Arrogant Brexiteers better get used to the Irish standing up to them

December 6, 2017 at 10:38 am (Brexit, Europe, Ireland, nationalism, posted by JD, Tory scum)

Superb commentary by the Irish Independent‘s Colette Browne (5 Dec 2017)

 Theresa May and Leo Varadkar

The UK government’s arrogant colonial mindset, and its patronising belief that it knows best when it comes to Ireland, is the reason the Brexit negotiations are such an unmitigated omnishambles.

When the UK voted to leave the European Union, there was lots of frenzied waving of Union Jacks, lots of teary-eyed reminiscing about the glory days of empire and lots of fanciful bravado about the economic heights the UK would soar to – now that it wouldn’t have to carry the dead weight of the world’s biggest free market round its neck.

Some of its more zealously frothing-at-the-mouth pro-Brexit newspapers spent months fantasising about being able to change the colour of UK passports and commissioning a new Royal Yacht Britannia to cross the seas and provide a “showcase for everything that is best in Britain”. They’re going to call it Brexit-annia, by the way.

So much time was spent on fripperies and jingoistic fantasies that precisely zero thought was given to the messy mechanics of Brexit. How on earth could 45 years of ever-closer union be unwound in just two years?

Even less consideration was given to the Irish question. There was lots of talk about German cars and French wine – but the fact that an entire country was inconveniently affixed to one of its borders didn’t warrant any consideration from any of the geniuses who promoted Brexit.

In recent weeks it has become apparent why so little thought was given to Ireland by the current Tory government – most of its members couldn’t find it on a map and are embarrassingly ignorant about our people, our politics and our culture.

The Little Englanders who comprise the UK government didn’t think about Ireland because they don’t care about Ireland. They didn’t think that we’d dare to give them any trouble. They thought we’d doff the cap, raise them in salute and let our betters dictate the terms of any deal.

They articulated their vision for Brexit – a brave new world in which all of their fervent nationalistic delusions would become reality – and expect the Paddies to simply roll over and let them get on with it.

The wails of despair you now hear from senior Tories and their supporters, as the reality of securing Brexit proves much more difficult than merely holding a referendum, is the sound of those dreams dying.

For the first time in our long history with the UK, the supplicant has become the master – and the former master doesn’t like it.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, having barely had time to wipe the egg off his face after he suggested last week that the reason the Irish were being so intransigent was because of an upcoming presidential election that no one else knew about, boldly went on the record again yesterday to lambast our government’s obstinacy.

“I don’t see what we have got to sign up to. We have given them all the reassurances they have asked for. If Ireland wants to block us from going on to discussing trade, we will just get on and leave on World Trade organisation terms,” he told the ‘London Evening Standard’.

If you look closely at that statement, the visceral contempt for the Irish daring to protect the interests of its citizens actually drips from the page.

The DUP’s Sammy Wilson was so enraged by the Irish Government’s rigidity that he threatened to veto any Brexit deal involving any reference to ‘regulatory alignment’ in Stormont – appearing to forget that there is no Stormont Assembly at the moment so the DUP can’t veto anything there.

Historians will look back on these botched Brexit negotiations as a case study of what happens when one side abandons all reason, logic and rationality as part of its negotiating strategy.

If anything, after the bedlam on display yesterday a deal enabling the British to move on to phase two of Brexit negotiations is further away than ever.

As soon as details of the proposed agreement with the Irish Government leaked out, that there would be regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the Republic, the Scots, the mayor of London and the Welsh were all clamouring for similar deals.

In order to gauge the true extent of the dystopian nightmare that this creates for long-suffering British Prime Minister Theresa May, it is necessary to consider that the Welsh, unlike Scotland and the City of London, actually voted to leave the EU – but now apparently want a Brexit deal that entails them remaining, for all intents and purposes, in the single market and the customs union.

Faced with revolt from all corners of the UK, Mrs May did what she has become adept at in recent months – ran for cover, prevaricated and finally reneged on the agreement, with the result that nobody is happy.

Now, the true horror for Mrs May really begins, as she attempts to cobble together a deal that simply doesn’t exist – simultaneously keeping an open Border on this island while Northern Ireland moves, with the rest of the UK, outside the single market and customs union. Even European President Jean-Claude Juncker felt some sympathy for her predicament as he tried to cover her blushes, in a press conference yesterday, praising her as a “tough negotiator”.

There was no such sympathy on show in Dublin, where a blunt Leo Varadkar stated he was “surprised and disappointed” that a deal, which he was led to believe had been signed off, suddenly evaporated.

Embarrassingly for Mrs May, the man who turned up to Government Buildings yesterday morning wearing a crimson singlet and shorts ended the day looking more stately than she could manage.

Over the coming days, as the deadline to the December 14 date when a final decision will be made by the EU on the ability of the UK to proceed to the next phase of the Brexit talks approaches, expect lots of vitriol and venom to be spewed at the Irish from incensed Tory grandees and their Brexiteer chums.

They may not like this new assertive Ireland, but have only their own ignorance, pomposity and pretention to blame for the position they now find themselves in.

Ireland is a sovereign country intent on defending her interests. They better get used to it.

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Brexit and Ireland: DUP sabotages May’s deal

December 5, 2017 at 6:32 pm (Brexit, Europe, Ireland, Jim D, nationalism, sectarianism, Tory scum)

 
“I have in my hand a piece of paper”; cartoon: Martin Rowson (the Guardian)

Until the DUP vetoed it all, May appeared to be on the verge of putting the interests of the British people and the majority of Irish people, North and South, ahead of placating a minority of bigots in Northern Ireland and in the Commons (on both the DUP and the Tory benches).

In her response to the briefings coming from Brussels yesterday afternoon, DUP leader Arlene Foster restated that Northern Ireland “must leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom.”

The problem, as the DUP well knows, is that Northern Ireland is already an anomaly in all sorts of regards. (The DUP has, for example, been at the forefront of pushing to lower Northern Ireland’s corporation tax rate from the UK’s 18 per cent rate to match the 12.5 per cent found in the Irish Republic).

But the Brexiteers weren’t having it: if Northern Ireland is heading for a soft Brexit, they reasoned, what’s to stop the rest of the UK?  Paradoxically, but entirely logically, on this point, anti-Brexit people immediately agreed.

So May, in thrall to the DUP and her own hard-Brexit fanatics, has chosen ignominious capitulation to the DUP and the likes of Rees Mogg, risking the disaster that would be a hard border in Ireland. So much for taking back control.

All of which makes this article, first published back in in January by Workers Liberty, all the more prescient:

Brexit and Irish borders

By Micheál MacEoin

As the House of Lords EU Committee put it, with considerable understatement recently: UK-Irish relations “are often overlooked on the British side of the Irish sea”. Both before and after the EU referendum, the consequences of Brexit on Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic have been an afterthought in the public debate. Often there has been no thought at all.

After the referendum result, Theresa May was quick to reassure Stormont that “nobody wants to return to the borders of the past”. Yet, under the pressure from the Tory right, and despite quietly believing in a Remain position during the campaign, the drift of May’s policy, however muddled, seems to be heading towards a so-called “hard Brexit”. Britain could, at the very least, leave the single market. From the Tory right in the cabinet, there have even been suggestions about leaving the customs union — a call which, when it came from Liam Fox in July, caused tension with Dublin government, which proclaimed itself “very surprised”.

The effect of leaving the single market and the customs union would be to entrench the border between the Republic of Ireland and the North. As a recent House of Lords EU committee report stated, “the only way to maintain an open border would be either for the UK to remain in the customs union or for EU partners to agree to a bilateral UK-Irish agreement on trade and customs.” The latter will not be forthcoming without some special dispensation for the Republic of Ireland during the negotiations between Britain and the 27 EU countries and, without it, some system of customs checks would seem inevitable at the border. Moreover, the Common Travel Area (CTA) between the UK and the Republic of Ireland would be cast into doubt. One legal expert has suggested that: “In the event of a UK withdrawal, much would depend on the terms of its subsequent relationship to the EU. To the extent that customs checks applied to goods moving across the border on the island of Ireland, or to traffic between the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain, there would be pressure for controls on the movement of persons as well.”

Even if the CTA provisions, which have existed in some form or other since the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922, are preserved, there will at least be some change to the ability of EU and Swiss/EEA citizens to move between the Republic of Ireland and Britain. Ironically given that the largest Unionist party, the DUP, supported British withdrawal from the EU, one option could mean border checks to enter Great Britain — not at the Irish Border but at ports and airports both North and South. It is this sort of Brexit which Irish capitalism fears most, as the UK is Ireland’s second largest EU trading partner after Belgium, and its key market for exports in the crucial agri-food and drinks sector. This is not to mention the potential complications for the close family and cultural ties between millions of workers in Ireland and the UK, and the position of Irish workers and students living in Britain.

The position of Northern Ireland is, typically, a complicated one. Economically, in the agri-food sector, £700 million of its annual £1.15 billion exports go to the Republic, and customs duties would reverse the moves towards greater economic integration since 1998. Perhaps the only growth industry from a return of a customs border would be organised criminal diesel smuggling. In an atmosphere of fiscal retrenchment, with no appetite for further funding for Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, the effect would be to accelerate the Stormont Executive’s attacks on public sector workers, benefits and services, in a region that is already suffering from high levels of deprivation. Of importance, too, would be the effect a tangible border would have on politics in the North. In the short-term at least, it would puncture the optimistic nationalist assumption that economic growth plus demography would deliver a united Ireland. The almost invisible border, diminished in relative importance by its contextualisation within Britain and Ireland’s shared EU membership, would suddenly become a presence in everyday life once more.

This should worry Sinn Fein, which is already losing some working-class support in republican areas to People Before Profit on account of the Executive’s austerity measures. Part of the party’s appeal and prestige lies in its all-Ireland organisation, and the ostensible momentum towards Irish unity generated by its expanding vote share. Brexit could arrest this forward movement. At the same time, a majority of Northern Ireland voted to Remain, creating the potential for discontent with Brexit and with England as there has been in Scotland.

Those unionists who absurdly contend that Northern Ireland is straightforwardly a part of the UK will confront the fact that the six counties is near the bottom of the British government’s list of priorities. Many commentators have expressed alarm about the impact on the “peace process”.

Socialists should of course welcome the cessation of sectarian violence, and the opportunities it opens for the elaboration of working-class and socialist politics. The Good Friday Agreement itself, however, cannot be politically endorsed, as it fails to tackle the roots of the national question and has institutionalised sectarian politics at Stormont. Nevertheless, we should not be complacent about its incidental undoing in the maelstrom of a turbulent and unpredictable Brexit. Down that road lies potential sectarian polarisation and further attacks on workers, as the capitalist class off-loads of the cost of economic disruption. Rather, the overthrow of Stormont should be the positive work of conscious political forces: a working-class movement which, in advocating its replacement with a federal united Ireland with a measure of regional autonomy for Protestant-majority areas, would have the potential to unite workers across the sectarian divide.

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The Torygraph spells it out: Brexit means appeasing Trump

December 1, 2017 at 11:02 am (apologists and collaborators, Brexit, enemy intelligence, fascism, Jim D, nationalism, populism, Racism, Torygraph, Trump, United States)

We’ve spelled it out before, but recent events are making it ever more obvious: Brexit necessitates appeasing the likes of Trump, Xi Jinping and Erdogan .

If the UK leaves the EU on a ‘hard Brexit’ (which it will, if the Tories have their way) then grovelling for some crumbs at their tables is all Britain will be good for.

And that is the question Corbyn, Watson and McDonnell have to answer. If Brexit goes through, who should the UK deal with in trying to get good trade deals? How would a Labour government be able to do it whilst simultaneously making clear its distaste for Trump and other racist and authoritarian leaders and regimes ?

If you oppose Trump, you have to oppose Brexit.

Today’s editorial in the Brexit propaganda sheet known as the Daily Telegraph, spells out the inexorable logic from the perspective of the most reactionary (ie: pro-Brexit) section of the UK ruling class, who think May’s mild criticism of Trump has already gone too far:

Trump-bashing will get May nowhwere

It goes almost without saying that Donald Trump was wrong to share anti-Muslim tweets by an extremist British group. But what should the government have said and done about it? Theresa May was right to call Britain First a “hateful organisation” and to correct the false premises behind the tweets. But to personalise her response by adding that Mr Trump “was wrong” was a mistake. A good relationship with America is the very definition of the national interest. To reply to a president’s undiplomatic act with direct criticism may win easy political points. But such virtue signalling is itself hardly the act of a winning diplomatic strategy.

Worse, Mrs May yesterday seemed intent on deepening, not healing, the rift with our greatest ally. “The fact that we work together does not mean that we are afraid to say when we think the United States have got it wrong and be very clear with them,” she said, casually dismissing the special relationship.

There are numerous ways for Downing Street to signal displeasure to our friends in Washington. Almost any of them would be more effective than engaging in a public slanging match. What, really, is there to gain by meeting an emotional and ill-thought-through presidential outburst with its prime ministerial equivalent.

Nuance and subtlety in such matters are not beyond our international partners. French President Emmanuel Macron famously snubbed Mr Trump at an international summit by swerving out of his way, a video clip of which delighted anti-American voters back in France. But that did not stop the savvy Mr Macron from welcoming the American leader to Paris as soon as practically possible, and treating him to the greatest Gallic hospitality. This does not represent hypocrisy so much as political sophistication.

Such things matter. How is it possible that the American president has visited France and Japan, but has yet to make an official trip to Britain? Instead, we were treated yesterday to the spectacle of a House of Commons in which MP’s of all stripes queued to outdo each other in their condemnation of the leader of the free world. This passes dangerously close to the instinctive anti-Americanism that is such a dark element of the revolutionary left. That already has too firm a grip on one side of our politics. It must not infect Conservative benches too.

  • PS: never forget this, either.

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China: “new era” but same old repression

November 27, 2017 at 10:07 am (China, Human rights, nationalism, posted by JD, stalinism)

CCP congress

By Carman Basant (this article also appears in the current issue of Solidarity and on the Workers Liberty website):

In October, the 19th national China Communist Party (CCP) congress took place in Beijing. China’s president, Xi Jinping, used the propaganda event to push his distinct brand of CCP rhetoric, which sounded vacuously futuristic and echoed the party’s nationalistic and imperially ambitious past.

To achieve the “Chinese Dream” would be “no walk in the park”, he declared, it would require “more than drum beating and gong clanging to get there” (Xi Jinping, cited in Phillips, 2017).

The CCP announced power in 1949 under the leadership of Mao Zedong. This came after a civil war with the main political rival and party-in-power, Chinese Nationalist Party or Guomindang (led by Chiang Kai-shek). At that moment, the CCP had popular support because of its more consistent and passionate anti-Japanese position (China’s main imperialist threat) and its promise to alleviate pervasive poverty and hardship and end exploitation by landlords. The Nationalist Party fled to Taiwan while proclaiming its intention to return at a future point to retake mainland China, whilst the CCP claimed sovereignty over Taiwan. The present-day geopolitics of this region continue to the shaped by historical tensions between China and US-backed Taiwan and Japan; moreover, Chinese nationalism has both “enemies” close in mind.

Under Mao, the CCP dragged China’s population through various traumas. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the Hundred Flowers Campaign was followed by the Anti-Rightist Movement, which purged critics of the state that were first encouraged to speak out, and the Great Leap Forward — a campaign to launch China as an industrial equal to the West that resulted in tens of millions of deaths. Mao’s initiative in 1966 of the Cultural Revolution was intended to reassert his authority and reflected a fanatical cult of personality (particularly amongst the youth cadre) to eliminate both internal and external critics of the Party, so-called bourgeois elements. China descended into a decade of chaos, destruction, loss of life, and widespread human rights abuses. The Cultural Revolution came to a close in 1976, the year of Mao’s death.

Post Mao, China entered a new period under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, known as opening and reform. In the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution a spontaneous grassroots space opened up in Beijing for the public airing its emotional trauma and the social and political questioning of the Party, known as the Democracy Wall Movement. This was generally seen to be tolerated by a “new era” Party, but that was a mistake. Deng Xiaoping’s new era of openness and reform meant a pragmatic approach to the economy: a recognition that China’s economic development would come from moving away from a closed economy and plugging into the global economy. Deng’s vision did not include political openness.

The Democracy Wall Movement, which begin in 1978, was shut down in 1979. The balancing act presented by Deng’s CCP then is one that continues: the State opens China’s doors to global capital and acts as the guardian at the door to protect the populous from foreign bad elements.

An earlier example of this is the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign of 1983. The growing desire amongst the students and workers of China’s cities for political change amidst its economic opening and reform proliferated into the extraordinary grassroots democracy movement of 1989 Tiananmen Square.

The image of a courageous student attempting to block a line of tanks moving in to crush this movement is one of the most iconic images of the twentieth century, and a reminder of what so-called “Chinese socialism” actually is – a gross betrayal of its namesake.

Xi Jinping announced the beginning a “new era” at the 19th national CCP congress, promising to transform China into a “mighty force” and to rid the Party of corruption (cited in Phillips, 2017); in earlier times, both Mao and Deng pushed the same discourse, seeking economic and imperialist power alongside tight political control.

Director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Elizabeth Economy, sums up Xi’s vision well: “Xi Jinping sits on top of the Communist world, the Communist party sits on top of China, and China sits on top of the world” (cited in Phillips, 2017).

Xi’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics” never had a grassroots democratic basis, nor did it ever have a parliamentary basis: this was and remains an authoritarian state.

Still today, Chinese political dissidents navigate a precarious existence – amid an insidious second Cultural Revolution — in which the Party can quite simply, as some of my personal contacts in China put it, “make disappear”.

Reference
Phillips, Tom (2017) “Xi Jinping heralds ‘new era’ of Chinese power at Communist party congress”. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/18/xi-jinping-speech-new-era-chinese-power-party-congress?CMP=share_btn_tw

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The Irish border problem: the dogs in the street know who’s to blame … but not Her Majesty’s Loyal Communist Party

November 20, 2017 at 9:10 pm (Brexit, CPB, Europe, Ireland, Jim D, nationalism, stalinism, statement of the bleedin' obvious, Tory scum)

 The highly fortified police station in the border village of Crossmaglen, Northern Ireland, in 2005. ‘Given that the border could not be secured with army watchtowers during the Troubles, it is not at all clear how a new policing operation will work.’ The highly fortified police station in the border village of Crossmaglen, Northern Ireland, in 2005. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The Irish have an expression, “even the dogs in the street know…”, meaning a statement of the bleedin’ obvious.

Well, when it comes to the potential disaster that is the likely imposition of a hard border within the island of Ireland, the dogs in the streets of both parts of Ireland, know who to blame: the arrogant, careless Tory government and the lying Brexiteers who don’t give a toss about the Irish people, North or South.

If Theresa May had not given in to the Brexit-fanatics and, instead, made it clear that Britain would remain in the single market and/or customs union (a mix of the Norway and Turkish options), the Irish border problem and the threat to the peace process would not have arisen. But this has been ruled out by the UK government.

Which leaves just two further possible options for avoiding a hard border:

1/ A border down the Irish Sea, giving the North special status  with the single market and customs union. This is anathema to the DUP and unacceptable to the British government as it would be seen as dividing the UK .

2/ The Hammond plan for  the UK to remain within the single market and the customs union for a two year  (or longer) transitional period. But this is unacceptable to the Brexit-fanatics within the cabinet and the Tory party, although the Irish government strongly favours it.

These realities, and British (well, English) culpability for jeopardising the peace process, have been spelt out time and again, for instance by the respected Irish commentator Fintan O’Toole (here and here).

The people of Ireland, North and South, Protestant and Catholic, Loyalist and Republican, know this and overwhelmingly oppose Brexit. The dogs in the street know it. Only the Tories and their Brexit-fanatic press deny this reality (or simply choose to ignore it). Oh yes, and the Morning Star, mouthpiece of Her Majesty’s Loyal Communist Party, who dutifully toe the Tory /English nationalist line and manage to blame “Brussels”:

Border threats from Brussels


Nov
2017
Saturday 18th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

IRISH Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney insist they will obstruct the next phase of London-Brussels negotiations without a British government assurance.

Varadkar told Theresa May: “Before we move into phase two talks on trade, we want to take off the table any suggestion that there would be a physical border, a hard border, new barriers to trade on the island of Ireland.”

His stance is shared by Sinn Fein, whose leading MEP Martina Anderson held recent meetings with EU negotiator Michel Barnier and European Parliament co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt.

She told them that the Leave agenda pursued by the May government is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement, especially in view of the Tories’ dodgy deal with the DUP.

But where is the evidence that the British government or any significant player in either Britain or Ireland wants to change current Irish border arrangements?

What the Fine Gael-led Dublin government and Sinn Fein omit to mention is that the demand for a hard EU border comes from the EU Commission itself.

Brussels wants to site that border not on the already existing demarcation between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic but between Northern Ireland and Britain.

It insists on a special arrangement for the six counties to place it inside the EU single market and customs union, effectively extending the EU in defiance of the UK leave vote.

Britain’s refusal to accept this formula is portrayed as a dangerous provocation that could scupper the Good Friday Agreement and reignite sectarian hostilities.

It is understandable that Sinn Fein, a party with Irish reunification at its heart, should adopt an EU ploy to effectively detach the six counties from the UK, but Fine Gael has a diametrically opposed historical record.

This EU negotiating ploy gives added strength to the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) view that “Irish interests are being used as a pawn in the ‘talks, no talks’ saga.”

While equally committed to the goal of a united Ireland, as is the Morning Star, the CPI monthly journal Socialist Voice reminds readers that the core tenets of socialism and republicanism are independence, sovereignty and democracy.

It points out that Ireland “cannot be a sovereign country under any imperialist apparatus,” whether dominated by Britain, the EU or the US.

“In the context of Brexit, to campaign for a united Ireland under the pretext of the six counties rejoining the EU shows the lack of ideological opposition to imperialism.”

The clear thinking of Irish communists, shared by their comrades in Britain, is in stark contrast to that of others on the left in both countries who see in the EU, through rose-tinted spectacles, an international co-operative body based on solidarity and respect for workers’ rights rather than a bloc devoted to the interests of transnational capital.

There is no truth in the EU assertion that having different tax systems in the two parts of Ireland makes a hard border inevitable.

The republic and the six counties already have different levels of corporation tax and VAT, but this has not prevented smooth cross-border trade.

Those flagging up future difficulties, which, given goodwill, are quite easily surmountable, do so to bolster different political ambitions.

UK voters have made their choice and will not favour efforts to thwart it just as the people of Ireland on either side of the currently hassle-free dividing line will not welcome duplicitous attempts to reintroduce a hard border.

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Zimbabwe: how Mugabe and ZANU rose to power

November 16, 2017 at 1:56 pm (africa, history, Human rights, liberation, Marxism, national liberation, nationalism, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", war)

Above “Comrade” Mugabe in characteristic pose

A useful and well-researched background article by Stephen O’Brien (first published in Links, 2008)

His Excellency Comrade Robert: How Mugabe’s ZANU clique rose to power

Towards the end of 1975 a movement of young radicals organised in the Zimbabwe People’s Army (ZIPA) took charge of Zimbabwe’s liberation war. ZIPA’s fusion of inclusive politics, transformational vision and military aggression dealt crippling blows to the white supremacist regime of Ian Smith. However, it’s success also paved the way for a faction of conservative nationalists led by Robert Mugabe to wrest control of the liberation movement for themselves.

The fact that Mugabe, a former rural school teacher, and his cronies would become the ruling capitalist elite of Zimbabwe by crushing a movement of young Chavista-style revolutionaries doesn’t sit well with their anti-imperialist self-image.

The ZIPA cadre emerged from the wave of young people who, experiencing oppression and discrimination in Rhodesia, decided to become liberation fighters in early 1970s. Unlike many of the first generation of fighters, they volunteered to join the respective military wings of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)[i]

In 1975, key nationalist leaders — such as Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo, Ndabiginini Sithole, Jason Moyo, Herbert Chitepo, Abel Muzorewa, James Chikerema and Josiah Tongogara — had become entangled in factional rivalry and long-running and fruitless peace talks with the Smith regime. The young recruits who would shortly form ZIPA sought to reinvigorate the struggle as the war stalled and as the old leaders became marginalised.

A group of ZANU officers based at training camps in Tanzania consulted widely among the liberation forces. They approached President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Samora Machel, soon to be president of newly liberated and independent Mozambique, for support to restart the war against Smith. Both Machel and Nyerere had initially supported peace negotiations and the resulting ceasefire with Rhodesia, but by October 1975 had lost patience with the whole process, and listened with sympathy to the ideas of the young officers.

ZIPA formed

The ZANU officers also sought unity with ZAPU, the long-standing rival organisation from which ZANU had split in 1963. ZAPU agreed and in November 1975 ZIPA was formed with a combined High Command composed of equal numbers from both ZAPU and ZANU. The alliance with ZAPU disintegrated after a few months partly because ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo had continued to negotiate with Smith. Nevertheless, it was an important attempt at unity which defied the prevailing trend of division.

ZIPA’s nominal head was Rex Nhongo (later known as Solomon Mujuru he would become head of the Zimbabwe Army under Mugabe), but strategic and tactical leadership came to be held by his young deputy, Wilfred Mhanda.

Wilfred Mhanda

Mhanda had been a typical recruit to ZANU and its military wing, the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (ZANLA). He had been involved in school protests and on leaving his studies helped form a ZANU support group. Like many who were to become part of ZIPA, Mhanda had been influenced by the youth radicalisation of the 1960s. In 1971, with the special branch in pursuit, Mhanda’s group skipped the border into Botswana and joined ZANLA. He took the war name of Dzinashe Machingura. He was later sent for training in China and progressed through the ranks to became a military instructor, political commissar, commander of the Mgagao camp in Tanzania and then member of the High Command.[ii]

ZIPA theory, tactics

Theory influenced ZIPA’s tactics. Its fighters were not regarded as cannon fodder, lines of retreat and supply were secured, counter-offensives anticipated and strategic reserves made ready. Senior ZIPA commanders visited the front. ZIPA’s aims went beyond winning democracy, to the revolutionary transformation of Rhodesia’s social and economic relations. The previous conception of the old-guard nationalists had tended to regard armed struggle as a means to apply pressure for external intervention to end White minority rule.

The Zimbabwe People’s Army relocated its troops from Tanzania to Mozambique and in January 1976, 1000 guerrillas crossed into Rhodesia. The entire eastern border of Rhodesia became a war zone as the guerillas launched coordinated and well-planned attacks on mines, farms and communication routes, such as the new railway line to South Africa.

ZIPA established Wampoa College to help institute its vision and ran Marxist-inspired courses in military instruction and mass mobilisation for its fighters. It educated its cadre against the sexual abuse of women and sought to win the support of the Zimbabwean peasantry through persuasion rather than coercion.

Historian David Moore’s study of ZIPA notes: “The students made their political education directly relevant to the struggle, so that Marxism could better direct the war of liberation.’’[iii] ZIPA’s political approach lead to it becoming known as the Vashandi, a word which means worker in the Shona language, but which, according to Mhanda, took on a broader meaning as the revolutionary front of workers, students and peasants.

Smith’s regime reeled under the offensive. Repression was intensified, “psychopathic’’ counter-insurgency units such as the Selous Scouts were deployed, so called “protected villages’’ intensified control over the population and raids were launched against refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Rhodesia was forced to borrow 26 helicopters from apartheid South Africa, and in order to deploy 60% more troops, increased the military call-up for whites. In his memoirs, Ken Flower, head of the Central Intelligence Organisation under Smith (and later under Mugabe), recalls that by July 1976 “Rhodesia was beginning to lose the war.[iv] Read the rest of this entry »

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Catalonia, the ‘Norwegian way’ and Lenin

November 3, 2017 at 10:09 am (civil rights, class, history, internationalism, Lenin, Marxism, national liberation, nationalism, posted by JD, solidarity, spain)

Catalonia general strike

By Martin Thomas (this article also appears on the Workers Liberty website)

“It is the bounden duty”, wrote Lenin, “of class-conscious workers to conduct systematic propaganda and prepare the ground for the settlement of conflicts that may arise over the secession of nations, not in the ‘Russian way’, but only in the way they were settled in 1905 between Norway and Sweden.

“This is exactly what is meant by the demand in the program for the recognition of the right of nations to self-determination”.

The “Russian way” meant the way national conflicts were settled under the Tsar (and would be settled again under Stalin). Oppressed nations were told to shut up and submit.

Lenin argued that capitalism simultaneously generated democratic impulses and openings, and tended to undermine them, empty them out, block them. Socialists could and should take up battles for democracy even within capitalism; we could win them; that would be of value even within capitalism.

This was the Norway-Sweden model which Lenin cited: Read the rest of this entry »

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The Balfour Declaration after 100 years

November 2, 2017 at 10:04 am (anti-semitism, history, imperialism, israel, Middle East, nationalism, palestine, posted by JD, zionism)

Balfour and Lloyd George in London before World War I. (Photo by: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)Balfour and Lloyd George in London before World War I. (Photo by: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)

By Paul Hampton (very slightly adapted)

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration, the promise made by the British government to support a Jewish state in Palestine. The anniversary is already the subject of letters to the Guardian and no doubt will prove a fillip for discussion on the self-defined “anti-imperialist” left. Criticism of British colonial policy is entirely justified, but this should not lead us to argue that the there was simply an inexorable, linear, mechanical line from the Balfour declaration to the creation of Israel, never mind to the current injustice towards the Palestinians.

On 2 November 1917, British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour sent a letter to Lord Rothschild, one of the leaders of the British Jews, which stated:
“I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy which has been submitted to and approved by the Cabinet: His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

The novelist Arthur Koestler wrote that the Balfour declaration was one nation promising another nation the land of a third nation. Similarly Edward Said argued that it was a prime example of “the moral epistemology of imperialism”. The declaration was made: “(a) by a European power, (b) about a non-European territory, (c) in flat disregard of both the presence and the wishes of the native majority resident in the territory, and (d) it took the form of a promise about this same territory to another foreign group, so that this foreign group might, quite literally, make this territory a national home for the Jewish people” (The Question of Palestine, 1979).

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Catalonia: right to choose, yes! New borders, no!

October 12, 2017 at 1:34 pm (AWL, democracy, elections, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, spain)

By Martin Thomas and Tony Holmes (also published in the present issue of Solidarity and at the Workers Liberty website); slightly amended by JD to take account of latest developments:

Charles Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia, has announced his cautious response to the referendum on independence in Catalonia his government called on 1 October.

The Spanish government declared the referendum illegal, and deployed heavy Spanish police force to try to stop it, but it largely went ahead. 92% voted yes, on a 43% turnout. A series of opinion polls carried out by the Catalan government since 2011 has in recent years shown a slight majority against independence, most recently 49%-41% in July this year.

Puigdemont asked the Catalan parliament, where he leads a coalition government, for a mandate to declare Catalonia an independent state. He proposed “suspending the effect” of the independence declaration “for a few weeks” and seeking talks with the Spanish government and exploring international mediation. The Spanish government had warned that it would suspend Catalonia’s autonomy and impose direct rule from Madrid if Puigdemont went for independence. It may still do so, though the immediate call by EU chief Donald Tusk for Madrid to negotiate makes that less likely.

Judging from the failure of the Spanish police to stop the 1 October referendum, such an attempt by Madrid could not go smoothly, and might lead to a low-level civil war between Spanish and Catalan police. The European Union and neighbouring France have said that a Catalonia which declared itself independent could not expect to be admitted to the European Union, implying that it would face a degree of economic blockade, with serious trade barriers surrounding it. It is conceivable that the stand-off could be resolved by the reintroduction of a 2006 law ceding more autonomy to Catalonia, which was approved at the time both by a referendum in Catalonia and by a vote in the Spanish parliament, led at that time by the social-democratic PSOE.

The current People’s Party (conservative) government in Madrid got that law annulled by Spain’s constitutional court in 2010, starting a process towards the current crisis. Democratic principle mandates concessions by Madrid to Catalonia.

The people of Catalonia have the right to a proper referendum on separation, and to be allowed to separate without sabotage or disruption if they vote for separation. It is, however, good that Puigdemont called for negotiations rather than immediate separation. To denounce restraint as a sell-out would be wrong for three reasons.

Firstly, there is no solid evidence of a majority for separation. That 40% of the electorate voted yes on 1 October is not solid evidence. Read the rest of this entry »

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“Effectively we are looking at a ten year recession” An honest Brexiteer writes …

October 11, 2017 at 11:14 am (Brexit, economics, enemy intelligence, Europe, identity politics, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, privatisation, reblogged, truth)

From Peter North’s blog (9th Oct 2017):

I don’t like this Brexit, but I will live with it

Now that we know there isn’t going to be a deal we can at least narrow down some of the possibilities of what post-Brexit Britain looks like.

In the first year or so we are going to lose a lot of manufacturing. Virtually all JIT export manufacturing will fold inside a year. Initially we will see food prices plummet but this won’t last. Domestic agriculture won’t be able to compete and we’ll see a gradual decline of UK production. UK meats will be premium produce and no longer affordable to most.

Once food importers have crushed all UK competition they will gradually raise their prices, simply because they can. Meanwhile wages will stay depressed and because of the collapse of disposable income and availability of staff, we can probably expect the service sector to take a big hit thus eliminating all the jobs that might provide a supplementary income.

Across the board we will see prices rising. There will be some serendipitous benefits but nothing that offsets the mass job losses. We will see a lot of foreign investment dry up and banking services will move to the EU. Dublin and Frankfurt. I expect that house prices will start to fall, but that’s not going to do anyone any favours in the short to mid term.

Since a lot of freight will no longer be able to go through Calais we can expect a lot more use of the port at Hull so we may see an expansion in distribution centres in the North.

All in all we are looking at serious austerity as it will take a few years at least to rebuild our trade relations with third countries. If we go down the path of unilateral trade liberalisation then we will probably find it hard to strike new deals.

Meanwhile, since tax receipts will be way down we can expect major cuts to the forces and a number of Army redundancies. I expect to see RAF capability cut by a third. Soon enough it will become apparent that cuts to defence cannot go further so we can expect another round of cuts to council services. They will probably raise council tax to cope with it.

After years of the left bleating about austerity they are about to find out what it actually means. Britain is about to become a much more expensive pace to live. It will cause a spike in crime.

Interesting though will be how rapidly people adapt to it and habits will change, thus so will the culture. I expect cheap consumables from China will stay at low prices and they manage to circumvent the taxes and import controls anyway.

What I do expect to happen is a lot of engineering jobs to be axed since a lot of them are dependent on defence spending. It will kill off a number of parasitic resourcing firms and public sector suppliers. Basically it will wipe out the cosseted lower middle class and remind them that they are just as dispensable as the rest of us.

We can the expect to see a major rationalisation of the NHS and what functions it will perform. It will be more of a skeleton service than ever. I expect they will have trouble staffing it. Economic conditions more than any immigration control will bring numbers down to a trickle.

In every area of policy a lot of zombie projects will be culled and the things that survive on very slender justifications will fall. We can also expect banks to pull the plug in under-performing businesses. Unemployment will be back to where it was in the 80’s.

The London economy will also change. Initially we will see an exodus back to the regions until rental prices normalise to the new conditions. Anyone who considers themselves “Just about managing” right now will look upon this time as carefree prosperity. There are going to be a lot of very pissed off people.

This will see a revival of local politics and national politics will become a lot more animated. I expect the Tories will be wiped out and we will have to put up with a Corbyn government for a while, but they will be tasked with making all the major cuts. We’ll soon see how far their “compassion” really goes. Even if Corbs does manage to borrow, it won’t go very far. It won’t plug the hole.

Eventually things will settle down and we will get used to the new order of things. My gut instinct tells me that culturally it will be a vast improvement on the status quo. There will be more reasons to cooperate and more need to congregate. I expect to see a cultural revolution where young people actually start doing surprising and reckless things again rather than becoming tedious hipsters drinking energy drinks in pop-up cereal bar book shops or whatever it is they do these days. We’ll be back to the days when students had to be frugal and from their resourcefulness manage to produce interesting things and events.

A few years in and we will then have started to rebuild EU relations, probably plugging back into Euratom, Erasmus, and a large part of the single market. It will take some time to plug back into the EU aviation market. The EU will be very cautious about what it lets us back in on.

Effectively we are looking at a ten year recession. Nothing ever experienced by those under 50. Admittedly this is not the Brexit I was gunning for. I wanted a negotiated settlement to maintain the single market so that we did not have to be substantially poorer, but, in a lot of ways I actually prefer this to the prospect of maintaining the 2015 status quo with ever degraded politics with increasingly less connection to each other.

I’m of the view that in recent years people have become increasingly spoiled and self-indulgent, inventing psychological problems for themselves in the absence of any real challenges or imperatives to grow as people. I have always primarily thought Brexit would be a reboot on British politics and culture. In a lot of ways it will bring back much of what is missing. A little austerity might very well make us less frivolous.

What I do know is that the banking crisis of 2008 set in motion a series of events whereby much of the corrective potential of it was dissipated with debt and spending, largely to preserve the political order. The disruptive potential of it was barely felt in the UK. Ever since we have stagnated and though the numbers on screen may tell a story of marginal growth, I just don’t see it reflected in the world around me. I still see the regions dying out and London sucking the life and vitality out of every city, including Bristol. It reminds me that the wealth of a city is its people, not its contribution to GDP.

Ahead lies challenging times. It will not be easy. Those who expected things to improve will be disappointed. But then I have a clear conscience in this. I never made any big Brexit promises. I never said there would be sunlit uplands. I did not predict that the government would make this much of a pigs ear of it, or that we would be looking at the WTO option. I expected parliament would step in to prevent that. That it hasn’t tells you a good deal about the state of modern politics.

And so with that in mind, as much as I would have had it go a different way, I think, given the opportunity to vote again I would still vote to leave. Eventually it gets to a point where any change will do. I prefer an uncertain future to the certainty I was looking at.

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JD adds: the comments are well worth a gander

This is what Mr North wrote the next day (10 Oct) following the attention his post received in the Graun and elsewhere:

“explaining yesterday’s post which seems to have cause something of a stir. The short version is that I do see quite a lot of potential in Brexit to reboot British politics, not least because a trashed economy would finally settle this stagnant politics of ours. It would be the final big push to wean the British off the state.

“I suspect the reason the post went viral is because it’s probably the first time Grauniad hacks have seen honest Brexit motives out in the open. I see Brexit as taking toys away from spoiled toddlers – and if we can’t stop a hard Brexit then there is still a lot to be said for going the full monty rather than preserving the dismal status quo of retail politics. I can see how it will culturally reinvent Britain.”

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