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Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
South Shields Meeting Marking the Centenary of the End of World War I:
Truth & Memory: The Real Story Behind the First World War
London Meeting Marking the Centenary of the End of World War I:
The Things That Make For Peace
Marking the Centenary of the End of World War I:
What Hakim Adi Had to Say
Newcastle Stop the War Coalition Meeting Marking the Centenary of the End of World War I:
A Hundred Years Since the "War to End All Wars"
Friends of Korea Meeting:
Developments in Working for Peace on the Korean Peninsula
Stop the War Coalition:
A Year of Achievement
Cuba Solidarity Campaign News:
Historic Visit by Cuban President
"Yellow Vest" Movement in France Escalates:
Working People Protest against Neo-Liberal Austerity Agenda
This year the hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War, November 11, 1918, was commemorated. Not only did this war represent a slaughter of previously unimaginable proportions, it was also an earth-shattering turning-point in history. It led to the destruction of the Russian, Ottoman, German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, redrawing the map on a global scale, and its repercussions included the huge political, economic, social and cultural changes that took place across the world in the subsequent period.
The conditions of the present and the danger of war today posed the need to mark this centenary in a manner that would have significance. To this end, meetings on the occasion of the anniversary were organised in London and South Shields by preparatory committees. They were aimed at envisioning a future without war, revealing the truth and the memory of World War I, and upholding the things that make for peace.
An important part of the significance was to oppose the disinformation surrounding World War I and the attempts by the ruling circles to use the occasion as propaganda. The portrayal of the colossal sacrifices made by working people during the "war to end all wars" as one of defence of freedom and democracy has been aimed at disorienting opposition to war and empire-building in the present. It was aimed at obscuring the fact that the War was an unprecedented conflict between the imperial powers for redivision of territories and resources, and the conditions that led to this conflict. In the current conditions that are again leading to dangerous contentions between the big powers, it has been aimed at mobilising people behind the most reactionary aim to Make Britain Great Again.
This same disinformation also concealed the massive opposition that developed in the lead-up to the War and advanced further during its four long years. Both the killing of other human beings and the imperialist aims of the War were opposed by people who took a stand of conscience as a matter of principle, and were ostracised for their stand, condemned as unpatriotic.
The need then was for an all-sided perspective on the War from the vantage-point of the present, a perspective that united anti-war and peace activists and inspires to organise to bring an anti-war government into being. Here we carry reports of the meetings in London and South Shields, as well as in Newcastle, that aimed to mark the anniversary with this significance.
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, a public meeting took place on November 9 in South Shields attended by some 30 people. It was organised by local people in South Tyneside to mark the centenary and to reveal the truth and underline the memory of one of the most traumatic events in human history. The aim was to hear the story of the events leading up to the war, to reveal its impact on the people of the time and to emphasise its legacy today. The meeting brought together speakers Hakim Adi, Professor of History, specialising in Africa and the African diaspora, and Leyla Al-Sayadi, founder of the Yemeni Project from South Shields. Recordings and films, poems and voices, evoked the first-hand experience of those who fought in the war and of those who opposed it. A showing of local images of the effects of the war in South Tyneside completed the programme.
As people entered the event, they were met with a projection of a collage of images of paintings and poems produced by English and German artists and poets from World War I. The meeting itself opened with a reading of the poem Suicide in the Trenches by Siegfried Sassoon, highlighting that the best of the war poems questioned the ethos of duty to empire that was promoted to justify the slaughter.
Leyla Al-Sayadi spoke about how the Yemeni Project concentrates on the huge humanitarian crisis in Yemen caused by the war of the Saudi-led coalition with the Houthi rebels in Yemen and how that was linked to the Yemeni community in South Shields and why that matters so much to all the people here. She said that the Yemeni story is one of the most long-standing in Britain, going back to before the First World War. People wonder how South Shields became so populated with Yemeni people with up to 4,000 Yemeni sailors resident at one time. She explained that the origins of that story go back to British colonialism. Leyla pointed out that when she started the project she wanted to bring attention to the Yemeni contribution in World War I and World War II which is often overlooked. South Shields lost one of the largest proportions of merchant navy sailors of the First World War. One in four of those were Yemeni - a massive statistic when the demographic of the town is considered. She said that over the course of her research she saw records of Yemeni seamen with South Shields addresses who ended up internment concentration camps, records of ships which were torpedoed and of lives lost. Leyla pointed out that now the Yemeni community is very small. However, so many people have Yemeni origins, and this is an added reason why people should care about what is going on in Yemen today.
Speaking about the war against Yemen today, Leyla said that the Saudi coalition had launched air strikes and told the people to leave. In just one province, 100,000 people have had to leave their homes. The Saudi coalition has imposed a naval blockade, while at the same time Saudi Arabia is raining down bombs. This is catastrophic for Yemen. Leyla condemned the bombing of hospitals and heritage sites, she condemned the bombing of a school bus in August this year carrying 40 young boys, and she condemned the ongoing massacres and the blockade. The speaker said that the Yemeni people are facing famine and disease in addition to the bombings. The outbreak of cholera has killed 2,100 people and is affecting as many as 900,000 others. Leyla condemned the stand of Britain as being totally complicit in what is going on. It was Britain who helped to arm Saudi Arabia in the first place. She told the meeting that even with these atrocities and international condemnation of the Saudi-led coalition, Britain is not reducing its arms sales but is increasing them. Leyla concluded by providing the meeting with one of the most important lessons that link the warmongers of the First World War to the fight against the warmongers of today in that people should demand an end to Britain's arms sales to Saudi Arabia and oppose the government's backing of the war in Yemen.
Leyla was given sustained applause for enabling the participants in the meeting to see through the eyes of the Yemeni people, before a short session of questions and answers.
Two very moving short films were then shown, 1916 Voices of the Somme and a film a put together one of the organisers.
Professor Hakim Adi then gave an illustrated talk entitled the Real Story Behind the First World War. A summary is reproduced below.
Sustained applause demonstrated how much Hakim's authoritative presentation on the real story behind the First World War was appreciated, together with the painstaking way he had unearthed so much of the facts and histories of the war and its relevance today. Following Hakim's contribution there was again a question and answer session.
Images of the war in South Tyneside showing its effects locally were presented by another of the organisers. A fitting end to this "Truth & Memory" programme was provided by a moving rendition by David Donohue of the justly famous poem of Wilfred Owen, Dulce et Decorum Est.
In short concluding remarks, the Chair thanked the speakers and all those who had contributed to the organising of such a vital and important meeting on the First World War, and bringing out its real story. He said that the human qualities come across so strongly and powerfully from 100 years ago, qualities of those that fought in and opposed the War in so many ways. We commemorate them all and they inspire us today the build the movement against war, and turn things around in our own favour, as they strove to do, and prevent future wars.
He ended with a call to all those that are interested to join in and carry forward this work in South Tyneside, and get further organised on this basis. There are sure to be important events to be organised in 2019 to reveal the truth about the NATO military alliance, for example, the 70th anniversary of which falls next year. The meeting concluded on this powerful note.
In London, the meeting to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I was held in the centre of town on November 16. It was a really lively and involving event, surpassing expectations, with over 40 people participating.
In introducing the meeting, a representative of the organising committee said that the issue, as well as being historical, is a very contemporary one, in the context of bringing together those concerned with opposing warmongering and guaranteeing peace. The event was organised to bring out the significance of the title, "The Things That Make For Peace".
The speaker continued by saying that such events are particularly important at this time when the whole of life is being militarised, the whole of the economy in Britain is being made the centre of war industries under the banner of high ideals. The ruling elites also said that engaging in the slaughter of World War I was for glorious motives, for instance that it was for the self-determination of nations against aggression by an enemy. Intervention today is promoted as for the good of the world. But people are not buying this. They can see through this.
Meetings like this are going on all over the place, he said: "I am sure that for us it is an important part of moving forward in the whole of life with a new outlook, that the people themselves are the force which will guarantee peace and prevent war and stop it from breaking out. Even though things look very apocalyptic today, where you could have a nuclear holocaust at any time, in fact that leaves out of the equation the initiative and resources of all the people."
This work for the event brought together research and investigation into these questions, plus culture, he said, referring to the programme of the evening. A lot comes from the First World War poets themselves. But there were also new poetry, new music.
"And we would like to continue this work," the speaker said. Next year, 2019, is the 70th anniversary of NATO. Once again a lot of disinformation is being promoted that NATO was set up for peace against "the two extremes", the "enemies" of fascism and communism. But in actual fact, NATO has always been an aggressive alliance, and using that justification contributed to the setting in of the Cold War and the attack on the right to conscience. Therefore for the 70th anniversary it is incumbent on progressive people to take a stand, like we are doing tonight, he said, again working for peace against war.
The first half of the event opened with the reading of a poem setting the scene, one of the famous poems by Wilfred Owen, Anthem for Doomed Youth. Then Professor Hakim Adi gave his illustrated talk, revealing the facts about the First World War, its outbreak and its content, including the opposition to the war, something which is quite often overlooked in the talk of "Lest We Forget". It is promoted that the soldiers in World War I from all countries, but particularly from Britain, had a sense of duty to their empire and died for freedom. Far from this being the case, there was constant opposition to the war, within the military, and also from conscientious objectors. The summary of the speech is reproduced below.
The second half was devoted to music, poetry and literature. It opened with a specially written musical composition by Turkish musicians called 15, for piano and the baglama, a stringed instrument. The piece was based on a Turkish folk song written anonymously during the Gallipoli campaign of 1915; most of the Turkish soldiers were aged 18 or actually underage. The instruments were partly accompanied by a soundscape which combined the interviews of British and Turkish soldiers who fought in the War, emphasising their brotherhood. Later in the programme, the Menuet from Ravel's piano suite of six pieces Le Tombeau de Couperin was performed. Each of the touching pieces of this suite was dedicated to a different French soldier killed during the First World War.
Among the other contributions were the readings of two short essays. The first was on the Poetry Bookshop founded and run before and after the War by Harold Monro but a stone's throw from the venue of the meeting itself. The reading brought out Harold Monro's contribution, not only in writing poems questioning the War, but in encouraging young poets of the time, including Wilfred Owen himself. The reading also emphasised the importance of the emergence of the democratic personality. The other reading was entitled "Lest We Forget", recalling coming across a Great War monument with the family name of the author among the fallen. The author asks who it is we should remember. Should it not be the sum total of human relations?
Poetry readings ran through the evening like a thread. There were poems by Harold Monro, Wilfred Owen, Hedd Wyn, Stephan G Stephansson, Rabindranath Tagore and Kate Tempest. To complete the evening came a set of moving new poems by members of the poets collective called "Beyond Words". The last of the set was a song about Alice Wheeldon, a British anti-war campaigner who was convicted in 1917 on an extremely dubious charge of conspiracy to murder Lloyd George.
In conclusion, thanking everyone for participating, the representative of the Preparatory Committee said that it was worth remembering that it is the people who are the real power in this world. "Releasing our own initiative, and collectively working together, developing this new perspective, new culture, we can prevail," he said, and called on everyone to stay in touch and participate in future work and events so as to take a stand against all warmongering.
Hakim Adi is Professor of the History of Africa and the African Diaspora at the University of Chichester. He gave a presentation at the meetings held in South Shields and London to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
Prof Hakim Adi began his presentation by saying that he wanted to explain the often-hidden history of the First World War. It is frequently presented as a mystery, a great calamity where millions of people lost their lives, but it is left unclear as to what was actually going on and what caused the war. In particular, the massive opposition, especially by the working people of many countries including Britain, is also obscured.
It was a global war in which people from every continent participated and gave their lives, both as combatants and as a massive civilian population. Besides Europe, the conflict was fought in Africa, Asia and Western Asia, now often called the Middle East. The estimates of those killed and injured, said Prof Adi, amount to some 40 million casualties, including 19 million deaths of which 8 million were civilians; 23 million people were wounded. Britain suffered 750,000 deaths and 1.5 million wounded. He pointed out that the war involved 4 million people from the colonial empires. The way the war was fought in Africa meant that hundreds of thousands of Africans were conscripted into the armies of Britain, France, Germany and other countries fighting a war between the various, mainly European, empires. Indeed, it has been argued that the first shots in this war were fired in Africa. He gave the example of the French colonial empire, which drafted 500,000 African troops and 20,000 porters. In East and central Africa, 370,000 people lost their lives. The effects of the war, which included the global flu pandemic, killed a further million people in this region of the world.
Prof Adi went on to explain that the war completely transformed the world, resulting in the downfall of four major empires. The vast Russian empire was ended both by the consequences of the war and by the revolutionary activities of the Russian people. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, which dominated the whole Balkan region, collapsed as a result of the war, as did the German empire, including its colonies in Africa, and the huge Ottoman empire that had stretched from Europe to Asia.
The First World War was therefore a tremendously significant event in world history, but we are often misled and disinformed about the nature of the war. Prof Adi quoted Boris Johnson, who in 2014 wrote in an article for the Telegraph that "Germany started the Great War", and Michael Gove who in the same year accused the BBC TV series Blackadder of perpetuating "unpatriotic" myths, and again placing the blame on Germany.
Either the war is presented as mysterious, a catastrophe, an accident, or, as is sometimes said, that it was a war to uphold Western civilisation, or something to do with defending Belgian sovereignty. In fact, said Prof Adi, if you look at the history of Belgium, that country was also a major colonial power and had been responsible for the deaths of 10 million Africans in the 30 years before the war, but the powers were not concerned about whether Belgium was upholding the rights of Africa. It was even claimed that this was a war against war. But the truth of the matter, he said, was that this is all disinformation designed to disarm us today about what their wars in general are about. Prof Adi used the illustration of the map of Africa on the eve of war to show that it was completely divided between the European powers. The big powers in Europe - Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Portugal and others - had invaded the African continent, divided it up between themselves, and they continued to fight over it.
He said that the key thing it illustrated was that the world was divided between the big powers who continued to contend against each other for territory, raw materials and markets. But since the world and Africa were already divided, how was that redivision going to be made; in fact, they could only achieve that re-division by going to war. So, said Prof Adi, in the build-up to war, there were various incidents and agreements between the big powers, many of which were secret. Far from the war being an accident, we can see it arising out of the contention between these powers.
For example, in 1904, there was an agreement between Britain and France over Morocco. Britain and France agreed that France would have a free hand to do what it liked in Morocco, of course without consulting any Africans in Morocco, while France agreed that Britain could have Egypt without French interference. This agreement was also directed against Germany, because Germany was also interested in Morocco. This pact therefore contributed to the 1911 Agadir incident, when Germany threatened to intervene, and warships were mobilised, almost leading to war at that time.
Then in 1905 Britain and France conducted secret military manoeuvres directed against Germany. In the years immediately preceding the war there was a massive expansion of the British navy, also directed against Germany. War preparations were therefore already being made a decade before the war broke out.
In another example, Russia and Britain came to an agreement in 1907 over the division of central Asia, particularly the division of Persia. The agreement even allowed Russia to intervene in Persia to suppress a popular uprising against the Shah, which suited neither Britain nor Russia.
Prof Adi again stressed that we can see both that the world was being divided between the powers, and that the contention between them was not just over dividing territory but also military contention. Britain was building its navy, Germany was building its navy, and other powers were arming, all creating an instability and tension which eventually erupted into war. He also remarked that throughout this period, there was an anti-German campaign in the newspapers complaining about the militarism of Germany needing to be stopped, while keeping quiet about the militarism of Britain, France and other powers.
This contention and these secret treaties were not just something that preceded the war but continued throughout. In 1915, a new agreement was made with Russia over the redivision of Persia. In the same year, the secret treaty of London was made with Italy. At this time, Italy was on the side of Germany and the central powers; this treaty was to bring Italy onto the side of Britain and the entente, as it was called. The agreement secretly promised that when the allies had dealt with the Austro-Hungarian empire, Italy could have pieces of that empire as well as parts of the German colonies in Africa, other African territories, such as Somalia, and a share of Ethiopia.
This division of the world between such powers as Britain, France and Italy, without consulting with the people of the countries being divided, was a very clear indication that the war was in reality about the redivision of the world. Prof Adi then emphasised perhaps the most infamous of all these secret treaties: the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, where Britain and France essentially carved up what is now called the Middle East, then known as Western Asia. France was able to get Syria and Lebanon into its sphere of influence, while Britain got Palestine. The rights of the Kurds and the Palestinians were completely ignored; many people argue that this agreement was the root cause of the current problems that exist in Palestine and the whole region. Of course, said Prof Adi, it was an agreement which reneged on previous agreements the British government had made with the Arab peoples of that region. These secret treaties that continued during the First World War illustrate very clearly what the war was about.
Prof Adi then went on to speak about the understanding of the war in the consciousness of the forces of the working people of many countries, particularly to the communists in Russia. He illustrated this with a pamphlet by Lenin written in 1914 just after the war had been declared, in which he explains that the war had been prepared for decades. It is a struggle over markets and resources, it is about the seizure of territory and subjugation of other nations. And in fact, because of this character of the coming war and the preparations for the war, this was well-known to many before it broke out. Many of the socialist parties of Europe had come together and declared that, should such a war break out, they would refuse to participate. Of course, when the war did break out, they reneged on that principle and for various reasons sided with their own governments and the lie that they were "defending the fatherland" or "motherland".
Prof Adi then spoke about the period leading up to the war. This was a very important period for the struggles of the working people in Britain and in other countries. The period leading up to 1914 is one of great struggle of workers for their rights and of people against colonialism in India, Egypt and elsewhere. The war, so to speak, came to the aid of the governments of the big powers in that it enabled them to hang onto their colonies, to grab new colonies, and to divert and suppress the struggles of their own people.
In Britain, the period leading up to the war is known as the "great unrest". It was the period of what was known as the Triple Alliance, between the miners, railway workers and transport workers, including the dockers, in which the biggest unions in Britain united to fight for their rights. The government even brought troops out, such was the militancy at that time. This was also a period of the struggles of women, such as the suffragettes, and major political unrest, where the working people in Britain were fighting for change. There was a fear among the rulers that the workers were so powerful, with the struggles in Britain and other countries such as in Ireland, where there was a General Strike in Dublin in 1913 led by James Connolly and Jim Larkin, that if the war had not broken out in 1914, this would have brought down their whole system.
Prof Adi then pointed out that these struggles continued during the war. There were many examples of these struggles in parts of England and Wales, and perhaps most particularly Scotland, where we talk historically of Red Clydeside. There were shop steward committees, which often acted separately from the trade union leaders, organising amongst the rank and file workers and often in opposition to the privations of the war. The war allowed the government in Britain to bring in the "Defence of the Realm Act", which effectively made it very difficult for workers to organise during the war, but the struggles of the workers continued against that law and workers continued to fight for their rights for wages and better conditions, as well as, in many instances, against the war itself.
Following the February Revolution in Russia that overthrew the Tsar in 1917, continued Prof Adi, the Leeds Council of Workers' and Soldiers' Delegates was established. He said that there were various examples of conferences of this type, which were calling for a general peace opposed to the continuation of the war, and in support of the Russian revolution. The revolution in Russia was a direct consequence of the war, which had intensified the problems. When the October Revolution broke out, it was a revolution against war and for peace, and had a world-shattering impact. This impact was felt in Britain as it showed there was an alternative to the war and to the way the country was being governed; the working people could be the agents of change and take things into their own hands and become the decision-makers.
Prof Adi then went on to talk about the conscientious objectors who were an organised force of many thousands of people who refused to fight in the war because of their political principles and because they were opposed to the war, whether because they were opposed to the war in general, or because they had political opposition and reservations. We know that those who objected to the war on the basis of conscience were treated extremely badly. Some were sent to the front lines, and if they refused to fight, they were executed. Others were imprisoned and forced to do hard labour for the duration of the war. Prof Adi gave a quote from Isaac Hall, a Jamaican conscientious objector who was imprisoned in Pentonville. His analysis of the war was not just that he was opposed to war, but that those powers that are fighting the war are the oppressors of him and others, and amongst the worse oppressors. He mentions Belgium in particular as one of the biggest murderers of Africans. For his stand, his moral objection, he was arrested and tortured in prison, but nevertheless refused to betray his principles. There were many thousands who took that stand. This opposition of the workers, conscientious objectors and others is something again that is hidden, giving the impression that the whole country was behind the war. In fact, quite the opposite was the case.
Prof Adi said he wanted to give an example from Africa, because in Africa there were many rebellions against the war which again nobody today, certainly not the government, ever mentions. One of the most famous is the rebellion led by John Chilembwe. He was a minister in what is today Malawi in South Africa, who led a rebellion in 1915 in opposition to Africans in Malawi being conscripted as porters or auxiliaries. Chilembwe objected to this conscription, saying that the war is nothing to do with his people. He led an armed rebellion for which he was executed. Today he is remembered as one of the national heroes of Malawi.
Prof Adi then returned to one of the most important consequences of the war: the revolution that broke out in Russia in March 1917 (February in the old-style calendar). There were two revolutions in 1917. The first revolution in March brought a government of a whole range of parties opposed to the Tsar, but the burning issue was: what was that government going to do about the issues that confronted the people, especially the war? The Provisional Government, as it was called, not only did not take any measure to end the war but actually tried to pursue it more vigorously because it was already in consort with the British and French governments. Thus followed the second revolution, the famous October Revolution, which was led by Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Prof Adi said that one of the key reasons for the success of the Bolsheviks was their simple slogan for "Peace, Bread and Land", pointing out that "peace" came first. They said to the people of Russia that these are the things we need and the only way we can get them is by empowering ourselves. Local councils, committees of workers, soldiers and farmers deputies, had become established across Russia, and it was those Soviets that were able to take power in the October revolution. Prof Adi pointed out that the question of war played a big role in persuading working people of Russia to take matters into their own hands. He said that one could say that this was the beginning of an anti-war government. That is what an anti-war government meant: it had to be a government of the people's empowerment.
One of the first things that this new Soviet government did was to issue the decree on peace just a day after its existence - a day after the revolution it immediately declared for a general peace and started armistice negotiations with Germany. Germany exacted a very harsh peace, taking a lot of Russia's territory. Poland also took large tracts of territory from Russia. But, said Prof Adi, Lenin and the Bolsheviks aimed to bring peace and hasten the end of the war rather than hold on to the territory that the Tsarist empire had previously seized. Further, he pointed out, the new revolutionary government published all the secret treaties; it was through the Russian government's publishing these treaties that they found their way into Britain. The Manchester Guardian was the first newspaper in Britain to subsequently publish the secret treaties. The anti-war government in Russia was therefore extremely important: it immediately sued for peace, it raised the prospect that this peace could be brought about by the act of working people themselves, and it immediately exposed the nature of the war to everybody, as a war between two groups of robbers for dividing up the world between each other.
Prof Adi then moved on to looking at what happened after the war. Taking Africa as an example, he pointed out that British troops had invaded Togoland, which was a German colony, and there is evidence that these troops had already been mobilised - in other words, they were ready for war even before the war was declared - and were interested in grabbing these colonies. That was exactly what happened: the victors of the war took over these German colonies. They redivided Africa according to their interests. He gave further examples, together with examples of the legacy today of this division. Similar divisions took place over the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires.
Essentially, the end of the war redivided the world, and in the process created new problems. The big powers carried on their wars. Regarding Ireland, Britain intervened to prevent the Irish people exercising their right to self-determination. Not only were there revolutions in Russia, but there were revolutions in Germany and attempts at revolution in other countries throughout Europe and the world in this period. The so-called "war to end all wars" did not resolve any problems, the tension or any of the major issues that existed before the war. Quite the opposite. It created the conditions for new problems and further war.
Prof Adi therefore concluded that when we look at exactly what was going on, both the contention between the big powers and the struggle of the working people in this period, there are very definite conclusions we can draw. Today, the world is similarly extremely unstable, with contention between the big powers in Africa, in central Asia, in the Middle East. Again, there are massive preparations for war. Britain is particularly central to the armaments industry - the export of arms. The world is a very unstable place and, just as the First World War showed, the struggles of the working people are crucial to bringing peace. Prof Adi emphasised that it is important that we learn the lessons of history: in this uncertain, unstable world, the struggles of ordinary people have become extremely important, especially the conception that we can usher in an anti-war government of our own.
On November 14, a well attended joint public meeting was organised in Newcastle by Newcastle Stop the War and Newcastle University's Power/Space/Politics research group. It asked the question: what sort of foreign policy does the UK need today?
Addressing the meeting was Alex Snowdon of Newcastle Stop the War and Nick Megoran from Newcastle University's Power/Space/Politics research group. The Chair was Craig Jones, lecturer in human geography.
During the meeting both speakers exposed the lie that the war was fought for "democracy" and "self-determination" and emphasised the real causes of the war as rivalry between the big powers to re-divide the world. They also brought out the importance of the anti-war and peace movements opposing the war. Both in the speeches and discussion afterwards the meeting drew on the lessons for the need today for a new anti-war policy and an anti-war government in the face of the present dangerous situation in Britain's continued pro-war stand in the big power rivalry for world domination.
A public meeting organised by Friends of Korea, a co-ordinating committee of organisations and parties who wish the DPRK and the entire Korean people well, was held at the Marx Memorial Library in London on November 18. It was held in the context of the historic developments in working for peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula.
It gained special significance at the time, when the necessity to put an end to war is on people's minds with the centenary of the Armistice which concluded World War I on November 11, 1918. In that sense, the meeting was one of a series across the country taking a stand against war and affirming that it is the people who are the force for securing peace. The meeting aimed to provide information on the factors favouring reunification and peace on the Korean Peninsula and provide opportunity for questions and discussion.
One of the main themes in holding the meeting was that peace on the Korean Peninsula concerns not only the Korean people, but the people of the whole world. Thus its reference point was that it is incumbent on all peace- and justice-loving people to support the efforts of the governments and peoples of the DPRK and the ROK now that a lasting peace is within reach.
Friends of Korea affirms that this is an historic moment for the Korean people, one which is entirely in keeping with the spirit of the times which relies on the people to develop the anti-war movement, without illusions that it is by putting pressure on the warmongers that peace is to be secured.
Indeed, it is the United States and its partners in crime that have ensured that the Korean Peninsula has been kept forcibly divided for over 70 years and that a state of war exists between the US and the DPRK. The Korean people are moving as one towards peace as never before, despite the twists and turns as the US blows hot and cold towards the peace process. Nevertheless, the aspirations of the people of the Korean nation for peace and reunification are outside the control of the US, which is forced to recognise this fact.
The meeting was chaired by Andy Brooks, General Secretary of the New Communist Party of Britain, and addressed by Michael Chant, General Secretary of RCPB(ML), and Dermot Hudson, as representative of the Korean Friendship Association, UK.
Following the main presentations, an extensive question and answer session followed, with many in-depth contributions from all present.
We reproduce below some of the remarks made by Michael Chant.
The Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula was adopted between Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in on April 27, during the 2018 inter-Korean Summit on the South Korean side of the Peace House in the Joint Security Area.
The declaration commits the respective governments to work together in ushering in a new era of peace, ending divisions and confrontation in opening up a new era of national reconciliation, peace and prosperity, beginning a new era of peace and sharing commitments in ending divisions and confrontation by approaching a new era of national reconciliation, peace and prosperity and improvements to inter-Korean relations. The subsequent "September Pyonyang Joint Declaration" of Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea and Kim Jong Un, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea held the Inter-Korean Summit Meeting in Pyongyang on September 18-20 was a further development, in which the two leaders assessed the excellent progress made since the adoption of the historic Panmunjom Declaration, such as the close dialogue and communication between the authorities of the two sides, civilian exchanges and co-operation in many areas, and epochal measures to defuse military tension.
Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in reaffirmed the principle of independence and self-determination of the Korean nation, and agreed to consistently and continuously develop inter-Korean relations for national reconciliation and co-operation, and firm peace and co-prosperity, and to make efforts to realise through policy measures the aspiration and hope of all Koreans that the current developments in inter-Korean relations will lead to reunification.
Of course, of paramount importance for a genuine peace on the Korean Peninsula is also that the US sign a peace treaty with the DPRK, to bring an end to the state of war which has existed since 1953 when an Armistice was signed. The events of World War I also underline that it must be a just peace treaty, one in which there is genuine goodwill between the parties, and not punitive towards the DPRK. The sanctions perpetrated against the DPRK can themselves be considered an act of war.
The facts of the matter with regard to nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear holocaust are that the DPRK had been given little choice but to arm itself with tactical nuclear weapons because of the nuclear threat and blackmail coming from the US. The conclusion must be that the removal of the threat posed by the US is a condition for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and normalisation of relations with the US. In other words, denuclearisation must be a bilateral effort by the DPRK and the US. Nevertheless, the goodwill shown by the DPRK in ending the testing of nuclear weapons and other measures is remarkable, showing the genuine desire to take practical steps, not just words, in advancing the peace process.
Following the June 12 DPRK-US Summit in Singapore, as we have mentioned, the divided north and south of the Korean Peninsula and their peoples and governments have concretely developed their unity. They have, for example, on November 4 begun trial dismantlement of guard posts surrounding the DMZ. On November 1, they began calling a halt to land, air and sea military exercises, and began the operation of a designated no-fly zone along the military demarcation line (MDL). Military talks have been held on the implementation of the September Pyongyang Joint Declaration. Other inter-Korean talks have also been held, such as on co-operation in forestry. And the ROK has prevailed on the US to suspend their major joint military exercises during diplomatic negotiations.
But what also must be demanded is that the US also cease putting obstacles in the way forward and sabotaging the positive atmosphere that the Singapore Summit had created. Furthermore, legal and institutional measures must be taken toward a declaration and peace treaty to end the Korean War. This would foster the normalisation of US-DPRK relations and enable tangible steps to be taken towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
It can be pointed out that the propaganda of not only the US administration but of the British government, while claiming that the DPRK with a nuclear deterrent is somehow a threat, the nuclear arsenals of the US, Britain, France and Israel are not. It also noted that this hostility and distrust has consistently undermined previous attempts at denuclearising the Korean Peninsula.
The Korean people have seized the initiative presented by the historic Panmunjom Summit and the resulting Panmunjom Declaration in order to create a new page in modern Korean history, to lay the foundations for the peaceful and independent reunification of Korea.
The Friends of Korea will continue to provide information on the factors favouring reunification and peace on the Korean Peninsula and fully support the endeavours of the Korean people "By Our Nation Itself" to ending confrontation and reuniting the Korean Peninsula. In terms of matters of war and peace which concern the people of the whole world, this is a truly historic step.
Support the right of the Korean people to self-determination, independence and peace! Take up the cause of global peace!
Newsletter - Stop the War in 2018
This has been a very important year for Stop the War and one where we have made important steps forward. Among the various activities we took part in were the following:
Miguel Diaz-Canel, President of the Republic of Cuba, arrived in London on November 12 on a transit visit, following his first tour of European and Asian countries.
During this historic visit - the first by a Cuban President to Britain since the Revolution - the president was accompanied by a delegation of ministers from the Council of State including Deputy President Ricardo Cabrisas, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, and Deputy Foreign Minister Rogelio Sierra.
During his brief stay he had a packed schedule holding meetings with Philip Hammond MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, members of the British business community involved in the Cuba Initiative and the Caribbean Council. Additionally, the Deputy President Ricardo Cabrisas held a meeting with Dr Liam Fox MP, Secretary of State for International Trade.
On Tuesday, November 13, the president and members of the delegation attended a welcome reception in the House of Lords, jointly hosted by Baroness Angela Smith and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. Many members of parliament attended including Karen Lee MP, Chair of the APPG on Cuba, and Mark Menzies MP, Chair of the APPG on Latin America and leader of the recent IPU delegation to the island.
Addressing the meeting, the Cuban President said the was struck by the warmth of his welcome "that in a place that is so far away form Cuba, we can find so much warmth affection and love, that it seems like we have know each other for a very long time. And for that I want to thank you very much."
He described the trip as being "very significant" for Cuba. Originally the trip was supposed to be just a transit stop over, but the British government had made it possible to have high level meetings possible.
"We've come to London to ratify and confirm to the British government our political will, our intent and our endeavours to continue expanding our relations," he said. "Particularly we should recognise that our current state of our relations are good and our economic and trading relations are expanding. We have expressed that we have come to tell the British business community and financial institutions that we want them to be present in Cuba, not only as investors but also supporting and providing finance to the various projects that we are developing in our country."
Diaz-Canel said that Cuba was especially interested in exchanges in areas such as energy, since Cuba had set out the goal of having at least 24 per cent renewable energy by 2030, as well as tourism, agriculture, telecommunications and biotechnology.
The President spoke of the huge impact that the blockade has on Cuba's development and ability to trade. "Every time we make progress, then the blockade comes in with its extraterritorial tentacles. And one may wonder - how it is possible that we let another country make decisions on our behalf? It's not just about the United States wanting to impose a blockade on Cuba, but the United States also wants the rest of the world to follow their lead and blockade Cuba as well. And the blockade has been tightened under the Trump administration - financial persecution against Cuba has been intensified. This is a struggle that we have to face together," he said. "The British government has expressed that it does not support the blockade".
Speaking at a solidarity reception later in the evening hosted by the Cuban Ambassador HE Teresita Vicente and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Diaz-Canel promised representatives of the solidarity movement, trade union leaders, MPs and Cubans resident in the UK that Cuba would "uphold and remain committed to that legacy of respect, friendship, and affection. I only ask something that we will share among us in spite of the adversities, in spite of pressures, in spite of anyone's wishes to oppose and interfere. Among all of us, united and together, we shall overcome all obstacles, interference, and stumbling blocks and the triumph will be the best of us that will emerge from all of us together, which is friendship, solidarity and cooperation."
The President thanked CSC Director Rob Miller, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and the British trade union movement for its campaigning on the blockade and the freedom of the Miami Five over many years. Cuban television channel Canal Caribe filmed the reception and interviewed Natasha Hickman, CSC Communications Manager and guests.
On Wednesday, November 14, the Marx Memorial Library organised for President Diaz-Canel and the Cuban delegation to visit Karl Marx's tomb in Highgate Cemetery, north London, where the President paid his respects and presented flowers from the delegation.
The visit of Miguel Diaz-Canel comes on the back of increasing exchanges and bilateral agreements between Britain and Cuba. Almost 200,000 British tourists visited Cuba in 2017. In September, MPs and Lords were part of an exchange visit to Cuba organised by the Inter Parliamentary Union, following the November 2017 visit of a group of Cuban parliamentarians to the UK.
Recent ministerial exchanges include the visit to Britain of Ana Teresita Gonzalez, Cuban vice minister of Foreign Affairs in September 2018, and the first visit to Cuba by a Foreign Secretary in 2016 when Philip Hammond went. In addition to senior level bilateral contacts, agreements in banking, renewable energy technology, and biotech have recently been signed.
Internationally, Britain has continued to vote against the United State's blockade of Cuba at the United Nations. On November 1, 2018, the UK joined 188 other countries in voting in support of Cuba's resolution calling for the US to end its 58 year old blockade of the island.
The US blockade of Cuba has cost the island $933 billion dollars since its imposition in 1962. It hinders the development of the Cuban economy and causes shortages and suffering to the Cuban people. The extraterritorial impact of the blockade has seen British banks fined by the US Treasury department for financial transactions involving Cuba, and recently resulted in the Open University barring a Cuban student from studying at the institution - a move overturned as the result of lobbying by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.
The Cuba Solidarity Campaign is proud to have worked with the Cuban Embassy to support this historic visit by a Cuban president to Britain. We hope it will foster increased understanding, exchanges and trade between our two islands, especially at a time when the United States is tightening its blockade of Cuba and trying to isolate the island from the international community.
Despite French Prime Minister Eduard Philippe's declaration of a moratorium on the increase in energy taxes, "Act IV" of the mass demonstrations of the "Gilets Jaunes", or Yellow Vests, went ahead on the December 8-9 weekend. In fact, even more demonstrators took to the streets in the face of the simultaneous unleashing of a militarised police force whose role was to quell and intimidate the people's forces with brutality and terror. It is clear that the Yellow Vests were having none of it and the protests spread throughout France and into other countries as well.
With thousands of mobilisations across France, with the focus on Paris, the monopoly-owned media have found it difficult to calculate the numbers, and even to report on the mobilisations in a coherent fashion. Nevertheless, it is estimated that over half a million people took part in wearing the yellow vests, the hi-vis jackets that all French drivers are obliged to keep in their cars for safety reasons. The wave of country-wide protests began on November 17, hence "Act IV" for the fourth weekend of protests in a row. "Act V" is still on for December 15.
At the heart of this movement are rank-and-file workers and in large part unorganised and low-skilled workers. Many strands of discontent have coalesced into the protests. Students and workers have swelled the ranks of the rural poor and the unemployed, who have continued to block roads around France. While Eduard Philippe was forced to scrap the planned fuel tax rise, saying, "No tax deserves to put civil peace in danger," this has by no means reined in the actions which highlight the demand for social and economic justice and an end to austerity. Particular emphasis has been put on demands for tax justice, with lower taxes for the poor and against tax cuts for the rich, and for wide social benefits to relieve the burden on the vulnerable and poor.
Attempts by monopoly-owned media to say the workers are against a healthy environment or against immigrants have failed to sideline the protests and marginalise their thrust against the neo-liberal anti-social offensive. Students' demands also put forward the need to end to rising administrative fees and new university admissions procedures.
It was reported that in Paris, hospital workers fighting for jobs also joined the Yellow Vests, while ongoing strikes in steel and in oil depots have added to the rising tide of discontent and protests.
The actions of the government and the stands of President Macron have given the lie to the claim that Macron represents the "moderate centre". This has become exposed as a bankrupt reference point favoured by neo-liberalism to justify dividing the polity into "left" and "right", both of which are portrayed as extremes, while claiming to occupy the "centre ground", which is supposedly where all good moderates should position themselves and succumb to the strictures of austerity.
"The range of slogans in the protests against November's petrol price increases - 'Stop the taxes!', 'Macron's a pickpocket!', 'Working is becoming a luxury', 'Right and left=taxes', 'Stop the racket, the revolt of a powerful people may end in revolution' - suggests both the possible emergence of a political movement and the anger directed at taxation, the very foundation of the social state," Le Monde diplomatique wrote.
The actions of the Yellow Vests to say that Enough Is Enough! have shown that this outlook will not wash. President Macron is a proponent of making France competitive in the global market and he defines a centrist as being pro-business. Although he is the focus and main target of the Gilets Jaunes, he has been keeping in the background hoping that he can get away with not accounting for the bankruptcy of this self-serving outlook.
Just as in Britain the sentiment for Brexit among working people represented their opposition to the anti-social offensive which sought to make them shoulder the burden of the chaos and crisis while the oligarchs and the financial elites enriched themselves at their expense, so in France the discontent is finding an outlet in the demonstrations and demands of all the different currents that are converging in the Yellow Vests. President Macron and his En Marche coalition and government are incapable of finding a way out of the chaos and crisis. They have been ruling by exception to give the police powers in France free rein to keep the people in check but this has not been able to stem the tide of protest against the anti-social offensive. The use of unfettered police powers along with agents provocateurs and the media to justify the criminalisation of the protestors has thus far only fuelled the revolt. The French working people are definitely on the move. The numbers of people who are vulnerable and living in poverty, particularly children, single parents and the national minority communities, as well as the ordinary workers who dwell outside the big cities and in rural areas, have continued to rise.
One of the exacerbating factors has been the so-called anti-poverty plan Macron launched in September. Social programmes have also been under attack, and unemployment and job insecurity have become a scourge. Macron's claim that "I don't want a plan that leaves the poor living in poverty, only more comfortably," has been exposed as a fraud, and he himself is seen for what he is, a president of the rich, while the political system is seen as clearly representing the police powers of the state to put the people down. According to news reports citing police sources, the number of people arrested since the mass protests began in November has surpassed 4,500, of whom some 4,100 still remain in police custody. In Act IV, on December 8 alone, close to 2,000 people were arrested, and all but around 300 taken into custody, many before the protests actually began. According to the government, these were part of "preventive control" measures.
The Gilets Jaunes are also rejecting the claim that the fuel tax hikes were to benefit the environment or for "green" projects when they are part of the project to pay the rich.
The crisis in France is also an indication of the deepening crisis in which the European Union itself is caught. What is happening in France puts the lie to the claim that the EU is the defender of rights and prosperity. People see the actions of the police forces in France as part of the militarisation of life, which goes hand in hand with the militarisation of the economy and the push to form a European Army, whether under the control of NATO or the EU. The French state expenditure on the military is reported to stand at over £40 billion per year, funds which people see could be spent on social programmes.
The mobilisation of the working people of France is objectively against the old order and demands something different which does not make the working people the targets of attack. The working people and their allies are demanding that their rights be recognised and that the government must change course or be jettisoned. They reject the call to be "moderate" and take the centre ground as a big diversion to justify their criminalisation. As 2018 comes to an end, the French people have joined the world-wide movement for empowerment. Despite attempts to say it is extremist, nationalist, anti-immigrant, anti-environment, violent and many other things, by persisting in their struggle, the people put the lie to all these claims. They are most definitely taking a firm stand in defence of the rights of all!
On December 7, shipyard workers at the Birkenhead shipyard Cammell Laird, members of the GMB and Unite unions, suspended their strike action after the shipbuilder agreed to a four week pause to plans to make 291 people redundant. On November 23, workers had begun what was a scheduled 10-week programme of industrial and strike action in defence of their jobs. The shipyard workers took this action despite being told that it affected important military and other government contracts.
According to the Union News a taskforce made up of the unions, the employer, its major shareholder Peel, the government, local politicians and Cammell Laird customers will now come together to try and formulate an action plan that brings forward work to save vital jobs and skills at the shipyard. It was also reported that Unite was intensifying efforts to bring forward work at Cammell Laird in a bid to remove the threat of jobs losses. In calling on the British government to bring forward work on the Royal Navy's Type 45 frigate, Dreadnought submarine and Royal Auxiliary Fleet programmes, Unite has been working with politicians and Cammell Laird customers, such as BAE Systems, while approaching the shipbuilder's major shareholder and landlord, Peel Ports for assistance.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said in the same report: "This agreement provides for a four week breathing space and paves the way for the establishment of a joint taskforce by the Mayor to involve Unite and the GMB trade unions, Cammell Laird, Merseyside local authorities and central government departments alongside Cammell Laird customers. The agreement recognises the need for the yard to remain competitive in bidding for new and future work and all parties agree to work together to ensure this remains the case. The task-force will meet for the first time on Friday 7th December in an effort to formulate an action plan that secures the future for the yard and its workforce."
Prior to its announcement of redundancies, Cammell Laird had entered negotiations with the unions and workforces for a five-year pay deal, some backdated to July 2017, for its approximately 700 employees. The pay deal, which was facilitated by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), included a three-year first term and a two-year second term. The strike action was sparked after Cammell Laird later announced plans to axe the 291 jobs. The news came despite the yard winning a set of £619m military naval contracts. The management of Cammell Laird said that work on the RRS Sir David Attenborough, a Polar research vessel commissioned by the government funded Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), was coming to an end and the new Royal Fleet Auxiliary work would not start until March.
Cammell Laird has suspended redundancies in response to the shipyard workers' strike to defend their jobs. For the shipyard workers fighting for their interests it is more than just about fighting to secure the work for their yards, work over which they have no control. The fact is the shipyard workers took this action despite being told that it affected important military and other government contracts, which shows that the problem is that they are marginalised from having any decisive say in what is produced and how it is funded.
The problem is that the shipyard workers are forced to take a back seat whilst guaranteeing the profits of finance capitalists who depend on government contracts that have the aim of a militarised economy. The interests of shipyard workers is for a modern shipbuilding industry where people are empowered to take the decisions on a non-militarised economy, in which they have a real say in planning and that is run to meet all of the needs of that new society.
For Your Information
Joint Statement - Cammell Laird, GMB And Unite
Friday, December 7, 2018
Following constructive discussions between the trade unions and Cammell Laird, facilitated by the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, an agreement has been reached to suspend both current industrial action and the notice of redundancy due to be issued on 10th December 2018 to 291 workers in the Birkenhead shipyard.
This agreement provides for a four week breathing space and paves the way for the establishment of a joint taskforce by the Mayor to involve; Unite and the GMB trade unions, Cammell Laird, Merseyside local authorities and central government departments alongside Cammell Laird customers. The agreement recognises the need for the yard to remain competitive in bidding for new and future work and all parties agree to work together to ensure this remains the case. The task-force will meet for the first time on Friday 7th December in an effort to formulate an action plan that secures the future for the yard and its workforce.
All parties agree that Cammell Laird has a positive future and that short term measures are required to address immediate problems of work flow into the yard. The task-force will examine every opportunity to bring forward work scheduled for later in 2019 while seeking new work orders and financial assistance for a major up-skilling programme to ensure the skills necessary to compete in a highly competitive market are available from within the local community.
All parties commit to working constructively and positively during this period to bring about a long-term solution to the current difficulties experienced and remain committed to working together to secure a positive future for a world class shipyard employing a highly skilled workforce from within the local community.
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