Posted in China, World Politics

China and the “End of History”

In the summer of 1989 we were told that “anti-communist protests” were sweeping across the Soviet Union. This was of course a bare faced lie, typical right wing propaganda. The vast majority of Soviet citizens wanted to preserve the Soviet Union (depending on the region that number was in the high 90% of the populace in the referendum). The people, as usual, were betrayed by the rich and powerful who not only totally ignored the wishes of the vast majority of the working people but then lied to the world and claimed to speak for the majority. (As a side note, another lie they told us was that the Soviet Union was broke because of communism. Yeah, well where did all these Russian oligarchs get their money from then? By stealing public resources and funds. The Soviet Union was bankrupted by corruption on an industrial scale which created the Russian oligarchy, not by any communist policies).

So the people were told that communism had failed. Liberal democracy had apparently triumphed against all other ideologies. Fukuyama famously called it “the end of history”, borrowing a phrase that had been used many times before by the likes of Thomas More (Utopia) and even Hegel and Marx.

That we have just lived through a uni-polar ideological age is probably true. Neo-liberalism has been pretty hegemonic for the last 25 years. So the right wing claiming victory is unsurprising. What needs further thought and scrutiny is why the left have bought into this “end of history” type of thinking.

When I was a kid the working class were fighting a ferocious battle against Thatcher and her ilk (mine is the generation that Thatcher stole the milk from). But then Thatcher gave way to Major and a supposedly new way of doing things; Major’s ‘back to basics” when he ordered the Tories to concentrate less on ideology and more on things that actually mattered to people in their daily lives. This was of course just a sham. Ideology never went away. Neo-liberalism just learned to disguise itself as a sort of pragmatism, but it kept doing what neo-liberalism is ideologically driven to do – privatise, privatise and privatise.

After Major came Blair who was supposedly “beyond left and right”, and more recently we’ve had Obama who called for a “declaration of independence from ideology”. And of course, neo-liberalism survived during these two all the while doing what neo-liberalism does – stealing our resources and our wealth. And as that is what the right want they’ve only been to happy to repeat this “end of history” and “end of ideology” nonsense.

While declaring that the old polarities no longer pertain, all the main parties have shifted to the right. In such a political environment it is the left that loses – which is why “left wing” groups like RISE are so dangerous, with their candidates who proudly announce that they’ve never read any political theory “ ‘cos politics is just old men “ (an actual quote from one of their candidates at the last Holyrood election). When parties like RISE reduce politics to single issue campaigns and internet petitions (not that I’m suggesting there isn’t any room for these) it greatly harms the potential for a genuine organised opposition to the status quo.

I’m not advocating getting angry with RISE types, they are just the result of a wider problem of the Western left – its current intellectual bankruptcy. With the exception of perhaps some French Marxists there has been no real attempt recently by the Western left to produce a unified alternative theory to neo-liberalism. They’ve not done this in part because that would be an ideology, or ideologically informed, and they’ve bought into this “end of ideology” rubbish.

Its worth remembering that Fukuyama, unlike say Daniel Bell before him, didn’t actually mean that there was to be no more ideology. For Fukuyama “the end of history” meant the victory of one particular ideology – Western liberal democracy. (For Marx the “end of history” meant the victory of communism). While the likes of Blair and Major may have used the “end of ideology” type rhetoric of Bell, examining their policies highlights that they were more in the Fukuyama camp – that the one true ideology forevermore was to be Western liberal democracy, which to these people is synonymous with free markets and capitalism. And while Western lefties continue to use “end of ideology” or “end of history” type rhetoric the right will continue to dominate – because that type of rhetoric only solidifies the right wing myth that the current neo-liberal inspired policies such as austerity are somehow beyond ideology, as if they are just prudent responses to “natural economic and market conditions”.

While all this has been going on in the West, on the other side of the world an alternative has gradually been gathering strength. Western lefties tend to dismiss China – but that’s just because they’ve unthinkingly swallowed another piece of right wing propaganda, namely that China is just capitalist now. This piece of propaganda relies on Western left wing ignorance of what is actually happening in China, as well on the Western lefties ignorance of their own ideologies, which results in them failing to appreciate that China is still a very Marxist country. Indeed, within in the last few months the Chinese leadership have vowed to continue Mao Zedong’s revolution until the end. But that is sadly a message that is lost on Western “lefties” who lack any understanding of Marxism, economics or ideology.

Is China still Marxist? The answer is an unequivocal yes. They have famously allowed limited capitalism within their borders, but it is very highly regulated and government directed. Make no mistake about it, in China business is subservient to the people via the CPC. Businesses of course have the right to operate, but they have very strict social and environmental responsibilities. Neglect those responsibilities and they lose their right to operate. Attempts by the rich to buy political influence is punishable by jail terms – unlike in the West where that kind of interference in the political process is encouraged by politicians trying to line their own pockets.

Lets put another falsehood out of the way right now. China is not capitalist “because of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms”. For a start, most of those reforms have since been repealed by the Chinese government. So while there is still an opening up policy in China (the Chinese call it “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”) to try to explain this policy in terms of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms displays a degree of historical and factual illiteracy.

We should also remember that the Chinese intellectuals who initially sought Westernisation gave up on this idea a long time ago in favour of “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”. Wang Meng is just one example, an author and former Culture Minister who was once labelled a “rightist” because at the beginning of the opening up period he couldn’t wait to see radical change and Westernisation. “In the 1990s, most of us abandoned the illusion of total Westernisation as we saw the social system was moving forward smoothly,” explained Wang. “We began to think about how we could benefit society and people under the current system. In other words, we became reconciled, at least partly, with the social system. Most intellectuals didn’t stand in opposition to socialism with Chinese characteristics.” So in the words of one of China’s most famous “rightists”, most Chinese intellectuals are not in opposition to socialism – contrary to what you’ll hear in Western propaganda mindlessly repeated by Western “lefties”.

But does this “limited capitalism” mean that technically China is no longer Marxist despite the government, people and intellectuals identifying as Marxist? That’s a firm no, but this one’s a little trickier to explain as it requires some knowledge of Marxist theory.

Let’s start with Hegel and dialectics. Hegel, when putting forward an alternative to Aristotelian logic (analytics), gave us the triad of thesis – antithesis – synthesis (dialectics). In admittedly over-simplistic terms we can explain dialectics like this: the thesis is the original idea, the antithesis is an alternative idea and the synthesis is a sort of compromise between the two – we can say it takes the best of both.

While Hegel used dialectics to explain ideas or arguments (i.e. logic), Marx and Engels took the basics of Hegelian dialectics and applied it to the real physical conditions of the world. This is what we call dialectical materialism and it is used to explain the evolution of societies. Lenin stated that “development is the “struggle” of opposites”. In other words, development and progress is the struggle between the thesis and the antithesis. The thesis represents the way the society currently is, the antithesis represents the way we want it to be, and the synthesis (the new condition of the society that we progress to) is a combination of the two – it contains elements of both the thesis and the antithesis. The synthesis now becomes the new thesis, a new antithesis emerges and the conflict between thesis and antithesis begins again. Those who benefit from the status quo will defend the thesis while those who do not will struggle for the antithesis.

We can see now what China has consciously chosen to do. They were a very hard line Marxist state. But the international community of which they wished to take part in was predominately capitalist. This created a conflict in China between the thesis (those who defended a sort of dogmatic adherence to Marxism) and the antithesis (those who wished to Westernise the country).

If Fukuyama was correct about the “end of history”, China should have become simply another liberal democracy. On the other hand, if the dogmatic Marxists were correct in their understanding of “the end of history” China should have remained as a sort of copy of Stalin’s Soviet Union.

Instead, something else has happened. China has found a different way of doing things – a Marxist path to the end of the revolution, but one which has found room for the less insidious aspects of Western capitalism. What they have also shown is that there is no “end of history”. Every new synthesis becomes a thesis, which in turn comes into conflict with its antithesis. Understanding this is, in my humble opinion, key to understanding both Marxism and also why there can be no “end of history”.

Posted in China, World Politics

China puts “People First”

The first official meeting between President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida reconfirmed the long-standing normal relationship between the world’s two largest economies, thus dispelling the previous concerns about the possible confrontation of the two powers.

As Xi put it, “There are a thousand reasons to make the China-U.S. relationship a success, and not a single reason to break it.”

China and the U.S. must cooperate, but the cooperation will never be easy, as the two countries have different ideas about governance and development.

China adheres to the principle of People First while Trump advocates America First. The two slogans sound similar, but they are different in essence.

To the rest of the world, America First means America Only.

At the annual meeting of G20 finance ministers that ended March 13 in Germany, no concrete agreement on free trade and climate change was reached after the U.S. blocked any language that encouraged past commitments on the open flow of goods and services.

Trump  has vulgarised his America First policy as “buy American and hire Americans,” typical ideas of parochialism and protectionism.

But within the USA, America First does not necessarily mean benefits for the majority of the people. Trump proposed repealing ObamaCare. If successful, this would leave millions of Americans without health care again. He has increased military spending dramatically while slashing expenditures on education and scientific research. He even drastically cut down on food stamps for children.

As for China’s People First, in a nutshell, the Communist Party of China represents and serves the interests of the overwhelming majority of the people, rather than that of certain groups.

In a recent speech, a chief Party official warned against some businesspersons’ attempts to acquire political influence and power. The involvement of businesspersons in politics is a global phenomenon except in China.

The CPC is a genuine party of the people, born out of the people, consisting of the people, and working for the people. The nature of the CPC partly explains why China can achieve sustainable development.

Before the founding of the CPC, there had been a number of political parties or forces that attempted to change the miserable fate of China, but none succeeded, because they did not represent the fundamental interests of the majority. Nor did they have the political will or abilities to carry through the arduous task of seeking the liberation and independence of the nation and the people.

A basic knowledge of China’s modern history displays the truth that without the extraordinary leadership of the CPC, China could not have won independence from the grips of foreign invaders and control of foreign powers, not to mention the building of a strong nation.

It was with the support of the people, especially the grass-roots masses, that the CPC, with a will of steel, and solidarity of rock, achieved seemingly impossible feats one after another. It was under the leadership of the CPC that the Chinese people have acquired an unprecedented national sense of cohesion and pride.

The people are to the CPC what water is to fish. That’s the secret of China’s success and that’s a unique political advantage that China possesses over the West.

With the top leadership’s policies and popular will in unison, China is the only country in the world able to implement long-term and short-term plans with high efficiency and little interference and opposition.

That’s why China has lifted the largest population out of poverty within a mere three decades. That’s also why China has morphed from an agricultural society into an industrial one with the best high-speed railways, super highways and mobile payment systems.

Western doctrines define popular election to be the only way to legitimise a government. But the “universal value” has failed to explain what has happened in China. China’s epic achievements in economic and social development have endowed the CPC with indisputable legitimacy.

China’s People First is also an inclusive policy internationally; China seeks shared development and prosperity with other countries.

Posted in China, World Politics

China and Women’s Rights

(I’m now in China! Being on the other side of the Great Firewall means that Facebook and Twitter are now not an option for me, so I’ll be making more regular use of this blog. I’ve decided to use it to share stories (mostly political) that I come across in China. Happy reading.)

I came across this article today and thought I would share it as it appeared in the Chinese press. My reason is that I think comrades back in Scotland might be interested in the similarities, and differences, in how the topic is discussed here in China compared to back home.

CHINESE actress, Ma Li, made a public post on her Weibo on Sunday, claiming that she had been harassed by a man at a supermarket in Shenzhen. The post drew many “likes” and positive comments for Ma’s courage to publicly call out the harassment.

Ma said in her post that a man had touched her bottom while she was walking around the supermarket. “When his hand touched me, I was shocked and thought about walking away without saying anything, but I eventually decided to say it out loud because I didn’t want other women to be harassed by men like him,” read Ma’s post.

According to Ma, the security guards of the supermarket assisted her in calling the police, but the police could hardly do anything about the harassment because there was not enough evidence. The surveillance camera at the supermarket did not cover the corner where the harassment took place.

The actress said her intention was to disclose the incident because she did not want to keep silent like “most female victims.” Ma specifically tagged the Weibo account of Shenzhen Police, but the public security bureau had not made a response as of yesterday afternoon.

Ma starred in the blockbuster, “Goodbye Mr. Loser,” in 2012 and won a reputation nationwide for acting out her bold personalities in the movies as well as in real life. Her post has drawn tens of thousands of “retweets” on Weibo and spurred a heated discussion on the topic of women’s rights to speak out against sexual harassment and for self-protection.

Ren Jue is a doctorate holder in gender studies. She is also the founder of an organization focusing on enhancing a friendly environment for women. Ren said that many social forces should join together in the promotion of a safer and friendlier environment for women.

“Ma is a famous actress, so her voice can be widely heard, but many women in real life don’t have a friendly environment for them to speak out against some harassment they encounter,” said Ren. She analyzed that many women who have been harassed feel ashamed when talking about those bad experiences.

“They fear that people around them will judge them and think it’s a shameful thing to utter.” In Ren’s eyes, the society does not give enough respect to women who suffer from sexual harassment.

“To provide a better environment for women to protect themselves involves multifaceted factors,” said Ren. First, the victims’ families and the police should attach more importance to women who report harassment cases and residents or passers-by should also reach out to offer help instead of just watching or being indifferent. “Keeping silent is to some extent being complicit in the crime,” said Ren.

Second, Ren said that the design of public spaces should also take women’s safety more into consideration. “I have a client who told me that she had encountered an exhibitionist man several times in a pedestrian tunnel on her way home, because the tunnel was dark and had no surveillance cameras,” said Ren, “so I think the urban designers and the authority should do more to make sure that concealed places are covered by cameras or a patrol.”

When encountering harassment, women should ask people around them for help instead of allowing the bad experience to pass. If in situations where no one can offer help, women should try their best to call the police afterwards and avoid those unsafe places in the future, according to Ren.

 

Original article by:
Zhang Qian

zhqcindy@163.com

Posted in China, World Politics

Taiwanese February Uprising of 1947

(I’m now in China! Being on the other side of the Great Firewall means that Facebook and Twitter are now not an option for me, so I’ll be making more regular use of this blog. I’ve decided to use it to share stories (mostly political) that I come across in China. Happy reading.) 

This week marked the 70th anniversary of the 1947 uprising in Taiwan, so as you can imagine many column inches have been given to recalling those events.

Most interestingly, from today’s geopolitical point of view, archives and witness statements have indicated that Taiwan’s “February 28 Uprising” had nothing to do with “Taiwan independence.”

Some witnesses recalled the occasion, saying that there were no slogans or leaflets advocating “Taiwan independence” during the campaign, and most Taiwan people believed that ideas advocating “Taiwan independence” are false and absurd.

“What the Taiwan people were seeking was local autonomy, rather than separating from the motherland,” Li Wei-kuang, head of a Taiwan people association in Shanghai, was quoted by archives as saying.

As “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces described the uprising as a conflict between provinces, Li recalled that people in Taiwan were not against people from other provinces, but only hoped to seek their help and cooperate with them.

On Feb. 28, 1947, a Kuomintang (KMT) party enforcement team assaulted a woman near Taipei railway station as she was selling cigarettes.

The incident caused a bloody confrontation between Taiwan civilians and the KMT authorities, which developed into an island-wide movement against the despotic rule of the KMT.

The uprising was a spontaneous mass movement of the people of Taiwan for democracy and autonomy, but some people in Taiwan interpret the uprising as a “Taiwan independence” movement, completely distorting the true story.

An Fengshan, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, told a press conference last week that “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces twisted the uprising for their own gain, adding that their intentions are despicable.

People across Taiwan also marked the civilian uprising to mourn the victims and calling for an understanding of the true nature of the event.

Among various ceremonies held across the island Tuesday, a symposium was held and attended by more than 100 people including participants of the uprising and their family members, as well as historians and academics.

“The Feb. 28 uprising was against the despotic rule of the Kuomintang party on the island at that time, and has no connection with current ‘Taiwan independence,’” said Chen Ming-chung, 88, a participant in the uprising.

Posted in Scottish Politics, World Politics

Some thoughts on Xmas in Kazakhstan

(To fill you all in on what’s happening here: I’ve recently began contributing to Scotland’s most listened to lefty podcast – Ungagged! This is the script from my first input to the pod (which was broadcast December 2016), some scattered thoughts that I tried to put together in a coherent way – all relevant to my time in Kazakhstan where I happened to be living and working. I’d been eager to keep myself involved politically in the Scottish left, just doing my bit to help things in whatever way I could. I had been repeatedly offering my services to the Scottish Socialist Party of whom I’d remained supportive even after the RISE debacle. Unfortunately the SSP didn’t seem to have any need or use of the ramblings of an itchy footed international socialist. Luckily for me, Ungagged made contact and were genuinely interested in allowing me to ramble on their time. So here it is, the first of hopefully many contributions.)

Seasons Greetings comrades.

This episode I have the pleasure of conveying to you a message from Kazakhstan.

I’m aware that many of you might not know much about this place. Before being seconded here by my work, I was the same. My only knowledge of Kazakhstan was Borat and that time Celtic played Shakter Karagandy in Europe.

The Kazakhs, I’ve found out, are painfully aware that for many foreigners Borat is the only thing that comes to mind when they hear the name Kazakhstan. The wounded looks on their faces at the very mention of the “B word” are impossible to miss. A big proportion of the conversations I’ve had here have been locals eager to explain to me that Borat in no way what so ever resembles this country.

So the first part of my message from Kazakhstan is to confirm that the locals are correct. This is not a nation of backward simpletons. It might not have many touristy must see attractions, but if you get the chance you won’t regret coming here. Kazakhstan sits on the boundary between Europe and Asia, not only geographically but also culturally and politically. The population is roughly 70/30, between Central Asians and Whites, and between Muslims and Christians.

But far from the “rivers of blood” that many right wingers will try to convince you is the inevitable result of cultures colliding, Kazakhstan is actually one of the friendliest and safest countries I’ve ever experienced. The European and Asian cultures thrive side by side, and it makes living here a wonderful experience.

And don’t think that they only thrive despite each other. The cultures here are incredibly intertwined and supportive of each other. The national identity isn’t one or the other, but an understanding of all the people that call Kazakhstan home.

I witnessed a small but powerful reminder of this while walking through the city recently. One of the mosques has erected, just outside the entrance to its grounds, a small Christmas tree and a sign which simply wishes all Christians a happy Christmas.

I’m trying to not let the Daily Mail hear about this Christmas tree, or no doubt we’ll wake up to headlines screaming at us that Muslims are stealing Christmas. Nevertheless I thought it was a nice message to convey back to you on behalf of these Kazakhs. And also to say that I think there is a nice lesson to learn here. Of course, mosques and churches back in Britain who build bridges between their respective communities should be applauded, there are some unnecessary tensions being created between Muslim and Christian communities and anything done to counter that is commendable. But what is so powerful about this instance is that there are no tensions like that here. This mosque isn’t trying to show itself in a different light to its neighbours, rather it is simply saying, “I value you as a neighbour and I wish the best for you”. There is no need for them to say anything, no problematic media representation of them that needs challenging. They just wanted to be neighbourly. A lesson that especially at this time of year goes well with our supposed Christian values that the right wing harp on about constantly; but also a lesson that if we’re honest we could all do with being reminded of from time to time.

So Kazakhstan is not a country of Borats. Instead, its a modern welcoming country that we could probably learn a thing or two from if we’re prepared to open our minds to the possibility that other countries might do things better than the British.

Here is another example of something we could learn from Kazakhstan, and which is particularly relevant at this time of year. In Britain this winter how many people, especially pensioners, will die of preventable cold related illnesses? In an energy rich country, how many people will die because they couldn’t afford to keep the energy on during the winter? The answer is staggering. Tens of thousands. They will either have turned their own power off from fear of the costs, or if they are behind on their payments the big energy companies simply cut off their power, condemning these people to a cold dark miserable and often deadly winter.

Many people who campaign against fuel poverty will tell you to refuse to let the power companies in to your house to turn the power off. I don’t disagree with that, by all means have a crowd of activists waiting for them when they turn up to cut you off. Lets see how eager they are to turn of your grannies leccy when there is a team of anti-fuel poverty activists there to greet them.

But do you know what happens in Kazakhstan? Nothing, because the power companies here simply aren’t allowed to cut off your power. In this country, as well as most of the former Soviet nations, that ability to heat your home and cook hot meals is viewed as a human right – one which you don’t lose just cos you got into debt.

So lets take that fight to the politicians. Lets make them understand that staying warm during winter is a human right – one which we refuse to let the big energy companies take away from us. And as I always say, don’t let that fight seem too daunting for you. You don’t have to do it all yourself. There are established networks out there for these sorts of things. Get involved and help them. Or sign a petition or write to your MP. Someone can’t do everything, but everyone can do something. So please do your bit, whatever and however much that is.

I’m Beinn Irbhinn, until next time comrades, stay safe. ungagged-portrait

Posted in Scottish Politics, World Politics

Krushchev’s Lesson

Nikita Krushchev, who led the Soviet Union from 1953 until he was deposed by Leonid Brezhnev in 1964, is perhaps the least celebrated of the Soviet leaders. Certainly, many of his policies are viewed as erratic and were often ineffective. Regardless, he is generally looked upon favourably for his denouncing of Stalin and ushering in of a less repressive era in the USSR. Ironically, it was this “success” of his that would lead to his downfall, when hardliners in the Kremlin supported Breshnev and brought the Krushchev era to an end. Krushchev recognised as much when the day following his removal from the Kremlin he commented to a friend and colleague:

“I’m old and tired. Let them cope by themselves. I’ve done the main thing. Could anyone have dreamed of telling Stalin that he didn’t suit us anymore and suggesting he retire? Not even a wet spot would have remained where we had been standing. Now everything is different. The fear is gone, and we can talk as equals. That’s my contribution. I won’t put up a fight.”

What Krushchev knew was that his own reforms had sown the seeds of his own downfall. But rather than hastily try to undo his reforms he instead took pride in them. Breshnev had been able to overthrow him because Brezhnev had been able to talk to others about a change of leadership. No-one would have been brave enough or stupid enough to have spoke about a change of leadership during the Stalin era. Krushchev’s defeat was also his victory.

One would hope that in our supposed “enlightened” and more “progressive” Western democracies that Krushchev’s Lesson would be a rather unquestioned element of democracy, whereby those who seek to champion and further spread democracy into more and more areas of our lives would be comfortable with the fact that the same democratic expansions could lead to them being removed from their positions. How many leaders of left wing parties, for example, have claimed that theirs is the most democratic party in their country – only to go on and suspend their party’s constitution when they fear they won’t get their own way? Or in Scotland, where we see RISE claim that everything they do is democratic, yet they put people in key full time paid positions without even so much as a vote or an explanation of how they are to be held accountable.

Thankfully we’re now entering a post-RISE political landscape in Scotland, although no doubt they will refuse to disappear completely and will revert back to some sort of middle class student group much like the ISG was. They do warrant further mention here however as they are a fairly unambiguous example of those who have failed to learn a “Krushchev lesson”. As I mentioned, their leaders continually preach about democracy while refusing to implement anything that could lead to their leadership positions being challenged. Their failure to learn a “Krushchev lesson” is also apparent in their attitudes towards non mainstream media.

During the Scottish referendum campaign it was blindingly obvious to everyone that the Scottish mainstream media was massively biased in favour of the NO campaign. This resulted in a massive growth in popularity for “alternative media” in Scotland during this period as those who supported independence, and even just those who only wanted more reliable information, turned to alternative sources. One such source which rose to prominence (or notoriety) during this period was Wings Over Scotland. Wings popularity seems to be based on the fact that they hold the Unionist media and parties to account. They scrutinise them heavily, and the result is a website which is a treasure trove of evidence regarding the Unionist media’s lies and spin.

During the independence campaign, and pre-RISE, many of the current RISErs enthusiastically supported Wings, regularly sharing posts from the site across all social media platforms. Many gave up their spare time to deliver copies of the Wee Blue Book to potential YES voters. How things have changed now though! No longer are RISE fans of Wings, instead regularly throwing insults that way from their social media accounts. Any insult will suffice, although they seem to like the labels of homophobe and misogynist in particular.

The thing is: what attracted them to Wings and what led them to promote alternative media in the first place is the exact same thing that now leads them to denounce Wings and alternative media with such an intense hatred. They promoted alternative media because they were attracted to the platform it provided to write about and scrutinise the unionists, something which the mainstream media was completely failing to do. What they failed to grasp was that the same platforms could also be used to write about and scrutinise RISE. Once they realised this they turned against these platforms with a vengeance.

They have failed to see alternative media writing about and scrutinising their election campaign as a victory in the growth of alternative media, one which they played a part in. Remember RISE are an insignificance in Scottish politics. They only gained 0.47% of the popular vote. They polled below Tommy Sheridan’s party and even below the Scottish Christian Party – Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship (clicky for analysis of their performance). They are barely mentioned in the mainstream media at all, with almost the only exception to this being Cat Boyd’s column in the small circulation The National. But rather than view the fact that they are getting any coverage at all as a success, or their success in as much as they helped promote alternative media, they are now doing their damnedest to discredit this alternative. Even this site, which putting it generously is “modest” compared to Wings, hasn’t escaped their vitriol with numerous slanders being launched across the internet. In an ironic way the greatest success of the RISErs also ensured their total defeat in the recent election, a defeat that they won’t recover from. Rather than display the peace of mind that Krushchev demonstrated, RISE seem intent on doing as much harm as possible to any source that criticizes them. They’ve totally failed to learn a Krushchev Lesson.

Posted in misc., World Politics

Sacco and Vanzetti

(I was browsing some of our old radio broadcasts recently, and the short piece we did on Sacco and Vanzetti stood out as one of my favourites (clicky). It doesn’t read like my style of writing, so I suspect it was written by one of my comrades in Inverclyde SSP, although I genuinely can’t remember who. I’ve reproduced the script here with the music we played on the radio added at the relevant parts. Hope you enjoy! Beinn

In the South Braintree area of Boston in April 1920, five armed robbers got away with $15,000 from a robbery at a shoe factory.  In the process of the robbery they killed two men.

Over 7 years later, on the 23rd of August 1927, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed in the electric chair by the State of Massachusetts. They had 6 years earlier been found guilty of the two murders, a judgment now accepted as being a miscarriage of justice. In truth, it was not the evidence of the case that condemned these two innocent men to die at the hands of the state; it was a combination of their political views and ethnicity.

Both were immigrants in America, both originally from Italy. And both adhered to a brand of left wing politics that advocated relentless opposition to violent and oppressive governments. Then, as now, the government of the USA met those criteria.  All attempts to appeal the conviction were denied, despite serious doubts over the reliability of the evidence and even a confession by another more likely perpetrator. By 1925 the case had generated an international movement, which continued to grow as details of the case against the men and their probable innocence spread. In 1927, protests demanding they be saved from the electric chair were held in every major city in North America and Europe, as well as cities in Japan, Australia, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa.

It would not be until 50 years after their wrongful execution that the American establishment would try to cleanse itself of this injustice, when in 1977 a proclamation was issued that the men had been unfairly convicted and that “any disgrace should be forever removed from their names”.  

Woody Guthrie, I Just Want to Sing Your Name

Nicola Sacco was born in the Italian town of Torremaggiore in April 1891. At age 17 he immigrated to the states where he found work in a shoe factory, got married and started a family.  Bart Vanzetti was also of Italian origin, being born in the town of Villaffalletto on 11th June 1888. When he was 20 he moved to the states where he found work as a fish peddler. Vanzetti was shocked and appalled by the treatment of working class immigrants, and this was instrumental in his becoming involved in left wing politics.  At one gathering of anarchists he met Sacco and the two men became friends, often attending political meetings together.

Like many on the political left, Sacco and Vanzetti were opposed to the First World War, and in 1917 when America entered the war they fled to Mexico to avoid conscription. It was a principled decision, one firmly rooted in their opposition to the imperial war in Europe, but it would be twisted by the prosecution into evidence of their cowardice and lack of patriotism.

The America that Sacco and Vanzetti lived in was changing rapidly. Both men had been able to move to the States due to that countries Open Door policy, which had been designed to make immigration to the States as easy as possible. In the lead up to the First World War, however, there was a shift in American public opinion towards the newcomers. Clear anti-immigration sentiments, and at times explicit xenophobia, started to become commonplace, especially among the more affluent classes.  Catholics and Jews in particular would feel the brunt of this rising resentment.

Racial persecution only intensified when America became gripped by the Red Scare. The collapse of the Russian Empire and the rise of the Soviet Union worried many of the moneyed classes in America. Anti-communist paranoia and hatred was often directed towards immigrants, especially those from an Eastern or Southern European origin.

The America that Sacco and Vanzetti inhabited was therefore one which hated the two men, on account of both their ethnicity and their politics.

In court Sacco claimed: “I know the sentence will be between two classes, the oppressed class and the rich class, and there will be always collision between one and the other. We fraternise the people with books, with literature. You persecute the people, tyrannize them and kill them. We try to educate the people always. You try to put a path between us and some other nationality, to hate each other. That is why I am here today on this bench, for having been of the oppressed class. Well, you are the oppressor.”

Sacco and Vanzetti, by Woody Guthrie and David Rovics

At trial, the main evidence used against the men was that they were both carrying a gun when arrested. It was argued at the time, and even as recently as the 1980’s, that ballistics could trace the fatal shots to Sacco’s gun, although it has been agreed by experts that the evidence was so badly handled and tampered with that no judgment of any type can be made based on it. For example, the barrel on the gun had been changed at least once since it was confiscated, and as it is the barrel that leaves the tell tale evidence on a bullet it is therefore impossible to say whether or not this was the gun that fired the fatal shots.

Throughout the trial it became evident that the establishment were going to find the men guilty no matter what. Judge Thayer has been roundly criticised for showing blatant bias and prejudice against the two. At one point Sacco was asked to try on a cap which had been found at the crime scene, a cap  which eye witnesses said had been worn by the murderer but fell off as he made his escape. Those present at the court agreed that the cap was far too small for Sacco, but the prosecution lawyer continued to refer to it as “Sacco’s cap” for the remainder of the trial anyway, and was allowed to do so by Judge Thayer. During questioning it was clear that the two men didn’t fully understand many of the questions put to them, which led to them giving contradictory answers at times. Judge Thayer was well aware that the two men had only a limited grasp of English, but decided to let them incriminate themselves.

Eugene Lyons (a journalist who worked on the case) wrote in his book, The Life and Death of Sacco and Vanzetti, “It was not a frame-up in the ordinary sense of the word. It was a far more terrible conspiracy: the almost automatic clicking of the machinery of government spelling out death for two men with the utmost serenity. No more laws were stretched or violated than in most other criminal cases. No more stool-pigeons were used. No more prosecution tricks were played. Only in this case every trick worked with a deadly precision. The rigid mechanism of legal procedure was at its most unbending. The human beings who operated the mechanism were guided by dim, vague, deep-seated motives of fear and self-interest. It was a frame-up implicit in the social structure. It was a perfect example of the functioning of class justice, in which every judge, juror, police officer, editor, governor and college president played his appointed role easily and without undue violence to his conscience. A few even played it with an exalted sense of their own patriotism and nobility.”

By the summer of 1927 it became clear that Sacco and Vanzetti would be executed. Vanzetti commented to a journalist: “If it had not been for this thing, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life can we hope to do such work for tolerance, for justice, for man’s understanding of man, as now we do by accident. Our words – our lives – our pains – nothing! The taking of our lives – lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler – all! That last moment belong to us – that agony is our triumph.”

Here’s To You, by Testo Joan Baez