Eighty-two years ago tomorrow, the world's largest army was founded in a country whose then-ascendant Communist leaders, once in power, kept the doors tight shut against outsiders until the late 1970s.
Now, 60 years after the founding of the People's Republic and 30 after the country opened up, China's Ministry of National Defence has launched its first website in Beijing's latest effort to draw back the curtain of the secrecy shrouding the 2.3 million-strong People's Liberation Army.
The site (http://www.chinamil.com.cn/) - like its PLA predecessor at the same address - is in both Chinese and English (http://eng.chinamil.com.cn/). A ministry spokesman, Hu Changming, said recently that the site was "a way to increase understanding between countries and raise trust between militaries".
As China's military budget has grown by double digits in recent years, so too have concerns among its neighbours and potential rivals. China's spending of $70 billion, though dwarfed by the Pentagon's $500 billion annual allocation, is on a par with spending by Britain, Japan and Russia.
Related Links Pictures: People's Liberation Army The West can’t spend and China won’t China calls for 'Great Wall' to guard unity A military analyst, Song Xiaojun, says the site will offer more detail on that spending and on general defence policy.
"The Defence Ministry is a special organisation. In principle it should be in the system of the State Council," said Song, referring to China's cabinet. "In fact, it is more like a window of the army toward the outside world. The current chinamil site is mainly about life in the army. It doesn't have much on the policy level."
Song explains that for centuries China was inward-facing. Now, as the world's third-largest economy, the country is playing catch-up as it grows more dependent on imported resources such as oil and the iron ore needed to fuel its steel industry, the biggest in the world.
Last winter, China's navy, officially part of the PLA, sent a rare force to protect Chinese merchant vessels against Somali pirates in the Red Sea.
"China only became an oil-import country in 1992. Large amounts of raw material imports happened after 2002. By then, China's interest in development was far ahead of China's interest in security," Song said. "China is now recuperating its debts on the state's basic security. As China does so, other countries start feeling that China is developing its army too fast."
Ever since the military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in June 1989, green uniformed soldiers have been omnipresent in China, from Beijing's crowded streets to the dirt roads of the provinces.
With no wars to fight, the PLA has devoted itself to rescue efforts after natural disasters, such as the Sichuan earthquake last May, which killed 80,000 people. Soldiers helping quake victims were lionized in the state-controlled media.
But recent ethnic unrest in west China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and ongoing tensions between Beijing and self-ruled Taiwan mean China's military also remains on high-alert at home.
In keeping with Beijing's desire to control all information--both internal and international--about the image of the Communist Party, the new military web site already presents one face in Chinese and another one in English.
Chinese site headlines are uniformly mundane, such as "Jiaoliu Train Line Derailed, Soldiers Perform Urgent Rescue," whereas the site's English avatar features items such as "U.S. May OK High-tech Exports to China."
Photo shows Zhuo Lin (R) poses with her husband Deng Xiaoping in the Taihang Mountains, after they married in Yan'an
BEIJING: Zhuo Lin, widow of China's late leader Deng Xiaoping, died in Beijing Wednesday. She was 93.
She died of illness at 12:30 p.m. after medical treatment failed, said a statement issued by the General Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.
Zhuo, a former consultant of the Central Military Commission General Office, was "an excellent CPC member and time-honored loyal communist fighter," the statement said.
Born in Xuanwei county of southwestern Yunnan Province in April, 1916, she joined the CPC in 1938.
During the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, her husband, Deng, was wrongly criticized and she was implicated as well. She accompanied Deng to work in the Xinjian county tractor repair workshop in eastern Jiangxi Province in October 1969.
In January 1978, she was appointed a consultant of the Central Military Commission General Office. She served as a deputy to the fourth and fifth National People's Congress and was awarded the Independence Merit Medal from the People's Liberation Army in 1988.
Workers World - Editor, Pan-African News Wire Published Jul 27, 2009 9:41 PM
The 15th Non-Aligned Movement summit was held July 15-16 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, with the theme of “International Solidarity for Peace and Development.” The NAM, founded in 1961, has a membership of 118 nations throughout the developing world.
The meeting emphasized the role of the Western industrialized states in creating the economic crisis that has rendered tens of millions of people unemployed and impoverished throughout the world.
Cuban President Raul Castro, outgoing chair of the NAM, delivered the keynote address to nearly 60 heads of state and 8,000 delegates from various countries throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Other leaders, such as President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, also spoke to the NAM summit and stressed the necessity that the organization provide an effective alternative to the international financial institutions as well as the United Nations.
Mugabe, whose southern African nation has been subjected to intense sanctions and vilification by the imperialist states over the last decade, has recently overseen the implementation of an inclusive coalition government encompassing the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front and the two main opposition parties of the Movement for Democratic Change. Yet the country is still subjected to sanctions by the U.S., Britain and the European Union.
In his address, Mugabe said: “The Movement cannot afford a business-as-usual approach. ... Our clear and present challenge is ... delivering a just, peaceful and equitable world order. The Non-Aligned Movement faces renewed attempts by some Western countries to interfere in the internal affairs of NAM member countries. This ‘big brother is watching’ state of affairs is a grave danger to international peace and security.
“The severity of the machinations by the Western world has often manifested itself in a number of ways, including the use of surreptitious and illegal attempts by some Western countries to abuse the U.N. Security Council to unjustly punish developing countries through the imposition of illegal and unilateral sanctions.” (Zimbabwe Herald, July 16)
Zimbabwe “was a target of these abhorrent machinations,” continued Mugabe. “We need to recognize that as long as the U.N. retains its present form, it will continue to be abused by the mighty, haughty and militarily powerful [who] victimize the smaller and weaker nations. The international financial system ... is similarly in dire need of reform.”
Mugabe also noted that although the present global economic meltdown started in the Western imperialist states, the impact of the crisis is having a devastating impact on the developing countries where there is less demand for their products, the closure of plants and businesses, and deepening poverty.
The Zimbabwe leader expressed his support for the G192 summit held by the General Assembly in June at the U.N. headquarters in New York. He endorsed the recommendations of the G192 to place the International Monetary Fund and World Bank under the control of the General Assembly.
Mugabe also called for greater South-South collaboration, although he did not rule out cooperation between all states. He emphasized that although the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the NAM have provided tremendous support to Zimbabwe, the existing sanctions imposed by the imperialist states continue to hamper the country’s progress.
“They [the West] are still bent on their goal of effecting regime change in my country. We count on your continued solidarity and support in our endeavor to improve the quality of life of our people,” Mugabe said.
‘New world economic order’ needed
In his keynote address, Cuban President Raul Castro renewed the call for a new economic division of labor and financial power. “We demand the establishment of a new international financial and economic structure that relies on the participation of all countries,” said Castro. (Granma International, July 16)
“There must be a new framework that doesn’t depend solely on the economic stability and the political decision of only one country,” stated Castro in apparent reference to the United States. “This crisis ... emanated from the advanced industrial economies, but the developing economies, the members of our movement, have been the hardest hit.”
Castro reported on the work of the NAM over the last three years since Cuba began serving as chair. “The common challenges for the non-aligned countries are serious and numerous. Never before has the world been so unequal and its inequities so profound. But, along with the challenges, our Movement’s capacity for resistance and its strength have also grown.
“We have faced threats and aggression, condemned unjust treaties in international trade and finance, and demanded our full participation in the highest authorities of world governance,” continued the Cuban leader. “A decisive part of Cuba’s presidency coincided with one of the most aggressive and hegemonic governments, one of the greatest violators of international law, that has ever existed in the United States.”
Castro stated that the NAM has continued to express solidarity with the just cause of the Palestinian and Arab peoples: “We have not hesitated to condemn the aggression and crimes of Israel, the occupying power. We will not rest until we see the implementation of the demands of the Palestinian and Arab brothers and sisters.
“There is no path other than dialogue and negotiation for achieving a just and lasting peace in the entire Middle East region, which inevitably involves the founding of an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Castro also condemned the June 28 military coup in Honduras and demanded that President Jose Manuel Zelaya be restored to office. The coup has been denounced by governments and mass organizations throughout Latin America and the world.
The outgoing NAM chair stressed that despite the economic blockade against Cuba, the country has continued to engage in international solidarity efforts, especially in providing medical care. “Even in these difficult circumstances, our people have modestly demonstrated how much can be done, when political will exists, in terms of international solidarity and cooperation, particularly in the area of health.
“Almost 15,000 Cuban medical collaborators are working in 98 countries to save lives and prevent disease. More than 32,000 young people from 118 states, principally in the Third World, are studying free of charge at our educational centers, 78 percent of them in the specialties of medicine.”
From Bandung to Sharm El-Sheikh
The Non-Aligned Movement originated in the Bandung Conference held in Indonesia in April 1955, with 29 countries from Asia and Africa attending. Socialist states such as China and Vietnam have been involved with the movement since its inception, even though the Bandung Conference and NAM have been described as an effort to chart a course independent of both the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War period.
In 1961, the formal organization of the Non-Aligned Movement took place with its founding summit in Yugoslavia. Some of the leading figures in the formation of the NAM were Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt and Josep Broz Tito of Yugoslavia.
At the 1979 NAM Summit in Havana, Cuba, a declaration stated that the purpose of the organization was to “ensure the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics.”
NAM represents two-thirds of the United Nations’ membership and approximately 55 percent of the world’s population. The chair of the organization has now been handed over to Egypt.
This year’s summit produced declarations related to the need for global food security, climate change, solidarity with the Palestinian people, and a resolution honoring the 91st birthday of former African National Congress leader and South African president Nelson Mandela.
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HAVANA (Reuters) - The United States has turned off a news ticker at its diplomatic mission in Havana that had long irritated the Cuban government, in another sign of efforts to improve relations with Havana, western diplomats said.
The ticker, which streamed news, political statements and messages blaming Cuba's problems on the country's communist system and socialist economy, had infuriated former President Fidel Castro when it was turned on in January 2006 at a moment of high political tension with Washington. President Raul Castro took over from ailing elder brother Fidel last year.
Throughout most of July, the five-foot-high (1.5-meter high) news streamer which ran across 25 windows on the fifth floor of the U.S. Interests Section, has been turned off.
Western diplomats in Havana, who asked not to be identified, said there were no plans for its crimson letters to be switched on again any time soon.
Neither U.S. diplomats nor Cuban officials were immediately available for comment. U.S. diplomats had told visitors there were "technical difficulties" with the electronic messenger, which in June appeared to sputter at times.
The turn-off of the news ticker comes amid moves by U.S. President Barack Obama's administration to ease nearly half a century of enmity between the United States and Cuba following Fidel Castro's 1959 Revolution.
Obama has already rolled back a number of hard-line policies against Cuba, including the news ticker installed by his predecessor George W. Bush.
"Like other Bush initiatives, (the ticker) caused lots of fanfare in Miami and very little impact in Cuba, and President Obama is right to bury it," said Phil Peters, a Cuba expert at the Washington-based Lexington Institute.
The United States broke diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, but since 1977 the two countries have maintained Interests Sections -- diplomatic operations that are not full embassies -- in each other's capitals.
Earlier this month, U.S. and Cuban officials held their first talks since 2003 on Cuban migration to the United States, a step U.S. officials said showed Washington's desire to engage constructively with the communist-ruled island. They also discussed how to ease restrictions on their diplomats traveling outside Havana and Washington.
The Obama administration this year has also lifted restrictions on Cuban-Americans traveling to the Caribbean island and sending remittances to family members.
But Obama has made clear he will keep in place the 47-year-old trade embargo against Cuba until the Cuban leadership moves to improve political and human rights. "STEP BY STEP"
"We're taking it step by step, seeing if, as we change some of the old approaches that we've been taking, we are seeing some movement on the Cuban government side," Obama told reporters on Friday in Washington when asked about Cuba.
Cuba has expressed an interest in broadening the immigration talks to include drug trafficking, human smuggling and disaster preparedness.
When it was turned on in 2006, the U.S. Interests Section news ticker in Havana often sought to cast blame for everyday problems experienced by Cubans on the communist authorities.
"Some go around in Mercedes, some in Ladas (a Russian car), but the system forces almost everyone to hitch rides," read one message, playing on a common complaint that there are few buses and that Cubans need government permission to buy a new car.
In his angry reaction to the news streamer, Fidel Castro had accused the U.S. mission, located on Havana's busy sea-side Malecon drive, of becoming "the headquarters of the counterrevolution," which he said was in gross violation of diplomatic protocol.
He ordered the parking lot in front of the building to be dug up and 100-foot-high (30.5 meter-high) flags installed to block the ticker from view.
He also marched a million people by the mission in protest, erected billboards around it depicting Bush as allied with anti-Castro terrorists and decreed there would be no more contact with U.S. diplomats in Havana as long as the ticker remained on.
Cuba took down the anti-U.S. billboards earlier this year.
Source: Global Times [07:59 July 23 2009] By Qiu Wei
In the ruthless enterprise culture typical of Chinese business, workers' rights are at the center of heated debate across the country after an employee at an iPhone factory killed himself because a prototype phone went missing.
Apple Inc responded to the death yesterday by saying its suppliers are supposed to treat employees properly, but the US-based company declined to respond to a Global Times inquiry on whether Apple would suspend its cooperation with Foxconn Technology Group, where the man who committed suicide worked, if the latter is found to have adopted illegal practices that led to the worker’s death on July 16.
Jill Tan, an Apple spokeswoman in Hong Kong, issued only a brief statement about the incident.
“We are saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee, and we are awaiting results of the investigations into his death,” Tan said. “We require our suppliers to treat all workers with dignity and respect.”
The man who killed himself, Sun Danyong, 25, worked in product communications at Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwanese firm that makes many Apple products at a massive factory in the southern city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong.
Sun was responsible for shipping 16 iPhone prototypes to Apple’s Cupertino, California, headquarters for further testing. But he later discovered one of the phones was missing. Sun alerted Foxconn and watched the subsequent investigation unfold, including a search of his apartment.
He killed himself shortly thereafter.
Sun’s death has aroused public anger against Foxconn. Gu Qinming, an officer with Foxconn in charge of security, claimed that he fell victim to finger-pointing, as many online postings speculated that he should have been held accountable for the suicide, a charge Gu dismissed.
Gu, fearing harassment, said his family had been put in danger from the accusations, as many people believed his actions in some way prompted Sun’s death.
Dozens of Chinese media outlets have carried opinion pieces questioning the ruthless enterprise culture of local business, saying Sun’s death wasn’t just a random occurrence. “The violence of capitalism” and “the wolfish nature of Chinese companies” have been cited by newspapers such as Hangzhou-based Today’s Morning as contributing to Sun’s suicide.
“The death of the young man due to the loss of a phone reflects the dark side of the corporate profit-seeking process. Employees, who are in disadvantageous positions, can hardly stand against management, or protect their dignity, in such a profit-oriented corporate culture,” read an opinion piece titled Workers’ Rights Lost in the World’s Factory published in Xi’an-based Chinese Business View.
A commentary on china.com.cn noted that aggressiveness could well maintain the competitiveness and efficiency of companies in their initial stages.
“However, it cannot function as the sole theme of management’s strategy when market share increases and enterprises grow,” the post said. “Employees can hardly develop a sense of belonging and share the values coming from this corporate culture.”
Some, however, have called for calm amid the uproar led by newspapers and online users. News portal cnhubei.com in Hubei province accused the “Web mob” of using the incident as a springboard to vent irrational sentiments. It noted that there hadn’t been any evidence supporting many allegations, including that Sun had been beaten by Foxconn security personnel.
Gu was quoted by the Southern Metropolis Daily as saying he never hit Sun. Gu reportedly said that after three security personnel searched Sun’s apartment and didn’t find the phone.
Gu said he didn’t think Sun was being truthful about what happened to the phone, the paper reported.
“I got a bit agitated,” Gu was quoted as saying. “I pointed my finger at him and said he was trying to shift the blame.”
The reaction by the media and the public over Sun’s death demonstrates mistrust toward management of Chinese businesses. When it comes to corporate management, modern enterprises have to adjust their instrument of management, Jean Lee, a professor of management at the China Europe International Business School, told the Global Times.
“There must be a deficiency in management behind the death of this employee,” she speculated. “A caring enterprise and boss would help placate their employees.”
China's Central Military Commission (CMC) Chairman Hu Jintao (C) poses with newly-promoted generals.
Publication: China Brief Volume: 9 Issue: 15July 23, 2009 02:46 PM Age: 9 hrsCategory: In a Fortnight, Military/Security, Elite, Home Page, China and the Asia-Pacific, China Brief By: Russell Hsiao
Beijing instituted a new round of personnel changes among the top-ranking officers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and its general departments. According to official state-media, Central Military Commission (CMC) Chairman and PRC President Hu Jintao conferred three senior military officers the rank of general on July 20 (Xinhua News Agency, July 20). A raft of personnel changes that were made recently runs the gamut of the PLA's general departments: General Staff Headquarters, General Political Department, General Logistics Department and General Armaments Department (Nanfang Daily, July 10; China Military Online, July 10).
The three senior officers promoted to the rank of general are Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the PLA Ma Xiaotian; Political Commissar of the PLA's Academy of Military Sciences Liu Yuan; and Political Commissar of Chengdu Military Area Command Zhang Haiyang. The conferment of Ma, Liu and Zhang represents the coming of age of a generation of PLA stars, whose meteoric rise to the upper echelons of the military establishment has been closely tied to Hu.
Ma, who now directs the PLA's high-level military diplomacy and intelligence operations, has a long career in the Chinese air force, and is leading the Chinese delegation in the resumed U.S.-China defense dialogue, which had been suspended due to Beijing's objections to U.S. sale of advanced weaponry to Taiwan (Ta Kung Pao, July 21). Ma is noted for his critical stance toward what he sees as the expansion of [U.S.] military alliances in the Asia-Pacific (Straits Time, June 1, 2008).
Both Zhang and Liu are "princelings," a reference to the offspring of party elders or retired generals. Their successive appointment up the military ranks affirms Hu's tactic of trying to build up his credentials as the commander-in-chief—Hu himself lacks personal military experience—by elevating the sons of First- and Second-Generation revolutionaries to senior PLA slots. It is interesting to note that Zhang and Liu, although coming from different branches of the Chinese military, have risen up the ranks almost lock-step with one another. Zhang Haiyang is the son of former CMC Vice-Chairman and Politburo member General Zhang Zhen.
Liu Yuan's promotion, the son of late Chinese statesmen Liu Shaoqi—purged by Mao during the Cultural Revolution—has caught considerable media attention. Liu is referred to as the leader of a faction in the PLA described by the media as the “young turks” (shao zhuang pai), which is composed of realists, nationalists and foreign policy hardliners (Nownews [Taiwan], July 21). Liu is known for his tough stance on Taiwan, made infamous by his statement responding to remarks in Taipei about an alleged plan to bomb the Three Gorges Dam in case of a Chinese attack by telling the media that an air strike by Taiwan "will provoke a retaliation [against Taiwan] that will ‘blot out the sky and cover up the earth'" (See China Brief, "The end of the Sino-American honeymoon?", July 18, 2004).
Other personnel changes in the PLA’s general departments include:
In the General Staff Department:
• Chief of Staff of the Shenyang Military Region Lieutenant General Hou Shusen was promoted to deputy chief of the PLA Headquarters of the General Staff. • Dean of the Nanjing Army Command College Major General Chen Yong was promoted to assistant chief of staff for the PLA Headquarters of the General Staff. • Assistant Chief of Staff for the PLA General Staff Headquarters Major General Yang Zhiqi is retiring. • Deputy Chief of Staff of the PLA General Headquarter and Commander of the Guangzhou Military Region General Liu Zhenwu is retiring.
In the General Armament Department:
• Chief of Staff for the PLA General Armaments Department Major General Niu Hongguang was promoted to deputy director of the PLA General Armaments Department. • Deputy Director of the PLA General Armament Department Lieutenant General Zhang Jianqi is retiring.
In the General Political Department:
• Assistant Director PLA General Political Department Major General Xu Yaoyuan was conferred the rank of lieutenant general
In the General Logistics Department:
• Deputy Director of the PLA General Logistics Department Major Ding Jiye was conferred the rank of Lieutenant General. • Tai Yinghe were made Lieutenant General. • Deputy Director of the PLA General Logistics Department Lieutenant General Wang Qian is retiring.
(Source: Nanfang Daily, July10; Wenwei Po, July 10; ETaiwan News, July 10)
A senior member of Brazilian ruling party called Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as a "racist" and "fascist" over Israeli treatment of Palestinians on occupied territories. Wednesday, 22 July 2009 14:43
A senior member of Brazilian ruling party called Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as a "racist" and "fascist" over Israeli treatment of Palestinians on occupied territories.
Lieberman on Monday began a 10-day tour of Latin America, the first by a foreign minister in more than 10 years, aimed at countering what Israel say "Iran's growing influence"
"Lieberman is a racist and a fascist," Valter Pomar, secretary of international relations for Lula's Workers Party (PT), told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in an interview published on Tuesday.
"The Brazilian left is organising protests against him and against the policy he represents," Pomar was quoted as saying.
A spokesman for the Brazilian foreign ministry told the Haaretz "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion," a spokesman for the Brazilian foreign minister said.
"Pomar's view certainly does not represent the government's position."
Lieberman's hardline views on Israeli Arabs have earned him epithets of "racist".
He is expected to meet with Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - a founder of PT on Wednesday.
He also has planned stops in Argentina, Peru and Colombia, but is bypassing the South American nations, Venezuela and Bolivia.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales both broke off ties with Israel in January to protest a military offensive in the Gaza Strip that left 1434 Palestinians dead.
Israel has often come under international criticism for 'racism' and mistreatment of its Arab minority, who are the original inhabitants of the land and today make up one fifth of its total population.
The Arab population is comprised of the descendants of the Palestinians who remained in their land despite being subjected to an Israeli campaign of 'ethnic cleansing' during the creation of Israel.
The majority of those who fled and their descendants, an estimated six million Palestinians, wish to return to their rightful homes but are prevented from doing so by Israel, in violation of international human rights.
Abdul Hameed Bakier JAMESTOWN FOUNDATION - TERRORISM MONITOR
In light of the ethnic violence in China's Xinjiang province, various jihadi internet forums focused on the handling of the turmoil by China's security forces. A vast region comprising nearly a sixth of China's total land mass, Xinjiang is home to a number of Central Asian ethnic groups, the largest of which is the Turkic-speaking Uyghur people, until recently the dominant group in the region. Massive government-encouraged post-war migration by Han Chinese has made the Uyghurs a minority in their traditional home, known to Muslims as East Turkistan.
The first response of Salafi-Jihadi forums to any perceived injustice inflicted on Muslims anywhere typically involves citing a conspiracy theory regarding the manipulation of Muslims by the United States. One forum debated China's "brutal" handling of East Turkistan Muslims in a post entitled; "China, the United States.and al-Qaeda Organization" (muslm.net, July 7, 2009).
On the trouble in the oil-rich Xinjiang region, a jihadi forum member, nicknamed Ibn Khaldoon al-Jaza'iri, accused the United States of interfering in Chinese affairs by instigating the Uyghur Muslims in East Turkistan to rebel against the government. The prospect of China taking a leading role in the world as the next superpower is disturbing to the United States. Therefore, wherever there are Chinese investments, especially in oil and gas, there are troubles caused by the United States, alleges al-Jaza'iri. The United States tries to impede China's quest for alternative sources of energy badly needed for its rapidly growing economy. For example, China has made big strides in Africa by building strong relations with oil-rich nations based on mutual interests. According to al-Jaza'iri, China exchanges its know-how in infrastructure projects in return for oil from African countries such as Nigeria and Algeria, but the United States uses the Islamic jihadi factions to hinder Chinese efforts to establish a presence in Africa. As an example, al-Jaza'iri gives the terrorist operation in Algeria's Borj Bouaririj district, where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for killing 18 Algerian gendarmerie escorting Chinese workers building the highway between Algerian capital and Borj Bouaririj. In this case, al-Jaza'iri does not appear to have done his homework - the AQIM attack was carried out when the gendarmerie was returning to barracks after having escorted the Chinese workers to their site. The attack was clearly directed at government security forces and not the Chinese workers (Echerouk [Algiers], June 18; Middle East Online, June 21).
Al-Jaza'iri says the constant harassment of Chinese workers by jihadi factions manipulated by the United States raises Chinese investment costs, but adds that jihadis should be careful not to fall for U.S. exploitation and should refrain from attacking Chinese technicians and workers building roads, communication networks and oil facilities for the benefit of Muslims in Islamic countries. It's likely that the United States will attempt to set fire to Eastern Turkistan by directly or indirectly supporting jihadi operations there, similar to what they did in Afghanistan, backed by religious fatwas (religious rulings) from Saudi Arabia's Salafist shaykhs. The "stupid Chinese communist regime," blinded by its hatred for Islam, is expected to fall for the U.S. plan and commit massacres in Eastern Turkistan. Finally, al-Jaza'iri concludes his posting by calling on al-Qaeda leaders to be smart enough not to plunge into the U.S. trap to weaken China.
The majority of forum members disagreed with al-Jaza'iri. "Abu Hamza al-Alawi" rejected the notion that the mujahideen could be manipulated by the United States, adding the mujahideen follow their own agenda regardless of who benefits from their terrorist actions, so long as jihadi objectives are met. The era of U.S. weapons supplies for Muslims to fight communists is over, says al-Alawi, adding that the Western experience with jihadi factions has taught them that Muslims can't be manipulated.
In response to al-Alawi's rebuke, al-Jaza'iri insists the Mujahideen are supported by the West in cases that serve their interests. He contends the West doesn't categorize the Chechen Mujahideen as a terrorist group because they serve the Western objective of weakening the Russian Federation.  The Chechen mujahedeen are considered a legitimate resistance group by the West, which supplies them with weapons through pro-Western Georgia. Al-Jaza'iri claims the West doesn't perceive the Chechen fighters to be powerful enough to declare an Islamic state that would pose a threat to the West.
Other jihadi forums also focused on the turmoil in Xinjiang. "Abu Hassim al-Ghareeb" urged Muslims not to forget the Turkistan Muslims suppressed by China and to help prevent the Chinese from liquidating their Islamic identity (hanein.info, July 8). Regarding ways of supporting Turkistan, some forum members suggested boycotting Chinese products and investments in Muslim countries, but other, more extreme members called for jihad against China to return the favor of the Turkistan jihadis who they claim poured into Afghanistan in the 1990s, pledged alliance to the Afghan Islamic Emirate, trained in al-Qaeda camps and fought alongside the mujahideen. In the words of one forum member who urges jihad in China; "Neither boycott nor protests will stop the slaying of our brothers. The solution, known to everyone, is jihad. Who will sell himself to God and rush to the battlefield?" A third forum member called upon global jihad leaders Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri to pay more attention to the revolution in Turkistan and to extend financial and moral support to the Turkistan Mujahideen to make sure they remain adherents of the Salafi creed and part of the global jihadi movement. "Take the initiative. Choose from among them whom you think suitable to lead an Islamic Emirate" said a posting from an Iraqi jihadi forum (faloja1.info, July 8). Again, the jihadi forum members betray their lack of knowledge about East Turkistan - Salafists are extremely rare in the region, where Sufism remains the dominant creed of Xinjiang's Sunni Muslims.
Members of more moderate forums expressed concern over conducting terrorist attacks in China. Any terrorist attacks there would give the Chinese government a legitimate reason to crush Turkistan's Muslims, says "First Lieutenant Ata" - "Muslims should only boycott Chinese products and organize protests in front of Chinese embassies. Any direct external military Muslim interference in Turkistan would only exacerbate the problem" (4flying.com, July 10).
The jihadi forum members' hypothesis of U.S. manipulation of jihadi factions to prevent China from becoming a superpower seems far fetched. China is not powerful enough to threaten Western powers militarily or confront the United States. At best, China could stir up problems for the purpose of making economic gains from the Western world in a way similar to Russia. It is also unrealistic to assume that al-Qaeda and other jihadi factions would play a significant role in a Chinese-Western struggle over Africa or elsewhere. Al-Qaeda terrorist activities in Algeria, for example, are due to an internal Algerian struggle and not to U.S. manipulation of jihadi factions against China's newly established interests in the region.
Abdul Hameed Bakier is an intelligence expert on counter-terrorism, crisis management and terrorist-hostage negotiations. He is based in Jordan.
1. Presumably al-Jaza'iri means the Chechen mujahideen are not categorized as a terrorist group "in practice." Several Chechen mujahideen organizations and individuals have appeared on Western and UN designated terrorist lists.
Gradually but relentlessly the world economic crisis is deepening. The OECD, organisation of the 30 richest capitalist countries, warns that unemployment in its member economies could rise by 25 million as the crisis progresses, with economic growth falling by an average of 4.3% this year. International trade is in freefall with trade volumes expected to fall by a huge 13%. The 16-nation single currency eurozone’s GDP fell 2.5% in the first quarter of 2009 and a record 4.6% on a year ago. Unemployment across Europe could reach 26 million in 2010 or 11.5% of the labour force. The US economy fell at an annualised rate of 5.7% in the first quarter of 2009. The British economy is expected to slump by around 4% this year with unemployment reaching three million by the end of the year. Growth in the underdeveloped countries will fall from 5.8% in 2008 to just 2.1% this year, driving millions more into desperate poverty. David Yaffe reports on the growing impact of the crisis.
With interest rates in the main imperialist economies close to zero, the risk of deflation is ever present. Prices are falling in the US (–0.62%), Japan (–0.3%) and Britain (–1.2%), and are no longer rising in the eurozone. Deflation can be ruinous for highly indebted borrowers, as the real value of their debts will rise.
The IMF estimated in April that global financial sector losses had reached close to $4,400bn and they will almost certainly increase. To avoid immediate financial meltdown governments have so far provided around $8,900bn to prop up the banks. This is less than a third of their financial needs. The bounce in the world stockmarkets since early March 2009 is the result of the unprecedented intervention by central banks and governments of the main capitalist nations, in what one financial commentator has called ‘the most far-reaching socialisation of market risk in world history’ (Martin Wolf Financial Times 22 and 29 April 2009). Yet the unwinding of the unprecedented debt in the public and private sectors of the main capitalist economies has barely begun. This ‘deleveraging’ process, when it really gets underway, will have devastating social and economic results and the imagined ‘green shoots’ of recovery will rapidly wither away.
The G20 summit came and went. It achieved very little other than giving the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, the principal role on a world stage for a few days. Divisions between the major imperialist powers were played down or hidden. Although it has been claimed that new money of $1,100bn would be injected into the global economy, including a $500bn increase in funding available to the IMF, an increase in Special Drawing Rights of $250bn and a total of $250bn for trade assistance, the Financial Times (3 April 2009) has argued that new commitments appear to be below $100bn, and most of the money was in train before the G20 summit anyway. In addition extra money, created through the imperialist-dominated IMF, generates serious problems for underdeveloped countries because of the conditions placed on their loans. Sharp budget cuts and trade surpluses demanded by the IMF are exactly the reverse of the fiscal expansion being promoted within the rich imperialist nations. In addition around 44% from the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights funding goes to the richest G7 imperialist nations.
British crisis deepens as divisions widen The British economy has been in recession since the last quarter of 2008. Predictions for the decline in national income in 2009 range from the government’s optimistic –3.5% to the National Economic and Social Research’s –4.3%, which would be the fastest fall since 1931. Britain is experiencing a deep recession which will have serious economic, social and political consequences for the majority of the British population.
Unemployment increased by 244,000 in the first quarter of 2009 to reach 2.2 million, 7.1% of the labour force. This is the highest unemployment rate since Labour came to power in 1997. In March alone the increase in unemployment was 115,000, a record rise, with half the increase amongst the under-25s. The jobless rate for 18–24-year-olds is now 16.1%, up 3.9 percentage points on a year ago; more than double the increase among 29–40-year-olds. By the end of the year around 1.25 million under 25-year-olds could be unemployed, as overall unemployment reaches 3 million.
House prices continue to fall and are now 22.5% below the August 2007 peak. Mortgage lending crashed to an eight-year low in April 2009, 52.4% lower than in the same month last year. House prices are expected to fall a good deal further, with one economist expecting them to fall by another 12% to 15% (The Guardian 28 May 2009). House building is at its lowest level since 1953. Deflation hit the British economy in March when the Retail Price Index (includes certain housing costs, such as mortgage interest payments and council tax) fell below zero (–0.4%) for the first time in almost 50 years. In April it stood at –1.2%, the lowest level since 1948. The Consumer Price Index (excludes certain housing costs) is now falling rapidly and was 2.3% in April, down from 5% last summer. Average earnings in the first quarter of 2009 were down 0.4% on a year ago. This was mainly due to lower bonuses. If these are excluded, average earnings rose 3%, the lowest rise since 2001, when comparable records began.
These broad figures conceal growing inequality and class divisions. Britain is a more unequal society than at any time since records began in the 1960s. Poverty and inequality rose for three successive years up to 2007/08 according to the latest report from the Department of Work and Pensions.1 Since the last election the number of people living in poverty (below 60% of the median income after housing costs – AHC) has increased by 1.4 million, from 12.1 million in 2004/05 to 13.5 million in 2007/08, from 21% to 23% of the population. This includes 400,000 more children and makes risible the Labour government’s pledge to halve child poverty by 2010. The poorest 10% of the population have seen their share of household income (AHC) fall from 1.7% to 1.4%, while the top 10% have seen their share rise from 29.1% to 30.8%. The ratio of the top 20% to the bottom 20% of household income per week has increased from 4.8:1 to 5.2:1. The deepening crisis can only exacerbate these developments as millions more people are driven into poverty.
The budget plans for years of austerity Chancellor Darling’s second budget had to take into account two important matters. First was the need to contain and then turn around the explosive increase in government debt, both to retain the confidence of those investors expected to finance it and to ensure that the British economy remains a ‘world centre for finance’.2 The urgency in doing this was revealed a month after the budget when Standard & Poor, the rating agency, downgraded Britain’s economic outlook from ‘stable’ to ‘negative’, calling into question Britain’s top-tier credit rating. A lower rating would push up the cost of borrowing. Second was a likely General Election in May or June 2010 and with it the importance, despite rapidly deteriorating economic conditions, of keeping onside a substantial section of the coalition which voted Labour back into office in 2005. The problem was to reconcile these two increasingly contradictory requirements.
The budget measures attempted to deal with this by postponing a dramatic squeeze on public finances until after a General Election. So after the £20bn stimulus to the economy already announced in the pre-Budget report in November 2008,3 any further stimulus in this budget had to be nominal. Pay back time would come later in the form of years and years of austerity after the election. Overall, Darling said, that there would be a fiscal easing (stimulus) of 0.5% of GDP this year followed by a tightening (squeeze) of 0.8% of GDP per year until 2013-14. On this basis, and with wildly optimistic growth projections for the economy – a decline of 3.5% this year, growth of 1.75% next year,4 3.75% in 2011 and trend growth of around 2.75% thereafter – the deficit will be £175bn in 2009-10 or 12.4% of GDP, falling to £173bn, then £140bn, £118bn and £97bn or 5.5% of GDP in 2013-14. Total government borrowing will be more than £700bn over a five-year period. Net debt figures are expected to be 59% of GDP in 2009-10, rising to a dramatic 79% in 2013-14, shattering Labour’s neo-liberal fiscal limit of 40% of GDP of previous budgets. Debt servicing costs will be between £35bn and £47bn a year, more than the annual transport budget and half the education budget (The Guardian 23 April 2009).
Public sector current expenditure is expected to grow in real terms by only 0.7% a year. However, costs have historically tended to rise faster in the public sector than in the economy as a whole by 2% per year. This means, on present budget plans, cuts in public services of around 1.3% a year. In addition, public sector capital investment will be halved (in cash terms) from £44bn this year to £22bn in 2013-14. As Financial Times journalist Chris Giles so graphically put it: ‘Get ready for dirty hospitals and crumbling schools’ (23 April 2009).
To get public sector borrowing down to levels acceptable to the financial markets, either taxes have to be raised and/or public spending cut to the extent of 5% to 6% of GDP. In this budget Darling not only squeezed public spending but also raised taxes, for the present, on high earners. The rate of tax on those earning £150,000 and above, around 350,000 people, would be raised to 50% from April 2010. Pension tax relief for these high earners will be gradually reduced from April 2011 to the basic rate of 20% that the majority of people receive. In addition personal allowances, worth twice as much as those of basic tax payers, will be withdrawn for those earning over £100,000 from April 2010. These measures will raise £1.2bn in 2010-11, £2.2bn the year after, increasing to £7bn by 2013-14. Even if these sums were raised, and high earners didn’t find ways of avoiding paying them, they would barely dent the overall deficit.
Economic commentators have called the measures pointless. London mayor Boris Johnson said they were a tax on London and Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, worries that they would make the Premier league less attractive to professional footballers. The Prime Minister even told the CBI conference that it was not something that he and Darling wanted to do. But, he said, ‘we have to have a plan for sustainable public finances and included in that must be decisions we made about taxation’ (The Guardian 21 May 2009). This is a clear signal to the better off sections of the working class and middle classes that they are next in line for serious tax increases, but after the election when massive cuts in public borrowing will have to be made. The tax on the rich few is not designed to raise large amounts of revenue but to set a precedent for serious tax increases on a much wider section of the population.
The present crisis has already shown that the ruling and political elites have lost all credibility. They cannot continue to rule in the old way. Greed and corruption is being exposed in a context of falling living standards for increasing numbers of people. So far, however, there has been little sign of increased activity by the mass of people at the receiving end of the deepening crisis. Whoever wins the next election, the years of austerity ahead will change this situation as millions of higher paid workers confront the brutal realities of capitalist crisis already hitting the poorer sections of the working class.
1 Households Below Average Income (HBAI) 1994/95-2007/08 2 In his budget speech Darling said: ‘A successful economy needs a strong financial sector. We don’t want to throw away the many advantages that have come from our position as a world centre of finance. I intend that we retain that position.’ 3 See ‘Desperate times desperate measures’ in FRFI 206 December 2008/January 2009. Online on our website. 4 The IMF, however, predicts that GDP will fall again by 0.4% in 2010.
Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell told us as he introduced Labour’s latest proposals for welfare reform that ‘Today, when the national effort is about a global downturn, we can no more afford to waste taxpayers’ money on those who play the system.’ He was clearly not thinking of those who ‘play the system’ like Sir Fred Goodwin, or Labour ministers like himself and MPs with their second home fiddles – the rich and the admirers of the rich. Instead, he was asking us to endorse Labour’s brutish attack on the poor, those who face a daily struggle to survive, and those who will join the dole queues this year as unemployment grows to three million. But that strategy is now backfiring, as millions compare the pittance they receive in income support with the vast benefits Labour politicians receive by reason of being in parliament. ROBERT CLOUGH reports.
Purnell (salary £142,000 per annum) has milked the House of Commons expenses system to the utmost. Over a five-year period, clearly regarding his salary as insufficient to feed him, he claimed £9,094 on groceries, and since 2001 has received £145,000 for utilities, council tax payments, fixtures, fittings and cleaning as second home allowance in London. In 2006 he sold his then London flat but avoided paying capital gains tax because HMRC regarded it as his primary residence. In his first speech as Works and Pensions Secretary in January 2008 this free-rider said there would be ‘no free-riding on the welfare state’. His predecessor, Peter Hain, was of the same opinion, saying in the same month just before he resigned: ‘We have had great success in cutting benefit fraud by more than half since 2000…but we know that thieves are intent on stealing money from those most in need’, even as he received £103,000 in undeclared support for his bid to become Labour’s deputy leader.
Whilst squeezing the most out of their own benefits system, Labour MPs since 1997 have endorsed a policy which has continuously impoverished the unemployed and those on income support. One of the earliest actions of Labour on coming to office was the implementation of cuts in state benefits to lone parents which the outgoing Tory government had proposed in its final budget. It also proceeded with the draconian Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) regime, and over the years continued to tighten eligibility for the miserly income it provides. Today’s £64.30 a week JSA (£50.95 for the under-25s) has fallen by 25% against average earnings since 1997 and now stands at 10.5% of average earnings. This is half what unemployment benefit was worth on average from its introduction in 1912 until 1979 when the Tories tied it to inflation.
What is also staggering is the extent to which income support levels for those who are not working have fallen under Labour. This is especially so for those without children but even families with children on income support are still forced to live well below the poverty line: Income support levels in relation to poverty thresholds by family type (after housing costs)
Income support level as 1997- 2008- % of poverty line 98 09
Single aged 18-24, no children 52 40 Single, aged 25+, no children 65 50 Couple, working age no children 60 46 Couple, 1 child aged 3 67 66 Couple, 2 children aged 4 and 6 67 75 Couple, 3 children aged 3, 8, 11 71 81 Single parent, 1 child aged 3 81 81
Drawn from Towards a more equal society? Hills, Sefton and Stewart (eds), Policy Press 2009, Table 2.4, p30
People on income support are the ‘undeserving poor’ and are amongst the seven million people who are no better off than they would have been in 1998/99. Over half a million are subject to fraud investigations each year to ensure they get no more than the pittance they are due. The imposition of greater poverty on the unemployed has been accompanied by a stream of punitive measures: the ASBO regime; the proposals that unemployed people in council housing could risk losing their homes if they don’t prove that they are looking for work; and the current Welfare Bill which says that in the future ‘virtually everyone’ claiming benefits will have to do something in return for their money, meaning that most people on incapacity benefit will be required to attend job interviews and the unemployed would be expected to do four weeks’ full-time activity after a year out of work.
Peter Mandelson, who infamously declared that ‘we are intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich’, demanded in 1997 that ‘doubters’ as to Labour’s commitment to reduce inequality ‘judge us after ten years of success in office’. Since then Mandelson has become one of the ‘filthy rich’ he so admires. He started with an undeclared loan of £373,000 to buy a house in London, moved on to become an EU Commissioner on £182,000 a year, before receiving a £234,000 golden handshake to enable him to live on a ministerial salary of £104,000 with a London home worth £2.5 million. For the rest of us, inequality has consistently increased during the years of the Labour government. Between 1996/97 and 2007/08, the income share of the poorest 20% fell from 5.9% to 5.3% whilst that for the richest 20% rose from 43.2% to 45.6%. The ratio of the income share of the richest to the poorest 20% rose from 7.3:1 to 8.7:1.
Whilst there have been reductions in poverty, these have been limited and as early as 2004/05 had started to reverse. The number living in poverty (defined as below 60% of median household income after housing costs) in 1979 was 7.9 million; by 1997, it had risen to 14 million. After 12 years of Labour, it is still 13.5 million and growing. Pensioners fared better: 29.1% were living in poverty in 1996/97; this fell to 17.6% in 2004/05 but is now rising and stands at 19%. Improvements for children were far more limited: although the proportion living in poverty fell from 34.1% in 1996/97 to 28.4% in 2004/05, this has also started to rise, and by 2007/08 had reached 31%.
Despite record levels of GDP and average income growth at least until 2007, Labour has been unable to recreate conditions of the post-war boom when successive governments were able to guarantee the privileges of the middle class and better-off sections of the working class whilst maintaining an adequate standard of living for the mass of the working class. The result is an explosion of working class rage at Labour corruption, an anger that is shared by swathes of the middle class facing an uncertain future, shattering the electoral coalition that handed Labour three successive general election victories. With Labour now facing disaster in the 4 June European elections, the left has issued a coded call to come to its support by urging us to vote against the BNP. Socialists should be taking a stand: no vote for Labour! Child poverty and inequality
In 2007/08 there were 4.0 million children living in poverty (2.1 million in 1979), of whom nearly half lived in persistent poverty (defined as being below the poverty line in three out of four successive years). Labour failed to meet its initial target – reducing child poverty by 25% by 2004/05 – by a considerable distance, and is nowhere near its second target – halving child poverty by 2010. Indeed, as increases in state expenditure on child-related tax credits and benefits tailed off from 2004, the proportion living in poverty started to rise again.
Income is not the only measure of inequality. Labour also committed itself to reducing health inequalities by 10% by 2010, as measured by infant mortality – a very modest target which would have seen infant mortality amongst the poorest fall from 13% above the national average to 12% over a 13-year period. In fact the gap has widened: in 2004-06 infant mortality among manual workers was 5.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, 17% higher than the national average of 4.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Following the BNP’s electoral breakthrough, some of the wiser heads among the mainstream parties are starting to analyse their success in similar terms to the IWCA. The similarities between us and them, however, end there. On the 16th of June, in the wake of the BNP’s successes in the European elections, the Tory party chairman and key strategist Eric Pickles stated that the BNP were set to become “a very serious force in British politics”, in spite of the Labour and Tory parties collaborating to thwart them. His diagnosis of why the BNP were succeeding was straightforward: there is “an enormous disconnect between politicians and the electorate”, and “it is on those Labour estates where this kind of disconnect occurs… They [the BNP] have filled that vacuum which Labour retreated from so long ago” (BBC NEWS | Politics | BNP could be ‘very serious force’).
Pickles is not the first mainstream politician to come to this conclusion, or even to use this precise phraseology. Hazel Blears told the BBC last November that “If mainstream political parties leave a vacuum, people like the BNP will fill that vacuum” (BBC NEWS | UK | Blears sounds warning about BNP), and the Guardian that “we must recognise that where the BNP wins votes, it is often a result of local political failure. Estates that have been ignored for decades; voters taken for granted; local services that have failed; white skilled working-class voters who feel politicians live on a different planet. In such a political vacuum, the BNP steps in with offers of grass-cutting, a listening ear, and easy answers to complex problems” (Hazel Blears: How to beat the BNP | Comment is free | The Guardian). More far-sighted than both of these, Labour’s Jon Cruddas stated back in 2005 that New Labour was ‘leaving a vacuum in traditional communities which has been exploited by the far right’, and that “Much of the community feels disenfranchised by New Labour, which has consciously removed class as a political or economic category. It has systematically devised policies to appeal to specific swing voters in marginal constituencies… The white working class are beginning to develop a class allegiance with the far right; the Labour party has, in their eyes, deserted them” (Labour leaving room for racists, says MP | Politics | The Guardian).
This analysis will be already familiar to those who read the IWCA’s output. Indeed, this understanding of the dynamic behind the BNP’s success was what motivated the creation of the IWCA in the first place. In 1995 a group of individuals who would eventually go on to found the IWCA produced a document entitled, neatly enough, Filling The Vacuum. Attempting to map out the future in the wake of the BNP abandoning their (unsuccessful) strategy of street violence for a mainstream political approach and the creation of New Labour, the document stated that: “The working class is increasingly alienated from Labour, the BNP’s strategy is entirely reliant upon this alienation: ‘they really hate Labour’ etc. The total ineptitude and the tangible contempt that exists in some areas between Labour and its former constituency has locally and nationally begat the BNP… In straightforward language, it is the politics of the Labour Party that has created the BNP [italics added]“. Over a decade later, with the BNP having gone from nowhere to two Euro MPs and a London Assembly member (the greatest electoral success ever achieved by fascism in this country, far eclipsing the NF or Mosley’s British Union of Fascists), with an MP their next goal, this belated mea culpa shows that the penny is finally dropping among the mainstream political class.
Conservative vs militant anti-fascism
The similarities between us and them, however, end there. The concern over the BNP in ruling class circles is motivated solely by the desire to maintain and protect the status quo from what is perceived as a radical threat (this includes Cruddas: his relatively early awareness derives largely from the direct threat they pose in his backyard). This is conservative anti-fascism, and it encompasses the political establishment as a whole, and their allies. It is intended to preserve a ruling class political consensus that over the last thirty years has destroyed the organized working class, caused inequality to reach its highest levels since records began, and has allowed high finance to remain unmolested and unreformed despite it plunging the economy into a near-abyss, rescued only by an unprecedented taxpayer-financed bail-out that will retard the British economy for years to come (as the Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley has said: “It is still underappreciated just how close Britain came to a meltdown of its entire banking system so total that the cash machines would have stopped working. Businesses would have stopped paying their employees; parents wouldn’t have been able to feed their families” [Why in the end the cabinet just didn't have the stomach for a kill | Andrew Rawnsley | Comment is free | The Observer]. Conservative anti-fascism is intended to see to it that highly justified public anger remains contained and doesn’t lead on to something more dangerous, whether from the right or left (though at present the left is not a factor).
Other than conservative anti-fascism, the other Establishment response to the BNP has been the traditional middle-class one of appeasement and accomodation, such as when Dagenham’s other Labour MP, the loathsome Margaret Hodge, shamelessly indulged in racist ‘dog whistle’ rhetoric to the extent that the local BNP chieftain Richard Barnbrook sent her flowers, saying that “We must stop agreeing like this or people will think we are having a political agreement” (BBC NEWS | Politics | Hodge attacked for ‘BNP language’).
Our anti-fascism, however, is of the militant variety. Ours is motivated not by the desire to protect the status quo, but to protect and further the interests of the working class. As Filling the Vacuum puts it: “anti-fascism is by definition a rearguard action and fascism is the consequence, rather than the cause, of the Left’s failure… The function of anti-fascism is not to see the electoral threat from the Far-Right beaten back so that Labour and the middle-class Left can, as happened between 1982-92, turn their backs on both the social causes and their own collaboration in the political betrayal that gave rise to the NF and the BNP in the first place. The ambition of militant anti-fascism is not simply to see the Far-Right defeated and removed from working class areas: the ultimate solution is to see them replaced there. The BNP’s attack on Labour is from the Right and is racist, ultra-conservative and anti-working class. Our primary role is to guarantee that a successful challenge to Labour comes only from the Left”. The consequence of conservative anti-fascism is that “instead of being identified with a radical, pro-working class position, anti-fascism is seen to be defending the status quo, thereby practically forcing people who want change to vote BNP, out of sheer desperation. They are literally driving people into the arms of the fascists”. Conservative anti-fascism gives the BNP a radical veneer which, by and large, they don’t deserve.
“The Right will always be weak so long as it is based predominantly on white collar support”
The BNP’s current pro-working class orientation is purely opportunistic, based upon the need, as pointed out by their founder John Tyndall, to “gain a sufficient majority among both main classes” on the grounds that “The Right will always be weak so long as it is based predominantly on white collar support”. A perfunctory look back through history will show other fascist movements which courted the working class whilst in the process of gaining power, and what they then did to the working class once power was obtained. Fascism is, at bottom, a hierarchical, pro-middle class, anti-working class doctrine. It is the educated middle class that has traditionally made the most enthusiastic fascists, and the working class that has produced the best anti-fascists. Accordingly, upon examination the BNP shows the same contempt for the lower orders that the middle class left and the capitalist class has so traditionally displayed (indeed, given that Nick Griffin is the privately educated son of a wealthy Tory politician, why should he be any different?). For instance, over the course of two articles in the BNP’s magazine Identity in 2008, Paul Golding -BNP councillor in Sevenoaks and former editor of Identity- denounces the concept of democracy. For Golding, democracy means that “politicians find their field of action severely curtailed to that which is popular. Everything that is done or adopted must be popular, lest the rug is pulled from under your feet by voters at the next polling day… When power rests with consent from voters, how can a government do what is right and what is needed, when these things happen to be unpopular?” (link).
Golding offers up his solution to this difficulty in the second article: “The very first thing a patriotic government must do is to revive the sacred institution and right of citizenship, which must come with several qualifications, not something which is just dropped into everyone’s lap at birth. Politics is a serious business, and the consequences of bad decision-making affect everyone. Therefore voting must be restricted to those who possess the requisite knowledge and education that enables them to make wise, prudent and intelligent choices. In ancient Athens the purest form of democracy existed, but unlike today voting was restricted to citizens, who became citizens due to service, intelligence and education. The creators of Athenian democracy in 508 BC would no doubt laugh at the presumption that everyone qualifies to part in elections, regardless of merit or qualification. Who are we to argue with some of the greatest men in history?” (link).
Here, Golding shows the same contempt for the masses (including, presumably, many BNP voters and supporters) as the “old gang parties” the BNP so like to denounce. What Golding’s prescription is most redolent of is that of the major early twentieth century American political theorists like Walter Lippmann and Harold Lasswell, who were of the opinion that “When public opinion attempts to govern directly it is either a failure or a tyranny. It is not able to master this problem intellectually, nor deal with it except by wholesale impact. The theory of democracy has not recognized this truth because it has identified the functioning of government with the will of the people. This is fiction”; and “Regard for men in the mass rests upon no democratic dogmatisms about men being the best judges of their own interests. The modern propagandist, like the modern psychologist, recognizes that men are often poor judges of their own interests, flitting from one alternative to the next without solid reason”. The ideal for Lippmann and Lasswell was what the historian Alex Carey called a “propaganda-managed democracy”. Golding is at least more honest: he would strip away all pretences and do away with democracy altogether. But both fascism and liberal democracy are in agreement that the masses are mindless and incompetent, and that therefore effective democracy is impossible, impractical and undesirable.
Filling the Vacuum concludes by noting that if the BNP are to be not only destroyed but replaced in working class areas, then “we must also out-radicalise them”. The BNP’s radical response to the widespread, and correct, assumption that capitalist democracy is a sham is to simply dispense with it. Ours is to recognize that formal political democracy is meaningless unless popular, democratic control is also extended as far as possible to the economy and the workplace, where the key decisions about production and investment, that dominate our lives, remain under the control of a small oligarchy at the very top. Both capitalism and fascism oppose such a structure, which is to be expected (as an aside, Golding’s praise of the Athenian model is taken almost verbatim from John Tyndall. Tyndall’s view on who should control the economy runs thus: “The franchise should be ordered in such a way as to place greater voting power in the hands of those more qualified and with greater achievement to their credit. For instance, the head of a large engineering company should possess substantially more votes than his most lowly placed employee. We must dispense once and for all with the idea that when it comes to exercising judgement over affairs, everyone’s judgement is worth the same”). But worse, the left for most of the past century has opposed the notion of economic democracy as well, which goes a long way toward explaining its failure. If there is to be a new political formation in this country aimed at furthering the interests of the working class and facing down our common enemies in the BNP and Labour, economic democracy must be its long-term goal and philosophical centrepiece.
(Pic: College students raise their fists at a job-hunting rally in Tokyo as economic crisis makes the 'salarymen' rethink their corporate loyalty Photo: REUTERS)
Millions of Japanese salarymen, whose fathers and grandfathers initiated this nation's economic miracle, are fully aware that the chaff has already been winnowed out of the domestic workforce.
By Julian Ryall in Tokyo Published: 6:06PM BST 13 Jul 2009 Daily Telegraph
They have seen the part-time employees clock out one last time and the foreign labourers' contracts not renewed. They know there is no staffing fat left to trim and have seen the axes beginning to fall in companies where previously the dark-suited salaryman has been untouchable.
"It's very hard right now," says Keisuke Obata, a 42-year-old employee of a major manufacturing company based in Tokyo. "I've never seen things so bad, and all we hear from the company and the politicians is that we have to try a little harder and endure for a little longer."
"It makes you think," he admits. "But there are not many other jobs out there and I have commitments."
Men like Obata, who has given two decades of service to his company yet is on the verge of being summarily dismissed, are finding their previously unswerving commitment to their employers eclipsed by the instinct for self-preservation.
With a mortgage and three young children to provide for, Obata has heard the message that has gradually spread across the shop floor and entered the domain of the white-collar workers. Communism, they say, might just have the answer.
"Companies are only interested in their profits and protecting their management," says Tatsuya Yoshida, an employee of a Tokyo-based transport company. "They do not care about their staff. They see us as disposable."
The last time 42-year-old Yoshida voted, he backed the New Komeito Party.
The junior member of the two-party coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party, it draws its support mainly from the ranks of the Sokka Gakkai Buddhist organisation and is presently the third largest party in the Japanese Diet.
According to the latest opinion polls, however, it has been overtaken by the Japanese Communist Party. And workers like Yoshida are doing all they can to spread the word.
"I used to have pressure from my family to vote for New Komeito, but Japan needs real change and I've had enough of politicians making promises that they soon break," he says.
Yoshida ticks his main concerns off the fingers of his left hand: protecting his job, ensuring his two sons have enough money to go to a good university, ensuring that everyone has a minimum standard of living and protecting Article 9 of Japan's constitution, which renounces war.
Other parties have made those promises, and more, in opposition, he points out, but "forgotten" them as soon as they are in a position of power.
"The opposition is effectively a pseudo-LDP and even if they do win the next election I see no chance of improvements in the political, economic or social situation in Japan," Yoshida says, pointing a finger at the Democratic Party of Japan until recently headed by a former LDP politician who was forced to resign for taking illegal donations from a construction company.
"How can we trust these people with our futures?," he said.
Public prosecutors indicted Ichiro Ozawa's personal secretary for accepting the funds, but stopped short of arresting the DPJ leader.
"People are coming to us because the JCP does not accept donations from companies or organisations," says Yoshida. "That is why we can speak out against big corporations."
And despite sticking to its principles on donations, the JCP is the second-best fund-raising party in the country. Only the ruling LDP does better.
Rampant corruption combined with the spiralling unemployment caused by the global economic downturn has given the party a huge new support base.
Party officials say that more than 14,000 people have joined the cause in the last 18 months, a quarter of whom are under 30. Similarly, circulation of the party newspaper, Akahata (Red Flag) has risen to 1.6 million copies.
The LDP, on the other hand, has seen its membership collapse from a peak of 5 million to just 1 million today.
"Many workers are being deprived of the right to work with dignity," Kazuo Shii, the charismatic 54-year-old chair of the JCP, told a press conference in March. "This is the cruelest form of behaviour under 'capitalism without rules.'
"Most people working on temporary contracts are disposable workers, forced to endure exploitative and unstable working conditions as well as discrimination," he said, describing conditions as "a revival of slave labour and a modern-day form of cruelty."
"I am indignant that temporary workers are being forced to toil in such inhumane conditions at corporations such as Toyota and Canon," he said.
According to the party, the number of workers earning less than Y2 million (£13,885) a year has risen to more than 10 million.
This increase in grass-roots support has been boosted by a manga version of Karl Marx's "Das Kapital," which sold more than 6,000 copies in the two days after it was released in December, and revival of interest in a 1929 novel titled "Kanikosen" that told of a rebellion among workers on a crab processing ship off northern Japan.
Despite the recent surge in its fortunes, Shii and his supporters accept that the JCP will not have a majority in the Diet in the near future. They will fight the national elections, of course, but they are focusing much of their attention on winning hearts and minds at the local level.
"In general, Japanese people do what they are told by more powerful people," says Yoshida. "We do not want to cause disharmony with the people around us. So we obey when we are told what to do and do not give our own opinions. This is why we have the same political parties running the country since the end of the war.
"Even though the communists only have 3.3 per cent in the latest opinion polls, more than 31 per cent of the people said they were undecided," he points out. "We aim to increase our support one vote at a time and we want our politicians to tell the Diet what the people are really thinking."
The approach is showing signs of working; in late April, JCP candidate Hiroshi Shikanai was elected mayor of the city of Aomori, overcoming his LDP opponent and incumbent.
A key issue in the campaign was the state of the regional economy, which will undoubtedly be at stake again when the country goes to the polls in the next few months.
Keisuke Obata has cancelled his plans for a trip to Hawaii with his family later this year and is instead planning to take them on a camping trip by the lakes around Mount Fuji.
He said he was looking forward to some time away from the office and a little peace to contemplate his future, both professional and political.
(Pic: Chinese President Hu Jintao (L) and President Barack Obama)
Publication: China Brief Volume: 9 Issue: 14July 9, 2009 03:13 PM Age: 18 hrsCategory: China Brief, Foreign Policy, China and the Asia-Pacific, Home Page, Featured By: Bonnie S. Glaser, Lyle Morris
For the past few years, the Western world has been abuzz with talk of China’s rise. Most statesmen, pundits and academics have concluded that China’s rise is inevitable, but as of yet there has been no consensus on the implications of China’s rise for the rest of the world. While Westerners debate issues like whether and how China can be “molded” into becoming a responsible stakeholder in the international system, the Chinese have been quietly conducting a debate of their own. After more than a decade of judging the international structure of power as characterized by “yi chao, duo qiang” (one superpower, many great powers) —with a substantial gap between the United States and other major powers—Chinese scholars are debating whether U.S. power is now in decline and if multipolarity (duojihua) is becoming a reality. A key precipitating factor is the global financial crisis, which has sown doubts in the minds of some Chinese experts about the staying power of U.S. hegemony in the international system.
Chinese perceptions of American power are consequential. China’s assessment of the global structure of power is an important factor in Chinese foreign policy decision-making. As long as Chinese leaders perceive a long-lasting American preeminence, averting confrontation with the United States is likely seen as the best option. If Beijing were to perceive the U.S. position as weakening, there could be fewer inhibitions for China to avoid challenging the United States where American and Chinese interests diverge. Since the late-1990s, Beijing has judged the United States as firmly entrenched in the role of sole superpower. As long as the comprehensive national power of China and the other major powers lagged far behind the United States, and the ability of China to forge coalitions to counterbalance U.S. power remained limited, Beijing concertedly avoided challenging U.S. interests around the world; for example, when the United States invaded Iraq. Yet, China’s recent evaluation that the United States is overextended with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with a perceived U.S. weakness in the wake of the financial crisis, could imbue Chinese policy makers with the confidence to be more assertive on the international stage in ways that may be inconsistent with American interests.
The debate in China over a possible U.S. decline is not new, however. After the end of the Cold War, Chinese experts embarked on a rigorous examination of the new global environment that would emerge after the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism in Eastern Europe. At that time other rapidly expanding economies, especially Japan and Germany, were perceived as having become powerful U.S. competitors in high technology. Some Chinese experts began to predict the emergence of a post-Cold War multipolar world order, a greater balance among major powers, resistance toward “Western values” and an increased emphasis worldwide on economic and diplomatic approaches as opposed to military might . These predictions proved overly optimistic, however, and Beijing subsequently concluded that the United States would maintain its status as “sole superpower” for the next 15 to 20 years, if not longer .
Recent events, notably U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and the financial crisis, juxtaposed against China’s sustained economic growth, have rekindled the debate in China about the sustainability of a U.S.-dominated international structure and China’s role in that new structure of power. In particular, many Chinese experts are viewing the recent U.S.-led financial crisis as sounding the death knell for unfettered American economic and hard power predominance and the dawn of a more inclusive multipolar system in which the United States can no longer unilaterally dictate world events.
Signs that the debate has been rejuvenated surfaced in 2006 with a provocative newspaper article by Wang Yiwei, a young scholar at Shanghai’s Fudan University, who posed the question, “How can we prevent the USA from declining too quickly?”. The article, which suggested that a precipitous decline in U.S. power would harm Chinese investments, predicted the United States would soon fall to the status of a regional power rather than a global power because of its arrogance and imperial overreach and advised Washington to “learn to accept Chinese power on the world stage.” Wang’s article generated a tremendous response from readers and intellectuals, which spurred further debate within China about whether U.S. power was in decline .
After the onset of the financial crisis in the United States in 2008, which quickly reverberated globally, more articles appeared in Chinese newspapers positing a radical shift in the global structure of power. In a May 18, 2009 article in China’s official state-run newspaper China Daily, Fu Mengzi, assistant president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, maintained that “the global financial crisis offers global leaders a chance to change the decades-old world political and economic orders. But a new order cannot be established until an effective multilateral mechanism to monitor globalization and countries' actions comes into place. And such a mechanism can work successfully only if the old order gets a formal burial after extensive and effective consultations and cooperation among world leaders” .
Li Hongmei, editor and columnist for People's Daily online, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, framed the argument more assertively in a February 2009 article by predicting an “unambiguous end to the U.S. unipolar system after the global financial crisis,” saying that in 2008, U.S. hegemony was “pushed to the brink of collapse as a result of its inherent structural contradictions and unbridled capitalist structure.” Li forecast that “in 2009, as a result of this decline, the international order will be reshuffled toward multipolarity with an emphasis on developing economies like China, Russia and Brazil” .
Li Hongmei and others highlight what they see as the main source of U.S. power decline: economics; and especially share of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The IMF’s recently published figures on global GDP points out that in 2003, GDP in the United States accounted for 32 percent of the world total, while the total GDP of emerging economies accounted for 25 percent. In 2008 however, the figures were reversed, with the total GDP of emerging economies at 32 percent and U.S. GDP at 25 percent of the world total respectively . From Li’s perspective, the recent financial crisis portends a continuation of the downward trend for the United States.
Scholars such as Wu Xinbo, professor and associate dean of the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University, and Zhang Liping, senior fellow and deputy director of Political Studies Section at the Institute of American Studies in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), highlight a major shift in U.S. soft power and legitimacy after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. According to Wu, the United States “lost its ‘lofty sentiments’ after it invaded Iraq and is feeling more ‘frustrated and lonely’ which will lead it to seek more cooperation with other big powers” . Similarly, Zhang points to a diminution in U.S. soft power, a decrease in its ability to influence its allies, and diminished ability to get countries ‘on board’ with U.S. foreign policy initiatives after the invasion of Iraq—all signs that augur a decline in America’s legitimacy abroad .
Not all Chinese experts are in agreement, however, and some warn explicitly against drawing a premature conclusion that U.S. power is on the decline. Notable among these voices is Wang Jisi, dean of Beijing University’s School of International Studies, who harshly criticizes Chinese analysts who view U.S. power as being in decline. Wang argues, for example, that “there really is no reliable basis for saying at this point that the United States has experienced a setback from which it cannot recover.” While acknowledging that the invasion of Iraq damaged U.S. soft power and legitimacy abroad, Wang maintains that he does not see any fundamental change to the global balance of power. “To date,” Wang says, “no country has been able to constitute a comprehensive challenge to the United States, and the current international power structure of ‘one superpower and many great powers’ will continue for the foreseeable future.” Wang also advises China’s leaders to “avoid becoming embroiled in the central maelstrom of world politics and concentrate on managing its own affairs first” .
Xu Jin, researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of World Economics and Politics, and Zhu Feng, director of the International Security Program in the School of International Studies at Peking University, insist that the financial crisis “will not bring substantive changes to the international pattern of ‘one superpower and many great powers.’” Xu anticipates that the financial disparity between the United States and other powers will narrow as a result of the financial crisis, possibly leading to a decline in U.S. economic hegemony. Yet, he concludes that any harm the financial crisis inflicts on the United States will have limited damage on its overall global position, since economic prowess is only one of the “many elements of U.S. comprehensive power” . Zhu adds that “even if America takes a hit with the financial crisis, the large gap between America and world in economic terms is so large, and other markets are so firmly enmeshed with the U.S., that no fundamental shift will occur to America’s relative position in the world” .
Echoing this view is Liu Jianfei, professor and associate director of the International Strategy Institute at the Communist Party Central School. In a recent issue of Sousuo yu Zhengming, a periodical published by the Shanghai Social Science Association, Liu presents a comprehensive analysis of the post-financial crisis world and cautions China against coming to premature conclusions about a rapid decline in U.S. overall power. “The financial crisis will undoubtedly weaken U.S. hard power, but it might end up affecting the economies of other countries even more,” says Liu. “The overall negative influence affecting the power of American hegemony—in military, economic and soft power terms—will remain limited” .
Liu Jianfei sees U.S. influence as indispensable in shaping a new world order and cautions China about taking “too high a profile,” or “seeking to be a leader” of the international system. “China still needs more time to develop and open up to the outside world,” he says. “Many are calling for China to be the new leader in the new world order, but we need to continue down the road of reform and development and not adopt hegemonic tendencies. China also needs the cooperation and trade of the United States and other Western countries in order to succeed” .
What emerges is a lively debate in China about whether the international system is undergoing a fundamental shift that heralds the decline of U.S. power. As evidenced by the wide range of opinions, experts are far from reaching agreement on the core question of whether the United States is in decline. The vast majority maintains that the prevailing international structure of power will not last; it eventually will give way to a multipolar era in which China and other emerging economies have an increasing say about issues of global importance. At the same time, many experts also caution that the transition to multipolarity will be a prolonged process, and that for the foreseeable future the United States will maintain its position at the helm of the international structure of power. Only a minority of experts view the United States as already in decline and the world on the cusp of becoming truly multipolar.
Conspicuously absent from the debate is discussion of how a multipolar system would operate and what role China would play in the new world order. Would a more equal power distribution among major powers result in greater competition or cooperation, in balancing or bandwagoning, for example? If future international developments persuade Chinese leaders that the United States is in decline and that a multipolar world has arrived, Chinese experts will need to more closely examine such questions.
An emerging multipolar world could prompt Beijing to adopt a more assertive foreign policy and military posture, but could also provide incentives for China to be cooperative. Tensions over territorial claims with the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan continue to simmer, and a perceived power vacuum in the area could embolden China to assert greater influence over these disputed islands. Furthermore, the potential for China to adopt coercive policies against Taiwan is an ever-present danger looming over U.S.-China relations. Yet, Beijing might instead see its interests best served by working cooperatively with the other major powers to ensure a soft landing as the world transitions from “one superpower, many major powers” to a new multipolar pattern. Significant disincentives will exist to a revisionist shift in China’s foreign and defense policies. Assertiveness or aggression by China would likely cause the other major powers to band together to counter the emergent Chinese threat. Unless China perceives a threat to its vital interests (such as a declaration of independence by Taiwan), Beijing may see strong incentives to act cautiously. The time may then come for China to discard Deng Xiaoping’s dictum to “keep a low profile,” and become the “responsible stakeholder” that the world hopes for rather than the next global hegemon.
1.The first mention of “yi chao duo qiang” that the authors were able to find was by Liao Yonghe, “The Right and Wrong of the ‘America in Decline’ Theory,” Dangdai Shijie, 1995 Vol. 3. See also Michael Pillsbury’s China Debates the Future Security Environment, National Defense University Press, January 2000. 2.Pillsbury, Michael, “China’s Perceptions of the USA: The View from Open Sources,” Testimony prepared for U.S.-China Security and Economic Review Commission, Oct. 19, 2001. 3.For more on this reassessment, see Finkelstein, David M, China Reconsiders Its National Security: The Great Peace and Development Debate of 1999, Project Asia - CNA Corporation, Dec. 2000. 4.Wang Yiwei, “How can we prevent the USA from declining too quickly?” Global Times Online, Aug. 12, 2006. 5.Fu Mengzi, “Old Order Should Yield Place to New,” Peoples Daily Online, May 18th, 2009. 6.Li Hongmei, “U.S. Hegemony Ends, Era of Global Multipolarity Begins,” Peoples Daily Online, Feb. 24, 2009, Open Source Center (OSC), CPP20090224701001. 7.Ibid. 8.Wu Xinbo, “China Rise Startles U.S. into Sobriety,” Global Times, Dec. 23, 2007*. 9.Zhang Liping, “Is America in Decline after 9/11?” Shijie Zhishi, July 2007, Vol. 21*. 10.Wang Jisi, “Roundtable on U.S.-China Relations,” Nanfeng Chuang, Oct. 20, 2008. 11.Xu Jin, “The Financial Crisis Will Not Upset the ‘One Superpower and Many Powers’ Structure,” Shijie Jingji yu Zhengzhi; Dec. 14, 2008, OSC, CPP20090223671003. 12.Zhu Feng, “The Obama Administration Foreign Policy: Afterthoughts on our Fieldwork in America,” International and Strategic Studies Report, Center for International and Strategic Studies, Peking University, March 20, 2009.* 13.Liu Jianfei, “Chinese Foreign Strategy in Wake of the Financial Crisis,” Sousuo yu Zhengming; May 2009, Vol. 3*. 14.Ibid.