Thursday, April 9, 2020

Sting in the Tail: The spying game (1994)

The Sting in the Tail column from the April 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

The spying game

The outraged howls coining from America because Aldrich Ames, a top CIA official, had been recruited by the KGB to spy for the USSR, were sheer hypocrisy.

After all, Ames had in the past been busy recruiting Soviet officials and KGB agents to spy against their own country, but what had the howls rising to crescendo was that after the collapse of the USSR Ames had then carried on spying for Boris Yeltsin’s Russia which is supposed to be an ally of America.

So what? William Webster, the CIA’s director, said in 1989 that following the demise of the USSR the CIA would now step-up spying on "our political and military allies" in order to gain technological and economic advantage for American capitalism.

As one newspaper editorial put it:
  "Does anyone seriously imagine that the CIA’s long-serving agents in the Kremlin have all traded in their false moustaches and invisible ink?’

No escape for Cuba

Economic reforms in Cuba mean that joint ventures with foreign capital and a growing tourist trade are exposing the island to market forces:
  "Dollars, illegal for thirty years before being legalised last July now circulate freely. A chain of state-owned hard-currency stores is flourishing, with people usually queueing up." (Guardian, 9 February)
The Castro regime has also legalised 140 categories of self-employment and, in a bid to boost agriculture, most of the state-owned farms are now semi-autonomous co-ops which can "lay-off surplus labour".

These changes are the result of Cuba losing its main trading partners, the so-called "communist countries", which had provided food, hard currency and oil in exchange for sugar. Now Cuba must buy what it needs at world market prices, hence the desire for dollars.

So Cuba follows the USSR and its European satellites along with China and Vietnam in learning that no country, whatever its political system, can distance itself from the global market economy that is capitalism.

Tell it like it is

Parliament was in a turmoil. TV reporters were buttonholing any MP they could find to put in front of a camera. We were told "MPs were infuriated".

What was all the fuss about?

William Waldegrave the minister responsible for "more open government" had been telling the truth to the Treasury and Civil Service Committee. He had stated:
  "in exceptional cases, it is necessary to say something that is untrue in the House of Commons.. . The House of Commons understands that and accepts that".
It seems that such candour has alarmed MPs. One Tory is reported as saying "it is a terrible blunder". Giles Radice, the Labour MP chairing the select committee said, "I was amazed. I don’t think it is right that ministers should deceive or mislead the House".

This is of course the most awful hypocrisy. All professional politicians lie. It is their stock-in-trade. In order to get to Parliament they must tell the lie that capitalism can be made to work in the interest of the working class.

Farcical goings-on

Can certain nosh and booze actually be the body and blood of a long-dead Israelite? Did his virgin mother really float up to heaven along with him when she wasn’t even dead? Does an old Polish geezer living in Rome never make a mistake?

These and similar burning questions of the day were mulled over by a motley bunch of religious nit-pickers, paid and unpaid, when the Environment Secretary John Gummer changed his brand of superstition by dumping the C of E because he opposed women priests, and joined the Roman Catholic church.

The Anglican bishop of Sheffield called this a "kick in the teeth" and, with true Christian forgiveness, lambasted Gummer for his "ignorant silliness".

Meanwhile an Anglican group which shares Gummer’s views on women priests rubbished their own church for 'thinking it knows better than God", and so on.

Isn’t it pathetic when otherwise sane adults can debate in all seriousness these absurdities and fabrications as if they had any relevance to humanity today?

Age no barrier
  "At a reception for Britain's oldest workers in London, the Employment Minister, Ann Widdecombe MP, welcomed men and women in their eighties and nineties who labour at daily jobs."(Guardian, 15 February)
This stunt was part of the government’s campaign to cut social security costs as men and women of pensionable age who keep working would not be drawing state pensions and benefits.

However, the idea that people should be able to work for as long as they wish is one we heartily endorse, but this can really only happen in socialist society because in capitalism employers don’t want older workers. Indeed, Widdecombe said she wanted "to shame those employers who won’t take on workers in their forties and fifties".

And people who wish to stop working, for whatever reason, should also be able to do so, but that too is something that will have to wait until socialism.

One law for them

If parliament had voted to reduce the age of consent for homosexuals to sixteen it would not have applied to Northern Ireland. One argument given for this is that the age of consent for heterosexuals there is seventeen and it would never do if the age for gays was lower than for non-gays.

This wouldn’t have been the first time gays in Northern Ireland had been denied changes made in the law for the rest of Britain. When the last Labour government was trying to hang onto office at any price, it even sunk to bribing Ulster Unionist MPs with the promise that homosexual acts in the province would remain illegal:
  "Homosexual law reform for Northern Ireland appears to have been delayed once again, as a sop to the seven official Unionist MPs who could he the Government's only allies in the Commons next week." (Guardian, 3 March 1979)

When freedom comes

An item on ITN on the 17th February concerned plans for the takeover of the West Bank by the Palestinians when (or if?) that area is evacuated by the Israelis. Apparently a senior cop from the Nottinghamshire force has been given a nice little earner training Palestinian recruits for a new police force.

The item closed with a close-up of the recruits lifting long clubs from a pile while the voice-over told us that these men would have an important role in helping to establish the new Palestinian democracy.

Seems the Palestinian freedom fighters, like those in many other countries, are going to learn what they have been fighting for. No doubt they will be filled with patriotic pride at the thought of being attacked by a club-wielding Palestinian cop rather than an Israeli thug.

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