The Brexit Roundabout

23rd September 2017


She’s behind you…Boris Johnson and Theresa May

Pundits, politicians and pollsters love to refer to the summer as the ‘silly season’.  This is the time when Parliament is not sitting, party leaders go on holiday and, short of a national catastrophe, the business of government just ticks over.  This year the silly season featured nothing quite as silly as the talk of Jacob Rees-Mogg MP being a prospective Tory leader.

Rees-Mogg, the self styled representative for the eighteenth century, is the man who regards abortion as morally indefensible, whatever the circumstances.  This includes rape victims.  This is the man whose pretentions to upper class respectability lead him to name his sixth child Sixtus.  As if having Rees-Mogg as a father would not be burden enough in life.

Rees-Mogg, being a dyed in the wool Brexiteer of the right wing Little Englander variety, is a darling of the hucksters running the Leave EU campaign, a thinly veiled excuse for a diatribe against foreigners and a desire to restore the ‘glory days’ of Empire.  Every utterance of JRM, as Leave EU trendily refer to Rees-Mogg, infects the Twittersphere and feeds the myth that the desire to leave the EU is the prerogative of xenophobic fools.

Rees-Mogg’s candle flickered briefly but has been comprehensively snuffed by the return of the big beast in the Leave EU jungle in the form of Boris Johnson.  With his boss Theresa May priming the BBC, and anyone else who cared to listen, that she would make a definitive position speech on Brexit in Florence yesterday, Johnson sharpened his quill and penned a note of his own.  More than a note in fact, over 4,000 words, published by that faithful hound the Daily Telegraph just a week before May’s Florence curtain raiser.

The proverbial Zebedee  to May’s Florence, Johnson suddenly bounced back from his summer perambulations in hurricane hit tax havens, calling ‘time for bed’ on the fragile Tory truce around Brexit.  Not only did Johnson beat loud and hard on the Little Englander drum, he even resurrected the widely discredited claim that £350m a week was being spent on the EU and, upon leaving, this could be diverted to support the NHS, amongst other things.

Clearly a lot of UK taxpayers money is being diverted into the EU and it could be more usefully employed.  Harking back to the £350m per week claim however was a clear provocation on Johnson’s part, purely a piece of internal politics rather than an appeal to the people.  It is no secret that Theresa May’s tenure as Tory party leader is only sustained due to the fact that no one else is currently prepared to take on the dirty work of Brexit.

However, as Johnson knows, the merest slip could change the balance and being in position to step in could give him an advantage.  For many the Johnson brand is toxic, even in some parts of the Tory party, but others may conclude that his high profile may be enough to help the Tories cling to office.

May’s address in Florence attempted to placate the ‘leave at all cost’ lobby on the one hand, while balancing out the demands of British business and capital, to be given more time to prepare for the changes Brexit will bring.  The two year transition period proposed by May sees her please no one, with the hardline leave camp seeing it as too long and many businesses seeing it as being too short.  On this timetable the UK would not fully leave the EU until 2021, five years after the referendum vote of June 2016.

For British capital the EU departure process is one of working out ways in which the City of London and UK corporations can have their cake and eat it.  They want to enjoy the benefits to exploit a captive market, which the EU provides, including the free movement of cheap labour, but not be constrained by the limited social and human rights legislation, which are part of EU law.  The irony is that the fabled social protections of the EU, much beloved of the Remain camp, are built on shifting sands and are uneven across the EU.  The unemployed of the second rank EU states in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland are testament to the EU’s failings.

Outside of the EU, able to determine its own public spending priorities; able to determine an open and fair immigration process; able to set its own trade union and human rights agenda; able to disassociate itself from the aggressive NATO alliance; it is possible to see a different future for the UK based upon socialist values.  Not surprisingly, Theresa May’s speech made no reference to this.  There is no room for such values in the script being prepared by Boris Johnson.  Labour has its own internal struggles in uniting around such a vision but getting the Tories out and seeing Jeremy Corbyn in 10, Downing Street would be a start.

Hurricane Irma update

17th September 2017

From Cuba Solidarity Campaign


Thank you to everyone who has donated to CSC’s Hurricane Irma Appeal. An amazing £15,000 has been raised in less than 24 hours, all of which will be sent to Cuba to help with relief and recovery projects.

Make a donation here

The category 5 storm was the worst to hit Cuba in recent history. Unlike previous storms where damage has been limited to specific provinces, Hurricane Irma tore along 800 kilometres of the northern coast, making its impact felt across the entire island.


Coastal communities have been devastated by winds and flooding. Many are still without water and electricity as central power stations sustained major damage. Authorities and communities are working around the clock to restore electricity, water supplies and reopen the 400 schools which were also affected.

On Wednesday 13 September, power had been restored to 70 per cent of the country, however in the worst affected areas of Matanzas, Villa Clara and Ciego de Avila, up to 70 per cent of buildings were still without power three days after the storm.

The storm surge pushed seawater half a kilometre inland in some places, taking rubbish and sewage with it.

On Monday Cuban authorities announced that ten people had died as a result of the storm, mainly from collapsing buildings in Havana.

Nearly 300,000 hectares of sugar cane plantations have been affected, with nearly 40 per cent of the plants ruined or damaged. Communities have set to work harvesting and collecting what can be salvaged and distributed.

The Cuban ambassador to Britain, Teresita Vicente said that solidarity would be important over the coming months, since recovery efforts would be hindered by the impact of the US blockade: “The blockade makes it more difficult to recover but the spirit of the Cuban people is the same as it has been when we face many adversities.”

The ambassador reminded people that Cuba was also suffering from “Hurricane Trump” as the US increases its “aggressive policy” toward the country.

Just as Irma was about to hit, President Trump quietly extended the blockade for another year by signing the Trading with the Enemy Act.

“Political solidarity is very important but also this appeal is vital and will help to alleviate the difficulties faced by the Cuban people.”

CSC reiterates its solidarity with the Cuban people in the mammoth task they have ahead to rebuild their communities. We call once again for the US government to end its inhumane blockade of the country so that the Cuban people can access the building materials and equipment they will need to reconstruct their country following this tragedy.

You can make donations to the CSC Hurricane Appeal below. 100% of all donations will be passed on to relief work in Cuba.

Donate online here

Other donations

Cheques should be clearly marked on the back: ‘Cuba Hurricane Relief’. Please make cheques out to CSC and send to: Cuba Solidarity Campaign c/o UNITE, 33-37 Moreland Street, London EC1V 8BB, UK

For credit card or bank transfers call +44 (0)20 7490 5715 or email

Further reading

Cuba in Recovery, report from Granma

Ambassador responds to Hurricane Irma Appeal

Trump extends the Trading with the Enemy Act

Further updates on hurricane relief and donations will be posted on, our Facebook and Twitter pages and in the October issue of CubaSí magazine.


Hurricane Irma hits Cuba

10th September 2017


 Hurricane Irma batters Cuba

News that Hurricane Irma has reached Cuba has meant that BBC reportage has had to include the island in its assessment of the impact of the hurricane in the Caribbean.  The progress of the storm to date has focused upon the impact upon Barbuda, the Turks and Caicos Islands, British Virgin Islands and the potential impact upon mainland USA, in particular Florida.

Cuba is vulnerable to hurricanes and its government is famously well-prepared.  Even the United Nations once praised Cuba as a “model in Hurricane risk management” in 2004.  Jacobin Magazine notes that only 35 Cubans have died from the last 17 hurricanes.  Last year’s Hurricane Matthew did not kill anyone in Cuba, although it killed 271 people in nearby Haiti.

As the New York Times noted in 2013, the National Prognostic Centre of Cuba’s Meteorological Institute in Havana is responsible for monitoring the weather there.  Before President Barack Obama resumed diplomatic relations with Cuba, hurricane preparedness was one of the few things American and Cuban officials worked together on.

Despite an older infrastructure, its hurricane preparedness plans that are taught to children in schools have saved countless lives.  Children are even taught to identify at-risk trees and hazards in their neighbourhoods.  During a storm, schools, hospitals and hotels become members of the Cuban Civil Defence force and are responsible for caring for residents.

The Cuban government issues a seven days warning, during which time local communities are given ample opportunity to prepare for the worst.

Local leaders are the protagonists of disaster warning processes based on constant drilling, which takes place under the rubric of “risk-reduction” in every province, city, town and village.

These constant drills are coupled with an integrated response from local fire departments, health, transportation and other vital public services.  Above all, Cuba places tremendous emphasis on educating the population to keep communities and families, particularly the most vulnerable, safe.

While Cuban preparation places less emphasis upon evacuation, but rather focuses on “protection,” which includes reinforcing a local school capable of accommodating local communities and pets, the force of Hurricane Irma means that some evacuation measures have been necessary.  Sources from Cuba Solidarity Campaign suggest that one million Cubans have been moved to temporary shelter or higher ground for safety.

The Cuban National Defense Council for Disaster Reduction recognises that sea penetration, strong winds and rain will affect the electrical supply in affected territories.  To prevent any distribution to the service, the Cuban Electric Union (UEC) has set up 25 emergency towers to distribute electricity.

The UEC has formed 155 brigades, composed of 1,066 electricity workers, who will be distributed among the most affected provinces.

“The contingents are ready to go out and work on the quick solution of any difficulties that may arise,” noted Jorge Hernández, senior civil defense specialist at the UEC.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health, in conjunction with the Biotech and Pharmaceutical Industries Group, has organized 67 medical-surgical brigades to ensure medical assistance in difficult-to-access communities, officials reported.

This Ministry has also relocated 177 health system units (pharmacies, clinics, etc.) to solid and safe institutions in the affected territories.

Unlike the people of Texas and Louisiana affected by tropical storm Harvey, all of whom must apply for federal aid, Cubans, despite the country’s vastly inferior economic resources, do not feel as though they will be abandoned “no matter what,” nor subjected to market-driven price gouging of vital supplies as witnessed in Texas .

The Cuban approach to prevention policies demonstrate a thoughtful insight into the sheer power of nature and the impact of climate change.  The U.S. philosophy of disaster relief, on the other hand, is more of an afterthought.

In 2005, Cuba, which has suffered over half century of a U.S. economic blockade, offered to send 1,500 medical professionals from the Henry Reeves Brigade to help the people of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  The former U.S. President George W. Bush, swiftly rejected the offer.

Keep up to date with developments at




Labour Limbers Up

28th August 2017


Shadow Brexit Secretary, Kier Starmer, with Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn

The announcement yesterday, that the Labour Party will back continued membership of the single market and customs union beyond the date of Brexit in March 2019, signals the first move in preparation for an Autumn General Election.  Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, writing in The Observer yesterday was unequivocal about the clarification of Labour’s position stating,

“We need a transitional Brexit deal that provides maximum certainty and stability.  Labour will deliver it.  If we are to deliver a deal that protects jobs and the economy, we must be clear about the hard choices that need to be made.”

The failure of the Tory government to come up with anything other than vacuous options papers over the summer, further fuelling the uncertainty about arrangements from March 2019 onwards, has left the door open for Labour to capture the centre ground and stake a clear policy position.

The length of any proposed transition is still unclear but the fact that there will be a period for negotiation, rather than the ‘cliff edge’ scenario proposed by the Tories for March 2019 will give UK business some reassurance.

The Labour position is clearly one that is transitional in every sense, designed to maximise party unity in the build up to the conference season and the return of Parliament.  Key sections of the Labour leadership understand the contradictions of the EU, as a capitalist alliance aimed at shoring up its trading position against the US and Far East, whatever the cost to its weaker economies.

However, a hardline anti-EU position will not mobilise the constituency which backed Jeremy Corbyn at the last election.  While the Labour Manifesto proved massively popular with a wide cross section of the population, not least young people, many of those have still bought into the concept of the EU as positive force.

An elected Labour government, which aims to implement its programme of nationalisation and public sector investment, will quickly come up against EU regulations that will provide barriers.  At that point the struggle for a clear understanding of Brexit, and the right of a Left wing government to implement the programme upon which it has been elected, will open up a whole new front in the understanding of the role of the EU as a protectionist capitalist cartel.

Politically the promise of a transition post March 2019 will aim to keep both the Parliamentary Labour Party and voters on board long enough to see a Labour Government elected.  The situation that government inherits, particularly in relation to jobs and the economy, will determine how negotiations with the rest of the EU proceed and how a transitional period will play out.

The political priority for the coming period is the ousting of the Tory government who will continue with austerity for the many, inside or outside of the EU.  The Tories’ inability to govern, or even give a coherent gloss to negotiations with the EU, is becoming more evident with each day.  It is time to ensure that those days are numbered.


Cracks in the system exposed

21st August 2017


The election of Donald Trump to the US presidency last year was in part due to the failure of the US liberal establishment to produce a credible alternative candidate.  Trump’s characterisation of Hillary Clinton as ‘crooked’ had enough resonance with enough of the electorate to leave the door open for Trump’s particular brand of populism to succeed.  Clinton may still have won 3 million more votes than Trump but the Electoral College system worked in his favour in enough key states to ensure victory.

While the liberal intelligentsia and much of the media in the United States continue to characterise the Trump presidency as dysfunctional, it is becoming increasingly clear that Trump does not acknowledge that being President means playing by the usual rules.  In fact, there is little in the first few months of the Trump presidency to suggest that he gives a damn about the rules.  On the contrary, there is every indication that Trump and those backing him are looking to change the rules entirely and shift the ground of debate in US politics firmly to the right.

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia last week were not, in themselves, unusual in the history of racism and apartheid in the United States.  White supremacists, Nazis and the ideology of the Ku Klux Klan have lurked beneath the surface of areas in the Southern United States for decades.  However, this racism is being met by a new assertiveness, on the part of those from non-white heritage in the US, to address symbols of the nation’s slave owning history resulting in a number of moves to remove public symbols of this past.

General Robert E. Lee, the slave owning Confederate leader, is seen as a hero of the Right.  The decision to remove his statue in Charlottesville is the latest in a range of moves to de-toxify public images and monuments in the United States.  Confederate monuments, statues and images are up for discussion in many US cities including Baltimore and San Antonio, as well as Lexington, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; Jacksonville, Florida.

The response of the Right to defend this legacy has been emboldened by the election of Trump and the initial actions of his administration.  As the Communist Party of the USA has noted recently,

“The Trump policies of mass deportations, voter suppression, Muslim bans, investigating “race-based discrimination” against whites, “law and order”, reviving the “War on Drugs” and encouraging police brutality are all geared at mobilizing a white nationalist constituency and slowing down, stopping and reversing the vast demographic and cultural shifts to ensure permanent white nationalist rule.”

The difference for the Right is that they have a President who is openly prepared to defend their position and publicly attack those who stand up to oppose racism.  Equating those who were protesting against the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville with the racist mob, Trump stated in his press  conference on the issues,

“I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it.  And you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now.”

While Trump and the alt-Right racists around him attempt to shift the agenda and legitimise racist attitudes, resistance continues to grow.  A so-called “free speech” rally in Boston over the weekend, organised by the alt-Right, was abandoned as over 30,000 anti-racist protesters turned out in opposition.  Business leaders, previously associated with the Republican Party have deserted Trump’s economic advisory councils in the past week, forcing Trump to disband them.

The opposition within the business world is not always a matter of principle but a growing recognition that Trump’s overt racism is bad for business.  The Trump agenda of de-regulation is widely welcomed but fomenting racial unrest is not conducive to business stability.

As C.J. Atkins, writing in the CPUSA People’s World notes,

“Because if he has accomplished anything, it is this: Trump has blown apart the idea that the United States has moved past racism or that discrimination is a relic of our troubled past.  By emboldening white supremacists and fomenting racial animosity on the part of white workers, he has exposed the tactic of dividing working people by race.  The threat for capitalism is that more people begin to put together the pieces and realize that it’s not only Trump who is the problem, but the system itself, which thrives on built-in racial divisions.”

Even the New York Times last week was moved to comment,

“Comparing the Trump administration to the Nazis may be a stretch, but many business leaders are concerned that stirring up deep-seated racial and nationalist animosities could be destabilizing, leading to riots, property damage, and widespread civil unrest reminiscent of the late 1960s.”

On the one hand the liberal establishment is attempting to re-assert itself and stabilise capitalism in the United States.  On the other, the hard core around Trump and his more vociferous supporters in the country remain keen to push the alt-Right agenda, reverse the limited social and political gains of the civil rights era of the United States and move towards a more openly institutionalised form of apartheid.

Neither of these options will meet the needs of the mass of the people of the United States.  Removing an overt racist from the White House is only the first step and the growing demand for his impeachment must be supported.

However, in order to build a movement which can unite the interests of the working people of the USA, from across the range of ethnic communities, the struggle will need to be seen as something far more fundamental, taken beyond the White House and into the communities of the United States.

Locked and Loaded

13th August 2017

Kim Jong -un.png

Locked and loaded.  That was how US president, Donald Trump described the readiness of the US military in  relation to the ‘threat’ posed by North Korea.  It followed hard upon his promise to rain ‘fire and fury’ upon Pyongyang, should they carry out their threat to test inter-continental ballistic missiles anywhere near the US Pacific base of Guam.

To suggest that Trump is proposing to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut is putting it mildly.  The power of the US military, as Trump has pointed out, is more awesome than the weaponry of any empire at any time in history.  North Korea, on the other hand, may have found the means by which a small nuclear war head could be fixed to a missile, which may be able to get beyond its borders.

Any nuclear capability is a potential danger.  Even a small atomic bomb can do untold damage and have consequences lasting generations, as the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can testify.  As ever though, the US bluster is less about defending world peace than bolstering its own position as the world’s policeman.

Ever since its characterisation as one of the ‘axis of evil’ states by US President George W Bush, in his State of the Union address in January 2002, North Korea has been the subject of heightened attention by the US and its allies.

The reality is that US hostility to the efforts of the Korean people to free themselves from outside domination go back to the US led war of aggression in 1950 –  1953.  During that time 20% of North Korea’s population were killed, almost every town in the country burned to the ground and the population driven into subterranean shelters.  The fact that, even after such destruction, the US was unable to impose its will upon the country is at the root of US hostility.

With the defeat of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s, the United States announced that strategic nuclear weapons, previously targeted at the Soviet Union would be redirected towards North Korea.  War games conducted by the United States and South Korea in 1993 prompted North Korea to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and seek to maximise its own defence capability.

Recent provocative activity has included simulated bombing missions by the US along the North Korean border and the deployment of two aircraft carriers, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan, to the waters between Japan and Korea, described by the Wall Street Journal as “a show of force not seen there for more than two decades.”  These actions barely make the news, compared to the limited weapons testing carried out by the Koreans.

From a North Korean perspective the capacity of the US to destroy regimes it is in disagreement with is evident from its actions over the past 25 years, notably in Libya and Iraq.  The US continues to have designs upon Iran, another ‘axis of evil’ state, and persists in its internationally condemned and illegal blockade of Cuba.  Interventions in Syria and Afghanistan have caused significant destruction in recent years.  Donald Trump has not ruled out military intervention in Venezuela.

North Korea is the most heavily sanctioned state on the planet.  It is an international pariah with the US alliance but also with many on the international Left.  The dynastic approach to leadership change does Pyongyang no favours with those who may otherwise have sympathy with its anti-imperialist position.  Whatever the flaws and failings of the regime however, it is for the people of North Korea to determine how change will come about, not the United States.

It may be difficult for many on the Left to leap to the defence of North Korea but, seen in the context of its wider actions to suppress opposition to its diktats around the globe, there should be much greater concern about the United States.  The increasing militarisation of the leadership around Donald Trump, as more generals find themselves in political office, is a creeping coup d’etat, which puts a lot of power into the hands of men with itchy trigger fingers.  Being locked and loaded may not just apply to the US approach to North Korea.

Ten keys to the Constituent Assembly in Venezuela

6th August 2017

While the Western media make great play about recent developments in Venezuela, and the alleged anti-democratic nature of the new Constituent Assembly, an alternative view is offered by Granma the Official Voice of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee.

Ten keys to the Constituent Assembly in Venezuela

The massive turnout for the July 30 vote offers several lessons regarding the complex scenario facing the country and the evolution of events

Author: Sergio Alejandro Gómez |

august 4, 2017 14:08:41



Nicolás Maduro went for broke. “Come rain or shine, there will be a National Constituent Assembly,” the Venezuelan President stated. And so it was.

July 30, 2017, marked a historic date, not only for the Bolivarian Revolution, which came to power less than two decades ago, but for a nation that has been struggling for its independence and self-determination for over 200 years.

The vote that day offered us several lessons to understand the complex scenario facing the country, and the possible evolution of events:

  1. Venezuela has a Constituent Assembly. Despite the boycott declared by the right wing and the international maneuvers against it, the support of more than eight million Venezuelans at the polls endows the constitutional mechanism activated by the Bolivarian government with legitimacy. The opposition’s bid was to prevent the Constituent Assembly by all means and it failed. They now run the risk of being left out of the Assembly that will shape the future of the country, although few doubt that some kind of dialogue is essential to resume the road to peace.
  2. The elections were held amid relative calm. The number of people killed during the day varies according to the source.

Most speak of at least ten dead. However, after more than a hundred victims in the past few months, some of them burned alive by opposition extremists, the election day balance sheet was far from the “bloodbath” predicted by some international analysts.

  1. The Armed Forces are committed to constitutional order. The plan to preserve the integrity of polling stations, for which more than 230,000 troops were deployed, as well as the extraordinary measures taken by authorities, were key to ensuring Venezuelans’ democratic exercise of the right to vote. In addition, this is a further sign that, unlike in the past, the current Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela are committed to constitutional order and are the main guarantors of the country’s stability.
  2. The right has less strength than had appeared. The opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), the main instigator of the violence, promised to hold the “mother of all protests” to prevent the Constituent Assembly. Its limited rallying power in the days leading up to the elections, and the impotence of its leaders faced with the popular mobilization to vote, are proof that it overestimated its forces.
  3. The mass media were left without news. Venezuela was, until the vote, one of the topics receiving most coverage in the international media. Hundreds of journalists from the most important chains are present in the South American country. However, when the reality was different from the coverage they had prepared (a pitched battle and the beginning of civil war), they offered a revealing silence. Instead, they devoted themselves to reporting minor issues and so far practically no outlet has provided coverage of the massive turnout of eight million Venezuelans, who had to cross rivers or stay up through the night, in order to exercise their right at the polls.
  4. The turnout exceeded expectations. Amid the polarization of the country and the instability provoked by the extreme right, the number of Venezuelans who went out to vote was not envisaged by the opposition or their international backers. Even the Bolivarian authorities recognized that the figure was a pleasant surprise. As a means of comparison, the more than eight million votes cast on July 30 exceeded the 7.7 million obtained by the MUD in the legislative elections that gave it control of the National Assembly in 2015.
  5. There is a concerted strategy to disregard the democratic process in Venezuela. The United States, Spain, and several Latin American nations, including Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Paraguay, Guatemala, and Panama, did not even wait for the results of the elections before refusing to recognize them and the new Constituent Assembly.
  6. The United States is actively working to destabilize Venezuela. Before the elections, Washington sanctioned 13 Bolivarian officials with the aim of intimidating the government in the lead-up to the Constituent Assembly vote. After learning of the results, the U.S. government announced another series of measures including sanctions against President Nicolás Maduro. Some U.S. media have speculated regarding possible sanctions on the Venezuelan oil sector, which has been in the White House’s sights from the start.
  7. A significant number of citizens gave Chavismo another vote of confidence. In the midst of the economic war, the decline in international oil prices, and internal destabilization, the popular support received shows just how much the Venezuelan people appreciate the transformations initiated by Hugo Chávez. It is difficult to think of another government in Venezuelan history that would have resisted a similar onslaught.
  8. The Constituent Assembly alone can not solve underlying problems such as the economic crisis, inflation, shortages, and violence. However, the constitutional powers with which the Assembly is invested constitute a platform to call for dialogue between the different actors in the country’s political and social life, to ensure justice for the victims of the crimes committed by violent sectors, and to once again put the country on the path to progress and peace.