The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement calls for escalating the boycott following revelations implicating HP Enterprise in Israel’s brutal prison and policing system.
Who Profits, an independent research organisation tracking corporate complicity in Israel’s occupation, has confirmed that HP Enterprise continues to provide services to Israeli prisons and police despite its full knowledge of the grave human rights violations perpetrated by both. HP remains complicit in apartheid.
On the other hand, HP’s contract providing servers for the computerisation of Israel’s population database, known as the Aviv System, has come to an end, according to a recent Who Profits report. This achievement comes on the heels of over a decade of effective campaigning against HP by solidarity groups, churches, unions and progressive city councils across the world.
While we celebrate this milestone in our Boycott HP campaign, affirming the unmistakable global grassroots and civil society shift in favour of Palestinian liberation and against Israeli apartheid, we call for the escalation of our BDS campaigns (including divestment) against HP-branded companies.
2021 was a year of growing global recognition that Israel is an apartheid state and of the need to dismantle its regime of racist domination, as was done with apartheid South Africa. Thanks to strong, strategic and sustained BDS campaigning, multinationals that have enabled and profited from Israeli apartheid are paying a dear price for their complicity, with major players pulling their business out as a result.
The Aviv System database, which includes Palestinian citizens and residents of Israel (mainly in occupied East Jerusalem), has facilitated Israel’s efforts to ethnically cleanse and colonise Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and other Palestinian neighbourhoods in occupied Jerusalem. By including the so-called Yesha database of Israel’s settler population, the database has also enabled the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.
Still, HP remains deeply complicit in Israel’s grave human rights violations. As Who Profits reports, “In 2020, [HPE] was contracted to provide computer and communication maintenance for Israel Prison Service for 2021-2022 for the amount of over NIS 1 Million (more than 300,000 USD)”. It has also been contracted to maintain servers for Israel Police until 2023 for more than 1 million USD.
More than 500 Palestinian administrative detainees have called for a boycott of Israeli military courts and are mobilising against this illegal policy. We are escalating our campaign against HP as part of our commitment to the just demands of the Palestinian administrative detainees and other political prisoners in apartheid Israel’s dungeons.
The Boycott HP campaign has been a vibrant global campaign with support from major trade unions representing millions of members, including the UK’s second-largest union, Unite, and the Netherlands’ largest trade union federation, Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging. Support for the campaign also came from large student groups, including the Student Federation of India with its four million members.
Churches have been at the forefront of the Boycott HP campaign, declaring themselves HP-free as well as divesting from HP-branded companies. These include the United Church of Christ (US), Presbyterian Church USA, Friends Fiduciary Corporation, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
The city councils of Dublin in Ireland, and Portland (Oregon) in the US, have also divested from HP companies over their involvement in human rights violations. From shop pickets to global days of action, BDS campaigners have relentlessly demanded an end to all HP contracts with apartheid Israel, and have shown what collective, resilient grassroots organising can achieve against greedy, criminal corporate giants.
We are inspired, by the heroic resilience of Palestinian political prisoners and the growing strength of the global BDS movement, to reinvigorate our boycott and divestment campaigns against HP. Let us teach HP, and through it all corporate criminals, that profiting from war crimes and human rights violations comes at a steep price.
Being attacked by Gerry Downing is much like being attacked by a dead sheep - only worse. I am accused of “a truly shocking abandonment of the class” (Letters, December 16). This by someone who spent years supporting Ian Donovan’s theory that US foreign policy towards Israel was a product of an ethnic Jewish subset of the US ruling class!
And when Gerry and Ian eventually parted company, Gerry told us that Ian was none other than a Strasserite (the so-called ‘left’ of the Nazi party), begging the question as to why he had not realised earlier that he was in political partnership with a Nazi!
I have abandoned neither the working class, a class analysis nor Marxism. On the contrary, I have tried to apply a historically materialist approach to certain shibboleths that have become detached from their historical roots. Marxism is not a religious doctrine, in which you cannot question certain fundamental questions for fear of offending the High Priest.
Yes, the working class/proletariat was seen as the agent of revolutionary change - the grave digger of capitalism - by Marx and Lenin, but in the light of our experiences of the past century is this still the case in the United States and western Europe? Is Lenin’s observations about the conservatism of the British working class not relevant today? Did not illusions in British imperialism play a large part in Brexit and the belief that migrant labour was a threat to British workers?
Most revolutionary socialists and anti-imperialists accept that the Jewish working class in Israel or its white counterpart in South Africa play and played a reactionary role, in that they identified with their own ruling class, as opposed to the indigenous working class. In other words, the working class is not at all times and everywhere revolutionary. However, comrades are loath to apply such insights more widely for fear of being accused of betraying the class.
Gerry is also not above misrepresenting me. Nowhere did I “champion the cause of the rightwing anti-communist, Ernest Bevin, on the spurious basis that he was of working class origin”. Gerry clearly did not understand my reference, which was that the right wing in Attlee’s time came from the trade union bureaucracy, whereas today’s right wing (Starmer/Blair) reject any link with the trade union movement. I quoted Bevin about the ghost of 1929 stalking Labour’s cabinet not to ‘champion’ him, but to explain his political origins and orientation and the project that the Attlee government was engaged in.
Gerry says that he has “no hesitation in supporting the former majority executive of Labour Against the Witchhunt”. To quote Lenin, this is very much like the rope that supports the hanging man! They are welcome to his support.
Jewish Currents, a liberal US commentary magazine, has just reported an alleged assault on one Blake Zavadsky, who was wearing an Israel ‘Defence’ Forces sweatshirt in an area of Brooklyn, where many Arabs, including Palestinians, currently dwell. Demonstrations ensued - naturally enough. Some demonstrators supported Zavadsky, many also wearing pro-Israel Defence Forces sweatshirts - purportedly (according to Jewish Currents) solidarising with Zavadsky and his right to wear such a garment. But were they not also supporting the IDF and its mass repression and regular murder of Palestinians?
JC reports: “A small group of counter-protestors, most them of them members of the anti-Zionist Haredi group, Neturei Karta, showed up to denounce the rally, though the Palestinian group, Al-Awda, counselled their supporters not to counter-protest or respond, because any reaction ‘will be taken out of context and used to hurt our members’.”
As ever, imputing a precise message or purpose to any demonstration is a judgment call; but genuine democrats, while disgusted at the antics of these Zionists, may still feel that this is a counsel of defeatism.
All the same, it occurs to me that there are interesting similarities with, and differences from, the 1977-78 brouhaha around Skokie, a suburb of Chicago; there Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi Party proposed to hold a plainly provocative demonstration (very many Jews lived in Skokie, including more than a few survivors of the Nazi mass murders). The American Civil Liberties Union - then a body famously (or notoriously) committed to freedom of speech and of political expression for all - supported by public statements, and in court, the right of this foul clique to its freedom of political expression. As a result it lost, we gather, many of its members and certainly, at the time, a great deal of centrist support.
You may already have noticed that, whereas the Nazi SS did not survive 1945, the IDF to this very day flourishes, revels in its mass repression and frequent murder of Palestinians, receives much applause from many, including the Labour Party leadership, and is heavily subsidised by US taxpayers, including Palestinian Arabs - including indeed those resident in that Brooklyn 48th district.
I had not noticed Skokie residents being forced to pay for the SS, Waffen or Allgemeine ...
Desmond Tutu was an inspirational part of the movement against the racist apartheid system in South Africa and we are so proud of what he helped to achieve. Along with members of the African National Congress, he risked his own life, as an archbishop, on a number of occasions to try and bring racial equality in South Africa. The Rugby Trade unionist and Socialist Coalition supported his actions 100%.
I campaigned vigorously against apartheid back in the 1970s and 1980s, as did all our members who were around at the time. Desmond Tutu was an amazing person, who merged his religion with his politics to risk his own life in opposition to the way black people were treated by the white minority leadership in apartheid South Africa. He also campaigned for the rights of Palestinians, and he opposed poverty and suffering wherever it occurred. He strongly criticised capitalism for the inequalities it caused. He was a political activist in every meaning of those words. I am proud to call him a socialist.
I will never personally forget his speech at the Free Nelson Mandela concert at Wembley, headed by U2, to demand the end of imprisonment for Nelson Mandela after 25 years in captivity. It was so moving. He spoke better than any politician, and in a challenging, sensitive and personal way. He was a true socialist and anti-racist, and Rugby Tusc applauds him for everything he stood for.
Desmond Tutu inspired me and many others of my generation, as did Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko and all the other fighters against apartheid. They will never be forgotten. He was courageous and inspirational. His passing literally brought tears to my eyes.
Secretary and spokesperson, Rugby Tusc
If Jeremy Corbyn or anyone else really were to set up a new party, then its name should contain no ‘ist’, or ‘ism’, or other such word, including ‘Left’ or ‘Red’. The party’s only constitutional aim should be, ‘To secure economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends.’ Wherever the party had more than one position to fill, then the members should vote for one candidate, with the requisite number elected at the end. Its internal discipline should apply the Smith Principle: ‘If John Smith could have tolerated this, then so can we.’ Beyond that, then it should rarely or never mention the Labour Party.
Independent parliamentary candidate for North West Durham, 2019 and 2024
Talk to people
There is still much to say after a fascinating Winter Communist University, but I’ll try and just stick to one topic. In the first session (‘Party and programme: why the contemporary left fails to take programme seriously’) I was struck by a part of James Creegan’s contribution. He referred to a “hunger for knowledge” in the working class, but suggested that an obstacle was the evidence of condescension frequently shown by the educated to the uneducated.
This was while looking at what he saw as a common feature of left groups, that they tended to have an educated, middle-class core - often of academics - while having, in the ranks, a less well educated working class membership. Even if the leadership did not show disdain to the members, workers outside the movement might see this to be the case.
I hope I have not misrepresented what he was saying here, but it made me think of my own early working experience. I started holiday work when I was 15: it was legal then - a step between a school leaving age of 14 and the one of 16 which we have now. Furthermore, holiday work was very easy to come by.
Thousands (tens of thousands?) of students, from school and university, would work for the post office at Christmas time - sorting and delivering the extra millions of cards and packets. A few weeks in summer was easy to get and even a couple of weeks or so in the Easter holidays. I worked every holiday from my 15th birthday until graduation, and there was even work available after that!
It was clear from the start, I thought, that doing O or A levels or a university degree did not mark anyone out as any more intelligent than anyone else. There are plenty of well-educated idiots (just watch PM’s questions on TV) and plenty of bright folks (and idiots) without the education. I thought that the only way you could tell if someone was intelligent or not was to talk with them or to hear them talking to others. Brighter folks were obvious to all in a workplace.
I’ve spent many years in manual work, in the print trade and in office work - and I’d say that this was true in all of them. What was also true was that politics didn’t arise all that often in passing conversation. It would from time to time and, as I’m sure comrades are aware, one must be careful not to bore everyone senseless when it does.
As Marx and Engels pointed out, in The German ideology for instance, workers are interested in the quotidian, or day-to-day. How to feed and shelter themselves and their families, but also nowadays where and when they are going on holiday and what was on TV last night.
I’m not convinced that the division between the educated and the less educated is a major obstacle to party building. We have a lot of other obstacles, many of which were eloquently addressed in the CU - roll on the next one.
I was pleased to see that in his reply to Paul Flewers, Andrew Northall understands the need to campaign for a democratic socialist society (Letters, January 6). This is a point I have been making recently, in line with the Soviet constitution of 1936 and Trotsky’s campaign for a democratic socialist society.
Comrade Northall, in line with both Trotsky and the Soviet constitution sponsored by Stalin, writes: “We do need to advocate, popularise and campaign for a socialism that is fully democratic, participatory, pluralistic in all aspects and involving the whole working people in the running of society. Soviet socialism was clearly not this end point, but was nonetheless a tremendous advance for the working people of Russia, and indeed the world, away from monarchy, feudalism, capitalism and imperialism from which it emerged.” These sentiments are correct, although whether the “whole” working people are necessary to run socialism is debatable.
The comrade is also right when he suggests that the failure to make progress in the direction of democratic socialism was at the heart of the crisis which saw the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. However, I would argue that the seeds were not sown in the 1960s, as the comrade seems to suggest, but goes back further. That is another debate, but I would argue that the period from 1917 to 1945 formed an emergency situation, to one degree or another, for the Soviet Union, made up of two strands: the threat of another imperialist intervention after the conclusion of the civil war; and, to meet this threat, the need to rapidly industrialise the Soviet Union in the shortest time possible. Stalin’s speech in 1931 to a party meeting, warning that Russia was 50 to 100 years behind the west and had 10 years to catch up or go under, summed up the situation facing the Soviet Union. Precisely 10 years later Stalin’s campaign to industrialise as quickly as possible was proved correct, when the country had to face the Nazi invasion of June 1941. In all probability, had Bukharin’s strategy for industrialisation won out or had Stalin based himself on it, the Nazis would have defeated the Soviet Union easily.
The point we need to remember is that many things worked against the transition to a democratic socialist society under Soviet socialism. When Gorbachev tried to make this transition in the 1980s it was done in a bureaucratic fashion, from the top down instead of mobilising a campaign from the grassroots.
After the failure of Gorbachev’s approach and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which allowed Yeltsin and his pro-capitalist team to take over, which continued under Putin, the way back to power for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation is not nostalgia, but a campaign for a democratic socialist society based on a mixed economy, which means renationalising the foundations of the economy, while allowing small businesses to remain in the private sector, which can supplement the public sector for as long as is necessary. An ultra-left attempt to leap into full communism in one go can only undermine communist rule.
This is not simply a programme for Russia, because we communists need a programme for the whole world based on democratic socialism. We can learn from the mistakes of previous socialist revolutions, although they represent a different historical context to what we face today.
Without a democratic socialist society, a privilege-seeking stratum of bureaucrats will always take over, even in an advanced country. Only democratic socialism has any chance of stopping creeping totalitarianism based on advanced technology, involving transhumanism and artificial intelligence, with human beings directly connected to and controlled by smart technology. The reactionary elements in the elite are promoting the transhumanist agenda as the ultimate safeguard against revolution, with the Covid-19 ‘pandemic’ paving the way. They want to use technology to permanently lock us down.
This means that, regardless of his mistakes, we need to continue Trotsky’s struggle against totalitarianism in favour of democratic socialism, while at the same time recognising that Stalin’s leading role in defeating Nazism, made possible by the rapid industrialisation of the Soviet Union, served the interest of progressive humanity. Stalin needs to be criticised for his abuse of political power, not negated. Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Mao all made mistakes along the way. Rather than seeking to negate them, we must learn from their mistakes.
Most people in the so-called advanced world live, it seems, part of their daily existence with the internet, smart phones, smart TVs, email, Twitter, YouTube, logging in to their employer’s website to be remote-controlled, etc.
Yet, outside of work and sometimes even while working online, plenty of people also spend ample time engaged with online platforms. Euphemistically, these are called social media. In reality, they are run by very powerful multinational, profit-making, and all too often no-tax-paying corporations.
The advent of the internet, recently turbo-charged by the Coronavirus pandemic, has transformed the way we work. It also changed the way we interact with co-workers - sometimes, as far afield as half way round the world.
Yet, the next step is already on the way: digital technologies are starting to move off-screen and becoming integrated into the physical world that surrounds us. These are known as the internet of things and ‘Industry 4.0’. It already includes industrial robotics, self-driving cars and trucks, intelligent cancer-screening machines and the like. As of barely a month ago, a Mercedes S Class car can now drive itself on Germany’s infamous Autobahn automatically.
According to some experts - self-appointed and otherwise - human beings would be largely leftovers in an automated future. There are truly wild predictions about massive job losses because of automation. Some suggest up to 45 million Americans, or about a quarter of the USA’s entire workforce, might lose their jobs to automation by the year 2030. A few years ago, in 2017, the suggestion was just 39 million.
Thomas Klikauer and Meg Young