Letters to the Editors: East Europe
I suppose it is true to say that most people who write to journals and newspapers do so to disagree with something in those publications.
I write, however, to praise your February 1990 issue (“Welcome to the West—East Europe Special”). Clearly. you demonstrate that it is not socialism that has failed in the Soviet Union and eastern and central Europe but various forms of dictatorial state and semi-state capitalism. Nevertheless, as you correctly point out, the so-called revolutionary upheavals in these countries are only the beginning.
In the immediate future, despite a partial democratisation of social structures, the socio-economic condition of the workers may well deteriorate. It should also be stressed that the “alternative” (so-called “free market” capitalism) is no alternative at all. at least for the majority of workers and peasants. They will remain slaves— with, perhaps, slightly looser chains; that is all.
Furthermore, increasing “freedom” of expression in the Soviet Union also has its ugly aspects. Racism and nationalism are rampant. And even groups claiming to be socialist and anti-Leninist are. inevitably I suppose, very muddled. For example, in Ukraine, a social-democratic organisation has been formed which claims to be based upon the ideas of Marx, Engels, Plekhanov, Martov and Dan, yet it adds a list of reforms to its socialist objective!
The workers of the disintegrating Russian Empire, like workers elsewhere, still have a long way to go before they achieve a largely harmonious and free society.
Peter E. Newell
Events in Eastern Europe have now reached the stage when it ought to be obvious to the most myopic that the SPGB has been correct all along in its analysis of the so-called “Communist” countries.
I would like to pay a tribute to the outstanding theoretical clarity which enabled our members in those early days to make the correct diagnosis, and to cling on under tremendous pressure for so many years until at last the truth came out. as it had to.
Being able to latch on to this ready-made “case” against Russia, etc at any early stage of my political awakening has, I am sure, saved me from a lot of unpleasant confusion and disillusionment.
E. C. Edge
Manila, 7 December 1989
On December 1, 1989, thousands of soldiers belonging to an underground military organization called RAM (Reform the Armed Forced Movement) captured several military bases in the Philippines, including Villamor Air Base, the Headquarters of the Air Force. Their aim was to overthrow President Aquino’s government and replace it with a civilian/military coalition government. When the RAM forces threatened to destroy Malacanang Palace, where President Aquino was trapped, the USA sent jet fighters to Manila from one of their military bases in this country. Although no shots were fired by the American planes, the rebel aircraft were scared off. Having lost air superiority, the rebels were quickly defeated. Some rebels managed to hold on to their positions in the financial district of Makati until today. December 7, 1989, when they finally surrendered.
As of today. 79 people have died, and 43 of them were civilians who were hit by stray bullets, rockets, and bombs from both sides. Although some civilians were killed at home, many were killed while being entertained by the violence. These were mostly young men on the fringes of the urban battlefield, who cheered the soldiers on. The RAM forces were called “Anejo” (after Anejo Rhum, a popular basketball team). The government forces were called “San Miguel” (after San Miguel Beer. Anejo’s rival). In my neighbourhood, people stared at the sky, some even stood on rooftops, and watched the “air show”. A helicopter turned slowly above, then rushed forward firing rockets at rebel tanks a few miles away. I heard on the radio afterward that the helicopter missed and hit a row of houses instead. Most of us fled our homes at 5AM when soldiers started firing at each other near our street, but later in the day we all went back and watched the “air show” again. Violence can be fascinating when you are separated from it by miles, a TV screen, or an arcade game, but up close it is terrifying.
The soldiers had nasty experiences. One soldier destroyed an Armoured Personnel Carrier only to discover later that his elder brother was inside. Once, government jets bombed government troops approaching Manila to reinforce a military base under attack by RAM forces. Many of the soldiers shooting at each other would have enjoyed each other’s company under different circumstances.
Hardly anyone cared who won or lost. The radio was full of people pleading for an end to the fighting, not for the victory of one side or the other. Many people knew that their lives would not be different regardless of who took power. The coup of February 1986 that brought Aquino to power disillusioned many people.
The coup is nearly over. At the time of writing, rebel soldiers still control an air base near Cebu City, a few hundred miles south of Manila, but are surrounded by government troops. People are beginning to ask what caused the coup, and how to prevent another one from happening. This was the sixth and most violent coup so far in the 3 years of the Aquino government. Many newspapers blame graft and corruption in government, the politicization of the military that occurred during the Marcos dictatorship, the increasing poverty of the people, and many other symptoms of an arrangement that most people accept because they do not know any better. This arrangement, called capitalism, is one where a minority controls the world. When minority leadership is replaced by shared leadership, where all actively participate in the making of decisions, wars will end. Most people do not want to kill or be killed, but want power to control what goes on around them. Poverty will end, because our lack of control of the means of producing the things we need causes it. Maybe people will begin to enjoy their lives, instead of distracting themselves in order to forget their problems. In a socialist world, violence will no longer be entertainment, but an ugly perversion.
As a new reader of the Standard I was most surprised by Steve Coleman’s reference to Nazism in the December issue, namely, “Why the hell couldn’t the Nazis have caught Julie Andrews and those monstrously sugary kids and contributed one humane deed to history?”.
I am sure Steve Coleman needs no reminder of the fate of Jewish children too young to work in the Nazi Concentration Camps—an immediate gassing or dispatch to the experimental blocks.
The precepts of Nazism were founded on national and racial hatred and its manifestations are not a subject for frivolity. I would find such remarks offensive in any publication—to read them in the Standard is particularly disappointing.
We agree that the remark was distasteful and should never have appeared.