Comrade Paul Demarty’s article, ‘Single-issue failure’ (May 19), approaches the hub of the problem right now on the rush to war - but then it succumbs to further failure.
Like all the other articles and arguments I’ve read in the Weekly Worker and beyond, the war in Ukraine, its consequences and its implications are never placed in the context of the climate emergency. Nowhere is it stated that the current war drive is the very last thing humanity needs to deal with the looming disaster facing life as we know it. The only reference at all there is a gibe about Stand Up to Racism and a Cop26 meeting.
The Weekly Worker - in particular Jack Conrad - has in the recent past starkly laid out the environmental dangers we are facing, but now seems to treat that as just another “single issue”, not really having anything to do with the current surge in militarism. The facts obviously prove otherwise, with the US military already having a greater carbon footprint than 140 countries.
This is despite their ludicrous climate strategy released just before the war began in March that they aim to be net zero by 2050. Just imagine what Nato’s, Russia’s and China’s footprints are and will become with the massive increase in military budgets. Opposing militarism - on all sides - is not pacifism, but what is required to conduct the only war worth waging now- to save our species and life on earth.
I think a key to this blindsight is something I raised in my Communist University talk on Cop26 and beyond last November. I proposed that the current Draft programme of the CPGB is no longer fit for purpose, as it treats the climate emergency as just another of the single issues that needs addressing in society rather than mapping out ways of coping with the new Anthropocene epoch we have entered.
Our enemies recognise the need for immediate action. That’s why there’s been the sudden rush to war economies. They intend to deal with the climate emergency by military means and all that entails - most likely forms of fascism. That’s what we’re up against and that’s why we must pose another route through this mess - one that sees beyond nationalism and war to the worldwide solidarity and egalitarianism that can hopefully save us.
Tam Dean Burn
Whether you support Russia, Ukraine or neither (as I do), there is no escaping the fact that this conflict is a disaster for the working class of Europe, Ukraine and Russia, as well as the wider world at large.
Many Arab states rely almost totally on crops from Ukraine and Russia in order to provide food for their urban and rural poor. Lebanon is in an economic crisis that is likely to increase due to the disruptions in the food supply from the warring Slavic nations. Sri Lanka is in total freefall, as are Syrian food supplies. Egypt is believed to be very close to declaring a state of national emergency.
Whilst the proxy war between Nato and the Russian Federation drags on in Ukraine, many nations in the developing world are at breaking point, as not just food, but energy supplies, are disrupted. There needs to be a drive for peaceful negotiations between the warring parties and this must be done outside of the auspices of imperialist interference.
South Africa, India, China and Brazil have all offered to host peace talks, but Nato has convinced Zelensky he can ‘win’ if Ukraine just keeps fighting. But Ukraine cannot win - although it can bog down Russia in a lengthy war of attrition that will have a huge economic impact on the developing world.
Nato wishes this war to be lengthy and protracted, as it feeds the super-capitalist armaments industry and makes Europe reliant on vastly overpriced US energy supplies, thus binding Europe into a new Pax Americana.
Replying to Andrew Northall’s letter (May 19), I would like to point out that I never argued that we should wait for the collapse of capitalism (Letters, May 5) - that was the heading of my letter, which I did not choose. What I did argue is that there will be no move towards socialism in the advanced capitalist countries until these countries face economic and political collapse. In the meantime we should seek to win the Labour Party over to democratic socialism, combined with building up the communist movement.
Comrade Northall is right to see the need for a mass Communist Party, but this is related to the issue of winning Labour over to socialism - in addition to which we need to face certain ideological questions which are not being faced by the various groups who claim to be seeking to build a mass Communist Party. For instance, the question of the Stalin and Trotsky split, which has divided the communists for decades. This split is now obsolete. Pro-Stalin communists need to recognise that Trotsky was right to criticise the bureaucratisation of the Soviet state, although he went too far in calling for political revolution to resolve the problem. On the other hand, pro-Trotsky communists need to recognise that Stalin was right to smash the anti-Soviet conspiracy, although he went too far in the struggle to defeat the Soviet fifth column, leading to the victimisation of innocent people.
My argument is not about waiting for the collapse of capitalism (something which Andrew thinks may not even happen), but preparing for it. Nor do I put forward the view that capitalism will collapse when oil runs out. What I argue is that, once we pass the peak of oil production, which is where we are now, and the impending decline of global oil production begins, then capitalism will face collapse. In other words, the decline of oil production will lead to shortages and hence an inflationary spiral with rising prices. Thus the collapse of capitalism in an inflationary crisis will occur long before oil runs out.
The view that renewable, alternative energy can save capitalism fails to grasp the role of fossil fuels in the rise of capitalism. Modern capitalism was possible because it had access to cheap energy. Without cheap energy, with energy prices continually rising, capitalism will become increasingly difficult to maintain, because firms need to make profits, which rising energy cost undermines. Those who don’t understand the role of cheap energy in the rise of industrial capitalism cannot possibly grasp the nature of the present crisis. The war against Iraq and Libya to get control of their oil and gas fields was undertaken in awareness of the coming energy crisis. The same modus operandi is at work in regard to the demonisation of Russia, and Nato’s provocation, aimed at getting control of Russia’s oil and gas.
They want regime change in Russia for the same reason as they did in Iraq and Libya. That the west is prepared to risk a nuclear war with Russia highlights how serious the situation is. In other words, the energy crisis is the main drive behind global political manoeuvring. The problem for most of the left is that as a result of Marx’s critique of capitalism, which focuses on the circulation of money rather than the central role of cheap energy in the rise of industrial capitalism, they are unable to understand the present crisis.
So what I am saying is that, if humanity is fortunate enough to avoid a nuclear war, the decline of world oil production, triggering an inflationary crisis, will bring about the collapse of global capitalism. But an energy crisis is only one possible scenario. There are various views about how the present system is going to end, including ecological collapse, or alien invasion of earth to impose direct rule over humankind. To take this latter scenario seriously as a possibility may seem the crankiest, but many serious, intelligent people uphold this perspective, although often presented in a religious form.
For instance, the Bible and Christianity teaches that an alien invasion is coming to impose direct rule on humanity, by ending man’s self-rule. This idea is the foundation of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but the religious narrative obscures the real meaning. Leslie Kean’s UFOs: generals, pilots and government officials go on the record points out that anthropocentrism (ie, human rule) is actually a modern ‘assumption’. For thousands of years before anthropocentrism, kings and emperors claimed the right to rule from ‘divine’ sources (ie, extraterrestrial). Emperors in China needed the mandate of heaven to rule, for instance.
Whether the end of the system comes via an energy crisis, ecological catastrophe or alien invasion to impose direct rule, as the biblical prophets contend, we are faced with a crisis which no previous generation of revolutionaries have faced before.
Campaign for democratic socialism
Having experienced those two sets of ideological slugfests in last week’s edition (maybe more accurately those ‘back-alleyway dog fights’ of letters) between Gerry Downing and Lawrence Parker, also between Tony Greenstein and Jack Conrad (it has to be said, with neither those specific comrades nor that particular edition of the paper unique in any of those respects!), I found it helpful by way of self-administered relaxation therapy to mull over a joke I recalled from years ago.
It was about a man who placed double runs of wire-fencing around his house and garden and, whenever asked why he did so, replied that the outermost one was to “keep elephants away”, whilst the inner fence was to “stop Martians from invading planet Earth”. If then anyone had the nerve to take matters further by pointing out to the man that there were no elephants in his particular part of the world and that Martians don’t exist, the man with his extremely cunning double fencing shot back with how it just went to show the outer one was working pretty well, but the inner one perfectly!
The relevance here is how any such cyclical, self-reinforcing, imperviously regenerative methodologies - I suspect even a more generalised trait of character (ie, that mentality) - lead nowhere except to exasperation, even exhaustion, for absolutely everyone involved. Most pertinently - indeed most importantly above all else in the context of our 21st-century Marxist organisations, where we should be addressing those incalculably more urgent matters and associated considerations thrown up by our current world.
Sadly, but unavoidably, the words ‘wastefulness’, ‘negligence’, and even downright ‘shamefulness’ leap to mind for any amongst us who in distinction cling to ideas of ‘looking outwards’: of socially, culturally and politically expansive processes as part of keeping that ‘weather eye’ out on attracting new recruits to our tattered ranks. Those types with fresh reference points in their life, as drawn from a modern world that forms their ‘reality’ (and consequently coming with their fresh, modernistic political perspectives and ambitions), all of which being so essential to our also unquestionably essential communist cause.
Oh well, all that really can be said is how it’s still better to wade through cyclical/evermore pointlessly self-regenerative quagmires (such as emanated from those particular four comrades concerned) than subjecting oneself to the output of Hollywood, Netflix or the bourgeois media’s coverage around the nature of Putin’s character, and in turn his motivations, vis-à-vis that both brutal and grotesquely primitivist situation in Ukraine.
Incidentally, in the event any readers of the Weekly Worker feel it required (as on a previous equivalent occasion) to point out how the attitudes expressed here run contrary to any process of dialectical development of ideas, to “open debate and argument” within a democratic centralism that “needs to be at the core” of any worthwhile communist organisation, etc, well, maybe all of us can simply learn lessons from that man and his cunning (but also amusingly ridiculous) double fencing!
Keep the name
Harlow council leader Russell Perrin’s proposal to rename Allende Avenue is a disgrace.
In 1970, a socialist called Salvador Allende was elected president of Chile, which was once known as the ‘England of South America’ on account of its tradition of democratic freedoms. The USA waged a campaign of sabotage and economic warfare against his leftwing government, culminating in the CIA-backed coup by the US-trained armed forces in September 1973, which installed general Augusto Pinochet.
Pinochet’s regime murdered 3,000 political opponents and tortured 40,000, and also forced 200,000 people (two percent of the population) into exile. Pinochet’s extreme monetarist policies, implemented on the advice of economists from the University of Chicago, impoverished ordinary people in Chile.
Pinochet’s thugs ‘disappeared’ their opponents - and now councillor Perrin wants to ‘disappear’ the memory of Allende and the circumstances of his overthrow. This nasty attempt at historical denialism may not be unconnected to the fact that Pinochet was a friend of Margaret Thatcher, whom he visited on a number of occasions.
Some on the left have long suspected that the commitment of some Conservatives to democratic values is only skin-deep. Russell Perrin’s proposal to paint over the memory of Pinochet’s best-known victim Allende does nothing to allay that suspicion. Many people in Britain, Chile and the rest of the world will see councillor Perrin’s proposal as metaphorically spitting on the graves of Pinochet’s victims.