Thursday, 29 August 2013

No to imperialist intervention in Syria

Editorial of the Socialist -
Via social media, smart phones and traditional news channels a flood of bloody images, footage and reports of the unbearable suffering inflicted on the Syrian masses has been broadcast around the world.

Initially in 2011, following the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, there was a popular uprising against Assad's police state. But, as has been explained in the Socialist, interventions and enormous financial and military backing came from the semi-feudal monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and imperialist forces in the hope of derailing that movement.

The uprising against Assad's dictatorship has been skewed now into a sectarian conflict and has, moreover, unleashed a dangerous battle between the Sunnis and the Shias on a regional scale. The death toll of Syria's now years-long conflict is estimated to be over 100,000. Two million people have fled the country and around five million are internally displaced. This is horror piled upon horror.

For the overwhelming majority of people the news that chemical weapons have been used in Ghouta, a district of Damascus, appears to represent the opening of a new circle of hell for the suffering masses. The reports that the dead are numbered in their hundreds and the injured in their thousands are as heart-breaking as they are horrifying.

Given what has taken place, combined with the threat of regional instability looming, a desire for a solution to this horror is a human response. But to hope that the US and UK governments and their allies in France, Germany and Turkey could bring any solution, given history, both recent and long-term, is horribly mistaken.
Air strikes

Over the last months US President Obama has warned that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a 'red line' to trigger an international response no fewer than five times. Already there are three US warships in the Mediterranean with another on its way. Pilots in Cyprus have reported seeing warplanes on British airfields there.

Foreign Secretary William Hague has been preparing the ground here in Britain, indicating that the absence of a UN mandate will be no obstacle: "it's possible to take action based on great humanitarian distress." He's suggested that action, most likely intense aerial bombardment, could take place within weeks, if not days. The UN security committee is split with Russia and China opposing intervention in the interests of their own capitalist classes.

Hague is also reported to have been liaising with the dictatorial and repressive Qatari and Saudi regimes who would welcome a defeat of Assad as a blow against Iran and Hezbollah. Iran has warned that western military intervention will destabilise the region.

Patrick Cockburn, Middle East commentator, has pointed out the difficulties of ascertaining who bears responsibility for the recent chemical attack. The UN inspectors were granted access and a ceasefire agreed but the inspectors came under fire and were ordered out within hours. However, that in itself does not yet prove who was responsible and the inspectors are only due to decide if there was a chemical attack.

Before UN inspectors have publicly reported, US Secretary of State, John Kerry said that the US would respond to the "undeniable" use of chemical weapons in Syria and that President Bashar al-Assad's forces had committed a "moral obscenity" against his own people.

'Moral obscenity' might also be a good word to describe the destruction of Iraq, including the alleged use of white phosphorous and depleted uranium tipped missiles, the open air prison that denies the Palestinians their democratic and national rights, silence in the face of genocidal slaughter in Sri Lanka, not to mention imperialist powers' record of employing chemical and nuclear weapons.

There is major domestic public opposition to US and UK involvement despite the desire for an end to the slaughter. Memories of the build-up to the invasion of Iraq and the 'dodgy dossier' claims that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction are evoked by the current rush to attack. That is compounded by the failure of the British government to publish the results of the Chilcot inquiry.

Obama's election programme included pledges to bring an end to US involvement in Iraq and the years of Bush's warmongering. Instead he has been a war president with the murderous drones multiplying in Afghanistan and Pakistan, albeit largely replacing troops on the ground, and the maintenance of Guantanamo Bay. 60% of the US population oppose US military involvement in Syria.

But both the US and UK governments have an interest in appearing as heroes to the Syrian masses and as defenders of democracy, mired as they are in a profound crisis of capitalism, with no solution, and with anger against them mounting.
Iraq war

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq the Lib Dems polished their thin anti-war credentials by opposing action without a UN mandate. The Socialist Party pointed out that the UN could not be relied on as an arbitrator in the interests of the Iraqi people, comprised and dominated as it is by representatives of the major imperialist and warmongering governments of the world. However, former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown now argues that, in the case of Syria, unilateral action is preferable to inaction.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander has demanded parliament be recalled. Cameron looks likely to do this, as he faces opposition from a small number of his own backbenchers, such are the complications and risks for the future of the entire region.

Labour has not indicated how it would vote. A genuine working people's party would massively oppose any form of military action in Syria. But Labour has a lustrous record as vicious warmongers in government, sending troops to Iraq for a war for oil in the interest of big business and for strategic aims.

In opposition Labour boasts an almost spotless record of kowtowing to the rotten Con-Dem austerity policies. Yet again the need to build a new political force to represent the anti-war, anti-austerity majority is glaring.

There can be no hope that any action on the part of this government or its international counterparts can bring relief to the populations of Syria or the Middle East. In fact it is guaranteed that increased bombing will bring increased suffering to the masses. And this is why it must be opposed.

'Regime change' is not a cited aim, because Assad's is a relatively strong regime, because of the fierce opposition of Russia, and because the question of who would replace it is so problematic. Given the significant funding and growth of Al-Qa'ida in Syria there are also serious dangers of a 'blowback' of increased terrorism, in the region and inside Britain and its allies in this adventure.

There is no real capitalist solution to this conflict, threatening as it does in the unstable arena of the region, to unravel into wider ethnic conflict which could last for years. What is clear from Iraq, from Libya, and from all imperialist military interventions, is that the interests of the working class and poor in the region are not a driving force.

There is no shortcut to the building of, and encouraging the establishment of, independent working class forces that can unite the poor and oppressed and suffering in their common interests against both the forces of imperialism and their semi-feudal and capitalist allies in the region.
We say:
No to imperialist intervention! The withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria and the region
Against all oppression, the people must democratically decide their own fate
For the building of united, non-sectarian defence committees to defend workers, the poor and others against sectarian attacks from all sides
Prepare a movement to fight for a government of representatives of workers and the poor
For a revolutionary constituent assembly in Syria
The implementation of the national and democratic rights of the masses, with the recognition of the right of the Kurdish people to self-determination including, if they so wish, the right to their own state
Independent trade unions and the building of mass workers' parties with a programme of land to the masses and the factories to the workers, implemented through a programme for a socialist democratic planned economy
A democratic socialist confederation of the Middle East and North Africa

Saturday, 24 August 2013

A Trend in the Wrong history..





A Trend in the Wrong Direction

(The case for defending an independently elected Party Control Commission was made by US revolutionary James P Cannon at a time when the Trotskyist party in the US, The Socialist Workers Party, was experiencing a growth of members as a result of the student radicalisation of the 1960's.
Posted for those interested in past discussions relating to organisation and cadre development in a Leninist Party.-Martyn Ahmet)

November 12, 1966
Copies to:
Ed Shaw, New York
Jean Simon, Cleveland
Reba Hansen
New York, N.Y
Dear Reba:
This answers your letter of November 2 with which you enclosed a copy of Jean Simon’s letter of October 12. I was surprised and concerned by Jean’s proposals to change the constitutional provisions providing for an independent Control Commission elected by the convention, and making it a mere subcommittee of the NC, which would mean in effect a subcommittee of the PC. This would be the de facto liquidation of the Control Commission as it was originally conceived.
As far as I can see all the new moves and proposals to monkey with the Constitution which has served the party so well in the past, with the aim of “tightening” centralization, represent a trend in the wrong direction at the present time. The party (and the YSA) is too “tight” already, and if we go much further along this line we can run the risk of strangling the party to death.
As I recall it, the proposal to establish a Control Commission, separately elected by the convention, originated at the Plenum and Active Workers’ Conference in the fall of 1940, following the assassination of the Old Man. The assassin, as you will recall, gained access to the household in Coyoacan through his relations with a party member.[6] The Political Committee was then, as it always will be if it functions properly, too busy with political and organizational problems to take time for investigations and security checks on individuals.
It was agreed that we need a special body to take care of this work, to investigate rumors and charges and present its findings and recommendations to the National Committee.
If party security was one side of the functions of the Control Commission, the other side - no less important - was to provide the maximum assurance that any individual party member, accused or rumored to be unworthy of party membership, could be assured of the fullest investigation and a fair hearing or trial. It was thought that this double purpose could best be served by a body separately elected by the convention, and composed of members of long standing, especially respected by the party for their fairness as well as their devotion.
I can recall instances where the Control Commission served the party well in both aspects of this dual function. In one case a member of the seamen’s fraction was expelled by the Los Angeles Branch after charges were brought against him by two members of the National Committee of that time. The expelled member appealed to the National Committee and the case was turned over to the Control Commission for investigation. The Control Commission, on which as I recall Dobbs was then the PC representative, investigated the whole case, found that the charges lacked substantial proof and recommended the reinstatement of the expelled member. This was done.
In another case, a rumor circulated by the Shachtmanites and others outside the party against the integrity of a National Office secretarial worker was thoroughly investigated by the Control Commission which, after taking stenographic testimony from all available sources, declared the rumors unfounded and cleared the accused party member to continue her work. There were other cases in which charges were found after investigation to be substantiated and appropriate action recommended.
All these experiences speak convincingly of the need for a separate Control Commission of highly respected comrades to make thorough investigations of every case, without being influenced by personal or partisan prejudice, or pressure from any source, and whose sole function is to examine each case from all sides fairly and justly and report its findings and recommendations. This is the best way, not only to protect the security of the party, but also to respect the rights of the accused in every case.
As far as I know, the only criticism that can properly be made of the Control Commission in recent times is that it has not always functioned in this way with all its members participating, either by presence or correspondence, in all proceedings - and convincing the party that its investigation was thorough and that its findings and recommendations were fair and just.

* * *

It should be pointed out also that the idea of a Control Commission separately constituted by the convention didn’t really originate with us. Like almost everything else we know about the party organizational principles and functions, it came from the Russian Bolsheviks. The Russian party had a separate Control Commission. It might also be pointed out that after the revolution the new government established courts. It provided also for independent trade unions which, as Lenin pointed out in one of the controversies, had the duty even to defend the rights of its members against the government. Of course, all that was changed later when all power was concentrated in the party secretariat, and all the presumably independent institutions were converted into rubber stamps. But we don’t want to move in that direction. The forms and methods of the Lenin-Trotsky time are a better guide for us.

* * *

I am particularly concerned about any possible proposal to weaken the constitutional provision about the absolute right of suspended or expelled members to appeal to the convention. That is clearly and plainly a provision to protect every party member against possible abuse of authority by the National Committee. It should not be abrogated or diluted just to show that we are so damn revolutionary that we make no concessions to “bourgeois concepts of checks and balances.” The well-known Bill of Rights is a check and balance which I hope will be incorporated, in large part at least, in the Constitution of the Workers Republic in this country. Our constitutional provision for the right of appeal is also a “check and balance.” It can help to recommend our party to revolutionary workers as a genuinely democratic organization which guarantees rights as well as imposing responsibilities, and thus make it more appealing to them.
I believe that these considerations have more weight now than ever before in the thirty-eight-year history of our party. In the present political climate and with the present changing composition of the party, democratic centralism must be applied flexibly. At least ninety percent of the emphasis should be placed on the democratic side and not on any crackpot schemes to “streamline” the party to the point where questions are unwelcomed and criticism and discussion stifled. That is a prescription to kill the party before it gets a chance to show how it can handle and assimilate an expanding membership of new young people, who don’t know it all to start with, but have to learn and grow in the course of explication and discussion in a free, democratic atmosphere.
Trotsky once remarked in a polemic against Stalinism that even in the period of the Civil War discussion in the party was “boiling like a spring.” Those words and others like it written by Trotsky, in his first attack against Stalinism in The New Course, ought to be explained now once again to the new young recruits in our party. And the best way to explain such decisive things is to practice what we preach.
Yours fraternally,
James P. Cannon

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Socialist Party meetings this week - Why the pharmaceutical industry should be nationalised

Under capitalism, essential medication is privately produced and distributed for profit. In the developing world, HIV drugs are withheld from people that need them most as they are marketed first in the West, and even in the US many cannot afford the huge costs. Michael Wright explains why drug companies should be nationalised.

Tuesday 13 August: 7.45pm, Cheltenham Rd Library, Bristol BS6 5QX
Wednesday 14 August: 7.30pm Hydra Books, 34 Old Market Street, Bristol, BS2 0EZ

Find out more:

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Bristol East Socialist Party picnic in the park

Saturday 3 August 2013 1pm

Entrance to St George Park, Chrurch Road, St George

Now with Music as it is the same day as the RedFest see here for details:

You are invited to the East Branch Picnic in the Park on Saturday 3rd August.

Where - St George Park
Meet at Church Road entrance.

When - Saturday 3rd August at 1pm.

What - Bring food and drink and a blanket or rug to sit on

Who - Everyone! Comrades, friends, family. Children of all ages
especially welcome!

So bring food, yourself, family and maybe a football, frisbee - whatever just be there for fun, sun, food and friends.

Please circulate to your local Socialist Party or Trade Union branch, to friends and anyone you would like to be there. Please let me know if you are coming so I can...well just know!

Also the picnic will be preceded by a paper sale/leaflet from 12pm outside Tescos on Church Road so all welcome there too.

If we get a good turnout some Comrades can go leafleting in the park.