Celebration of the Great Socialist October Revolution (in Birmingham)
“The workers of the whole world greet us, applaud us for breaking the iron ring of imperialist ties … for raising the banner of peace, the banner of socialism for the whole world to see” (LENIN)
For the last five years the October Revolution has been celebrated as a glorious event in the British working-class calendar. Each year the Committee to Celebrate the October Revolution (CCOR) has co-ordinated and organised the celebrations marking the anniversary of the Great Socialist October Revolution, which has brought people together in a true spirit of comradeship and internationalism.
This year was no exception. The Birmingham comrades must be congratulated for the excellent work they did in helping the Committee to organise the November 21st Rally, filling the Hall in Handsworth to overflowing (over 250 people attended), and providing both a stimulating political rally and cultural programme, as well as providing food and a well-organised creche. The atmosphere was truly joyous, full of the revolutionary optimism and enthusiasm which has always been characteristic of these occasions both from the platform and the audience.
A wide variety of poems and songs presented by Comrades Virdee, Robert, Chanchal Singh, Godfrey, Shorter, Jagtar, Mann, Surinder Kaur, Surat and Ranjeet added greatly to the spirit of comradeship that permeated the entire function. Comrade Sheera Johal, who chaired the Rally, interspersed these cultural items with speeches from Carlos Rule (SLP Youth Section), the Revolutionary Peoples Front of Turkey, Teja Singh Sahota (ACGB), Harpal Brar (editor of Lalkar) and Arthur Scargill (General Secretary SLP). We were pleased to have had Comrade Dardi (Birmingham IWAGB) on the platform.
The content of the speeches are essential reading for comrades. We will be able to reproduce lengthy extracts from some of them in this issue of Lalkar – the first and the last speech – but some, unfortunately, will have to wait until the next issue.
CARLOS RULE (SLP Youth Section)
Comrades, I have heard it said that the October Revolution is dead. I have tried to persuade people to come to this meeting who tell me that communism is a utopian dream. I say to these people that as long as I see poverty, drugs, homelessness, poor social welfare, poor education, racism, sexism, as long as there are exploiters and exploited, the fire of communism will be alive, for it is the only means by which we may break our chains.
Anyone who thinks that capitalism can survive forever should take a closer look at the world – for instance at the financial collapse in Russia, or in South East Asia, or in South America, and, a bit closer to home, for example, at Rover’s Longbridge plant where the “job for life” policy has been substituted by a policy of mass redundancy. Anyone who thinks that capitalism can survive forever is a far more accomplished utopian than I! Communism is the politics of harsh reality, it is the appreciation of necessity, the appreciation of the needs and aspirations of mankind for a better life. Humanity is faced with a simple choice: red or dead.
In this country there are plenty of unemployed builders, plenty of unoccupied buildings, yet there are thousands of homeless people on the streets of London! Mountains of food that cannot be sold are piling up, yet quarter of a million children across the world die every week due to malnutrition, surely a good argument against the inadequacies of the so-called free market!
The situation that faces the world is similar to the beginning of the 1930s. Economies are being devastated one by one as the contradictions of capitalist economics come to a head. Just as is happening now, in the 1930s thousands of jobs were being lost every week, industrial output was reduced to a fraction of its former amount, economies were collapsing and conflicts were starting to rage.
Simultaneously in the socialist Soviet Union, where production was socially organised for use rather than privately organised for profit, enormous advances were taking place. In 1935, while 42% of the productive capacity of the United States remained unused, one hundred percent of the Soviet Union’s productive capacity was fully functioning with the purpose of building a better life for the workers and peasants of that country. This was one country through which the raging economic crisis of capitalism could not pass.
The first five year plan brought the USSR from a backward country into the position of the second industrial nation in the world. By 1933 Soviet industrial production was three times that of pre-war levels. British production on the other hand stood at 75% of pre-war levels.
Between the years 1928 to 1932, in the midst of a capitalist economy running riot, wages in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics increased 67 percent. The social insurance fund was trebled! Illiteracy was abolished, the people for the first time had access to education and culture, for the first time were actually able to experience the “joy of life”.
The social ills that were of necessity packaged with capitalism were wiped out under socialism. The ground was created upon which could be built the highest equality between men and women – the Soviet Union was the first place to introduce equal pay, equal voting rights, and in the setting up of communal kitchens, crèches and domestic task forces, women were freed from the chains of the household which bind so many of our women today. Racism and national prejudice were transformed into things of the past. Said Paul Robeson, the great African-American singer and freedom-fighter, in his inspiring book `Here I Stand’,
“On my first visit to the Soviet Union in 1934 I saw how the Yakuts and Uzbeks and all the formerly oppressed nations were leaping ahead from tribalism to modern industrial economy, from illiteracy to the heights of knowledge, their ancient cultures blooming in new and greater richness, their young men and women mastering the sciences and arts”. He continues: “I have told many times how pleased I was to find a place where coloured people walked secure and free as equals”.
Imagine living in a country where we all live secure and free as equals! If Stephen Lawrence had been allowed to walk secure and free as an equal! Quite simply, the events which occurred in Russia 81 years ago represented the world’s first step towards a decent life for all humanity.
So fearful was the imperialist world that the workers they exploited might try and emulate the Russian workers, the imperialist nations united their forces to send an army comprising troops from 14 countries to support the Czar.
These attempts of the imperialists ended in complete failure. Despite their material inferiority, despite all the odds against them, the workers and peasants of Russia put up an unbreakable resistance, inspired by their fight to be masters of their own destiny, for possession of their own land, to be free from the shackles of feudalism and capitalism.
The bourgeoisie fears communism as much now as it did in 1917. A day does not pass when the newspapers do not have some new slander against communism. In History textbooks, you can find a hundred flagrant distortions of the truth designed to discredit socialism in the USSR, designed to brainwash the youth into simply accepting the conditions we are forced to live under.
The fact is that socialism provides the only option for the people of Britain. For the youth of Britain socialism is our only alternative to the New Deal, to the Job Seekers Allowance, to the Criminal Justice Act, to university tuition fees, to institutionalised racism and sexism, to a future placed in the hands of the exploiters. We require a decent future, decent jobs, decent education along the lines of what was achieved in the Soviet Union, or what has been achieved in Cuba, where completely free education is available for all.
We don’t want the so-called socialism of the Labour Party but the socialism of the Soviets. We will not achieve socialism through the allegedly Marxist parties who spend their lives calling upon the Labour Party to deliver a workers’ paradise – you might as well ask Hitler! If we demand a better future then we will have to deliver it ourselves, not wait for any capitalist government to do so. They do not, nor have they ever, represented the ordinary men and women of this nation. They represent the exploiters and the oppressors. The only party which has the potential to pose a threat to capitalist society in this country is the Socialist Labour Party. We have been at the heart of the RMT’s industrial action and the Stephen Lawrence Campaign, we have provided support to the Hillingdon Hospital workers, the Liverpool Dockers, the Magnet strikers, we have stood candidates in the parliamentary and local elections, and we have held meetings in all parts of the country. We have not done enough, but we need people’s support! I would urge you if you have any interest in carving out a decent future for the people if this country, join the SLP. If you are a youth and you think that the introduction of tuition fees must be fought, if you think that the abolition of student grants must be fought, that the New Deal must be fought, that the corruption and anarchy of capitalism must be fought, join SLP Youth in order that we may be able to co-ordinate our efforts to bring capitalism to its death-bed.
In the words of Marx and Engels, “We have nothing to lose but our chains, we have the world to win!”
Arthur Scargill’s Speech (SLP General Secretary)
It is appropriate to call this event a
of the October Revolution, there are far too many in the movement, both in Britain and throughout the world, who all too often talk about the revolution as though it was dead, gone, buried and put away. Anyone with a sense of history or presence who does not celebrate what took place in October 1917 fails to grasp the importance of the situation today. The fact that had it not been for the October Revolution the majority of people in this hall would not have been here tonight because you would not have been acceptable to fascism, not measured up to their description of what was acceptable. The prospect is too horrible to take into account.
A visit to Cuba brought home to me, in a way that nothing else had ever done, the real meaning of the October Revolution of 1917 for the year of that visit was 1975. I stood on that podium on May 1st, 1975, an important day not just for the international labour and trade-union calendar, but one which showed what happened when the forces of western capitalism faced the determination of a nation of people committed to socialism and Marxism. The announcement was broadcast all over Havana that the Vietnamese had defeated the United States of America. I had always been told that demonstrations were organised with almost military precision. On that occasion demonstrators took part in the traditional parades, over 1 million, and then into the Square marched one of the many international delegations – only 7 people represented this nation (representing the Vietcong and the Vietnamese people as a whole) and marched in with the united Vietnamese flag on the very day that they had defeated the United States. The barriers came down and the demonstration stopped for nearly two hours as that audience went absolutely mad with their show of appreciation for what they saw as a contest between two peoples, two societies – one ordered in the ways of capitalism and one committed to socialism.
Fidel Castro, not a favourite with the USA, was asked whether he would be prepared to give an interview to American television viewers who knew nothing about Cuba. Castro said: Yes, on three conditions – 1) it is live; 2) it is not interrupted with commercial breaks because we do not believe in commercialism; 3) it is absolutely open-ended and spontaneous, whatever you ask I answer my way. This dragon lady of American TV thought she had got the scoop of the century. They set up the cameras in Havana and Donna Walters announced that she was live from Havana, Cuba, speaking to the dictator of Cuba, Fidel Castro. “Can I first ask you President Castro to explain to American viewers why it is in Cuba that people are not free”. He spoke in perfect English: “Miss Walters you are absolutely right. In Cuba we are not free. In Cuba we have no freedom for one human being to exploit another; we do not have the freedom of one human being to receive medical care and another to have no medical care because one can pay and one cannot; we do not have the freedom for one person to buy a privileged education while others do not have any education at all. We do not want those freedoms that you have in the USA. In this country every child is fed and educated, and we have a health care system which is amongst the best, if not the best, in the whole world. I tell you, Miss Walters, if you talk about dictatorship then talk about those who try to impose their will upon others throughout the world and don’t talk to us who have been blockaded by your Government for over 25 years. Who is the dictator in this interview – you Miss Walters and the Government that you represent or me and the people who support me?”
The Need for Socialism
What is the position in the capitalist countries? What a lot of nonsense, when something can happen in one part of the world that simply destroys the lives of working men and women throughout the world. Why is it that overnight someone can take a decision that fundamentally and adversely affects the way in which you live and plan your life. What the hell does it matter what happens to the yen or the deutschmark? You’ve got executives on 2 billion a year planning on how to move money around the table. It’s like playing monopoly. The only difference is they are playing a game with human lives. That cannot be acceptable. If anyone wants a real explanation about the fact that there is nothing wrong with the world in which we live except that the only thing that is wrong is the people who run it, then have a look at the reality of what we have.
I was taught a long time ago by Rajni Palme Dutt, a tutor of mine, that the world in 1955 could produce enough food to feed every man, woman and child on this planet. In 1955 we had a world capable of clothing every human being, providing housing of a decent standard for every single human being on this earth. The question is: Why not? Why could we not produce the services of health care, education and welfare, not for those who could pay, but for those who need it irrespective of where they live. He not only demonstrated that it could be done, but he proved mathematically that it could be done. But it could never be done, he said, while we have the rotten corrupt system called capitalism. Capitalism thrives on one motivation only – the acquisition of profit. If we are overproducing then why does this not mean we are overproducing guns, tanks? Why does no one talk about the overproduction of Trident missiles? What good is a Trident missile – you cannot eat it, you cannot wear it, you cannot live in it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to melt it down and make utensils for people to use. We have got tanks being produced today that are completely out of date as they roll of the production line, but because they have been committed under a contract to produce tanks they are still fulfilling the order. If anyone can tell me what use a tank is, except for getting through Birmingham in the rush hour, I am prepared to listen. We have got aircraft – some nut case says that Concorde is a waste of money. I believe that Concorde can fly human beings from one part of the world to another, but the real waste of money is the production of military aircraft whose only purpose is to strafe and bomb and kill millions of people in the Middle East, etc.
Blair and Clinton are so desperate to bomb Iraq, but don’t know which pretext to advance. Why is it that they do not like Sadam Hussein? Why is that they like Pinochet who for years was a dictator who nobody did anything about? Why didn’t they go into Chile after they murdered the democratically elected leader, Salvador Allende? Why is it that they are happy to go into the Balkans and bomb and kill, in the name of the United Nations, and yet they won’t lift a finger to go into the middle east and tell fascist Israel to get out of Lebanon?
There is another threat – this time by Clinton. He has threatened north Korea who he believes has weapons. Saying north Korea should not have nuclear weapons, is as hypocritical as Blair telling India and Pakistan that they shouldn’t have nuclear weapons. I do not support the manufacture or the retention of nuclear weapons, but I find it breathtakingly hypocritical for any leader to condemn a nation for possessing what they themselves possess.
They practice their internationalism, in a way quite different from us, in their relationship with Cuba. They want to take over Cuba for three reasons: 1) the mineral wealth of Cuba, including oil, is enormous (that’s the same reason that they want to control Iraq); 2) Cuba is an occupied country. How many of you recall the terrifying days of the Cuban missile crisis. The hypocrites in the White House and in Number 10 said that they could not have the threat of an occupying force on the doorstep of the USA. Had it never occurred to anyone that the only occupying force in Cuba is the USA with a war base at Guantanamo whose lease expires next year. Why is all the war effort being stepped up against Cuba – well their lease runs out in 1999. They should be out of Cuba and back where they belong. 3) to provide a playground for the multi-millionaires to have their cess pit of corruption.
Our Party’s Progress
We have got a major fault with our television screens at the moment, if it says SLP the screen apparently fades away. Anything to do with the SLP is completely frozen out. We even had a situation here in Birmingham a week ago, when a representative of the SLP was put on television and under his face appeared the words “Labour Party”. Now I wouldn’t mind if they had called me a ruddy Tory, but to be called a member of the Labour Party was the greatest insult of all.
How would you measure the growth of our Party. Some would say we are small. We have just over 6,000 members which is a very sizeable organisation, particularly when you think that China decided to have a revolution with a committee apparently 12 strong. There are people from different traditions, from the old Communist Party, from the Labour Party and so on, who came into this Party and tried to put behind them the political baggage of the past. There were also those who came in with their own agenda to try and change that which they could see was capable of building a mass opposition to the whole system of capitalism. To oppose capitalism you have to oppose, as rigorously as you would the Tories, those who are at present in power – New Labour who support private ownership, capitalism and all the things we fought against. We are now officially recognised by parties in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, India, Korea and of course in Cuba. We have also been recognised and approached by the Chinese Communist Party and Communist Party of Australia.
The way our SLP youth have contributed to this meeting has shown that we have passed on to another generation the spirit of the October Revolution so they may bring about the revolution in this country. The road of the October Revolution, the road of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, is alive and going forward with us all today. Long may we celebrate the glorious October Revolution. Thank you comrades.