Showing posts with label Russia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Russia. Show all posts

Friday, February 03, 2017

The Proxy War in Syria

 When Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson rather undiplomatically criticised key British ally, Saudi Arabia, for being amongst those 'puppeteering' in Syria, he blurted out the truth. What has been going on in Syria for the past five or so years has been much more than a civil war. Rival regional powers, as well as the West and Russia, have been intervening both directly and via groups on the ground which they finance and arm.

 What started as a bid to spread the so-called Arab Spring to Syria, with the aim of transforming a secular classic dictatorship (one party state, secret police, torture chambers) into a secular political democracy (which would have been a welcome development) was soon hijacked by Islamists of one degree of extremism or another with a quite different agenda. They won the support of the Islamic states, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and of Erdogan in Turkey who would like to turn his country into one too.

 With Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey using Sunni Muslim groups as their puppets and Iran, which supports the Syrian government, using Shia Muslim ones as theirs, the conflict has taken on the appearance of being a religious one. Some commentators have suggested, much more plausibly, that the real issue, for these states at least, has been for control of territory through which an oil pipeline from the Gulf to a Mediterranean port could pass most directly.

 For the West and Russia, it has been more a matter of geopolitics. The Syrian government, long controlled by a wing of the Arab Nationalist Baath party, has been sympathetic to Russia since the days of the Cold War, if only because during that period America kept trying to overthrow it. It even claimed to be 'socialist' but only in the sense of running a state-directed capitalist economy as in the former USSR, to which its dictatorial political system was similar too.

 Although Syria was not specifically included in Bush's 'axis of evil' it was still regarded as a hostile state deserving regime change. Russia, even though the pretence of being socialist has (thankfully) been dropped, continued to support the regime, if only to maintain its naval base in the Mediterranean, an objective of the Russian state since the time of the Tsars. For the moment at least, Russia has proved more determined in the defence and pursuit of its interests than the West, and it looks as if the regime is not going to be changed.

 These various clashes between rival capitalist interests have led to a minimum of at least 300,000 being killed, many more injured and much destruction as in the images from Aleppo. Millions more have been displaced both within Syria and as refugees living in misery in camps in Turkey and, if they didn't drown trying to get there, Greece.

 As socialists, we place on record our abhorrence of this latest manifestation of the callous, sordid, and mercenary nature of the international capitalist system, while hoping that the fighting, the killing and the destruction stop immediately and unconditionally.

From this months editorial (February 2017) Socialist Standard

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Who Owns the North Pole Part 84

Russia may consider protecting its national interests in the Arctic with military means if necessary, the country’s defense minister said, pointing to the increasing interest in the region’s resources by countries with no direct access to the Arctic.

“The constant military presence in the Arctic and a possibility to protect the state’s interests by the military means are regarded as an integral part of the general policy to guarantee national security,” Sergei Shoigu said at a Ministry of Defense meeting. “It’s not a secret that the Arctic is turning into one of the world centers for producing hydrocarbons and is an important junction for transport communications,” he said. “Some developed countries that don’t have direct access to the polar regions obstinately strive for the Arctic, taking certain political and military steps in that direction.” Shoigu said, “To secure the safety of navigation on the Northern Sea Route and of the response to possible threats in the Arctic region, a force grouping has been increased at the Chukotski Peninsula.”

Brand new Russian submarines have been rehearsing actions in the glacial conditions of the north since the beginning of this year. These actions follow last year’s drills of the quick reaction mobile forces that took place in the Arctic. The New Siberian Islands, Novaya Zemlya, Frantz Josef Land Archipelago, and Wrangel Island – all located in the Arctic Ocean – have seen a continuing creation of modern military infrastructure. At the end of last year, Russia adopted a new version of its military doctrine until the year 2020, which for the first time named the protection of the country’s national interests in the Arctic among the main priorities for the armed forces. Within its framework, a joint strategic command was organized as part of the Northern Fleet in order to control and coordinate troops.

Russia has recently commenced to develop its northern regions, which includes the production of hydrocarbons, with national companies developing the exploration and construction of drilling facilities in the north of the country. The Northern Sea Route is becoming a more attractive option for shipping goods as ice melts. The United States hopes to begin drilling for oil and gas in offshore areas of Alaska. Last week, the White House produced a set of rules to govern exploratory drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas that would ensure companies and contractors are prepared for the Arctic conditions. Last month, Denmark filed a claim with the UN for a total area of 895,000 square kilometers of the potentially resource-rich Arctic Ocean sea floor, provoking much criticism from Canada – who considers the territory its own

Shoigu also noted that countries that are adjacent to the Arctic are all trying to expand their presence. According to existing international law, Arctic nations – Russia, the US, Denmark and Greenland, Norway, and Canada – have a right to develop the continental shelf limited by 200 nautical miles. Should a state claim further territory, it should provide a special UN commission with scientific and technical data backing the claim.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 82

The People’s Republic of China has systematically increased its activity in the Arctic high north through various avenues. The region’s massive resource reserves, China’s growing presence, Chinese challenges to regional Arctic governance, and the current standoff between Russia and the West are a potentially potent combination. China’s wealth and capital make it an important partner for Arctic nations in developing the high north. China declares itself to be a “near Arctic state” and an “Arctic stakeholder,” even though its northernmost territory lies more than 1,000 miles south of the Arctic Circle. As the most populous country in the world, China claims that it should have a say in Arctic policy and disagrees with Arctic issues being decided by Arctic states alone. More broadly, given the region’s resource reserves, shipping lanes, and implications for global warming, China argues that Arctic state interests and claims must be balanced against international interests in the seas and resources of the region. Very prominent and influential Chinese scholars and officials push this rhetoric. For example, the head of the European department of the China Institute for International Studies recently pronounced: “Countries closer to the Arctic, such as Iceland, Russia, Canada, and a few other European countries may tend to wish the Arctic were private or that they had priority to develop it, but China insists that the Arctic belongs to everyone just like the Moon.” Similarly, the director of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration has stated that “Arctic resources…will be allocated according to the needs of the world, not only owned by certain countries.” And in response to Russian Arctic territorial claims, Chinese Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo declared that “the Arctic belongs to all the people around the world as no nation has sovereignty over it.” In the context of the country’s quest for natural resources, Chinese attitudes toward the Arctic are unprecedented. While it has been aggressive in pursuing resources around the globe, China has also maintained a clear respect for sovereign claims in doing so. Its rhetoric concerning the Arctic diverges from this practice.

China’s growing physical presence in the Arctic, the statements of prominent government officials, and the region’s significant potential benefits encourage the sense that China may label its activity in the region as a core interest. The introduction of such a large actor into Arctic international relations with interests beyond mere investment and trade – i.e., claims and ownership – is a recipe for elevated conflict in a region that already possesses its share of tension due to the often incompatible claims of Arctic littoral states. The economic dependence being nurtured between China and certain Arctic nations has the potential to hasten the arrival of the situation noted above. This dependence could give China an amplified voice in northern affairs and an ever-deepening Arctic presence. For Iceland and Denmark, Arctic trade with and investment from China are significantly more important to them than the reverse is for the PRC. This gives those countries a strong incentive to support China’s regional ambitions and, accordingly, affords China significant leverage. As Russia becomes increasingly isolated and its economy suffers due to its actions in Ukraine and resulting sanctions, it will find itself in a similar position in Arctic interactions. Russian support for Chinese Arctic ventures and interests will begin to grow in attractiveness out of a desire to gain investment and trade, and not to offend its sole significant partner.


The Arctic offers China diversity, security and savings. Despite significant inroads with Russia, China is largely dependent on oil imports from the volatile Middle East that must pass through the chokepoint of the Strait of Malacca in Southeast Asia. In 2011, approximately 85 percent of China’s oil imports transited this passage. The source and travel path for these resources, and China’s current lack of alternatives, are not ideal. Arctic energy sources and shipping lanes provide attractive diversity and security.

Arctic shipping would also substantially reduce transport costs. The distance from Shanghai to Hamburg along the Northern Sea Route over Russia is approximately 30 percent shorter than the comparable route through the Suez Canal. Such a reduction in shipping time and distance will yield large savings on fuel and increase China’s export potential to Europe. In 2013, 71 vessels sailed the Northern Sea Route, moving 1,355,897 tons. This is a substantial increase over the four vessels that did so in 2010. China hopes to send 15 percent of its international shipping through the Arctic by 2020.

 China has taken substantial steps toward establishing a financial and physical presence in the Arctic and placing itself in the conversation on Arctic affairs. China is spending approximately $60 million annually on polar research (more than the U.S., which actually controls Arctic territory), runs the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, opened the China-Nordic Arctic Research Center in Shanghai in late 2013, and plans to dramatically increase its Arctic research staff. China’s physical presence in the Arctic has also increased considerably in the past decade. In 2003, it completed the Arctic Yellow River Station, a permanent research facility on Norway’s Spitsbergen Island. China also currently possesses one icebreaker directed toward Arctic operations, with another to be completed by 2016. Despite being a non-Arctic nation, it will soon have the same number of Arctic icebreakers as Arctic littoral states Norway and the U.S.

In the realm of international organizations and politics, China has joined a litany of international Arctic scientific groups. In 2013, it also became a permanent observer to the Arctic Council – the eight-member intergovernmental forum that is the center of international Arctic policy formulation. Similarly, with respect to bilateral relations, the PRC has actively courted northern states, and made substantial progress with both Iceland and Denmark. Following Iceland’s 2008 economic crash, China provided it with large aid packages. In 2012, then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao began his tour of Europe in the small country, and a Chinese-Icelandic free trade agreement was inked in 2013. China is also seeking energy projects in Greenland and courting Danish leaders. The targeting of small countries in great need of capital, investment and labor allows China to use its wealth and resources to cultivate economic entanglement and, ultimately, degrees of dependence. As a result, Iceland and Denmark have become very supportive of China having a louder voice in Arctic affairs and policy.

Now, something similar is developing between China and Russia. While energy trade between Russia and China has been steadily advancing since the mid-2000s, early 2013 saw the first major Arctic cooperative deal between the countries. The China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) contracted with Rosneft to survey three areas of the Arctic in the Pechora and Barents Seas. Later that same year, CNPC announced it would partner with Novatek, Russia’s largest independent natural gas producer, and take a 20 percent stake in the Yamal Project tapping the resource rich Arctic South Tambey gas field. Although Russia’s turn east has thus far been largely on its terms, this year’s sanctions are changing the dynamic. Compared to smaller countries, Russia has traditionally not been as susceptible to foreign influence. Yet the sanctions are taking a significant toll and severely limiting its potential Arctic partners, leaving Russia with few places to turn. When it comes to its needs and bargaining stature with China on Arctic issues, Russia is progressively finding itself in an even weaker position than that which Iceland and Denmark occupy: in need of capital and funding but severely limited in partner choice.

The resource rich Kara Sea is likely the first place where Western sanctions will significantly benefit China. Exxon and Rosneft jointly discovered a massive reserve in the region estimated to contain 11.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 750 million barrels of oil. After completing the much more complex tasks of exploration and drilling but before pumping any gas or oil, Exxon was forced to pull out. Now, Russia is faced with an expensive undertaking that necessitates a partner – and China is in an excellent position to assume Exxon’s stake in the resource operation for several reasons. For one, Russia has already begun talks with China to sail rigs from the South China Sea to the Arctic Ocean to replace exiting Western installations. Rosneft, which is currently studying Arctic offshore cooperative offers from Asia, has also contracted to sell a 10 percent percent stake in one of Russia’s largest oil fields and “Rosneft’s biggest production asset” to China, evidencing its readiness to partner with China on nationally important projects to ease sanctions-related burdens. In addition, Chinese prospecting areas in the Pechora and Barents Seas in the Russian Arctic directly abut the Kara Sea. Just as with Iceland and Denmark, China will slowly increase its trade and Arctic partnerships with Russia to substantial levels. This will breed a level of economic dependence. Trade between Russia and China was already trending upward before Western sanctions were levied; these measures will serve to speed up this process. Russia’s lack of alternative partners gives China a distinct advantage in any negotiations, and the PRC has displayed this new dynamic by driving hard bargains in energy deals reached with Russia since the Ukrainian crisis began.

What is concerning about the impact of Western sanctions on China’s entry into the Arctic is not the PRC potentially “locking up” a substantial portion of the Earth’s untapped resources. Rather, the issue is the introduction of a large, assertive, and potentially combative actor into already tense Arctic relations where Arctic states have a host of conflicting claims to the region that will likely only be exacerbated as global warming opens it up.

http://thediplomat.com/2015/01/russian-sanctions-china-and-the-arctic/



Friday, December 19, 2014

Who owns the North Pole Part 81

Russia's interests in the Arctic go beyond the economic and military advantages offered by the Northern Sea Route. The region is rich in minerals, wildlife, fish, and other natural resources. Some estimates claim that 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil reserves and almost one-third of the world's undiscovered natural gas reserves are located in the Arctic region. For now, the Arctic region is an area of low conflict, and it is in everyone's interest to keep it that way. Although the security challenges currently faced in the Arctic are not military in nature, there is still a requirement for military capability in the region that can support civilian authorities. So it should be no surprise that like Russia, other Arctic countries deploy military assets into the region. Even so, Russia has taken steps to increase military capability in the region that seems to be beyond the scope of supporting civilian operations.

Russia's primary military focus in the Arctic is in the maritime sphere. New Russian naval doctrine calls for Russia to increase its maritime presence in the Arctic. Already, Russia's Northern Fleet, which is based in the Arctic, counts for two-thirds of the Russian navy. There will be a significant increase of Russian ground troops based in the region too. Over the next few years two new so-called Arctic brigades will be permanently based above the Arctic Circle, and the current regiment of marines assigned to the Northern Fleet will increase by one-third. Russia has plans to build 13 airfields as well as 10 radar posts along the course of the Northern Sea Route. Most of these airfields will be refurbished Soviet era bases, but others will be new.

Nationalism is on the rise in Russia, Putin's Arctic strategy is popular among the population.


http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/12/russia-arctic-opportunity-2014121854828947405.html

Friday, November 21, 2014

Who owns the North Pole part 79

Russia will address the UN on the expansion of its Arctic shelf next spring. If successful the move would see the country adding an area of 1.2 million sq. kilometers in the Arctic Ocean, holding 5 billion tons of standard fuel, to its territory. The Russians now say they possess all the necessary studies to put an application together and present it to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). For the UN to recognize Moscow’s ownership of those areas, it must be scientifically proven that they are a continuation of the continental crust with the same general geological structure.

The move would permit Russia to increase its potential hydrocarbon reserves by at least 5 billion tons of standard fuel, Sergey Donskoy, the country’s natural resources minister, said, adding that “those are just the most humble assessments, and I’m sure that the actual figure will be a lot larger.”

Over 60 large hydrocarbon fields have been discovered above the Arctic Circle, with 43 of them in the Russian sector.  The total recoverable resources of Russia’s part of the Arctic are estimated at 106 billion tons of oil and 69.5 trillion cubic meters of gas. The discovery of the deposits sparked international competition over the region’s resources, in which all the Arctic states – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the US – are involved. Approximately 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of its oil lie in the Arctic, with an estimated 84 percent of the Arctic’s 90 billion barrels of oil and 47.3 trillion cubic meters of gas remaining offshore.


http://rt.com/news/200555-ussia-arctic-shelf-un/

Monday, November 10, 2014

Who owns the North Pole (part 77)

The Arctic has attracted an increasingly intense gaze from the powerful nations that border it in the past decade, not least because it is thought to contain up to 30 percent of the world’s oil and gas. As technologies have advanced, more and more of those hydrocarbons have become recoverable and viable. The stretch of sea can also provide new shipping lanes for goods traveling between Asia and America and Europe. Russia already has rights to any territories located within 370 km of its border, but has lodged claims on a much bigger part of the territory with the UN, due to the existence of an underwater shelf, which would make a sizeable portion of the Arctic an extension of Russian territory. Canada and other Arctic powers have followed suit, with the exact divisions of territories expected to be decided over the course of the next decade.

Russia will have military control of the entirety of its 6,200 km Arctic coastal zone by the end of 2014, just a year after Moscow announced its plan to build military presence in the region, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has announced. Many of the sites in the region have to be repaired. In fact, a lot of them, such as airfields, logistics facilities, water intakes, power stations will have to be built from scratch, which is what we are doing right now.”

Two Borey-class nuclear submarines, which will form the spine of the refurbished fleet, have been armed this year, and a third one has just completed trials. In total, eight Borey vessels are expected to be built by the end of the decade, though some of them may be re-deployed with the Pacific fleet. Russia is also in the process of unsealing at least seven airstrips that were shut down following the collapse of the Soviet Union, with Tiksi in Yakutia expected to house the bulk of the Arctic air force. Work also began in September on a permanent base located on the New Siberian Islands in the Laptev Sea. A military group consisting of two brigades will be stationed in the far North as part of the new military district.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Who owns the North Pole part 70

A Russian military official told Russian media that the Kremlin was forming a new strategic military command to protect its interests in the Arctic. The formation of the new command follows a December 2013 order from Russian President Vladimir Putin to ramp up Russia's military presence in the Arctic. Putin said Russia was returning to the Arctic and "intensifying the development of this promising region" and that Russia needs to "have all the levers for the protection of its security and national interests."

"The new command will comprise the Northern Fleet, Arctic warfare brigades, air force and air defense units as well as additional administrative structures," a source in Russia's General Staff told RIA Novosti.

Russia created the Northern Fleet-Unified Strategic Command to protect oil and gas fields on the Arctic shelf.

 Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States — the five countries that have a border with the Arctic — have been rushing to secure rights to drill for oil and natural gas in places that are now accessible. Hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake. Experts estimate that the Arctic holds some 30 percent of the world's natural gas supply, and 13 percent of the world's oil. That's why companies like Royal Dutch Shell, the U.S.-based Arctic Oil & Gas Corp. and Russia's Gazprom have all been making exploration claims on land in the Arctic.

Countries are making new claims in the Arctic as well. Each of the five nations with Arctic borders is allotted 200 nautical miles of land from their most northern coast. Putin's military expansion was in direct response to a claim of additional land by Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, who last year asked scientists to craft a submission to the United Nations arguing that the North Pole belongs to Canada. The Canadian claim also asserts that it owns the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain range located between Ellesmere Island, Canada's most northern border, and Russia's east Siberian coast.

 The American Department of Defense last November released a new Arctic strategy outlining American interests in the region. The new strategy calls for the Pentagon to take actions to ensure that American troops could repel an attack against the homeland from a foe based in the Arctic and calls for increased training to prepare soldiers for fights in Arctic conditions. It makes clear that the Pentagon believes the Arctic is becoming contested territory, and the DOD would act to protect American interests.

http://theweek.com/article/index/256908/the-race-for-arctic-oil-russia-vs-us

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Who Owns the North Pole (Part 69)

"A great chess game is being played with countries staking claims to the Arctic to make sure they are not left out. Climate change is taking place at twice the global average speed in the Arctic. Some countries, like China, are looking 50 years ahead," said Malte Humpert, director of the Washington-based thinktank the Arctic Institute.

 The Arctic has now become a true strategic hot spot at the centre of global interest. The high north embodies high stakes. A paradigm shift in international politics is taking place," said Sturla Henriksen, head of the Norwegian Shipowners' Association.

The city of Nadym, in the extreme north of Siberia, is one of the Earth's least hospitable places, shrouded in darkness for half of the year, with temperatures plunging below -30C and the nearby Kara Sea semi-permanently frozen. Over the next 30 years climate change is likely to open up a polar shipping route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, cutting travel time to Asia by 40% and allowing Russia's vast oil and gas resources to be exported to China, Japan and south Asia much faster. Nadym stands to benefit from a warmer climate more than any other Arctic city – the Russian government plans to connect it by road and rail to other oil and gas centres; Gazprom, the world's largest gas company, is building a port nearby with French oil major Total; and if the new northern sea route is open for even six months of the year. Expectations are high that the route will complement the Suez canal as a key waterway for trade to and from Asia. Sailing trans-arctic from Yokohama to Hamburg would shave 40% off the distance compared to the Suez Canal. Confidence that the Arctic will become economically important is seen in the rush of countries and companies to claim a stake. Eleven countries, including Poland and Singapore, have appointed Arctic ambassadors to promote their national interests.

"The entire centre of gravity of the world economy is shifting to Nadym," said the mayor, Stanislav Shegurov.

 "The Arctic is our home and our future. We will make full use of the northern sea route. We are building infrastructure, we are making history. We have ambitious plans," said Anton Vasiliev, Russian ambassador for the Arctic.

"The Arctic is changing rapidly. It will be our most important foreign policy area.”  said the Norwegian prime minister, Erna Solberg.

Only 71 large ships, working mostly with Russian icebreakers, navigated the route in 2013, but Russia expects a 30-fold increase in shipping by 2020 and ice-free water over most of its length by 2050. The summer ice has declined by nearly 50% in 40 years and by 2050, say Laurence Smith and Scott Stephenson of the University of California, ordinary vessels should be able to travel easily along the northern sea route and ice-strengthened ships should be able to pass over the pole itself. Gazprom last week launched in South Korea the first of four giant "ice-class" natural gas carriers for the sea route. The Russian government plans to spend more than $3bn reopening a military base on the Novosibirsk Islands and is building new icebreakers and navigational centres. Oil giant Rosneft and ExxonMobile will start drilling for oil in the Kara Sea this year. Norway and the other Nordic countries have all made Arctic development a priority. Finland, which has no access to the northern sea route, has proposed a railway linking its mines to the Russian coast. "Finland needs a new Nokia. The Arctic could be it," said its Arctic affairs ambassador, Hannu Halinen.

American, Canadian, Japanese, South Korean and British companies all intend to use the sea route to mine across the region, but no country hopes to gain more than China, according to Wang Chuanxing, polar researcher at Tongji University, Shanghai. "China's economy is 50% dependent on trade. The development of the northern sea route would have a major impact on its economy. One-third of China's trade is with the EU and the US. The opening of the northern sea route is vital for China," he said. The polar research institute of China said that Arctic shipping would play a major role in the country's future trade, and suggested that, by the year 2020, 5%-15% of China's trade value – about $500bn – could pass through the Arctic.
Japan also hopes to benefit. "Ten per cent of the world's unexploited crude oil and 20% of its natural gas is said to be in the Arctic. Recent changes because of climate change are attracting people in Japan. We want to actively participate. We are researching the Arctic sea route," said Toshio Kunikata, the Japanese ambassador in charge of Arctic affairs.

Taken from here

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 68

Canadian officials confirmed Monday that the nation is preparing to include the North Pole as part of its Arctic Ocean seabed claim in the multi-country push to prove jurisdiction over further territory in the resource-rich area.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Arctic Council chair Leona Aglukkaq officially announced Monday Canada’s claim to the extended continental shelf in the Arctic. It was reported by The Globe and Mail last week that Prime Minister Stephen Harper requested a government board charged with assessing Canada’s claims beyond its territorial waterways, per United Nations rules, to seek a more expansive stake of Arctic area to include the North Pole.

"We have asked our officials and scientists to do additional work and necessary work to ensure that a submission for the full extent of the continental shelf in the Arctic includes Canada's claim to the North Pole," Baird said during a press conference at the House of Commons.

The North Pole is 817 kilometers north of Canada’s - and the world’s - northernmost settlement, Alert, Nunavut. The town is home to a Canadian Forces station and Environment Canada station.

"Fundamentally, we are drawing the last lines of Canada. We are defending our sovereignty," Aglukkaq said, according to CBC News.

Canada has spent nearly US$200 million on the scientific-discovery process of the area, including dozens of icebreaker and helicopter trips for teams of scientists. An unmanned submarine was used to collect data below the frigid Arctic water.  About 90 billion barrels of oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie in the largely untapped 18-million-square-mile Arctic region, according to the US Geological Survey, making up about 10 percent of the world's petroleum resources. The dominant portion of these resources are hidden beneath the ice that is shared between five nations bordering the Arctic: Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Russian Federation and the US.

Both Russia and Canada say the resource-abundant Lomonosov Ridge, below the ocean and close to the geographic North Pole, is a natural extension of their continental shelves.
“As for the Arctic, there are not only large economic interests for the country – a huge amount of mineral resources, oil and gas,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week, underlining his nation’s interests in the region. “But there lies a very important part of our defense capabilities.”

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lenin and the Russian Revolution (Part 1)


The SPGB view expressed repeatedly is socialism could not be established in backward isolated Russian conditions where the majority neither understood nor desired socialism. The takeover of political power by the Bolsheviks obliged them to adapt their programme to those undeveloped conditions and make continual concessions to the capitalist world around them. In the absence of world socialist revolution there was only one road forward for semi-feudal Russia, the capitalist road , and it was the role of the Bolsheviks to develop industry through state ownership and the forced accumulation of capital . The SPGB would classify the Russian Revolution as a bourgeoise revolution without the bourgeoisie. The Bolsheviks, finding Russia in a very backward condition, were obliged to do what had not been fully done previously, i.e. develop capitalism. The Bolsheviks performed the task of setting Russian capitalism on its feet .

"No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room within it have been developed; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society" - Marx

The Bolsheviks, however, thought it possible for an active minority, representing the aspirations of the workers, to gain political power before the capitalist revolution itself had been completed. But what would happen if such a minority gained a political victory over the capitalist classes? In those circumstances, the minority become merely the tools of the capitalist class, which has not been virile enough to gain or hold power. Such a minority finds itself in the position of having to develop and run capitalism for a class unable, at the time, to do it successfully itself. In running capitalism, the minority will be compelled to use its power to keep the working class in its wage-slave position. The SPGB argument is that the material conditions in Russia meant the development of capitialism, which the Bolsheviks were unable to avoid. In fact, they became its agents .

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dictatorship of the Proletariat Versus Dictatorship of the Party


Marx and Engels visualised socialism as the highest stage of human society not for the few, but for the benefit of humanity as a whole. The socialist commonwealth would liberate the individual from all economic, political and social oppression, and would provide the basis, for real liberty and for the full and harmonious development of the personality, giving full scope for the growth of the creative faculties of the mind.


Marx said: “The proletarian movement is the self-conscious independent movement of the immense majority in the interest of the immense majority.” And further: “The first step of the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class and to win the battle of democracy.”

If the dictatorship of the proletariat is the dictatorship of the immense majority of the people, why should this majority desire to destroy democracy? For Marx the dictatorship of the proletariat meant the democratic rule of the proletarian majority.
Marx and Engels clearly stated that they regarded the Paris Commune as dictatorship of the proletariat, and emphasised the spirit of democracy prevailing in the Commune: “The Commune was composed of deputies elected by adult suffrage in the various districts of Paris. They were responsible and could be recalled at any time.... Nothing could be more hostile to the spirit of the Commune than the abolition of adult suffrage in favour of hierarchical investiture.”
Lenin perverted this clear meaning into dictatorship of the party. At the early stages of the Russian Revolution the soviets - workers assemblies or councils – were comparatively democratically elected bodies representing the masses of the workers and peasants. At the early stages of the October revolution this was replaced by the dictatorship of the Communist Party. The power of the soviets became more and more nominal. Central and local authorities hitherto elected by the soviets and soviet congresses were now appointed by the party organisations, and the soviets or soviet congresses had only to register and rubber-stamp the party’s decisions. The workers lost their defence against management as the trade unions also became subordinated to the Party.
The dictatorship of the party soon deteriorated to a dictatorship of the party politbureau and commissars. The right of election and the freedom of expression of opinion were abolished as was dissent within the party. The soviets retained their right to “elect” but they could elect only those candidates put forward by the party leadership. And those “elected” to various bodies and positions could at any time be recalled – by the party. The same methods soon were applied inside the party too; the members were “free” to “elect” their committees, branch secretaries and delegates, but only those put forward by the bureaucracy.

Even this was not the last stage of development. In the course of events in Russia party dictatorship narrowed down into the dictatorship first of the Executive Committee, then of the latter’s political bureau, finally of its general secretary the very caucus was superceded by the general secretary of the party – Stalin. In the one-party state there is only one absolute truth, and that is in the possession of the party – or its leader. Any deviation from it is political and criminal heresy. The elector cannot select between various lists of candidates, he can only vote “yes” or “no,” . All that remains to him is to show his dissatisfaction by declining to endorse the official candidates. But who will count the votes? Under all existing dictatorships voting is merely a farce and the constitution a scrap of paper. What is the use of even choosing a Parliament or a Central Committee if it meets only occasionally just for decoration and is not endowed with any real power, but simply to endorse the actions of the Supreme Leader?

Supporters of the Russian Resolution, found themselves in a trap. Having set out to struggle for liberty and extending democracy against political oppression, for social and economic equality against privilege, for free creative labour against wage slavery, for a free socialist society against the coercive capitalist state, they now find themselves marching under the banner of a totalitarian form of police state, of a state collectivism divorced from liberty, of an economic system fostering the development of new privileged castes - the apparatchiks and nomenklatura, and of a system that censored ideas.

Socialism cannot be soundly built except on a foundation of trust in the capacity of ordinary people to manage their own affairs.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Growing Consciousness


Capitalism has become an obsolete oppressive system that ought to be got rid off but the old social order won’t simply disappear of its own accord. Its removal is dependent upon its replacement by socialism. Capitalism itself created the possibility and the necessity of socialism as well as creating the class capable of introducing socialism, the working class. There was no doubt in the minds of pioneers of socialism as to the future. They recognised the slave condition of the workers in capitalism and had faith in the worker’s power and capacity to abolish the slavery and build a new society of free people in a classless society. A relatively small minority recognise this as most people continued trying to satisfy their needs within the system rather than by overthrowing it.
"The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority," Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto.

"Self-conscious" implies that the class itself must understand the full significance of its actions and “independent” implies that the class itself must decide the objectives and methods of its struggle.The working class cannot entrust this task to anyone else. No "saviours from on high" will free it, as our workers’ anthem, The International, proclaims. The class will never achieve its power if it relegates the revolutionary struggle to others or substitutes the party for our class. Mass socialist consciousness and mass participation are essential. Socialism, unlike all previous forms of social organisation, requires the constant, conscious and permanent participation of the great majority.

The Socialist Party is frequently reminded of the decline of socialist ideas which presumably means that at some particular point of time in the past, socialist prospects were better because there were then more socialists about, or, if there were not more of them, then they were of a higher calibre and more committed. This view of the past is taken for granted so we would therefore expect the evidence for it. But ample evidence points the other way. The bulk of the working classes gave more or less active support to a variety of resolutely anti-socialist parties and causes. Divisions on ethnic and religious grounds existed. Jingoism and nationalist politics prevailed. Labour leaders had acquired a large stake in moderate reform within capitalism and possessed a deep fear of militancy. The General Strike of 1926 was a remarkable event but it was unplanned and unwanted by the leaders of the TUC which led to their unconditional surrender and although there was much bitterness among the rank and file, there was no grass-roots rebellion. The concept of “workers’ control” receded and class collaboration took its place.

A worker who knows that capitalism is the true enemy, yet cannot find time for the struggle to replace it because he or she is “too busy” in the trade union movement or with involvement in campaigns for reforms has not yet grasped the fundamentals. Socialism is not about the relief of poverty by social reform or a belief in nationalisation and co-ops to improve administrative efficiency, all of which have been proved possible within a capitalist framework, but about the abolition of capitalism as an economic and social system. It is not about the improvement in the condition of the working class, but about the abolition of that class. It is not about the creation of a “people’s capitalism”.

Nor is there the slightest relation between Marx’s vision of the future socialist society and the system that once reigned in the old Soviet Union. For all its cosmetic veneer of Marxist terminology, Soviet reality was everything both Marx and Engels abhorred and criticised all their lives. And it is indeed difficult to believe they would not have fought against it if they had been alive. We can debate the intricacies of whether Russia was state-capitalist or simply just a slave-state but there is no question of it being a workers’s state or a step closer towards socialism. Surely, there isn’t anybody who would contend that the workers had any power in the so-called Soviet Union. In Russia the state owns the means of production, but who owns the state? Certainly not the workers!There was no “dictatorship of the proletariat”, rather there was the dictatorship of the Party. The “union” of “soviets” was a fiction within days and months of the Bolshevik October Revolution. It is a fraud to assert that there was a qualitative difference in the Russia of Lenin and that of Stalin. The Leninist “insurrectionary” road to socialism demands centralised decision making and communication, which is not a favourable environment for the growth of democracy. The revolution as we saw was strangled and developed into a dictatorship.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Democratic Centralism - Generals looking for privates.


Socialist Courier previously discussed the concept of democracy. Those familiar with the Left will no doubt come across claims that the Trotskyist and Leninist political groups exercise a form of democracy called “democratic centralism”


Socialism’s crisis is a crisis in the meaning of socialism. Many label themselves “socialist” in one sense or another; but there has never been a time as now when the label was less informative. The range of conflicting and incompatible ideas that call themselves socialist is wider than ever.The nearest thing to a common content of the various “socialisms” is a negative: anti-capitalism. But even anti-capitalism holds less and less of a meaning in most cases.

Nowhere else than on the Left is the term “-ism” more extensively and frequently used. We are asked to adhere not only to anarchism, or syndicalism, or socialism, or communism, but also to Marxism, Leninism, Trotskyism, Stalinism, Maoism, Luxemburgism, and a host of much lesser theorists’ “isms”.
Throughout the history of socialist movements and ideas, the fundamental divide is between Socialism-from-Above to be handed down to the grateful masses in one form or another, and Socialism-from-Below holding the view view that socialism can be realized only through the self-emancipation of view that socialism can be realized only through the self-emancipation of the working class, reaching out for freedom with their own hands. The vanguard party and democratic centralism - are nowhere to be found in Marx, while the third, dictatorship of the proletariat, had an entirely different meaning to Marx than the Leninist interpretation.
The name “bolshevik” originated in a controversy between various factions within the Russian Social-Democratic Party meeting in convention in 1903. The word “bolshevik” (from “Bolshe”, meaning more) meant one of the majority, as distinct from the word “Menshevik” (from “menshe”, meaning less), meaning one of the minority. At the convention, however, the majority of the delegates, were later called “mensheviks”, while the minority styled themselves “bolsheviks.” This incongruous situation came about accidentally when, for a short time, the Jewish Socialist Bund boycotted the convention leaving the rump convention, for the moment with the minority in control. This moment was enough for the minority under Lenin, to seize the name “majority men” or "bolsheviks” and brand the real majority as “mensheviks” or “minority men.”

Thus the name “bolshevik” was a trick, a trick of propaganda and political maneuvering, having little to do with the truth of the situation. “Bolshevik” was simply term used by Lenin to give the impression that the majority of the members were with him for all time. He had “won” the Party. This was, of course, a lie. And how strange it seems that Lenin, the man of “principle” should deal with numbers not principles.

The leaders of the Russian Social Democrats (such as Pleckanov, Lenin, Martov, Axelrod, and Trotsky,) were practically all intellectuals who had to leave Russia to live in other countries of Europe. The discussions among the leaders were held abroad, and there was great difficulty for others living in Russia to find their way to the gatherings or conventions. Among the leaders in exile, democratic discussion was taken for granted, but in the Bolshevik faction, once the leaders had decided, the rest back in Russia had to carry out the decisions. The statements issued by the emigre center was the law! If you didn’t like it you could leave the Party!

It was Lenin’s contention that the working class, through its independent development, could achieve a trade union consciousness, but only a vanguard party, composed of professional revolutionists completely identified and fused with the working class, could imbue it with a socialist consciousness and make it aware of its great historic mission. In his pamphlets Lenin outlined the organizational steps necessary to be taken in order to achieve this kind of organization. He wanted a vanguard party closely connected with the masses, but hierarchically organized, with definite bodies, committees, and a program to which all members adhered, and which they actively carried out. The party was to be headed by a central committee which was responsible to the party congress, with the political leadership in the hands of the editorial board of the central party organ, which board could organize and reorganize the units of the party, admit or reject members, and make all political decisions.

The premise of Lenin’s democratic centralism was based on the following reasoning: revolutionaries needed not a mere parliamentary organization but a party of action which direct a vanguard of activists tied to the revolutionary masses. The party should be an elite body of professional revolutionists dedicating their lives to the cause and carrying out their decisions with iron discipline. No task too small; no sacrifice too great. Such a party cannot be built from the bottom up but only from the top down. First, the leadership would show the way, formulating the program and policies, educating the people, and working out the strategy and tactics. The more advanced dedicated workers would join such a party and carry out the decisions. A degree of discussion might be permitted but, once a decision was made, unity in action and stern discipline was insisted on. In the Russia of Lenin’s time, under the despotism of the Czar’s police, political activity had to be carried out secretly so full democracy by the rank and file membership was practically impossible to attain.

Within Russia where the class struggles became more intense, and real battles were raging in the strikes and demonstrations these exiles had very little experience in strategy and tactics to be the actual leaders in these events. They could analyse the over-all political significance of the events and bring their views to the international socialist conventions, but the militants in the field had to develop their own initiative, ingenuity, and judgment to carry on the best they could. Once the Russian Revolution, was underway the democratic tendencies expressed itself and everywhere there were meetings, discussions, voting. In the Soviets there was voting on all the vital issues of the day, on programmes set up by leaders of rival parties fighting for power. In this type of situation the advantage rested with the Bolsheviks who, under Lenin, had long advocated a centralist party.

In 1902 “democratic” centralism had been advocated because of Czarist terror and the secret police, but in 1917 it was advocated because of the needs of the civil war. In the civil war the power of the leadership was strengthened. The “ideal of ‘democratic centralism’ suffered further reverses, for in effect the power within both the government and the Party became concentrated in the hands of Lenin and the immediate retinue of Bolshevik leaders who did not openly disagree with him and carried out his wishes. The dictatorship (or rule) of the proletariat (or rule of the workers) gave way to the dictatorship of the party, the dictatorship of the party to the dictatorship of the executive committee, the dictatorship of the committee to the dictatorship of “the leader.” Supposed “democratic” centralism had turned to into simple “centralism”. Many of todays’s vanguard parties go at great lengths about centralism, but are unsurprisingly rather silent about democracy.

“Democratic” centralism, as developed by the Bolsheviks was a Russian product, adapted for Russian conditions, as the Bolsheviks themselves. Rosa Luxemburg described Lenin’s conception of organisation thus: ‘the Central Committee is everything whereas the real party is only its appendage, a mindless mass which moves mechanically on the orders of the leader like the army exercising on the parade ground” It can be added that although everyone marches in step, the orders are usually wrong.

Democratic centralism poses as a form of inner party democracy, but it is really just a hierarchy by which each member of a party (ultimately of a society) is subordinate to a higher member until one reaches the all-powerful party central committee and its Chairman/General Secretary. This is a totally undemocratic procedure, which puts the leadership above criticism, even if it is not above reproach. It is a bankrupt, corrupt method of internal operations for a political organisation. You have no voice in such a party. The practice of Trotskyist-Leninist parties is that the Central Committee unilaterally sets policy for the entire organization, and their authority reigns.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain is a party of no leaders or, if you will, every member is a leader. Our directly elected Executive Committee is only a “house-keeping” committee for the day-to-day running of the Party (our General Secretary is little better than general dogs-body!). The EC has no power to decide policy. It doesn't even have the authority to submit resolutions to conference. Only branches can do that. Nor does conference decide - only a postal referendum poll of our individual members provides the mandate for Party decisions.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

We are all Spartacus - political football

Celtic come face to face with Spartak in the Champions League.  Moscow is the home of Spartak as well as Dynamo, CSKA, Torpedo-Luzhniki, Lokomotiv and Torpedo-ZIL but historically, the main Moscow grudge derby-match is between Spartak and Dynamo

Sport has always had a political dimension, especially football.

In the early days of Soviet football many government agencies such as the police, army and railroads created their own clubs. So many statesmen saw in the wins of their teams the superiority over the opponents patronizing other teams. Almost all the teams had such kind of patrons such as  CSKA – The Red Army team. Dynamo Moscow were a creation of the Interior Ministry, then essentially a euphemism for the secret police. The de facto founder of Dynamo was Felix Dzerzhinsky, the first head of the OGPU (forerunner to the KGB). Spartak were created as an independent football team, with no affiliations to one or other part of the state machine and considered to be the "people's team". The name Spartak that was derived from Spartacus, the gladiator-slave who led a rebellion against Rome.

In the Soviet Union millions attended matches and obsessed about their favorite club, and their rowdiness on game day stood out as a moment of relative freedom in a society that demanded rigid conformity and control. Fans of Spartak Moscow would have you believe that their club almost single-handedly defied the state machine.

Spartak emerged from the rough proletarian Presnia district of Moscow and spent much of its history in fierce rivalry with Dinamo. To cheer for Spartak, Edelman shows, was a small and safe way of saying "no" to the fears and absurdities of Stalinism.

Spartak was for seven decades by the four Starostin brothers, the most visible of whom were Nikolai and Andrei. Perhaps because of Spartak's too frequent success against state-sponsored teams, they were arrested in 1942 and spent twelve years in the gulag. Instead of facing hard labor and likely death, they were spared the harshness of their places of exile when they were asked by local camp commandants to coach the prisoners' football teams. Beria, the secret police chief, was possibly fuelled by a personal vendetta. As left-back for a Geor­gian side in the early 1920s, Beria had turn­ed out against Nikolai Starostin, who had completely played him off the park. Beria, Stalin's henchman, was not a man to forgive and forget. In 1942  branded “en­emies of the people”, with Nikolai and Andrei initially accused of plotting with the German Embassy to kill Stalin and set up a Fascist state but instead charg­ed with stealing a consignment of clothing,embezzlement and bribery. Returning from the camps after Stalin's death, they took back the reins of a club whose mystique as the "people's team" was only enhanced by its status as a victim of Stalinist tyranny.*

Like the Rangers Ibrox Disaster, Spartak has suffered tragedies. 30 years ago in a game against HFC Haarlem in a UEFA Cup one section of Spartak fans started streaming out to get to the Metro but a late goal in injury time caused some fans to turn back and the two streams collided with the tragic result of 66 dead according to official figures but probably many more.

Sadly the club like so many others these days is under the ownership of an oligarch, Leonid Fedun, estimated wealth of over $6 billion, and its fans have been associated with racist chanting.

* See here for more

Friday, September 28, 2012

Who owns the North Pole - Part 52

A Russian Orthodox bishop has lowered a "holy memorial capsule" into the sea at the North Pole in an attempt to "consecrate" the Arctic and reassert Moscow's claims to the territory.

The service was held by Bishop Iakov on the ice alongside the nuclear icebreaker Rossiya during a polar expedition titled "Arctic-2012", organised by the country's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute.
The metal capsule carried the blessings of the church's leader, bearing the inscription: "With the blessing of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the consecration of the North Pole marks 1150 years of Russian Statehood." Bishop Iakov, who is thought to be the first Russian priest to visit the pole, emphasised that the consecration symbolised efforts "to restore Russia's position and confirm its achievements in the Arctic".

 A conservative Moscow think-tank suggested in July that the Arctic Ocean should be renamed the "Russian Ocean" and this week it was announced that MiG-31 supersonic interceptor aircraft will be based in the region by the end of the year.

 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/9571743/Russia-consecrates-North-Pole-to-reassert-ownership.html

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What Kind of Revolution?

During the 1970s there existed a short-lived SPGB group centred around Aberdeen university made up of a member or two and some sympathisers. It produced several leaflets amongst which was the following.

Marx v Lenin


Reformist political parties, such as the Labour Party, have failed abysmally to remove inequality or solve social problems such as slum housing, pollution, unemployment, war, etc, etc. This fact along with the increasing class conflict on the industrial field is bringing an increasing number of people round to the view that there is a need for a fundamental revolutionary change in present day society. But what is this revolutionary change to involve?

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has a basically Marxist view on the nature of revolution. This is not because we look on Marx as some sort of god but because we consider his analysis to be generally correct.

SOCIALIST REVOLUTION AND HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT

The central feature of the Marxist concept of socialist revolution is that it is seen in the context of the whole historical development of mankind. We contend that the basis of all societies is the means of producing wealth and the relations into which people enter in order to produce this wealth. Society is revolutionised by means of class struggles when the means of production come into conflict with the relations of production. Socialism is not just a ‘good idea’ which could be put into practice at any time in history. Marx attacked the views of revolutionaries such as Bakunin and the 19th century Russian insurrectionists who thought that socialist revolution was most likely in industrially backward countries.

Marxists insist that socialism is only possible after a capitalist society has been established and developed modern industry and technology. This, of course, has long since taken place and now an abundance for all is possible; but the capitalist relations of production hold back the productive forces and prevent potential abundance becoming a reality. Private property and production for profit have to be abolished for man to progress.

WHO MAKES THE REVOLUTION?
The only force capable of carrying out this task are the working class – all those who, owning no substantial amount of property, have to sell their mental and physical energies to an employer in order to live. Developments within capitalism lead to an increasing working class revolutionary consciousness. The class structure becomes more and more simplified and polarised into the two great opposing classes of capitalists and workers; peasants are driven off the land and into the towns to become wage labourers, small businessmen go bankrupt and are hurled into the ranks of the working class, the ‘professional classes’ are turned into white collar workers and increasingly realise this. Working conditions become more oppressive as work is intensified and, with increasing mechanisation and division of labour, made monotonous and devoid of any creative interest. Capital becomes concentrated in the hands of a small minority of the population, and even though workers’ absolute standards of living may rise, relative to the capitalists' wealth their social position declines.

In addition to these factors, workers’ class consciousness is also increased by their experiences and struggles in capitalism. First, trade unions are formed to defend and improve living standards, and then workers increasingly realise that this is not enough, and that a complete change in society is needed to solve the problems they face. Accordingly a workers political party is formed with the aim of capturing political power to establish socialism. Marx always stressed, as do we in the SPGB, that the working class have to free themselves by their own self-conscious action – they cannot be freed from above by some ‘revolutionary elite.’ Thus the workers’ political party must be democratically organised and controlled by the membership as a whole – as is the SPGB. Marx put his principles into practice in his revolutionary activity in the Communist League and the First International, insisting on their open democratic organisation.

PEACEFUL OR VIOLENT DEVOLUTION?

In his early days as a revolutionary Marx thought that the only road to socialism was a violent armed insurrection. However later, when workers won the right to vote, he advocated that where it was possible the working class revolutionary party should contest elections and try and win political power by that means. If this was done there was a possibility that the revolution could be largely peaceful. Like Marx, the SPGB believes that where that means is available the revolutionary party should contest elections and, when resources allow, we do so – on a revolutionary platform of course, not on a reformist programme like the Labour Party.

Having captured political power the working class must use the state machine to dispossess the capitalists and establish a system based on the common ownership of wealth. However the bureaucratic capitalist state is not at all a suitable instrument for this task – first, therefore, the working class have to make the state organisation thoroughly democratic, with all officials being directly elected and re-callable, and being in no way privileged as compared to other workers.

THE AIM OF REVOLUTION
Socialism will be a world-wide classless society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means for producing and distributing wealth. Thus once it has been established there will be no need for the state – the armed forces, police, judiciary, etc. – since it exists only to protect the private property of the rich minority. The government over people will be replaced by a democratic ‘administration of things’.

Socialist production will be consciously planned, aiming purely at meeting peoples’ needs. Thus there will be no buying and selling, exchange, prices, money, wages, or profits. In the first phase of communism Marx thought there would have to be some restrictions on the consumption of consumer goods – perhaps by labour-time vouchers – before industry could be developed to the extent where it would be possible to distribute goods and provide services free. With the tremendous growth in man’s productive ability since Marx’s time we consider this first phase of communism could be gone through very quickly, and free access operated soon after the establishment of socialism.

For Marxists a central feature of socialism is that work would no longer be monotonous drudgery, in which the producers control neither the labour process nor the products of their work. Instead with the ending of capitalism's extreme division of labour and the automation of unpleasant jobs, work would be a creative activity in which people would find a means of self-expression. Thus Marx advocated, as does the SPGB, a world revolution aiming at the establishment of a system based on common ownership and production for use, to be consciously carried out by the working class as a whole, democratically organised in a revolutionary socialist party.




BUT WASN'T LENIN A MARXIST?
Many people, both opponents of socialism and those who consider themselves to be socialists, think so. Modern Russia, China, Cuba, E. Germany, etc were all founded and are at present ruled by, parties calling themselves ‘Marxist-Leninist’. Many political groups operating in the West proclaim themselves to be both Marxist and Leninist – in Britain for example, the ‘Communist Party’, ‘International Socialists’, and the ‘Workers Revolutionary Party’. The SPGB contends that Lenin's views on revolution were fundamentally different from Marx’s, and that when Leninist revolutionary theory is put into practice the result is not socialism but state capitalism – as now exists in Russia, China, and all the other states that claim to be communist. An examination of Lenin’s theory of revolution will prove our point.

THE REVOLUTIONARY ELITE
Very early in his political activity Lenin formulated two theories that were always to remain central to his views. Firstly, he argued that the working class by its own efforts was incapable of wanting and understanding socialism. Secondly, following on from this, Lenin held that socialist consciousness would have to be brought to the working class from outside, from a tightly organised revolutionary organisation under a strong centralised leadership. This party was to be composed of full time professional revolutionaries, drawn mainly from the bourgeois intelligentsia.

Lenin’s view that workers by their own efforts could only reach a ‘trade union consciousness’, and that socialist consciousness could only come from outside the capitalist-worker class struggle, is in complete contradiction to Marxism. Marx, as we’ve seen, always stressed that the working class had to free itself, and that socialist understanding developed in the working class as a result of workers’ experiences and struggles in capitalism. Similarly, Lenin’s idea of an exclusive, hierarchically organised revolutionary party, in which the leadership would have great power, goes completely against Marx’s belief in open democratic organisation.

The SPGB believes that the means used, and the end aimed at, are inextricably linked. If elitist authoritarian means are used then an elitist authoritarian society will be the result. If an egalitarian democratic society is aimed at, it can only be achieved by a self-conscious majority, democratically organised without any leadership which could, become a future ruling class.

BOURGEOIS REVOLUTION FOR RUSSIA

It is not too well known that in all his revolutionary activity up to April 1917 Lenin was advocating, not a socialist revolution for Russia, but a bourgeois revolution which would establish a capitalist republic. Correctly applying Marx’s materialist conception of history to the Russian situation, Lenin rejected the possibility of an immediate transition to socialism because of the lack of economic development and. the insufficient degree of socialist consciousness among the workers. Since he considered that the Russian capitalists were too weak to smash Tsarism and establish capitalism themselves, Lenin advocated that the Bolsheviks should take power, establish a bourgeois republic with political democracy, and then become a revolutionary opposition within that republic, building up support for socialism.

DISTORTIONS OF MARXISM

However in April 1917 Lenin declared himself to be in favour of the viewpoint which he had previously scornfully rejected – adopting Trotsky's ‘permanent revolution’ theory he urged that the Bolsheviks prepare to seize power with the aim of immediately taking socialist measures. Again, Lenin was rejecting the Marxist position. As he had himself argued earlier, the degree of economic development and socialist consciousness needed for socialist revolution did not exist. In advocating socialist revolution for backward Russia Lenin was adopting the policy of the 19th century insurrectionists whom Marx and Engels had strongly criticised.

At the same time as he took up the permanent revolution theory Lenin introduced a distinction between Socialism and Communism. He stated that the coming revolution would establish not communism, but socialist society, a system which would persist into the foreseeable future, and in which there would still be the state, the wages system, and. production for sale . This was of course a further distortion of Marx who had always used the terms socialism and communism interchangeably. It does though perhaps show that Lenin really still recognised the validity of the Marxist argument that backward countries could not be the starting point for socialist revolution. For, while he advocated the immediate establishment of socialism, Lenin had now re-defined socialism so as to make it mean in effect a form of state capitalism – which was all that could be established in Russia at that time.

It was obvious that the Bolsheviks could only seize power by an armed insurrection and Lenin attempted to give this policy Marxist theoretical justification by claiming that Marx considered it impossible for the proletariat to come to power without smashing the state machine. In fact as we’ve seen Marx recognised that in some circumstances the proletariat would be able to peacefully capture the state machine and then smash/dismantle its oppressive and undemocratic features.

DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT =  DICTATORSHIP OF THE BOLSHEVIKS
Marx sometimes referred to the political transition period between capitalism and communism, in which the democratically organised working class used political power to dispossess the capitalists, as the dictatorship of the proletariat. Lenin in addition to differing from Marx on the length of time that he envisaged the state existing after the revolution, developed a completely different concept of the nature of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Instead of the extremely democratic set-up Marx advocated, he re-defined the dictatorship of the proletariat to the dictatorship of the Bolshevik Party which actually meant the dictatorship of the Bolshevik Party leadership. Not long after their seizure of power the Bolsheviks started to oppress all opposition, left-wing as well as right-wing, and verbal and written opposition as well as anti-Bolshevik actions.

The SPGB in contrast, while recognising that violence would have to be used against a minority who first used violence against the socialist majority, is in favour of the freest and fullest possible expression of ideas both before and after socialist revolution. We totally oppose all censorship. Thus Lenin’s views on the revolution are basically contradictory to Marx’s theory of revolution in many respects – even though Lenin claimed to be a Marxist. How is this to be explained?

THE HISTORICAL ROLE OF LENINISM

Lenin’s theory of revolution was developed in an industrially backward s basically feudal society that was ripe not for a socialist, but for a bourgeois revolution. Lenin up to 1917 had advocated that the Bolshevik Party should take power to carry through this capitalist revolution.

In 1917 the Bolsheviks did take power, and though they did so proclaiming that they were establishing socialism, they were prisoners of Russia’s backwardness and could do no more than develop capitalism, as Lenin had earlier advocated. However the Bolsheviks did not relinquish power to a traditional capitalist government. Justifying their rule on the grounds that it was the dictatorship of the proletariat the Bolsheviks have retained power ever since, and over the years their leaders have become a new ruling class, collectively controlling and thus in effect owning the means of production, and performing the same role as the private capitalists in the West. Thus historically Leninism has been an ideology used in the building up of state capitalism in backward areas of the world. Its insistence on the need for hierarchical organisation and a revolutionary elite, and its denial of the possibility of the working class itself developing mass revolutionary consciousness, stamp it as belonging to the era of bourgeois revolutions.

Lenin’s concept of revolution has no relevance for socialist revolution in modern industrially advanced capitalism – and if a Leninist party seized power the only result could be the establishment of some type of state capitalism.

REVOLUTIONARY CHANGE TODAY

It is vital that when abolishing present day exploitation we do not substitute a new form of exploitation. The only sure guarantee against this is a revolution made and controlled by the self conscious majority of the working class.

As Marx put it "The emancipation of the working class must be the act of the workers themselves."

Written in 1974 by comrades of the Aberdeen SPGB group

Friday, April 06, 2012

Olympic Holocaust Deniers

We have all heard of the Jewish Holocaust - of the Armenian holocaust by the Turks, and through history there were many other such genocides.

Circassians have been outraged by the selection of Sochi, a Russian resort city on the Black Sea, to host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Sochi was the site of the Circassian capital and the area where the Ubykh tribe made the Circassian "last stand" in 1864. The Olympics will be held on the 150th anniversary of these mass killings. The Sochi Olympics, in other words, will be played on a gigantic graveyard.

The Circassians are a mostly Muslim people who self-identify as Adyghe. The traditionally nomadic Circassians were organised into tribes and clans and lived by a code of behaviour known as khabza, which stressed honour, hospitality, respect for elders, egalitarianism and liberty. This ethos helped the Circassians, renowned for their warrior prowess, to successfully defeat every major power that passed through their mountainous region, including the armies of Attila the Hun and the Mongols. Khabza would also allow the Circassians to preserve their identity through the anguish and turmoil of exile. Circassians dominated the ranks of the Mamluks, a caste of elite soldiers who were taken from the Caucuses and dispatched across the Muslim world. In the 18th century, Russia acted to exert direct control over Circassia by military conquest and was met with fierce resistance. Over time, the Circassian tribes began to more efficiently organise and formally declared Circassian independence, which was recognised by Britain in 1838. By the 1860s, however, the Circassians proved unable to hold out any longer against an expanding Imperial Russia who coveted their mountainous homeland. One by one, the Circassian tribes were decimated with thousands killed, their lands settled by Cossacks, Slavs and others.

The Circassians fought so tenaciously that the Russians decided to remove them, either by death or deportation. The Circassians describe this operation as the first modern genocide. Of a population of 2.5-3 million Circassians, the Circassians told us, around 1.5 million were killed and roughly the same number expelled, of which around half died within months of famine and disease. These figures were corroborated by many scholars from around the world. Only a very small number of Circassians survived in the Caucuses and today, 90 per cent of the world's 5-6 million Circassians live in the global diaspora, while around 700,000 are split between three Russian republics.

Similar to the Turkish denial of the Armenian holocaust, the Russian government does not appear to recognise that a genocide occurred. When President Vladimir Putin gave his speech to the International Olympic Committee in 2007 to secure Russia's bid, he described Sochi as a place inhabited by ancient Greeks with no mention of the Circassians. Putin has renewed policies to curb the expression of Circassian culture, prohibiting schools from teaching the language and restricting Circassian language media. Circassians also faced restrictions on travel between the republics, which required permits that were often difficult to obtain.

A country that gives the most rights to Circassians is Israel, where they are allowed to preserve every single aspect of identity. Perhaps, they remember with gratitude the protection the Circassians gave their Jewish communities during the Second World War when Hitler's Nazis hunted them down.

Georgia has given Circassians refugee status and has officially recognised that the Russian actions in the 19th century constituted genocide. Georgia will be the first country to build a commemorative monument to the Circassian genocide to be unveiled this May at the anniversary of the Sochi massacre.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Stalin bad, Lenin good???

A terrific article by Richard Montague in this month's Socialist Standard states:
"Josef Stalin, who by an ironic inversion of the ‘Great Man’ theory of history subsequently became the Lucifer of the Left and the architect of evil in the Russian empire, wrote a pamphlet called Socialism or Anarchism in 1905 in which he correctly summed up the Marxian view of socialism:".....and further."Many contemporary exponents of Leninism ascribe the awful saga of totalitarian rule that emerged from this sort of thinking to Stalin. Yes, Stalin did head the list of political gangsters that terrorised Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution, but it was the elitist nonsense promoted by Lenin, as evidenced above, and the undemocratic political structures established by the Bolshevik Party that created the pathway to the massive evils of Stalinism."

You can read it for yourselves on the new website being developed.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Who owns the North Pole- Part 40

Within the next year, the Kremlin is expected to make its claim to the United Nations in a bold move to annex about 380,000 square miles of the internationally owned Arctic to Russian control. At stake is an estimated one-quarter of all the world's untapped hydrocarbon reserves, abundant fisheries, and a freshly opened route that will cut nearly a third off the shipping time from Asia to Europe. But in the absence of a regional deal, tensions are mounting. Alexander Konovalov, president of the independent Institute of Strategic Assessments in Moscow, says "... time is running out to make an orderly division of the territories."

This month, Canada holds Operation Nanook, an Arctic military exercise designed to send a message to Moscow. Canada also has plans for its own territorial claim. The US, which has not signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, under which any territorial divisions would be made, is also beefing up its regional military might.

From here

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

who owns the North Pole - part 38

Putin began the rhetorical salvo during a speech to his political party. "I want to emphasize. Russia intends without a doubt to expand its presence in the Arctic," he said. "We are open to dialogue with our foreign partners, with all our neighbors in the Arctic region, but naturally, the defense of our geopolitical interests will be hard and consistent."

The head of the Russian navy, Vladimir Vystotsky, followed up on Wednesday with news of further military build-ups, including upgrades to Russia's Northern Fleet. "Right now a broad spectrum of challenges and threats is being concentrated in the Arctic," he told a conference in the far northern city of Naryan-Mar. He pointed to NATO as the source of the tension, saying the alliance had "marked the Arctic as a zone of its own interests."

By 2014, the United Nations will receive claims for parts of the Arctic from Canada, Denmark and Russia, and will then decide whether the science behind those claims is accurate. But if the claims overlap, it will be up to the countries to figure out how to share. "So the Russians are already laying down the ground rules," says Rob Huebert, an expert in Arctic military strategy at Canada's University of Calgary. "They are signaling that if anyone wants to make a competing claim, they should expect a very rough ride."

Robert Corell, a leading U.S. expert on climate change and the Arctic, explained "...our Department of Defense clearly sees the Arctic as a potential conflict multiplier, so we are going to have to see more focus on security issues."

"These discussions about new brigades or the build-up of militaries certainly don't offer any hope,"
says Paul Berkman, professor of Arctic Ocean geopolitics at the University of Cambridge. "They are alarmist, and in some sense it may be self-fulfilling when those kinds of discussions emerge."




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