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Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
15th Anniversary of the Anglo-US invasion of Iraq:
Blair's Legacy of Britain's Further Militarised Economy
Militarisation of the economy:
Looking Back on the Lucas Workers' Plan against Militarisation of the Economy
Militarisation of the economy:
Investigating the Scale of Military Production in Britain
135th Anniversary of the Death of Karl Marx:
Revolutionaries Take Up Marxism As a Guide to Action
135th Anniversary of the Death of Karl Marx:
2018 Commemoration of the Death of Karl Marx
On February 28, the European Commission published a 119-page draft Withdrawal Agreement, setting out in legal language the conclusions of the negotiations which the negotiating teams of Britain and the EU reached in December. The Agreement was apparently updated on March 15 and 19. The amended version was to be discussed by the European Council on March 23 in Brussels. Prime Minister Theresa May is precluded from participating in these specific discussions as the representative of the withdrawing country. The European Council is not the body of MEPs, the European Parliament, but rather is in the nature of an "EU summit", where the leaders - Prime Ministers, Presidents or Chancellors - of the at present 28 EU member states meet to set the EU's overall political direction. In other words, they set the agenda for what are considered to be the EU's priorities. Its President is Donald Tusk, former Prime Minister of Poland.
As a political institution, the European Union is a neo-liberal supranational organisation which has its origins in the European Coal and Steel Community of 1951 and the EEC (European Economic Community), effective from 1958, and developed into a pan-European political bloc through the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 and the Lisbon Treaty of 2009. In part, it has held in check the ambitions of either France or Germany to control Europe and in part it has been a bloc contending for dominance in a multi-polar world. It also has had the aim of keeping in check the movement of the working class and people against neo-liberalism and austerity, and enforcing what are referred to as the "four freedoms" - the neo-liberal conceptions of the "free movement of capital, goods, services and labour".
The referendum in Britain of June 23, 2016, is now well-known as a cynical ploy by the Cameron government to settle divisions within the ranks of the ruling elite, but one which went awry. It was never designed to ascertain the "will of the people", however seriously they took it. It has left Britain without an aim in its Brexit negotiations, while the control of their own lives and future to which the people aspire is not an aim which is on the agenda of any section of the ruling elite.
Referring to the March 23 European Council meeting, the Council's website says:
"The European Council, meeting in an EU27 format, will be updated on the state of play of the Brexit negotiations by the Commission's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.
"The EU27 heads of state or government will adopt the draft guidelines on the framework for a future relationship with the UK after Brexit. These guidelines will serve as a mandate for the EU negotiator to start discussing the framework for the future relationship, with the aim of reaching an overall understanding. That understanding will be reflected in a political declaration accompanying the withdrawal agreement and referred to in it." (Bold in the original)
The withdrawal agreement should be agreed and ratified before Brexit takes place, which is set for March 29, 2019. Only then, says the European Council, can a future relationship between the EU and the UK be finalised and concluded. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty ("Treaty on European Union") requires, according to a House of Commons briefing paper, the European Parliament (EP) to approve the final text of the withdrawal agreement. If the EP approves the agreement by a simple majority, it must be passed by European Council acting by qualified majority (20 of the other 27 Member States) for it be concluded. The British government is committed to holding a vote on a resolution in both Houses of Parliament, before the EP holds its vote, where the Commons and Lords will be asked to approve the withdrawal agreement. A Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill will need to be passed by exit day in order to enable transition to take effect at the moment that Britain leaves the EU.
The EU is concerned about Britain's exit, despite honeyed words of Donald Tusk of not wanting to "build a wall between the EU and Britain" and wanting to "remain friends and partners also after Brexit", from the point of view of encouraging the break-up of the European Union, as well as concern about Britain's alliance with the US rather than the EU bloc, and about complications to exercising the "four freedoms". The British government under Theresa May, for its part, has confirmed its intention to leave the Single Market, leave the customs union and leave the jurisdiction of the ECJ (European Court of Justice). The EU negotiating team concluded that the only remaining possible model for a future economic relationship is a free trade agreement. This is posed by the British government as "taking back control". The Labour Party, on the other hand, is proposing that Britain concludes an agreement to join "a customs union" with the EU.
The question can be asked: is this the way to conduct international trade and build a national economy? In the mouths of Theresa May & Co., even talk of "sovereignty" means the prioritising of private interests. Theresa May's Brexit does not work for the working class and people. It is not going to reverse the direction of the economy to serve the people of Scotland, Wales and England, or the north of Ireland, nor is it going to mean that the fight to guarantee rights is over. Far from it. On the other hand, it is fantasy to suggest that Britain's leaving the EU means that henceforth, the working class will only have one set of capitalists to fight, not many; just as it was fantasy to suggest that remaining within the EU was going to be a sure way to guarantee jobs and rights for the working people.
The referendum divided the polity. Differences over the real character of the European Union got mixed up with the implications of what carrying out Brexit or Remaining would mean for the interests of working people.
The fact is that deep-going transformations of society are required in order to turn things around to favour the people. It is this that the working class and people must discuss, and fight for the change necessary to bring them about. What the working class and people uphold is international trade not for cut-throat competition amongst the monopolies and the enrichment of the oligarchs, but for mutual benefit between states. The working class and people oppose a war economy, which includes an economy of parasitic finance capital, hedge funds, money laundering and tax havens for the rich.
But what the people are faced with is a dangerous world, with chaos in economies as in Britain and other countries in the EU. The Brexit context is one of contending powers vying to come out on top and in which nation-building projects are scorned.
In this context, the working class in Britain, as is their character, must start from an internationalist position. This includes unity in the struggle against neo-liberalism and for democratic renewal with the working class throughout Europe and indeed with the working people throughout the world as they struggle against imperialist globalisation and in defence of the sovereignty of peoples. In opposition to the "power grab" by Theresa May in regard to the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly that are envisaged with Brexit, the working class supports sovereign states of Scotland and Wales, which is a proletarian internationalist position.
Perhaps most crucial is the question of Ireland. This is an impossible stumbling block for Theresa May and Brexit. The Good Friday Agreement places responsibility on the British Government, which it is negating in its parliamentary pact with the DUP MPs at Westminster. The Downing Street Declaration of 1993 opened a path forward when Britain recognised the right of the people of the whole island of Ireland to self-determination. Now the path that Theresa May is pursuing would inexorably lead to a "hard border" between the north of Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The issue for the working class and people is not to line up behind the Leave or Remain camps as a solution, nor is it to put faith either in the EU to guarantee rights or to imagine that the solution lies in a "people's Brexit".
The issue is that working people can do better if they possess political power themselves, if indeed it is they who "take back control". This points the way forward for the resistance of the people to the neo-liberal anti-social offensive, the struggle in defence of their rights and the rights of all, and the fight for an anti-war government which ensures this and guarantees peace, to lead to engaging in the battle for political power and new political arrangements which empower the working class and people.
The working people need the power to decide on their own development strategies and policies, and to decide on the direction of the economy They need the power to restrict the operation of capital and monopolies, in unity with workers from whatever origin so that the rights of all workers are upheld. They need the power to conduct investment and international trade in favour of the people, not pursue the path of neo-liberal "free trade". The path of so-called "free trade" is the path of the dictate of the monopolies and oligopolies and must be replaced by the control of decision-making by the people so that the socialised economy benefits them, not pays the rich. They must have the power to end all neo-colonial, imperialist or unequal relations that Britain exploits through the world.
At this time when Britain is beating the drums of war in what has been described as Cold War 2.0, and the ruling elite is thuggishly promoting xenophobia, Islamophobia and chauvinism, the necessity is to develop that resistance struggle to these policies to the pitch of an independent programme for the working class which aims to take genuine control of the direction of society and the economy and defends the rights of all.
March 20 marked the 15th anniversary of the Anglo-US criminal invasion of Iraq by Bush and Blair when millions of people declared that such a war was "not in our name". Much has been said about the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, whose warmongering activities include the invasion of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) in 1981 and whose "radical" anti-social offensive coincided with the destruction of the manufacturing base in Britain and marked the crisis of post-war state monopoly capitalism and its welfare state with her infamous statement that "there is no such thing as society", with its implication that everyone must fend for themselves. However, since then little is said of the legacy of Tony Blair, who took up the mantle of Thatcher, not from the "right", but from the "left of centre". He championed the direction to "Make Britain Great Again", organising an electoral coup in the Westminster elections of 1997 to try and get the working class and people behind this programme of privatisation and war, claiming this was a "third way". Today, whilst his legacy is one of a hated warmonger in the eyes of most people, the consequences and direction championed by Blair and his government are not as well-known. One of the major consequences of his legacy is that Britain and its economy have been transformed in a further militarised direction.
During this period, the manufacturing and energy industries that were destroyed under Margaret Thatcher have largely not been replaced and have been further closed down, as with coal mining and a large section of heavy industry. This has left Britain dependent on costly imports of coal, gas and heavy manufacturing goods. Instead, the constant wars, invasions and occupations of the "war on terror" that Britain and the US have waged under Blair and since, have also transformed the economy so that Britain's war and security industries are now central. This has accelerated especially over the last ten years. Also over this period, successive governments have "deregulated" the city of London to place it at the centre of financial services throughout the world. The Anglo-US and EU values and interests that finance capital champions creates exploitation and misery around the world.
Today, Britain has become the world's primary designer and exporter of the machines of war and has been named as "war's workshop", second only to the United States as an exporter of armament systems. BAE Systems plc is the flagship of Britain's militarised economy and exporter of weapons. It is a multinational defence, cyber-security, and aerospace company that employs 83,000 people in 40 countries with approximately 34,800 employees based at around 50 sites in the UK. It is the biggest manufacturer in Britain with a turnover of £18 billion and latest profits of over £1 billion. It is also the reason that the North West of England is the region with the highest manufacturing output, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). For example, it is where BAE Systems employs 7,000 in manufacturing the Astute nuclear attack submarines and successor at Barrow-in-Furness. BAE Systems at its Preston, Samlesbury and Warton sites also employs some 10,000 who are involved in making parts for and the final assembly of the Typhoon fighter. Besides serving the Ministry of Defence, it exports weapons to principal markets in the US, Saudi Arabia and Australia, and by itself is the third largest weapons contractor in the world.
When BAE Systems was formed in 1999 out of buy-outs and mergers , it inherited the British-government-owned "golden" share that was established when the former British Aerospace was privatised from a "public corporation" to a "public company" in 1980. While the government no longer receives dividends, this unique share prevents amendments of certain parts of the company's Articles of Association without the permission of the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. These Articles require that no foreign person or persons acting together may hold more than 15% of the company's shares. In other words, while public services are continuing to be wrecked and privatised at a rapid rate and sold even to foreign corporations, the state demands control of its war industries for which it is shareholder and salesperson, as well as prime user in its wars of occupation and intervention.
It is this further militarisation of economy that characterises the whole warmongering direction of the state and the ruling elite in Britain from Blair to this time. According to AOAV's research , "in that same period, this island nation established itself as the global hub for companies involved in manufacturing cyber weaponry, surveillance gear, and other spyware sold to governments and corporations around the world. Such equipment was often for use for internal repression. Finally, in this decade, the UK became the global centre for private military and security companies (PMSCs); there are more surveillance companies and PMSCs headquartered in the UK than any other country in the world."
Britain is not only involved in supplying fighter planes and armaments and continuing to wage covert and open wars as part of the Anglo-US and NATO alliance. It is transforming itself into the most parasitic state that represents the interests of the Anglo-US cartels and oligopolies regardless of the consequences to the people's right to life and welfare at home and abroad. This represents the ending of any public responsibility and the imposing of militarisation and police powers on society. Over recent days the government, whilst blaming Russia and heightening dangerous tensions between Britain and Russia, it is seeking to use the Salisbury poisoning to justify increased investment in the further criminal development of chemical and biological weapons research at Porton Down .
Settling scores with Blair's legacy means that what has to be grasped is that this legacy cannot be challenged just by a change of the party in power in Parliament, or even of a change of leadership in the party system of "representative democracy" at Westminster. The Iraq war showed clearly that this system no longer represented the people. The fight for an anti-war government is a fight for a renewal of the political process to empower the working class and people to make the decisions. The economic base cannot be based on militarisation of the economy at the hands of the war industries, but on identifying the needs of all the collectives of the people to realise a modern society that provides for the needs and welfare of the people and their defence. It is the organised working class and people who will become the guarantors of peace and resolving the conflicts in favour of a future without war. We call on everyone to join in this movement, and to settle scores with the legacy of Blair and all the warmongers, to avert the danger of war, and put an end to the militarisation of the economy.
 "War's Workshop: Exposing Britain's War
Industries", Action on Armed Violence,
 British Aerospace was formed as a statutory corporation on 29th April 1977 as a result of the Aircraft and Shipbuilders Industries Act of the same year. The company brought together the British Aircraft Corporation, Hawker Siddeley Aviation, Hawker Siddeley Dynamics and Scottish Aviation. In February 1981, the Government sold 51.57% of the shares in British Aerospace in order to return the company to private ownership. The remaining shares were finally sold in April 1985 but the Government retained a single £1 'Golden share' that would allow it to veto any possibility of foreign ownership. In, 1999 it purchased Marconi Electronic Systems, the defence electronics and naval shipbuilding subsidiary of the General Electric Company plc, to form BAE Systems.
 "UK to invest 48 million pounds in new chemical
weapons defence centre as result of the Salisbury attack", Reuters,
This January marked the 42nd anniversary of the Lucas Workers' Plan, still famous in many quarters. In opposition to militarisation of the economy, a stand was taken by the workers at Lucas Aerospace against war production.
Lucas Industries plc was a British manufacturer of components for the motor and aerospace industries. Based in Birmingham, at its height it was a monopoly in the sector, though it has since been rendered defunct through a series of mergers and acquisitions, with the Lucas trademark now owned by German monopoly ZF Friedrichshafen. It had one of its aerospace factories in Shaftmoor lane in Hall Green, Birmingham, which dated back to 1938 when it housed gas turbine equipment. There is nothing left of the factory now: it was demolished and the site now stands empty. The military production, though, has remained. Lucas Aerospace workers moved to a new hi-tech site in Solihull in 2013, built at a cost of £60m.
In 1976, during that decade's deep economic crisis, the narrow self-serving plan of the management of Lucas Aerospace was to cast into redundancy a fifth of its workforce of 18,000 and close a number of factories. In response, the cross-union shop stewards committee, formulated an alternative plan with the full involvement of the workers. This was a plan for "socially useful and environmentally desirable production".
Despite the fact that they were heavily involved in military production, the workers and their elected shop stewards were conscious of the need to end production for military purposes and envisaged a future of peaceful production at their plant. At the time, production relied at least in part on state support and was divided roughly equally between military and civilian contracts. Workers argued that public money ought to be spent on production for pro-social rather than military aims.
The workers' initiative was based on the workers' own experience, harnessing their knowledge and skills while utilising experts such as scientists and environmentalists, and centring on the needs of themselves, their communities and their environment. It pointed to a different way of planning, or carrying out production, and of different aims.
This had to be learned in practice: the shop stewards had first turned to the research community and received a very limited response. When they turned to their own forces, the workers themselves, and sought the assistance of academics in that context, it took just a year to formulate their fully worked-out alternative plan, from what alternative products to manufacture to the training required. It also included proposals on reorganisation to bring together the practical and theoretical knowledge on the production line versus the design shop.
The level of detail and seriousness of the Lucas Workers' Plan was unprecedented. The Financial Times(January 23, 1976) called it "one of the most radical alternative plans ever drawn up by workers for their company". It received international media coverage and was even nominated for the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize.
The workers' aim was to create a movement, going beyond the perspective of workers at a particular firm protecting their jobs. One of the leaders of the initiative, a designer sacked from Lucas for his activism, said they intended to "inflame the imaginations of others" and "demonstrate in a very practical and direct way the creative power of 'ordinary people'".
The workers organised shows and events to educate others, eventually leading to the establishment of the Centre for Alternative Industrial and Technological Systems (CAITS) at North-East London Polytechnic, and networked with other related activism, including in other countries, particularly in Germany and Scandinavia.
Though the anti-social offensive with its neo-liberal ideology launched by Thatcherism at the end of the 1970s sought to sweep aside all such workers' consciousness and organisation and leave all technological development to the monopoly-dominated markets, the experience of the Lucas Workers' Plan shows that working people can provide solutions to the problems, crisis and militarisation facing the economy and society.
In particular, central to their concerns was the issue of control over both the production process and, importantly, the motive of production. The Lucas Workers' Plan was a manifestation in practice of the workers' right to a say over the direction of the economy in favour of socially useful production. It showed what workers have the potential to achieve. It was therefore of no surprise that the Plan was rejected by the company and the government; it stood in direct opposition to their outlook, aims and status quo. It showed that there is an alternative to the militarisation of the economy based on the workers' independent aims. What is necessary is the power to implement that alternative.
People should resolutely oppose a military direction for Britain. Militarisation of the British economy undermines peace in the world and needs to be brought to an end as part of the aim of an anti-war government. The government and Westminster cartel-party system are so inextricably connected with the interests of the imperialist monopolies and the state that fundamentally new arrangements are required to represent the general, peace-loving interests of society.
The sheer quantity of companies involved in military production and trade in arms is a clear indication of how much dependence has been created on this sector of the economy. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) in its latest survey, updated in 2017, has highlighted as many as 416 British-based companies involved in military production or contracted work .
It is estimated that just 10% of GDP is currently attributable to actual manufacturing. However, Britain is still one of the largest economies and its manufacturing output ranks ninth in the world . Furthermore, the extent of militarisation is such that much of this manufacturing is connected with military production. Large multinational companies BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Smiths Group are listed in the FTSE 100 index  as well as finding themselves in the top ten military-connected companies listed by CAAT. There are also many well-known manufacturing companies listed by CAAT as major arms manufacturers that are not part of the FTSE 100.
An investigation carried out for Workers' Weekly in 2011 looked at Oxford as an example of the militarisation of the economy . It was found that there is a deep permeation of the military into diverse sectors of the economy.
Oxford Science Park, a joint venture between Magdalen College, Oxford, and Prudential Plc, contained over 50 companies at that time. Thirteen of the 54 companies listed as based in the Science Park readily turned up military links when their websites were searched. This represented about a quarter of the Park's companies. Some were well-known, such as the defence technology company QinetiQ.
Others were less well-known, such as Oxford Technology Management, the manager of the Oxford Technology Enterprise Capital Fund and four Oxford Technology Venture Capital Trusts, which specialised in funding start-up and early-stage technology companies in the Britain. The company had various military links. For example, one of its Venture Capital Trusts funds was a company called Plasma Antennas, which supplied antennas for military use, the customer being "a large defence company".
According to a report in 2009 by students campaigning for arms divestment, published on the Oxford Anti-War Action website, the University invested over £6 million in arms companies in 2008. At the time of the report, the University had investments in a number of such companies, including: BAE Systems (£807,456), Cobham (£140,194), Rolls Royce (£328,602) and Smiths Group (£201,081).
It is apparent that all sorts of production, research and development, and other kinds of economic activity are engaged in areas that either are directly for military ends or are using potential military applications in their marketing strategies. A significant proportion of production is geared towards or is influenced by military aims through a myriad of direct and indirect connections.
Take the Isle of Wight as another example. Manufacturing on the IoW is dominated by two major companies, both top of the CAAT list: BAE and GKN, which are two companies situated near to each other in Cowes. Both are heavily involved in military production, with BAE are top of the pile. BAE systems has its Maritime Services on Newport Road, Cowes, which is linked closely to Maritime - Naval Ships at the Old Iron Foundry in Portsmouth Naval Base. Their head office is nearby Warwick House, Farnborough, in Hampshire. BAE Systems is the world's third largest arms producer. GKN is a supplier to BAE as well as a partner to Rolls Royce and the Isle of Wight is recognised as the leading factory for carbon composite aircraft parts. GKN is itself listed in the top twenty by volume FTSE-listed companies, and is number 34 on the CAAT list.
 Campaign against the Arms Trade. The list of 416 companies includes some foreign companies with a large presence in Britain. The top ten in the list are: BAE Systems, Chemring, Leonardo, Thales, Excelitas, Rolls-Royce, Smiths Group, Meggitt, Switchblade International Ltd and Accuracy International.
 ONS, https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/manufacturingandproductionindustry/bulletins/ukmanufacturerssalesbyproductprodcom/2016intermediateand2015finalresults; McKinsey Global Institute; House of Commons Library, briefing paper, Number 05809, 5 January 2018
 FTSE 100 listed by Hargreaves Lansdown as of Wednesday, 7th March, 2018, http://www.hl.co.uk/shares/stock-market-summary/ftse-100
 Workers Weekly, "The Linking of Military and Civilian Life in Oxfordshire", http://www.rcpbml.org.uk/wwie-11/ww11-07.htm#big
Reprinted from The Marxist-Leninist Weekly, March 17, 2018
Mankind is shorter by a head, and that the greatest head of our time. The movement of the proletariat goes on, but gone is the central point to which Frenchmen, Russians, Americans and Germans spontaneously turned at decisive moments to receive always that clear indisputable counsel which only genius and consummate knowledge of the situation could give. Local lights and small talents, if not the humbugs, obtain a free hand. The final victory remains certain, but the detours, the temporary and local deviations - unavoidable as is - will grow more than ever. Well, we must see it through; what else are we here for? And we are far from losing courage because of it. - Frederick Engels, March 15, 1883 
Many changes have taken place since the life-long friend and close collaborator of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, wrote those words on March 15, 1883, one day after Marx passed away. And despite all the twists and turns the working class has gone through since then in its struggle for empowerment, the life and work of Karl Marx remain a "central point" to which all communist revolutionaries and all those who aspire for a new society must turn. Today, as was the case 135 years ago, only Marxism can provide the kind of "clear indispensable counsel which only genius and consummate knowledge of the situation could give." Turning to Marxism means paying attention to the concrete analysis of the concrete conditions, to ensure that the "central point" of the contemporary world is established around which everybody else can rally and unite.
Today, even though there is one International Communist and Workers' Movement, there is no one central point as existed at the time of the First International established by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels on September 28, 1864, at which time the authority of Marxism was established, or later at the time of the Third International, established by V.I. Lenin on March 2, 1919, when the authority of Leninism prevailed. The lack of one central point today is consistent with the state of affairs which prevails as a result of the retreat of revolution where communist parties the world over have their own central points. While this reflects the existence of different tendencies within this movement, it also underscores the need to elaborate Contemporary Marxist-Leninist Thought as the central point which develops and becomes profound only in the course of practice.
In this regard, the greatest achievement of Karl Marx was to be a revolutionist who could not carry on his activities without revolutionising social science. Social science was a body of knowledge scattered into various sections and claimed as the property of this or that individual or sect. With his two discoveries of the general law of motion of nature and society, the theory of dialectical and historical materialism, and the specific law of motion of capitalist society, the theory of surplus value, Karl Marx revolutionised social science as the body of knowledge of all those in whose interest it will be to organise proletarian socialist revolution. Revolutionised social science could no longer be merely the domain of some philosophers or ivory tower intellectuals. It became the preserve of those who would revolutionise society.
These achievements of Karl Marx, who remained a revolutionist in all fields, served as a guide to action for V.I. Lenin who further revolutionised social science, confirming what Marx had predicted, that without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This issue which posed itself at the time Karl Marx carried out his work, and after him V.I. Lenin, continues to pose itself today. All those who wish to be revolutionists have to follow Marxism as a guide in their practice.
On the occasion of the 135th anniversary of the death of Karl Marx, TML Weekly repeats what Engels wrote on March 15, 1883: "The final victory remains certain, but the detours, the temporary and local deviations - unavoidable as is - will grow more than ever. Well, we must see it through; what else are we here for? And we are far from losing courage because of it."
It has become a custom to commemorate the death of Karl Marx with a gathering and oration at Highgate Cemetery in London, where Marx is buried. This year's oration, with the Cuban Ambassador to London, Teresita Vicente Sotolongo, and Professor John Foster, took place in snow and biting cold, but with crowds representing national and international parties and organisations, as well as many individuals paying homage to the immortal contribution of Marx. A delegation of RCPB(ML) participated.. The gathering also celebrated 2018 as the year of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx.
The Ambassador's speech is reproduced below:
Karl Marx oration 2018 Speech by Her Excellency Ambassador of Cuba to the UK, Teresita Vicente, at the annual oration at the tomb of Karl Marx, celebrating the bicentenary of his birth
The thought of Karl Marx can be viewed in a number of ways.
As an interpretation of the world
As a method for understanding the world
And as a guide to action - for changing the world
People sometimes see only one or other of these dimensions. However, we need to see all these dimensions as part of a whole
Marx said that 'philosophers have only interpreted the world. The point is to change it.'
However, he never suggested that we stop trying to interpret the world or minimised the importance of doing so.
So, let me say a little about "our world" - what used to be called the Third World until a few years ago.
It is worth remembering a couple of issues.
From the mid-1860s Marx and Engels became increasingly interested in the problems outside of Europe, particularly the so called National Question, the Colonial Question, the fate of oppressed peoples and of their struggle for their liberation.
In doing so Marx and Engels supplied perspectives that allowed their successors to enrich Marxism with a broader and more universal interpretation - as well as to develop the theory of the revolution in a more concrete sense that encompassed that other world.
In the Communist Manifesto Marx referred to the process of humanity's emancipation as a comprehensive one, not restricted to is economic base, however essential that is. Subsequent experience demonstrated how accurate and relevant that vision was.
The only way to maintain the permanent validity and relevance of Marxism is with its constant enrichment. Marxism has to be a living force if we are to be true to the method adopted by Marx and Engels. But it must be development, not uncritical assimilation.
Its enrichment must be based on experience - experience won through our own revolutionary struggles and efforts, the analysis of our own social evolution.
For Latin America today - which despite recent setbacks has experienced very significant changes - Marxism is fundamental.
So also is its intelligent and open application, one that matches particular situations and problems - such as an understanding of the roles, and weaknesses, of particular classes.
In the Cuban Revolution, for instance, it was very important, in fact essential, to link Marxism with the best revolutionary traditions of Latin America, in particular the thought of Jose Marti. Today in current circumstances it is equally important to bear in mind the support to be gained from the experience of revolutionary Cuba.
Although some may deny it, Marxism is humanism; a humanism that is based on the revolutionary potential of human beings to transform history.
A quotation from Fidel is relevant here: "Marx's theory was never a fixed scheme. It was a conception. It was a method. It was an interpretation. It was a science in the real sense that it was concrete, derived from specific realities. And there are no two concrete cases the same.'
This, said Fidel, was the vision of Che.
"Che expressly pointed out the relationship of the Revolution to Marx and Marxism in general. Those of us who lived through those years remember the impact of reading the text in which the author said directly, in a phrase that rang out like a hammer blow, 'The Cuban Revolution carried forward Marx from revolutionary science to taking up his revolutionary rifle".
Naturally today the transformation of the levels of class consciousness as a result of the Revolution and Fidel's educational work has itself changed that reality and Che's analysis of what was then was feasible
But Che's work explains these processes, dismantles myths and prejudices, teaches people, delves into their ideologies and put them on their rational feet.
He explains that Marxism is a science and compares Marx to the great scientists of all times. It is as natural to be a Marxist as it is to understand and identify with the achievements of Newton and Pasteur. Marxism is part of the cultural and scientific heritage of humanity.
But Marx was both a scientist and a revolutionary and this, Che stresses, was inherent on his science, in his understanding of human development.
Fidel also emphasizes his vision of Marxism as a science and of the need to understand the regularities and laws of social development.
Fidel says, with the same clarity as Che, Marxism "is an interpretation, a science" and, like Che, he points out that in the process of struggle, it is about applying, understanding that no situation is the same as others. To be able to interpret and apply the knowledge gained from previous experience is the essential task of the revolutionary creator.
It is also vital to stress the centrality of consciousness, something to which Marx and Engels attached great importance - even though some today claim that their approach was flawed and limited.
Here I would like to reaffirm that validity and vitality of the ideology of the great thinker and revolutionary.
This new century has carried forward and deepened the enormous challenges inherited from the previous century. Imperialist exploitation and domination have reached unprecedented proportions and the struggle for emancipation from transnational capitalism is more urgent than ever.
In this decisive battle, Marx's ideas remain our indispensable starting point - as his friend and fellow fighter, Frederick Engels, foresaw. It is our task to develop Marxism in the light of these new and complex historical situations.
We must read and reread the works of Marx and Lenin. But in order to properly comprehend them we must also reapply them. This is the only way of keeping them alive and valid, of guaranteeing that their critical and transforming edge does not dissolve, and, on the contrary, constitutes a ready and sharpened tool of revolutionary praxis for the emancipation of the oppressed and exploited from all latitudes.
Similarly, the deep understanding of Marx cannot dispense with the fabulous development of new knowledge that has emerged subsequently. We must read the whole library of human scientific achievement to lay the basis for that creative Marxism that shuns both the simple apprehension of master texts and their naive and uncritical assimilation.
The conception elaborated by Marx and Engels was never a finished and closed system. They themselves constantly reworked it. It is by necessity and by its very nature permanently unfinished.
The way we have dealt with the issue here has been from two directions
It has been to identify the specific contribution of Marx seen in its continued evolution and to consider the contributions from Latin American experience to the enrichment of Marxism.
Marxism cannot be a fixed theory to which is attached an endless list of exceptions emanating from the particularities of experiences occurring at various latitudes. The theory must be integral, must incorporate the new contributions of knowledge including those drawn from the richness of the class struggle and popular struggles in general.
To dispel the misunderstandings to which Marx's thought has been subject, it is necessary to comprehend what he and Engels wrote in its evolution and progress, a progress that demands its further development.
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