Another common sense is possible
Ukraine, Nord Stream, the nuclear war danger, US China strategy, Tory unravelling and a record Labour opinion lead. Gaby Rubin reports
The first part of the October 2 CPGB members’ aggregate featured a discussion on the war in Ukraine, along with its geo-strategic context and its effects on Britain. Provisional Central Committee chair Jack Conrad opened.
The war is going badly for Putin. The Russian army is losing ground in both the north-eastern and southern fronts. Against our own initial expectations, the Ukrainian offensive has proved to be a ‘tipping point’. Troop numbers are roughly equal, but, whereas the Ukrainians know what they are fighting for - ie, national independence - that cannot be said of the Russian side. Claims of a genocide against Russians in Ukraine are hardly credible. So what is the war about? Four oblasts? De-Nazification? Incorporating the whole of Ukraine and a Greater Russia? No wonder so many are fleeing abroad to escape Putin’s draft.
US and other Nato equipment is militarily important, but morale is decisive. As a result Putin is a dead man walking. Of course, this is a proxy war. The US is determined to inflict a Vietnam-type humiliation, a strategic defeat, on Russia … but on a far higher scale. Zelensky demands every inch of Ukrainian land back, including the strategically vital Crimea (which gives the Russian navy access to the warm waters of the Mediterranean). That could well happen. But the US wants more: regime change in Moscow, demilitarisation, the imposition of huge reparation payments, war crimes trials, etc. There is even the possibility of Russia being dismembered into three US-dominated zones.
Joe Biden is not only pouring in arms, imposing sanctions and freezing Russian assets. Having whipped the Nato allies into line, he is behaving ever more provocatively. The most outrageous example being the blowing up of Nord Stream one and two - and the claim that it was a Russian operation. Cornered, Putin has at last ordered the mobilisation of reserves and the annexation of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk. Showing his desperation, he has even issued crude nuclear threats. From expectations of a swift decapitation of the Kyiv regime back in February, he now faces defeat and the prospect of being retired to an obscure sanatorium. Expect the FSB and military high command to act sooner rather than later.
There is a downside. India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are on the wrong side. There is also the distinct possibility that, rather than Russia being Balkanised, a new president, even an Alexander Navalny, will throw in their lot with China - becoming its Austria-Hungary. The recent Samarkand meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation had one-third of the world’s GDP in attendance - China, India, Russia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, etc. But this is not some proto‑Chinese hegemony over the world Heartland (‘the Pivot Area’). What the SCO is mainly concerned with is avoiding US colour revolutions, combating terrorism and reducing dependence on the almighty greenback.
Nonetheless, it is clear that the main US target is not Russia, but China. Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang have already been set up for regime-change purposes.
Turning to British politicscomrade Conrad began by saying that Britain has the whiff of a “failed state” about it. Petty nationalists dominate in Scotland and Northern Ireland. One prime minster follows another in an almost Italian fashion. There is a cost of living crisis, massive borrowing and a looming economic downturn. The wave of strikes can only but increase. Below-inflation pay offers ensure that.
Then there is the Conservative Party. Electorally it looks doomed. Removing restrictions on bankers bonuses and cutting benefits is not a vote winner. Nor is £40 billion worth of unfunded tax cuts a vote winner on the markets. Expect Tory rebellions, including a Con-Lib-Lab alliance to shoot down various parts of chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget.
Labour’s huge lead in opinion polls was a long time coming, but predictable. The widespread idea on the left that Sir Keir did not want to become prime minister, but only wanted to purge the left, was always stupid. But Liz Truss is prime minister and that makes her dangerous, because she has the Ukraine war card to play and she might well play it.
Meanwhile left common sense remains with Labourism, broad frontism and the confessional sects. Clearly we need a new common sense.
Bob Davies was the first to respond. On the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines, surely if Russia wanted to end supplies, it would have simply turned off the taps. On Ukraine, he thought the annexation of four oblasts with large Russian-speaking populations was both predictable and farcical. Voting in the referendums was stage-managed.
PCC member Farzad Kamangar commented that we did not know what Putin was being told by his advisors. Either way, the invasion of Ukraine was a mistake. He walked into a trap. The US is in a cold war with China. Comrade Kamangar was against being soft on Russia: the invasion with its many civilian deaths should not be dismissed. Turning to Britain, she asked who were the brains behind Liz Truss. It is like lunatics being put “in charge of the asylum”.
Another PCC member, Mike Macnair, felt that Putin was put in a position where he felt if he did not act now, he would be forced to act later. Putin probably felt that if he acted in February he had a chance of winning, whereas if he waited there would be no chance. Comrade Macnair insisted that we could not believe anything that the media says at this moment. The US did not want peace: it wanted reparations, war crime trials, etc.
Regarding Liz Truss, he asked whether she understood the system she was working under. What will she try to cut now even in real terms? And if she finds herself in trouble she will have to “up the ante” to retain her position.
Jim Nelson asked what was “in it” for the UK in regard to the support of Ukraine against Russia. Britain is a corrupt state, he said, and the low turnout in elections shows the contempt voters have for the government. For her part, Anne McShane said that the Ukraine war is a media war, as in Iraq. Putin wants to extend his own powers in the region and further his own agenda.
Vernon Price thought that Sir Keir Starmer was also eyeing up the possibility of using the Ukraine war, as Truss is doing. He mentioned Labour conference. One floor speaker called for “total war” against Russia, while many on the platform, as well as some on the left, were clapping and smiling.
PCC member Kevin Bean spoke more about the Labour conference in Liverpool. He gave a flavour of the general view of the official left by explaining that it was in denial about its defeat, whereas in reality every left initiative was defeated.
Jack Conrad replied. In short, not least as demonstrated by the Ukraine war, the existing left seems to be in terminal decline.
The second part of the aggregate discussed this year’s Communist University, this time held in central London.
Comrade Kamangar reported on the views that she had heard:
- Many thought having one theme around which contributions were made (this year, the question of war) was useful.
- Most speakers were good, although technical problems sometimes hampered understanding.
- For “people of a certain age” the difficulties of hearing in the room were problematic.
- The hybrid nature of the contributions had both advantages and disadvantages, but adjustments could be made.
- It had been suggested that all speakers from the UK should be asked to attend in person, but it was also understood that with some speakers there ought to be exceptions.
Despite various shortcomings, comrades felt that overall CU 2022 had been a success.