Thursday, April 4, 2019

Party News Briefs (1959)

Party News from the March 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Annual Conference. March 27th, 28th and 29th are the dates for Annual Conference this year, earlier than is usual, but as Conference is an interesting and pleasant occasion for Comrades, it is hardly likely that the dates will be overlooked. Conference should be particularly interesting, there are many items on the agenda which call for constructive discussion. An election in the offing, with Hackney Branch and the Parliamentary Committee well prepared, with the aid of Comrades, to see that the campaign goes well. A resume of the past year’s work which has shown wider activity on the part of Branches, who in London and the Provinces have held many propaganda meetings throughout the year. In addition to the work done at Conference, there is the get-together of Comrades, an always happy occasion, the Social and Dance on the Saturday, which if last year is a guide, should be a really jolly occasion. A Rally is being organised by the Propaganda Committee, and details of these two latter items are given fully elsewhere in this issue.

Head Office Film Lectures. The last two "fixtures” for this season are being held on March 1st and 8th. No plans have been made for the 15th March as Paddington Branch are holding their well-planned meeting at Denison House that evening.

Ireland. Our Comrades in Dublin are very active these days; they have rented the Boiler Makers’ Hall for one evening a week, meeting every Wednesday. One of the items to which they are giving urgency, is their policy and approach to propaganda. They have six or seven “contacts” wishing to join the Party and with these proposed new members, they look forward to extending their work generally. It is hoped that within the next month or so, a much fuller report of their progress will be forthcoming.

Hackney Branch and the Election. Details of a public meeting on April 13th and a list of canvassing dates and meeting spots are given in this issue. Hackney Branch stress that in order to achieve a successful campaign, the participation of members of other branches is absolutely essential. This reminder should not be necessary, of course, as the decision to contest the election is one taken by the Party as a whole and therefore must be a Party effort. Comrades who are not near at hand to give direct assistance can help by spreading the news of our programme and seeking contributions to the necessary additional funds needed.

“No Useful Purpose Would Be Served.” Islington Branch report that Comrade J. McGuinness, the Branch Organiser, is temporarily working in Newcastle, and although there is no Party Branch in the vicinity to which he could direct his lively energy, he continues to be as active as ever on behalf of the Party. In correspondence with his Branch, he tells of two letters published in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle which he wrote attacking the policy of the Social Credit Political League which is active in Newcastle. Com. McGuinness was successful in getting the S.P.G.B.’s case clearly stated.

More recently, he wrote to the N.E. District Branch of the Communist Party in Newcastle, inviting them to a debate with the S.P.G.B. True to form, the offer was rejected by their Secretary whose reply contained the phrase which appears to be reserved for the Socialist Party . . .  “ My Committee have decided that no useful purpose would be served by having any debate with your organisation”

Paddington Branch Meeting at Denison House on Sunday. March 15th. Much preliminary work has gone into the arrangements for this meeting, and by now members will have seen full details elsewhere in this issue, also the earlier notices in the January and February issues. The Branch made these earlier announcements in order to stimulate interest and enable members to advertise the meeting date and ensure that as many members and sympathisers (and others) were aware of the meeting and, we hope, prepared to support it.

The Socialist Party. From time to time our Publicity organiser and the Editorial Committee have endeavoured to obtain recognition in the Press that the Socialist Party of Great Britain is THE Socialist Party. Despite this, the Beaverbrook Press in its Evening Standard Style Book for “ guidance of Editorial, Reading and Composing Departments” quotes: —
  “The Labour Party will be described as Socialist, but where occasion makes the use of the word Labour necessary, the abbreviation will be Lab.”
The above information is sent to us from an American Comrade.
Phyllis Howard

Dirty Work (1959)

From the March 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Most of the objections raised are really nothing but silly prejudices that for obvious reasons are being assiduously fostered by our masters who have an interest in preventing the possibility of an alteration of the social system.

To these arguments or prejudices belongs also the ever recurring question: Who would do the so-called dirty work? It would seem that the greater part of the useful work indispensable for the daily life of the whole of society, is classified under this latter category—dirty work. One can understand that such questions are raised by the wealthy, and that any answer you could give would leave them unconvinced. But that the workers who have always done this “dirty work,’* and under conditions that will have no place under Socialism, should echo these doubts, is certainly curious. For it ought to be clear that it is only the present economic system that condemns men and women to a daily eight or more hours of monotonous toil and attaches a STIGMA or SOCIAL INFERIORITY to almost every productive work that is indispensable for the daily life of society. After the abolition of this idiotic system and the disappearance of class privileges, the stigma of social inferiority will, of course, no longer attach to any work whatever, just as even today no such stigma attaches, for example, to the medical profession. In spite of their often extremely unpleasant, unclean and distasteful work, the physician and surgeon enjoy general esteem and dignity. Much of the really obnoxious work, including the production of bombs and tanks and other instruments of mass murder, and the work of jailers, and police, will no longer be necessary. There will be no need either for any man to spend time down in the bowels of the earth digging coal and other minerals to be squandered in battleships and transport of war material to the ends of the world. On the other hand, with the daily improvement of mechanical devices, with the aid of mechanical cleaning equipment and the innumerable contrivances now available, the job of doing the “dirty work” will be considerably facilitated and become “cleaner."

It ought to be perfectly obvious that with a radically changed social basis and background, man's ideas and outlook on life are bound to undergo a corresponding change. As the change from Capitalism to Socialism is the greatest event in human history, ending as it will, the age-long rule of property and with it the exploitation of man by man, and establishing in its place the Socialist commonwealth where money rules no more, the change which it is bound to produce on all aspects, will be correspondingly profound.

Let the big businessmen and politicians, the Stock Exchange gamblers, dividend hunters, lottery and insurance experts, company promoters and directors, with their police-chiefs, dictators, generalissimos, executives and executioners, bishops, priests and parsons, and the rest of the lackeys of capital, laugh or weep or tremble at such “preposterous" proposals! But what can they offer as an alternative to Socialism? Nothing but the continuance of the hellish system of Capitalism! It is for you to choose.
Rudolf Frank

The Future Labour Offers You (1959)

From the March 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

This new Labour Party pamphlet and programme for the next election has been admirably reviewed by “E.W.” in the January issue of the Socialist Standard, but in case his criticism does not please members of the Labour Party—for he does not quote from it—let us examine a few of its statements.

Gaitskell on the first page writes that “The plans are carefully thought out” so there is no excuse for any random ideas. He claims that "they are democratic socialism in action” and from this we can learn what the Labour Party thinks of Socialism.

In the section YOUR HOME the Labour Party is to encourage you to purchase your house, and says that it will "also grant loans on favourable terms so as to encourage tenants to buy the houses they now live in, and to improve them.” This is private enterprise, which the Labour Party has opposed, and therefore the opposite to its desire to nationalise everything. In a previous election the Conservative Party spread the propaganda that the Labour Party would nationalise your home if they were put in power. What does it matter whether you own your house or not so long as if you can live comfortably in it?

In the section on HEALTH we read “We must have a new approach to mental illness.” They mention that nearly half the beds in hospitals are occupied by cases of mental disorders, but never a word about the cause of these disorders or what they intend on doing about these causes. If the pace of industrial production and precariousness of living is largely responsible for this state of affairs the Labour Party by its insistence on increased production is going to make matters worse.

In the section on EXPANSION they really give the game away in a paragraph in small print which reads “All our projects for better schools and hospitals, for a new deal for the young and the old, for rising living standards, must depend in the. end on our success in achieving year by year a rapid expansion of production.” This is the key to the whole thing—we have got to increase production—in other words we have got to work harder. Then they state “£70 million worth of unsold coal piled up at pitheads, in quarries and in dumps all over the country” so it looks by this that somebody has been working too hard and produced too much. Have the miners got to work harder and so permit further increases in this piled up coal? Incidently the coal mines are one of the great nationalised industries, nationalised of course by the Labour Government, so who are we to blame for the muddle? The programme continues “No wonder Britain is falling behind her competitors— Germany, Japan, and Russia—in the world race for higher production.” Put Labour in power and they will soon see to it that our production is stepped up and our competitors beaten, this is the only interpretation of this remark. “To survive In the world’s markets we must increase productivity per man.” Crude and truthful (under capitalism) and a direct threat that Labour will try to fulfil if returned.

In the section COST OF LIVING, “Labour will start with this advantage, the unions know they will not have to struggle against a Labour Government to get a fair deal for their members." Do they really think that the public’s memory is so short that they don’t remember the numerous strikes under the late Labour Government? Do they seriously think that the class struggle is going to cease just because they are in power? Have they forgotten the great dockers’ strike and the way the Labour Government broke it by employing troops to unload the ships? The Labour Party may have started as a party of the trade unions, but now that the leaders of the Labour Party have climbed into parliament they are going to run capitalism in the interests of the ruling class.

PEACE. “Labour will propose a fresh disarmament conference to draw up a treaty which will reduce arms, manpower and military expenditure, destroy all stocks of nuclear weapons and means of delivering them, including missile bases and bombers, abolish all chemical and biological weapons and provide safeguards against surprise attacks." In other words they want to dump overboard these serious weapons which are so much discussed today. But the trouble here arises in the next section on DEFENCE. "Labour fully accepts the duty to maintain the military defences of Britain . . . and will take a lead in pressing fur all round disarmament." “Labour has argued for years that, in this nuclear age, the big conscript armies resulting from National Service are wasteful and ineffective." This puts the lid on the whole programme. Who was it that imposed conscription in peace time? the Labour Party! It was they who built up these big conscript armies. Now they tell us that as a result of nuclear development they are wasteful and ineffective. But as they are pledged under the PEACE section to press for the abolition of these nuclear methods, they are also going to get rid of their large armies and yet they state above “Labour fully accepts the duly to maintain the military defence of Britain."

In the last section “We in the Labour Party are Socialists. This means that our whole approach to politics is different from that of the Tories. What is the difference? . . . the Tories still believe that . . . the economic future of fifty million people packed on a small island can and should he shaped decisively by a free-for-all scramble with private profits as the prize." “Socialists believe that this Tory outlook is dangerously old-fashioned and also profoundly immoral. The first Socialist ideal is mutual service—the story of the Good Samaritan in terms of everyday political life” so we come to Jesus in the end, and live happy ever after in this dream world of the Labour Party. We will now rise and sing “Onward Christian soldiers”.
Horace Jarvis

Sting in the Tail: Life Wish (1996)

The Sting in the Tail column from the March 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Life wish
Michael Winner, producer of such gore-fests as the Death Wish movies, now writes for the News of the World.

Surprisingly, he made a reference to Marx in his column (24 December). Unsurprisingly, he made the foolish assumption that Marx had something to do with the Soviet Union:
  "Communism contains a vast, almost religions appeal. Its principal slogan from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs' is actually a wondrous idea . . . But it fails to take into account a crucial element. Human beings. They just aren't up to it."
Winnie’s view of “human nature” is best illustrated by his film hero, Charles Bronson “blowing away” muggers in the New York Subway. This is the view of a pathetic money-grubber and not the view of anyone who has studied human behaviour.

To Winner, any concept of human cooperation must indeed seem a “wondrous idea”.

A tale of two mums
The Duchess of York is feeling the pinch these days. Reputed to owe £3 million, she recently changed her Concorde trip to New York to first class on a scheduled flight. She and the kids had to rough it with the plebeian hordes.

Not on the trip was Maureen whose plight was reported in the Observer (21 January):
  “Maureen is bringing up her eight-year-old son alone in her former council flat in Devon on £77.97 state benefit a week . . .  "I might go two days without a main meal—I just eat, like, a sandwich at lunchtime or supper if we have enough bread. Tuesday is my best day. I collect my Giro cheque then. I usually buy something like mince and we’ll have spaghetti or something . . .  Sometimes when he has said to me he's hungry I just feel very desperate and alone . . . and a bit of a failure really. "
Maureen is not a failure. She is a worker who feeds and clothes her child on state “benefits”. Maureen is not a failure. Capitalism is. The gap between the Duchess and Maureen is proof of that.

The big knife farce
What a farce the amnesty on knives was. 40,000 were handed in, but this is a tiny fraction of the number of knives in circulation, and the fact that one individual contributed 3,000 proves that.

Indeed, Watchdog (BBC1, 22 January ) showed that there are hundreds of shops and mail-order firms all selling knives.

Of course, the politicians have their “solutions”, among them labour’s call for a ban on the sale of knives to anyone under the age of 16, but similar bans on the sale of lottery tickets, alcohol and tobacco arc simply ignored by many retailers. If there’s money to be made then there will be illegal sales.

Years ago, when the use of knives was considered un-British, razors, lead piping and bicycle chains were in vogue, and even if knives were eliminated then some other weapon will take their place. Capitalism’s poverty, tensions and conflicts guarantees that.

Arthur’s dead duck 
The launch of Arthur Scargill’s new Socialist Labour Party provided him with another chance to demonstrate what a political muddle-head he is. This was evident when, having accused the Labour Party of abandoning socialism, he admitted it never had been socialist anyway.

Even worse was his absurd claim that unemployment could be eradicated “even within a capitalist society” (Guardian, 15 January). Incidentally, his promise that the SLP will “support all the ‘single issue campaigns’” in order to gain recruits, should mean that the various Trotskyists and anarchist groups will face more competition there!

Left-wing breakaways from Labour have never lasted: the Scottish Labour Party headed by Jim Sillars MP in the late 1970s is an example, and Scargill’s lot will no doubt follow them into oblivion.

Going for the Big One
We are often asked why we don’t join in campaigns for reforms of capitalism. To begin with, reforms rarely achieve their aims—for example, laws against racism haven’t reduced discrimination, assaults, abuse, etc.

And reforms which do benefit workers will inevitably provoke demands for them to be scrapped when capitalism’s economic situation worsens, and an example of this is provided by Warwick Lightfoot of the think- tank Politcia, who urges the Tories to
  ". . .  repeal existing rules on redundancy payouts and unfair dismissal, arguing that they damage the labour market" (Guardian, 8 January).
What kindly Mr Lightfoot and many others want is a “flexible labour market” where employers can do whatever they like with workers.

Of course, this would depend ultimately on whether the working class would accept it, but the fact is that even the crumbs we get at present are under threat, hence our insistence that socialists must demand the bakehouse and nothing less.

Living it up in Palm Springs
A party member had occasion to rush to the hospital where his mother had been admitted only to be informed that there was a ten hour wait until a bed became available (in the event it was only six-and-a-half hours).

Whilst perusing the usual jumble of magazines in the waiting room, he happened to pick up a colour supplement which features a grizzled, old chimpanzee, and revealed that this was none other than the original “Cheetah” who could be seen swinging through the trees with Johnny Weissmuller in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s.

Now aged 63, this hirsute thespian is apparently living the life of Riley in a retirement home in Palm Springs!

It wasn’t lost on our comrade that in capitalism, even elderly animals, with the right financial credentials, are treated with greater regard than poor members of the working class, retired or not.

Street Legal (2019)

1972 theatrical release poster
From the April 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard
  Marihuana is… a violent narcotic – an unspeakable scourge – The Real Public Enemy Number One! Its first effect is sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter; then come dangerous hallucinations… fixed ideas come next, conjuring up monstrous extravagances – followed by emotional disturbances, the total inability to direct thoughts, the loss of all power to resist physical emotions… leading finally to acts of shocking violence… ending often in incurable insanity. Something must be done to wipe out this ghastly menace…’ (Opening foreword to the 1936 film Reefer Madness).
​Now that the prohibition against cannabis has been officially overturned in Canada and Uruguay and the smart money predicts a domino-like cascade as other governments follow suit, hindsight will draw its own conclusions about this whole bizarre era. Historians may well look back at the epoch of cannabis prohibition and conclude that there really was a kind of reefer madness going on, only it wasn’t the pot smokers who were suffering from it.

​Marxist theorists, unlike conspiracy theorists, do recognise that things happen by accident. Not everything has an intention and purpose, and while capitalism has its own internal logic, the human participants in it sometimes ignore that logic and instead follow the volatile whims of cultural prejudice and supposed moral imperative. When you take a walk past the history of drugs prohibition, you smell a powerful whiff of paternalism, racism and class condescension.

Cannabis through history
​Cannabis was familiar to ancient societies from Scythia and Assyria to Greece and Rome, but almost forgotten in the West until reintroduced via the good offices of the Nineteenth Century East India Company, that paragon of capitalism whose enforced China opium trade on behalf of the British government is too well known to revisit here. Cannabis became popular among upper-class bohemian types on private incomes, but like cocaine and opium it was expensive and hard to get, and thus there was no move to ban it. Indeed the Victorians were avid fans of unregulated free markets, so that cocaine and opium were being enthusiastically shoved into everything from ladies’ tonics to baby teething ointments.

​But it was another matter when the workers started getting hold of cannabis. Then it was a case of moral panic. For, as everyone knew, the ‘worker’ was little better than a beast and everything must be done to avoid arousing their basest urges, lest they fall into unchristian vileness (e.g. murder each other or, more to the point, fail to turn up for work).

​There is a long history of attempts to prohibit everything poor people might enjoy. Easily persuaded of their own moral, cultural and genetic superiority, the European ruling classes for centuries have had a condescending and paternalistic attitude to the labouring classes. For some reason that was obvious to them but never explained to anyone else, the same self-indulgence which made them the cultured and refined jewels of polite society would turn workers into stampeding swine if they ever got their hands on it.

​Thus the anti-gin campaigns against ‘Mother’s Ruin’ in the Eighteenth Century. Music and dancing had earlier been banned by the Puritans. And it wasn’t just drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Sex too (known as ‘lewdness’) was considered a corrupting influence, so that the erotic artwork excavated from Pompeii was kept in a ‘secret museum’ in Naples to which only ‘gentlemen’ had access (this exhibition only became permanently open to the public in 2000, albeit still age-restricted).

​What made cannabis even worse was that it was seen as a ‘black’ drug. Coming from the colonies, it became associated in Britain with Asian sailors and black denizens of the demi-monde including actors and prostitutes, and later in the USA with Mexicans who started bringing it across the border. The mix of class condescension and white racism made for a poisonous cocktail.

​So it was that Britain started banning cannabis in its colonies from the 1840s onwards, and the process of creeping prohibition spread. It was one thing to sponsor an opium trade in China, after all, but quite another to have stoned workers in one’s own factories.​

The First World War saw a further moral panic (largely imagined) about drugs in the trenches. This led to a British ban on opium, cocaine and cannabis in 1916, and propaganda-fuelled legislation followed in the 1920s. The post-war mood became more hard-line. Temperance had long been in the air, and wartime propaganda had portrayed the Germans as boozy-beer-barrels-on-legs. Now the opprobrium extended to other drugs. The Versailles treaty stipulated, among other things, a considerable reduction in Britain’s continued involvement in the international opium trade.

The rest was laziness. It was easier to blame drugs for social ills rather than look at the social ills themselves. Thus drugs came to be seen as everything that was wrong with society and especially with its disaffected youth. The transcendental evil of illegal narcotics was dinned into the public consciousness by increasingly hysterical propaganda, including the preposterous (and later cult) cinema classics Reefer Madness (1936) and Assassin of Youth (1937).

​The absurdity was that, at that time, hardly anyone could get hold of these drugs anyway. But globalisation changed all that with a tidal wave of cheap product which provided a get-rich-quick scheme for the enterprising poor as well as fuelling an unprecedented addiction epidemic. Governments were slow to realise the extent of the underground drugs trade, and when they did they simply followed established procedure and enacted ever-more draconian criminal legislation. Arrests and prison sentences rocketed by orders of magnitude, but this only served to push up prices and make the mafia syndicates and cartels ever more powerful. The world sleepwalked into drug prohibition, and woke up to an organised crime economy that today is bigger than Google or Microsoft.

​A revolutionary socialist who wants to overthrow capitalism is not interested in advocating reforms within capitalism, or even expressing preferences about how capitalism ‘ought’ to be run. But it is merely stating the obvious to say that banning drugs, particularly popular ones like cannabis, has been a huge mistake. And it’s a mistake that’s cost the lives of countless thousands. The average life expectancy in Mexico has actually lowered due to the sheer number of drug-related murders (New Scientist, 9 April 2016).

A slice of the pie
​If the end is really in sight, there’s no great mystery why. What capitalist investor doesn’t want to get a piece of a half-trillion dollar pie? When money talks, lawyers listen. For governments too the logic is irresistible. In the UK alone the potential tax revenue is estimated at £1bn a year. And there are savings too. It costs around £50,000 a week to incarcerate a prisoner in the UK, and prisons are overcrowded. Locking up people for smoking weed – a victimless crime, after all – is simply throwing money away. That’s why around 50 percent of UK police authorities have given up prosecuting anyone for possession, and Durham Constabulary has taken the adventurous step of permitting ‘official’ local home-grower clubs, provided the weed is for personal use only (BBC documentary ‘Is it time to legalise weed?’, July 2017).

​Though now past its use-by date, the UK anti-weed propaganda machine grinds on (‘Father tries to murder baby son, judge blames cannabis’, BBC News, 8 November). UK politicians continue to fear the legalisation argument is a vote-loser. After a century of brainwashing against lifestyle drugs, the volte-face is still considered too hard a sell. And there are other problems. There’s no logic for legalising cannabis that doesn’t also apply to every other illegal drug. Most of them are cheap to make, and none of them are as dangerous as alcohol or tobacco. Furthermore, legalising weed alone may turn out to be a disastrous half-measure, like a farmer destroying one crop pest only to make room for another. If the bottom drops out of the weed market, UK growers on £7k a month won’t be resorting to welfare cheques. Instead they’ll be looking to start shifting other drugs in bulk.

From a socialist point of view, capitalism is a social system owned and ruled by the wealthy through their various puppet governments, with precious little real democracy and even less informed debate. Sure it’s unfair, but it’s also inefficient, incompetent and unresponsive. It’s as if the social train is empty because everybody apart from the guy in First Class has been made to get out in the snow and push. It’s not hard to see how mistakes are made, or why they take so long to correct, when only the prejudices of the rich elite are taken into account. If and when cannabis is legalised, it’s the corporations and investors who will be partying. Your daily life as an exploited worker is not going to change a whole heap just because you can walk down the street smoking a legal spliff.​

But there is a question for socialists, nonetheless. To be clear, socialism is a global system of democratic participation, common ownership and production for use, where property exchange and money will not exist. Think of it as a global volunteer collective. Whatever is done, is done free, and whatever is available, is freely available. Some people imagine this means having no restrictions of any kind. But you can easily see why this is wrong. People in socialism are not going to want stoned airline pilots or eye surgeons, or young children feasting on cocaine or heroin either. In practice some forms of restriction must surely be put in place, even in a society with more freedom than any in history. What these are and how they are implemented is a matter for discussion in socialism. It’s possible that, like that other opium of the people, religion, there may be a declining interest in psychoactive drugs when daily reality is no longer the heavy oppressive experience that capitalism offers. It may be that nobody will choose to spend their time making these drugs, given that there will be no ‘market’ for them anyway. But it seems unlikely that drugs will go out of style, given that they have been around since humans first learned how to knock two flints together. There’s no denying it, drugs can be fun, and that will be true in socialism too. This is just one of the issues a democratic society will have to deal with. But what it won’t do, and can’t do because nobody will have the right or the authority to do it, is ban them from the face of the Earth.
Paddy Shannon

(This article first appeared in Poliquads Magazine)

Material World: Taming the Uighur (2019)

The Material World Column from the April 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

Back in September 2014, we carried an article on the Chinese government’s persecution of the Uighurs, a Muslim minority.

The Uighur are more akin to the Turkic peoples of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, than to the Han Chinese. Following a policy conducted in Tibet, China has promoted the mass migration of Han Chinese into Xinjiang – the autonomous region in western China, home to approximately 11 million Uighurs, with the effect of trying to reduce Uighurs to a minority on their native land, pre-empting any possibility of independence that many Uighurs seek.

In August 2018, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination voiced ‘deep concern’ over the situation facing Muslims who were being treated as ‘enemies of the state’ and held in secret ‘re-education’ camps. The Chinese Human Rights Defenders reported that a fifth of all 2017 arrests in China were made in Xinjiang. According to a Human Rights Watch report, the detention centres are located in specially-built facilities or converted government buildings where detainees are held, unlawfully and without charge, as a result of religious ‘offences’ such as excessive praying or non-religious acts such as accessing proscribed websites or contacting overseas relatives. Other aspects of the security crackdown include all-encompassing social media surveillance, mass deployment of police and severe regulations against religious practices and dress.

Inmates at those gulags are forced to criticise their own Islamic beliefs and sing Communist Party propaganda songs for hours each day and give thanks to the ruling Communist Party. They are compelled to shave their beards and have been forced to eat pork and drink alcohol. Former detainees described beatings and deaths despite authorities’ tight control of available information. Likewise, the government also operates orphanages for Uighur children taken from their parents, in a process to disconnect them from their ethnic heritage, a punitive policy targeting indigenous peoples seen all across the world at various times in history.

China is an economic superpower which the world relies on heavily for trade and there are signs that economic factors are the reason deterring diplomatic protest or humanitarian intervention from the rest of the world. Many states including Islamic ones fear the economic consequences and possible retaliation they could receive if they challenged or sanctioned China for this blatant ethnic cleansing of the Uighur people. China has invested $62bn in the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which will connect Kashgar in Xinjiang to the southern Gwadar port in Pakistan. Despite Pakistan highlighting the plight of Muslim minorities, when it comes to Uighurs, Islamabad protests are muted.

‘It’s quite striking that while Pakistan often laments the plight of Rohingya, Syrian, Kashmiri, and Palestinian Muslims, you rarely hear Islamabad making statements in solidarity with Uighurs’, according to Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia programme at the Wilson Center. He says ‘The Muslim world on the whole, with a few exceptions, has taken a position of studied silence because of a desire not to upset a key global player that offers investments and other useful benefits’.

Particularly revealing were the comments from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who, on his recent visit to China, voiced support for China’s campaign against ‘terrorists’ and its ‘de-extremization’ camps. Did we really think that China or Saudi Arabia would allow some Uighurs to get in the way of Saudi Aramco’s $10 billion deal for a refining and petrochemical complex or the signing of 35 economic cooperation accords worth $28 billion? Chinese-Saudi trade reached $63 billion in 2018. As long as economics matter, the Uighurs will not likely find an ally in Saudi Arabia.

Turkey has been the only majority Muslim country to criticise China, with the Turkish foreign ministry calling China’s treatment of Uighurs ‘a great cause of shame for humanity’.

China is able to disguise anti-Uighur actions under a cloak of the global ‘war against terror’ to counter and de-radicalise Islamic fundamentalism. China is taking advantage of the global trend to weaponise Islamophobia to drive its racist programme of state-sponsored Han dominance.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi justified the ‘re-education camps’, stating, ‘the efforts are completely in line with the direction the international community has taken to combat terrorism … if we can take care of prevention, then it will be impossible for terrorism to spread and take root’.

Other government officials defended the forced detention claim that Islam is an ideological illness, depicting the camps as more like hospitals to ‘cure’ people from the Muslim infliction. China’s ambassador to the USA, Cui Tiankai, stated that the country is trying to turn the Uighurs into ‘normal people’. China is instituting the very same calls made by some Western politicians to criminalise expressions of Muslim identity such as the wearing of hijabs in an effort to heal Muslims of their ‘sickness’.

Maya Wang of the Human Rights Watch campaign explained that while authorities claimed the camps were about combating terrorism and separatism, they were in fact designed to assimilate Uighurs. Amnesty International described the detention centres as comparable to ‘wartime concentration camps’.

The Socialist Party is fully conscious of the sufferings of many of our fellow-workers and we wish to promote a kaleidoscope of cultures but candour compels us to point out that only the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of socialism can put an end to national chauvinism and race prejudice.

SPGB Meetings (1981)

Party News from the September 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

SPGB Meetings (1981)

Party News from the August 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

SPGB Meetings (1981)

Party News from the July 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

50 Years Ago: Black and White
 Slavery in America (1969)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

The enclosure of the common lands in France, Germany, and England gave rise to a multitude of starving outcasts, some of whom turned their eyes towards the New World in the hope of finding an amelioration of their lot. These provided ready material for the kidnapper and emigration agent, who enticed them across the Atlantic and then sold them into a species of slavery (indentured service) even worse than the slavery of the blacks.

The records of the American white slave trade exhibit an almost unbelievable barbarity. This traffic is fully discussed by James O’Neal in The Workers in American History, where the worst evils of Negro slavery are shown to be paralleled if not surpassed by the system of indentured service.

Of course the followers of the ‘meek and lowly one’ had to have a finger in the pie, and we read that:
  The famous Whitfield, and the two Wesleys, visited America at this period (1743) and urged the expedience of allowing slavery. (War of American Independence, Ludlow, p38).
In his Story of the Negro Booker T. Washington points out that the white man sold his own people in America years before the first black slaves sailed into Jamestown, Virginia (1619).

(From an article on ‘The American Revolution’ by G. McClatchie, Socialist Standard, July 1919).

50 Years Ago: What makes Socialists? (1971)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialist propaganda is only one factor in the process of enlightenment. Far more powerful is the economic development with its growing insecurity of life for everyone who lives by selling his or her services to an employer. It is this great factor that usually forces workers to listen to Socialist propaganda.

The class division between workers and employers is more clearly shown in the case of a company than of an employer who is known personally to his workpeople. It is shown more clearly by a combination, and most clearly of all by a trust. No wage slave is sure of his job under this development, and even the lordly bank clerk and the respectable teacher have been forced to form organisations of a trade union character to protect themselves against the worsening of their economic position and the growing insecurity of life.

Long before the Socialist propaganda will reach the majority of these people the growth of the contradictions in capitalism will have forced them to examine various supposed ways of escape, and they will be compelled to take up the study of Socialism as furnishing the only solution to these problems.
(From a reply to a correspondent in the Socialist Standard, July 1921).

50 Years Ago: Some Socialist Points on the 
Beveridge Report (1992)

The 50 Years Ago column from the December 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Times reads into the Report the "confident assurance that the poor need not always be with us”, but this is merely a misuse of terms, and one incidentally for which Beveridge appears not to be responsible. He talks all the time of abolishing “want" by which he avowedly means something quite different from abolishing poverty. By want he means the condition into which the workers fall when their wages stop, not the condition in which they always are because they are carrying the capitalist class on their backs. Beveridge is quite clear about the distinction and says so. Did he not make a statement on December 1 (reported in the BBC news broadcasts but apparently not in the Press) that it had always been his view that want could be abolished within the ranks of the wage-earners without any inroads into the wealth of the rich? He is saying in effect in his Report want could be abolished without interfering with capitalism, but neither he nor the Times want to abolish poverty. But for the poverty of the poor there could be no riches for the rich—a state which he and they find quite acceptable.
[from Socialist Standard, December 1942.]

50 Years Ago: Looking Back and Looking Forward (1995)

The 50 Years Ago column from the March 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

A sign of the times is that with Russia a first-class Power, represented at "Big Three"conferences, the Communist Party falls into line as defender of the Allied capitalisms (including, of course. Russian State Capitalism). Last time it was the "right wing” labour leaders (denounced by those who later formed the Communist Party) who supported capitalist campaigns to get the workers to work harder and join in the scramble for more trade. Now it is Mr Harry Pollitt who "has sent an appeal to all his mining members to speed up coal production" (Daily Express, February 19th). The Express report continues:-
  "His [Pollitt's] more serious concern, however, is that lack of British coal supplies for devastated European countries will delay the fruits of victory, and substitution of American and South African coal supplies may permanently injure British export markets"
(From the editorial in Socialist Standard, March 1945)

50 Years Ago: The Weakness of the Trotskyists (1994)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

Due to the Trotskyist belief in "revolutionary situations," no explanations of the nature of Socialism will be found in the columns of the Socialist Appeal. As the revolution will take place at any moment, there is no need for this painstaking work. The line of their propaganda is rather like the instructions of a general staff to its army — "Second Front — and the tasks of the working class." "Workers must fight for equal pay.” etc.

In spite of their claims to be revolutionary, their official policy contains the usual reformist nonsense, such as the "Nationalisation of the land, mines, banks, transport and all big industry.” "A rising scale of wages to meet increased cost of living,” "Confiscation of war profits." etc.

The Trotskyist attitude to the war is vague and ill-defined. Whilst denouncing the war as imperialist, they want the "unconditional defence of the Soviet Union against all imperialist powers, despatch of arms, food and essential materials to the Soviet Union."

The Trotskyist claim to be revolutionary is ill-founded. Once again we insist that the S.P.G.B. method is the only revolutionary one, and we will continue to do what the Trotskyists do not do — advocate Socialism as the only cure for social ills.
(From an article by G. Ewbank in the Socialist Standard, October 1944)