Mackney of Greece Solidarity denounces Morning Star

July 2, 2015 at 7:23 pm (Europe, Greece, internationalism, posted by JD, sectarianism, stalinism)

Well-respected Labour movement activist Paul Mackney, former general secretary of the UCU and currently secretary of the Greece Solidarity Campaign, has written this sharp letter to the Morning Star which was published in today’s edition:

Image result for morning star logo

I am in Greece, where the people are preparing, more or less on class lines, to vote in the referendum on EU austerity demands next Sunday.

I was appalled to read your editorial mirroring the position of the KKE which voted in parliament not to have a referendum.

After years of reporting which ignores the realities of the new social and political movements in Greece, with regret, I have decided to cancel my daily copy of the Star.

The facts are that the KKE got 5 per cent of the vote in the last election and that Syriza got 36 per cent.

Syriza was clear with the people, who were overwhelmingly pro-EU and pro-euro, that it would try initially to find a solution within the Eurozone, which has involved negotiations which have been transparent.

We have to stand with the Greek people.

As the Greece Solidarity Campaign slogan has it: “In or out of the Eurozone, Greeks will never fight alone.”

PAUL MACKNEY London N22

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‘Stop The War’ protest in Donetsk ignored by ‘Stop The War’ in the UK

July 2, 2015 at 6:59 pm (Paul Canning, Russia, stalinism, Stop The War, Ukraine, war)

By Paul Canning

An anti-war protest has taken place in the heart of Donetsk.  Unsurprisingly it was not reported on Russia Today or by the Stalinists.

ukraine-anti-war_DONETSK

There has been increased fighting in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in Eastern Ukraine.  This has been most notable in the Ukrainian city of Pisky, a city five kilometers from Donetsk held by Russian forces.  The OSCE has criticised the shelling in contravention of the Minsk Agreement which  set a demarcation line where heavy weapons were to be withdrawn.

This escalation has provoked unrest inside the self-styled ‘Donetsk Peoples Republic’ where there has been very little public protest since early 2014.

On 15th June 500 residents of the Oktyabrskoe district of Donetsk took part in a stop the war protest.  The anti-war protesters demanded that the Russian forces should stop shelling and using civilian buildings as cover.  shouting: “Stop the war!”, “Give us back our houses, our homes are broken!”, “Get out of here!”

This was a concern raised on numerous occasions previously including  by the independent miners unions as using buildings in this way was increasing civilian casualties when counter-fire was returned.   The head of the regime in Donetsk – Zalarchenko came out and met the protesters insisting the fighting would continue.

One protester said: “People were lost when we voted for the rebels, but they screwed us, simply screwed us!”

A video with English translation is available here: Donetsk Residents Stage Rare Anti-War Protest

Russian journalist Pavel Kanygin, working for Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s independent and opposition media, filmed the demonstration.  A day after the anti-war rally, Kanygin was detained and beaten, and deported back to Russia.  There has since been an increased military presence next to the government building where the protest took place.

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Letter to Morning Star: nationalist Denny must provide evidence or apologise for slur

June 24, 2015 at 5:30 pm (conspiracy theories, Europe, internationalism, Jim D, RMT, stalinism, trotskyism)

Image result for morning star logo

Dear Comrades,

Brian Denny of the nationalist No2EU campaign, claims (MS June 24) that “Cameron is already building an alliance for his strategy which stretches from the CBI to the more unhinged parts of British Trotskyism”

I presume by “the more unhinged parts of British Trotskyism” Mr Denny is referring to people like myself and the Alliance for Workers Liberty, who refuse to endorse his reactionary nationalist anti-EU stance. Would Mr Denny care to provide one single shred of evidence for his claim that we are in an “alliance” with Cameron? If he fails to do so (as he must) I shall expect an apology. And readers may care to consider who, in this debate, is in reality “unhinged”.

Regards
Jim Denham

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RMT and Morning Star – backed “Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine” link to anti-Semites

June 21, 2015 at 7:01 pm (anti-semitism, Christianity, conspiracy theories, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, stalinism, strange situations, thuggery)

Мозговой – он уничтожен ко дню Торы (Шавуот). Выпуск…

By Dale Street

Aleksei Mozgovoy – the recently assassinated commander of the Prizrak Batallion, which controls the town on Alchevsk in the so-called ‘Lugansk People’s Republic’ – was killed as a Jewish blood sacrifice.

That’s the claim made by a post on a Facebook page created by the British ‘Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine’ (SARU) campaign, much of which is given over to RMT member Eddie Dempsey reminiscing about his recent trip to Alchevsk (as he’s also done in the Morning Star):

https://www.facebook.com/events/262079037295964/?ref=3

The post on the SARU Facebook page links to piece on YouTube entitled “Mozgovoy – He Was Eliminated for the Day of the Torah (Shavuot)”, produced by the “Voluntarily United Union of Christian Liberation”.

According to the 45-minute recording on YouTube:

– The killing of Mozgovoy was a “ritual offering” (sic) for the Day of the Torah (which began in the evening of the day on which he was killed).

– Ukraine is run by two Jews (Poroshenko and Deputy Prime Minister Groysman).

– The Russian media are run by the Chabad (a Jewish religious organisation), which explains why they talk about Nazi fascism and Banderite fascism, but never about Jewish fascism.

– A helpline, set up by an organisation called Shalom, for Jews who are victims of anti-semitic acts in Ukraine, is really some kind of undercover organisation set up to ‘punish’ their opponents.

The YouTube recording also emphasises Mozgovoy’s adherence to the Russian Orthodox Church, and concludes with a lengthy reminder of the tenth-century wars between the Khazar Empire and the Christian rulers of Kievan Rus’.

(This is code for: The struggle between the Russian Orthodox Church and Jews is a timeless one.)

The YouTube piece is one of a series produced by Eduard Hodos, Ukraine’s answer to Gilad Atzmon. Hodos was once the head of the reformed Jewish community in Kharkhov, but subsequently converted to Russian Orthodoxy.

According to a favourable review of one of his books from about ten years ago:

“In this sensational series of books entitled The Jewish Syndrome, author Eduard Hodos, himself a Jew (he’s head of the reformed Jewish community in Kharkov, Ukraine), documents his decade-long battle with the “Judeo-Nazis” (in the author’s own words) of the fanatical hasidic sect, Chabad-Lubavitch.

According to Hodos, it’s become the factual “mastermind” of the Putin and Kuchma regimes. Chabad also aims to gain control of the US by installing their man Joseph Lieberman in the White House.

Hodos sees a Jewish hand in all the major catastrophic events of recent history, from the Chernobyl meltdown to the events of September 11, 2001, using excerpts from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to help explain and illustrate why.

Hodos has also developed a theory of the “Third Khazaria”, according to which extremist Jewish elements like Chabad are attempting to turn Russia into something like the Great Khazar Empire which existed on the Lower Volga from the 7th to the 10th Centuries.

Much of this may sound far-fetched, but as you read and the facts begin to accumulate, you begin to see that Hodos makes sense of what’s happening in Russia and the world perhaps better than anyone writing today.”

Yes, indeed – much of this does sound a trifle far-fetched.

So why has SARU not deleted the post from its Facebook page, even though it has been visible for all to see for the past three weeks, and new material has been added to the page by SARU since then?

Even if SARU were to claim that none of its members speak Russian – something of a shortcoming for such a campaign – this is no answer to the fact that the image in the Facebook post (and the Youtube clip at the top of this post) is a Torah scroll set against the Star of David.

Shouldn’t that have alerted someone? Or did SARU simply not care?

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What a shower! the Morning Star’s roll-call of anti-EU Labourites

June 13, 2015 at 4:02 pm (Europe, Jim D, labour party, stalinism)

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Tally Hoey: Labour MP Kate Hoey is furious that the Heythrop hunt plans to oust employee Julian Barnfield

Above: Kate Hoey in characteristic pose

The Morning Star, supposedly the voice of Britain’s mainstream left and trade union movement, becomes ever more desperate in its adherence to the anti-EU position and its self-deluding pretence that this is somehow “left wing”.
In today’s Star, we’re told that “Labour MPs [are] poised for big anti-EU drive.”

It turns out that a tiny handful of eccentric, and mainly right-wing, Labour MPs have formed a group called ‘Labour for Britain’ which will campaign for a ‘No’ vote in Cameron’s EU referendum. They’re headed by Kate Hoey, the pro-hunting former Home Office MP, who said (in 2009) that she didn’t think a Tory victory would be “so devastating“: she is probably the most right-wing Labour MP in the Commons. And this is the person the Morning Star hails as the leader of the “exit left” campaign!

Other Labour anti-EU heroes of the Morning Star are  Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green), and Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North), neither of whom can be considered in any way on the left, but are both part of the old-guard nationalist/protectionist trade union right-wing. Hopkins recently published a politically incoherent pamphlet ‘European Union – a View from the Left’ – a publication that combines pre-Marxist idealism with parliamentary cretinism in a uniquely politically illiterate combination.

And finally, as though you were not yet convinced of Labour for Britains’s left-wing credentials, we have John Mills, the boss of JML – John Mills Limited, the TV shopping and consumer products company with an annual turnover of £85m and pre-tax profits of £8.2m: Mr Mills is hailed by the Morning Star as “the national agent for the No campaign in the 1975 EEC referendum” and quoted (obviously approvingly) saying that ‘there was “an evident danger” the party could lose even more core voters to Ukip by fighting alongside the Tories to keep Britain in the EU.’

So there we have it: the CPB/Morning Star “left -wing” line-up of political dead-beats and illiterates, led by Labour’s most right-wing MP and financed by a capitalist: what a fucking shower!

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Stalinists and far right make common cause to support pro-Russian forces

June 6, 2015 at 4:24 pm (apologists and collaborators, fascism, imperialism, posted by JD, Russia, stalinism)

Lindsey  German, Andrew Murray and members of ‘Workers Power’ at the last London meeting of Useful Idiots For Putin and His Fascist Friends

By Dale Street

In what is threatening to become an annual ritual, two conferences in solidarity with the Donetsk and Lugansk ‘People’s Republics’ (DPR/LPR) – one aimed at the far right, and one at the (Stalinist) ‘left’ – took place last month.

Last year two such conferences – one for the right, one for the ‘left’ – were staged by the same organisation (‘Novaya Rus’’) in the same hotel (Hotel Intourist) in the same place (Yalta) in a matter of weeks.

This left hapless organisations such as the British ‘Workers Power’ group trying to explain why they had teamed up with Russian chauvinists, Stalinists and homophobes in an event staged by an organisation which collaborated with fascists and the far right.

This year’s conferences were different. Although the rhetoric of the two conferences had much in common, they were not initiated by the same organisation.

The driving force behind the conference of the far right, held in Donetsk on 11th/12th May, was the French MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser. The conference had first been announced by Schaffhauser at a press conference held in March of this year.

Although never actually a member of the French National Front (FN), Schaffhauser has won local and Euro-elections as a candidate on FN slates.

He advocates lower business taxes, an anti-Muslim crackdown on multi-culturalism, workfare for the unemployed, and welfare benefits only for those who have lived in France “a long time” (code for: not immigrants).

Exploiting his longstanding links with Russian bankers and politicians, Schaffhauser played a central role in securing a loan for the FN from a Russian bank last September. Estimates of his commission on securing the loan – nearly 10 million euros – vary from 140,000 to 450,000 euros.

The three other speakers at Schaffhauser’s press conference – who also attended the Donetsk conference itself – were Manuel Ochsenreiter, Alessandro Musolino and Alain Fragny.

Ochsenreiter has a long record of involvement in German far-right politics. He is currently editor of the neo-Nazi magazine “Zuerst!”, which stands for “the preservation of German ethnic identity” and “the life and survival interests of the German people.”

The magazine attacks the legacy of denazification, carries interviews with the Russian fascist Alexander Dugin, and denounces “welfare immigrants” and “gypsy pickpockets”. Ochsenreiter also appears regularly on the pro-Putin “Russia Today” propaganda outlet.

Musolino is a prominent member of the right-wing Forza Italia party, originally founded by Silvio Berlusconi as a vehicle for his own personal political ambitions. Read the rest of this entry »

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Workers Liberty proposal to the left: For a workers’ Europe!

June 4, 2015 at 4:08 pm (AWL, democracy, Europe, Human rights, immigration, left, posted by JD, stalinism, SWP)

A proposal to the class-struggle left, from Workers’ Liberty:

The government intends to hold an in-out referendum on the UK’s European Union membership. David Cameron is currently attempting to negotiate with other EU leaders to allow the UK government more power at the expense of the EU.

Dressed up in nationalist rhetoric — opposition to foreign migrants and the demand for “our” right to control “our affairs” — Cameron is fighting for the right of the Tory government, acting on behalf of the capitalist class, to ignore European law and regulations that interfere with profits of British capitalists.

Columnist Iain Martin, writing in the Telegraph on 30 May, complains that Cameron’s shopping list for change in Europe is too vague. Martin advocates Cameron “should at least be looking to scrap anti-competitive social and employment laws that come from Brussels and [try] to win new flexibility for the UK to do its own trade deals.” The Telegraph has the virtue of being plain and clear. Much of the EU legislation the political right in Britain would like to see abolished is in the direct interest of workers in Britain.

No doubt Cameron — unlike many in his own party — would like to see the UK remain in the EU. Cameron wants to avoid the political disruption and economic overheads of withdrawal.

However the Westminster politicians may find it difficult to manage and control the referendum result from above. And it may be that the UK will stumble out of the EU, against their wishes.

The main result of Britain leaving the EU will be a big confidence boost for the political right and the growth of anti-immigrant racism.

The drive against EU membership is being led by poisonous and divisive anti-migrant howling from some of the press. Xenophobia has an appeal; UKIP won 3.8 million votes at the general election largely by playing to fears of foreigners.

Although the precise timing and the wording of the question to be voted on are not yet clear, the political dangers should be obvious. There is already a large constituency — well-funded, with a long tradition in UK politics, that has its own political voices and access to the media — which is loudly and crudely attacking migrants’ rights and using nationalism to try to pull the UK out of Europe.

In the run-up to this referendum there will be a further poisoning of British politics.

In an in-out referendum Workers’ Liberty will vote to keep the UK in the EU. We will do so for reasons similar to those that motivated our call to Scottish workers to vote against independence. In general, we are in favour of fewer and weaker borders and barriers between peoples.

If the issue in the referendum had been, for example, a vote on an EU economic treaty, we would probably have advocated abstention. It is not our job to choose between different methods of exploiting workers.

But the issue now is about strengthening borders and hostile attitudes towards other peoples; pulling the UK out of the EU will do both. It runs in the opposite direction to the creation of a federal Europe, which we favour.

The European bourgeoisies have pulled Europe together, substantially integrating Europe economically and politically. By doing so — in their own way, in their own interests — they have also expanded the possibilities for Europe-wide workers’ unity. We could add many qualifications — the expansion of bureaucracy, the capitalist nature of the process of integration — nevertheless European integration is historically progressive.

To try to break up the process of integration is as regressive as trying to turn the internet off because it is run by capitalist companies, or attempting to abolish parliament without bothering to see that bourgeois democracy is replaced with something better.

Unfortunately, some on the socialist left, influenced by nationalism and Stalinism, will advocate withdrawal. They will say a blow to the EU is a blow against capitalist exploitation and imperialism. But not all damage to capitalism is in the interests of the working class. Socialists are not simply anti-capitalist — we have a positive programme which we fight for, and which includes European unity.

The people who will gain from UK withdrawal are the racists who hate migrants. It makes no sense for the left to vote with UKIP and the Tory right for withdrawal, pretending we are doing so to fight racism and nationalism. That would be ridiculous.

And some of the left will flounder about in confusion wishing the question was different and trying to avoid the issue of EU membership by stressing their opposition to racism and UKIP (reasonable of course, but limited and without political traction).

We advocate the left forms a united campaign with the following aims:

• To defend migrants’ rights and oppose racism

• To vote against British withdrawal from the EU

• To fight for a workers’ Europe, based on working class solidarity

We advocate that the left unite to fight for these aims and campaign for these ideas inside the workers’ movement. And, in addition, we suggest that the labour movement learn one more lesson from the Scottish referendum debacle: that the unions and Labour Party must not join a cross-class alliance with pro-EU Tories and others. Such a bloc discredited the labour movement during the Scottish campaign.

We are open to debate on the question and will be approaching left organisations with the intention of founding such an initiative.

Workers, unite across Europe!

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Stalinists tie themselves in knots over EU referendum

May 25, 2015 at 5:29 pm (democracy, elections, Europe, internationalism, Jim D, labour party, stalinism, Tory scum, unions)

Image result for morning star logo

The Communist Party of Britain and its mouthpiece the Morning Star, are all over the place on the forthcoming EU referendum. Never mind their contortions over Tory plans to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (and – yes – I am aware that the ECHR is separate from the EU, but the Stalinists’ arguments about ‘unaccountable transnational bodies’ and the need for ‘national sovereignty’ logically should apply as much to the  ECHR as to the EU).

As recently as its May 9-10 edition, the Morning Star carried this wretched piece of ‘analysis’ of the general election result, including the following criticism of Labour:

“Support for an EU referendum and a more critical attitude towards EU anti-democratic institutions and neo-liberal policies might have stopped at least some working-class voters defecting to Ukip.”

Now, have a read of this, from today’s (May 25) Morning Star:

No vote for membership for EU citizens


May
2015
Monday 25th
posted by Morning Star in Britain

Labour drops opposition to in/out vote


by Our News Desk

MOST EU citizens living in Britain will be barred from voting in the referendum on whether to sever ties with Brussels, Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday.

The franchise for the referendum, promised by the end of 2017, will be based on that for a general election — meaning Irish, Maltese and Cypriots resident in Britain will get a vote, but other EU citizens will not.

Details about the planned public vote were revealed as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was due to hold talks with Mr Cameron at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country residence.

Legislation for the referendum will be introduced to Parliament on Thursday — the day after the Queen’s speech.

A Number 10 source said: “This is a big decision for our country, one that is about the future of the United Kingdom. That’s why we think it’s important that it is British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens that are the ones who get to decide.”

It comes after Labour’s acting leader Harriet Harman announced a U-turn on the issue, saying her party would now support Mr Cameron’s planned in/out referendum on EU membership.

She said: “We have now had a general election and reflected on the conversations we had on doorsteps throughout the country.

“The British people want to have a say on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Labour will therefore now support the EU referendum Bill when it comes before the House of Commons.”

Ms Harman added that the party will “make the case for our continued membership” and does not want to see Britain “stumble inadvertently towards EU exit.”

But unions have warned against Labour kowtowing to Tory wishes on the issue after Ms Harman accepted she shared some of the PM’s concerns about the need for reform, including freedom of movement.

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said Labour “must not give Cameron a blank cheque and should beware of the CBI agenda to turn the clock back on employment rights.”

He added: “Labour is sleepwalking into a two-step Europe, with UK workers having the worst rights in the EU for which a big price will later be paid by the party at elections.”

*******************************************************************************************************

It’s difficult to know were to start in commenting upon this level of political incoherence: having urged Labour to drop its opposition to the Tories’ referendum, the Star now (fairly obviously approvingly) quotes unions warning against Labour “kowtowing to Tory wishes on the issue” and the danger of “turn(ing) the clock back on employment rights.”

Didn’t you realise that attacking employment rights (along with attacking immigrants) is what the campaign for a referendum has always been all about, you Stalinist muppets?

The pitiful incoherence of the little-England Stalinists would be almost laughable, if it wasn’t so dangerous to working class interests.

We need a socialist campaign to critically defend the limited working class gains that have come from EU membership, and to oppose the little-England, racist and anti-working class anti-EU campaign of both right and “left”.

NB: See also Comrade Coatesy

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Keep Unite affiliated! No new Popular Front!

May 12, 2015 at 5:58 am (Champagne Charlie, class collaboration, John Rees, labour party, stalinism, unions, Unite the union)


Andrew Murray: Popular Frontist

” … the [Labour] party’s leaders in parliament know that if they were to lose Unite, there could be an English Syriza formed with more resources and dynamism than the party it would replace” – Counterfire

It hasn’t been widely publicised, but for the last couple of years Unite leader Len McCluskey has been saying that in the event of Labour losing the general election, Unite would seriously consider disaffiliating from the party.

Many of us considered this a bizarre position to take: surely the aftermath of a Labour defeat, and the ensuing ideological struggle between the Blairite right and various more left-wing currents, is precisely the time when affiliated unions should be exerting their influence?

McCluskey’s strange position seems to have been a concession to anti-Labour forces within the union, which include the Socialist Party (and their pathetic TUSC electoral front), various free-lance syndicalists within the United Left, a significant number of Scottish members (antagonised by Miliband’s handling of the Falkirk row, and now pro-SNP), and -perhaps most importantly – his  ‘Chief of Staff’ Andrew Murray, to whom he has in effect sub-contracted the running of politics within the union. Murray, a member of the Communist Party of Britain who is on record supporting North Korea, has a record of deciding the union’s political “line” without reference to the union’s executive, in accordance with his own Stalinist predilections.

Murray is part of the current within the CPB that favoured closer links with Galloway and Respect and, through his  prominent involvement in the Stop The War Coalition also has a close relationship with John Rees, Lindsey German and their small ex-Trotskyist organisation Counterfire.

This influence over the union’s leadership accounts for the enormous resources Unite has poured into Counterfire’s initiative The People’s Assembly, the union’s declared (but undebated) support for Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets, and also for McCluskey’s unwillingness to call for a Labour vote in Scotland.

Counterfire and its Stalinist friends have two prominent supporters in the mainstream press, Seumas Milne (in the Guardian) and Owen Jones (in the Independent and New Statesman), both of whom, immediately prior to the election, were promoting the idea of a popular frontist anti-Tory coalition, and the idea that a Tory minority government would be, in effect, a ‘coup’ against the anti-Tory parliamentary majority. There was even a ‘Counterfire’-inspired proposal for a demonstration against the ‘coup’, although this didn’t take place under its planned slogans, due to the reality of the Tory absolute majority.

Counterfire is a small and politically insignificant outfit, but via Murray, it wields influence within Unite (despite the fact that it has only one known member within the union!) Therefore when articles like this and this appear on the Counterfire website, Unite activists who understand the vital political importance of maintaining the Labour link, should prepare for battle against the defeatists, class collaborationists and syndicalists  who’ll be arguing for a break with Labour and the creation of  a lash-up with the SNP, the Greens and even (according to the schema put forward by Murray’s pal Seumas Milne) sections of the Lib Dems! They may present it as “an English Syriza” reacting to the “Pasokification” of Labour (“English” because the SNP’s autonomy in Scotland must be respected), but in reality it would be a new variation on an old, class-collaborationist theme: the Popular Front.

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The urban dystopia of Shanghai

May 1, 2015 at 12:40 am (capitalism, China, Cities, Civil liberties, Human rights, posted by JD, stalinism)

By Camila Bassi (reblogged from Anaemic On A Bike):

“The Yankees have invented a stone-breaking machine. The English do not make use of it, because the ‘wretch’ who does this work gets paid for such a small portion of his labour, that machinery would increase the cost of production to the capitalist.” (Marx, Capital: Volume One)

My recent visit to Shanghai was the last of nine in which I have glimpsed urban development ‘the China way’. My photo story captures themes present in each of my visits that have haunted me. The former Chinese Communist Party leader, Deng Xiaoping, who hailed in the era of ‘opening and reform’, famously said: “Development is the only hard truth.” If capital is akin to a monster, then a gigantic monster was set loose in Shanghai from 1990, and has gluttonously and mindlessly trampled over people and eaten up land ever since – commodifying and extracting surplus-value at a reckless speed. Over the years, the sight of low-rise alleyway, working class living that is half demolished, with people still residing within it, has been less and less prominent in downtown Shanghai, simply because more and more of the demolition has been completed. The working class have been largely moved out of the centre to the isolating high-rise apartments of the suburbs – placed within new tower blocks that have been as quickly put up as old homes have been destroyed, and which signify urban regeneration that will fast degenerate. Shanghai is urban dystopia. It is a city of hardware, with no regard for software: culture, civil society, freedom to pause, and to think, and to question. If one sits in a taxi at night driving through the dazzling skyscrapers of Pudong, the Special Economic Zone just over the river from downtown Shanghai, one feels like one has entered Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. It’s an uncomfortable feeling.

1280px-20090427_5475_Shanghai

(Wikimedia Commons)

The scale of Pudong is a frightening mash-up of the might of global capital and the muscle of Chinese totalitarianism – this is urban development, the China way. It is the subtle sights of Shanghai that have always struck me the most, and the absences too: where are the poor? Space and place is so controlled in Shanghai’s centre that one can stroll from Starbucks to Starbucks, visiting global retail chains in between, and simply miss the missing population. What we call gentrification in the West appears on such a vast scale in Shanghai that what one can actually see – if awake enough – is capitalism at its most naked. There’s the next, near-erected skyscraper, such as the one I walked passed once by the Bund at midnight, with orange sparks against a black sky right at the top, generated by welding, as rural migrant workers toil for little pay and no health and safety protection. And there’s the rural migrant workers digging holes in roads and pavements with pick axes and shovels, such rudimentary equipment which once puzzled me. Yes, labour in China is that exploited, it is cheaper to employ workers to dig into concrete with pick axes and shovels than it is to employ a worker and a digger.

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