Storm Clouds gather over Iran

26th March 2018

Bolton

John Bolton – his appointment as National Security Adviser is bad news for the people of Iran

The appointment of John Bolton as national security adviser to President Donald Trump signals a confirmation of the US administration’s tough line on the Iran nuclear deal.  Jane Green assesses the implications for the Iranian people and the wider political situation in the Middle East.

During the administration of George W Bush the under secretary of state for arms control, one John Bolton, was an enthusiastic supporter of the invasion of Iraq.  In spite of the catastrophe which followed in human, political and military terms, Bolton remains an enthusiastic interventionist.

With recent titles such as To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran under his belt it does not take a great deal of digging to find that Bolton’s position has not fundamentally changed in the intervening 15 years.   If anything, Bolton’s position has hardened as he has openly argued for regime change in Iran in recent years.

Bolton’s appointment follows hard on the heels of the recent sacking of Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, in favour of former CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, another confirmed hardliner and outspoken opponent of the Iran 5+1 nuclear deal.  Taken together these appointments shift the balance in the White House towards a shredding of the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated at great length with European partners, as well as Russia and China, under the Obama presidency.  The new balance signals the greater likelihood of a military option being considered in relation to Iran.

The US position will have been further reinforced by the visit last week of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.  Fresh from his UK visit, in which he emerged bristling with arms, the US will be looking for bin Salman to add to the $54 billion spent by the Saudis with US arms suppliers in the past nine months.

As President Donald Trump made clear,

“Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation, and they’re going to give the United States some of that wealth, hopefully, in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world.”

The Crown Prince added that last year’s Saudi pledge of $200 billion in investments will rise to approximately $400 billion and that a 10-year window to implement the deal was already under way.

The Saudis also have a longer term agenda however in their engagement with the United States, which is to fulfil their aspirations to become a nuclear power.

In spite of their massive oil reserves the Saudis have been in negotiations for some years with the US over diversification of their energy base and are keen to negotiate access to technology which would allow them to build a nuclear reactor.

The Iran nuclear deal was predicated upon the unfounded assertion that in developing a civil nuclear programme the Iranian regime would inevitably move towards the creation of nuclear weapons.  The inspection regime imposed by the agreement however prevents the Iranians from enriching uranium and reprocessing plutonium to weapons grade levels.  In exchange, the 5+1 deal obliges the West to lift some of the sanctions imposed upon Iran and allows for greater capacity for Iran to trade in international markets.

In spite of these restrictions, and the crippling impact which sanctions have had upon the Iranian economy, the Saudis cannot countenance a Middle East in which Iran has even a limited civilian nuclear capability if they have none.  Saudi ambitions to develop nuclear energy are, on the one hand, about keeping pace with Iran and asserting dominance as the regional Islamic superpower.

In his recent US visit Crown Prince bin Salman, in an interview with CBS News, openly stated that

“Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

Not only has bin Salman referred to the Iran nuclear deal as a “flawed agreement” he has made clear that any deal relating to the development of nuclear energy in Saudi Arabia will not be subject to the same limitations, in particular regarding the capacity to upgrade uranium and plutonium to weapons grade levels.

While some in the US are understandably nervous about the prospect of a Middle East nuclear arms race, the danger of the Saudis going to the Russians or Chinese for nuclear technology rings even greater alarm bells.

The warnings to Iran were ramped up even further last week when Israel, strategically allied to both the US and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, admitted to bombing a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 and took the opportunity to warn Iran that it would not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

While the Syrian reactor was purely for civilian energy generation purposes, the Israelis nevertheless argued that this could lead to weapons capability and thus launched the pre-emptive strike, only now admitted due to the de-classification of previously secret Israeli intelligence material.

Further instability in the region is fuelled by the recent revelations that 1,000 Pakistani troops are to be sent to Saudi Arabia, as part of a long standing bi-lateral agreement between the two countries, on a so called ‘train and advise’ mission.  While it is claimed that the troops will not be used in the Saudi conflict with Yemen the deployment coincides with the culmination of a weeklong joint exercise between Pakistan’s Navy and the Saudi Royal Navy in the Arabian Sea.

Retired Pakistani army chief, Raheel Sharif, has recently been appointed as the first commander of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) which is being described as the “Muslim NATO”, an alliance of largely Sunni Muslim Islamic states led by Saudi Arabia.  Not surprisingly Shia Muslim Iran is not part of this alliance.

Given the international outrage the Saudi role in Yemen has raised, the appointment of Sharif and the current troop deployment puts Pakistan in danger of being drawn into a wider Middle East conflict, with the Houthi rebels in Yemen being backed by Iran.  One observer has described Pakistan’s position as “a balancing act that increasingly resembles a tightrope as conflicts and disputes in the Gulf mushroom.”

For the people of Iran there is little good news in the current alignment of forces in the Middle East and in the White House.  Widespread protests inside Iran, expressing disillusionment with the regime’s economic policy, political corruption and human rights record have met with arrests and violent suppression.

The limited lifting of sanctions which the 5+1 agreement was meant to facilitate has not been enough to alleviate the high levels of unemployment and rampant inflation in the Iranian economy.  Those in work are poorly paid and often on short term contracts.  Those out of work are sinking into poverty.  While protests have rocked the government, it has not been dislodged.

The threat of military attack on Iran would be used by the ruling theocracy to justify repression of dissent and as a means to demand total loyalty.  Iranian people need peace to be able to build their movement for a democratic and just future.  That is the only viable route to stable democratic change.

The US support for hawkish regimes in Saudi Arabia and Israel, combined with an increasingly right wing line up of personnel in the White House, increases the possibility of external intervention in Iran.  While the West may have had its fingers burned provoking civil war and outside intervention in Syria, that may not be enough to stop it taking its chances on another military adventure.

Both Saudi Arabia and Israel regard Iran as an existential threat.  Their combined military capability would be a force to be reckoned with.  In military terms, Iran would be no pushover but for the people of Iran any outside intervention would be a step backwards in terms of the fight for peace, social justice and democracy.

Further information at http://www.codir.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

The truth, the whole truth…?

17th March 2018

 

May pmq

Theresa May – a dodgy dossier moment?

Misinformation has been the stock in trade of the British state and media for decades.  From the famous Zinoviev letter of the 1920’s, implying Soviet involvement in the first Labour Government, to the disinformation campaigns of the 1984/85 Miner’s Strike, to the 2003 ‘dodgy dossier’ claiming Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, there has been no limit to the extent to which the British public has been consistently misled.

It is not surprising then that many have greeted the current furore about the attempt on the life of British spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with some degree of scepticism.  There can be little doubt that the Russian state is more than capable of disposing of those deemed traitors.  The use of a nerve agent, developed in the former Soviet Union and therefore likely to implicate Russia in an assassination attempt, does not however, seem to be an efficient means of execution.

The fact that Skripal appears to have survived the attempt would appear to underline the point.  Also, as an MI6 asset, having shared Russian intelligence of behalf of the UK, Skripal was either not very well protected or not regarded as a likely target, having been traded in a spy swap for UK spooks some years earlier.

The UK government initially held back on blaming the Russian state directly for the attack but from the outset was straining at the leash to do so.  Finally, on Wednesday in the House of Commons Theresa May stated that,

“There is no alternative conclusion other than the Russian state was responsible for the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter.”

On Monday May had set a 24 hour deadline for the Russians to explain the attack on Skripal and when they failed to do so, the Russian side claiming that they had no idea what had happened, May set about expelling 23 Russian diplomats, freezing Russian assets, cancelling a planned visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and pledged to send no dignitaries or members of the royal family to the World Cup in the summer.

The UK government response, even by its own admission, is based on its assessment that the nerve agent is ‘likely’ to have emanated from Russia, although no concrete evidence as to its origin or method of delivery has yet emerged.  The latest UK media speculation suggests that the agent was somehow smuggled into the luggage of Yulia Skripal, in Moscow, the day before she met her father in Salisbury in the UK.  Quite how she avoided any contact before reaching the pub or restaurant with her father is not clear.

In contrast to the government response Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has called the attack an “appalling act of violence”, has called for the matter to be referred to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.  Corbyn has a long history of opposition to chemical, nuclear and all weapons of mass destruction, so it came as no surprise for him to stress,

“Nerve agents are abominable if used in any war.  It is utterly reckless to use them in a civilian environment.”

Corbyn’s response was in part informed by the claim made by Theresa May, in the House of Commons on Monday, that one explanation for the attack may have been that the Russian state could have lost control of supplies of the nerve agent.  As Corbyn asked May directly,

“If it is possible Russia lost control of a military grade nerve agent, what action is being taken through the OPCW?”

May’s only response was to go on the offensive and attack Corbyn for not condemning the Russian state outright, even though she had previously raised the possibility of an alternative explanation herself.

May claimed that the government had sought consensus on the issue but to jump to such a quick condemnation of the Russian state, without any concrete evidence was always going to raise issues for Labour.  It seems to have been equally calculated to stir up divisions and bring the anti-Corbyn tendency out of the woodwork.  That certainly worked with Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes and Anna Turley all weighing in to criticise Corbyn aide, Seumas Milne, for comments on the situation.  Briefing journalists, as the debate went on in the House of Commons, Milne stated,

“I think obviously the government has access to information and intelligence on this matter which others don’t; however, also there’s a history in relation to WMD and intelligence which is problematic to put it mildly.  So I think the right approach is to seek the evidence; to follow international treaties, particularly in relation to prohibited chemical weapons, because this was a chemical weapons attack carried out on British soil.  There are procedures that need to be followed in relation to that.”

The Russians have asked for a sample of the nerve agent from Salisbury so that they can test it.  The UK has not complied with this request but has said it will send a sample to the OPCW for investigation.

Less reported in the UK media is the debate in the scientific community as to the properties of the alleged nerve agent, known as novichoks, and how easy it is to manufacture.  One school of thought suggests that such agents can be easily manufactured using common chemicals in relatively simple pesticide factories. Any such admission would make it difficult to simply point the finger at Russia, as any number of state or non-state agencies could be implicated.  This view would certainly not fit with the current political agenda.

 

A Very British Arms Deal

11th March 2018

bin Sulman

Unelected heads of state take tea – bin Salman meets the Queen

This week, an Arab dictator took tea with the Queen.  That was followed by dinner, jointly hosted by the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge. The same dictator spent time with the Prime Minister at her country house retreat, Chequers.  To round the week off the dictator met Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, in order to put the seal on yet another major weapons deal with the dictatorship he heads up, namely Saudi Arabia.

As Saudi Arabia calls itself a kingdom the British press shy away from the term dictator and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been afforded all the courtesy’s the British state could drum up.  Apologists for the Saudi dictatorship have been busy all week justifying this performance.  The Daily Telegraph started the week fawning over bin Salman stating, “the young Saudi royal charged with undertaking the most radical reform agenda in his country’s history, is the epitome of a human dynamo.”

Not satisfied with transforming the Saudi economy from one dependent on oil, gushed the Telegraph, the young dynamo will ensure that, in a few months time, Saudi women will be allowed to drive.  What fabulous progress! While the UK celebrates the centenary of women being allowed to vote, while the whole world marks the occasion of International Women’s Day on 8th March, the magnanimous Crown Prince will, “in a few months time” permit some of his compatriots to drive.  There have even been photographs in the press of Saudi women attending jazz festivals.  Where will it end?

The three day visit allegedly resulted in trade deals worth £70 billion between the UK and Saudi Arabia with state energy company, Aramco, considering an overseas listing on the London Stock Exchange.  A new UK-Saudi Strategic Partnership Council has been established, with a view to meeting annually, to discuss boosting trade between the two countries.

The real crux of the relationship with Saudi Arabia is weapons sales.  The latest package includes a further £5 billion deal with BAE Systems for 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets, existing examples of which are deployed by the Saudi led coalition in the bombardment of schools, hospitals and civilians in Yemen.

Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has called upon the government to abandon weapons sales to Saudi Arabia stating,

“Theresa May should use this visit to announce the UK will no longer supply arms to Saudi Arabia while the devastating Saudi-led bombing of Yemen continues and make clear Britain’s strong opposition to widespread human and civil rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.”

Andrew Smith for the UK based Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) added,

“Despite the spin surrounding the crown prince, he is a figurehead for one of the world’s most authoritarian dictatorships.  The regime has carried out atrocities against Saudi people for decades.”

The United Nations, in a report published late in 2017, has accused the Saudi-led coalition of failing “to mitigate the impact of its operations on civilians”, in relation to its intervention in Yemen.  According to UN figures the war in Yemen has resulted in 10,000 dead and 40,000 injured. The war and its economic effects are driving the largest food security emergency in the world with more than 17 million people facing dire food shortages. Nearly seven million of those are one step away from famine in Yemen.  The situation was further exacerbated by a cholera outbreak late last year, claiming 1,500 lives according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

How much of this was discussed over tea with the Queen, dinner with the Princes, or over sherry with the Prime Minister is open to speculation.  Just to make sure that no stone was left unturned in the welcome afforded by the British state, bin Salman also popped in to Lambeth Palace to meet Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Welby is reported to have expressed his “distress” about the humanitarian situation in Yemen and in a statement from Lambeth Palace is said to have,

“shared his concern about limits placed on Christian worship in the kingdom and highlighted the importance for leaders of all faiths to support freedom of religion.”

Looks like another tough day for the Crown Prince there!

Thousands did turn out in Whitehall last week to oppose the visit and draw attention to the use of UK manufactured weapons in the killing of civilians in Yemen.

BAE Systems also found themselves on the sharp end of protests about their sponsorship of the Great Exhibition of the North, organised by the NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI).  Reluctance to engage with the Exhibition was voiced by a number of high profile celebrities including Nadine Shah and Lauren Laverne. Linked to a public petition, protesting against the war in Yemen, this resulted in BAE withdrawing its £500k sponsorship for the event.

The online protest petition, Art not Arms, was launched by a “coalition of artists and cultural workers”, calling for the Great Exhibition of the North to end its “unethical partnership with weapons maker BAE Systems”. It described the company’s involvement as “artwashing on a grand scale”, and “all about brand association and PR based upon the false notion of ‘corporate social responsibility’”.

The petition, pointed out that “British arms companies including BAE” had made more than £6bn from sales to Saudi Arabia during the ongoing war in Yemen said there was no place in arts and culture “for those involved in the international arms trade”.

Perhaps the Queen, the Princes, the Prime Minister, or even the Archbishop of Canterbury, could bear this in mind next time they decide to invite one of their pet dictators round for tea.

 

Brexit – the hidden agenda

4th March 2018

MaySpeech

Theresa May – desperately trying to keep the Tories together

Billed as a clear statement of the UK’s bargaining position regarding Brexit, the speech by Prime Minister, Theresa May, on Friday offered little by way of clarity and barely served to hold off the crisis in her own party.  The speech has been welcomed by 18th century throwback Jacob Rees-Mogg, from the hardline Brexit European Reform Group, and by soft centred Remainers such as Anna Soubry.  Long standing Europhile Michael Heseltine however has characterised the speech as more “phrases, generalisations and platitudes.”  All of which underlines the lack of clarity in May’s rhetoric.

In May’s view, three things were made ‘clear’.  The UK would not participate in the single market, or the customs union, or tolerate a hard border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

In her statement May said,

“I want to be straight with people because the reality is that we all need to face up to some hard facts.  We are leaving the single market.  Life is going to be different.  In certain ways, our access to each other’s markets will be less than it is now.  How could the EU’s structure of rights and obligations be sustained, if the UK – or any country – were allowed to enjoy all the benefits without all of the obligations?”

In short, May is insisting that the free movement of labour ends, implying stricter immigration controls, and that the UK has a free hand in negotiating trade deals with third parties post Brexit.  A “customs partnership” sitting alongside a “highly streamlined customs arrangement” would be on offer, although most observers seem bemused as to what either of these things mean.

The reality is that May is not being straight at all.  In spite of pitching the speech at critics who state that the government is pursuing a “cake and eat it” strategy over Brexit that is precisely what May is attempting to negotiate.   What is being obscured by May and the Tories generally is the politics beneath the surface of the UK position, in the context of the changing face of Europe.

The bargaining position of the UK is not just predicated upon the items May has indicated publicly but also by two significant others.  One is the dominance of the City of London in the UK economy, the second is the level of military expenditure as a percentage of GDP.  Both of these are distorting factors in terms of the economic development of the UK but are highly prized by sections of the British ruling class as defining national identity and maintaining the illusion of great power status.

The pre-eminence of the City of London as a clearing house for international capital means that the UK can effectively function as a safe tax haven for the dirty money of anyone from Russian oil gangsters to Saudi dictators. The major international transactions of the key banking groups within the EU all pass through the City, or rely upon its largesse at one time or another.

In relation to the Brexit debate the discussion has been framed in terms of the dangers of Brexit to the City, as financial operations relocate to Paris or Frankfurt.  While aspirations to this effect may be harboured in some quarters, the French and Germans also know that the City can only maintain its position by sucking the life blood out of the manufacturing base of the UK, contributing to the low wage, low skill economy that the Tories have dreamed of since the days of Thatcher.

Quite why the French or Germans would want to take on this role, when the City can do the dirty work, may never come out publicly in Brexit negotiations but will form part of the sub plot.

Likewise, military spending has a similar function.  The only two nuclear powers in the EU, and therefore permanent members of the UN Security Council, are France and the UK.  The French have always pursued a slightly leftfield policy based upon the Gaullist “force de frappe” concept and, notionally at least, not tying their nuclear capability to NATO.

The UK on the other hand has placed great store by its “special relationship” with the United States. It also boasts more spend on its military than other EU partners thus assuming a, somewhat perverse, moral high ground.  The “special” element of the relationship with the US amounts to little more that the UK agreeing to buy an overpriced and militarily redundant nuclear arsenal, Trident being the case in point, in order to protect a small number of defence jobs while the NHS and other essential services go to hell in a handcart.

The much vaunted German economic miracle of the post war years relied on a massive injection of US dollars into the former West Germany, to prove its superiority to the socialist German Democratic Republic, and a miniscule level of military spending.   This has enabled investment in more productive areas of German industry and facilitated expansion eastwards into former socialist countries.  When it comes to the crunch would the Germans look to exchange this for being a US nuclear outpost?

Like the role of the City, the military issue will not be front and centre in the Brexit negotiations but it will also form part of the sub plot.  In Tory hands the hidden Brexit agenda will inevitably seek a quid pro quo which recognises both the City of London as Europe’s banker and preserves the role of the UK as a NATO nuclear power allied to the EU.

It is an irony of the Tory Party schism that the right wing forces of Brexit are happy for the economy to be run by unelected bankers, and defence issues to be dictated by the foreign policy of the US, yet they struggle to co-operate with their capitalist cohorts elsewhere in Europe.

May stated in her speech that the Brexit process would be governed, amongst other things, by “bringing our country together, strengthening the precious union of all of our people.”  Front and centre in this respect is the status of the Northern Ireland statelet, created as a bulwark as the Irish revolution ran out of arms and energy, in order to keep a foothold in the island of Ireland.

The Rees-Mogg’s of this world quite possibly cherish the hope of the whole of Ireland returning to British control.  For the moment however, the Tories they are not going to let Northern Ireland leave the “precious union” and certainly not when their Parliamentary majority is reliant on the neo-fascist thugs of the DUP.  That particular negotiating point may not make it onto the published Brexit agenda either.

The Tories are divided between the dogmatic believers in Empire on the one hand and the Eurocentric capitalists on the other, who see the EU as their salvation.  The EU is divided between those who want to embrace the UK as a military and economic power and those who see that as a threat to their own ability to exploit the European market.

Every effort is made to dress the debate in the language of principle and philosophy.  In reality it is like any other capitalist negotiation, nothing more than an attempt to see who can get the upper hand.  Until there is a collective socialist approach to the problems facing the people of Europe, not just its bankers and corporations, that is all it will ever be.

 

Gun violence is a class issue

24th February 2018

GunMarch620x350

Protests against gun violence in the US continue

The endless slaughter of schoolchildren in the United States has seen 18 incidents so far this year, of which the killing of 17 students in Parkland, Florida this week was by far the worst.  In response the US President, Donald Trump, far from looking at ways to de-escalate the crisis, has suggested that the solution is to arm school teachers.

Adding more guns into a situation in which psychopaths can buy automatic weapons and then go on the rampage does not sound like a way to address this issue.  It is certainly not the way millions of US school children and students are telling the President that they want to proceed.  On the contrary, the de-escalation of gun ownership and access to weapons capable of mass killing is on the agenda in the US with a force not seen for decades.

The philosophy articulated by National Rifle Association (NRA) Vice-President Wayne LaPierre that “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun,” sums up the delusional position of the American Right, sounding increasingly archaic and outdated as the death toll rises.

Arming teachers may satisfy the profits of the arms manufacturers and their NRA cronies.  It may add to the $30m the NRA spent backing the Trump presidential campaign.  There is no evidence to suggest that it will save the life of one student or school child.  Gun deaths claim an average of seven children a day in the US, as well as around 80 adults.

The anti-gun lobby in the US has raised the issue of the dangers of more widespread gun ownership.

“Over the past two or three years we’ve seen an explosion of legislative proposals to force schools to permit guns or to arm teachers,” said Adam Skaggs, chief counsel at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “And it’s not just pushing the idea that people need guns in schools to be safe, it’s the idea that people need guns everywhere – city streets, public parks, even government buildings.”

The lack of control and regulation of firearms means that young people can easily access guns indirectly through their parents.  As Skaggs went on to say,

“If we want to talk about preventing school shootings, we should be talking about stopping kids getting their hands on guns in the first place.  Those are the laws we should be looking at.”

In a 2013 poll by the National Education Association only 22% of teachers said they approved of the idea of arming staff, while 68% of teachers said they were opposed. In another survey the same year, 72% of teachers said they would not want to carry a gun even if the law allowed.

The demand for stricter gun laws, in spite of NRA propaganda claims, is widespread in the US while the support for more rigorous background checks has majority support.  The gun lobby in the US however maintains a stranglehold on the legislature and Senators and Congressman, for fear of losing their seats, will not stand up to them.

Voting in the United States, purportedly the world’s greatest democracy, is notoriously low.  Elected representatives may think that the current balance of forces is unlikely to change and pandering to the NRA and gun activists is the best way to keep their seats.  They may be wrong.

The young people expressing their anger at the Florida killings are close to voting age.  Many of those affected by shootings will be eligible to vote by the time of the next presidential election in 2020 and some in Congressional mid term elections later this year.

The American Right hide behind the US Second Amendment in defending the “right to bear arms” but as the Communist Party of the USA point out,

“The Second Amendment was adopted to enable the new American republic, lacking a standing army or state national guards, to muster militia to put down domestic uprisings and repulse any attempted return by the British.

The Second Amendment is now being used by right-wing, anti-worker groups and politicians to divide and conquer, in the process threatening the basic safety and security of all Americans. There is no basis for claiming this amendment was intended to permit unregulated personal acquisition of firearms, including amassing military-style weapons and private arsenals for “protection,” including “protection from the government.””

It is poor, working class and families from Latino and African American backgrounds that are predominantly the victims of gun crime.  The class dimension to the issue is evident when any analysis of where the victims come from and where the arms profits go to is undertaken.

While the right wing in the US seek to cut medical aid, health care and social programmes they suggest that the issue of gun violence is about mental health, not access to weapons.  Their cynicism beggar’s belief.

As the CPUSA rightly conclude,

“The battle now being waged for real steps to end gun violence is a major political and ideological battle against the ultra-right. It is a battle against their backward “free market capitalism” ideology of a “you’re on your own” society.

The battle to curb gun violence is a working-class issue.”

For more info go to www.cpusa.org

 

 

 

 

New Hope for South Africa

17th February 2018

Ramaphosa election

South African MPs swear in new President Cyril Ramaphosa

In his first major speech upon being elected President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged to restore economic growth, fight corruption and tackle entrenched inequality.  The election of Ramaphosa closes a dark chapter in the history of the African National Congress, the continent’s oldest liberation movement and for decades, under the internationally famous Freedom Charter, the guardian of the hopes of the South African people for an apartheid free, democratic future.

The resignation of former president, Jacob Zuma, under pressure from the ANC leadership ends a period when the party and the government have been mired in corrupt practices, self-aggrandisement and economic failure.  The election of Ramaphosa, a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, former NUM General Secretary and key founder of trade union confederation COSATU, is seen by the ANC as a chance to get South Africa back on track after the Zuma years.  In welcoming Ramaphosa’s election as President the ANC made clear its priorities stating,

“The African National Congress has full confidence in President Ramaphosa to build on the foundation laid and focus the country on accelerating our program of fundamental and radical socio-economic transformation. This will include giving effect to the ANC resolutions to accelerate land redistribution through amongst other mechanisms, the expropriation of land without compensation, and the fulfilment of our decision to provide fee-free education to children of the working class and the poor. The eradication of poverty, inequality and injustice in our country must shape his legacy as president of South Africa.

To give effect to this requires, amongst others, restoring the credibility of public institutions, state owned enterprises and law enforcement agencies. It will further demand strong, properly functioning and efficient government at national, provincial and local levels, working together with all social partners.”

www.anc.org.za

Ramaphosa was quick to emphasise the need to deal with corruption, straighten out state-owned enterprises and deal with the issue of ‘state capture’, the term given to the undue influence exercised over government institutions and state-owned businesses by Zuma and his cronies.

The election of Ramaphosa is the latest stage in a struggle which has been waged within the ANC for some time, as progressive elements have sought to turn back the tide of corruption and root out those looting state enterprises and undermining respect for the ANC in the country.  The turning point came at the ANC National Conference in December 2017 when opposition forces gained enough momentum to secure the election of Ramaphosa as ANC President.  From that point onwards the demise of Zuma has been only a question of time.

The coalition of business associates around the Gupta family and others which had kept Zuma in place, for their own advantage, started to see the writing on the wall and elements began to gravitate towards supporting Ramaphosa, not for any reason of principle but to shore up their own position.

To that extent the election of Ramaphosa as state President is by no means the end of the struggle to turn the tide in South Africa but merely the beginning.  As the South African Communist Party has made clear,

“…these forces must not be underrated. Disorganised they might now be, but they still have significant resources and strategic positions within the state. The momentum of disrupting their capacity must be sustained. The blows against the Gupta parasitic network must spread to all parasitic networks…”

That warning should be heeded but should by no means undermine the significance of the steps taken by the ANC and the people of South Africa in the past week.  Lenin is reputed to have once said “there are decades where nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen.”  The people of South Africa have just lived through such a week, a week which will give hope for the decades ahead.

 

SACP statement on the situation in South Africa

10th February 2018

Ramaphosa

Cyril Ramaphosa the progressive candidate to save the ANC

The South African Communist Party condemns tribalism in the strongest terms possible and the ethnic mobilisation, including that of Amabutho (Zulu regiments) that President Jacob Zuma has apparently engaged in as part of his plan to continue overstaying his welcome in office. The SACP reiterates its decision for President Zuma to resign and for the ANC to recall him if he remains intransigent by refusing to resign. The Constitution of our country requires the President to unite, and not to divide, our nation. President Zuma`s conduct is reckless and unacceptable. The SACP is calling on all South Africans to unite in defence of our country and not allow him to go down with our hard-won democracy.

The SACP further challenges President Zuma to, as a matter of urgency, deny or confirm emerging, and considering his desperation probably credible, information that he is preparing to fire Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa anytime from now and replace him with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who he wants to position to take over as Acting President should he find himself removed from office. Dlamini-Zuma was President Zuma`s preferred presidential candidate for the 54th ANC National Conference held in December 2017. To that extent it would be very clear that President Zuma is also determined to divide and destroy the ANC through unrepentant factional conduct.

The SACP calls upon the whole of our movement, as well as South Africans in general, to reject regressive forms of mobilisation and abuse of state power to try and manipulate and further polarise internal ANC and Alliance politics.

Further info from www.sacp.org.za