Scottish Communists - website of the Communist Party
Following on from some ridiculously biased reporting on Cuba in the mainstream British press, Communist Party General Secretary Rob Griffiths exposes the "bile and hatred" of at least four Independent journalists in the past few days.
NOT SO ‘INDEPENDENT’ WHEN IT COMES TO CUBA
I am genuinely puzzled by The Independent’s atrocious coverage of Cuba.
This is the newspaper which vigorously opposed the Iraq War and carries almost daily reports on the Middle East from Robert Fisk and Kim Sengupta, who invariably expose US (and therefore British) foreign policy for the pile of self-serving, hypocritical horseshit that it is.
Even on Syria, Fisk has been allowed to – almost singlehandedly in Britain’s big business press – reveal and applaud the Damascus regime’s desperate fight against Islamic State terrorism.
On domestic issues, The Independent campaigns for civil liberties and against racism and poverty, although its editorials on economic questions appear to be written by a pro-City neoliberal.
Mark Steel’s features are comedy gold and flay all the right targets.
But on Cuba, the paper pours out a continuous torrent of bile and hatred. And not only from one ‘rotten apple’. At least four journalists have taken up their poisonous pens against the island in the past few days.
Last Thursday (December 18), I wrote to the editor challenging US correspondent Tim Walker’s ludicrously distorted account of Cuban foreign policy in a major article that day responding to the announcement of a thaw in relations with the US. I didn’t have room to tackle two other anti-Cuban reports in the same edition of The Independent, one of them a fact-free rant by one of those extreme right-wing Cuban renegades whose views have polluted Miami/Florida/US politics for 50 years.
My letter has not been published, and I’m not holding my breath that it will be.
Then, on Saturday (December 20) we had two more features taking up three full pages. One by Simon Calder (‘How Cuba learnt to forget America and survive the blockade’) recalled his visit to the island in 1989. Dripping with sarcasm, he talks about Cuba as a ‘Marxist-Leninist theme park’, an ‘aircraft carrier for the Soviet Union … propped up’ by Soviet oil supplies’. Every anti-communist image and cliché is deployed (propaganda for the Kremlin, the Party line, a Soviet satellite etc. etc.) as Cuba’s stupendous advances in health and education are dismissed – really! – in just half a sentence. Calder writes at length about racism (which he claimed was ‘common’) and human rights abuses on the island (which were and are ‘many’ – although he forgets to mention the US torture camp at Guantanamo).
And the US blockade? Well, here Calder’s main point was how this was ‘exploited enthusiastically’ by the devious, manipulative Havana regime.
Japanese communists almost tripled their seats in the country’s general election on Sunday, which saw right-wing premier Shinzo Abe comfortably retain his overall majority.
Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won 291 seats, while its Buddhist party ally Komeito took 35, totalling 326 out of the 475 seats in the country’s lower house.
The LDP’s main rival Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) increased its seats only slightly from 63 to 75 and its leader Banri Kaieda lost his seat. The DPJ was itself born from splits within the intensely factional and cliquish LDP and shares its commitment to big business interests and pro-Washington foreign policy.
The far-right Japan Innovation Party took 41 seats, down one, while the ultra-nationalist Party for Future Generations lost 18 of its previous 20 seats.
However, the welcome decline in strength of the far right has largely been due to Abe’s ability to co-opt ultra-nationalist sentiment.
Two small centrist parties, the Social Democratic Party and People’s Life Party, won two seats each.
One bright spot was the resurgence of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) which won 21 seats, up from eight in the previous general election.
The JCP took 7,040,130 votes (13.3 per cent) in the constituency section and 6,062,962 (11.37 per cent) in the party lists.
This continues a wave of support that was also evident in last year’s Tokyo metropolitan election where the party doubled its representation.
Fighting on a platform directly opposed to “Abenomics,” the Trans-Pacific Partnership, militarist attempts to rewrite the constitution, US military bases and nuclear power, the JCP tapped into a minority current that seeks an alternative to Japan’s rightward direction under Abe and the tepid opposition offered by the DPJ.
Reviewing the results, JCP general secretary Kazuo Shii said: “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asserted that Abenomics is ‘the only way’ but quite a number of voters felt that that might be a dangerous path to continue. We’ve never softened our head-on stance against Abe’s runaway policies. This is why, I think, our party gained so much support in the election this time.”
Of all the major capitalist economies, the Japanese model appears to have exhausted itself and, despite the hype, Abe has failed to revive it.
One statistic starkly illustrates Japan’s long-term stagnation: in 2010 the Japanese economy was actually smaller than it had been in 1992. The country has gone through what is being called “the two lost decades,” racking up a huge national debt (240 per cent of GDP) in the process.
It has been the failed policies of the LDP, which has ruled Japan for most of the post-1945 period, which are to blame — although this does not seem to be registering with most Japanese voters.
A common response is apathy — the general election saw a record low turnout of just 53 per cent.
Communist options are limited with few signs that other parties are prepared to resist the Abe machine.
Only on the island of Okinawa, centre of a mass movement against the US military presence, was the JCP able to get agreements with other anti-base opposition forces and a JCP member was directly elected in the constituency list as opposed to the 20 returned by proportional representation in the party list sector.
This lack of allies was acknowledged in a speech by Shii to foreign reporters in November.
“Last month, the JCP set the difference of political affiliation aside and contributed to the victories of anti-base candidates in the Okinawa gubernatorial and Naha City mayoral elections. Their success in unifying forces in the election has greatly shocked the central government.
“Thus, where the conditions are right for electoral co-operation, the JCP promotes an alliance with other political forces. However, in prefectures other than Okinawa, such a condition has yet to be met.
“All parties are currently unwilling to face up against the Abe regime based on the common ground of opposing a consumption tax increase, the Abenomics economic policy, the collective self-defense right, the restart of nuclear power generation and the construction of a new US base in Okinawa. The Democratic Party of Japan, for example, supports a consumption tax hike. It just calls for the postponement of its introduction.”
JCP leaders frequently make the point that the party is the only genuine opposition party in the country.
I've just sent this letter for publication to The Independent.
Why is the Independent’s reporting of Cuba so uncharacteristically unbalanced, inaccurate and hostile?
In all the paper’s coverage of the US-Cuba ‘truce’ (December 18), no mention is made of the history of violent terrorist attacks on Cuban offices, hotels and airliners by US-backed, US-based Cuban exiles. While the case of the ‘Miami Five’ is highlighted, nowhere is it reported that these Cuban government agents were in the US ‘spying’ on these terrorist organisations – and reported their findings to the US authorities.
As for the claim that attempts by US presidents Ford and Carter to ‘normalise’ relations were ‘disrupted when Castro sent Cuban troops to support repressive Marxist regimes in Angola and Ethiopia’ …
Firstly, almost all the pressure to normalise relations between the US and Cuba over the past half a century came from the Cuban side, backed by the vast majority of the world’s countries which consistently voted at the UN against the US economic embargo.
Secondly, Cuba’s military involvement in Ethiopia was mainly to repel an invasion by the repressive regime in Somalia in 1977-78. After that, as US State Department papers confirm, Cuban troops were largely confined to barracks and Castro refused to join the Ethiopian regime’s war in Eritrea.
Thirdly, Cuba’s military intervention in Angola was to support the MPLA, the liberation movement which fought Portuguese imperialism and which – as elections eventually confirmed – enjoyed the overwhelming support of the Angolan people. Specifically, Cuban forces helped defend Angolan sovereignty against the US and South African-backed UNITA movement.
In particular, Cuba’s spectacular military defeat of the apartheid regime’s armed forces at the Battle of Cuito Cuanvale in 1987 opened the way for SWAPO’s liberation of Namibia.
US presidents may have been miffed by such actions, but freedom-loving people around the world celebrated the selfless heroism of Cuban troops.
Finally, the extraordinary claim is made that the US invasion of Grenada was ‘partly motivated by the construction of a military airstrip in Grenada by Cuban engineers’.
Cubans were helping to build Point Salines (now Maurice Bishop) international airport according to Canadian specifications and with British finance. While US President Reagan claimed that the airstrip was being constructed to receive Soviet military aircraft, this was denied at the time by the Grenadan and Cuban governments.
It’s disappointing to see this same unsubstantiated, discredited and paranoid nonsense being recycled as fact many years later by the Independent.
Communist Party of Britain
Commenting on the news that remaining three Cuban prisoners held in Miami have been released Grahame Smith STUC General Secretary says:
“The STUC has long campaigned for the release of the Miami Five and are glad to see that, at last, the prisoners have now gained their freedom. The release of the three remaining Miami Five, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero, along with the release of Alan Goss by Cuba, marks a positive step forward in the normalisation of relations between these states.
The STUC congratulates all those who have campaigned to overturn the miscarriage of justice that led to the imprisonment of the Miami Five and all those who have fought for better relations between Cuba and the US for the last 50 years.”
Since the publication of the Smith Commission report last month, the focus of debate has been almost entirely on how much tax power it gives the Scottish Parliament and whether this matches the “devo-max” pledge made by Better Together.
There has been very little assessment of what these tax powers means in class terms — how far they can be used to strengthen the bargaining position of working people.
For a care worker in the community and voluntary sector, the human consequences of existing cuts are all too obvious.
Will the Smith Commission proposals make it possible to change this?
A positive aspect is the retention of the Barnett formula. This will continue to give Scotland a higher proportional block grant per head, in light of greater social need in Scotland, and give the Scottish government greater freedom to allocate it as it sees fit.
However in light of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement imposing additional austerity cuts of 40 per cent across the public sector, a little more per head can only mitigate a massive slaughter of services.
Already the cuts are being felt at Glasgow City Council, with the Labour-run executive recently committing to a 40 per cent cut to the Glasgow Association of Mental Health despite widespread opposition.
The forecast is even worse, with devastating cuts expected in 2016-17 within the council area.
With services already struggling, the Smith Commission proposals for more tax powers for Scotland itself will only provide a shield if there is the political will to use them.
While it is proposed to give the Scottish Parliament full control of income tax, half VAT and air passenger duty, these powers are not beneficial in and of themselves.
MSPs have to be willing to use them in a country where there is quite as much income inequality as in England and Wales.
The SNP’s new November 2014 programme makes no proposals at all to use the existing powers the Scottish Parliament already has to increase income tax or business rates.
The programme proposes to retain the freeze on council tax until 2017-18, and while the latter may be a popular policy among the electorate, particularly among the better off, it leaves local authorities financially hamstrung and forced to cut public services.
Many in the Yes camp have condemned the Smith Commission for not devolving taxes on wealth and control over corporation tax. But this again has to be looked at in class terms.
Allocating 100 per cent of income tax to Scotland has already enabled David Cameron to demand that Scottish MPs be excluded from voting on income tax in Westminster, making it much more difficult, after the next election, for the Labour Party to secure one of its more progressive demands — a 50 per cent rate for top earners.
The same would apply to taxes on wealth if they were fully devolved.
This year's Morning Star Bazaar was held again in Partick, having been held in Denniston for a few years recently.
Huge thanks to everyone who helped ensure another successful fundraiser for the Morning Star - the only daily newspaper that stands up for working class people and our communites, as well as our organisations such as the Trade Unions. The Morning Star relies on a Fighting Fund to ensure its survival without the deep pockets of Capitalist backers, so every penny raised and donated makes a difference!
Here is a short 2 minute video of just a few of the fundraising activities
WIN THE FUTURE
WIN NEW READERS
A report of a vital conference held in November 2014, which features contributions from
Agne Tolmie (Past President STUC),
Ben Chako (Morning Star Editor),
Drew Smith MSP,
Jane Carolan (UNISON General Council & Executive Committee)
Jackson Cullinane (Political Officer, UNITE Scotland)
Colin Findlay (EIS Nationak Council)
plus reports & contributions from local Morning Star Readers and Supporters Groups across Scotland.
"The Communist Party of Britain has called for the devolution of power to home rule parliaments in Scotland and Wales since the 1930s.
In doing so, the Communist Party seeks to advance economic and social democracy in a state that is both multinational and whose democracy is constrained by the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of those who own the means of production, distribution and exchange.
Over the past half century this concentration has become more marked. It has had consequences geographically with economic development becoming increasingly uneven. It has also had consequences for the integrity of democratic institutions with the requirements of a highly financialised system of ownership increasingly limiting the ability of elected representatives to take any significant action to reverse growing inequality or to maintain minimum levels of social provision.
These circumstances frame our demand for progressive federalism."
On 19 September, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that Lord Smith of Kelvin had agreed to oversee the process to take forward the devolution commitments on further powers for the Scottish Parliament.
“Following the referendum we have a willingness, shared by all five of Scotland’s main political parties, to strengthen the powers of the Scottish Parliament, within the UK.
“My job is to create a process through which politicians, civic institutions and the Scottish public can come together, work together and agree the detail of what those powers should be.
“To that end, I am working to one aim: to produce a unifying set of proposals by the 30 November 2014.” Lord Smith of Kelvin
or click "read more" to view the text on this webpage.
Neoliberalism and new Labour removed the class struggle from the national question. The left must take it back, says John Foster
Britain’s constitution faces imminent change. Within the next six weeks the Smith Commission will publish proposals for the further devolution of powers to Scotland.
These proposals, once agreed, will begin to redefine constitutional structures for Britain as a whole.
Prime Minister David Cameron has stated his intention to legislate for the removal of Scottish MPs from Westminster for all devolved issues.
Depending on the recommendations of the Smith Commission, this exclusion could prove very comprehensive and apply not only to policy on education, housing and the NHS but also in some or all areas of taxation and for the provision of welfare benefits.
At the same time, the Con-Dem government is embarking on a piecemeal and politically reactionary reconfiguration of local government.
This month it announced a London-type mayor for Greater Manchester. Other such mayors, with concentrated executive powers, are likely to follow.
This is why the Communist Party’s 53rd congress this weekend will debate an emergency resolution on “The national question and constitutional change.”
The party has longstanding policies for the democratisation of Britain’s constitution. These are set out in our programme Britain’s Road to Socialism and do not need repetition here.
The purpose of this resolution is to focus attention on the immediate issue posed by Cameron and the Smith Commission: whether we will end up having an English parliament by default and the creation of new regional power structures.
It also focuses attention on the political context, namely the challenge posed by the emergence of the national question in Britain in a new way, symbolised by the rise of both Ukip and the SNP.
While politically these are quite different animals, they have one thing in common. They are cross-class parties that seek to capture working-class votes by an appeal to national sentiment and which, both in the case of the SNP and Ukip, make no reference to the issue of class or class power.
Some variety of nationalist populism might have been expected well before now given Britain’s trajectory as an imperial power in decline.
But even Thatcher’s flag-waving Conservatism had only limited impact on working-class communities. Now this has changed. Why?
There would seem to be three reasons.
The first is the impact of neoliberalism and new Labour on the special relationship between class politics and democracy in Britain.
More than in most other European countries, the original fight for democracy has been closely associated with the issue of working-class
power. This was because Britain, somewhat uniquely, had a majority working class.
Our rulers knew that the right to vote, if exercised collectively on a class basis, had the potential to change the balance of class forces. Thus they opposed full universal suffrage until well into the second quarter of the 20th century.
Democracy could and did mean the power to win full employment, a welfare state and public ownership.
Locally, it gave power to councils committed to fighting insecurity and squalor, winning decent public-sector housing, good social services and the equal provision of education.
Today this class potential has all but disappeared. It has been altogether squeezed out of local government and to a significant extent from Parliament — the consequence of the transfer of key powers of economic intervention to the EU (itself partly an arm of British big business power) and, fatally, by the longer term impact of neoliberal ideas in the Labour Party.
This is the second reason. The essence of new Labour — and what made it different from the old Labour right-wing — was to deny the validity of class mobilisation itself. The market had to be supreme.
This new ideology was combined with the loss of older generations of trade union activists.
It resulted in the demobilisation of the collective “Labour” organisation that previously gave democracy its class force.
The third reason is more immediate. Working people have suffered the biggest attack on living standards since the 1880s — an attack facilitated by a new flexible labour market.
This has been combined with an all-out ruling class assault to remove any potential for a revival of class politics — an assault on the trade union movement itself, on its links with the Labour Party and also, no less significantly, on the Labour Party itself as it seeks, however tentatively, to move away from new Labour politics.
This summer and autumn we saw the consequences.
In England, voters were told it was immigrants who were taking their jobs and benefits and Ukip would stop it.
In Scotland, working-class communities were told that their nation was the second richest in Europe and that if they voted for independence, austerity would end.
Politics defined in terms of national allegiance replaced those of class. This is why the constitutional question is now so fundamental.
What kind of English parliament will emerge under the Cameron plan?
Both the Tories and the SNP back “devo max” by which all tax-raising powers would be devolved. At a stroke, this would destroy the principle of wealth redistribution across Britain on the basis of social need.
It would also, under Tory proposals, create an English parliament able to challenge any progressive policies emerging from a wider Westminster Parliament.
Since the 1930s, communists have backed home rule parliaments for Scotland and Wales in order to give working people more power over capital in their own nations. But these calls for national devolution have always been combined with insistence on the need for the democratisation of institutions at British level.
It is here, at “federal” level that is it necessary to challenge the concentrated state power of British monopoly capital — to be able to control trade and capital movements, currency and interest rates and, critically, to redistribute wealth both socially and geographically across Britain in terms of social need.
The emergency resolution offers four options for debate. But its basic insistence is that the issue cannot be dealt with in the abstract.
Any proposals have to be linked to the wider perspective for redeveloping class politics and for real, not formal, democracy.
Democratically elected regional assemblies, with powers of economic and industrial intervention and ownership, will only benefit working people if they are driven forward by the revival of mass class politics in an alliance of trade unions and local communities as represented in the People’s Assembly.
The option of a federation of nations, including an English parliament, only makes sense if we understand England itself as an ethnically diverse multinational nation — one with many component nationalities that can only be united around progressive objectives by a wider class unity against oppression and exploitation.
Dimitrov’s warnings from the 1930s remain all too relevant today.
Socialists and communists cannot stand back from the national question. We are already faced with options that will be disastrous for our democratic future unless we, and the labour movement, advance our own alternatives.
John Foster is international secretary of the Communist Party.
Theresa McDermott - Free Gaza Campaign
Kenny Coyle - the Communist Party
Recorded Friday 5th September 2014, Glasgow, Scotland at a Communist Party public meeting. A very moving and deeply poignant film about the suffering & plight of the Palestinians had a pre-release showing before the speakers made their own contributions as filmed above.
The outcome of the referendum on independence places a very heavy responsibility on all those committed to the cause of social justice and of the advance to socialism, writes Tommy Morrison, Scottish secretary of the CP.
THE Scottish referendum saw a firm majority voting against the SNP recipe for independence.
EU and Nato membership, the monarchy, neoliberal economic policies and a currency tied to sterling did not win the confidence of the Scottish people.
At the same time the outcome places a very heavy responsibility on all those committed to the cause of social justice and of the advance to socialism.
Labour’s traditional heartlands did vote Yes. This happened in Dundee, Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire.
These are also the areas with the highest poverty, worst unemployment and most severe deindustrialisation. Even if the Yes lead here was only narrow, this is the result to which the left must pay most attention.
These are precisely the places that a generation ago remained committed to a belief in working-class solidarity.
Voting Labour reaffirmed an understanding that class unity had been able to deliver full employment and all the benefits of the welfare state and public ownership. This conviction has been largely lost. It is what must be restored.
This is doubly important if the scars and divisions arising from the two-year-long referendum campaign are to be overcome.
There are dangers of a disinherited generation, of hundreds of thousands who now believe that a new future has been snatched from their hands. In many cases people who had abandoned any faith in conventional politics and been politicised by the referendum.
SNP campaigning was specifically directed at Labour voters in working-class areas. At the polling stations in Clydebank and Glasgow its shouts were “End Tory rule forever,” “Put David Cameron on the dole,” “Give your children a future,” “Say Yes to change,” “Say Yes to save the NHS.”
These slogans bore no relation to the neoliberal policies carried in the small print of the Scottish government’s White Paper. But it is what people will remember — Alex Salmond’s pledges that people would “have their own nation” and thereby the power to fulfil their dreams.
The left now has to win this generation to understand that “Tory rule” can be ended, and ended quickly — but only if there is a mass movement for progressive change across the whole of Britain.
The same disenchantment exists outside Scotland — expressed in terms of non-voting and voting for Ukip and more extreme forms of nationalism.
The Scottish referendum is therefore a warning. The Labour Party must change its policies.
The so far minimal moves to ditch the legacy of Blair and new Labour must be speeded up — and the trade union movement must use its still significant influence inside the Labour Party to ensure that this is done.
Today the policies of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (and the TUC) are exactly what so many in Scotland believed that independence could deliver — an end to austerity, nationalisation of utilities, halting all privatisation, scrapping of universal credit and ending all anti-union laws.
Although the trade union movement has itself been the biggest victim of neoliberal policies and has to struggle to survive, it still has six million members. It has the potential to revive class politics where it matters — to provide the democratic basis for mass campaigning in working-class communities.
In Scotland the first annual general meeting of the People’s Assembly will take place in Glasgow on October 4. It has the active backing of most major trade unions and a growing number of trades union councils — including those in the areas that voted Yes: Dundee, Clydebank, Glasgow. It also has the support of significant political figures across the left including the Labour Party and the SNP.
It must be made a rallying point for a new start in Scottish politics — but also one that returns the labour movement to its roots in working class communities.
There also needs to be a return to the labour movement’s traditional objectives in terms of the Scottish Parliament itself. As fought for by the Scottish Trades Union Congress in the 1970s and ’80s, it was seen as a parliament that could directly aid the campaigns of working people for economic democracy, full employment and wider public ownership.
Despite the powers on paper of the current Scottish Parliament, it has remained a prisoner of the wider neo-liberal framework enforced by both Westminster and the EU. Deficit limits and directives imposing market competition have thwarted any progress towards economic democracy.
Some concessions have been made as a result of the referendum campaign, particularly the commitment to the principle of income redistribution across Britain in terms of social need. But this again will only become real if linked to a wider understanding of the need to ditch neo-liberalism and EU-imposed austerity.
The stakes are high — particularly for the 2015 election. Clarity will be needed on the left on the road ahead.
In Scotland one key forum will be the Morning Star’s Scottish conference organised for Sunday October 5 on After the Referendum: What Way Forward for the Trade Union and Labour Movement.
Leading figures from the trade union movement, from the Labour Party and the SNP will seek agreement on basic, unifying objectives that can indeed end Tory rule forever.
Tom Morrison is Scottish Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain.
Friday 19th September 2014
Scottish electors have exercised their right of self-determination. In doing so, they have decided to remain part of Britain and have reaffirmed an understanding that unity at this level is critical to the fight for social and economic justice and against the Tory attacks that affect all the peoples of Britain.
However, there was very strong support for a Yes vote in the areas of the greatest poverty and unemployment. In Glasgow, Dundee, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire, areas of traditional Labour support, Yes was in the majority.
This result is therefore a measure of the level of disenchantment among those hardest hit by austerity and attacks on the welfare state. It indicates that a significant minority are losing confidence in the ability of the Labour and Trade Union Movement to act against the power of big business and the super rich.
This is a challenge for all on the Left. It demands a new clarity in our movement about the institutions that sustain this class power of big business at both British and EU level. These are exactly the same structures that would have nullified any progress towards real economic and social self-determination under the mandate offered by the SNP: EU and NATO membership and the neo-liberal grip of a currency geared to the needs of finance capital.
The trade union and labour movement now has to demonstrate its will to develop mass campaigning on the ground. The People’s Assembly must become a mass movement – as must the demand for an end to Trident. This will be the only way to defeat the Tories and their allies in the 2015 election and to minimise the vote for right-wing and extreme right-wing parties. It will also be the only way to heal the divisions of the referendum and win renewed unity.
This means that in Scotland the new pledges on greater powers for a Scottish parliament must be honoured – particularly the pledge to a federal system that maintains some form of tax redistribution across Britain based on social need. But this federalism must be socially progressive and be combined with an overall commitment to a redistribution of wealth and power in favour of working people across the whole of Britain.