First Published: Finsbury Communist, No.39, April 1968.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Britain abounds in organizations for friendship with foreign countries, solidarity with liberation movements, not to mention fighting for socialism in Britain.
The overwhelming majority of Britons are not greatly concerned about friendship, solidarity and socialism. Yet these organizations seem to have plenty of money, plenty of publicity, and plenty of leaders who do not need to earn a living, unless perhaps as authors, broadcasters or M.P.’s.
How is this?
Take as an example, the British Council for Peace in Vietnam. This body organises demonstrations and gets out leaflets. The slogans are a bit weak, perhaps, but they rally two or three thousand people against U.S. aggression. What’s the harm in that?
Watch more closely. On the prestige arising from the demonstrations a few people get themselves invited out to Hanoi to meet North Vietnamese leaders. What do they say to the North Vietnamese leaders? Usually this is a very closely-guarded secret but occasionally the cat is let out of the bag. For example, when Lord Brockway asked Ho Chi Minh not to try the American pilots. If Ho took Brockway’s advice, he would be obliged to fight those North Vietnamese who want to try the American pilots. This could lead to a split in the North Vietnamese leadership.
Brockway does not count for much, he added to Shelepin from Moscow, Aptheker from U.S.A., and dozens of other characters from all over the world, he counts for a lot. They all visit Vietnam. We always hear what Ho told them but rarely what they told Ho.
Our guess is that they are trying to get the North Vietnamese to negotiate without insisting that the Yanks quit Vietnam entirely.
More subtle are the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign, run by a trotskyist group. Their slogans are never weak. Their demonstrations are always lively. But the key question remains – who goes out to Vietnam and what does he say when he goes?
These people are well-known supporters of the Castro-Debray school of guerilla warfare which says that the guerilla band should be a kind of suicide squad of heroes, isolated from the people, like Che Guevara was in Bolivia before his death.
Are they using their support for Vietnam to push this line?
A curious feature of all this phoney “friendship and solidarity” organizations is that it is generally one of a very small clique of leaders who goes on delegations abroad; or who sees all the correspondence.
These bodies represent the fifth column of U.S. or British imperialism for whom they do a useful job at a minimum of expense. Their aim is to roll back the socialist countries and liberation movements. Certain anti-revisionists, including the Finsbury Communist Association, regard it as one of their primary tasks to expose phoney organisations.
But is there nothing else that can be done?
Faced with the mounting number of Government attacks on the working-class and middle-class, many quite good communists have become punch-drunk.
What should be tackled first? Rents, fares, wages, redundancies?
Where should we begin?
The problem also remains of how to link the struggle in Britain with the world-wide fight against imperialism, exemplified by Vietnam, Rhodesia, Congo, Palestine, Dominica, Indonesia, and the great cultural revolution in China.
For a British struggle that cannot be linked up with the international struggle is about as useful as splitting against the wind. It has no roots and is doomed to the usual routine of demonstration, lobby, and sell-out.
What British struggles are directly linked with the national liberation movement?
To answer this question we must ask another question. How does Britain exploit the oppressed nations?
The answer is by selling manufactured goods dear and buying raw materials cheap.
This means that British workers producing raw materials similar to those produced by the oppressed nations are forced to compete with low prices and starvations wages.
Which British workers fall into this category? The miners. Middle East oil is cheaper than coal; perhaps more important, the oil monopolies have more “pull” with the Government. So the pits are being closed and the miners are being uprooted.
Just as in the past, cotton workers were sacked due to competition from low-wage Far East textiles.
What solution does Britain’s left-wing have?
The Communist Party says there must be alternative industries.
Trotskyists say give surplus coal to old age pensioners.
Some anti-revisionists say re-equip the mines to compete with oil i.e. exploit the miners as ruthlessly as the Middle East oil workers.
These solutions stand no chance of success. They are, however, worse than useless because they accept the Government case for pit closures, that coal is so dear it is piling up and cannot be sold.
The problem will only be solved when the Middle East nations raise the price of their oil to a comparable level with coal and smash the oil companies (62% of Britain’s oil comes from the Middle East).
The only people who can do this are the people of the Middle East. So for the British miners to support the Middle East liberation movements is sound common sense.
This won’t stop pit closures straightaway, of course. But in time all the sacked miners will be able to come back to the industry to train the many new miners who will be required.
When coal becomes more “economic” than oil the possibility will emerge of re-opening the railways and re-employing the 150,000 sacked railwaymen. Existing miners and railway men will have better chances of promotion in revitalized industries.
Anti-revisionist communists cannot be satisfied with their present lack of progress.
Going to the miners with a correct internationalist policy will lay a basis, not simply for victory in the Middle East or for the re-opening of the mines and railways, but also for many other worthwhile activities which are at present perishing due to lack of mass working class support for Marxism-Leninism.