Tuesday, 11 January 2011
From the 13th December to the 21st of December 2010 the 17th World Festival of Youth and Students took place in Pretoria or Tshwane, South Africa under the slogan ‘Let’s defeat imperialism, for a world of peace, solidarity and social transformation!’ For members of the British delegation the event provided invaluable experience and a continuing source of inspiration.
One problem progressive young people find in Britain is a sense of isolation. They may feel like they are the only young communist in their town. That is why it is so important for young people to attend local political meetings or national events like the Tolpuddle Martyrs festival; this provides a sense of being part of a movement. For those of us given the chance to attend the world festival, with thousands of young communists and anti-imperialists from over 130 nations around the world, we discovered that we are part of a truly global movement.
British delegates gained greater knowledge of subjects such as the struggle of the peoples of Western Sahara and Palestine, the politics surrounding foreign military bases, the campaign to free the Miami Five and the history of the Vietnamese people’s infamous victory over a brutal US invasion. Evidence was presented to an anti-imperialist court concerning environmental damage, the looting of natural resources, and the establishment of repressive military dictatorships. President of the jury, the South African judge Andele Magxitama, convicted imperialism of these crimes against humanity, in their conquest of the world in line with the principle of satisfying the interests of the few above the many.
The vibrant display of different cultures was breathtaking. There was much to see and experience including a Vietnamese tradition where delegates had to step between several pairs of bamboo sticks being smashed together in time to music played from a bamboo xylophone. The festival halls were explosions of rhythm with Arabic music, Korean plays and various African tribal dances. Some Sri Lankan delegates cooked traditional hoppers-pancakes made from fermented rice flour, yeast, salt and egg, while the Cuban delegation produced Havana Club Cocktails. Experiencing South African politics at first hand was overwhelming as mass meetings always erupted into singing, dancing and chanting.
There was a real expression of youth culture, people sat around painting amazing pictures, singing songs, playing instruments and reciting poetry. Some Spanish speaking delegates dressed up as caricatures of the capitalist media, dressed in suits with a papier-mâché television camera with a CNN logo, who would proceed to interview people holding a screen in front of the camera with the sign of the dollar, while a man on stilts dressed as Uncle Sam held puppet strings above your head.
The legacy of the recent world cup was keenly felt and the festival echoed with the sound of VuVuzelas. The early exit of Bafana Bafana from the recent world cup proved to be a sore point and during a keepy-uppy demonstration a delegate from Uruguay was challenged to beat the local lads’ performance. However, the South African delegates were heartened by the victory of both their women’s and men’s’ teams who won the football tournament. British delegates from the Young Communist League were particularly proud of a football victory of its own when we beat the Portuguese communist youth 3-2 in a hard fought game, a particularly impressive feat at an altitude of 1,350 m (4,500 ft) above sea level.
At the closing of the festival we joined a march of thousands of young people through the streets of Tshwane which brought us to a rally of where passionate speeches and songs were delivered from a stage in front of the Union buildings which granted an impressive view across the city to those who walked to the top.
Members of the British delegation were greatly impressed by the vibrancy of South African politics with its singing and dancing. The ANC song Solomon was particularly enjoyed;
Isotsha lo Mkhonto We Sizwe!
Wa yo bulala amabhunu eAfrika!"
"Oh Solomon, The Spear of the Nation soldier, He struggled against the Boer oppressors in Africa."
Delegates from the Young Communist League enjoyed this popular South African Communist Party (SACP) song;
"My father was a gardener, a gardener, a gardener,
My mother was a kitchen girl, a kitchen girl, a kitchen girl,
That’s why I am a communist, a communist, a communist.”
We were so impressed that we intend to bring it home, although the occupations of railwayman and nurse would better reflect our labour movement.
Something Britain’s communists suffer from, particularly in England, is a failure to draw our socialism and our national identity together. We look enviously at our comrades in France who can quite happily mix socialist convictions while waving the tricolore and delivering La Marseillaise in thunderous voices. At the world festival delegations proudly waved their national flags and displayed their respective national cultures on their stalls. Particularly vivid are the memories of fluttering Brazilian and Cuban flags held high by carnivals moving in time to Latin music, Syrian and Algerian characters in traditional Arabic robes, whose stalls resembled a cave in Arabian Nights, and of course, tribal African dancers carefully balancing pots upon their heads or pounding upon drums, displaying stone carved elephants and beaded jewellery. We were asked by the Vietnamese delegation, with their stall full of ceramic figurines and traditional Asian Conical hats, why our stall did not contain any British cultural items.
That left us wondering, what is British culture? Would it be appropriate for us to boldly wave the Union flag, mirroring our ancestors when they thrust it through the heart of the freedom of one quarter of the planet’s population?
At an event organized by the Portuguese communist youth, we were impressed by the hearty renditions of the songs of the Carnation revolution. The only response we could muster was to remind them of the result of a certain game of football that had taken place earlier that day. Eventually we decided to deliver a few verses of the red flag, a song we continued to sing throughout the festival. Nonetheless, British culture was best expressed by the conversations we had about premiership football with delegates from over nations over a few beers in the evenings.
Clearly, defeated only sixteen years, the legacy of apartheid is still dearly felt in the form of high levels of crime and inequality. Nonetheless President Zuma, who attended the opening ceremony of the festival that included a military parade and a flypast by the South African Air force, has stated that he will seek to deliver a badly needed programme of job creation and greater redistribution of wealth, that the ANC and SACP will seek to forge a different path from South Africa’s current neoliberalism.
Overall the Festival was a life-changing event for its delegates, by learning as a group, playing football together, and overcoming organisational obstacles as a team, the YCL contingent demonstrated an ability to act as one. It’s members come back to Britain more enthusiastic than ever and better equipped to get stuck into political work with renewed vigour. Members of the YCL contingent will lead by example and use their new found skills and passion to forge a bigger, better YCL in order to support the rebuilding and reenergising of the communist party and supporting the labour movement in uniting the communities of Britain against this Tory-led government.
Monday, 10 January 2011
The Communist Party of Britain has adopted a Party Campaign Plan for 2011 which includes major initiatives. Includes two national speaking tours and upping the ante on the struggle against job loss and the destruction of industry and services.
These include proposals for:
• The party's annual trade union and political cadre school on February 26-27.
• A national event to celebrate International Women's Day with other Communist and workers' parties domiciled in Britain.
• A campaigning 'month of action' in March and November on benefit cuts and Palestinian political prisoners.
• Two national speaking tours in spring and winter on 'Capitalist crisis - the Communist Party's answer' and 'The Communist Party and Britain's Road to Socialism'.
• Communist Party participation in English local, Scottish and Welsh elections on May 5.
• Campaigning against the Alternative Vote in the May 5 referendum.
• A seminar to be organised by the party's Economic Committee on the dimensions of capitalist crisis.
• Discussions to formulate 'a major labour movement initiative' against mass unemployment.
Britain is in an economic crisis.For too many years the labour movement has been fighting on its back foot, Finance has stranggled the rest of the nation and the rich have increased their wealth to staggering levels. Tired old anti-communist propaganda is being questioned by a new generation of socialists. Many young people are seeing capitalism for what it is and they support the communist party while it is growing in numbers and influence.
Britain badly needs the communist party. A larger cadre party that could act as a discplined cohort at the core of the labour movement ensuring that it packs a punch, providing leadership based on Marxist-Leninist analysis and organising communities that have been neglected for far too long. Such a party could make Britain's economic crisis a political crisis.
At a time when many are becoming interested in the communist party-especially among young people and students-it is fantastic to see the party asserting itself and stepping up it's activity.
As this fantastic banner read from the KNE-Communist youth of Greece at the recent 17th World Festival of Youth and Students in South Africa-'Communism is the youth of the world!'
Thursday, 6 January 2011
In line with efforts of many party and YCL members to draw up answers to FAQs that we face everytime we do stalls and other public activity, I have decided to take on on of the biggest tricks up the anti-communist sleave, I will attempt to put the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact into perspective.
The Nazi-Soviet pact is one slice of history that is always brought up by those seeking to equate Communism with fascism. Revisionist historians, notably Niall Ferguson, have claimed that the "blame" for the second world war should be equally shared by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Ferguson has stated that Stalin was "as much an aggressor as Hitler." Most outrageously Orlando Figes has described the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact as "the licence for the Holocaust."
These claims may appear to be ludicrous enough to alienate most people. However, this view of history is becoming more popular. The Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact is a key element to this line of argument and is inseparable to the recent increase in repression of communists in Europe. This piece of realpolitik diplomacy has been taken out of its context and used by ultra-right wingers in the EU, grouped around the Prague Declaration, representing the forces behind a huge, Europe-wide campaign to outlaw communism.
Those seeking to equate Nazis Germany and it’s fascist allies with the socialist nations of Eastern Europe are doing so on the basis of their anti-communist ideology alone. There can be no genuine comparison. On the one hand you have Nazi Germany, a violent and expansionary fascist state-funded by big business-who carried out a systematically planned genocide based on racial identity. On the other, the Soviet Union and socialist states of Eastern Europe, established by revolutions with mass support, that raised the general standard of living by means of a centrally planned economy.
In practise that has meant that communist symbols have been made illegal in countries such as Hungary, Lithuania and Poland. In the Czech Republic the youth section of the communist party-a party with mass support-was outlawed. While in Moldova anti-communists have resorted to riots when the communist party won the elections.
While the stated aims of these European anti-communists are to equate communism with fascism, communists-often the largest force fighting cutbacks-are being repressed in their respective countries while violent fascist groups are thriving.
In the Baltic republics anti-communism is being used in order to rehabilitate nazism. Veterans of the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS now parade through the streets of Riga and Estonian parliamentarians have honoured those who served the Third Reich as "fighters for independence." Across Europe monuments to those who fought the nazis being dismantled on a daily basis. Most shamefully, NATO and EU member Lithuania opened a war crimes investigation into four Jewish veterans of the country's partisans.
Efraim Zuroff, the famous nazi hunter, has stated: "People need to wake up to what is going on. This attempt to create a false symmetry between communism and the nazi genocide is aimed at covering up these countries' participation in mass murder."
The Nazi-Soviet pact is used as cover for the repression of communists by claiming that communists and fascists are both ‘totalitarian’. This attack on communists has been exploited by holocaust denying neo-nazis seeking to use this anti-communist onslaught to distract the people of Europe from the crimes of fascism.
The idea that communists and fascists are somehow one and the same is a false concept that is catching on and is in danger of becoming fashionable. Yet we can fight against this naked piece of anti-communist propaganda by placing the act in its historical context.
On the surface the idea that communists and fascists, supposed arch-enemies, should sign an act of non-aggression may seem strange. But we must go back to the mid-1930s in order to explain the act.
It was the dominant section of the British ruling elite, together with British and American capital, that ensured the rise of Nazi Germany. Treaties that allowed the Nazis to increase the size of their armed forced were signed by British politicians sympathetic to the Nazis, falling for the propaganda of ‘Living space’ and seeing them as a useful ally against the Soviet Union.
When a fascist military uprising broke out in Spain, it was the British Secret Service who had flown it’s leader General Franco from prison in the Canary islands to Morocco. While people of nations across the globe flocked to the communist organised international brigades in order to fight for Spanish democracy, Britain headed a non-intervention committee that prevented men and material from reaching republican forces.
The British government invoked the 1870 enlistment act that prohibits Britons from volunteering to fight against an ally-in this case fascist Italy! The non-intervention committee turned a blind eye to troops and material pumped into Spain from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. This act enabled Hitler to test new tactics and encouraged him that Britain would not respond to his plans to conquer Europe. The only nation that sent significant numbers of war material and personnel to fight for democracy was the Soviet Union.
Members of the international brigades-who went on to play a massive role in resistance movements to the Nazis, or the army and Home guard in Britain-left Spain as Franco’s troops raped, tortured, murdered and pillaged, completing their conquest of the nation. Britain was the first nation to recognise the fascist military junta as a legitimate government.
As Nazi troops occupied Austria and Czechoslovakia Britain collaborated with Hitler at Munich, while repeated Soviet calls for Britain and France to form an anti-fascist alliance to stop the Nazis from invading European countries were ignored.
It was clear that war was only a matter of months away, the British government still favoured an alliance with Nazi Germany and continued to sign treaties and trade deals. High profile diplomatic delegations were sent to Berlin and Rome to drink to the health of Hitler and Mussolini, the Soviet Union was sidelined with only minor clerks, with no powers to sign treaties, sent to Moscow.
When it become clear the Nazis would invade Poland, the Soviet Union proposed to sign a treaty with Britain and France to guarantee Poland’s borders backed up with the threat of war. Poland continued to refuse to sign any treaty that allowed Soviet troops to cross Polish territory in order to attack Nazi Germany. Britain refused to join the Soviets in declaring war on Hitler in the event of a Nazi invasion of Poland, however-with very dubious motives-Britain encouraged the Soviets to go to war with Nazi Germany.
With the experience of the 1918-1920 intervention in living memory, where 22 nations including Germany, Britain and Poland had invaded Russia, committing widespread atrocities, the Soviet Union was wary of a repeat performance. The pro-nazi element in Britain’s ruling class wanted to support, formally or informally, a Nazi war with the Soviet Union. Britain’s international relations demonstrated this strategy in action.
It was in this context that a non-aggression pact was signed between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. This move sidelined British and Nazi war plans and enabled the Soviet Union to spend two years preparing for war-a period in which defence spending rose by 27%. The decision to occupy parts of Eastern Poland, 8 days after the Nazis invaded from the West, put fascist artillery out of range of Russian cities and ensured that the population of eastern Poland-many ethnically Ukrainian or Belorussian-were saved from the horrors of the holocaust for two years.
Britain, having signed huge deals with Germany and Japan handing over valuable materials needed for war just months earlier, was outmaneuvered by Stalin. When the Nazis invaded Poland the appeasers hesitated for several days. Only after pressure from parliament, with Churchill writing to Chamberlain threatening to make a speech in favour of war revealing the government‘s treacherous nature, did Britain reluctantly declare war on Germany.
Events during the early ‘phoney war’ period appeared to vindicate the Nazi-Soviet pact. Was this an imperialist war? The pro-Nazi appeasers remained in the British government and acted to sabotage Britain’s war effort. One revealing chapter of history which is conveniently left out of the history books is Britain’s role in the Soviet-Finnish war. In direct contrast to their use of the 1870 enlistment act to prevent Britons volunteering for the fight to save Spanish democracy from fascism, the British government used a clause in the act in order to encourage volunteers to fight for Finland against the Soviet Union. In 1940 the formation of a British Legion-with the aim of recruiting 10,000-was declared. By the end of the conflict only three Britons were found to be fighting for the reactionary Finnish government, in contrast to the thousands who fought in Spain.
At a time when Britain stood alone against the threat of a Nazi invasion, a huge amount of war materials were shipped to Finland. Instead of reinforcing our armed forces, or ill equipped home guard, we shipped 30 'Blenheim' bombers, 246 fighter planes, 400,000 rifles, and 250,000 grenades to Helsinki. The Nazi ally also received supplies from Italy and Germany so much of the British supplies ended up in the hands of the Nazis. We only stopped shipping arms to this fascist ally when the Soviet Union was invaded and the conflict became a ‘people’s war’.
The Soviet Union managed to occupy parts of Finland and deny the Nazis launch pad for it’s later invasion. The example of Britain supporting a Nazi ally, against the needs of it’s own people demonstrate that the war was imperialist at this point. The occupation of parts of Finland ensured that Nazi Germany was defeated sooner than it would have otherwise and was only possible because of the Nazi-Soviet pact of non-aggression. A similar pact was signed with Japan shortly before the Nazi invasion, this is another example of realpolitik that helped make the destruction of fascism occur earlier.
The Nazi-Soviet pact and occupation of Poland, which Churchill felt ‘was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace’, cannot be isolated from the context of the events leading up to and during the start of the Second World War. If it somehow proved that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were secret bedfellows why did the Soviets demand the German signatories drink a toast to Lazar Kaganovitch, the most senior Jewish communist in the Soviet government? Why did the Soviet’s refuse the German suggestion to include in the treaty the phrase ‘the friendly character of German-Soviet relations’?
At the end of the day the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact was a reluctant move that was hard to swallow, but necessary to the ultimate aim of destroying Nazi Germany, a feat which wouldn’t have been possible without the contribution of the Soviet Union who faced 80% of the German armed forces for the duration of the ‘people’s war’ which cost the Soviet Union nearly 24 million lifes.
For more information read the fantastic book 'Freedom from Tyranny; The fight against fascism and the falsification of history' by Phil Katz and the Communist Party history group. Available at www.manifestopress.org.uk