The Times (18 May) has splashed our denunciation of the wearing of the old Russian imperial emblem, the St George Ribbon, by some members of Lewisham Momentum. The incident is only a specially gaudy display of the general political trend of the section of the Labour supposed-left which gravitates around the Morning Star.
The Morning Star is the continuation of the Daily Worker, which for decades from 1930 was a mouthpiece for the regimes of Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev. It saw the old USSR as “socialist”. It based that claim largely on the fact that all sizeable industry in that regime was government-owned. There were no individual, private capitalists.
Demoralised by the collapse of the USSR, the Morning Star continues to side with Russia today. Its authoritarian regime is no obstacle. Neither is the fact that the industry is now owned by loot-flaunting private oligarchs. It sides with Russia in a demoralised, mealy-mouthed way. Its real enthusiasm, as we shall see, is for the Chinese regime.
On Ukraine, for example, the Morning Star declares: “The West has characterised Russia’s attempts to defend ethnic Russian populations in Ukraine [i.e. its military intervention in eastern Ukraine] and its ‘annexation of the Crimea’ as further evidence of its expansionist aims and aggressive policies” (5/12/18).
The Morning Star doesn’t say straight out that it supports Putin in Ukraine, but gives its readers to understand that since “the West” objects, Putin’s course must be basically healthy. On Syria, the Morning Star hailed the conquest of Aleppo by the Assad dictatorship, with Russian support, as “liberation” (13/12/16) It has mostly been more roundabout in its arguments. On 21/12/18, it derided “British politicians and media [who] will scoff at Russian ambassador Alexander Yakovenko’s suggestion that Sergei and Yulia Skripal may have been injected by British authorities with a nerve agent produced at Porton Down.
“They will be equally scornful of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s declaration that Moscow has ‘plenty of evidence’ that Britain staged the alleged chlorine gas attack in the Syrian town of Douma”. They made no clear claim that the Putin regime and Assad were innocent. It just said that anyone rejecting the Russian story lacked “scepticism over news we are fed”. They denounced the charge by despised “liberals” against Donald Trump of connections with Putin, calling it “the big lie of Russiagate”.
“The interminable Mueller investigation”, it declared, was out of order because… the US too had interfered in other countries’ politics. The Morning Star does criticise Trump, but its indignation against the “liberals” and “human rights indignados” is hotter (5/1/19). On Europe, the Morning Star has exactly the same policy as Nigel Farage. “Britain should leave the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms to free a future Labour government from single market rule” (27/1/19). It denounces the Tory government as being too pro-EU — “the pro-EU Tory minority regime” (27/1/19) — and especially condemns any customs union with the EU. Like the Tory right and Farage, they claim that the British government has no obligation or responsibility to prevent the re-erection of a hard border within Ireland. The whole border issue, it says, is just “a concoction of cynical and reckless politicians, commentators and top bureaucrats” from the EU, the USA, and Dublin (18/4/19).
As in the old days of Stalin and Brezhnev, the attitude to governments across the world is chiefly governed by their diplomatic alignments and alliances. Its comment on the popular revolt against Nicaragua’s crony-capitalist (and Russia-allied) ruler Daniel Ortega is: “What happened in Nicaragua last year was without doubt a US-inspired attempted coup”.
The Morning Star denounces Amnesty International for “denying” that (26/2/19). In Venezuela, there are indeed attempts at a coup with US support, which Solidarity has condemned. They ignores tjough the facts that the Maduro regime has already carried out a “coup” of its own against the National Assembly elected under its own supervision and relies mainly on its support in the military, and that the actual big-power troops in Venezuela are Russian (backing Maduro). They gushed: “Tens of thousands poured onto the streets of Caracas to defend the socialist Bolivarian government from a US-led coup… The democratically elected leader addressed crowds from the Miraflores palace” (24/1/19).
The Israeli government has good relations with Russia and China, but the Morning Star sees it as the worst of the “Western” camp. It is the most vehement campaigner in the labour movement for boycotts of Israel, including of Israeli trade unions (2/5/17). They are formally for “two states”, but says they are against “a Jewish state” (it suggests that any “Jewish state” must be exclusivist, but national self-determination for the Hebrew nation in Israel no more automatically excludes full rights for minorities than does national self-determination for any other nation with minorities among it, that is, almost every other nation in the world). They ran, for example, an approving review of Thomas Suarez’s State of Terror, a book portraying the whole existence of Israel as an arbitrary ideological act of “terrorism”, and the solution as “untangling the injustice” back to pre-1947 or even pre-1914 (3/1/17). Israel is the axis of evil in their view of the world — after all, they cut even Trump some slack, on the grounds he is attacked by “liberals”.
China is the axis of good. The criticisms and demurs in their coverage of Russia are absent on China. A statement from CPB-backed candidates in the 2008 Greater London Assembly elections, for example, denounced Tibetan protesters as “a minority of violent thugs” and claimed that their supporters “echo the rhetoric of the far right” and “put British Chinese people at risk of racial discrimination and violence from such elements as the fascist British National Party and the National Front. The recent well-funded activists in Athens, London, Paris, San Francisco and elsewhere constitute an attack on the constitutional and territorial integrity of the sovereign republic of China.”
Editor Ben Chacko claims that China is socialist, and indeed a refreshing improvement on “top-down” socialism. “This vision, of a party educating, agitating and organising in farms, factories and mines across China to give working people the tools to fight for their rights, is a fascinating departure from ‘top-down’ socialism and may owe something to the methods used by the PSUV in Bolivarian Venezuela, a country the Chinese see as a close ally” (6/1/14). Challenged by the South China Morning Post, in an interview, about China’s ban on free trade unions, Chacko replied: “We wouldn’t want to sit here and judge”.
Non-state companies, including foreign- invested enterprises, account for more than half of total economic output in China. It is a thoroughly capitalist regime, only one with a fascistic level of suppression of workers’ and democratic rights.
Yet Chacko told the SCMP: “for [the US and Britain] to say, ‘Oh China’s got a problem with human rights’, is just totally out of order”. And if Chinese workers and students to say the same thing? No, Chacko tells them, “there [is] a lot more participation by ordinary residents in local decision-making in politics [in China] than I’ve ever seen in Britain” (10/5/18).
And on the repression of the Uyghurs, the Morning Star responds: “China’s Foreign Ministry told US politicians today to stop poking their noses in the country’s business and posing as human rights authorities” (30/8/18).