Friday, 31 October 2008

Defend the Gains of the 1949 Chinese Revolution!

There is much I disagree with in this article, all the patently nonsensiscal and contradictory sloganising about "political revolution to overthrow the Stalinist beaurecracy", "Stalinist betreyal of the revolution", etc, etc, but it is not surprising considereing the source, the orthodox Trostkyist Spartacist League.

Nevertheless, there is much that is commendable and useful in this article and it is well worth cutting through the ortho-trot verbiage and taking the time to read it, in particular where it exposes the truly awful conditions that existed in Tibet under the Dalai Lama's oppressive rule, eg nearly 50% infant mortality, now around 0.5% and the doubling of life expectency since the liberation of the territory by the Peoples Liberation Army. - SJ

We print below an edited and abridged version of a presentation by Spartacist League/U.S. spokesman Keith Markin at forums in San Francisco on September 13 and Vancouver on October 4.

Right now we are seeing the biggest financial crisis of U.S. imperialism since the 1930s. The crisis is rooted in the capitalist mode of production that predominates in the international economy. In contrast, the economy of the People’s Republic of China has been growing rapidly for years. While this may not last, especially considering the state of the world economy, China has been able to industrialize and grow because its economy is not based on the drive for capitalist private profit. China is not capitalist—it is a bureaucratically deformed workers state based on collectivized property.

We are for defending the gains of the 1949 Chinese Revolution, which overthrew capitalism in the world’s most populous country. We are for the unconditional military defense against imperialism and internal counterrevolution of all the bureaucratically deformed workers states (Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea are the others). These are states where capitalism has been overthrown but the working class does not wield political power. “Unconditional” means we don’t put any prior conditions on our military defense: we defend the workers state whether or not the workers have succeeded in throwing out the ruling Stalinist bureaucracy.

At the same time, we are for proletarian political revolution to oust this bureaucracy. We recognize that the bureaucracy’s political rule is counterposed to the advance toward socialism—an egalitarian society based on modern technology and material plenty for all. The nationalism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime, its claim that “socialism” can be built in a single country, disarms and misleads the workers. Its corruption and mismanagement undermine the collectivized economy. We fight to replace the rule of the CCP with the rule of democratically elected workers and peasants councils (soviets) committed to the fight for communism worldwide. That requires forging a new, internationalist, revolutionary party to lead these struggles.

The economy is the issue dominating the U.S. presidential elections: how to bail out the capitalists at the working people’s expense to prop up an outmoded system. Communists have a very clear principle: we don’t support or vote for a capitalist party or politician, whether Democrat, Republican or Green—period. And we would not ourselves run for an executive office that administers the capitalist state, like president, governor or mayor. The government is the executive committee of the ruling class. The capitalist state cannot be reformed to meet the interests of the oppressed, but must be swept away through workers revolution.

There are many groups out there that call themselves “Marxist” that have disdain for the principles and program of genuine Marxism. They are trying to reform an economic system that long ago outlived its usefulness. This forum is a polemic against these opponents of Marxism and in defense of a Marxist worldview.

China-Bashing and the Elections

Columnist John Feffer of the Huntington Post wrote on June 9:
“Although Iraq is the defining foreign policy issue so far in the presidential race, China will no doubt be smuggled into the election through this rather stark contrast between the Republicans and Democrats over trade…. Not to be outdone in China-bashing, McCain will likely argue that China is a national security threat that requires more military spending.”

It’s not as if the regimes of Bush I and II, as well as the Clinton regime haven’t already spent lots of money on the military. Currently, the U.S. accounts for 48 percent of the entire world’s military spending. And China has been in the imperialists’ cross hairs ever since its 1949 Revolution. With the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92, China became the central strategic target of the U.S., which is encircling it with military bases from South Korea and Japan to Guam and Central Asia.

The imperialists have a two-pronged strategy for capitalist counterrevolution in China: military and economic. The Democrats and Republicans agree on the military strategy of encirclement and unremitting military provocations. They disagree only on the economic strategy. The anti-China protectionism pushed by Democratic politicians is based on the lie that the growth of the Chinese economy is a major cause of the loss of jobs and lowering living standards in the U.S. This myth promotes illusions that capitalism can work in the interests of the working class, thereby exonerating this exploitative system while making a scapegoat out of another country, in this case China. The biggest salesmen for protectionism are inevitably the bureaucrats who head the trade unions (Marxists call them “labor lieutenants of capitalism”), who are also selling the Democratic Party as “friends” of the workers.

In June 2007, Obama sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson complaining that the government “has refused yet again to declare that China is manipulating its currency”—as if that were the cause of the U.S.’s economic problems! The reality is that China has $504 billion of its $1.8 trillion in foreign exchange reserves invested in U.S. Treasury bonds, which helps to keep the U.S. economy afloat. Especially nowadays this is not a very wise investment, not to mention that this investment policy is helping to finance the U.S. military.

China-bashing has picked up intensity since the collapse of the market for subprime mortgages triggered the current financial crisis. China is being blamed for everything from the so-called international “food shortage” to higher gas prices, the problems in Darfur, and let’s not forget global warming. We’re told the reason prices have gone up is because China is industrializing, leading more Chinese to eat more, drive cars, watch television, use air conditioning. In other words, the problem isn’t the capitalist system, it’s the Chinese deformed workers state and its economic growth!

Economic penetration by the imperialists has enormously strengthened the forces of counterrevolution within China while increasing inequality. But capitalists in China are still prevented from organizing themselves politically and vying for power. The core sectors of the economy remain collectivized and the banking system remains effectively state-owned. Economic development has vastly increased the size of the proletariat, drawing many former peasants to the cities. From 1976 to 2006 the urban population has increased from 20 to 44 percent of the total. This is historically progressive. Nonetheless there are still 740 million people living in the countryside.

The contradictions of the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state are sharpening. China is only the third country to have a man walk in space, but it can’t effectively ensure the quality of its milk production for babies. The massive relief efforts following the devastating earthquake in Sichuan Province last spring, coupled with the collapse of many schools due to their shoddy construction, are a striking measure of these contradictions. We elaborated on this in our article on the Sichuan quake in WV No. 917, 4 July. The relief efforts were widely recognized as impressive, thus at the time cooling down the imperialist frenzy and media uproar over the counterrevolutionary riots in Tibet in March.

After the first week of the provocations in Tibet, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited the Dalai Lama’s headquarters in India. Pelosi blathered: “If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China’s oppression in China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world.” Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton called on Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics in solidarity with Tibet’s “freedom fighters.” Meanwhile, ethnic Chinese and Muslims were being burned alive in Lhasa—they didn’t have traditional Tibetan scarves, known as kataks, outside their stores to identity themselves to the “freedom fighters.”
Pelosi’s “human rights” rhetoric is the vilest hypocrisy coming from a representative of U.S. imperialism, which has killed hundreds of thousands in Iraq and is currently occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. Of course, that’s for the cause of “freedom” too!

Under the pro-slavery Dalai Lama, Tibetans were “free” to live an expected 35 years in squalor. Since the “Lamaocracy” was driven out of Tibet in 1959, people live nearly twice as long. Yet groups like the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Socialist Action and the Committee for a Workers’ International—represented in the U.S. by Socialist Alternative—all enthuse over the cause of the anti-Communist “Free Tibet” movement. Like the Dalai Lama and his coterie, this “movement”—the Tibetan Youth Congress, Students for a Free Tibet, etc.—is funded by the CIA front called the National Endowment for Democracy. If Tibet were not part of China, it would be a protectorate of U.S. imperialism, a base for counterrevolution throughout China.

Historical Materialism and Class Struggle

This forum is in many ways inspired by a book published in 1997, The Struggle for Modern Tibet: The Autobiography of Tashi Tsering. It is the story of a Tibetan peasant, motivated by the need to learn how to read and write, who devoted his life to modernizing Tibet. He says that he is not a Marxist, but he was attracted to Marxism because it involved “greater power and opportunity for peasants and workers.” Referring to Marxists, Tsering says that in the early1960s:

“I was struck by their notions of the cycles or phases of history, the idea that religion could sometimes be used to enslave or hinder the common people, and the importance of revolution in the history of most of the modern European states…. I thought it was time for some kind of revolution in Tibet, too, although I didn’t wish for any of the violence or the bloodshed of the sort I had been reading about [in the French and Russian Revolutions]. Yet, it was hard for me to imagine how such changes might be made to occur under our old society in any other way…. And although I was still apprehensive about the Chinese presence and long-range intentions, I began to think that perhaps what Tibet had been living through for the past ten years might in fact be the answer in the sense that the Chinese invasion of our country might have done something that we could not have done for ourselves. It had provided a revolution for us.”

Fundamental social change in Tibet began after Chinese troops defeated the counterrevolutionary 1959 uprising, which was armed and backed by the CIA. But before looking at these events, it is important to understand the origins and nature of the People’s Republic of China. Unlike in the 1917 workers revolution in Russia, the proletariat in China was not an active or conscious participant in the revolution that smashed the Chinese capitalist state. The CCP that defeated the thoroughly corrupt capitalist party, the Guomindang (GMD), was a party based on the peasants. So the obvious question is: how could a peasant party make a revolution that overthrew capitalism and established a workers state, albeit bureaucratically deformed? And what does that mean, anyway?

To answer these questions requires a Marxist worldview derived from a historical materialist examination of society. It means drawing lessons from the first and still only victorious working-class revolution, the Russian Revolution led by V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party in October 1917, and from the later political degeneration of the Soviet workers state under Joseph Stalin and his successors.

Historical materialism begins from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life—food, clothing and shelter—and the exchange of things produced are the basis of all social structures. In every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes is dependent on what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social revolutions are to be sought in changes in the dominant mode of production and exchange. A “mode of production” is an economic system, which (except for primitive society, when there were no classes) is based on a particular form of property: societies based on slavery, feudalism, capitalism or collectivized property.

The transition from feudalism to capitalism necessitated bloody bourgeois revolutions like the English Revolution in the mid 17th century and the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century. Through these revolutions the bourgeoisie created the nation-state and transformed the means of production from being atomized (based on individual producers) into production by a collectivity of men. (“Means of production” includes natural resources like land and animals, as well as machines, tools, factories, infrastructure and technology.) Production became social, but the product of this collective labor was appropriated by the capitalists. There thus developed an irreconcilable antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

Private ownership of the means of production, where production is motivated by profit, is the basis of the anarchy of capitalism. The capitalist system developed the productive forces, within the arena of the nation-state, faster than at any previous time in human history, leading to the development of modern science and the industrial revolution. This was its progressive historic role. But the capitalist system and its nation-state soon became a fetter upon economic and cultural development. The contradictions between socialized production and private appropriation, and between the development of the productive forces and the framework of the national state, came to a head. By about 1900, the territorial division of the whole world among the largest capitalist powers had largely been completed. This led to the first imperialist world war.

In his 1916 book, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin advanced Marx’s analysis into the period of capitalist decay, clarifying that war is inherent to the imperialist system. Capitalism had created a world market dominated by the imperialist powers and divided by their rivalries. It had also fully developed its gravedigger in the proletariat. The solution is international workers revolution to overthrow the system based on capitalist production for profit, establishing workers states based on collectivized property where production is based on what is useful for society. To impart to the working class the necessary revolutionary consciousness to accomplish its historic mission of overthrowing the capitalist system is the task of a Leninist vanguard party. We consider the International Communist League the programmatic nucleus of that party today.

Before the first imperialist war, Russia was the weakest link in the imperialist chain. Trotsky described its development as “uneven and combined”: an overwhelmingly peasant country with a myriad of national and ethnic minorities oppressed by Great Russian landlords and capitalists and under an absolutist monarchy. At the same time, there was a small but important proletariat in a few industrial centers, concentrated in huge factories equipped with the most modern technology. For example, the massive Putilov metal works and the surrounding area in St. Petersburg had 30,000 workers in 1905.

The right wing of Russian social democracy, the Mensheviks, argued that the bourgeoisie must come to power to resolve the outstanding democratic tasks such as giving land to the peasantry. Against this perspective of binding the proletariat to the liberal bourgeoisie, Lenin and the Bolsheviks counterposed the revolutionary collaboration of the proletariat and the downtrodden peasantry, establishing a “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.” Crucially, Lenin had no illusions in any “progressive” character of the Russian bourgeoisie.
Trotsky likewise recognized that the Russian bourgeoisie was incapable of leading a democratic revolution, but went further than Lenin. In his theory of permanent revolution, developed in 1904-06, Trotsky asserted that the Russian Revolution would be proletarian-socialist in character, that the solution of the bourgeois-democratic tasks was conceivable only in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, leaning on the peasantry. This would place on the order of the day not only democratic tasks but socialist tasks as well. To guarantee such gains and lay the basis for a socialist society, proletarian rule had to be extended to the advanced capitalist world.
In 1917, when the tsar’s government collapsed, the Mensheviks supported the new liberal bourgeois Provisional Government and later joined the government. Lenin waged a merciless political struggle against the Mensheviks and those in the Bolshevik Party who conciliated them.

He came over to Trotsky’s view that the revolution could triumph only by placing the proletariat in power, while Trotsky came to see that Lenin’s fight for a programmatically steeled and tested vanguard party was the necessary foundation for socialist revolution. Lenin won over the key cadre in his party, and in October the Bolsheviks led the working class, supported by the peasantry, in a revolution that smashed the old state apparatus, replacing the class dictatorship of capital with the dictatorship of the proletariat based on democratically elected councils (soviets) of workers, soldiers and peasants. There is a detailed examination of these political struggles in “The Development and Extension of Leon Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution,” available in a new ICL pamphlet.

After the October Revolution, during the grueling civil war against the forces of counterrevolution backed by no less than 14 capitalist countries, the Bolsheviks founded the Communist International (Comintern), embodying their commitment to international revolution. The Russian Revolution was a confirmation of the Marxist program and a clarion call to the world’s oppressed. It is our model. We struggle for the perspective of new October Revolutions throughout the capitalist world today.

Stalinism and the Betrayal of the 1925-27 Chinese Revolution

After the Bolsheviks won the Civil War at tremendous cost, including losing the most advanced layers of the proletariat who were either killed or incorporated into the state administration, all eyes were on the powerful German working class: a proletarian victory in Germany would end the isolation of the fledgling workers state. However the 1923 German Revolution was defeated, with enormous international consequences. The postwar revolutionary wave was stopped and the global bourgeois order stabilized for a period of time. The defeat had a hugely demoralizing effect on Soviet workers, helping to pave the way for the usurpation of political power by a conservative, nationalist bureaucracy.

Beginning in 1924 (Lenin died in January that year), the bureaucracy, led at the time by Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev, defeated the emerging Left Opposition led by Trotsky and set in motion a process of consolidating its rule as a privileged caste atop the workers state. But the mode of production based on the predominance of collectivized property did not change: what changed was the political regime.

In the fall of 1924, Stalin began to justify the Soviet Union’s isolation and the political power of the bureaucracy with his “theory” that socialism—a society based on material abundance, in which classes have disappeared and the state has withered away—can be built in a single country, and an economically devastated one at that. “Peaceful coexistence” with the capitalists of the world soon became the corollary. The bureaucracy became hostile to the proletarian, revolutionary, internationalist program of the October Revolution. “Socialism in one country” was the banner of defeat under which countless revolutionary opportunities were betrayed. This political counterrevolution was fought by the Left Opposition led by Trotsky—and one of the first decisive political battlegrounds on the international arena was the Second Chinese Revolution of 1925-27.

The First Chinese Revolution of 1911, led by Sun Yat-sen’s bourgeois-nationalist movement and with the direct participation of the imperialists, overthrew the decrepit Qing (or Manchu) dynasty. The next year Sun founded the bourgeois-nationalist Guomindang. Before World War I, there was barely a Chinese proletariat at all. But the war stimulated the Chinese economy and by 1922 there were two million industrial workers. While this was a tiny part of the population, the proletariat was concentrated in large enterprises with the most modern techniques of production in a few urban centers on the coast, giving it enormous social power. China was not an outright colony like India, but imperialist penetration perpetuated its backwardness. Warlordism with competing imperialist sponsorship proliferated, preventing national unification.
China’s capitalist development was even more belated than Russia’s had been. The key question in the Second Chinese Revolution was: what would be the class character of the Chinese Revolution? Stalin and Bukharin continued the policy of liquidating the young Chinese CP into the bourgeois GMD, now led by Chiang Kai-shek. They revived the Menshevik line of “two-stage” betrayal, whose bankruptcy had been exposed in Russia in 1917. Citing the weakness of the workers movement in China, they argued that the revolution must be restricted to a “democratic” stage under the leadership of a “bloc of four classes”—the national bourgeoisie, urban petty bourgeoisie, workers and peasants. In this schema, the “second stage,” the struggle for socialism, is relegated to an indefinite future that in reality never comes to be. How could a national bourgeoisie lead an agrarian revolution against landlords, many of whom were part of the same bourgeoisie? The answer is: it could not.

In March 1927, a general strike of over a half a million workers in Shanghai turned into an insurrection. But the proletariat was supposed to follow the bourgeois nationalists, not insurrect against them. Stalin ordered the CCP to disarm. Lulled into the belief that Chiang Kai-shek was an ally, tens of thousands of Communists and militant workers, who were the effective power in Shanghai, were murdered when he turned on them in the massacre of April 1927.

At every step, Trotsky opposed this policy of subordinating the working class to the bourgeois nationalists. In a March 1927 statement to the Soviet Politburo, Trotsky demanded that the CCP organize soviets and initiate a revolutionary struggle for power. Drawing the lessons of the Chinese Revolution’s bloody defeat, he generalized his theory and perspective of permanent revolution to other countries of belated capitalist development. In 1928, Trotsky submitted to the Comintern’s Sixth Congress a document titled “The Draft Program of the Communist International—A Criticism of Fundamentals,” later published in The Third International After Lenin. Key international cadre were won to the Left Opposition, including James P. Cannon, a central leader of the American CP, and Chen Duxiu, the founding leader of the CCP who had been made the scapegoat for Stalin’s betrayals.

The defeat of the Second Chinese Revolution had a profound impact on the proletariat and the CCP. At Comintern insistence, the CCP denied that there had been a defeat. With the proletariat atomized, being hunted down by the GMD, the CCP soon turned its back on the workers, retreating to the countryside. Only the Chinese Trotskyists, working underground, sought to maintain roots among the urban working class. The CCP transformed itself into a peasant party in composition and political outlook. So when the 1949 Chinese Revolution overthrew capitalist rule, it did so under the leadership of a peasant-based party with Stalinist politics.

Extraordinary historical circumstances conditioned these events. There was the existence of the Soviet Union, which gave material aid to the CCP’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), albeit reluctantly. The utterly corrupt bourgeois GMD was decaying from within. The proletariat was not mobilized as an independent force. Another significant factor was that the Soviets set off an atomic bomb on 29 August 1949, which provided a nuclear deterrent against imperialist attack.

The basic policy of all sections of the Chinese bourgeoisie and the imperialist powers toward the CCP and PLA during the 1946-49 Civil War was one of physical annihilation. Thus the triumph of the PLA signaled the destruction of the Chinese capitalists as a politically organized class, reducing them to atomized property owners. Contrary to Maoist theory, there was no basis for “two-stage” revolution or a “bloc of four classes.” History proved wrong the dogma that you “cannot skip stages,” that the proletariat must first ally with a section of the capitalist class enemy in a fight for “democracy”—a class-collaborationist perspective that has produced only disaster and defeat for the world’s working people.

The smashing of capitalist class rule in China arose from the specific, and not predetermined, relations among the peasant-based CCP, the Chinese proletariat and the domestic and imperialist bourgeoisie. But the victory of the social revolution could only establish a bureaucratically deformed workers state. The CCP feared the proletariat and was suspicious of it. Like the Soviet bureaucracy, the Chinese bureaucracy is a petty-bourgeois parasitic and nationalistic caste that sits atop the workers state and feeds on it. Its privileges are derived from the existence of the workers state. Just like under Stalin, the bureaucracy’s program, whether under Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping or Hu Jintao, is based on the anti-Marxist lie of building “socialism in one country” and seeking to perpetuate the status quo by “peacefully coexisting” with imperialism.

Trotsky explained the material roots of the Soviet bureaucracy in his 1937 book The Revolution Betrayed, using language that today could be applied to the Chinese Stalinists as well:
“The basis of bureaucratic rule is the poverty of society in objects of consumption, with the resulting struggle of each against all. When there are enough goods in a store, the purchasers can come whenever they want to. When there is little goods, the purchasers are compelled to stand in line. When the lines are very long, it is necessary to appoint a policeman to keep order. Such is the starting point of the power of the Soviet bureaucracy. It ‘knows’ who is to get something and who has to wait.”

Calling for workers political revolution in the USSR, Trotsky emphasized: “It is not a question of substituting one ruling clique for another, but of changing the very methods of administering the economy and guiding the culture of the country. Bureaucratic autocracy must give place to Soviet democracy.”

Tibet and the Chinese Revolution

Until early 1949, U.S. imperialism’s policy toward Tibet was unequivocal. Tibet was seen as part of China, though with a large degree of independence from the central government. While its geographic location was not seen as strategic at that time, the CIA’s predecessor, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), had several agents in Tibet during World War II. The U.S. changed its policy in 1949, when it was clear that the Chinese Civil War was going badly for the U.S.-backed GMD armies. One Ruth Bacon of the State Department argued that with a Communist takeover, Tibet would assume “ideological and strategic importance” and that the U.S. should no longer consider it under Chinese authority. This shows how the Tibet question has long been cynically manipulated by the imperialists for their own interests.

Everything changed with the 1950-53 Korean civil war. The PLA made no decisive move into Tibet until China was threatened by the imperialists, who had overtaken most of North Korea and were threatening China at the border. Chinese troops crossed the Yalu River bordering North Korea to drive the imperialists back, and around the same time about 40,000 PLA troops attacked the Tibetan army, which was on the brink of collapse because of inferior numbers, weapons and organization.

After the First Chinese Revolution in 1911, the 13th Dalai Lama consolidated his power by expanding and modernizing the Tibetan army along the lines of his imperialist sponsors, the British and the Japanese. So pervasive was British influence that as late as 1950 the officers issued all their commands in English while the army band was only capable of playing such “traditional” Tibetan tunes as “Auld Lang Syne,” “God Save the King” (they clearly weren’t referring to the “god-king” of Tibet) and my personal favorite, “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” Tipperary is in Ireland—so it certainly was a long way!

The Tibetan army was clearly no match for the hardened veterans of the PLA. Under Mao’s “helmsmanship,” China began negotiations with the 14th Dalai Lama (the current one, who was about 16 then) based on a program that amounted to “one country, two systems.” This meant the CCP would allow the Tibetan ruling class to continue its social and political rule so long as it ceded sovereignty to the Chinese deformed workers state. This deal was codified in the Seventeen Point Agreement signed in May 1951.

There is a sharp contrast here with how the Bolsheviks consolidated Soviet power in Central Asia, a region which, like Tibet, was economically precapitalist and had no proletariat. The separation of church/mosque and state was crucial in the fight for women’s emancipation, especially in the heavily Muslim Soviet East. But it took time for the Bolsheviks to establish a material and political basis for secular Soviet government and educational organs to supplant clerical vestiges. Of necessity, the Bolsheviks made compromises with those sections of local religious and traditional civil institutions that had been brutally persecuted under the tsar and sided with the October Revolution. At the same time, they used Soviet state power to carefully and systematically supplant such institutions, including by simultaneously demonstrating the superiority of Soviet government.

The Soviet government under Lenin and Trotsky differentiated between the rights of individuals and social organizations to privately practice religion, and the conduct of those clerics of the Orthodox church, Islam, etc., who actively supported the forces of counterrevolution because their material interests were counterposed to the fledgling workers state. The Soviet government successfully mobilized the workers and peasants to decisively crush such forces. They set out to achieve universal literacy, instituting a materialist education for all, counterposed to all forms of religious prejudice. For example, Communist women put on the veil to teach women in Soviet Central Asia how to read and write.

If Tibet was Shangri-La for the lords and lamas it was hell for the oppressed. Formed through the merger of a feudal-like aristocracy and a vast clerical estate making up at times over 20 percent of the male population, the Lamaocracy held sway over a society of serfs, peasants and herdsmen for hundreds of years. This meant that the women did a lot of the labor, since both the monks and a not small portion of the male population, who emulated the monastic life after “sinning” by procreating, were employed in contemplation. Young boys were taken from their families, including to replenish the monk population. Household slavery also existed. It is a measure of the intensity of oppression and exploitation in lamaist Tibet that what was perhaps proportionally the largest and most idle ruling stratum in human history was economically supported by barley growers and yak herders.

Tibet and Modernization

Tsering, the Tibetan peasant whose book I mentioned earlier, finally began to get an education in the U.S. in 1960. He wrote:

“The revelations started when I began to read about medieval history, because as I began thinking about Europe in the Middle Ages—about the cathedrals, the monasteries, the feudal system, the aristocrats and monks who had all the power and land, and the close connection between church and state—I saw parallels to the old, theocratic, and essentially feudal Tibetan society of my youth.”

After reading basic Marxism and history he concluded that since it took revolutions to oust European feudalism it would take the same in Tibet.

Tsering commented on the initial arrival of the Chinese troops in the early 1950s. They soon opened the first primary school in Lhasa, and built roads and a hospital. He said: “It was more change for the good in a shorter period of time than I had seen in my life—more change, I was tempted to think, than Tibet had seen in centuries.” As Tsering understood, it took the Chinese to provide a revolution which the Tibetans could not have made for themselves.

Yet social change was very circumscribed up to 1959. Mao instructed CCPers to slow down the changes Tsering refers to. Why? The answer has everything to do with the nationalist basis of the Stalinist bureaucracy and its contradictory nature. The CCP decided the PLA had to intervene decisively in North Korea because China was directly threatened by imperialist troops advancing on its border. If the workers state goes, the parasite has no host to feed on—there’s no material basis for the bureaucracy’s privileges. At the same time, the CCP chose to “peacefully coexist” with feudal Tibet, where the Lamaocracy was perceived as no threat to the bureaucracy’s privileged position atop the deformed workers state. The oppressed peasants, serfs and herders were not of primary concern—not until there was a military threat.

The Seventeen Point Agreement only applied to central Tibet, not to the other areas where the relatively small population of Tibetans (about 1.3 million at the time) resided. The other two areas are Kham to the east, covering western Sichuan and the northwest corner of Yunnan Province, and Amdo, covering much of Qinghai and some of Gansu provinces northeast of central Tibet.

The economic policy for the first three years in Mao’s China was meant to be for recovery, to restore production. U.S. intervention in Korea showed the need for an economy in China based on heavy industry that could sustain a modern army sooner rather than later. The first five-year plan based on collectivized property was not inaugurated until 1953. Problems soon developed because China was simply too poor to apply the Soviet model for rapid economic growth. Compared to the Soviet Union in 1928, China in 1952 produced less than one-half as much grain per person.

Resistance among reactionary Tibetan forces began in the region of Kham in 1956. This intersected serious problems in the economy throughout China, which led to a rapid change from voluntary to forced collectivization in the countryside. Almost the entire peasantry was organized into collectives in a single year. This collectivization did not go over well with the remnants of the Tibetan feudal nobility in Kham.

Washington was scheming long before the counterrevolutionary uprising that commenced on 10 March 1959. Few believed the Chinese claims that the U.S. and GMD had been arming the rebels in Kham since 1956. But in a 25 March 1959 article titled “Turmoil in Tibet” the Washington Post stated, “guerrillas are said to have been well supplied by some mysterious agency with necessary light weapons and ammunition.” One U.S. Air Force officer pointed out that physical evidence is not always necessary: “If the Dalai Lama is spirited out of Tibet in the face of an overwhelming Chinese army of conquerors, are the Chinese going to think he found his support in heaven?”

What of the serfs, peasants and herders? Political, social and religious customs in Tibet largely remained as they were before the PLA’s arrival. The mass of Tibetans were tied to the status quo without the slightest knowledge or experience of any other way of life. Confused by the new ways offered by the CCP, which simultaneously urged liberation of the serfs from the feudal masters while creating alliances with these same masters, they did not join their liberators in large numbers. Clearly, the CCP’s policy of conciliating the Lamaocracy in central Tibet demobilized the oppressed classes.

It took the PLA only 20 hours or so to crush the U.S.-backed, pro-slavery Lamaocracy uprising in 1959. Following this victory the Chinese government abolished ulag (forced peasant labor) and put an end to flogging, mutilation and amputation as forms of criminal punishment. The land, livestock and tools of the aristocrats who fled into exile were distributed to the peasants, as were the land and other property of the monasteries that had participated in the uprising. The Chinese deformed workers state established secular education and built running water and electrical systems in Lhasa. As a result of the social gains of the Chinese Revolution coming to Tibet, the conditions of life vastly improved. Infant mortality, an astounding 43 percent in 1950, dramatically decreased to 0.661 percent by 2000. The literacy rate rose greatly, though it continues to be the lowest of all the provinces of China.

From Mao to Deng

In 1966, Mao initiated the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” to regain the authority he lost following the economic disaster called the “Great Leap Forward” (1958-60). The latter had brought industrial and agricultural production to a standstill, leading to a devastating famine throughout China. Instead of communism resulting from the international division of labor of several advanced workers states and the elimination of scarcity, Mao’s Chinese-style “communism” was to be brought about by the primitive labor of millions of peasants—equal sharing of poverty. Mao refused to admit that the “Great Leap” was a disaster. The Cultural Revolution was a falling out between two wings of the Stalinist bureaucracy: Mao vs. Liu and Deng, neither of which merited the least political support from Trotskyists.

Mao developed a particularly demented version of Stalinist doublespeak for the Cultural Revolution. “Capitalism” ceased to mean a particular form of property relations. Mao’s opponents within the bureaucracy were branded as “capitalist roaders” in a “class struggle.” Students were hailed as “proletarian revolutionaries” while being cynically mobilized to break workers strikes. Especially significant, the Soviet Union became “Soviet social-imperialism,” supposedly more reactionary than U.S. imperialism. This was meant to justify China’s anti-Soviet alliance with U.S. imperialism at the height of the latter’s dirty, losing war against the Vietnamese Revolution.

The prime task laid down in a 1966 CCP Central Committee decision on the Cultural Revolution was the elimination of “old ideas, culture, customs, and habits of the exploiting classes,” otherwise known as the “Four Olds.” This campaign wreaked havoc, with tremendous human and economic damage throughout China. It was anti-culture, against Western art and music and against the cultures of the Han Chinese and all minority nationalities. To this day, the group known as the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) here in the U.S. hails the demented Maoist Cultural Revolution as an achievement akin to the Russian Revolution!

There is a widespread distortion promoted by the Dalai Lama camp and the imperialists that during the Cultural Revolution Mao mobilized Han Chinese student youth to smash and destroy much of what had been at the core of Tibetan culture. But it was mostly Tibetan youth who destroyed many Buddhist relics and palaces. Wang Lixiong wrote in his thoughtful article, “Reflections on Tibet,” in New Left Review (March-April 2002):

“To point out that it was largely the Tibetans themselves who destroyed the monasteries and temples is not to exonerate the Han; but it does raise broader questions, beyond the issue of responsibility. Why did the Tibetans, who for centuries had regarded religion as the centre of their lives, smash the Buddhist statues with their own hands?… Surely these actions are evidence that, once they realized they could control their own fate, the Tibetan peasantry, in an unequivocally liberating gesture, cast off the spectre of the afterlife that had hung over them for so long and forcefully asserted that they would rather be men in this life than souls in the next.”
I disagree with Wang’s argument that the underlying impulse for the attack on Buddhist relics was “simply that Mao had replaced the Dalai Lama as the god in their minds.” Because of the continued high rate of illiteracy, coupled with the cult of Mao during the Cultural Revolution, no doubt some Tibetans viewed Mao as a god who liberated them from hell under the Dalai Lama’s rule. But what underlay their actions was that they thought they were aiding the Revolution. Tsering writes about his active participation in the Cultural Revolution: “But precisely because it was so unthinkable it was also exciting. Students like me were in the vanguard of continuing the revolution in China!”

In 1978, two years after Mao’s death and the purge of the rabidly pro-Mao “Gang of Four,” Deng took over the CCP leadership and denounced the Cultural Revolution. Despite the claims of some leftist academics and organizations that revile Deng and uphold Mao as a revolutionary alternative, Deng was in many ways Mao’s logical successor. The aim of Deng’s “market reforms,” which he dubbed “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” was the same as Mao’s: to turn China into a modern nation-state and a world power. The market-oriented reforms were an attempt to address within the framework of Stalinist bonapartism the inefficiencies of the bureaucratic command-planned economy.

Starting in 1980, the CCP put forward new policies that gave Tibet substantial financial aid. Living standards improved significantly. From 1979-94 the average income of Tibetan farmers and herders went up six times. Agricultural production was 460 percent of its 1952 level. At the same time, Deng went back to Mao’s original conciliationist stance toward the lamas. In 1978, less than a week after taking power, he indicated his willingness to start a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. The clergy were again given special treatment. The number of monks and nuns increased to 46,000 (2 percent of the Tibetan population) by 1994. Temples were under construction everywhere. The Han population in Tibet was reduced by 40 percent.

Like the rest of China, there was a lot of opposition in Tibet to problems arising out of the “market reforms” policy. The U.S. imperialists had had the Dalai Lama on their payroll since the early 1950s; now they played this card again. On 21 September 1987, the Dalai Lama appeared before the U.S. Congress. Six days later Lhasa saw its first street demonstrations since 1959. Big rallies demanded independence and raised the banned national flag. The next 17 months saw an increasingly bloody pattern of disturbances, leading ultimately to the imposition of martial law in March 1989, which remained in effect for 419 days. This was just a month before the protests began at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square against corruption and spiraling inflation, leading to an incipient proletarian political revolution that was brutally crushed on 4 June 1989.

Having been twice bitten by the policy of conciliating the CIA-backed Dalai Lama, the Chinese Stalinists again hardened their approach after the counterrevolution in the former Soviet Union and East Europe in the early 1990s. Tibet has undergone notable development and now has the third highest average monthly wages of all the provinces. But the hold of religion helps to maintain social backwardness. For example, the Tibetan illiteracy rate is still about five times the national average.

The imperialist powers hoped to take advantage of the Beijing Olympics to intensify their pressure on China through their support to the Dalai Lama. In a provocation that prefigured the Tibet riots—similar to 1987—the Dalai Lama met with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, U.S. president Bush in Washington and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper within a space of five weeks beginning in September 2007. A few months later, on the 49th anniversary of the 1959 uprising, the orgy of anti-Chinese rioting led by Buddhist lamas in Lhasa was followed by coordinated actions in Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan provinces. This was a counterrevolutionary provocation by the Dalai Lama and the imperialists, and the ICL opposed it.

The bureaucracy’s policies of conciliating the Dalai Lama on the one hand, and the anti-proletarian, anti-cultural, fake “class struggle” of the Cultural Revolution on the other also helped to lay the basis for this reactionary revolt. In The Revolution Betrayed Trotsky wrote: “From the point of view of socialist forms of society, the policy of the bureaucracy is striking in its contradictions and inconsistencies. But the same policy appears very consistent from the standpoint of strengthening the power of the new commanding stratum.”

The common thread is that the bureaucracy’s policies are mired in nationalism, the false ideology of a petty-bourgeois bonapartist caste that vacillates between the pressures of world imperialism and fear of the proletariat. An example of CCP bonapartism run amok was the announcement in August 2007 that reincarnation in Tibet is banned without government permission. This could be described as bureaucratic atheism.

China and Revolutionary Internationalism

It is vital for the Chinese proletariat to combat the Han chauvinism of the Stalinist bureaucracy and oppose all discrimination against Tibetans, the Muslim Uighurs of Xinjiang and all other national and ethnic minorities. The bureaucracy’s opposition to international revolution, based on the nationalist program of “socialism in one country” and its corollary, “peaceful coexistence,” deeply undercuts the defense of the deformed workers state. Tibet’s fate is tied to the fate of the Chinese Revolution, which in turn is dependent on the international revolution, especially in the imperialist centers.

The massive strikes and protests by Chinese workers and peasants that happen on a regular basis underscore the sharpening contradictions in China. Recently, there are reports that the legal right to strike may be reinstated, showing that the bureaucracy indeed rules in fear of the largest industrial proletariat in the world. We stand for trade unions in China free of the bureaucracy’s control and based on defense of the workers state. Unconditional military defense of China against counterrevolution is also in the vital class interest of the international proletariat, not least in the U.S. As James Cannon, the founder of American Trotskyism, taught us about the former Soviet Union, the best and only thing that can save China in the end is the international revolution of the proletariat. In order to regenerate the workers state, we stand for the overthrow of the bureaucracy by a political revolution.

The reformist opponents of revolutionary Marxism preach that capitalism can be reformed, and socialism is a pipedream. This is a defense of the capitalist status quo. A decade and a half ago, the International Socialist Organization, Socialist Action and their ilk cheered on the counterrevolutions that destroyed the Soviet Union and the deformed workers states of East and Central Europe, which brought unparalleled immiseration, particularly for women. They have a share of responsibility for that world-historic defeat. Other groups, for example the Workers World Party (WWP), politically supported the Stalinist bureaucracies who sold out the workers states to imperialism.

In June 1989, WWP denounced the incipient political revolution in China’s Tiananmen Square as “counterrevolutionary” and supported its bloody repression. (Its split-off group, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, has the same position.) In May of that year, organized workers contingents started to participate in the Tiananmen protests, which had begun among student youth. The threat of a general strike led the CCP to declare martial law, but for two weeks this was not implemented by the army.

As governmental authority in Beijing evaporated, workers groups began to take on responsibility for public safety, taking over essential services like transporting food and other vital necessities. A group of PLA generals sent a letter of protest to Deng Xiaoping. The army was politically splitting—not horizontally, as happens in a social revolution where the ranks split from the officers, but vertically, an aspect of the bureaucracy collapsing. Other troops loyal to Deng were finally brought in and crushed the rebellion. The Chinese proletariat needed—but did not have—a revolutionary leadership that could have led decisive action at a critical moment in history. The job of a vanguard party is to prepare for such moments.

The events in China directly impacted the mass upsurge against bureaucratic rule in East Germany (the DDR) that began later that year, which also posed pointblank the need for a Leninist party to lead the fight for the rule of workers and soldiers councils. The ICL, in our most significant intervention, fought for the revolutionary reunification of Germany—workers political revolution in the DDR combined with socialist revolution in West Germany. The power of our Trotskyist program was shown in East Berlin on 3 January 1990 when our comrades addressed a quarter-million-strong demonstration called to honor the Soviet Red Army soldiers who liberated the DDR from the Nazis. We initiated the call for this mobilization, which was taken up by the ruling Stalinists because they feared how our program had resonated among the East Berlin workers and felt compelled to mobilize their base. In the end, the Moscow and East Berlin Stalinists surrendered the DDR to the West German imperialists. As we wrote in our journal Spartacist ([English-language edition] No. 47-48, Winter 1992-93), “although shaped by the disproportion of forces, there was in fact a contest between the ICL program of political revolution and the Stalinist program of capitulation and counterrevolution.”

Today, the same fake-left groups who backed the forces of counterrevolution in the USSR and East Europe tail the CIA-backed movement for an independent Tibet. They are actually to the right of the Dalai Lama, who says he is for “cultural autonomy” within China! While the American RCP claims that capitalism has been restored in China, the ISO claims China has always been capitalist.

The group called the “Bolshevik Tendency” (BT), which occasionally claims to defend China, argues that “a revolutionary government in China would signal its willingness to coexist with Tibet’s traditional ruling caste” as long as the latter “retain popular support” (1917, 2004).

Mao tried a similar conciliationist policy in the 1950s when the Dalai Lama was in Tibet, which helped to foster the counterrevolutionary uprising in 1959. The BT’s call for “coexistence” with the lamas dovetails with the “Free Tibet” machinations of the imperialists and their social-democratic lackeys. No less than the groups who denounce China as capitalist, the BT in its own small way aids the cause of pro-imperialist counterrevolution in China.

The CCP under Mao in the 1950s effectively pursued a nationalist policy of “one country, two systems” in Tibet. Today it pursues this policy toward Taiwan, especially since the March election victory there of the Guomindang, the party of counterrevolution. The ICL fights for the program of revolutionary reunification of Taiwan with the mainland—for socialist revolution on the island, as well as the expropriation of Hong Kong capitalists, and proletarian political revolution on the mainland. We fight for new October Revolutions in the capitalist world.

From the imperialist occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan to the incarceration of masses of black youth; from the global food crisis to poverty in capitalist America and environmental degradation throughout the world: the only way to resolve these problems and eliminate the scarcity that condemns hundreds of millions to hunger and early death is to rid the world of the capitalist system and establish an international planned economy based on collectivized property. The ICL fights for a revolutionary historical perspective: for the communism of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks and the reforging of the Fourth International, party of the world revolution!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

McCain plays on fear of 'communismo'

Cuban American voters in Miami fear Barack Obama's policies will lead the country down the path to communism
Suzanne Goldenberg in Miami,
Wednesday October 29 2008 18.56 GMT

John McCain supporters hold up a sign at a campaign rally in Miami, Florida on Wednesday. Photograph: Gary Rothstein/EPA

John McCain threw up his Florida fire wall today: a million Cuban Americans who see Barack Obama as a combination of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez and any other Latin leader who ever nationalised a business.

In the streets of Miami's Little Havana, which McCain visited today, there was one word for the kind of change promised by Obama.

"Communismo," said Michael Garcia, 30, the son of Cuban émigrés who works at his family-owned accounting business.

"I shouldn't have to pay more taxes because I work harder than otherpeople," he said. "The things that Obama say scare me because that'severything that Fidel said. These things are associated in my mind withgoing down the path to communism."
McCain, who is fighting to hang on to the pivotal state, has tried for two weeks to tap into fears that Obama would raise taxes for business owners, using the story of Joe the Plumber, the Ohio man who confronted the Democrat about his plan to "spread the wealth around".

But nowhere perhaps has McCain found a more willing audience for his story about Joe the Plumber than south Florida, the heartland of Cuban émigrés - where he is known locally as "Pepe el plomero".

Cuban support is crucial to McCain if he is to hold Florida in Tuesday's elections, and block Obama from winning the White House.

Here, in the traditional Republican enclave of Little Havana, even thefaintest whiff of socialism revives memories of exile from Castro, apsychology McCain played on today.

"Senator Obama is running to be redistributionist-in-chief. I'm running to be commander-in-chief," he told a crowd of a few hundred at a local lumber yard. "Senator Obama is running to spread the wealth. I'm running to create more wealth. Senator Obama is running to punish the successful. I'm running to make everyone successful."

In the small tidy homes of Little Havana, lawn campaign signs warn that an Obama presidency would be the first step to communism. Spanish language radio shows berate Obama for saying he would negotiate with Castro, Chávez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

Many of the McCain supporters in the lumber yard today see Obama as practically a clone of Castro.

"Obama is saying 100% the same things that Castro was saying before 1959," said Nerty Piscola who left Cuba as a teenager in 1969. "It sounds good. Many people want to be equal, but the result is that everyone is equal and everyone is poor. We don't want to go through the same experience again."

The fears run even deeper among those who were adults at the time of the revolution. "If Obama takes power, you are going to see all the people going to the fields to cut sugar cane," said Lazaro de Jesus, a sign painter.

Cuban Americans, because of their numbers and their history of votingRepublican, have for years been the power brokers in Florida.

In recent years, they have been reinforced in their anti-socialist, anti-Democratic views by a new wave of Spanish-speaking exiles from Venezuela. At least 80,000 have settled in Florida since Chávez came to power in 2000.

Lorraine Thomas, a businesswoman who left Venezuela in 2002, argues that an Obama White House would destroy the very essence of America.

"If Obama wins, I think he is going to take half of the American dreamaway," she said. "You are going to come here and you are going to get taxed a lot of money and you are going to give money to people that don't work and are lazy."

The Cuban vote is crucial if McCain is to counter the surge of support forObama in south Florida.
The three counties surrounding Miami are the Democratic heartland ofFlorida. The Obama camp's strategy for Florida depends on beating McCain by a 600,000-vote margin to take the entire state.

They hope to get a third of their supporters to take part in early voting, a goal made easier today after Florida's Republican governor Charlie Crist ordered polling stations to stay open longer. Voters had been waiting in line for three hours at some polling stations.

The Obama camp also says it has won over a substantial share of younger Cubans, those who were born in this country and strongly identify with domestic American issues.

McCain supporters acknowledge the shift and exit polls of early voting suggest Cuban Americans under the age of 30 are defecting from the Republicans.

The older generation may be losing its grip. "I think a lot of the olderCubans are - sorry to say - dying off, and a lot of the people coming over from the island that have only been here about 10 years tend to vote more Democratic than Republic," said Carmen Elliott, who was a toddler when her family left Cuba in 1962.

"I don't vote the way my parents do," she said.

Muslim vote split in US elections

By Sima Kotecha Newsbeat US reporter

With America set to decide between Barack Obama and John McCain for their new president next Tuesday, Newsbeat visits a mosque in a New York suburb to find out how Muslims feel about the election.

At prayers at a mosque in Jamaica, Queens - a suburb of New York City, the women have their heads covered.

They are kneeling in prayer, the men sitting separately opposite them.

The scene provides an insight into how some of America's 4 million Muslims are feeling about the Presidential race. And the truth is, many are angry.

They feel they've been rejected by mainstream politics in the US, a result perhaps of the 9/11 attacks by followers of Osama Bin Laden, the Islamic extremist, and for which many still feel hated and alienated by their fellow citizens.

I do find it offensive that being Muslim is being considered as a slur. That is offensive, it is racist and it is unfortunate

Azeem Khan, 27, from New YorkIn the mosque, Anoushka prays for peace.

She thumbs her prayer beads and tells me that a Barack Obama victory would make the world a better place.

She said: "He seems like a truthful person and he has good policies."
She also happens to think, wrongly, that he's a Muslim.

Most of the Muslims here are pro-Obama. After all New York is a state that normally supports his Democratic Party.

Vote split

Traditionally, American Muslims have often supported the Republicans. However, this election is turning things around.

Many Muslims in America want a change in the country's leadershipWith the economy wobbly and Republican President Bush talking in tough and condemnatory terms about radical Islamic groups worldwide, many are switching sides and promising to give Obama their vote.

Azeem Khan, 27, is one of them. He said: "There are many Muslims who say because of what they've seen in the past eight years they can't bring themselves, in their lifetime, to vote for a Republican.

"It is sad for them to see unfair wars like the Iraq war where life is lost for no reason."
Religious 'slur'

This election hasn't been an easy one for Muslims.

They've watched Obama, a Christian who spent four years as a child in Muslim Indonesia, apparently fight shy of public association to the faith.

At a rally in Detroit two women in hijabs were told not to stand behind him.
His campaign quickly apologised but Azeem Khan is unimpressed.

He said: "I do find it offensive that being Muslim is being considered as a slur. That is offensive, it is racist and it is unfortunate."

Colin Powell (centre) wants Barack Obama to be the next US presidentRecently, the man who used to run US foreign policy under President Bush's leadership came to the defence of Muslims.
Colin Powell, one of the most respected Republicans in the United States, has endorsed Obama for President.

He told the nation it shouldn't matter what religion the Democrat was.

He said: "I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said.

"Such things as, 'Well you know that Mr Obama is a Muslim'. Well, the correct answer is, 'He is not a Muslim, he's a Christian, he's always been a Christian.'

"But the really right answer is, 'What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?' The answer is, 'No. That's not America.'

"Is there something wrong with some seven-year old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she can be president?

"Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion he's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.

"This is not the way we should be doing it in America."

Polls here suggest 10% of Americans still think Obama is a Muslim.

This Texan woman who didn't want to give Newsbeat her name is one of them.

She said: "I really don't care what Obama says because I don't want someone with a Muslim background running our country.

"He'll be letting them all come over here and he'll be buddy buddy with them all.

"We'll be giving them nuclear arms. Next thing you know they'll be attacking us again."

Her strongly held views demonstrate why so many of the Muslims in America feel isolated and unwelcome in the land of the free.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Sour note for American Muslims in election campaign

By Michael Conlon, Religion Writer

CHICAGO (Reuters) - These are uneasy times for America's Muslims, caught in a backwash from a presidential election campaign where the false notion that Barack Obama is Muslim has been seized on by some who link Islam with terrorism.

The Democratic White House candidate, who would be the first black U.S. president and whose middle name is Hussein, is a Christian. Son of a Kenyan father and white American mother, he spent part of his childhood in largely Muslim Indonesia.

The idea Obama is Muslim has circulated on the Internet for months, presented by some as a fact to reinforce the position that Obama is not a suitable candidate for the White House.

Not since the election of John Kennedy as the first Catholic U.S. president in 1960 has the faith of a White House hopeful generated so much distortion, said about 100 "concerned scholars" and others who have signed an October 7 proclamation aimed at countering Islamophobia they say is on the rise.

In recent weeks:

-- More than 20 million video disc copies of a film called "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" were included as advertising supplements in newspapers across the country, many in battleground states where Obama is in a close fight with Republican candidate John McCain. The film, distributed by a private group unaffiliated with the McCain campaign, features suicide bombers, children being trained with guns, and a Christian church said to have been defiled by Muslims.

-- A city council candidate in Irvine, California, who is a Muslim convert, said he got a telephone call saying "I want to cut your head off just like all the other Muslims deserve," the Los Angeles Times reported.

-- A mosque in a suburb of Chicago, Obama's home city, was vandalized four times in less than two months, with anti-Islamic messages left on its outer walls, and windows and doors broken.

-- An account of an Ohio rally for McCain running mate Sarah Palin, filed by Al Jazeera and posted on YouTube, shows a woman saying "he is not Christian, and this is a Christian nation," and a second woman saying she opposes Obama because of "the whole Muslim thing. A lot of people have forgotten about 9/11 (the September 11, 2001, attacks). It's a little unnerving."

"It is frightening to see at this point the label 'Arab' or 'Muslim' being used de facto as an insult," said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (C.A.I.R).

There is a feeling, he said, that hate crimes increase as Islamophobia rises in public discourse, including that going on peripherally in this election campaign.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican crossing party lines to endorse Obama on Sunday, made a demand for tolerance when he referred to Obama-is-a-Muslim rumors.

"Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?" he asked on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion 'he's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America," Powell said, while making clear such sentiment was not coming from McCain himself.

Muslims make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population of 305 million, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, though some believe that number is low. About a third of the world's population is Christian, another 21 percent Muslim.

Daniel Varisco, anthropology chair at Hofstra University, said he wrote the "statement of concerned scholars" after seeing Islamophobia on the rise.

"The attempts to label Senator Obama a terrorist or rhyme his name with Osama (bin Laden) or accent his middle name (Hussein), as well as false claims about his being sworn into (U.S. Senate) office on a Koran, demonstrate how near to the surface anti-Islamic sentiment is in the United States," he said.

Circulating such falsehoods "avoids playing the race card directly but at the expense of Muslims," he said.

The Clarion Fund, which distributed the film "Obsession," through a huge newspaper advertising buy, says it is an independent education group focused "on the most urgent threat of radical Islam" and that placing the film in the hands of readers in battleground election states was an attempt to grab attention.

Spokesman Gregory Ross said, "we have no political or religious affiliations to any group whatsoever."

The Islamic Circle of North America has meanwhile opened an offensive of sorts -- a campaign promoting Islam and seeking converts. It said it placed advertising signs inside 1,000 cars in New York's subway network.

In Chicago the group had a number of city buses adorned top to bottom with pro-Islam advertising, headlined "Islam: The Way of Life of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad."

Rehab of the Chicago C.A.I.R. office said that kind of approach may work to a limited degree, "but really the crux of the issue is not learning about the details of a religion but rather interacting with and understanding that the average Muslim is no different than yourself."
(Editing by Andrew Stern and Frances Kerry)

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

China 'more communist' than 20 years ago

China is less capitalist and more state-controlled than it was twenty years ago, according to the author of a new book which attacks many of the main assumptions about the country's "miracle" boom.

By Richard Spencer and Malcolm Moore in Beijing Last Updated: 2:16PM BST 21 Oct 2008
The book, by a prominent Chinese-born academic, argues against the commonly-held Western belief that the current boom was launched on a tide of free enterprise in the 1990s. Instead, there was a dramatic clampdown on private businesses.

Rural companies, which mushroomed after China's initial reforms in the 1980s, were taxed out of existence. Meanwhile, the showpiece cities of Beijing and Shanghai, which so impress visiting Western tourists, politicians and economists, were built with government money.

"I'm astonished that Westerners use skyscrapers as a measure of China's economic success," said Yasheng Huang, the author of Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

"Everywhere in China you see these tall government buildings, but can you imagine a county government in the UK building a skyscraper?" he added.

Professor Huang, who teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reserves particular fire for Shanghai, the most westernised and outwardly impressive of all China's cities. He dedicates a whole chapter to describing "What is Wrong With Shanghai?"

He argues that the rapid economic growth of the city has not benefited the locals and that private entrepreneurship has been suffocated by regulations that favour large, state-owned companies. Mr Huang's research shows that while Shanghai's economy was twice the size per head of urban areas of the neighbouring province of Zhejiang in 2004, its residents have only marginally more disposable income.

China's proudest claim – that it has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, a unique feat in history – is true but happened in the 1980s, he says. Since then, inequality has increased. "In terms of poverty reduction, the 1980s dwarfed the 1990s by several multiples," he said.

The number of illiterate adults rose by 30 million people between 2000 and 2005 as education and health care spending in the countryside was choked off to pay for China's urban boom.

Mr Huang's views are significant, coming as they come on the 30th anniversary of the launch of the economic reforms which followed the death of Chairman Mao and the rise of Deng Xiaoping, and which have totally transformed China's fortunes.

Most visitors see those 30 years as representing a gradual reform of China's economy, accelerated after the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989 with the deliberate targeting of investment by foreign multinationals. Today's freewheeling economy, with the streets dominated by Volkswagens and Audis and the shops full of mobile phones and laptops made in China, is the result.

But Mr Huang argues that while the 1980s saw the creation of a staggering ten million private businesses, "the greatest private sector success in the history of mankind", these companies were destroyed by the post-1989 leadership. Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji, both from Shanghai, chose instead to fund enormous vanity projects which boosted headline growth without improving the lives of citizens.

Meanwhile, Zhejiang, the heartland of the Chinese economic miracle, was successful because it chose to continue with the 1980s liberalisation programme, according to Mr Huang. Chinese companies which have succeeded, such as Lenovo, the computer firm, have done so because they based themselves in the free market of Hong Kong.

Mr Huang also debunked the suggestion that China would be able to "rescue" the West from the current financial downturn. Instead, its reversion to state-sponsored industrial growth in the 1990s left it particularly vulnerable to the economic downturn.

"I am deeply worried about China," he said. "Those people laughing at the West should save their laughter for next year, when they may be laughing at themselves," he said. Figures released recently showed China's economy growing at the slowest rate for six years.

Although the current leadership, which came to power in 2002, has tried to reverse tack, abolishing rural taxes and reforming land rights, it may be too late, said Mr Huang. "It's a race between how much US consumption declines and how fast rural income grows," he said. "It's very clear which is winning – US consumption is going to decline faster."

Monday, 20 October 2008

The ultra-right & the McCain/Palin campaign(s)

By Fred Goldstein
Published Oct 16, 2008 10:04 PM

The capitalist media have been filled with reports of Republican candidate Sen. John McCain being booed by his own supporters and of extreme racist outcries at campaign rallies, including threats to African Americans and reporters. These incidents reflect the fact that, within the McCain electoral camp, there are two different but overlapping campaigns going on simultaneously.

While McCain publicly dissociated himself from some racist remarks at his campaign rallies, they had in fact been incited by him and his running mate, Sarah Palin.

On the one hand, there is the McCain campaign’s opportunistic drive to win the presidency by whatever means necessary. On the other hand, there is the campaign by the right wing and the ultraright wing to promote their racist, sexist, militaristic and chauvinist ideology and program.
The McCain campaign turned into two campaigns with the nomination of Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, to be the vice presidential candidate.

McCain was booed twice at his own rally in Lakeville, Minn., on Oct. 10 when he tried to tone down ultraright, racist attacks on Sen. Barack Obama.

The first time he was booed during the so-called town hall meeting was when a right-wing man in the audience talked about his fear of raising his child “under a president who cohorts with terrorists like Ayers.” When McCain told the man that Obama was a “decent person” and that he did not have to be scared, the crowd booed loudly.

Later, McCain was again confronted. “I don’t trust Obama,” a racist woman said. “I have read about him. He’s an Arab.” McCain parried that Obama was “a decent family man” and called for respect. Again he was booed.

McCain was publicly dissociating himself from these two racist remarks. But in fact they had been incited by him and his running mate, Sarah Palin, over the previous 10 days, beginning before the second presidential debate in Nashville. In fact, at the same moment that McCain was admonishing the crowd, his campaign was sending out statements justifying the attacks on Obama, using his association with Bill Ayers to attach the “terrorist” label to Obama and also calling him “a liar.”

[Bill Ayers was a member of the Weather Underground. Founded in 1969, the group grew out of the militant resistance of hundreds of thousands of youth, soldiers and veterans to the ruthless 13-year imperialist war of extermination against the people of Vietnam. Three million Vietnamese and 57,000 U.S. soldiers died in the war. The land was carpet-bombed, bombarded with napalm and phosphorous bombs, and covered with the poisonous pesticide Agent Orange. Millions of Vietnamese, as well as many U.S. GIs and their families, are still suffering from its effects. Civilians were massacred, on the ground and from the air. Operation Rolling Thunder—the bombing campaign during which McCain, a pilot and true war criminal, was shot down and captured—killed 182,000 Vietnamese civilians, according to U.S. estimates. (

[Some of the young anti-war militants in the U.S. resorted to bombings as an act of resistance. Although these methods completely isolated them from the masses and were ultimately ineffective, they were motivated by outrage over the murderous imperialist war that was trying to destroy a heroic national liberation struggle.]

Racists boo McCain at his own rallies

McCain was forced into making his minimalist, mild disavowal of ugly racism after a series of fascist-like outbursts during rallies where he appeared with Palin. The most publicized was the one in Clearwater, Fla., where Palin attacked Katie Couric of CBS News and the “kinda mainstream media,” as well as Obama and Ayers.

The crowd menaced the reporters covering the rally, shouted racial slurs and “Kill him!” One man shouted racial epithets at an African-American sound man and told him to “Sit down, boy.” (Washington Post, Oct. 7)

The same day Sheriff Mike Scott of Lee County, Fla., introduced Palin at a rally in Fort Meyers. Scott worked the crowd up into a racist frenzy by referring to the Democratic nominee as Barack Hussein Obama in tones dripping with contempt. Scott was in full police uniform at the time. McCain made the perfunctory disavowal and Palin’s campaign made a mild statement about how Obama’s name was not the issue.

Rep. John Lewis, an African-American member of Congress and former civil rights leader from Georgia, has said that McCain and Palin are playing with fire. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has warned against racist attacks. AFL-CIO Vice President Richard Trumka has been campaigning among white workers, urging them to reject the kind of racism that is being spouted by the McCain campaign.

Other progressive forces as well as moderate voices from within the bourgeoisie have sounded the alarm. This pressure may force the McCain campaign to pull back somewhat.

Most of the warnings about the racism of the McCain-Palin campaign have been within the framework of promoting the electoral campaign of Obama. To the extent that those warnings help to counter racism among whites, they are totally progressive. The McCain-Palin campaign has allowed the racist forces to surface and the working-class movement, the anti-war movement and the progressive movement in general should give these racists a firm rebuff and mobilize to stop the progress of the ultraright before it spreads. In particular, everyone should be on the alert for a campaign of racist intimidation leading up to the election and particularly at the polls at election time.

But one does not have to be an electoral supporter of Obama in order to join in the struggle against the racists and fascists who are attacking him. For example, many people are supporting the campaign of Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente, two women of color who have put forward a broad, progressive program for the people.

Palin galvanized the right wing

Capitalist electoral politics are a totally ineffective framework within which to fight the ultraright and fascist elements. On the contrary, the ultraright is now using that arena to galvanize its own movement.

What has become evident is that the McCain campaign and the Palin campaign are going on simultaneously. It started from the night of Palin’s acceptance speech, when she wowed the Republican right wing and referred to McCain as “my running mate.” Three weeks later Palin referred to the “Palin-McCain administration” at a campaign rally.

Palin was brought onto the McCain ticket because he was weak within the Republican Party. McCain was not based in the moderate, so-called Rockefeller wing, of the party. But he was also distrusted and downright despised by the extreme right.

McCain has pursued a generally reactionary policy, is a militarist, a tool of big business and a racist. But he is distrusted by the Republican right wing because on occasion he has departed from a strictly right-wing agenda.

On occasion he has collaborated with Democrats, for example, with Sen. Russ Feingold on campaign finance reform. He also held out for a compromise on immigration reform that would allow a “guest worker” program and a complicated, arduous, so-called “path to citizenship” for some undocumented immigrants.

He mildly differed with Bush on torture. And he has pulled back on using anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage as wedge issues in his campaign. During his primary race and up until Palin got into the campaign, his mantra was “reaching across the aisle” and bipartisanship “to get things done.”

All this is anathema to the right and the ultraright.

The main contenders on McCain’s short list for vice-presidential picks had been Mitt Romney and Joe Lieberman. Romney is a Mormon, a former governor and a former supporter of a woman’s right to choose. He has been dubbed a moneyed Eastern “elitist.” Lieberman was a right-wing Democrat who turned independent. But at crunch time McCain lurched to the right by picking Palin. His campaign at this point is heavily submerged in the campaign of the right and ultraright.

The right wing knows Palin and her choice transformed the campaign. Take, for example, the shift by James Dobson. He is a right-wing evangelical figure, founder of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. He spews his sexist, racist bigotry throughout the country on television programs, radio broadcasts and through books. He speaks the mind of many of the extreme right-wing social conservatives in the country.

During the Republican primary, he said he could never vote for McCain “as a matter of conscience.” Once Palin was nominated, however, he decided to back the campaign. Except for George W. Bush in his second term, no president was ever right wing enough to get Dobson’s endorsement, not even Ronald Reagan.

Palin’s ultraright supporters

The reasons are clear. Palin is from the ultraright. She was brought up in Alaska politics to become mayor of Wasilla, population 7,000, under the tutelage of Mark Chryson, a leader of the extremely right-wing Alaska Independence Party, and Steve Stoll, a John Birch Society activist.

The Birch Society is a true fascist organization. The AIP is so racist and right wing that it considers the Civil War in the U.S. an act of Northern aggression. (, Oct. 10)
Palin is militantly anti-abortion, promotes creationism in the schools, has tried to ban books in the library, is a tool of the oil companies and is an enemy of the Indigenous population of Alaska.

As governor of Alaska she has negotiated an agreement for Exxon, BP and Conoco-Phillips to build an oil and gas pipeline across the state into Canada and got them a $500-million subsidy to build it. She is for opening up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling, a position even McCain has backed away from.

While the whole world has watched polar bears floating around on melting slabs of ice as their habitat disintegrates around them, Palin filed suit to stop the federal government from classifying the polar bear as an endangered species. Her suit questioned science and claimed the classification would harm the development of oil and gas in the state. (The Nation, Sept. 10)

Settler-state racism

Alaska is a settler state in which the rights of Indigenous people have been disregarded ever since Secretary of State William Seward purchased it from Russia in 1867. Not only were the numerous tribes of Indigenous peoples not consulted at the time, but the racist language of the agreement stated that “the uncivilized tribes will be subject to such laws and regulations as the United States may from time to time adopt in regard to aboriginal tribes in that country.”

Palin governs in that same chauvinist, racist spirit. Alaska has a population of about 670,000, of whom 80,000 or more are Native Alaskans—15 percent of the population. They were pushed off much of their land over the years by settlers, especially after oil was discovered in 1968. They have fought to retain their traditional rights to hunting and fishing. It is a matter of survival, especially for the many villages with no roads to the outside.

Palin has brought legal actions at every turn in order to override the rights of Alaskan tribes to subsistence fishing, subsistence hunting, tribal sovereignty and the teaching of their languages.

In other words, Palin was the candidate of the ultraright. She gave them a new lease on life. The right wing in this country has grown more and more isolated. The Republican Party has grown more openly split as a result. The Bush years have resulted in misery and suffering for the masses and the general population is demanding solutions. “Free market” ideology and social reaction provide no answers.

The new climate in which the Obama candidacy has arisen has promoted an element of desperation among the right, and that has now surfaced around the Palin candidacy. The Palin forces want to win the White House, but not at the expense of inhibiting their poisonous politics of racism, sexism, bigotry, militarism and other forms of reaction. That is their priority.

When McCain gets booed for even weakly separating himself from the racist mobs at campaign rallies, it is the Palin supporters who are leading the booing. They come with “Palin-Power” tee shirts—McCain’s name isn’t even there. Many of them merely tolerate McCain for the opportunity to promote Palin and their racist agenda.

It is a mark of progress that the racist attacks, while they rev up the tiny minority of right-wingers, have not won over large numbers of white voters. McCain’s poll numbers have been dropping among white workers and Obama’s have been rising.

Eight years of Bush, climaxed by a profound economic crisis, have laid the foundations for an advance of Black-white unity and unity among all the oppressed and the workers, who will have to come together to fight back against the capitalist crisis. Hopefully, in that process, they will push the fascist and racist elements back into their holes.

Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved. Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
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Wednesday, 15 October 2008

US communists say their time has come

NEW YORK (AFP) — A rare bird in the political world, the US Communist Party is feeling rather smug in these days of capitalist turmoil.

At the party's New York headquarters on 23rd Street in Manhattan, regional party chairman Libero Della Piana, 36, laid out why he thinks Marxist-Leninism's time has finally come.

"We are very excited, we feel that we are at a turning point," Della Piana, an imposing half-Italian, half-African American with a pony tail, told AFP.

"We can afford to be less on the defensive for the first time since Ronald Reagan, and we can say our word in rebuilding America on a new basis, rebuilding a better world, instead of one based on the greed of the few."

The US Communist Party was founded in 1919 and never really took off. It was ostracized during the Cold War and members faced discrimination, even firing from their work, during the anti-Communist drive of the 1950s.

Today, the party claims to have 3,000 to 3,500 members -- seemingly not a threat to the giant Democratic and Republican parties contesting next month's White House election.

But American communists think that the collapse of Wall Street and huge disillusionment among the public with the economy has put them on a roll.

"We receive more and more phone calls, we have more inquiries from people, we see an increase in interest," Della Piana said. "We hope to be part of the discussion. I can see a role for the Communist Party in this next period."

"The crisis' number one lesson: the market cannot regulate itself," he said. "Otherwise it goes out of control."

Communist youth coordinator Erica Smiley, 28, said "the major issues for the young are: peace, jobs, health care, education, and we provide them with answers."

Whether the communists will be able to deliver remains open to question.

One plus is that their recently renovated New York headquarters, featuring the obligatory tomes of Lenin and Marx, is prime real estate -- a serious and very capitalist nest egg.

But few people were about during a visit by AFP on Monday and the atmosphere was collegial and slightly sleepy, rather than revolutionary.

"They are all out working to get people to vote," explained Bill Davis, 65, who has been a faithful member for 37 years.

There is no communist running for the White House and the Communist Party does not endorse Democrat Barack Obama.

Yet many staff here wore his picture on lapel buttons, while Republican John McCain was relegated to a box of tissues -- the tissues being pulled through his mouth.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

China to Double Rural Incomes

Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) -- China's Communist Party aims to double rural incomes in a bid to boost domestic consumption amid global financial turmoil that threatens to slow economic growth.
The government aims to achieve those goals and eliminate ``absolute'' poverty in rural areas by 2020, the party's ruling Central Committee said in a statement distributed late yesterday by the official Xinhua News Agency.

The report gave no details on changes such as extending the tenure of farmers' leases and boosting their ability to trade and borrow against land. State-media reports and analysts had highlighted land-use rights reform as the major potential outcome before the meeting.

China's party leaders, who met Oct. 9-12 in Beijing, have made ``harmonious development'' a cornerstone of their policy, shorthand for addressing income disparity and uneven expansion in the world's fastest growing major economy. Unleashing the economic power of the 737.4 million people who live in the countryside has taken on added importance as China faces a global slowdown.

``Maintaining employment and household consumption will be a key objective for government policy'' in the face of the international financial crisis, Jing Ulrich, chairwoman of China equities at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Hong Kong, wrote in an e- mailed report today. Agricultural reforms will be ``positive'' for ``rebalancing the sources of economic growth,'' she said.

`Lagging Behind'

Per capita income of China's rural residents was 4,140 yuan ($606) in 2007, less than a third of per-capital urban disposable income, according to government statistics. The rural population mired in absolute poverty was 15 million, compared with 250 million in 1978.

The CSI 300 Index, which tracks yuan-denominated A shares listed on China's two exchanges, has slumped 64 percent this year through Oct. 10. Morgan Stanley this month cut its 2009 economic growth forecast to 8.2 percent, from 9 percent, while UBS AG reduced its estimate to 8 percent. The economy grew 11.9 percent last year.

``Rural development is lagging behind and needs support, farmers' income increases slowly and needs speeding up,'' Xinhua cited a work report delivered by President Hu Jintao at the meeting as saying.

The government is moving to strengthen the supporting institutions, such as rural credit providers, that can help make the land-use rights farmers already have ``really functional,'' said Li Ping, Beijing representative of the Seattle-based Rural Development Institute.
Transfer Rights

The nation aims to boost rural banks and lending firms to 100 by the end of the year, from 61 at the end of August, in a bid to improve farmers' access to credit, the banking regulator said on Oct. 8.

Another change that the government may make is to allow farmers to transfer rights to the 12.3 million hectares (30.5 million acres) of rural residential land, which is classified separately from farmland, according to Li. That would give farmers who wanted to sell access to capital and income, and also aid companies in need of land to develop.

A Xinhua commentary said that China should give farmers ``more comprehensive and secure'' land rights to boost rural productivity and speed up reforms.

Hu pledged to ``allow farmers to transfer the right of land contract and management by various means,'' during a symbolic Oct. 1 visit to Xiaogang, the village in the southeastern province of Anhui where China first initiated rural reform in 1978, according to Xinhua.

Extending land-leasing duration and other policies to strengthen farmers' rights to trade land would improve economies of scale in agricultural production and fuel growth in rural finance, according to Frank Gong, JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s Hong Kong-based chief China economist.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dune Lawrence in Beijing at dlawrence6@bloomberg.netXiao Yu in Beijing on Last Updated: October 13, 2008 04:40 EDT