Workers' Weekly Masthead

Volume 29, Number 19, October 2-9, 1999

Weaving of Illusions at Labour Party Conference

Internet Edition : Article Index : Discussion Page

Weaving of Illusions at Labour Party Conference

Launch of New Discussion Page of Internet Edition

Labour Party Conference Sketch: The Leader’s Speech

For Your Information: Notes on Social Democracy and the English Labour Movement

WWYG Activists Work for Conference: "The Future Belongs to the Youth!"

Workers and Politics - The Paddington Rail Tragedy

IWA(GB) Celebrates the October Revolution

50th Anniversary of the People's Republic of China

Thousands Demonstrate to Demand Release of Puerto Rican Political Prisoners

Letter from Chris Coleman, RCPB(ML), to Kim Jong Il, General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, on the 54th anniversary of its founding

E-mail from Reader in Italy

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Weaving of Illusions at Labour Party Conference

If one were to take Tony Blair’s speech at the Labour Party Conference in isolation, then one would be struck, as many commentators have been, by its messianic quality. There is no argument, no substance. All that is good is equated with the cause of the Labour Party, while all that is bad is equated with the forces of conservatism. The Labour Party is equated with all that is progressive, the forces of progress. A battle is to take place between these forces, between good and evil.

One might also remark on its quality of wishful thinking. Tony Blair paints the promised land that Labour will bring about in the 21st century which is nothing more than a utopia, while in the present the class war is over, the lion is to lie down with the lamb.

One could also emphasise the discrepancy between society as it is in reality and the Blairite interpretation of reality. The speech is both a caricature of present-day reality and a caricature of how to take Britain into the 21st century on a new basis. For example, as the gap between rich and poor widens, what comfort will it be for the poor to know that they should accept their economic situation because salvation lies not in "equal incomes", but that true equality means "equal worth". There are many examples.

But what is its aim, who is it addressed to? Who indeed. It has even degenerated from being a catalogue of policy objectives to a vision whose outlines are so confused that it could only be conceived of as Blair outlining his vision to himself.

In fact, its aim can be gauged by assessing it in the context of the Labour Party conference as a whole, and the conference in the context of what is needed to open the door to progress in the 21st century, and how the Labour Party is taking up this theme in order to sow the maximum confusion, the maximum amount of illusions. The nature of society is obscured, the nature of progress is obscured, the social science that sums up how society changes and develops or recesses is denied.

We are taking the theme of what is progressive as the first subject of our discussion page.

The aim of Blair’s speech was to set the key note to the Party that there is such a thing as the Third Way, and to elaborate how it is neither the old left nor the new right. All the main speeches of the conference then took up this theme and elaborated it in their respective spheres. What the reality is, is obscured to the maximum while the aspirations of the people are made a mockery of, caricatured, in words that have no more than rhetorical value.

Secondly, it would seem that the whole of the last 100 years of the history of social democracy is to be is to be claimed as New Labour’s own, an ineluctable trend in history that is leading up to the messiah of Blair, that these were voices that have found their true meaning in Blair’s "partnership" and "New Britain" [First of notes on the development of social democracy - Notes on Social Democracy and the English Labour Movement].

It was a conference that seemed to want to settle scores with the old, not by breaking with it, not by saying it rejected the old social democracy, but by claiming that the old social democracy was the new neo-liberalism. Hence the theme of 100 years. The old Labour leaders with the values from Keir Hardie to Michael Foot would not have been enemies of the Third Way, but would have espoused it. That is the message.

The reality is that Tony Blair and New Labour lead the world in backwardness. This is a reality of using any and every means to get all the workers behind their enterprises to make them successful in the global market, to Make Britain Great Again, while destroying the national economy. This to Tony Blair is progress, what the 21st century is all about. It is not a coherent vision. Its aim is to wipe out any force that stands in its way. And the Third Way has been promoted by Blair in the conditions where society is crying out to be transformed to socialism, but the block is being put on this by increasing promotion of medievalist values. Its aim is to totally marginalise the workers, while rallying the most backward sections in society around a retrogressive and reactionary programme. Only then, the thinking goes, can the rich in society extricate themselves from the crisis of increasing global competition, falling rates of profit and the difficulties of accumulating sufficient capital in relation to their size.

The way out of the crisis is for the working class, to constitute itself as the nation, put the assets of the country under its control and vest sovereignty in the people. Blair’s preachings are for partnership, an identity of cause of party and nation which has nothing to do with the old Tory "one nation" politics, but everything to do with attempting to get the workers to identify with the cause of the exploiters, of the rich.

But such illusions, however bolstered by social democracy, can not hold their sway for ever. Contradictions are sharpening and illusions will be shattered by the workers’ own experience. It is important under these circumstances that they take up and organise for an independent pro-social programme, a programme which in concrete terms begins to elaborate the features of a socialist society. This is the future for Britain, however much Blair tries to build a New Jerusalem, a "New Britain" to stand in its way.

We will deal in detail with the content of Blair’s speech in the next Workers’ Weekly, and we encourage all our readers also to contribute to the discussion.

Article Index


Launch of New Discussion Page of Internet Edition

With this issue of the Internet Edition of Workers’ Weekly, we are launching a new feature. This is a Discussion Page, where readers can submit their comments on a particular theme to Workers’ Weekly and have them posted on the web site. The aim is to develop discussion on topics of importance to the communist and workers’ movement, and to everyone interested in opening the door to progress in the 21st century. As well as this, we encourage all our readers to give their views on articles in the main body of the Internet Edition. Readers could also suggest topics for discussion. For how to submit comments and for the rules of etiquette that apply, please see the Discussion Page.

Discussion on political affairs is extremely important. The bourgeoisie seeks to de-politicise the people. It does not want them to become political or get to the essence of things. It does not want them to pursue what is in their interests nor become conscious that the fundamental problem that they face is that they are completely marginalised from making the decisions on how society is run, that they are cut off from being able to make the decisions which control their lives. It has developed the main parliamentary political parties to make sure that people are kept away from politics. Most crucially it tries to stop people from becoming political by destroying or preventing all the conditions for serious discussion. So, for example, to stop discussion the bourgeoisie, and all those who start with a dogmatic rendering of affairs, favour the method of starting with conclusions and then "proving" them, the method of taking sides – which is a remnant of the bipolar division of the world – the method of either "agreeing" or "disagreeing", not to speak of personal attacks, of gossips and slander, and of utilising any and every way of diverting from the issue under consideration.

This is why we think encouraging serious discussion of matters of concern is so important. This is our thinking behind launching our Discussion Page.

To begin we have posted an item on the subject "What does it mean to be progressive?". This is prompted by Tony Blair’s assertion in his speech to the Labour Party Conference that today the struggle is between the forces of progress and the forces of conservatism. What is your view of this issue. Read the postings and join in the discussion!

Article Index


Labour Party Conference Sketch:

The Leader’s Speech

It could hardly have been more ironic. On the TV monitor Robin Cook was boasting that the government had brought freedom of the press to Kosova. Your sketchwriter, meanwhile, having waited more than an hour at the Conference Accreditation Centre, was still without a pass. He had watched "ML" being written in large letters on his application form after having said he wrote for Workers’ Weekly. He had been challenged that he was not on the Electoral Register for the address he had given – the Party’s national office! What was this? A political party or a branch of the Home Office? He was geared up for a fight. In the end they must have thought better of it and meekly handed over an important-looking piece of plastic to hang around the neck.

This took him through the scrutiny of the massed ranks of police, examination by X-ray machine and prodding by various security guards, and into the Conference Centre. By now the morning session was already over. He collected piles of transcripts from the Press Office, mingling with familiar faces, though seedier in real life, from TV. Various Ministers, some bizarrely bronzed and quaffed, passed by. That afternoon The Leader was to make his speech. Huge queues were forming over an hour before the speech was due. Your sketchwriter wondered why if they all had passes. He looked at his own ticket to The Leader’s Speech which he had gone to such trouble to get and had handed over £50 for the privilege. To his astonishment he saw he was not in the main hall but in the spill-over hall out through the police ranks and across the park. £50 to see Blair on TV! He had to rush. Even here there was massive security. Several thousand filled the hall in front of a huge screen. He heard someone behind him say that, as last year, The Leader was expected to come over to this hall after his speech. The same person was saying that last year the entire audience in the spill-over had risen to their feet to give a standing ovation at the end of the speech.

Suddenly there was Tony Blair’s face filling the screen. He began in grand style: "Today at the frontier of the new Millennium I set out for you how, as a nation, we renew British strength and confidence for the 21st century; and how, as a Party reborn, we make it a century of progressive politics after one dominated by Conservatives. A New Britain where the extraordinary talent of the British people is liberated from the forces of conservatism that so long have held them back…" Is this the world of the anti-social offensive, of the continuation of Thatcherism, of warmongering, that the rest of us live in? But he was being canny. He was going to speak, he said, not of what the government had achieved but what still had to be done. He even listed some of the problems the people face. "I do not claim Britain is transformed," he said, "I do say the foundations of a new Britain are being laid."

Then came a surprise. "A spectre is haunting the world," he said. What! Is he going to quote from the Communist Manifesto? No. He went on: "technological revolution." Hardly had he uttered these words when the screen went blank. Consternation. Then a huge roar of laughter from the assembled delegates and journalists in the spill-over hall.

After an inordinately long time, and growing unease, The Leader was back on the screen. He was talking about "the people". Were they going to be considered? No. "Not power to the people," The Leader intoned, "but power to each person to make the most of what is within them." Didn’t we hear that before somewhere? In the 17th century? But The Leader was talking about the 21st century now: "The class war is over," he proclaimed. "For the 21st century will not be about the battle between capitalism and socialism but between the forces of progress and the forces of conservatism." And so he rattled on: "The Third Way is not a new way between progressive and conservative politics. It is progressive politics distinguishing itself from conservatism of left and right." So that was it! Neo-liberalism, Thatcherism, warmongering, was now progress! Capitalism was the highest development of humankind. History stops here. Socialism, the vision and future of humankind, its only hope of salvation, has disappeared without trace – according to The Leader, that is!

Further on he was into the moral cause and family values. "If anything happened to me," he said, "you’d soon find a new leader. But my kids wouldn’t find a new Dad." Everything had to be seen through one’s family and children, he expostulated. Well, back to the 14th century now! Whatever happened to society and its collectives, even to the Welfare State and cradle to grave? This is medievalism indeed!

And so on to the peroration: "To every nation a purpose. To every Party a cause. And now, at last, Party and nation joined in the same cause for the same purpose: to set our people free." Free from what! Free from the responsibility of society for its members and collectives – workers, women, youth, national minorities, disabled – and recognition of their inalienable rights simply for being human. Free from all international norms of sovereignty of nations and people and territorial integrity, of recognition of the rights of all peoples to the system of their choice. Freedom only for the rich to rob the state treasury, for the big powers to bomb and pillage. A call to the workers and people to get behind their particular monopoly, behind every cut-throat, in an already fruitless and dangerous quest to make Britain number one in the globalised market. The road to further disaster, social devastation and war. What grandiloquent phrases for such a tawdry and criminal aim!

There was no standing ovation in the spill-over hall. Not even applause at the end of the speech. And no appearance by The Leader.

Later your sketchwriter on behalf of the Party was interviewed at length for a Kazakhstan TV young people’s programme. They had explained that they did not expect to find many socialists at the Labour Party Conference and wanted a socialist viewpoint. Even from so far away, products of pseudo-socialism and the full restoration of capitalism and sponsored by Pepsi-Cola, this much was obvious.

Article Index


For Your Information:

Notes on Social Democracy and the English Labour Movement

"Social democracy" as such in England dates from 1881 when one H.M.Hyndman, a radical author of some personal wealth, formed the "Democratic Federation" as an "independent working class movement" with the aim of reviving the Chartist agitation of the 1840s. Recognising the appeal of Marxism as the theory of the working class movement, and familiar with the new working class organisations that were springing up around Europe, he claimed to base his organisation on the theories put forward in Karl Marx’s "Das Kapital". Marx (who was resident in London and knew of Hyndman’s political tendencies) in turn denounced his efforts. The Democratic Federation, which later changed its name to the Social Democratic Federation, had members that included William Morris, the well-known artist, among a mixture of anarchists, parliamentarians and reformers of the trade unions. The appeal of the new group was mainly to skilled workers in the new industries, rather than to the intellectuals of the liberal bourgeoisie, who viewed the SDF as an unsuitable vehicle for the dissemination of enlightening propaganda to the working class. This tendency in the labour movement found its expression in 1884, when the Fabian Society was formed by George Bernard Shaw, together with Sidney and Beatrice Webb and others who did not like the more strident tone of Hyndman’s propaganda. They took the name "Fabian" from the Roman general Fabius, who had won his wars by refusing to confront the enemy in battle, and declared that they were based on the philosophical theories of John Stuart Mill.

With an economic boom in Britain fuelled by its colonialist expansion, the last decade of the 19th Century saw three SDF-supported members of parliament at Westminster, including Keir Hardie, who had founded the newspaper "The Miner" and was elected for West Ham in 1892. This grouping now also found the SDF too "left wing" in their policies for the new economic and political situation and founded the Independent Labour Party in 1893. The Labour Representation Committee was formed in 1900 as a coalition between these different groupings and the large trade unions – the trades union leadership having been very wary of any kind of political propaganda and firm advocates of the necessity of maintaining the working class in a restricted economic struggle. Ramsay MacDonald was elected as secretary and set the tone of the new party, which put forward a mixture of revolutionary-sounding journalism, enlightening social propaganda and compromise in the struggle in the workplace. After one year, about 350,000 men in 12 unions had affiliated to the LRC (out of 2 million union members). In 1906, because of anti-union and anti-working class legislation, it was decided that the workers had to have a Party in parliament and the Committee adopted the name of the Labour Party and became a fully constituted political party. However, the Labour Party accepted neither socialism as its aim nor the class struggle as the basis of its tactics. Its failure to keep the working class in check was clear by the time of the first national railway strike in 1911, which was followed the next year by a national miners’ strike. With the continuing expansion of industry and working class jobs (and hence relative prosperity) the bourgeoisie were organising their own gravediggers in the expanding red brick towns and cities. Trades union membership, for example, doubled between 1911 and 1913. Builders’ strikes, dockers’ strikes and transport workers’ strikes followed one another, together with the highly politicised TGWU strike in Dublin, led by Larkin and Connolly. By 1914 the British bourgeoisie were in great trouble and the Labour Party was not able to keep the working class in check. The immediate internal political problems were solved by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, which was accompanied by the complete militarisation of the economy, suppression of dissent and the channelling of the surplus social product into war production. At this juncture the Labour Party performed its greatest service to date to the British bourgeoisie by reversing, within a matter of days, its anti-war policy, pledging support to the war effort and encouraging workers to join the army. The war, of course, brought the mass slaughter of these workers and, ultimately, economic ruin; but it greatly increased the power of the capitalist state, converting the country (in Lenin’s words) "into military convict prisons for the workers".

As a reward for their efforts, after the war the Labour Party was handed control of the Cooperative Movement, up to that time controlled by the Liberals. This prize secured the economic stability of the Labour Party leadership and the financial viability of their grouping for the rest of the century.

(to be continued)

Article Index


 

Youth & Students

WWYG Activists Work for Conference: "The Future Belongs to the Youth!"

The National Consultative Forum of RCPB(ML), which took place on September 12, was attended by some activists of the Workers’ Weekly Youth Group (WWYG). At this conference, a resolution was passed, moved by WWYG, to hold a conference at the end of October, as a stepping stone to holding a National Conference of Youth and Students at a later date.

A group of activists has formed in London, out of the Forum, to work for the above conference. They are now meeting on a regular basis.

At their first meeting they discussed proposals for the conference. They gave views on the date, times and place of the coming conference. They also gave views on a leaflet to mobilise for the conference. They discussed all these proposals on the basis that the overriding concern is for the success of the conference.

The agenda of the conference is to focus on the theme that "The Future Belongs to the Youth!" In this context, the conference will discuss the problems facing school youth, university youth, unemployed youth and young workers. The youth attending the conference will talk about their experience.

Article Index


———Workers and Politics ———

This is the column of Workers' Weekly on the conditions of the workers and on the agenda the workers themselves are setting to overcome their marginalisation and to take up politics. We encourage all our readers to contribute to the politicisation of the workers and write for this column

The Paddington Rail Tragedy

Workers’ Weekly extends its deepest sympathy to all the bereaved, as well as to all those injured and traumatised and their families, of this dreadful event.

The Paddington rail tragedy has aroused the deepest anger amongst all sections of the community. The anger has been directed, it is quite clear, against the whole system of privatisation. It has been directed against the system whereby the motive of the rail network has been not the safety and needs of the passengers or the well-being of the nation at large, but the maximisation of profit and the accumulation of capital. Indeed, it could be said that the rail network has been run in violation and contempt of the fundamental human right to life. The response of the directors of Railtrack and the train operating companies has been quite inappropriate. Blind to the enormity of the situation, they seek only to defend themselves.

To us, this tragedy raises an issue which the bourgeoisie continually tries to negate and marginalise: the human factor. Unless this human factor is put at the centre of all considerations, no matter what measures are put in place, the problem of safety on the railways will not be solved. That further safety measures, such as the installation of ATPS and resiting of misplaced signals, are to be implemented is, of course, to be welcomed. But who is to have the decisive say in what ought to be done, what inherently unsafe features and practices of the rail system should be changed, how the rail network should be organised to meet the needs of passengers and the needs of the economy through the movement of freight? First and foremost, it should be the workers themselves. Instead they are the last to be listened to and the first to be blamed.

This is not a question of having "representatives" of the workers "consulted", but a fundamental question of bringing into play the human factor, so that the human beings concerned have the power to make the decisions which truly affect their lives.

Article Index


IWA(GB) Celebrates the October Revolution

On Sunday, September 26, the Indian Workers Association (Great Britain) held a national meeting in Coventry attended by well over a hundred people on the subject of the October Revolution. The IWA(GB) invited Chris Coleman, National Spokesperson of RCPB(ML), to address the gathering as the main speaker. Ajmer Bains, General Secretary of IWA(GB), also spoke, giving a report on the current General Election being held in India.

Chris Coleman opened his speech by saying that it was an honour once more to be speaking at a meeting of IWA(GB). We have fought shoulder-to-shoulder over many decades, he said, and the Party was very proud of this co-operation. He said that the Party had always considered it most important that, as well as fighting against racism and other particular problems facing the Indian community in Britain and keeping the community in touch with events in their homeland which they cherished so much, IWA(GB) had always upheld that the Indian workers in Britain were an integral part of the British working class and should stand in the forefront of its struggles. This was no small thing, he said, an example to all national minority peoples and reflecting great credit on the members and leadership of IWA(GB).

He said it was thus very appropriate and following this tradition that IWA(GB) should be celebrating the October Revolution.

The October Revolution he said, was the greatest, the epoch-making event of the 20th century. It remains a great inspiration and the path for the workers of all lands. The only advances made by the working class had been on the path of the October Revolution, he said, and this would be so in the future too. The path of the October Revolution was the path of humankind valid for the whole epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolution. Speaking theoretically, he said, its main content, the transformation of the whole world from capitalism to socialism through revolution, was valid for all countries.

The counter revolution in the Soviet Union, he said, the restoration of capitalism and the destruction of socialism beginning in the mid-fifties and culminating in the collapse of the USSR in 1990, was a colossal setback for the working class and the communist movement. The working class had lost its liberated homeland. Most importantly, it had lost its model of socialist construction in the only country led by Lenin and Stalin. The loss of this model was a terrible setback and posed the greatest challenge to the workers and their communist vanguard, to turn things around.

But having lost this model, he said, did not mean that the working class and its parties could not operate, could not make progress, without substituting another model. Even with the October Revolution in place there had been no substitute for one's own work. The working class had to turn themselves into their own model, with the communists making them conscious, in every country. We are our own models, he said, basing ourselves on our own work, and co-operating and exchanging experience with those doing the same. Since 1990, in particular, he said, it was imperative for the working class and its Party in each country to stand on their own feet. They must find their bearings in the new situation of retreat of revolution in the face of the offensive of the reactionary bourgeoisie against communism and everything progressive, aimed at turning back the clock to medievalism.

Referring to the October Revolution, the speaker remarked that in some circles there were great debates about the Soviet Union. Was Stalin right or wrong at some particular time? Did revisionism begin before Khrushchev? And so on. Our Party saw no point in such debates, he said. History had already given its verdict on Stalin and the restoration of capitalism, the destruction of socialism in the Soviet Union and the former People’s Democracies. The achievements of the Soviet Union under the leadership of Lenin and Stalin were indisputable, he said. Nobody could dispute the victory of socialism; the accomplishment of the initial stage of socialist construction; the uniting of the nations of the former Tsarist empire in the USSR; leading the peoples of the world in the victory over fascism in the Second World War. The question was, he said, what problems were left to solve today? What problems arose in the course of the development of the Soviet Union which the communists then were not able to solve and which are left for the communists of today still to solve?

The speaker referred to the important speeches given in that same city, Coventry, by Hardial Bains, our cherished comrade and late leader of the CPC(ML), in 1994. He said that in those important speeches Comrade Bains had pointed out among other things that while the USSR Constitution of 1936 was the most advanced anywhere to date, the problem of how the people were actually to govern themselves, rather than through representatives, had still to be solved. Likewise in the economy, how the working class itself was to decide all issues of production, remuneration, and suchlike, was still to be solved. And how to put the human factor at the centre of everything. This put no blame on the communists of Stalin's time. They were problems of growth. But from the mid-50s on rather than being solved, things were taken in the opposite direction. The workers and people were increasingly excluded from decision making. The economy was more centralised and given over to militarism. The human factor was diminished and marginalised.

Thus questions of empowerment of the peoples, of sovereignty of people and nations, of an economy serving the interests of the people not of the oligopolies, of human beings at the centre of things with the rights of all guaranteed – all these remained to be solved. They are being addressed today by the working class and the communists as their vanguard.

With these considerations in mind, he said, RCPB(ML) has addressed how the working class and its communist vanguard had and must further become their own model, in circumstances where the bourgeoisie and its governments were leading the working class and people into economic disaster, social devastation and the danger of another world war. New Labour, he said, had ditched everything even remotely connected with socialism in order to get elected and win the support of the monopolies. They had been brought to power to carry further the neo-liberal policies of Thatcher. Only the previous week, he said, Tony Blair had lectured the TUC Congress about "partnership". But a strange sort of partnership, where the workers were to make any sacrifice in order for their monopoly to make maximum profit, whatever the consequences to them, all in pursuit of a reactionary and impossible aim to Make Britain Great Again, to be Number 1 in the global market. He pointed out the massive attack on rights in legislation which in particular criminalised the youth, and based on precepts going back even before the time of Henry VIII. The whole economy was being geared to pay the rich, he said, with whole sections of the state sector built up on the people’s taxes being turned over to the monopolies for the making of profit, in other words straightforward robbery of the state treasury for private gain. Huge so-called mega-mergers threatened to devastate the national economy further, leading only to even greater crisis. And the barbaric bombing of Yugoslavia, the current interference in East Timor, saw Britain in the forefront of the big powers contending to dominate Europe as a step to taking over Asia and the rest of the world, getting their military forces in place for the redivision of the world in violation of all norms of sovereignty and civilised behaviour.

In such circumstances, the speaker said, the times cried out for the working class to develop its own agenda, to make itself its own model, to go forward into the 21st century, to a socialist Britain.

The entire direction of gearing everything to paying the rich must be reversed, he said. The call must be to Stop Paying the Rich, Increase Investments in Social Programmes. From this would follow the other demands of the working class. The democratic renewal of all the political institutions, the adoption of a modern Constitution guaranteeing the inviolable rights of all simply on the basis of being human. An economy serving the interests of the people. Modern sovereign states of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, with free and equal union if so desired. Internationally, the dismantling of economic blocs like the EU and military blocs like NATO; the end of all colonial and neo-colonial relations and interference in the affairs of others; the democratisation of international affairs and the recognition of all peoples, such as the peoples of Cuba and People’s Korea, to live in the system of their choice.

These, the speaker said, were in our Party's view the elements of the working class being its own model. The October Revolution was immortal. It was the path of all the struggling workers and peoples of the world. We honour it by addressing the problems of today, by subjecting present-day reality to the same Marxist-Leninist analysis.

The two main speeches were followed by numerous lively contributions on the main topics, as well as by patriotic and revolutionary songs and poems.

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50th Anniversary of the People's Republic of China

October 1, 1999, marks the 50th anniversary of the day Mao Zedong, the leader of the Communist Party of China,  proclaimed the liberation of China to the entire world. From the parapet of Tien An Men Square he proclaimed:  "China has stood up!" On this occasion, Workers' Weekly sends its revolutionary greetings to the entire Chinese people both in China and abroad who, thanks to the liberation of China and establishment of an independent state which represented their interests, were able to hold their heads high after centuries of humiliation and enslavement.

The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the day China declared its liberation has great significance not only for the Chinese people but also the peoples of the world. The direction China takes today will not only directly affect the lives of all those who live in China proper and those compatriots who live abroad, but it will directly affect the cause of world peace and therefore the lives of the entire world's people.

The victory of the Chinese people in 1949 was won as a result of continuous struggles and heroic wars since Japanese occupation in the 1930s. It put an end to the system of foreign domination and dismemberment imposed by European and other powers on China since the mid-nineteenth century. National independence was achieved and the Chinese people opened the path to social progress through the abolition of centuries-old feudal backwardness supplemented by brutal foreign capitalist exploitation. Furthermore, they put the construction of socialism on the agenda.

The significance of the liberation of China as the most populous country and one of the largest in the world impressed itself on international opinion immediately at the time, especially on those nations and peoples in the rest of Asia, Africa and Latin America who were still trapped under the occupation of European colonialism. During the 1950s and 1960s, one country after the other achieved its national independence, in no small part inspired by China's success. This led to the elimination of colonialism as a system from the world, with some exceptions.

The American imperialists for a long time refused to reconcile themselves to their defeat in China. As the backers of Chiang Kai Chek, the US used its veto to prevent China from taking her rightful seat at the United Nations. But eventually, under the renewed blows inflicted by the Vietnamese and other Indochinese people, themselves inspired by Chinese liberation, even the biggest world superpower, US imperialism, had to come to terms with the modern reality of an independent China. China acceded to the UN in the early 1970s and since then its insistence on the reunification of remaining Chinese territories constitutes a resolute stand in defence of  national sovereignty and the right of nations to self-determination. This continues to  exert a progressive influence on international affairs. In 1997, Hong Kong was finally handed back from British occupation and in 2000 Macao will be reunited. The demand for the return of Taiwan to China remains on the agenda as an important consideration in geo-politics. Upholding the One China principle against those who would seek to use Taiwan as their own base for aggression in Asia, in the name of human rights and freedom, is a factor for peace in Asia and the world.

With the collapse of the USSR and regimes in eastern Europe, the US imperialists tried to arrogate to themselves the position of sole arbiter in a unipolar world in competition with other imperialist rivals. China's position as a country determined to set its own social system  blocks the realisation of US imperialist ambitions in Asia, as well as those of Japanese militarism.

Worldwide, China has friends who would like to see it march on to socialism and communism through revolution. In this regard, ever since China took up the reforms promoted by Deng Xiaoping, commentators have been concerned  that these reforms to the Chinese economy  inevitably lead to the restoration of capitalism and will once again bring China under the yoke of foreign domination.  The world bourgeoisie is also very concerned. While it has  to respect the sheer size of China as an economy, it never  fails to manoeuvre to try to bring China  under its sway. For its part, China continues to work out its national and international positions so as to promote its own interests and defend its own national sovereignty. All of this shows that  the direction China will finally take within the very complex national and international situation is not settled at this time. It is clear that the disequilibrium which set  in  worldwide following the end of the bipolar division of the world has not been resolved. A new equilibrium has not been established, even as the different big imperialist powers vie for domination and seek to re-establish the equilibrium in their favour. On the other hand, the interests of the peoples of the world and the cause of human progress are served by resolving the disequilibrium in their favour. In this regard, the role of China is of utmost concern to the peoples of the world. Because conditions continue to show that no force in the world can act in the old way, China and the direction which it decides to take is a factor which must be reckoned with by all.

It is a time when all those who are contributing to opening society's path to progress must make their words and deeds one. The word and deed of each political party must be studied with an open mind, including that of the Communist Party of China. What is crucial is to analyse the position each political party occupies in the modern-day developments and to openly study and sum up the experience of all countries and the world as a whole. If such a thing is not done, the communist and workers' movement will suffer from the same blindness which the period of the  bipolar division of the world tried to impose on it.

The role of China and the words and deeds of its Communist Party must be studied by the Marxist-Leninists and progressive forces with the seriousness they deserve, without being prejudiced by preconceived notions. The serious study of the stands and views of China and the Communist Party of China is essential as part of the summation of world developments and to prepare to make revolutionary advance. China and the Communist Party of China are bound to be one of the determining factors in the turning point which has opened up for the world at this century's end.

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Thousands Demonstrate to Demand Release of Puerto Rican Political Prisoners

People from around the world joined more than 150,000 people in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on August 29 to demand the unconditional release of 15 Puerto Rican political prisoners held in federal US prisons since the early 1980s. A demonstration organised by the Committee for Human Rights of Puerto Rico was the largest the island has ever seen. It brought together all shades of ideological and political belief under the slogan, "It is time to bring the patriots home!".

Head of the 15,000 strong march(Photo {left}: Head of the 150,000-strong march through San Juan, showing the key symbolising liberty, the portraits of the 15 political prisoners, the 15 Puerto Rican flags and the flags of the international contingent.


The demonstration began in Barrio Obrero led by children who carried a 22-foot long key, symbolising the key to liberty. They were followed by 15 youth carrying banners depicting the portraits of the political prisoners, and another 15 youth who carried Puerto Rican flags. An international delegation followed carrying flags of the many countries that have joined the campaign for the release of the Puerto Rican political prisoners.

Thousands of people, including members of the religious community, labour unions and Vietnam veterans and people from all over the island, including Vieques, the US Naval base where terrible crimes are carried out against Puerto Rico, participated. They carried banners, shouted slogans and waved flags as they marched to the federal building in Hato Rey where the demonstration concluded with a rally. Speakers called on US President William Clinton to release the prisoners unconditionally.

The demonstration and rally was one of the many events that took place during an international conference on political prisoners and human rights. Organised by the Committee for Human Rights of Puerto Rico, the conference was held at the Sacred Heart University in San Juan from August 27-30. Participants attended from Puerto Rico, other Caribbean countries, South America, the US, Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Britain, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh among others. Professors and students, lawyers and elected officials, former political prisoners, workers, women and youth organisers, Church leaders as well as family members of the political prisoners participated in workshops, cultural events, and the demonstration and rally.

The conference included eight different workshops to explore various aspects related to the issue of political prisoners. One of the workshops was led by Professor Francis Boyle, an authority on international law and a prosecuting attorney in a landmark case before the UN tribunal of justice. In 1992, this Tribunal handed down a guilty verdict against the US on all eight counts of violation of international law with respect to Puerto Rico. This included the forcible colonial occupation and acts of genocide against the Puerto Rican people.

Boyle explained the scope of the violation of international law of which the US government has been convicted of both by the World Court and by the international tribunals. He highlighted that as far as judicial matters go, the judgements by either of these bodies have equal legal validity but neither the Court nor the Tribunal has enforcement capabilities. Thus the US flaunts these judgements, he said. He pointed out that until now, no third country in the world has been willing to file a case against another country for a violation of international law and the de facto (unilateral declaration of statehood) and de jure (the de facto state being accepted by a majority of the countries internationally) recognition of the right to self determination have been used by peoples like the Palestinians to be independent without anyone granting them independence.

The fact that a de facto state of Puerto Rico existed before 1898, which was then occupied by the US military, leaves open the possibility for the Puerto Rican people to consider the option of de jure recognition as a means to end US colonial domination, he said.

Other presentations and interventions dealt with topics such as Human Rights and Economic Dependence, Human Rights and the Right to Self-Determination, Political Prisoners and Disinformation, Political Imprisonment and Dignity. The discussion included examples from the struggles of the Irish, Punjabi, Canadian and other peoples. One evening, a documentary depicting aspects of the lives of the political prisoners and their families was viewed. On another evening, a gala and banquet were held to raise money for the campaign to release the political prisoners.

Two weeks before the conference was held, on August 13, 1999, US President Clinton offered conditional amnesty to the prisoners in response to the international amnesty campaign. Former US President Carter, Nobel Prize winners and many others petitioned Clinton to release the prisoners. During the conference, Dr. Luis Nieves Falcon, Co-ordinator of the Puerto Rican Human Rights Committee, explained the significance of the conditions, as well as the charges under which the prisoners were convicted. The 15 political prisoners were sentenced and imprisoned in the early 1980s for their political activities against the colonial occupation of Puerto Rico by the US since 1898. They were tried under a law that had not been used since the Civil War. During the trial, the prisoners demanded that they be tried under international law as prisoners of war and not under US laws. The judge and prosecutors tried them unilaterally, without any defence. No evidence was presented that they had committed criminal acts, bombings, killings, etc. They were convicted under the charge of seditious conspiracy to forcibly overthrow the government of the United States and possession and transport of weapons. Thousands of cases in the US every year on such weapons possession charges receive the maximum penalty of a few years in prison. The sentences were disproportionate to the alleged crime, in one case adding to 105 years in maximum security prisons. They are even many times longer than the sentence given to convicted murderers, rapists and assassins.

Clinton's clemency offer acknowledges that none of the prisoners have been accused of any violent acts and the time served is more than adequate for the charges of which they were convicted. However, making the offer conditional amounts to the prisoners accepting the verdict and the jurisdiction of the US Parole Board, monitoring by the US Justice Department and the FBI, besides severe restrictions on future political activity and political contact with other past, present and future political prisoners. This further violates every principle of human rights, including the right to conscience.

Dr. Nieves Falcon emphasised that while the decision to accept or reject the conditional amnesty would be solely that of the individual prisoners, they must be able to make an informed decision based on full legal and political consultation with their lawyers and family members. He declared that the people and nation of Puerto Rico would fully respect the decision taken by the political prisoners.

Welcoming the released political prisoners(Photo {left}: Scene from welcoming rally in Chicago for eleven released political prisoners.)

However, after making the offer, President Clinton then set a deadline for acceptance on the basis that the "issue is taking too long to decide", thereby cutting short the plan for discussion with all 15 prisoners. On September 7, 12 of the prisoners decided to accept the conditional clemency. Ten of the prisoners decided to return to Puerto Rico, while two returned to their homes in the Chicago area. When the patriots returned home to Puerto Rico, they received a heartfelt and unconditional welcome from the people of their nation. The Human Rights Committee has formed a network around the US and Puerto Rico to ensure that the FBI and parole officers do not send them back to prison on fabricated charges of parole violation. The international campaign will now concentrate its efforts to release the remaining prisoners, Dr. Nieves Falcon said. Unconditional amnesty for the Puerto Rican political prisoners remains the watchword of all justice-loving people.

It is a matter of principle, on the basis of its own struggle for rights, that the working class fights for the rights of peoples and nations everywhere. This in particular includes Puerto Rico where the struggle for nationhood and freedom from US control still continues. Even now, the US Army is transferring its Southern Command from Panama to the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. It is important that the facts of this oppression are widely appreciated.

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Letter from Chris Coleman, RCPB(ML), to Kim Jong Il, General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, on the 54th anniversary of its founding

October 10, 1999 (Juche 88)

 

Kim Jong Il
General Secretary
Workers’ Party of Korea
Pyongyang

 

Dear Comrade Kim Jong Il

On the important occasion of the 54th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea, I should like to send to you, to the Central Committee and entire Party, and to the Korean people our warmest and most heartfelt congratulations. Under the great leadership of Kim Il Sung and now your leadership, the Workers’ Party of Korea has been the vanguard of the Korean people in all their heroic struggles since the very day of its founding. The experience of the Workers’ Party of Korea has confirmed that defence of the line of the Party and of its system of leadership is essential to safeguarding the gains of the revolution and socialism, whatever the difficulties in its long and arduous march.

Today, the Korean people are facing a barbarous enemy led by US imperialism, which is newly determined to eliminate all those who stand in the way of its extending its dictate to the entire world. In this situation, not to speak of the continued natural disasters your country has faced, the Workers’ Party of Korea has led the valiant Korean people in solving problems in an innovative way, basing its path on the theoretical grounding of the Juche idea, the path of independence and self-reliance. We are sure that your Party, under your wise leadership, ever loyal to the teachings of the great leader Kim Il Sung, will continue with great success to defend the independence of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, build socialism and work tirelessly for the reunification of the homeland. In so doing you provide, as always, an example and an inspiration to communists and progressive people in struggle the world over.

We stand shoulder to shoulder with you in your struggles and in our common cause, the cause of socialism which remains the future of humankind. For our part, we pledge to provide you with the most solid support in our work for a socialist Britain as together we prepare to move into the 21st century.

Once again, we offer you our warmest congratulations on this joyful occasion and our very best wishes for continued success.

Chris Coleman

on behalf of the Central Committee

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E-mail from Reader in Italy

I'm a subscriber to Workers' Weekly and I received your letter of September 18 [on the launch of the internet edition and the temporary suspension of the printed version while maintenance work is carried out]. I hope that Workers' Weekly can restart publication as soon as possible. I have received a number of the issues of the newspaper by mail which I have appreciated for the contribution that it furnishes to the theory and the practice of the communists. The activity of RCPB(ML) is a precious example for the communists in Italy and it proves that it's necessary to develop the comparison between communists to relaunch a strong international communist movement.

Please send the videocassette called "Forward to the Third Congress of RCPB(ML)" to me …

Comradely greetings

(signed)

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