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Learning lessons from end of USSR
RE MIKE SQUIRES’S letter (M Star April 6) concerning the Marxist tenet that the ruling class will never give up power without a fight:
He poses the interesting question of whether the working class in the Soviet Union did in fact form the ruling class in that country and, if so, why that ruling working class apparently gave up its power so easily in 1990, when the Soviet Union disintegrated.
This is one of the questions I am attempting to answer in the book I am writing about my years as the Morning Star’s Moscow correspondent during the perestroika years, 1985-90.
Having myself lived through the 1973 Chilean military coup, when the Chilean ruling class, with the help of US ruling circles, resorted to overwhelming force to overturn the progressive government of constitutional president Salvador Allende (which had only managed to secure — through elections — one part of the power: the executive), and having later personally experienced the USSR’s reforms which led, ultimately, to the working class losing power there, I am perhaps uniquely placed to attempt to answer Mike Squires’s valid questions.
Perhaps a third question to add to Mike’s would be whether, even if the USSR was a socialist country, the class that managed that economic and political system no longer consisted of true representatives of the working class but rather themselves formed a new administrative-command class whose interests, by the mid-80s, were no longer served by the status quo and who therefore themselves threw their weight behind a change to capitalism in which they knew they would be the beneficiaries.
(author of Chile in my Heart, 2013)
Where do you stand on anti-union laws now?
AS A daily reader of the Morning Star for over 40 years, I must admit I had to chuckle when I read an advert quoting Diane Abbott that read: “The Morning Star has a really important role to play in the struggles ahead. I write for it regularly.”
Nothing wrong there, one might say.
But I cast my mind back to 2010 when Diane was going for the Labour deputy leadership. In an interview on the Sunday Politics, Diane was asked about the anti-trade-union laws by Andrew Neil: Would she repeal them?
She was asked four or five times: Would she repeal them?
There was no answer till the fifth time of asking by Neil. The answer she gave was: “No, not repeal but amend,” without further explaining what she meant by “amend.”
Well, I must say that had me worried, thinking that any socialist worth their salt would have said they would repeal them on the first time of asking.
So I am left wondering: What is her position now?
A transformation with socialism
I’VE never been in military service, but reading Jonathan Williams’s letter on Iraq titled We were set up for this horror (M Star April 1) is depressing because it tells how within truncated democracy, ie capitalist societies, their militaries are kept ideologically in the dark about the reasons behind the reasons why they are sent to fight (Afghanistan, Iraq, covert operations, drones, long-distance killing… wherever vested interests may lie).
Socialists need to be visionaries without being utopians. An educated soldiery defending socialist democracy within a socialist Europe or wherever real co-operative advance is in existence or being striven for could be needed.
No-one in their right mind would condemn someone for having to kill another human being in order to prevent an imminent and greater tragedy in a theatre of conflict.
But as pragmatic socialists we have to take a long-term plan for the construction of a future society as a part of an encompassing vision of a permanent and environmentally sustainable world.
I suppose I would like to say to Jonathan that the socialist transformation of society — with our defence forces being an integral element of a greater democratised workforce operating within a co-operative and collectivised ownership of the means of production of things and ideas, mental and material — will produce a fundamentally different culture to today’s, incorporating a revolutionary world view.
Do you really expect us to pay for that?
SO WE, the working class, are now expected to pay £39 billion for the EU divorce bill?
Why not cancel Trident, which will cost £205bn to replace, and easily pay off the bill with that?
The rest left over can go on the NHS, benefits, social housing and pensions etc.
Youngsters: Don’t ruin your lives
WELL done, the Star. Again Phil Miller reports the truth about today’s military and veterans with his front-page story about Gus Hales (M Star April 9).
Like Gus, whom I’m proud to call a friend, I too have (in the past tense) been a client of Combat Stress.
Like him I was let go by the charity — at the time when its bosses sacked all their welfare/outreach workers and closed Audley Court treatment centre — and told that I would not receive any more help from it.
Of course, having a significant grant withdrawn by the coalition government didn’t help. But, while fundraising continues, one must ask: Where has all the money gone?
Not on the above services, obviously.
In my own circumstances I have had my employment & support allowance and personal independence payment withdrawn. I now survive on my war pension, ironically half of which is awarded for an illness so bad that it prevents me from working.
My point is that young people should know the truth about what serving in the armed forces leads to.
I plead from the bottom of my heart for youngsters to not go ruining their lives like I did serving in the military.
Get educated and refuse to be part of an organisation that sends the working class to die and suffer for profit.
As Smedley Butler wrote so wisely: “War is a racket;” likewise our armed forces, the government and military welfare organisations, at least in my opinion, which might be worth something.
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