Saturday, 30 August 2008

Chapter 3 - The Plot

“Okay,” said Michael, “I’ll buy it. You can hack the computer systems of the financial markets. I’m no computer expert, but I know people have broken into supposedly secure systems. Let me even accept that you cause financial chaos, although you haven’t shown me how yet. Where does this get us? Firstly, they will likely get control back quickly of the computer systems and the turmoil on the markets will be brought to a halt. But, let me even give you the possibility that they don’t. In the last twenty years there have been many financial crises, which have not led to severe economic breakdown, and even if it did that’s no guarantee that the workers will join us. They could just as easily turn to the Far Right.”
“You are right, Michael, of course,” said Anatole. “If all we were planning was an attack on the world’s financial systems it would be doomed to failure. But we are not. Please, look at the papers you have in front of you, and let me go through them as an outline of our proposals.”

Michael quickly scanned the sheaf of papers.

As he looked up from them, Anatole began his sales pitch.

“We believe your organisation is crucial. We are giving more information to you than any other group because we believe that you have the closest positions to our own and are also the most reliable and secure. It’s our belief that, together, our two organisations can bring together the revolutionary forces into an international organisation. Even if all the main groups do not join us, we believe a well organised, well-funded organisation can attract individuals and factions to our banner.”

The statement was true, but Anatole knew his words were designed to flatter Michael. He felt a little uncomfortable delivering them. He relaxed as he went on.
“On the first page, you will see the names of organisations from a number of countries. You will be familiar with these organisations. Indeed, I believe you have had discussions with some of them. We have already spoken to some of these groups in Europe and Asia. Those discussions have, so far, been positive but not decisive. We have been very selective about what we have told each organisation. They all know we have considerable resources, but they don’t know about the vault and none of them have been told about our plans for intervening in the markets. You will understand that we are still somewhat protective of our existence and the success of our plans depends on them and us remaining a secret. We know this will pose problems, but there is no alternative. For these reasons, we must ask that whatever your views at the end of our discussions, you respect our need for security.”

“You have my word that, whatever my decision, I will do nothing that would jeopardise your organisation,” Michael said, solemnly.

“The only place we have problems is the United States,” continued Anatole. “Most of the organisations there are tainted with Stalinism. There are some very small groups, and some individuals who have posted interesting articles on the Internet, and there is a faction within the American Workers Socialist League that seems to have a healthier position than the leadership. That is stage one, bringing together the necessary forces and forging the international organisation. We think that in this process, and through the formation of an open organisation, we will be able to talk to those groups we have so far not reached and win them to our organisation. The second stage, is to begin to use our finances to intervene in the markets and thereby increase those finances substantially. Natasha has outlined part of this process. She will explain the detail to you later. I think you will be impressed.”

Michael listened intently, but he felt uncomfortable. He had held discussions with some of the organisations on Anatole’s list. One or two he had good relationships with, but the history of post-war Trotskyism had been littered with failed attempts at forging unity between different groups. Besides, his political activity had been about winning people to ideas, not creating a revolution by some trick.

“The third stage, is to key into the movements against Global Capitalism that are currently dominated by the Anarchists. We can give these protests focus. The large numbers of young people involved in these protests can swell our numbers and give our organisations critical mass. Throughout the West, capitalism is triumphant. It is experiencing one of the longest and deepest booms since the Second World War. The bourgeoisie have become arrogant. They think they are invincible. They are now openly courting and courted by the so-called workers’ parties.”

Natasha stood up and stretched her arms above her head before walking over to Anatole’s violin. She picked it up and stroked its curves with her fingers. Michael found himself distracted.

“Before long, in your own country,” he heard Anatole continue, “ Tony Blair will want to rid himself of the link with the Trade Unions, to turn the Labour Party into a British equivalent of the American Democrats. That opens the door to creating a new party based on the unions. If all the revolutionaries came together to set up such a party, it could have a big effect. Think of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party at the beginning of the century as a model. It combined Bolsheviks and Mensheviks and others, and remember, Lenin and Trotsky were in opposing camps at this point. It didn’t stop them working together and eventually they came to the same conclusions. So, although you think you have major differences with other organisations, and we agree with you in your criticism of those groups, it is no reason for not working together in such a broad party.

“We see this party developing like this. In our opinion there are thousands of revolutionaries in a dozen or more so called Trotskyist groups in your country alone that could be attracted to the party. At its core, would be the revolutionaries, but it would have the support of all those disillusioned Labour Party and Trade Union people which would give it credibility. There are still enough people in your Labour Party who, although not revolutionaries, are honest and well intentioned. Under these circumstances, we believe they can be split away. Indeed, we believe you have a duty to do so before they too become disillusioned or drift away to single issue campaigns or the Stalinists.”

Sergei went to the kitchen to make more tea. The floorboards creaked under the weight of his heavy frame.

“We envisage a strategy proceeding over a period of about five years of mounting protest,” Anatole continued. “We will co-ordinate this protest and link it to a number of financial crises, which we will predict - correctly - because we will create them. The more our predictions are proved correct the greater our credibility will become and the more we will swell our numbers. When we feel we are strong enough we will predict and trigger the final collapse, we will organise mass protest in advance to coincide with the crisis. As the collapse begins to affect the real economy, we will organise strikes, occupations and history will take its course. What will be different this time is that we will be prepared, we will have some control over the events leading up to the revolutionary situation, and what is more, these events will not take place in one country, but in many countries at the same time. Each country will feed off the others. The capitalists will be overwhelmed whilst the workers will draw strength from seeing their fellow workers engaged in the same struggle.

“Obviously, this is just an outline. No one can predict the nuances that may arise. The papers give you more detail on how we propose to proceed, and the demands we shall raise as part of the process.”

Sergei returned with the tea. Anatole paused while Sergei handed out the cups. It was hot, but Anatole was eager to finish. He took a small sip and then went on.
“Your organisation is so important to us that we are prepared to make this offer. Take as long as you like to go through our proposals. Natasha will take you back to her place, where she will show you the computer system, and how she will carry out her part of the strategy. If, when you have considered all our proposals, you still do not wish to take part, well, okay. We will still provide your organisation with substantial finance, because we believe that, when things begin to move, you will see that we were right and you will join us anyway. But, we hope you will join us now. After all, what do you have to lose? You will see our positions are very similar. We believe we have some analysis that is more rigorous than your own, but we are offering you an opportunity to lead the world into a new future. Can you refuse that opportunity?”

As Michael pondered the magnitude of this last statement, he noticed that Natasha had already grabbed her coat and was sliding into it.

“Come, Mikhail, let me show you what we are really capable of,” said Natasha.
Thoughts were swirling around in Michael’s head. His body was now working on autopilot. He could not remember putting on his coat, leaving the apartment, or any of the other events that occurred before he realised that he was cold and half way down the street outside Anatole’s apartment. His mind had that capacity, possessed by many great intellects, to shut out the unnecessary whilst concentrating on the cerebral.

“You are not used to our weather, Mikhail, yes?” said Natasha. Her words registered with Michael and snapped him back to full consciousness.
“No, the weather in Britain is terrible, it always rains, but it is never this cold,” he replied.

Michael began to feel a strange sensation. It was one he was familiar with, but one he had not felt for a long time. When he had first become involved in revolutionary politics, and been whisked away, by a group of people he barely knew, to a meeting in strange surroundings, he had felt this feeling. And the first time he knew he was about to make love to a woman he had felt the same feeling. It was a feeling of excitement at the unknown.

“Our weather here it varies so much,” went on Natasha. “ In the summer it is really hot.”

She led him down a side street to an underground car park. They walked to where there stood a new Mercedes sports car. Natasha surveyed the surroundings to check that no one was about before she directed her key at the car. A click and a flash signalled that the car was unlocked and within a few seconds they were inside. Michael was confused. Events were moving too quickly for him to properly orientate to the situation. He had no sooner come to terms with accepting that Anatole and his group were genuine, than he was presented with a plan for World Revolution in five years to be sparked by a beautiful woman crashing the computers controlling the world’s financial systems. Now, this beautiful woman was whisking him away at midnight in a brand new Mercedes CLK sports car. Natasha was not the type of Russian revolutionary he normally pictured. Not because she was so attractive. He had known, in the normal and biblical sense, many attractive women revolutionaries over the years, although Natasha was particularly so. No, he had already noticed when they first met that she was dressed expensively. The Mercedes, however, was a shock.

“Do you like the car, Mikhail?” asked Natasha, as she screeched out of the car park.

“It’s better than my Ford Escort,” he replied, somewhat lost for what to say.

Michael lurched to one side as Natasha swung the Mercedes through a roundabout.

“I expect you are wondering what a revolutionary is doing driving such a car,” she went on, sensing his unease. “It’s about appearances. I must explain something to you, because I would not want you to learn about this from elsewhere and it undermine your belief in us. Anatole explained that I work for Novosty Bank. The position pays well but not so well as to finance my lifestyle. That comes from somewhere else.”

The roads were empty at this time of night and as they came to a long straight road Natasha hit the accelerator and Michael was sucked back in his seat.

“When I worked on the space program I became involved with another senior software engineer, Dimitri Antonov. Is his name familiar to you?”

“No, I don’t think so,” said Michael, puzzled.

“Well, I moved in with Dimitri for a while before I moved to take up the job with the Bank. Then, six years ago, when Yeltsin was dismantling state industry, Dimitri was one of the men who took advantage of the situation. He secured lucrative contracts to supply software to Russian industry and commerce. When Anatoly Chubais initiated the loans for shares deal in the mid 1990’s Dimitri, like many others, used it to create his own private monopoly. Dimitri is now one of the oligarchs that control Russian capitalism and that control Yeltsin. The whole thing makes me sick. It is not just corrupt but criminal, and I mean criminal. These people have links to the Russian mafia. They will do anything to make money.”

“So, what is your relationship to Dimitri now?” asked Michael, only partly out of curiosity at how all this linked to Natasha’s lifestyle.

“I hate him,” said Natasha venomously. Her large eyes flashed as she spoke and her foot stamped once more on the accelerator. “I have seen him do unspeakable things. But, I have to maintain the pretence. It would look very odd, the way things have been in Russia for the last ten years, for me to give up all the benefits that a relationship with an oligarch can bring. You do not realise the hardship that many people have gone through. Also, I have access to computer hardware and software that would otherwise not be possible, and I get an inside on the latest developments within the ruling circles.”

“It must be a temptation for you though,” said Michael. “To have access to all of this money and such a good lifestyle. Don’t you ever think bollocks to the Revolution - I’m all right thank you very much?”

“That would be tempting wouldn’t it,” said Natasha with a laugh. “But you have to remember, we come from families who have carried the revolutionary tradition forward. It is not just some theoretical possibility for us. It is part of our life. We owe it to our parents and grand parents to remain true to our principles. Besides, I look around at my people and see soldiers who fought against the Nazis having to find food on rubbish dumps and I think how can I be happy when my lifestyle comes at such cost. I want to create a society where everyone has a luxurious lifestyle, and with your help, Mikhail, we will.”

Had Michael not read the history of the Russian’s organisation, how it had survived the years of Stalinism mostly by children being brought into the organisation by their parents he might have found Natasha’s comments odd. But, in fact he could understand what she meant, and her words had a certain poignancy for himself. Michael felt mildly chastised by Natasha’s words. He was reminded that revolutionaries like himself, in the West, were largely observers of historical events. In Natasha, Anatole and the others here was a link with history – an unbroken chain of people tied by blood and ideology back to those revolutionaries who had taken part in perhaps the most momentous event of the century. But, her words struck home for a more personal reason. He was also reminded of his own father who had died two years earlier. A small tear trickled from his eye.

Michael had been born in 1950 in the Potteries of North Staffordshire. His father had been the main political influence on his development. He was an engineer and had been sent to work in the Midlands car factories during the early years of the War. Michael had listened to the stories of his father’s activities there. Although only in his early twenties at the time, his father had been active organising the workers in the factories. As a result, he was continually in conflict with their management and was moved from factory to factory until eventually the manager at one factory blacked his cards saying, “You’ll never work again. The only place for you now is in the army.” To which Michael’s father had replied, “Good, that’s where I’ve wanted to be for the last five years.”

Michael owed a lot to his father. During Michael’s childhood his father worked at one of the North Staffordshire potbanks. He would work until nine at night, and until one o’clock on Saturdays. Wages in the pottery industry were poor even for engineers, and only by working long hours was it possible to earn a decent wage. Despite that, when he returned from work, he would always make time to play with Michael , and more importantly, they would talk. They would talk about all sorts of things from cars and motorbikes to science and space and politics. Through these discussions, Michael was encouraged to question everything – including authority. It had got him into trouble even when he was at school. Had it not been for his outstanding ability he would have been expelled more than once.

Even at the age of ten, Michael had a growing political awareness, but the ideas were fuzzy. For Michael though his father summed up what was wrong with society. His father was obviously intelligent. He knew that from their discussions. Yet, through an accident of birth his father had been born into a poor family and received a basic education. Consequently, that intelligence was wasted. On the other hand, the television set acquired when he was eight, showed examples everyday of people who, again by accident of birth, had been born into upper class families and, despite a lifetime of pampering through prep schools and Harrow or Eaton, were quite clearly morons. Looking back, that was when he set out on the path to becoming a revolutionary, and he owed it all to his father.

As he considered these feelings, the Mercedes screeched to a halt outside a set of large iron gates. Natasha reached down for another control, pointed it at the gates, and they glided open. The car pulled inside a small courtyard and the gates clanged to behind. The building looked like it had been a warehouse of some type, but had now been converted to the kind of accommodation most Russians could only dream of. The large iron gates, the high surrounding wall and the security cameras were a reminder of how dangerous it could be just to live in Russia alongside such deprivation.

“So, does Dimitri live here too?” he asked, as they entered through a sturdy wooden door.

“Oh no,” replied Natasha, almost surprised at the question, “That would never work. It would be impossible for me to maintain the pretence. Dimitri has never known who I really am. Fortunately, he lives in Moscow. I visit him at weekends. The arrangement suits him, and it means I am free to carry on my work from here unobserved.”

Inside, the house was exquisitely decorated, combining western furniture with some traditional Russian items. A large hallway led to a comfortable living room complete with an expensive looking home entertainment system. Although Stalinism had been guilty of many things, it had helped preserve historical Russia. They were proud of Russia’s past, their cities and the treasure trove of art accumulated by some of the better tsars, tsarinas and assorted aristocracy. Although the museums and art galleries were full of the better masterpieces - the works by Leonardo, Raphael, Rembrandt and Titian – the new Russia was seeing the availability of other parts of its artistic and cultural heritage for those with the money to pay for them. Natasha flicked a switch and the TV sprang to life. She picked up a handset and within a few seconds had selected a British satellite news channel.

“One of the advantages of my relationship with Dimitri,” she said. “I can access any satellite TV station with my system here, and that box over there allows me to unscramble their transmissions. Let me take your coat. I will be back in a moment.”
Michael took off his coat and handed it to her. She was a remarkable woman he thought. There was something settling in watching British TV once again and the surroundings were more than welcoming. He sank into a large leather armchair. By the time she returned he was asleep. She put her hand gently on his shoulder, and, as her long, slender fingers gently squeezed, Michael’s eyes flickered.

“Mikhail, here take this,” she said, passing him a large hot cup of chocolate. “You are obviously too tired to work at the moment. Let me show you to your bedroom. We can begin tomorrow.”

He followed her back into the hallway and up a wide staircase to the upper floor. It was reminiscent of Lidval’s grand staircase in the Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg. A chandelier hung at the top of the stairs. Natasha led Michael into a large bedroom at the far end of which stood a huge bed.

“Here, Mikhail, I think you will find this more comfortable than Anatole’s apartment,” she said, as she sipped her hot chocolate.

Michael turned, sipping from his own cup, his eyes raised, causing his brow to furrow. His eyes once more locked into Natasha’s. “She is beautiful,” he thought.

She stood there for a moment as each was caught in the other’s gaze. A smile came across her face stretching her large, full lips. Michael wanted to reach out and kiss them, but he hesitated.

“Good night,” said Natasha softly, as she turned and closed the door behind her as she left. Michael drank his chocolate, but it was a while before he could go to sleep again.

The characters and events portrayed here are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to persons alive or dead are entirely accidental.


Thursday, 21 August 2008

Chapter 2 - The Catalyst

Michael had not had a great deal of sleep as the sun rose. His head had been too full of the events of the previous day. As he roused himself, he became aware that most of the group had already left. Anatole was in the kitchen making tea. It was a welcome aroma. He dragged himself from his sleeping bag and quickly washed and dressed.

“I need this tea, Anatole,” said Michael. “I was surprised how warm your apartment is.”

“Yes, one of the accomplishments of Stalinism, I have to admit, was good heating systems in all apartment blocks, but then without them everyone would freeze to death. I must go out to work, shortly. Please, make yourself at home. There’s plenty of tea, and food in the fridge and cupboard. There’s a key to the apartment by the door, but I’d advise you not to go out. This can be a dangerous neighbourhood for foreigners, and I wouldn’t want your presence here widely known at the moment for obvious reasons.

“I’ve set the computer up for you to access some information, which I think you’ll find interesting. It sets out the history of our organisation, and how we’ve survived the last seventy years. We keep all our information encrypted on computer for security reasons. It’s safer than it being on paper. Please, study the information, and I’ll answer any further questions you have on it tonight.”

Anatole picked up a large fur hat and coat.

“You mentioned about having someone else you wanted me to meet,” Michael said, as Anatole reached the door.

“Yes, I think you will find it instructive. Much will become clear to you when we meet tonight.”

With that Anatole left.

Michael made himself another cup of tea.

Anatole had entered the password to the computer file so that Michael could read the contents. He began to pore over the document, which explained the history that Anatole had gone over the night before. It also explained some of the questions Michael had been considering in the early hours of the morning. Questions like, how could this organisation have remained secret for seventy years given the ferocity of Stalin’s repression, and the pervasiveness of the police state? How could it remain secret, and recruit new members that it had to have done over seventy years? Clearly, most if not all of its original members would be dead now. The organisation had been set up with a cell structure. There had been about a thousand members of the original organisation throughout the Soviet Union. These were divided into two hundred cells each with five members. It was felt that such a small number would bind members together like a family and reduce the chances of infiltration. Each cell elected an organiser. The cells were combined into groups of five, and only the organisers from these cells would meet in what was called an organism. Each organism would in turn elect a member of the Central Committee, and finally out of this group, of forty, a Political Committee of six was elected. In this way, the members of each cell were only known to its organiser, and so on. This meant any breach of security would be restricted to a single cell, or at worst, if the informer were an organiser, to the other organisers within that organism.

The numbers in the organisation had been kept fairly constant for this reason, although at times they had fallen because of the lack of suitable recruits. The original members of the organisation had been recruited where possible as husbands and wives or family groups to further encourage security. This practice had continued, and many of those recruited were children of the existing members. Even this had to be approached cautiously. Stalin’s regime had turned families against each other, and it was not unknown for children to denounce their parents, or wives and husbands to denounce their spouse. Children were taught Stalinism in school, and it would be dangerous to teach children, at home, ideas contrary to their school education. Ideas had to be fostered carefully, as the children grew, to allow them to question Stalinism for themselves. If, when the children were teenagers, they seemed to have overcome the conditioning of the state, they could be gradually exposed to the ideas of the organisation, before finally being introduced to it. Even then, they would have to serve a probationary period of five years where their only contact was through their parents. These measures seemed draconian, but they had preserved the organisation through the cold night of Stalinism largely intact.

Michael broke off reading, his eyes beginning to feel sore both from the computer screen and his lack of sleep. He made himself dinner, from Anatole’s surprisingly well-stocked fridge, and another large cup of tea. That evening, Anatole returned home about 6.00 p.m. Michael had gorged himself on the information on the computer, but he still had many questions. He had just made tea in the large samovar that Anatole kept on top of an old battered sideboard.

“That’s one thing you English and we Russians have in common,” said Anatole, “a love of tea.”

As he sat down, he clasped his hands around the hot cup. His fingers were white from the bitter cold. Outside the apartment window, icicles hung from the leaky guttering.

“So, Michael, are you convinced now you have read our files?” asked Anatole, as a shiver ran through him.

“I’m convinced you are who you say you are,” replied Michael, his tone now far more respectful than it had been the previous night, “but I’m still not convinced about your plans. As I said before these things don’t happen to order.”

“Quite right,” said Anatole. “It requires the right conditions, which I believe exist, and it requires organisation and planning, which together we can provide. It also, I think, requires something more - a catalyst - something, which starts things moving. This was true of the revolutions that brought the capitalists to power in Europe, and it was true of our October Revolution. Tonight, I will introduce you to our catalyst.”

Anatole, now showing signs of thawing, removed his thick fur overcoat and began to prepare their evening meal of chicken drumsticks and vegetables. It was like a casserole but cooked in a large pot on top of an old gas stove. About 7.30 p.m., there was a loud rapping on the door. It was the bear from the night before.

“Michael, I didn’t properly introduce you to Sergei last night. We were so caught up in our discussions. Sergei works at the local steel mill now, but he used to be a Physical Training Instructor in the Red Army. He tries to keep us all fit, but we are too lazy. Sergei was an Army boxing champion and he has black belts in a number of martial arts styles.”

“Oh, I’m a black belt in Karate myself, Sergei,” broke in Michael. “Perhaps, we could spar some time.”

“That would be good,” replied Sergei, in a deep but quiet voice.

Michael had not really been serious about the offer. Although he was confident of his ability he realised that if this giant of a man hit him even half seriously he would do considerable damage. Michael suffered from chronic asthma as a child. Despite his illness he was always active during those periods when he was free from it. When he was ten, he bought a book on yoga and began to learn how to control his breathing. He started to exercise daily and together with new medicines that were becoming available his asthma became less of a disability. So began his obsession with keeping fit, and a fascination with the Orient that led him, a few years later, to take up the martial arts.

“Sergei has trained us all but we still rely on him for our protection. His army training has given him a good understanding of weapons and military tactics. Oh yes, and speaking of tactics, do not play chess with him for money,” continued Anatole, with a smile.

One by one, the group from the previous night began to arrive and were properly introduced to Michael. The atmosphere was much less tense than the previous evening. In a corner, an old colour TV played to itself as the room’s inhabitants discussed a range of topics but mostly the day’s activities at their respective workplaces. In fact, the proceedings began to take on the air of a social evening, lubricated occasionally by shots of vodka. In the midst of all this conviviality came a light tap on the door. Anatole glanced across at Michael as he rose to open it. A grin spread across Anatole’s large, round face.

“Ah, now we can begin, Michael,” he said, almost like a child ready to begin a game of Monopoly. “Michael, meet the catalyst I mentioned earlier.”

As Anatole ushered the guest into the room, Michael found himself slowly rising to his feet without knowing why. The old, battered doorframe now surrounded a young woman. Michael quickly assessed her to be in her late twenties. In fact, she was thirty-one. She wore a thick, luxurious, fur hat and coat between which her face radiated, invigorated by the cold wind that blew outside. The effect highlighted her pronounced cheekbones, which sat above slightly drawn cheeks, framed by a well-defined jaw line. Michael’s eyes were drawn to her full lips, which glistened and were exaggerated by a deep red lipstick. As he took in the rest of the face, Michael’s eyes met with the woman’s. A tingle ran down his neck and settled lower in his body. He shuddered and quickly passed it off with a suggestion of coldness from the open door. The woman’s eyes were large and wide. The dark hazel iris surrounded dilated pupils and was itself surrounded by a vast expanse of white as brilliant as the large flakes of snow now falling outside the apartment window and caught in the rays of the nearby street light. The woman removed the fur hat and allowed her long, thick, dark hair to tumble down over her shoulders. She slowly rolled her head from side to side to settle it in its final position.
Michael moved towards the door, his hand outstretched

“This is Natasha Kinskaya, Michael. She is the key to our plans,” said Anatole, the grin still firmly attached to his face, but now supplemented by a knowing glint in his eye.

Natasha took Michael’s hand, turned it, and waited for the back of her hand to be kissed. Michael obliged. He took in the exotic scent of the expensive perfume, still detectable on the skin of her wrist. The band sat down around Anatole’s large round table that stood in the middle of the room. The vodka was put away, and replaced with a newly brewed samovar of steaming hot tea. Anatole produced a sheaf of papers, which he distributed to each of the group.

“Let me set out to you, Michael, the outline of our proposals,” began Anatole. “We propose to kill a number of birds with one stone, to use one of your English sayings. What is the main requirement of any political party and the one thing all revolutionary groups have lacked? Money. I know that some groups have had wealthy individuals who have supported them, but I am talking about lots of money, more than that available to the major parties. With money, you can pay your full-time workers, produce good quality propaganda, organise events and so on and so on. This can give you at least organisational credibility if not yet political credibility. I believe that there are several thousand revolutionaries in your country spread through different groups who could be brought together in such a well organised and financed party. We believe this is true of many other countries. There are also thousands more young people who are disillusioned with traditional parties who are already engaging in direct action over individual issues. These people can be drawn to an organisation that can co-ordinate and direct their action against the real problem – Global Capitalism.”

Michael listened carefully to Anatole. For him, he was untypically silent. This was partly because he was gradually beginning to have more respect for his hosts and partly due to the fact that his mind kept being temporarily distracted as he looked across the table to where Natasha was sitting.

Anatole continued. “We have the money, Michael, to make this possible. You don’t need to know how for now. Just be assured we do. The second part of the plan, and this is the bit I love, is to make this money grow many fold by using the greed of the capitalist system against itself. So, the revolutionaries use the capitalist system to gain the resources to overthrow that same system. But, at the same time, the way we do this will create the catalyst that will spark the revolutionary uprisings.”

At this point, Michael, as an economist, felt he had to intervene. Michael was an outstanding scholar. He had gained a first class honours degree from Cambridge and gone on to get a PhD. He moved to London in 1971 to take up a lecturing post at the London School of Economics. Over the next twenty-eight years he developed many new ideas analysing past and current events. He was recognised amongst all the Marxist groups as the foremost authority in Marxist Economic Theory.

“I take it that what you are talking about is using the money to invest in the markets. Well, I’m sorry that won’t work. Firstly, as all the investment literature in Britain now has to warn, stock markets can go down as well as up. Secondly, I don’t know how much money you have but if you intend using it to manipulate the markets it won’t be enough. The markets are now global and the flows of money are astronomical. Even countries don’t have the resources to influence the markets. Just look at the way they have been unable to prevent their currencies being devalued for more than a short period.”

“Absolutely right, but suppose we could control the markets?”

“But you can’t. That’s one of the main objections we have of capitalism, remember?” replied Michael, an element of frustration returning to his voice, “the market is unplanned, uncontrollable, anarchic. That’s what leads to crises.”

“Long term, no we can’t, you’re right. Short term, yes, we definitely can,” asserted Anatole.

Michael threw his hands in the air, his frustration mounting.

“Michael, you are too impatient,” scolded Anatole. “We have been patient for over seventy years waiting for this moment. Surely, you can wait for me to finish explaining. Then you can tell us what you think.”

Michael raised his hands palms down. “Okay, sorry,” he said. “Please continue,” he went on apologetically, a smile coming across his face as he once more caught the eye of Natasha.

“Perhaps, at this point, I should let Natasha explain the next part of the plan because she is crucial to it,” said Anatole. “First, I should explain that Natasha is a computer programmer. She worked on the Soviet space program in the last years of the old regime. When money dried up for the programme she left. Natasha now works for Novosty Bank, one of our small regional specialist financial institutions. She was originally employed to run their computer systems, which she still does, but she is now also responsible for commercial-client relations. She has set up our own computer systems to be secure from prying eyes, so we can communicate over the Internet.

“The plan, it is simple, Mikhail,” began Natasha. She spoke softly, yet her voice conveyed strength and confidence. He found the combination, together with the hint of the Russian accent, seductive. Maybe it was that, or the way her lips parted as she spoke, that once more sent a shudder down his spine.

“Firstly, we aim to move in and out of the markets quickly. We have the resources to manipulate some stocks and commodities marginally, but enough to make a quick profit. Anatole did not explain to you where the money was to come from. It is actually sitting in a vault in Switzerland. When Trotsky was Commissar of War, he was already becoming concerned at developments in the Party, and foresaw the possibility of Stalin usurping power. Large amounts of gold were gradually hidden away by trusted sections of the Red Army, under Trotsky’s instruction. The gold was transferred, by various routes, to Switzerland. By 1924 $1bn. of gold had been accumulated in the vault. In 1924, gold was $20 an ounce compared with about $250 now, so at today’s prices that gold is worth more than $12bn.”

Natasha ran her fingers through her hair and slowly tossed her head backwards.

“This gold is now central to our plans, both as the initial finance we need to manipulate the market and to increase our resources, but also for another reason. The major capitalist powers are involved in a conspiracy over gold. Some elements of this conspiracy have been exposed over the Internet. The conspiracy is an attempt to keep the price of gold down. They are doing this because a number of major institutions have taken large positions based on a continuing long-term decline in its price. Gold has been a poorly performing asset for the last 20 years, with the dollar now fulfilling the role of gold as the world currency. If the price of gold was to rise substantially and quickly, these institutions could go bankrupt, and the financial chaos caused could create a worldwide economic catastrophe. Precisely the kind of thing we want to see happen as the spark to the Revolution. Under these circumstances we can turn our gold into other assets profitably, and at the same time, by hacking the computer systems of the world’s financial markets, we can cause a financial crisis the like of which has never been seen; the catalyst we believe that will, provided the necessary preparations have been made, lead to World Revolution.

Had Anatole made the last comment, Michael may have been more questioning. Instead, he simply said, “Can you do that? Hack into the computer systems of the financial markets I mean.”

Looking straight at Michael, Natasha replied with a broad smile, “Oh yes, Mikhail, I can. I most definitely can.”

The characters and events portrayed here are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to persons alive or dead are entirely accidental.


Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Revolution - Chapter 1 - The Russian Connection

Autumn 1999

It was not the worst of times, but neither yet the best. The people had not long since emerged from their own prison of Stalinism, their eyes still unaccustomed to the light of Liberty, their fear a barrier to Fraternity, hopes for Equality a long lost memory, but, as throughout their history no shortage of death. So, they paced back and forth and busied themselves with whatever occupation could distract and comfort them, like Manette, the cobbler, at his last, forever with a pair of shoes to be finished.

A trickle of people had begun to move into the square. Imperceptibly, the number swelled but before long a crowd had developed. They stood quietly, some chatting in small groups, others just standing with blank faces as though they did not know why they were there. The weather was unseasonably cold. From a dark, heavy sky, large flakes of snow began to fall. The first snows had been falling periodically now for over a week, raising concerns about food and fuel shortages when the Russian Winter began. The collapse of the Rouble and the Russian Stock Market in 1998, followed by the ending of Western finance, as a result of Russia defaulting on its debt payments, had begun to have an effect on the already bankrupt Russian economy. More and more workers either had no job, or if they had one they were often not paid. And so, as on many previous occasions the people were brought out to protest against the Government. No one even knew who had called this demonstration. It did not matter. The people came out to protest as a matter of routine, but they also knew nothing would change. They would protest; one group would blame another; at best, one corrupt politician would be replaced with another. But what else was there?

At the back of the square, observing the events, a group of six people stood in silence. The organised groups began to arrive. First, the biggest and most well organised, was the Communist Party; at least five thousand of them carrying red flags, and pictures of Stalin.

“That’s Feodorov at the front with the bald head. He’s Secretary of the local Communist Party, an old style Stalinist,” said one of the men at the back of the square. He spoke in English, but was clearly Russian.

The man next to him nodded in recognition.

In the 1950’s Khrushchev published the document known as Lenin’s Testament. It was one of the last things written by Lenin, in which he warned against Stalin. Despite the myths and crimes of Stalin having been gradually exposed over the years that followed, despite the outright denunciation of Stalin by Gorbachev, the Communist Party remained by ideology a Stalinist Party. Only the image had changed. The loss of power had once again brought Stalin to favour within the Party, and to many older sections of the masses a return to the “Golden Age” seemed a welcome prospect compared to the present economic and social chaos. And so the icon was restored.

“Notice they are all old,” continued the man. “They are dying out like dinosaurs.”

Then came the Nationalists; about two thousand or so carrying the red, white and blue Russian flag; some carrying orthodox religious icons, and others with pictures of the last Tsar. A mass of black descended on the crowd. The Anarchists, dressed in heavy, long, black coats, and carrying large black banners and flags had mobilised more than anyone expected; about four thousand people. The Anarchists drew on a long tradition in Russian history.

“They’ve been appealing to a large number of young people disaffected by the failure of capitalism, the growth of corruption, and unattracted by a return to the repression and stagnation of Stalinism,” the man continued with his commentary.

Neither he nor any of the other five he was standing with carried banners or flags. They appeared to belong to no group. The square outside the Mayor’s office was now full. People jostled for position. Feodorov seized the opportunity to speak. Mounting the steps outside the Town Hall he was passed a loud hailer.

“Comrades, after seventy years of socialist construction which made the USSR the most powerful country in the world, Yeltsin and the other traitors have betrayed you, and betrayed their country. They have sold out to Capitalism to make themselves rich. And in just a few short years the return of Capitalism has destroyed our homeland. Our people have no jobs, no food, and, as winter approaches, no fuel. Some even have no home. How many will survive the winter? We in the Communist Party call on you to support us in removing the traitors so that your communist deputies in the Duma can introduce an emergency economic package to bring jobs, fuel, food and housing to the people. We will bring in economic reforms which will attract finance from the IMF and World Bank, and lead to the development of a socialist market economy.”

Large numbers of people began to applaud following the lead given by the organised ranks of the Communist Party. Others amongst the Anarchists, and other groups booed and jeered. Some jostled and scuffled with the Communists. A succession of speakers from other groups addressed the crowd, which was becoming more animated. Around the edges of the square a number of police had begun to patrol and shepherd the crowd. It would have been sunset had the sun been visible through the mass of black cloud. Streetlights began to come on one by one in the square. The doors to the Mayor’s Office opened and Georgi Martov, the Mayor, appeared on a balcony flanked by two of his officials.

“Friends, Citizens,” he began.

“I know that times are hard. I know that you are suffering, and you are worried about what lies ahead over our winter. But we Russians are tough. We have come through many dark periods in our history. We survive, and we will continue to survive.”

“Easy for you to say, Martov”, a voice shouted from the crowd.

The voice came from an old man who was bearded, dirty and wearing an old army trench coat. He was probably an old soldier. A loud hailer had been passed to him by one of the Communist Party members.

“You sit there in your warm office. You go home to your luxury apartment with plenty of food, and at the weekend you go to your dacha. I don’t even have one home to go to, and I haven’t eaten for two days.”

Martov continued, ignoring the interruption.

“There are signs that things are improving. The crisis in Asia is over, the United States is booming and buying more and more from abroad including from Russia. Western firms are investing in our oil reserves. The reforms we have put in place will take time, but we cannot go back, we must go forward.”

One of the anarchists, a young man of about twenty with a thin moustache, and goatee beard had moved to the front of the crowd. He took the megaphone from the homeless man.

“You ignored this man just as you ignore the plight of all the people. You understand only one thing. In the name of the people, I strike this blow you cannot ignore.”

The young man dispassionately pulled a revolver from beneath his long black coat, and fired a single shot. Martov fell, dead. Plain-clothes police who had been mingling in the crowd began to rush towards the young man. A panic engulfed the crowd as the police fired in the air to clear a path. As the panic spread, the crowd rushed towards the exits to the square. The police on the southern exit were overwhelmed, and also began to fire into the air. Hearing these shots and seeing the crowd rushing towards them the police on the northern exit thought they were under attack, and began firing into the crowd.

“Shit, Anatole I wasn’t expecting this,” said the man to whom the commentary had earlier been addressed. He spoke with an educated English accent.

“Stupid bloody Anarchists”, replied the other. “They learn nothing. Their adventurist tactics lead nowhere. They have no plan, no strategy, just futile gestures for which the people end up paying the price.”

Behind them was an old building that appeared deserted. One of the six, whose physique resembled that of the Russian Bear, kicked the door, which swung open.

“In here,” he said, “out of the trouble.”

Quickly, the six entered the building whilst mayhem continued outside. They could hear the sound of sirens swarming towards the square. The Anarchists responded to the police attacks by rushing them and managed to take some of their guns. They turned them on the police. If nothing else, the Anarchists showed no fear. The Communists were still congregated, and disciplined at the front of the crowd, and calling for order, but no one was listening. Others used whatever chance they could to escape the square, usually at the cost of a beating, as the police reinforcements slowly began to take control of the situation. As night came, the square had fallen quiet, and was deserted except for street cleaners washing away blood that speckled the snow-covered ground.

“Its safe for us to go now, Michael,” said Anatole.

Carefully, the small band left the building in which they had taken refuge. They walked, without speaking, out of the square. Shortly afterwards, they reached the outskirts of the city. They entered an apartment block. Like most Russian apartment blocks it was utilitarian, basic, and drab. Anatole reached into his pocket and withdrew a key. He opened the door, and the six entered.

“Please, everyone sit, get warm. I’ll make tea.”

The building was like hundreds of other such buildings erected in the 1930’s, and the apartment could have been any other apartment in the building. The uniformity meant anonymity, and Anatole prized his anonymity. He disappeared into a tiny adjoining kitchen. The four remaining Russians began a conversation. Michael looked around the room inspecting a number of papers that lay on a table. In a corner, placed carefully on a chair, was a violin out of its case. Everything in the room was old, but kept very neat and tidy. Anatole returned with the tea.

“Comrades, for the benefit of our friend Michael, who is here from London representing the International Communist Group, we will speak only in English,” said Anatole.

A series of nods and glances acknowledged the presence of the Englishman.

“Michael, can I thank you for coming? We didn’t expect your visit to be so eventful, but it highlights the reason for inviting you. I have to admit that I have misled you to some extent, and I have to apologise. You remember we met about two months ago in London. I spoke to you when you were addressing an anti NATO demonstration during the Kosovo War.”

“Yes,” interrupted Michael. “You said you’d read some copies of our paper. That the ideas were new to you because the history of Trotskyism had been buried in your country, and you’d like to try to set up a group here to discuss the ideas.”

“That’s right, but actually our meeting wasn’t by chance at all. It is true that the ideas of Trotsky have been distorted, and buried in our country. What I did not say was that I was part of an existing Trotskyist group; we prefer to call ourselves Marxist-Leninists, which has existed in Russia for over seventy years. We have been studying your group for some time. The Internet has made our job much easier as we now read your material online whereas in the past it was often months or even a year or so before we could safely get hold of Western Trotskyist material.

“What I’m going to tell you, Michael, you may find hard to believe. In the early 1920’s when the battle was taking place between the Stalinists and Trotsky’s Left Opposition we numbered tens of thousands of supporters.”

“Hang on,” said Michael, “I know all this, let me save you time. I have studied Russian history, and the history of the Left Opposition; Stalin smashed it. We know that maybe a few isolated individuals like yourselves exist. What’s new?”

“Please, Michael, let me continue. Trotsky decided that a secret organisation needed to be created for a number of reasons. Firstly, he feared, correctly, what was to come. He could see Stalin had the upper hand. Without Revolution in the West, Russia was doomed, and increasingly the Stalinists were sabotaging Revolution elsewhere, at first by incompetence then by design. Secondly, a secret organisation could act in the same way the Bolsheviks had done. They could build their cadre, at the right time, split the Stalinists, build a new Revolutionary Party, and carry through the socialist revolution. Thirdly, there was a danger that members who stayed to fight in the Communist Party would be contaminated with the ideas of Stalinism. There was a need to have a group that stood aside to remain pure. So, a dual strategy was developed. On the one hand the mass of the Left Opposition remained in the Party to fight the Stalinists - that is the history you know – whilst a small, handpicked group was established to operate as a secret organisation. Trotsky picked the group alone, and no one else knew of its existence.

“It was Trotsky’s continuing belief in the inevitability of Revolution that led him to establish the group, because he believed that soon Revolution in the West would come; the Stalinists would be undermined, and we would lead a new Revolution in Russia. No one believed Stalinism would last so long, or that its collapse would lead to the rehabilitation of capitalism. For seventy years, we have existed as the most secret organisation in the world. Now we have decided the time has come for Revolution. This may sound strange to you. The rehabilitation of capitalism in the East; the continued move to the right of parties in your own country and throughout Europe; the hegemony of imperialism shown by its willingness to attack sovereign states like Serbia; but this is exactly what makes this the time for Revolution.”

Anatole was becoming more and more intense as the discussion went on, as revolutionaries are prone to do when the juices begin to flow. Their vision is so clear of how they see the world, its future, and indeed its past, that they are easily frustrated at others’ inability to see what they see. Periodically, one or other of the group would retire to the kitchen for more supplies of tea. Occasionally, other members of the group would add comments in support of Anatole but, by and large, it was clear they were a well-disciplined unit and Anatole was their leader.

“I want to come back on your history lesson,” Michael said scornfully, “but explain what you mean by your last statement. It seems to me that the current situation is one for analysis, and building on small gains.” Michael’s face showed his annoyance, and his tone was somewhat patronising.

“Look at the conjuncture, Michael,” went on Anatole, slightly raising his voice and the speed of his words. “In Russia we have collapse. The people are increasingly desperate. Capitalism has pauperised the people in a few years of its return in a way that Stalinism had not done over seventy years. Feodorov was right about that at least. Capitalism exists in Russia now in a state similar to that at the turn of the century. It is corrupt and run by a few oligarchs and the Mafia. True capitalism, and a liberal democracy will never be established here. The people now know Capitalism offers no hope, but most don’t want to go back to Stalinism. The Stalinists anyway have no answer. They know they can’t go back. You heard Feodorov today – economic reforms that will bring in money from the IMF and World Bank to set up a socialist market economy; just a left-wing version of your Tony Blair. That’s why the Anarchists turned out so many people today. The young people want a new alternative, and the Anarchists are offering them one just like, in your country, young people have given up on the traditional parties and turn to Greenpeace and other single-issue groups. That is why we have decided that now is the time for us to come out of our isolation in Russia, but we see a wider agenda – World Revolution – or at least a conflagration throughout Europe whose fire will burn so bright that its flames will lick the shores of America and Asia.”

“That’s bollocks,” snorted Michael arrogantly. “Revolutions don’t take place to order. They depend on the right combination of factors. For a start nowhere in the world does a revolutionary party exist.”

“That is why we were attracted to your organisation, Michael. It was the least arrogant and most ideologically sound. But think about it. Can any Marxist believe that the objective conditions do not exist? We have believed that capitalism had developed to a sufficient stage where it was possible to support the transition to socialism since the beginning of the century. Surely, the means of production are more than sufficient now as we enter the 21st. Century. That is the basic objective factor that is required.”

Michael was far from convinced by what he had heard. He had been involved in revolutionary politics since the late 1960’s when he was a brilliant Cambridge scholar. He had grown up during a period where the greatest possibilities seemed to have opened up - in France in 1968, during the Anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, and even to some extent the industrial disputes in Britain culminating in the Miners Strike of 1974, which had brought down the Conservative Government. But, he believed that the greatest problem in seizing any of these opportunities was the lack of a credible revolutionary party capable of leading the struggle. For the last thirty years, he had devoted his life to the task of building such an organisation. He had sat in talks with revolutionaries from other groups, both British and international, for hours and days arguing over ideological differences. He had been involved in organisational splits where former friends became bitter ideological opponents. Who were these Russians? Were they nuts? Probably not, they seemed to know their stuff. Were they Stalinists? No. They had nothing to gain, and the Stalinists were too busy with their own problems to be playing games with a small British revolutionary group. Well, even if they were genuine, their ideas seemed a bit wacky. World revolution – yes of course he believed in that, but realistically he had given up hope of it in his lifetime.

It was four-thirty in the morning. Anatole said, “Comrades, we should go to bed. Some of us have jobs to go to in the morning, but we must continue our discussion tomorrow evening Michael. I have someone else I want you to meet then. Someone who, I think, may convince you of our plans..”


1. The location of events is not disclosed other than Russia. Partly, this is a literary device. It avoids some complications. It also emphasises the aspect of anonymity of "The Russians". Finally, it is also a synonym for the effectve anonymity of revolutionaries as far as the vast majority of workers are concered.

2. The reference to Manette the cobbler is to the character of that name in Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities." In the France of the Bourbons you could be locked up simply on the basis of a note from an Aristocrat. You might simply have upset them, or else upset someone else who paid for them to issue a note agains you. Dr, Manette fell victim to precisely that fate. Separated from his daughter and locked away in isolation his mind went, and he held on only by working everyday at a cobbler's last always with a pair of shoes he had to finish. In many ways it was similar to th way people could be locked up in Stalinist Russia on the say so of some official, and Stalinism itself was similar to Mannette's prison from which he emerged after many years into the light. He was a symbol for the "Jacques", the revolutionary Jacobins. The reference was not there when I first began to write the story, and nor was the opening sentene which plays uponthe opening of Tale of Two Cities. But, in writing the story, which contains many dualities I recognised a similarity with that story. I decided then as an homage to make those links more explicit. I consider Tale of Two Cities perhaps Dickens best piece, but probably because of its political content, as opposed to his more usual social narrative.

The characters and events portrayed here are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to persons alive or dead are entirely accidental.


And Now For Something Completely Different

Way back in 1999 I began to write a novel. I based it on something I know about, and decided to write a political thriller about revoluitonaries. Not surprisingly, I decided to write it from a perspective more amenable to the revolutionaries than is normally the case where they are seen as crazed killers planting bombs all over the place. Having said that one of the people at the Writers Circle I attended at the time still saw my characters as thoroughly ruthless amoral creatures. I don'y attend the Circle anymore, but its a wonder that I haven't had an early morning knock because a lot of the things I portrayed in it have in fact come to pass.

That is not entirely unexpected. I wrote the novel as being set partly in the past, partly in the future covering events that had happened, and weaving them into a series of events whose real meaning and foundation was closely bound to the story. A story based on past real events ecessarily develops to some extent a dynamic that can be reflected in the future course of real events. One such event, which I had not obviously envisioned was the 9/11 attacks, though I had included as a central theme the conflict between the West and Islamism. That event caused me to do a re-write, though in fact it was not a major re-write, it just added further depth and texture to the basic plot. I had finicshed writing most of the novel by the time I had my breakdown in 2001, which caused me to stop writing and pretty much everyhing else. It was more than a year later before I could pick it up again and finish it partly as a therapy. It was finished some considerable time before the invasion of Iraq, though again such attacks were included as a central premise of the plot - I just didn't know who or when they would be against.

For a time I tried to get a literary agent in order to have some chance of getting it published because the nature of the story meant that in some ways it was time limited. But, suffering with Depression I couldn't be arsed to persist with that, especially when I saw how many hundreds of refusals J.K. Rowling had had for Harry Potter! I did think of self-publishing, but typical of my life at the time, when I came back to do some further eiting and tidying up I found that the computer file had been corrupted and I'd lost over 40 pages.

So, I'm taking a bit of a break at the moment, and looking at doing some re-editing and restoring what was lost.

I have decided to put the First Chapter here on my blog. If you enjoy it, let me know and I will look at putting further Chapters here, as and when I think they are ready - the first few Chapters will need few changes.

Remember its a novel. Its not intended to be a political tract, but a piece of entertainment. In places it owes more to Harold Robbins or Ian Fleming than to Franz Kafka. So bear in mind that as with a James Bond film you have to be prepared to suspend disbelief. I enjoyed writing it, I hope you enjoy reading it.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Third World War?

Last night on BBC's Newsnight - See:Newsnight, former Yeltsin Advisor, Alexander Nekrasov, commented that if a repetition of this week's conflcit in Georgia arose in Ukraine, after Ukraine had joined NATO, then this would mean World War III.

As Nekrasov pointed out the South Ossetians are just a small population. There are about 1 million Ossetians, with two-thirds living in the more developed North with the other third living in the South. The South Ossetians rely on the North for jobs. As a result of Georgias invasion of South Ossetia, and its destruction of Ossetian towns and cities half of the South Ossetian people have been turned into refugees. By, contrast the Ukraine has a large population of more than 46 million people. But, the country is divided in two with one half comprising ethnic Russians, and still looking towards Russia for its future. If Ukraine joins NATO as the US is pushing for then it is quite possible that the Russian population, and the other ethnic groups, such as the Rumanians, and Belorussians might seek to break away and demand the right of self-determination. If such demands resulted in the same kind of attacks that Georgia this last week unleashed on South Ossetia, Russia would be bound to respond, and the US would be bound by Article 5 of the NATO Constitution to come to the defence of its ally.

The Rose and Orange revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia had some common features. After years of Stalinist repression and economic stagnation the economic boom that began in the late 1990's made it attractive for these states to look West. Although, its not right to place too much emphasis on it given that incentive, its also true that the actual political developments owed a great deal to massive intervention by Western intelligence organisations that pumped billions of pounds into front organisations, nor indeed do these agencies deny they did so. Why should the US be so interested in such action?

In fact, the world has many of the hallmarks that the world had at the end of the 19th century. There is a scramble for resources, as booming economic activity has created shortages and high prices for raw materials and foodstuffs. Paul Mason on last night's Newsnight commented that the world again has been divided up into competing economic powers, in place of the division of the world into Imperialism and Stalinism of the Cold War era. The idea that some of the Left have advocated over recent years that Imperialism had morphed into something else, a super-imperialism, which could out of a common world interest manage these conflicting interests has been blown out of the water. What characterises Imperialism today is not that it has managed to create a single World Imperialism under US hegemony, but that it has replaced an imperialism of competing national states with an imperialism is competing huge economic blocs - essentially North America, Europe, and Asia.

Within this, the US occupies the position that Britain occupied at the end of the 19th century. The position of the former world economic superpower, which was in the process of being rapidly overtaken. Then it was Britain being overtaken by Germany which was takingaway British markets in Southern Europe, and Latin America in particular. Now it is China and other Asian countries that are taking away US markets all over the globe. But, then Britain retained huge military power just as the US does now. Both seek to utilise that military power to compensate for the lack of economic power and competitiveness. British naval superiority gave rise to the era of gunboat diplomacy just as US firepower today has seen it march unchallenged into Serbia, and the Balkans, into Iraq and elsewhere. Indeed, its the principal established that such large powers can act as policemen - which really means enforce their interests - around the globe, which has given Russia now the ability to say, we have the right to do what you have been doing. That is why socialists should have been opposing with all their might these actions of imperialism. They certainly should not have been promoting the idea that the imperialist leopard had changed its spots, that it was now somehow progressive, promoting "democracy", or in any other way carrying out actions that could be described as "good". In fact, under cover of humanitarianism, and "promoting democracy" the US has been implementing its strategy of the "New American Century". It has built up a huge number of US bases around the globe in countries it has intervened in, and those bases have a stategic purpose, or it should be said two strategic purposes.

Firtly, the US has positioned itself to be able to secure access to the most resource rich regions of the Gulf for oil, and of Central Asia for oil, metals and other materials. Secondly, it has developed strategic positions in the Balkans, on the Baltic and through central Asia in respect of any ptential military conlict with its two main military rivals - Russia and China. In doing so, it has not at all been concerned with humanitarianism or democracy. Throughout the Stansof central Asia it has allied itself with all kinds of tinpot dictators, including those that deal with their opponents by boiling them in oil! IN the Gulf it allies itself with the feudalists of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and other similarly grotesque regimes. In Iraq it has put in power a government of clerical-fascists, and is now looking to replace even that with some fascistic strongman similar to Saddam Hussein, who they also previously supported.

There has been some headlines at the statement yesterday by a Russian general in response to the signing of the Star Wars deal with Poland. He said, that it meant that in the event of conflict in order to deal with this missile shield Russia would now have to first Nuke Poland. The press have simply presented the headline "We'll Nuke Poland" as though the Russians were threatening to do that simply in response to the missile shield being sited there, but what do you expect from the bouregois press? In fact, my first response to the signing of the deal was precisely, "Do the Poles realise what they have done? They have made themselves the first line of US defence, and the first place to get taken out." Back in the 1980's when the US was siting Cruise Missiles in Britain we used to say that Britain was just a huge US Aircraft Carrier. Now the US has made the whle of Europe up to the Russian border an even bigger Aircraft Carrier! In 1962 the world was nearly destroyed because the US threatened to go to war over a few Russian missiles located on tiny Cuba. They can hardly be surprised at the Russian response to their actions now.

The deals done with Poland and other countries over the missile shield amount to this. Whether the technology of the shield works or not does not matter. It probably won't. Certainly it won't work for Poland and other such countries, and even if it did the fallout they would suffer from the destruction of the missiles heading their way would make it irrelevant. It s not the technology that constitutes hte missile shield it is the countries themselves. Because the idea is that interceptor missiles in these countries will take out Russian missiles - the US claim the idea is to stop nukes from Rogue states, but that's nonsense because none of them are anywhere near having the capability to launch intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles - the Russians as the previously mentioned general correctly stated would first have to concentrate their missiles on Poland etc. in order to overwhelm those defences before it could consider launching an attack on the US. That would give the US time - they hope - to launch an overwhelming attack on Russian nuclear sites before they could launch any sizeable attack on the US. IN other words Poland has made itself the bullet proof vest of the US.

Yet, the US has made clear it will not resort to military force agaibnst the Russians in Georgia. Why? Because at the moment it has no need. In the late 19th century the main scramble was for sources of raw materials, for colonies to get them from on the cheap. Only when the boom came to an end was it then necessary also to try to gain protected markets for the sale of products in order to realise profits. At the moment we are at the same phase of the Long Wave, a boom that should last for another 12-15 years. That boom means that amrkets are plentiful, profits can easily be realised, and are growing rapidly. Resources can be bought rather than fought over. At the moment. As Trostky pointed out imperialists do not go to war over principles such as freedom or democracy, they go to war over markets and profits. When the boom ends, when profits can no longer be made so easily, when the lack of profits means that resources cannot so easily be bought, when markets are less plentiful and have to be secured by hook or by crook then the drive to war will come just as it did in 1914. The last time that drive came in the mid 1970's it was muted by the existence of the USSR, by the common cause of the imperialists against "Communism". That factor no longer exists. Indeed the former "Communists" are now the main economic players depriving the US hegemon of its unrestricted dominion over the world economy.

The idea that the US or Europe can restrain Russia by threats of removing it from the G8, by denying it access to the WTO etc. are ludicrous. The bankrupt US economy relies on the benevolence of strangers. Russia has billions of dollars invested in US bonds and other debt. If Europe tries to boycott Russian oil and gas it will cripple itself whilst Russia will sell its oil, gas and otther primary products to more than enough other countries desperate for them. The Russian Stalinists have been drawing closer to the Chinese Stalinists over recent years. The current US response must give China more cause to draw closer still to Russia for a defensive alliane, because China holds no illusions in the US's real intentions towards it. China the new workshop of the world is desperate for the kind of raw materials that Russia can supply, just as Russia is a large market for Chinese consumer goods. As the Chinese working class and middle class grow rapidly the Chinese market itself will provide an alternative to the need for Western Markets. Moreover, if Russia holds a huge amount of US debt and equity, China owns a vast amount more. Long before any shooting war, they could threaten the US economy, and destroy it overnight should they choose to do so.

Only the working class can provide a solution to this problem. There is achocie of seeing the world as divided into two camps of a democratic imperialism, and a camp of fascism/Bonapartism in which the former is the lesser evil, and to which socialists advise workers giving their support. All the evidecne of history shows that this will lead to disaster as the workers are duped, and findthat the democratic imperialists are no different than the fascistic imperialists. Or else the working class can declare a plague on both their houses. Instead of viewing the world through the lens of "democracy" v "fascism/bonapartism", which amounts to nothing more than a good cop/bad cop routine by the capitalists socialists should teach the workers to see the world instead as divided into the camp of the workers and the camp of the besses, the camp of the oppressors, and the camp of the oppressed. Socialists stand on the side of the camp of the oppressed even if that camp has the mask of "fascism" as in the case of oppressed countries, and against the camp of the oppressors even when that camp has the mask of democracy. Only on that consistent basis can socialists win the majority of the workers and oppressed to its banner, only on that basis does it deserve to do so.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Crimes and Misdemeanours

According to the United Nations there are 150,000 refugees resulting from Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia. As part of the ceasefire agreement, and peace plan being worked out between Russia, the EU, and US Russia has begun the process of stabilising South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and has said that the enxt stage will be to assist an international investigation into the war crimes committed by Georgia in its invasion. Of course, that might mean looking at the Russian actions in Georgia too. Wars are never fought by the Marquis of Queensbury rules by any of the contending parties.

When Serbia invaded Kosovo in response to the attacks of the KLA against Kosovan Serbs, and in order to reassert Serb control over the area, there was quite rightly a huge hue and cry against such Serb aggression. The Serb leader, Milosevic was brought before the International Criminal Court to answer for Serb atrocities. The US was one of those that was keen to see such war criminals bought to book. Russia is now proposing that a similar process be undertaken in respect of the war crimes of Georgia in South Ossetia. If the Georgian President, Saakashvilli has any sense he will either try to get Georgia accepted as America’s 51st State, or else will take out US citizenship, because although the US is keen to see the citizens of other countries bought to book for war crimes, it is not itself a member of the International Criminal Court, and will not allow its citizens to be brought before it!

There remain conflicting reports coming out of Georgia. British media continues to report that Russian troops are occupying various parts of Georgia, and Georgia which is the source of many of these reports continues, not unexpectedly, to make claims of continuing Russian military action inside Georgia. However, yesterday US Defence Secretary Bob Gates, whilst continuing, again not unexpectedly, to make strong comments about Russian action, also not only made clear that the US was not going to go to war over this, but that most if not all the Georgian claims about Russian action had proved to be false. Indeed, it seems that behind the scenes both EU governments and the US Government have been more than a little bit pissed off with the adventurist action of Saakashvilli, which has put them in an awkward position. Having said, that if Russia took advantage of the Georgian adventure into South Ossetia to teach its neighbour something of a lesson, and send out a message about NATO encroachment on its borders, the US it is clear is using, in turn the Russian, action against Georgia, to bolster its presence in Georgia, which holds for the US an important geo-strategic position.

The fact, is, however, that none of this is good for workers. It has become clear that as always happens in such situations, South Ossetians are now taking revenge on Georgians, both inside Ossetia, and on its periphery. This can only weaken the unity of the working class, precisely at a time, when that unity is most important. The Russian response to Georgian aggression has also, understandably created a feeling of hostility between Georgians and Russians – though in an interview with one Georgian woman casualty on Newsnight last night, her hatred of the Russians was matched with a hatred of the Georgian Government for causing the situation by its adventure in the first place. It will take a lot of work to rebuild confidence and friendship between Russian, Georgian and Ossetian workers, a friendship, which as a result of first Tsarist, and then Stalinist oppression of Georgians, and Georgian oppression of Ossetians, was not tremendous to begin with. The absence of any strong Labour Movement as the result of years of Stalinism, and its replacement in Georgia at least with a right-wing, and less than democratic capitalism, and certainly the absence of any decent workers Party that could have offered workers across the various borders an alternative to the nationalism of the current leaders does not help either. But, the building of such unity of the working class, and indeed the building of a Workers Party that can provide such an alternative both to Georgian Capitalism, and Russian Stalinism is the only real long term solution.

The South Ossetians as with the Abkhazians have a right of self-determination. Socialist should have fought for that right against any attempts to violently suppress it by Georgia. Consequently, socialists had to condemn in the strongest terms the Georgian murderous attacks on Ossetia. But our, solution to such aggression is not to look to a response from our class enemies, or from the Stalinist bureaucracy which oppresses workers in much the same way. There could be no more reason for socialists to support the Russian response to Georgian aggression than there was to support, or even see as “good” the US response to Serb aggression in Kosovo, or a US or Israeli attack on Iran. To look to these alien forces is not only to dupe and mislead the working class, but is to demobilise it, and to sow illusions in the progressive nature of those alien and hostile forces.

But, there is another point here. The South Ossetians, however valid their claim for self-determination, are a small population. In comparison with the Russian, and Georgian working class they are tiny. The conflict their demand for that self-determination has caused has created not only tremendous antagonism between those two working classes, but has also led to considerable bloodshed from them on both sides. Had, and this is not yet an impossibility, the US had much greater forces in Georgia, for example had Georgia been a part of NATO, then not only could much greater carnage have ensued, but it could have resulted in a World war that would have spelled the end of human civilisation. However, harsh, cruel and reprehensible it may seem, socialists cannot support the rights of a tiny minority on that basis, when the consequences for the working class in general are at stake. Marxists are not moralists, we do not begin from an analysis of what to do based on an evaluation of moral rectitude, but on the basis of a class analysis, and from that an analysis of what best represents of the working class as a whole. That is why Marxists begin in such situations with a solution based on the building of working class unity across borders. It is why Marxists do not take the bourgeois democratic demand for self-determination on its own, but only as part of a socialist programme. Its why they cannot put the interests, for instance, of the tiny Iraqi working class above the interests of the world working class in fighting US imperialism in Iraq, and demanding its withdrawal. Its why they cannot side with Israel in launching a pre-emptive strike against Iran, or a similar attack by the US itself. Its why they cannot support the demand for self-determination for Kosovo – though of course they support the RIGHT of Kosovans to struggle for that demand by means of proletarian internationalism – when that demand could spark a conflagration throughout the Balkans worse than that which has flared up in Ossetia, Abkhazia and Georgia. Its why they cannot support the demand for self-determination for Tibet, though again they would support the RIGHT of Tibetan workers to struggle for that demand again by methods of proletarian internationalism, because of the huge division in the Tibetan and Chinese working classes that such a nationalist civil war would bring.
Marxists seek to resolve the National Question by means of building working class unity, by utilising that unity to fight for consistent democracy for all within the borders of the given state, and ultimately if such struggle cannot address the legitimate needs of a given aspiration that very class unity provides the basis for the separation of the two peoples with the minimum of opposition, and the maximum support by the workers of the dominant nation for the workers of the oppressed nation in exercising that right. Any other course of action has nothing to do with Marxism, it is simply bourgeois nationalism, and to be condemned in the harshest terms.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Gates Blows The Gaff

In a press conference at the Pentagon today US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was asked about reports that Russian troops were still engaged in activities in Georgia in breach of the ceasefire, that they had been blowing up airports in their retreat,had destroyed ports, blockaded roads and ports. The source of these reports that the Westernmedia has reproduced without question over the last 24 hours or so is, of course, the Georgian Government.

Gates echoed the strong attack against Russia that has come from George Bush in the last 24 hours, but in response to these reports said that the US survey teams having checked out these reports had found that they were not well how shall we say - accurate. They found no evidence of roads being blockaded by Russians, that the Russians had been forming themselves up for an orderly retreat as required by the casfire agreement, that they had not blockaded the ports, nor had they destroyed a port city as reported, nor had they blown up airports. In fact, the US were planning to use those airports to ship in humanitarian supplies. In short, the Georgian Government had been lying.

Nothing new there then. No doubt the Russians have been lying too, though the rush of some on the "Left" to blame the Russians in the main for the events of the last week also seem not to understand the strategic and diplomatic niceties of the region. For example, the AWL which thought in similar circumstances the far more serious and extensive bombing of Serbia by the US, in response to its incursion into Kosovo, was "good", was quick to decide that Russia was seeking to annex South Ossetia, and also ruled out any idea that Russia might agree to an independent Ossetia. But, in fact, earlier in the week the BBC's analyst commented that there was good reason why the Russians WOULD NOT want to annexe South Ossetia. For one thing, demanding the separation of South Ossetia from Georgia i.e. defending its right to self-determination would mean that Russia was in a weaker position to refuse that right to Chechnya. Secondly, one of th stumbling blocks to Georgia joining NATO - despite the profusion of EU flags which Georgia's Walter Mitty like President surrounds himself with Georgia has no chance of joining the EU - is its instability, and insecurity of its borders due to the disputes over South Ossetia and Abkahazia. As long as those disputes continue, and continue they will as long as they remain nominally part of Georgia, they not only act as a thorn in the side of Georgia, but they also mean there can be no chance of georgia joining NATO. Tat is why Russia's position is that they should be autonomous regions, but Russia does not argue for their separation from Georgia.

But what is also surprising is how any socialist could ever be taken in by the lies of the Georgian government in the first place. That bouregois Liberals such as those of the Guardian should take up a position of moral outrage against Russia is one thing, but why on Earth would socialists put themselves in the same Camp. Its amazing then that on Shiraz socialist ,in response to this piece by David Clark

"By any reasonable measure, the impact of Russian policy has been uniquely destructive in generating political divisions in the caucuses…Whatever his faults, Saakashvili is no Milosevic - and wild Russian allegations of genocide have no independent support.”

Jim Denham commented,

"somehow his comments seem to me a lot more convincing than the crazed anti-American conspiracy theories and pro-Putin triumphalism of people like Seymour and Nooman."

So at a time that all the world's press agrees that Georgia staged a massive attack on the people of South Ossetia, when the BBC, CNN and other news channels have shown masses of South Ossetians - according to News reports around 100,000 people - turned into refugees, when the South Ossetian Capital was destroyed by Georgia artillery on the first day, we are asked to go easy on Saakashvilli, because "he's no Milosevic". We are asked not to believe all those other pressreports, because they are not independently verified.

Just compare that reponse the very belated response that the AWL eventually gave, nearly a week after the invasion, - though it has to be said that the AWL's provisional statement is much more balanced than the position taken by Jim Denham - with their response to the much greater ferocity of attack that the US launched against Serbia, a response they beleived in stopping Milosovic was "good".

This is the ultimate consequence of the AWL's collapse into Stalinist Popular Front politics. They divide the world into Two Camps, on the one hand the Camp of "Democratic Imperialism", and on the other Fascism/Bonapartism. Against all the principles of Marxism they see the former as progressive and the latter as reactionary, and adopt a "lesser evil" stance accordingly. It led them to support Yeltsin's bouregois democratic counter-revolution in Russia, it led them to see the US bombing of Serbia as "good", it leads them to refuse to call for opposition to US Imperialism in Iraq, it leads them to announce that a US surgical bombing of Iran would also be "good", and leads them to argue that an attack by Israeli against Iran should not be condemned. They claim to be adherents of a Third Camp - the Camp of the Working Class, yet in each of these cases they demonstrated a complete disdain for the possibility of that working class having any kind of independent role other than as cheerleader in the First Camp, just as Stalin advocated during the later 1930's. That perspective led to disaster for the working class then, and were it the case that the AWL had any effect on the Labour Movement - fortunately its couple of dozen members have none - it would lead to disaster again.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

The Stalinist Nature of the AWL’s Politics

In the past I have described the AWL’s position in relation to a number of issues, particularly on the National Question, as nothing more than radical Liberalism. Wouldn’t it be more correct then to describe the AWL’s politics as Liberal rather than Stalinist, a position which stands in what appears to be direct opposition to Stalinism. No, that would not be correct. The characterisation of an organisations politics cannot be derived simply by looking at its position on certain questions in isolation. It requires an analysis of that organisations overall political posture, and its methodology. I have also described the AWL’s politics arising out of the Third Camp as petit-bourgeois socialism. Does that not contradict the definition of Stalinism? No, in fact Stalinism is precisely a form of petit-bourgeois socialism.

Radical Liberalism

The AWL’s politics on the National Question amount to nothing more than radical Liberalism. For the Bolsheviks bourgeois-democratic demands including the demand of nations to self-determination could not occupy a place higher than the socialist programme, and particularly the need to build the maximum workers unity. Such demands could not be progressive in and of themselves, but only when taken as part of a struggle by the working class. Such demands are classically Transitional in nature. Their progressive content is determined solely by the context in which they are fought for, a context in which the working class fights for these demands precisely by means of proletarian rather than bourgeois means. It is important to distinguish between the National Question and the Colonial question. In regards colonies what we have is an existing State. It is a separate state from that of the colonial power. Its laws, constitution, and dynamic are completely separate from the State of the colonial power even if as classically with French colonialism they are copied directly from it. This is different from the National Question where what we have is a single state covering several nationalities. It is important to recognise this difference because it affects the way Marxists deal with each type of situation. If we take the demand for self-determination of a colony then Marxists can quite easily argue for the political independence of this existing state. They do so by trying to win the support of workers in the colonial state, but the overriding point is a struggle of the oppressed masses against the colonial power. If we take the issue of self-determination for a nation which is one component of a single state comprising several nationalities this is a different matter. Under these conditions, we already have effectively a single working class in this state. Often they are to some extent intermingled. The primary duty of a Marxist under such conditions is then to attempt to maintain that actual unity of the working class within this state, and to strengthen it if at all possible. It is to pose the solution to the national problems of the workers of each nation, a joint struggle against their common oppressor. That can never be the case in relation to a colony. In one we have the struggle for the political independence of an existing state, in the other we have the creation of a new class state.

As Lenin and the Bolsheviks argued, we are opposed to the creation of new class states, other than in the most exceptional conditions. We the question posed as follows. Marxists in the dominant nation concentrate their focus on arguing the RIGHT of any oppressed nations within the State to separate. As Marxists they argue that such a move is not advisable because it divides the workers, yet the oppressed nationality must be given that right should they wish to take it, and the workers of the dominant nation should oppose any attempt by their ruling class to violently prevent such separation. The Marxists in the oppressed nation, however, focus their attention on arguing the case that although obviously they have the Right to separate they should not do so. The basis of that argument is that it divides the workers, that the real source of their oppression is class society, and that separation will only lead to them being oppressed and exploited by their own capitalists as opposed to the capitalist of the other nation. The solution lies in 1) building unity with workers of the other nation who are also oppressed by their capitalists, 2) using that unity to fight for a set of consistent democratic demands, and 3) integrating the struggle for those demands with the only real solution to their problems which is the overthrow of capitalism.

Any programme that fails to proceed on this basis, but which simply asserts A is oppressed by B so A should have the right of self-determination, and should secede is not a socialist perspective it stands four-square on the ground of radical Liberalism. It puts forward the bourgeois democratic demand of self-determination as good in its own right. It says to workers go this far and no farther – at least for now. It fails to have any kind of perspective of joint workers struggle, of building and maintaining workers unity, or the basic aspect even of Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution that under Imperialism even these basic democratic demands cannot be realised other than by workers struggle, a struggle that must transcend a fight simply for bourgeois democracy. Some weeks ago I made precisely these points in relation to Kosovo with an AWL comrade, whose response I thought said it all. They responded the workers of Kosovo could not trust the Serb workers. That is precisely the kind of bourgeois nationalism you end up with going down that approach, and that is precisely the approach the AWL adopts whether it is in relation to Kosovo, or in relation to Tibet. For a Marxist the most important thing should always be not the demand that you raise, but the method of struggle you propose for its achievement. What is missing time and again from the AWL’s approach is any concept that the method of struggle that has to be adopted begins and ends with the building of workers unity, and a struggle based on the independent action of the working class. That is true in Kosovo and Tibet, and as even the AWL Minority comrades have demonstrated it is equally true in Iraq, where the majority have contracted out the task of fighting for these democratic demands to the imperialist Occupation.

But, this is precisely the methodology of the petit-bourgeois socialist. It proceeds not from the basis of a class analysis, and the development of a Programme of political demands that the workers must fight for, but from a wholly subjective analysis, and a pragmatic response to the situation geared to achieve some set of goals - which on this basis must be limited to bourgeois democratic goals – according to what “common sense” dictates. That was the methodology that Burnham and Shachtman developed as an alternative to dialectics, it is the method that Glotzer applied in deciding that the working class could not resolve the Jewish Question and so bugger workers unity, let’s throw in our lot with the Zionists instead. Its what leads to siding with the military action of one bourgeois state against another. Its what leads to the conclusion that workers of country A can’t trust the workers of country B.

It is a methodology which is based on subjectivity and superficiality. Absent any kind of grounding in class analysis or a class programme it inevitably becomes little more than a moral crusade deciding this case is good and deserving of support, and this isn’t. The last time I looked for instance the AWL had not almost a week after the event come out with a position in respect of the murderous attacks by Georgia against the South Ossetians. That is not surprising. The AWL no doubt find themselves in a bit of a fix over this. In Kosovo their bourgeois nationalism led them to simply advocate the bourgeois democratic demand of self-determination for Kosovo. It was linked to no suggestion of building workers unity, or the idea that such a struggle for basic democratic rights by Serb and Kosovan workers could also have been taken up across Serbia, and so on. How could they, they didn’t believe that Kosovan workers could trust Serb workers, any more than following Glotzer Jewish workers can trust Palestinian or Arab workers. So when the murderous Serbian tanks rolled in to smash the KLA which had been fighting a thoroughly reactionary campaign for that demand to be fulfilled by murdering and raping Serb Kosovans, burning Serb villages etc., the AWL could still only see the moral imperative of self-determination for those Albanian Kosovans, and were quite happy to see – though of course they would not follow their convictions and call for – US imperialism come in and bomb the hell, Cruise Missiles and all, out of Belgrade.

But, now as Saakashvilli takes the place of Milosevic launching a massive barrage on South Ossetia that killed thousands, and has driven something like 100,000 more to seek refuse in Russia in what appears to be a clear attempt at ethnic cleansing, which destroyed the Capital City of Ossetia, we hear nothing from them officially as to whether they support the actions of the Russians, who now stand in the place the US previously stood in regard of Serbia, in bringing that murderous attack to an end. What we have seen is Jim Denham on Shirz socialist defend the murderous actions of Saakashvilli with the rather disgusting argument – “I don’t think he’s the same as Milosevic”. Were some “idiot anti-imperialist” to come out with such an outrageous statement the AWL would have it plastered over their website, quite rightly condemning their reactionary politics. We will see where their offical position comes out, but my guess is that despite the fact that the Russians action against Georgia pales compares to the US attack on Serbia, the AWL will concentrate its firepower on the Russian response.

The fact is that Marxists could not support either the Serbian incursion in Kosova, nor the US response to it. Nor could they support the Georgian incursion into Ossetia, or the Russian response to that. For real Marxists the solution to both lay, and lies in a workers solution, fought for and brought about by the joint and collective action of the workers of the countries concerned. The AWL cannot advocate that because they have abandoned independent working class politics in such situations, because they have lost faith in the working class being able to achieve a solution. Consequently, they have to look to some other agency to achieve their moral goals, and that agency is imperialism. It is not surprising they ended in that position because it is the position that all the adherents of the Third Camp have ended up in, except for the SWP who went one further and found it in the camp of a rag tag of reactionary “Anti-imperialist” states and forces around the world. In both cases it amounts to and result from an abandonment of class politics.

But, that is precisely the position also that Stalinism adopted in respect of the National Question. In China, the Stalinists said the task is the bourgeois democratic revolution, support the bourgeoisie in that quest. They subordinated their politics to those of the Kuomintang, just as Glotzer subordinated his to the Zionists, and as Sean proposes subordinating the AWL’s to Israel’s ruling class, and just as they have subordinated their politics to imperialism’s “fight” against clerical-fascism in Iraq. The Stalinists did the same thing in Spain. In both China and Spain the consequence of this Popular Front politics was that the bourgeoisie murdered the workers movements. In Spain they threw off their democratic façade and threw in their lot with the very fascists they were supposed to be fighting alongside the workers. The same is true of course in Iraq. The imperialists who the AWL claim are providing the workers with a breathing space in fact attack the Trade Unions and their offices, whilst they train and arm the very clerical-fascist militias they are supposed to be fighting! In reality the fighting is nothing more than the extension of politics by other means as imperialism manoeuvres to try to gain tactical advantage putting in place where possible forces it thinks it can better manipulate. The classic example is the open class war that the US and the Government forces have waged against Sadr’s Jacobins, a force which in the absence of a powerful Labour movement poses the greatest risk to bourgeois and imperialist interests in Iraq.

Democratic Imperialism v Fascism

The clear indication of that was given both in the article by Sean Matgamna and in the discussion that surrounded it. However, the AWL might try to squirm – and the articles by Dave Broder, Dan Randall, and Janine Booth criticising Sean’s article are to be applauded – the fact is that the article was arguing against condemning Israel for any attack on Iran. That was particularly clear from some of the follow up comments by AWL comrades who phrased it more bluntly. But, more specifically in relation to comments made by Mark Osborn about the real difference being between a “democratic” Israel, and a “fascist” Iran. He went on to state that Trotsky had made this distinction quite clearly in relation to the democratic imperialists and the Nazi imperialists. But, this is a complete travesty of what Trotsky argued, which was the diametric opposite.

His post was quite rightly opposed by Llin Davies who quoted Trotsky’s retort to the Palestinian Trotskyists who argued such a position. But, then Sean replied quoting Trotsky from the same article as justification. In fact, his methodology here was indeed very reminiscent of the methodology of the Stalinists. In quoting Trotsky, he conveniently left out the last sentence of the quote, a sentence which when added in completely reverses the meaning that Sean was wanting to attribute to it!!!!! As I have pointed out before this is not an exception. Sean often quotes a statement from Trotsky in “In Defence of Marxism” where Trotsky responds to criticism that he had even raised for consideration the question of whether the USSR could be Bureaucratic Collectivist. Sean uses this to convey the message, “See even Trotsky was moving in that direction.” But, of course as I’ve demonstrated before this is the grossest of distortions. Trotsky raised the question to demolish it. He goes on in the quote, again of course missed out by Sean to see that if it was true, it would mean that the socialist project had ended for humanity as being just a utopian dream.

Llin Davies responds to Sean’s quote chopping with a barrage of quotes from Trotsky to demonstrate exactly where he stood. As she points out, it certainly is not where the AWL claim he stood. On the contrary as one of the quotes she gives says, those that promote such ideas within the Labour Movement are its greatest enemies, who the workers must be taught to hate, they must be driven from its midst. I wouldn’t disagree with much of what she writes other than where she writes that imperialism handed over millions of East Europeans to Stalinism. In fact, of course, Stalinism had already overrun those countries.

But, her argument here is absolutely correct. Just like Sean’s position on Israel the Stalinists prior to the Stalin-Hitler pact called on workers to subordinate their struggles against their own “democratic” imperialism in order the better to build a “democratic” alliance against fascism. That is precisely Sean’s position in respect of Israel. It is also the position the AWL adopt in respect of Iraq, don’t fight imperialism because its fighting the clerical-fascists. It is nothing less than an undeclared Popular Front. And it is only undeclared for the simple reason that the AWL are and organisation of a couple of dozen, whereas the Stalinists were a party of tens of thousands.

Trotsky says that what characterised Stalinism was that whilst it was based on the working class, it feared the mobilisation and independent action of that class. Like the Trade Union bureaucracy, or indeed any other bureaucracy, it not only comes to believe that it knows best, but also in order to justify its position, and maintain its position with all the attendant benefits, it has to act to control the base from which its position is derived. It is not that Stalinism is opposed to the idea of “socialism” in other countries, but that such socialism should be brought about under its jurisdiction, its control, and therefore by its typically bureaucratic means. Moreover, any such development can only take place where it does not threaten its own immediate interests, and if that means interests that require it to make an alliance with imperialism or with fascism so be it. And within that context the other Communist Parties around he world become mere instruments in implementing this foreign policy. The goal of world revolution has to be subordinated to the partial goal of defending socialism in the USSR.

But, again that is precisely the position the AWL adopts in relation to Iraq. It says to the huge working classes of the US and UK, do not oppose imperialism do not wage what every Marxist of the twentieth century has agreed is the most important fight for the working class to wage, because if you do so the tiny Iraqi working class might perish. In place of don’t fight imperialism because it threatens the massive gains of the Russian Revolution, we have don’t fight imperialism because it threatens a tiny working class in Iraq. Oddly, when that same imperialism threatens the much bigger and more important working class of Iran with the potential of invasion, the AWL are rather more sanguine, rather less keen to ensure its well-being. Why is that? Because in reality they have given up class politics in favour of a moralising petty-bourgeois politics, and more concerned as were the Stalinists to view events as being merely the movements of pieces on a chess board, and seeking to determine not what is in the best interests of the class, but what would be the most effective gambit for the players in white to adopt. It is an abandonment of class politics for a view of the world divided into two camps, the democratic and the fascistic or Bonapartist – hence their attitude to Chavez also for instance (though again unlike Trotsky they fail to distinguish between progressive and reactionary Bonapartist regimes).

The AWL says, we don't call for imperialism to invade Iraq, we don't call for Israel to attack Iran and so on. Nor do we support such actions. We just don't necessarily condemn them if they have a "good" effect. But, some of the quotes Llin Davis gives from TRotsky show precisely why such an approach has nothing to do with Marxism. They miseducate the class, they lead it to if not rely on then at least develop false hopes in bouregois demcoracy and "democatic" imperialism. Let's take another example. In a tide of rising fascist violence the State proposes to impose a ban on fascist gatherings. If you like this is the State launching a pre-emptive strike in the same way that israel might against Iran, or indeed that Iran or some other country might launch against a nuclear armed Israel. The AWL's approach is well we wouldn't call for it, but we can see the State has good reason for this action, and it will have a good effect if it keeps the fascists off the streets - inded in one reply to me on the question of Iraq a long time ago, Martin Thomas did in fact give the example of the police protecting socialists against fascists (and how often have you seen that happen!) so we shouldn't condemn it. But, of course socialists SHOULD condemn any such state bans by the bouregois state. We condemn them not just because we do not want to miseducate the workingc lass into beleiving that the State is neutra, that it can or will fight their battles for them, and so on, but also because we know that in fact such bans will always in fact be turned around to be used against the working class, and against socialists.

Petty-bourgeois Socialism and Stalinism

Stalinism is precisely a form of petty-bourgeois socialism. The bureaucracy is an archetypal petty-bourgeois formation with a corresponding world-view. Like the Trade Union bureaucracy it comes out of and is based on the working class, but its new lifestyle, and its social role – managing and mediating – rapidly gives it the nature of the petty-bourgeois. In that role it necessarily ends up adopting a pragmatic approach to resolving problems, and the more its position is entrenched the more its focus turns to protecting its own position, the more it necessarily becomes afraid of uncontrolled actions from below, from the base it is supposed to represent. But, surely the AWL cannot be described as being afraid of the working class, it has nothing to be afraid of it has no social position to lose. That is absolutely true. But, that fear has been replaced by another factor. Not fear of the independent action of the class, but a loss of faith that the working class is capable of such action.

The Stalinists said to themselves, “This is the goal we wish to achieve, and this is how we will achieve it under our control.” An alliance with “democratic” imperialism here, a pact with fascism there, all the time the independent action of the workers constrained. And that is the method of the AWL. It says, “This is the goal we wish to achieve. We have no faith the workers can do it, so who can bring it about?” So an alliance with Zionism here, with “democratic imperialism” there.

And this explains the trajectory of the AWL, it is why increasingly as its political positions are exposed it can only respond to them in the same way that the Stalinists did via, bureaucratic manoeuvre, by rudeness and vilification, and by quotation chopping to try to prove that their arguments have some lineage, just as Stalin tried to prove the lineage of “Socialism in One Country” back to Lenin, by such means so the AWL try to prove the lineage of its ideas by quotes taken out of context, mangled and distorted from Trotsky.