies, the remaining 2°C budget demands revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony” (his emphasis).

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that some climate scientists are a little spooked by the radical implications of even their own research. Most of them were just quietly doing their work measuring ice cores, running global climate models and studying ocean acidification, only to discover, as the Australian climate expert and author Clive Hamilton puts it, that they “were unwittingly destabilising the political and social order”.

But there are many people who are well aware of the revolutionary nature of climate science. It’s why some of the governments that decided to chuck their climate commitments in favour of digging up more carbon have had to find ever more thuggish ways to silence and intimidate their nations’ scientists. In Britain, this strategy is becoming more overt, with Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, writing recently that scientists should avoid “suggesting that policies are either right or wrong” and should express their views “by working with embedded advisers (such as myself), and by being the voice of reason, rather than dissent, in the public arena”.

If you want to know where this leads, check out what’s happening in Canada, where I live. The Conservative government of Stephen Harper has done such an effective job of gagging scientists and shutting down critical research projects that, in July 2012, a couple thousand scientists and supporters held a mock-funeral on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, mourning “the death of evidence”. Their placards said, “No Science, No Evidence, No Truth”.

But the truth is getting out anyway. The fact that the business-as-usual pursuit of profits and growth is destabilising life on earth is no longer something we need to read about in scientific journals. The early signs are unfolding before our eyes. And increasing numbers of us are responding accordingly: blockading fracking activity in Balcombe; interfering with Arctic drilling preparations in Russian waters (at tremendous personal cost); taking tar sands operators to court for violating indigenous sovereignty; and countless other acts of resistance large and small. In Brad Werner’s computer model, this is the “friction” needed to slow down the forces of destabilisation; the great climate campaigner Bill McKibben calls it the “antibodies” rising up to fight the planet’s “spiking fever”.The VOAG is everywhere

National march to release the jailed minersMarch 12, 2014 is the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the National Miners Strike. Local strikes had began at several Yorkshire collieries over pit closures, when Arthur Scargill, the NUM Miners union leader formerly called a national strike, that was to last from March 12, 1984 to March 3, 1985.

Over the coming weeks the inter-web is going to be full of miners strike commentaries, obituaries and articles, so The VOAG thought it would get its post in early. By the time March 12 arrives we will all be sick of miners strike articles and reminiscences.

It seems superfluous to write anything about the miners strike. It is such a well known, momentous event in working class history, that even the generation which has grown up since the strike is well acquainted with it. However, the news of an upcoming Conference on the Miners Strike, “Still The Enemy Within”, to be held on March 8, has prompted The VOAG to mark the anniversary with a short post.Still The Enemy WithinThe Tory government claimed its intention was to close 20 pits with the loss of 20,000 jobs. When the strike began, Scargill said that the government had a long-term strategy to destroy the industry by closing over 70 pits. Not only did the Government deny this but Ian McGregor, the head of the Coal Board which managed the industry, wrote to every member of the NUM claiming Scargill was deceiving them, and that there were no plans to close any more pits than had already been announced. Cabinet Papers released this year indicate that McGregor did indeed wish to close over 90 pits.Miners SupportSupport for the miners brought together disparate radical groups across Britain, involving more people in a greater intensity of activity, over a lengthier period than any other campaign in the history of the labour movement. There were many violent incidents during the strike, the worst being clashes between striking miners and police at Orgreave. Police charged crowds on horseback with their batons and several people were seriously injured. Watch this documentary which tells some of the story of “The Battle Of Orgreave”

The miners and their families suffered great hardship during the strike, many relying on food parcels, soup kitchens and other donations. On 3 March 1985 NUM delegates voted to abandon the strike at a specially convened conference. Two days later the miners returned to work. After the strike the pit closure programme of the conservative Government continued rapidly. In 1984 there were 170 coal mines open in the UK, by 2004 only about 11 mines were still open. The strike was a terrible defeat for the miners and following the strike the coal industry and British trade union movement were never the same again.The Voag is everywhere

Syria, the labour movement and the global working class:  The VOAG speaks to Gerry Downing

Opposition forces battling Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria now number around 100,000 fighters, but after more than two years of fighting they are fragmented into as many as 1,000 bands. According to Russia Today, a new study by IHS Jane’s, a defence consultancy, estimates there are around 10,000 foreign jihadists fighting for powerful factions linked to al-Qaeda. Another 30,000 to 35,000 hard-line Islamists who share much of the outlook of the jihadists, but are focused purely on the Syrian war rather than a wider international struggle, and there are at least a further 30,000 islamists belonging to other groups. Only a small minority of the rebels are linked to secular or purely nationalist groups.

The VOAG spoke to Jerry Downing of Socialist Fight and asked: “What is the correct position to take on the Syria question”

GD: “Within the labour movement internationally – that is amongst the various groupings that purport to represent the interests of the working class, stretching from mass reformist bourgeois workers parties to the centrist groups of the far left – there are five basic positions on the war in Syria, with some crossover between categories, i.e. some groups straddle two positions. 1. Arm the rebels and bomb Assad. This is the straightforward Imperialist position which seeks to defend and advance the war plans of Western Imperialism in the Middle East and North Africa. These are the right wing Labour leaders and Social Democracy internationally with their associated right wing trade union leaders, from Miliband in Britain to Françoise Holland in France. 2. Arm the rebels but don’t bomb Assad. This grouping includes many leftists in the Labour Party and Social Democracy internationally, some Communist/Stalinist groups and the SWP/IST, the ISO (US), Workers Power, the RCIT, the LCC, the LIT and many others. 3. Don’t arm the rebels and don’t bomb Assad – the third campist position. This grouping contains the Socialist Party/CWI, Socialist Appeal/IMT, the ICL/IBT/IG(LFI) (the ‘Spart’ family) and the AWL and others. The AWL manages to be both in group 1 and group 3 at the same time because of the obvious implication of the “Assad is the main enemy” position. It depends on who’s writing the article. 4. Uncritical or mildly critical support for Assad against Imperialist attacks and against the rebels. This group includes the majority of the Maoists, Marxist Leninists and bourgeois nationalists internationally, together with some other communist parties and the Workers Revolutionary Party of Britain and its ICFI. It also includes the RCG/FRFI. 5. The Anti Imperialist United Front, for the defeat of the rebels and Imperialism whilst giving no political support to Assad against the Syrian working class. The genuine Trotskyist position as developed by Lenin and Trotsky. Defended by the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International and other groups and individuals internationally”.

VOAG: “for the defeat of the rebels and Imperialism whilst giving no political support to Assad against the Syrian working class” what does this mean in practice?”

GD: “It means that you are for the victory of the Syrian National Army over the rebels and Imperialism and you would work for that politically and in whatever practical way you could. But you would not seek to hide the crimes of Assad against the working class and his and his father’s previous history of collaborating with Zionism and the US against the Palestinians, for instance. You would prepare for his overthrown at a later stage by the organised working class. But right now the main enemy is Imperialism and its allies and proxies in Syria”.

VOAG: “So what is the Anti-Imperialist united Front?”

GD: “It was the name of the tactic developed by the revolutionary Comintern in 1920. It is true that Stalinism has degraded it to a two stage theory of uncritical support for bourgeois nationalists fakers over the years. But the original theses is still applicable and revolutionary. US Imperialism is the enemy of every person on the planet, even the capitalists who back it unequivocally”.

“The great majority of Syrians support Assad because the reactionary character of the rebels is clear and the fate that will befall secular Syria in regards women’s rights, trade unions and workers rights etc if the rebels win. You must be unequivocally for the defeat of Imperialism and its proxies. This is what will both strengthen the working class in Syria and the working class in the Imperialist countries and what we must work for right now. And concession to third campism or seeking to make Assad the equal enemy is reactionary and very wrong.

Of course Assad is an enemy of the Syrian and global working class, but right now he is a secondary enemy and the Anti-Imperialist United Front means a temporary alliance with him today against Imperialism and its proxies, the main and immediately threatening enemy, in order to prepare for his overthrow by the revolutionary working class after the defeat of Imperialism. Such revolutionaries as exist in Syria must have that as their goal, maintaining their political independence in this way”.

VOAG: “Can you elaborate on the Third Campist attitudes?”

GD: “The IBT has a third campist Shachtmanite position on Syria with their slogan: ‘Syrian workers have no side in civil war between Baathists and Islamists’.”

“The Sparts also take a clearly Shachtmanite position, “Neither Damascus nor Washington but the socialist revolution!” It is a “sectarian-communal war they say”. ‘The dire situation in Syria today, and throughout North Africa and the Middle East, emerged from the collapse of Stalinism and Arab nationalism, which opened the way for religious fundamentalism and sectarian/communal conflicts, often exploited by imperialism’ they wrote on their website”.

“All the Spart family propaganda is in the Effilite tradition, as Trotsky lampooned: ‘The only salvation of the workers and peasants of China is to struggle independently against the two armies, against the Chinese army in the same manner as against the Japanese army. These four lines, taken from an Eiffelite document of September 10, 1937, suffice entirely for us to say: we are concerned here with either real traitors or complete imbeciles. But imbecility, raised to this degree, is equal to treason’.”

“The truth of the matter is there is no revolution, there was a brief spring where legitimate protests began against Assad but the Saudi, Qatar and jihadist gunmen intervened within hours. Assad was Imperialism’s ally in the region, until they realised they had better allies in prospect and a chance of seizing control of the whole country so Obama, Cameron and Holland called it a “revolution” more in hope than in strong expectation that they would fool anyone and, to their absolute astonishment, not only their pliant mass media began parroting the lie but some who call themselves far left and even Trotskyists also began parroting the Imperialist lie. You would have thought that only a complete fool would think that the three strongest Imperialist powers in the planet would fund and organise via the CIA a genuine revolution, but up steps Workers, Power, the USFI, the RCIT, the LIT to name but a few, who swallowed it whole and regurgitate this vomit for their gullible members and supporters”.

The VOAG would like to thank Gerry Downing and the Socialist Fight group, British section of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International. http://socialistfight.com/The Voag

Picket Of The Greek Embassy, Saturday 31 August:
Defend Savas Michael-Matsas; Defend Communities Against The Nazi Golden Dawn

The Socialist Fight has called a picket of the Greek Embassy for Saturday 31 August between 1 and 2 pm and propose to hand in the following letter. We are requesting that your organisation participate in the picket and endorse the letter as an organisation so you name can appear as supporters.

The Ambassadoraddress
 H.E. Mr. Anastase Scopelitis
Greek Embassy in London
1A Holland Park,
31 August 2013

 Dear Mr. Anastase Scopelitis,

 We, the undersigned, are protesting today against of trail of Savas Michael-Matsas a Greek Jewish Marxist intellectual and General Secretary of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party (EEK) of Greece and Constantino Moutzouris, the former rector of the University of Athens, on 3 September 2013.

 Savas Matsas is accused of “defamation” against the Greek openly Nazi party, the infamous “Golden Dawn”, for “instigation of violence and chaos” and “disruption of the civil peace” because, four years ago, in May 2009, the EEK has issued a leaflet calling for participation into an antifascist demonstration of protest against a murderous attack by the Nazis against the immigrant communities in Athens covered by the Greek police.

 In December 2008, an important youth revolt had shaken the entire country following the murder of a 15 years old youth, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, by two police guards. The revolt continued for nearly for two months, in what Dominique Strauss Kahn, head of the IMF at that time, had rightly described as “the first political explosion of the current world financial-economic crisis”.

 The police pogroms against the immigrants reached a climax in spring 2009, in Athens, in the neighbourhood of Aghios Panteleimonas, where Golden Dawn thugs terrorised the immigrants with the support of the local police. Left organizations had called for anti-fascist demonstrations. The EEK took part and issued a leaflet calling on the people to participate. The leaflet signed by the EEK as a political party was also published in the party newspaper NEA PROOPTIKI and presented in the party’s web site. This is the “crime” for which the General Secretary of the EEK is accused and put on trial.

 In May 2009, leading members of the Golden Dawn, including Ilias Panagiotaros, now a member of the Greek Parliament, and Themis Skordeli (a woman with dark connections with the underworld, was accused of the assassination of an Afghan immigrant but who never was been charged), posed a lawsuit against the entire spectrum of the Greek left, from the Communist Party of Greece(KKE) and SYRIZA to the extra-parliamentary left, ANTARSYA and EEK, all the immigrant associations, and independent personalities like the Dean of the National Technical University of Athens Constantinos Moutzouris (accused to allow the alternative web site Athens Indymedia to broadcast from the space in the campus).

 The lawsuit was not acted upon until late 2012, after the Greek elections of May and June 2012, when, the Golden Dawn was catapulted to Parliament from the margins of political life and the shadow of the State repressive apparatus. In November 2012, at the day celebrated nationally for decades now as the anniversary of the 1973 youth revolt in the Athens National Technical University(Polytechnic) against the military dictatorship of the colonels, the Greek Police, after receiving orders from the judiciary, started interrogations of all the accused in the Nazi lawsuit of 2009. In June 2013, from the dozens of the accused in the legal action of 2009, and interrogated in 2012, only Savas Michael(Sabetai) Matsas of the EEK was called to trial on September 3, 2013, together with the former Dean C. Moutzouris.

 Simultaneously with this preposterous “legal” action, the Nazis have intensified a non-stop, vicious anti-Semitic and anti-communist campaign against the Secretary of the EEK, accusing him of being “an instrument of the World Jewish Conspiracy to foment civil war among Greeks to impose a Judeo-Bolshevik regime in Greece”. Pictures of Savas Michael are presented combined with anti-Semitic insults and openly death threats: “Crush the Jewish vermin!”

 We wish to express our total opposition to the Greek state and government collaboration with the Nazi Golden Dawn in bringing these persecutions. We wish to express out outrage at the collaboration of the Greek state and government in failing to oppose and thereby collaborating with the vile anti-Semitic campaign against Savas Michael-Matsas and thereby against all Jews.

 We demand that the charges against Savas Michael-Matsas and Constantino Moutzouris be dropped immediately and that the Greek state and government protect the immigrant community against the fascist assaults of the Golden Dawn and cease prosecuting their defenders. Signed:

Steve Hedley, on behalf of the Rail and Maritime Union. Weyman Bennett, on behalf of Unite Against Fascism D.R. Rayner Lysaght, on behalf of Socialist Democracy (Ireland) David Yaffe, on behalf of the Revolutionary Communist Group Michael Holden, on behalf of the Irish Republican Prisoners  Support Group Michael Pröbsting on behalf of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) Alex Steiner on behalf of permanent-revolution.org Martin Ralph on behalf of the International Socialist League To add your organisation to the list email:  Socialist_Fight@yahoo.co.ukSocialist Fight