85th Anniversary of the Morning Star

This year marks the 85th anniversary of the Morning Star. The paper first came out on 1 January 1930 under the title, the Daily Worker. It changed its name to the Morning Star in 1966. The paper is the voice of organised labour. It’s the only paper that reports on the industrial and political issues that matter to ordinary people. And it will play a crucial role in this general election year as the political debate sharpens and we fight to get rid of the Con-Dems in May.

We need more people to buy the Morning Star to cover production costs and ensure the voice of socialism is heard. Please encourage your friends and colleagues to buy the paper by placing an order at your local newsagent or buying a subscription to the e-edition: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/subscribe

Stern Stuff

In a significant but little reported letter published in the Financial Times last week (7 August), Lord Stern, Head of the Government Economic Service between 2003 and 2007, revealed that, in addition to his celebrated reports on climate change and for the Commission for Africa, he had been responsible for a report on tax reform. This report had, however, gathered dust in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s in tray and even its existence has been kept secret. What did it contain that so scared the government?

Enquiries under the Freedom of Information Act may now enable the report to be extracted from the government. Whether the effort will be worthwhile remains to be seen. According to Lord Stern, his report called for:

a. value added tax to be applied at the standard rate to a wider range of goods, including food and energy. The poorest could (Stern’s word) be compensated;

b. higher taxes on congestion, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions – again with a suggestion that the poorest losers could be compensated;

c. more tax on the financial sector; and

d. reform of property taxes with a tentative endorsement of Land Value Tax.

Some of these proposals may be contained in the forthcoming report from the Communist Party on taxation, but it’s hard to believe that the Communist Party would endorse higher direct taxes without much firmer protection for workers and their families than Stern appears to think necessary. The surprising fact, however, is what the report does not contain. Stern makes no mention of the need for a return to progressive taxation of income and capital.

The recent book by Thomas Piketty, Capital in the 21st Century, has deservedly attracted much attention for demonstrating that inequality of income and wealth is even worse than we had suspected. His data show that we are returning to levels of inequality not seen since the early 1900s. While his analysis lacks the clarity of Marx, his conclusion echoes that of Marx in predicting that inequality will continue to grow under capitalism. We are rapidly heading for, or have already become, a plutocracy in which the bottom half of the population subsist and the top 1% are super-rich. Piketty sees a return to progressive taxation of income and wealth as essential if capitalism is to survive. Communists would support this but would conclude that capitalism won’t survive. It won’t, however, fall by itself. This will take organisation and political work.

Morning Star Marks World War 1 with Unique International Collaboration

Get your copy of today’s Morning Star, which has published an international pullout this weekend to mark the centenary of World War 1 with views and analysis which break with the establishment consensus and a socialist perspective on the bloodshed, which puts the record straight. It is a unique collaboration with three socialist newspapers: Arbejderen of Denmark, junge Welt of Germany and Zeitung vum Letzebuerger Vollek of Luxembourg. The pullout will be published in all four countries during the centenary week.

The special edition has eight pages of hard-hitting feature pieces and pictures on “the war that didn’t end all wars”, led to slaughter on an industrial scale and a legacy of imperialism and conflict which continues to this day.

As Prime Minister David Cameron eyes “The Great War” as a PR opportunity for the election of the Conservatives in 2015, and with the mainstream media slavishly following his lead, the Morning Star supplement tells it like it is, from the Left.

Acting Editor Ben Chacko said:

“I know of no newspaper in Britain which is joining hands with others in Europe, and especially Germany, to tell the truth about the carnage of the first world war, why it happened, and who profited from it.

“We were then, as in many respects we are now, a nation of lions led by donkeys. We will not let David Cameron and his media cronies hijack history and portray this centenary as a patriotic exercise for the election of a Tory Government.”

The special souvenir edition offers analysis and historical insight on a range of issues related to the war, from how it affected women and their position in society, to those voices of courage from the Left who opposed it to their personal cost.

Writers from the four publications will appear in the pullout. They include:

– Andrew Murray, deputy president of the Stop The War coalition, applying the lessons of the war to today’s conflicts;

– Selina Todd of Oxford University on the women who emerged from the munitions factories and elsewhere to build new lives and help elect the ’45 Labour Government in a land fit for heroes;

– Martin Hedlund Fink from Denmark looking at war profiteering in his own country, capitalist opportunism and the so-called “goulash barons”;

– Arnold Scholzel from Germany on how workers and their organisations across Europe reacted to the inexorable move to conflict; and,

– Wayne David, Labour MP for Caerphilly, on how his forerunner, Morgan Jones, opposed the war to his huge personal cost, with imprisonment.

Ben Chacko added:

“This is a unique and fruitful collaboration between four major newspapers of the European Left. It is not a one-off, and we intend to come together again to offer working people of our countries a socialist perspective on the issues that matter to us all.”

The souvenir edition is free in today’s 32-page weekend Morning Star (Saturday and Sunday 2/3 August), which sells for £1. It is available at all key retail outlets. Or you can subscribe at: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk. After that you can buy copies of the souvenir edition from the Morning Star online shop or by calling 020 8510 0815.

My recent blog on 1934 book by Joseph Stalin and his tribute to Trotsky.

Feb 13th 2014

By John Eden.

         Two days ago I blogged an extract of the first edition of Joseph Stalin’s 1934 book called “The October Revolution” on page 30 there is tribute to Leon Trotsky by Stalin on the first anniversary of the  “Russian Revolution” recognising Trotsky’s role as the main figure in the actual military preparations for the overthrow of the capitalist provisional government led by Kerensky.

         Note there is no mention by Stalin of Trotsky’s so call “Menshevism”, or his under estimation of the role of the “peasantry” or his role at “Brest-Litovsk” because these were not issues in the party, they only arose in the latter part of 1923, and they were the result of conflicts over the direction of the Soviet economy, and at this point a subject far to big to cover in a blog.

         But some who have some history of the struggle between Trotsky and Stalin might wonder why Stalin allowed his comments of sixteen years previously to appear in a book in 1934. Here I have to make certain assumptions and hypothesis  based on the reading I have done, and I shall have to go back to. If I recall 1934 was a year when Stalin grip on the party was under serious challenge from sections of the party because of the state of the economy, in fact he was considering resigning as General Secretary in 1932. It maybe in these circumstances those who compiled the book felt Stalins weakness and felt able to include his speech on Trotsky of 1918.

         All this was to change with the murder of Kirov, leader of the party in Leningrad on the 1st December 1934, Kirov and the Leningrad party was seen as a major opposition centre to Stalins rule and leadership. It as been stated that Kirov got more votes than Stalin at the party congress that year. Some say Stalin was involved in Kirov’s murder. Two of Lenin’s close collaboraters were acused of the crime Kamenev and Zinoviev they were jailed, some time later they were executed, but after Kirov’s murder a reign of terror began and Stalin’s dictatorship ensued, but of course he represented not just himself.

      I will have to go back to this, I have now a Croydon Trades Union Council meeting in five minutes, and correct any spelling tomorrow.

“The October Revolution” author Joseph Stalin printed 1934 Moscow

John Eden. 11th February
It is a long time since I have posted on the blog, recently I have been helping out at the Marx Memorial library in Clerkenwell Green London, home to an extensive collection of books on the labour movement including many Marxist publications. I knew there had been a book by Joseph Stalin called “The October Revolution” published in 1934, this I knew from reading Issac Deutscher’s books either the one he did on Stalin in 1947 or the later three volumes on the life of Leon Trotsky.
It was important to get this first edition of Stalin’s book, which I found, because it contained Stalin’s tribute to Leon Trotsky’s leading role in the tactical organisation of the October revolution in the Russian empire in 1917.
Here is the quote,
“From the beginning to end the insurrection was inspired by the Central Committee of the party, with Comrade Lenin at it’s head. Lenin at the time lived on the Vyborg side in a secret apartment. On October 24 in the evening, he was called out to the Smolny to assume the general charge of the movement. All practical work in connection in the organisation of the uprising was done under the immediate direction of Comrade Trotsky, the president of the Petrograd Soviet. It can be stated with certainty that the party is indebted primarily and principally to Comrade Trotsky for the rapid going over of the garrison to the side of the Soviet and the efficient manner in which the work of the Military-Revolutionary Committee was organised. The principal assistants of Comrade Trotksy were Comrades Antonov and Podvoisky.” Speech made by Stalin on the first anniversary of the revolution reported in Prava no241 Nov 6th 1918. I shall blog more on about Comrade Antonov full name Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko and his subsequent fate at hands of Stalin and the regime in the latter 1930’s.
12th feb,
I just found this on the Russia Today website, it’s historical research on the history of the Red Army, and an event that I have never before come across, that the foundation date of the Red Army 23rd February 1918 marks it’s first victory of the over the occupying German Army. I have never read any accounts of this, and as the artical quotes, it is doubted by most historians.

RT.com / RT projects / Russiapedia / Of Russian origin / Red Army

Of Russian origin: Red Army

Historical background

The Red Army (Krasnaya Armiya) was a common name for the Russian National Military Forces from 1918 to 1946, which was also known by the abbreviation RKKA (Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army). The name refers to the color red. In the workers’ movement red symbolized the blood shed in the struggle against oppression.

The Red Army was founded immediately after the 1917 Russian Revolution when the Bolshevik Party came to power. But the official day of its creation is considered February 23, 1918. This was when the Soviet Republic announced the first victory of the Red Army over the Germans on the very last days of Russia’ s World War I campaign.

Two weeks later the Bolsheviks signed a peaceful agreement with Germany, as it was difficult to fund the army, which was short of everything including guns, ammunition and human resources. Some historians argue that the victory never happened. However, February 23 is still today celebrated in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus as Defender of the Motherland

Within two months Civil War broke out between the Bolsheviks and the remnants of the Old Russian Army. These two opposing forces were also called The Red Guard and The White Guard. The latter was heavily supported by the English and the Americans as well as by regiments from other countries that sought to intervene against the Bolsheviks in 1918.

As a result, the Republic of the Soviets found itself within a ring of opposing forces – with Cossacks on the South, Kolchak and Czech battalions in Siberia and British and American Corps in the North of Russia. It was quite a challenge for the newly born Red Army.

After several defeats in 1918 the Red Army managed to turn the situation around. One of the masterminds of this comeback was Leon Trotsky, a close ally of Lenin, who was later forced to leave the country by Joseph Stalin and then assassinated in Mexico. He managed to garner resources for a counterattack.

In 1919 the Red Army repulsed General Kolchak’s Army in Siberia and then launched a huge assault against General Denikin in the center of Russia. One of the most threatening forces at that time was the First Cavalry led by Semyon Budenny, who later became the Defense Minister of the USSR.

By 1920 the Red Army had succeeded in crushing all resistance in the European part of Russia and then moved on to fight in the Far East where battles lasted until 1922. In 1920-1921 the Red Army went to war with Poland but after a successful offensive the exhausted Soviets troops had to retreat.

The events of the Russian Civil War are a point of heated discussion among historians. Many novels and films have appeared about White Guard Personalities like General Kolchak and officers on the southern front in 1920. But no one denies that the Red Army managed to take over thanks to the following factors:

– intense propaganda to persuade workers and peasants to fight on their side. One of the most popular songs at that time stated:“from he Taiga in Siberia to the British Seas the Red Army is the strongest of all”;

– well-structured military training that promoted the craft of war among the masses;

– persistent work to make White Guard officers change sides and turn to the Red Army as there was a huge deficit of well-trained officers to lead troops.
Written by Oleg Dmitriev, Russia Today

Problems at HMRC

The Public Accounts Committee’s report on the failings of HMRC begs the question whether, as currently constituted, it is actually fit for purpose. The payment of tax in Britain by the super-rich and transnational corporations is now largely voluntary, and TNCs like Google and Starbucks comply with our tax rules only when it suits them. The revolving door between HMRC and the ‘big four’ accountancy firms, who recruit former tax inspectors to secure their expertise and regularly advise HMRC on the formulation of tax policy, leaches privileged knowledge and undermines effective tax collection. As soon as one abusive tax avoidance scheme is closed by HMRC, then another emerges. Up to 40% of the annual UK finance bill deals with such schemes, a huge waste of public resources.

The tax avoidance problem has been compounded in recent years by a significant re-structuring programme at HMRC. This switched its focus from tax collection to ‘customer relationship management’, particularly for the bigger corporations. This fundamental operational change lies behind the recent ‘sweetheart deals’ with major transnational corporations which have saved them billions in unpaid taxes and short-changed the Exchequer. To do its job effectively, HMRC needs to be effectively tasked and properly resourced. It makes no sense to cut the part of government that brings money in. Increasing resources would clearly deliver significant results: HMRC professionals bring-in as much as twenty times their employment cost.

Allied with the introduction of a robust General Anti-Avoidance Rule, as proposed recently by Michael Meacher, and radical steps to close tax havens, this would give HMRC a fighting chance. Tax evasion and avoidance in the UK is a serious problem, which requires a serious solution. As the late Ken Gill said, “You pay tax and you buy civilisation.”

Labour’s Failure to Grasp the Privatisation Nettle

The news that Royal Mail workers have voted four to one in favour of industrial action against the impact of Con-Dem privatisation plans, throws into sharp relief Labour’s continued refusal to grasp the opportunities handed to it on a plate to scupper the Royal Mail sell-off. All it would take is a public commitment to its re-nationalisation after the next election. But this is of a piece with its failure to support the return to public ownership of the railways, energy and water. This should come as no surprise to socialists.

What’s curious, though, is the logic behind their feeble efforts to appear a bit more radical, without dropping their essential support for a pro-business, neoliberal ideology. This is destined to fail, as no amount of recalibration of a fundamentally flawed regulatory system can address the substance of monopoly power and the loss of vital infrastructure that used to belong to us all.

As Bertolt Brecht famously said, ‘If you fight you might lose, if you don’t you have already lost.’

Chris Guiton

The Rich Get Richer, the Poor Get Poorer

The independent think tank, the Resolution Foundation, has just published a new report, Who Gains from Growth?, which reveals the alarming extent to which living standards for low and middle-income households will tumble by 2020 – even if the economy improves – while the rich get steadily richer. The report makes the case well for tackling the growing polarisation between the richer and poorer halves of the country through better vocational training, subsidised childcare and a living wage. These are all worthwhile objectives.

But as long as capital is free to relocate jobs to countries where wages are lower, the spoils of growth go largely to top earners and the Government favour finance over manufacturing, then these remedies can only have a limited effect.

As Marx pointed out, the production of surplus value underpins capital accumulation, and the immiseration of the working class necessarily follows. With the end of the post-war boom – when wages rose steadily, but which can now be seen as the temporary blip it was always going to be – this process can be witnessed in the steady reduction in the share of GDP going to wages over the last 30 years in the US and Britain as a rising proportion goes to profits. The adoption by Labour  of policy to introduce a more progressive tax system, develop a proper industrial strategy and, who knows, even re-introduce capital controls, would be a significant step in the right direction. Of course, this would require radical decisions, but perhaps we can see the People’s Charter become a rallying call across the movement!

Chris Guiton