In Brief

Selections from social media

The following is a selection of postings from the IBT Facebook page published since the last edition of 1917.

25 January 2023 | Defend and extend Scottish trans rights!

Legislation passed by the devolved Scottish government to make gender-recognition certificates (GRCs) easier to obtain and available from the age of 16 is a small and simple advance for trans rights—the move by the British government to block it is an outrage. It signals the difficulties trans people have in claiming their rights, that of all the differences in Scottish policy or law, the Tory government chooses this one to veto. Claiming that it will cause a legal conflict between Scotland and the rest of the UK simply does not stand up. GRCs are available elsewhere in the country, but are much more difficult to acquire, causing trans people delays and humiliating intrusion in their lives, subject to the whim of health professionals and bureaucracy. As usual Keir Starmer tries to stand just a millimetre to the left of the Tories, at odds with his own Scottish party in opposing the measure for 16- and 17-year-olds.

The Scottish bill is a step in the right direction and should be extended across the UK, but it is clearly not enough—we call everywhere for gender self-ID on demand, no delays, no gatekeepers!

Down with Section 35! Blocking the Scottish law from London is a mockery of both devolution and democracy, and will push Scots further towards independence. Scottish people should have the right to decide their own future and separate from the UK if they so choose, but Marxists would only advocate this if relations between the working class in England and Scotland were too antagonistic to enable joint class struggle. Rail, postal and other workers striking on both sides of the border prove this is not the case. We are better able to fight the capitalist rulers in Westminster and Holyrood if we fight together!

29 January 2023 | Racist cop murder of Tyre Nichols

Video footage of the brutal murder of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols by a gang of Memphis police officers has drawn international outrage and already sparked protests in the US by those angered by racism, police violence and social inequality. The cop killing of Nichols, like other black victims of police terror (George Floyd, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice), exposes two distinct features of American capitalism: 1. The fundamentally repressive function of the bourgeois state and its hired thugs (cops, military, courts); and 2. The racist nature of capitalism in the “land of the free,” where people of color are essentially second-class citizens. The fact that all five officers were black only shows that members of an oppressed group who join the police become instruments of the racist capitalist state like any other cop.

These killer cops have been charged with a string of felonies, including second-degree murder and kidnapping and may well (rightly) go to jail, but this changes nothing. There will be other Tyre Nichols and the murder of people of color by the police will continue, largely with impunity. The fight against police brutality requires action by the multi-racial working class to overthrow capitalism as the only way to end cop violence and racism once and for all. As we noted during the protests that erupted over the murder of George Floyd (“Racist Cop Violence Triggers Mass Outrage,” 1917 No.42):

“Power to effect real change lies at the point of production: workers can bring the capitalist machine to a grinding halt. Five years ago, Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) shut down the Port of Oakland on May Day to protest racist police killings. While small actions such as these will not change the system, they set inspiring examples of what could be possible on a larger scale. Unionized bus drivers in Minneapolis and New York City have refused to carry arrested protesters to jail. Widespread sympathy for the protesters and a shared sense of outrage over state violence and the worsening economic crisis show the potential for building toward a general strike in Minneapolis and other cities.”

31 January 2023 | Tanks to Ukraine

After a year of war and much begging from Ukraine army tops, first-class NATO tanks will soon take their place in the Ukrainian military arsenal. Why now? The contest of arms between the US/European bloc and Russia strips away week-by-week the capacity of both sides to abide by bourgeois “prudence.” Escalation towards an open inter-imperialist war between nuclear-armed powers may not be desired by either side—but escalation is the logic of war. What will this deployment change? A little, in the balance of odds on the battlefield and the tactics available to both sides. More than a little, in the sharpening danger to the working classes of Europe and the world.

What has not changed is the nature of the war. The bourgeois western media becomes more willing with each escalation of NATO’s involvement to term this war a conflict “between Russia and NATO”—but this truth has been blindingly obvious to any clear-sighted observer since day one. As we said at the time in “Ukraine & the Left” (1917 No.45):

“The present war is not simply a conflict between Russia and neocolonial Ukraine—the real protagonists are Russia and NATO. Although the government in Kiev cannot be said to be a mere agent or proxy of Western imperialism as it still exercises some degree of autonomy, this is rapidly diminishing.”

Almost a year later, it is now very diminished indeed.

Yet, some self-proclaimed “revolutionaries” still claim, as a crutch for their support to the war measures of their own imperialist states, that this war is in substance an affair between Ukraine and Russia. Numerous organizations, particularly from the Pabloite and Cliffite traditions, continue to voice no word against whatever arms shipments, financial allotments and sanctions the leaders of the NATO coalition choose to propose.

Such groups cover themselves crudely with the diminishing space that separates NATO and Russia from open war. As Europe and America’s finest ground war machines roll towards the front, do they think this cover will hold for long?

1 February 2023 | Extend the strikes, defy the anti-union laws!

Hundreds of thousands of British workers withdraw their labour on Wednesday, as teachers, university staff, civil servants and transport workers take part in a wave of strikes for higher wages in the face of crippling rises in the cost of living. Health workers (nurses, paramedics and physiotherapists) are resuming their own series of strikes the following week. Postal and rail unions are in negotiations that seem to be going nowhere and will likely have to resume industrial action begun last year. Firefighters have just voted to strike nationally for the first time in a decade.

Trade-union leaders have designated 1 February a “protect the right to strike” day of action, and have made some efforts to co-ordinate, but this is still very far from what we need. The TUC is right to oppose the new anti-strike laws that prime minister Rishi Sunak is forcing through in the guise of “minimum service levels”, effectively making strikes illegal for many workers. Underfunding leading to failures to meet “minimum service levels”—while workers in the health, education, firefighting and other sectors struggle to feed their families—is precisely what these strikes are about!

It is equally important to oppose the many examples of anti-union legislation brought in and retained by Tory and Labour governments of the past, which prevent unions supporting each other’s picket lines and impose a complex ballot process before a strike is designated “legal”. These laws are designed to make strikes ineffective. We only win by ignoring them: Defy the anti-union laws!

From trade-union leaders at rallies up and down the country there is more fighting talk than we have heard for decades, but it goes no further than trade-union militancy, or abstract calls to bring down the government without specifying what to replace it with. The elephant in the room, Keir Starmer’s business-friendly Labour Party that forbids its MPs to join picket lines, is barely mentioned. Building on industrial militancy, workers need a political solution to attacks on our living standards, demanding above inflation pay rises, price controls, free energy, housing and healthcare for all. And a revolutionary party that can link these demands to a fight to get rid of crisis-ridden capitalism for good—it will never give us what we need!

6 February 2023 | Chinese ‘spy’ balloon

The IBT denounces the propaganda campaign being waged in the Western corporate media over an apparent Chinese “spy” balloon. The furor over the supposed “intelligence-gathering balloon,” now shot down by F-22 fighter jets over US territorial waters, occurs as Washington has been ramping up hostility towards Beijing. This includes the US-backed pro-imperialist “democracy” protests in Hong Kong in 2019 and the ongoing American naval exercises over so-called “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. There have been provocative visits by US officials to Taiwan, like last August when then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brought several warships and a flotilla of combat aircraft to the island, to be followed by a visit from her successor Kevin McCarthy later this year. Just last week, a leaked US armed forces internal memo predicted war with China over Taiwan by 2025 and recommended that detailed preparations begin. United States Indo-Pacific Command, the integrated army, navy, and air force command responsible for the region, now has some 375,000 personnel to “defend America’s interests” from Alaska to Antarctica.

US imperialism’s propaganda campaign is clearly designed to soften up the public for potential war with China. The duty of Marxists in this situation is to denounce the drive to war and unambiguously militarily defend the Chinese deformed workers’ state against imperialist aggression.

10 February 2023 | Nord Stream pipeline

Leading investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who previously exposed US imperialism’s My Lai massacre in Vietnam and torture program at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, is now reporting that the destruction of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in September was planned by Washington and carried out by the US Navy. Hersh reports: “Last June, the Navy divers, operating under the cover of a widely publicized mid-summer NATO exercise known as BALTOPS 22, planted the remotely triggered explosives that, three months later, destroyed three of the four Nord Stream pipelines, according to a source with direct knowledge of the operational planning.”

The destruction of the pipelines was an egregious attack on Russia and, effectively, an act of war against US “allies” Germany and France, as a vital piece of infrastructure that their companies partially owned. Like the recent announcement of first-class NATO tanks being shipped to the Ukrainian military arsenal, the covert sea operation on Nord Stream was yet another significant step closer towards an open inter-imperialist war between nuclear-armed powers.

See “Ukraine in Imperialist Vise” (1917 No.44) for an analysis of the strategic importance of the Nord Stream pipelines and their central role in the Ukrainian conflict.

21 February 2023 | Fascists & traffic

Under cover of a “community event” against traffic reduction measures, Oxford was invaded last weekend by a collection of dubious characters, from climate deniers and Covid-conspiracists to outright fascists, who managed to march over 2,000 people unopposed from the city centre to the multi-cultural Cowley Road. The Heritage Party set up a stall in the middle of the main shopping area with signs proclaiming “Freedom—Family—Nation”. Patriotic Alternative, a BNP offshoot recently seen in Liverpool attacking migrant accommodation, were also in attendance. The protest was promoted nationally with many supporters bused in from around the country and will be seen as a major victory for these forces.

Their targets were the working people and oppressed of Oxford, some of whom were drawn to the protest in frustration against the bungled implementation of measures aimed at reducing car traffic in the city centre and inner suburbs. Instead of a real plan to vastly improve public transport infrastructure, the local council has created low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and blocked off roads that have pushed congestion onto the bus routes. This has caused particular difficulties for working-class people who travel by bus or work outside normal business hours, families who rely on their cars, and those with disabilities.

Meanwhile, around 200 people gathered at nearby Bonn Square, responding to calls to support immigrants and oppose fascism. The demonstration marched to surround the Heritage Party stall, causing unease to its supporters (some wearing fascist symbols) and to the police, but was not able to reach the “community event”. Later attempts by a smaller group were met by police repression under the new public order acts brought in last year, including several arrests.

Left-wing forces were severely outnumbered and our impact was limited. To respond to right-wing populism and fascist infiltration, it will be necessary to build a workers’ united front—a mass movement based on the trade unions—to defend our streets and isolate and crush the fascists. Breaking working-class people away from the ideological hold of right-wing charlatans requires a revolutionary workers’ movement that could respond to punitive and ineffectual “solutions” to the climate crisis by fighting for real change—from free and efficient public transport to socialisation of production. And, above all, the recognition that the wellbeing of the planet and all who live on it is utterly incompatible with capitalism.

11 March 2023 | Full citizenship rights for refugees!

Gary Lineker, who has been unceremoniously dumped from the BBC's flagship Match of the Day, is no revolutionary. But the British state's tame broadcaster drew a line at his entirely accurate comment that the government's hard line on refugees: "is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s". Tonight the longstanding football highlights programme will go out without any analysis of the matches or local commentary and other football programmes on TV and radio have been taken off air, as all likely presenters or pundits have withdrawn in solidarity. Most Premier League players are refusing post-match interviews with the support of their trade union.

The claim that Lineker is not "impartial" is laughable coming from a broadcaster that regularly regurgitates government propaganda. The BBC was not concerned six years ago when Lineker, opposing the mild leftward tilt of the Labour Party at the time, tweeted "Bin Corbyn"—because attacking Jeremy Corbyn is exactly what the corporation was also engaged in doing at the time. Now that Labour has "binned Corbyn" in favour of a leadership presumably more to Lineker's liking, Keir Starmer is trying to capitalise on the controversy, while running scared of endorsing the comparison with Germany in the 1930s and claiming that Labour in power will find a better way of keeping refugees out of the country.

The politics of football is complex and tribal, and racism and fascism are still present in the stands. But the outpouring of support for the former England captain is illustrative of basic collective interests among the predominantly working-class and multi-racial fan base. By extension, this support is also for the wretched plight of those forced to flee across the potentially lethal waters of the channel into the hands of a dangerous regime that openly declares they will not be protected by anti-slavery laws. Even those in the political centre can see that is wrong. The workers' movement must go further, physically mobilise to defend refugees from far-right attacks and call for full citizenship rights for all immigrants—however they managed to get here.

16 March 2023 | Capitalist crisis: From SVB to Credit Suisse

The bailout ($54 bn.) of Credit Suisse, following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) last week, sees the banking crisis spread from the US to Europe, with further “turmoil” expected. While it is not yet out of the question that global financial markets will recover, what is clear is that the threat of sudden economic calamity remains a permanent feature of life under capitalism. The root cause of such crises is interwoven with the laws of motion of capitalist production itself: the built-in contradiction of a system that measures wealth in terms of money and profit, not meeting human needs. In their constant search for new sources of profit, capitalists contribute to the development of all manner of morbid symptoms—in the case of SVB, relying on profits from volatile loans to California’s caste of startup gurus.

Should the crisis continue, it will ultimately be the working class that shoulders the consequences of market volatility through layoffs, cuts to services and shrinking real wages; its impact will be especially blunt on the poor and working people of the neocolonial third world who struggle near bare subsistence. As Marxist economist Murray E. G. Smith noted in his analysis of the 2008 crisis (“Capitalism in Crisis,” 1917 No.31):

“If enough people who understand the ‘limits’ of capitalism devote their energies to building a serious socialist movement, the current crisis can be turned into an opportunity of historic proportions. Seizing this opportunity requires much more than making a moral critique of the depredations and iniquities of capitalism, and more than elaborating an abstract case for socialism. What is objectively necessary is an organized socialist vanguard that is rooted in the most politically advanced layers of the working class—among those who recognize that there is nothing inevitable about capitalist rule and who are prepared to fight for the reconstruction of society as a socialist democracy of ‘the associated producers.’”

17 March 2023 | AUKUS deal: Preparing for war with China

Earlier this week, the heads of state of members of AUKUS, the military-security pact between the imperialists of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, announced a nuclear submarine deal worth $245 billion. Presented in Orwellian doublespeak as defending “peace and freedom,” the agreement is unequivocally about projecting military power, primarily American, in the Indo-Pacific “theater.” It is the latest stage in US-led preparations for war with China, in which Canberra represents the “southern anchor” of the Western alliance (i.e., a launching pad for military operations and naval blockades against the Chinese deformed workers’ state).

With the renewal of “great power” rivalry, the Anglo imperialists in AUKUS have been ratcheting up aggression against Beijing. From supposed Chinese “spy” balloons to “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea, to leaked internal US military memos predicting war with China over Taiwan “in 2025,” the prospects of a war with China—ineluctably leading to WWIII and threatening the end of human civilization—inch closer each day.

We denounce the US–UK–Australian campaign to surround, isolate and ultimately overthrow the Chinese deformed workers' state, along with the remaining gains of the 1949 Revolution. Marxists must unconditionally defend China against imperialist aggression and work towards revolution in the imperialist citadels as the means of halting the drive to war.

See “Inching towards World War III” for an analysis of the prospects of another imperialist war and the response of revolutionaries in the current context.

20 March 2023 | British left: Pacifism & social chauvinism

In late February, the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament held a demonstration in London on the anniversary of the start of the Ukraine war around the slogans “Stop the war in Ukraine”, “Russian troops out, No NATO expansion” and “No nuclear war”. These were accompanied by explicitly pacifist calls for negotiation to end the war and requests for the government to embark on an independent foreign policy. The SWP, Counterfire and the CPB are all involved in Stop the War and promote this pacifist line.

This was much smaller than anti-war demos of years past, like those opposing the imperialist attack and occupation of Iraq which began 20 years ago today. No doubt this is due in large part to the barrage of war propaganda in the servile corporate media. The trade unions, which have largely abandoned StWC, have also taken a pro-Ukraine stance. Labour’s position is indistinguishable from the Tories, and Keir Starmer even pressured a group of supposedly left Labour MPs to withdraw their initial endorsement of the StWC line and not attend or speak at the rally. Now Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell is calling for arms to Ukraine.

The Ukraine Solidarity Committee, including the Alliance for Workers Liberty, staged a provocation by turning up to the rally with Ukraine flags and, chanting “arm, arm, arm Ukraine”, attempted to take the front of the march until they were turned away.

IBT comrades attended the demo in order to present our alternative program of “dual defeatism” in leaflets and our journal 1917 and to advertise an online forum we held the following day on the threat of inter-imperialist war entitled: “Inching towards WWIII: NATO Imperialists Push War with Russia/China”.

10 April 2023 | Legal setback for Mumia Abu-Jamal

On 31 March, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Lucretia Clemons filed notice of her intent to dismiss Mumia Abu-Jamal’s most recent legal appeal. Mumia, who has spent the last 42 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, is currently challenging his conviction on the basis of “Batson” (racial bias in the selection of jurors) and “Brady” (favors given to key witnesses for the prosecution in exchange for their favorable testimony) violations of his rights during his original trial. Unbelievably, Clemons’ ruling asserts that Abu-Jamal’s Batson appeal is “untimely” and his Brady claim “immaterial” to his conviction. Mumia’s attorneys now have less than 3 weeks to respond to Clemons’ ruling.

The IBT supports every possible legal path to win Mumia’s freedom, but we have no illusions that the same “justice” system that put him on death row in the first place will grant his appeals or allow a new and fair trial. Mumia is innocent and was framed. Release him now!

See “The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal” for a detailed analysis of the frame-up of Mumia.

21 May 2023 | G7: Down with imperialist cabal!

The Group of Seven (G7), the bloc of leading Western imperialist powers (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and the US) plus Japan, met in Hiroshima this weekend. This year’s summit—ostensibly a venue for coordinating “solutions” to high-profile global issues like trade, security, economics and climate change—occurs as the world inches towards a direct military confrontation between Western imperialist forces and the Russia-China bloc.

The NATO-led war in Ukraine dominated the agenda. Leaders of the G7 agreed on new sanctions to “starve the Russian war machine” while demanding a complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. They also announced that the US and its allies will supply American-made advanced F-16 fighter aircraft to Kiev, though details on the deal have yet to be ironed out. Despite all the talk of Russian “aggression,” it is the West that inflamed the conflict and has spent billions on the war in Ukraine, led by the United States which alone has sent some $75 billion in “aid,” much of it military (e.g., training, equipment, logistics support, weapons, battle tanks).

Responding to Chinese “authoritarianism” and the “rising military and economic security threats posed by Beijing” also took up much of the summit. The hypocritical condemnation of an “increasingly assertive China” comes after years of repeated provocations by the West against Beijing, stoking tensions over Taiwan and militarizing control of the South China Sea and Indo-Pacific region.

As the world stumbles towards a possible thermo-nuclear World War III, Marxists must sound the alarm: global capitalism in its decadent, imperialist phase is driving humanity to the edge of oblivion and must be overthrown.

10 June 2022 | Extradition imminent: Free Assange now!

On Tuesday, a British High Court judge rejected Julian Assange’s application to appeal his extradition to the US, where he faces up to 175 years in prison under the infamous Espionage Act of 1917. That appeal was to have centered on the undeniable fact that Assange, who has now been held by British authorities for over four years after a seven-year refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, is having his rights systematically violated and being persecuted solely for his journalism. The court, which was not to adjudicate on these matters but merely determine whether a legal case upon them could be made, rejected all eight grounds of Assange’s appeal in toto.

The legal avenues to halt Assange’s extradition are now dwindling. Next week his legal team will make a renewed application for appeal to the same High Court, which will in all likelihood uphold this week’s ruling. This would then exhaust Assange’s legal options in Britain. Focus would then shift to the European Court of Human Rights, where Assange’s lawyers filed an appeal late last year, which could halt extradition prior to examining the case.

The decade-long vilification of Assange is motivated by ruling-class hatred directed at the founder-editor of WikiLeaks for having exposed the crimes of American imperialism and its allies, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq. The entire case against Assange and WikiLeaks is based on ruling-class hypocrisy, imperialist machinations and outright lies. Now, more than ever, working people the world over must mobilize to oppose the imprisonment and extradition of Assange and demand his immediate release. Free Assange Now!

For background information on Assange’s case see “WikiLeaks & Whistleblowers in the Age of Imperialism” (1917 No.42).

11 July 2023 | NATO Vilnius summit: Mass Murder Inc.

NATO’s two-day summit in Vilnius, Lithuania begins today. Troops, jets, air defense, artillery, and police have all been mobilized in large numbers in a provocative show of force, turning the capital of the Baltic state into a virtual military fortress. The host country Lithuania, which shares a border with Russia, was no doubt chosen for maximum effect.

The summit, which takes place in the shadow of the reactionary proxy war in Ukraine, comes as NATO/Western imperialism is escalating the conflict with rival Russia. This includes the announcement, made in May, that the United States will be sending F-16 fighter jets to Kiev. Last month Washington revealed that depleted-uranium munitions will be shipped to Ukraine, in addition to tanks equipped with similar shells already delivered by Britain. Just last week, the Biden administration disclosed it will now transfer “Made in the USA” cluster bombs, banned by over 100 countries for their indiscriminate killing of civilians, to its Kiev client. Meanwhile, “fast-tracking” Ukrainian membership in NATO, and thereby triggering the military alliance’s collective defense doctrine, is openly discussed.

18 July 2023 | Unfolding climate catastrophe

The catastrophic consequences of climate change are unfolding before our eyes: The US, Europe and Asia are all experiencing heat waves, while early July saw the hottest week for global temperatures ever recorded, with more record-breaking temperatures expected later this year. Climatologists now readily anticipate Earth’s warming will surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the “tipping point” triggering irreversible ecological devastation: loss of plant and animal biodiversity, increase in extreme weather, poisoned oceans, rise in health concerns from water-borne diseases, widespread food insecurity, “climate refugees,” etc. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the UN agency responsible for weather, climate and water resources, ominously predicts global temperatures are “more likely than not” to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius warming in the short-term within the next five years.

The ecological destruction of our planet is a manifestation of the profound irrationality of the capitalist mode of production and the destructive nature of a profit-driven system. While humanity faces a dire climate crisis, capitalist politicians and bourgeois governments appear content to make empty promises and propose only token measures under which the fundamentals of the necrotic capitalist system remain intact.

A world socialist government, led by the international working class, committed to seriously addressing the existential threat of anthropogenic climate change has never been more necessary and remains humanity’s only option to avoid climate catastrophe.

See our pamphlet “Class & Climate” for a revolutionary approach to the ecological and climate crisis.