|Previous Section||Home Page|
Russia had been devastated by war and faced 20 armies of intervention. Three quarters of the railways and industries were closed in Russia and 1 million homeless children were wandering the countryside. There was mass starvation and not infrequently there was even cannibalism. More than 80 per cent. of the Russian population then could not read or write. Given Russia's isolation at the time, it is not surprising that an authoritarian regime arose. There had to be policemen with that kind of scarcity. The policemen had to have better rations and wages and the seeds of bureaucracy were sown there.
From that beginning, state planning took Russia from one of the most backward nations in the world to the second most powerful. Even in 1950 Britain produced
Column 982more steel than Russia. Today Britain's steel production, down to 19 million tonnes, is between one third and one quarter of Russia's steel production.
The Minister alluded to the problem that faced Russia. The more the economy developed and became sophisticated and advanced, the more the bureaucracy became nonsense. It leads to inefficiency, corruption, nepotism and the development of a privileged group enjoying enormous privileges over the rest of society. That is precisely what has happened in Russia and eastern Europe.
Statements in America have appeared to say that the events in eastern Europe are a mark of the final victory of capitalism this century. That is an exaggeration. In the post-war period we have seen the biggest development in capitalist industry ever. Between 1945 and 1975 eight times as many commodities were made than in the whole previous history of mankind. Yet what has that meant? As my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) said, two thirds of the world to go bed every night hungry, rise hungry next morning and then go back to bed again hungry. In Britain, which is one of the richest nations of the world, two fifths of the population do not live in dignity and have not benefited from the post-war boom. Thousands of homeless people in America live in tent cities. There is an unequal distribution of wealth. Total debt in the Third world is now $3,000 billion, and $60 billion is transferred from the poorest countries to the richest countries every year. What attraction has that for workers in Russia or eastern Europe?
In its statement this week, the Fiat motor company made it absolutely clear that it regards the Russion market as a source of cheap labour--another South Korea on the doorstep of its main market in western Europe. There is no attraction for workers from eastern Europe who will find that a third or more of their income will have to go on housing as against 10 per cent. at home.
In the summer of 1988 I had the privilege to bring to the House the granddaughter of Leon Trotsky. It was marvellous that Dubcek spoke in Prague. Imre Nagy could not speak because he was murdered. At least his grave has been restored to some dignity. We have seen the vindication of the great leaders of the Russian revolution--Bukharin, Rhykov, Kamenev, Zinoviev and others who were murdered in Vyshinsky's and Stalin's trials and above all, the great socialist genius, Leon Trotsky, who was murdered in Mexico in 1940. I went around the House with Leon Trotsky's granddaughter. I look forward soon to going back to a democratic Socialist Russia to visit with her the Kremlin, and, more fittingly, the Solmey institute where her grandfather, along with Lenin, led the Russian revolution.
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood) : Had I been lucky enough to catch your eye at this time last week, Madam Deputy Speaker, when we debated foreign affairs, I would have observed how fortunate a coincidence of time and chance it was that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was brought to his high office, with his exceptional talents and particularly suitable background at this hour of great opportunity for peace in Europe. Perhaps it would have been too obvious a compliment. Having heard my hon. Friend the Minister of State today, I should perhaps have observed what a remarkably lucid
Column 983and rational Minister of State my right hon. Friend has, whose particular sphere of responsibility is of such concern to us all. His speech illumined proceedings.
The proceedings were further illumined by outstanding contributions by the Father of the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) who spoke with such passion, force, effectiveness and experience in favour of food aid for Poland. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) has a deep understanding of international affairs and defence. The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) spoke well, as did the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) who has consistently played an active part in pursuing the cause of European integration and a worthwhile role for the United Kingdom in that process.
In contradistinction we heard unreconstructed contributions of a Liverpudlian nature. One emanated from the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Wall). I marvelled at his contribution. His speech was rather like the museums which one used to visit in the bad old days in East Berlin in which history was totally rewritten in a fashion so dramatically different from the truth as to be almost unrecognisable. To have heard him, one would have thought that the hon. Member for Bradford, North was not only the active proponent of all things bright and beautiful in the Socialist house but the champion of the liberties of the party members against putsches and coups d'etat. I knew his friend and predecessor, Ben Ford, with whom I used to be a Member for Bradford. I recall how he was cast aside by the Stalinists, which was how they were regarded in the city, whose standard bearer was the hon. Member for Bradford, North. I shall spoil his speech no more but get on with my own.
I agree with the wise observations by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), about the three strands that should be at the heart of what I call our grand strategy on events in central and eastern Europe. I use the phrase "grand strategy" advisedly because we need a comprehensive policy which encompasses the security or military dimension, economic policy, and politics together with the moral aspect of our relations with central Europe and the East.
I shall deal first with the paramount issue, which is security and defence. Above all, we require a secure Europe. For as far ahead as we can see, there will undoubtedly be a continued requirement for the mutual security arrangement which has served us for the past 40 years, the North Atlantic treaty. We need that treaty because in this period of reform the Soviet Union has continued to modernise its military capabilities. The diminution in the numerical strength of the Soviet armed forces and their concomitant modernisation could make them a potentially more formidable military machine. The more important argument is that we need the NATO Alliance as a framework within which to engage with the Warsaw pact in the vital process of arms control and the pursuit of mutual security at lower force levels. We must recognise that this process of arms control will lead to dramatic changes which will require us as European members of NATO to pay a more active part in our own defence. To do that I urge my hon. Friend the Minister of
Column 984State to continue with what he is already doing and which he has admitted to me in a written answer--re-examining the terms and provisions of the Brussels treaty.
If we pursue arms control to its logical conclusion, Soviet forces in central Europe and American forces in western Europe will be withdrawn, one hopes to a level of 275,000 on each side. However, one can envisage even now a second stage in which Soviet and American forces will be further reduced. Of course British, French and Canadian force levels in the Federal Republic of Germany will be called into question in the overall equation. I urge the Foreign Office even now to see how membership of the Western European Union can be further expanded and its effectiveness reinforced as a focus for western European security interests within the NATO Alliance. It will be a useful adjunct to the process of arms control but the main forum for arms control will be NATO.
Secondly, I believe that further integration of the European Community, economically and politically, is necessary to anchor our friends in the Federal Republic of Germany firmly in the West while extending the hand of friendship and co-operation to the East. The Minister was right to give his unequivocal and whole-hearted support to the admirable speech made by Chancellor Kohl in the Bundestag two days ago.
Thirdly, I hope that the Minister will do everything he can to support the work of the Council of Europe in involving the newly emerging democracies of eastern Europe in the process of creating what the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney described as the concert of Europe. I serve on the Council of Europe with my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) and I hope that he will catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, later. Deputies from Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union are already special guest members of the parliamentary assembly. This process is only partial and we hope that democratisation in Czechoslovakia, the GDR and elsewhere in the satellite states will continue. I also hope that democratisation will continue in the Soviet Union. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South reminded us that the Soviet Union is still a one-party state and one must question whether it is right that it should have single representation in the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe. The Baltic states deserve individual representation as do the Ukraine and Byelorussia, and those last two have that at the United Nations.
I support the grand strategy described by the Minister and I wish it every success at this important time.
Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) : I agree with the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) about the need for the Baltic states to be represented directly at the Council of Europe as a result of future agreements and relationships.
Today some Conservative Members have suffered from the "What do we do without the barbarians" syndrome. The Minister, however, did not display such an attitude. We should not only stand steadfast in the face of what is happening in central and eastern Europe, but we should look forward. Conservative Members cannot say that they are in favour of pluralism, democracy, ecology and peace movements in eastern Europe, but then deny to those of us
Column 985who have been party to a broad-based western European peace movement for many years our right to contribute to the process of East-West detente.
When we talk about central and eastern Europe there is a danger that we label those regions as though they were one monolithic structure. We are talking about diverse traditions, cultures and linguistic groups. We are also talking about diverse and difficult state boundaries that have been artificially created. All the nation-state boundaries are, in one sense or another, artificial. They divide people who have close ethnic connections. It is difficult to raise the issue of democratic changes without raising what has been described by some Conservative Members as the spectre of Balkanisation.
Balkanisation occurs when a declining imperial power breaks up into sovereign nation states. Today in western, central and eastern Europe the old nation-state model that maintained particular sovereignty over its territory is no longer the effective model of political power. We are now talking about levels of political power and it is possible to envisage cross-border minority rights being agreed by cross-border and multinational agreements without raising the spectre of redrawing state boundaries. When considering the situation in central and eastern Europe it is important to understand what the long-term structures might turn out to be.
Yesterday, President Gorbachev spoke of a vision of Europe "as a commonwealth of sovereign democratic states with a high level of equitable interdependence and easily accessible borders, open to the exchange of products, technologies and ideas, and wide-ranging contacts among people."
In the Communist regimes in central and eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, there has been a crisis at once economic, social, political, ethnic, national ideological, and moral, and, in an important sense, cultural and religious. It is important to mention an issue which has not been emphasised enough in this debate : the progressive role of the various Christian Churches and other religious groups in the political changes which have taken place. The nature of the religious culture of so many of these central and eastern European states--which the Minister mentioned in his reference to Christendom--means that those Churches have been able to provide not only a focal point of opposition, but a means of cultural and political stability in the transference to new forms of democracy. The crisis has been one of a state system in which the state ownership and control of an economy has become disfunctional. It is also a cultural crisis because the role of the state and the party as the controlling apparatus of society, even within civil society, has meant that political and social life in those countries has been stultified. In central and eastern Europe, we are dealing with a post-revolutionary society which suffered from an externally imposed revolution. Even within the Soviet Union we can see how the imposed central structure prevented the development of national aspirations, not only in the Baltic states, but in other Soviet Union republics. Apart from Czechoslovakia, central and eastern Europe has little experience of effective democratic forms over a long period. We must recognise the developments of those central and eastern European regions--as many
Column 986Opposition Members have argued--as forms of bureaucratic, oligarchic, collective regimes. Certain Conservative Members are wrong to see what is happening as a crisis of democratic socialism. It is a crisis of a form of collectivism.
Opposition Members do a disservice to their arguments when they pretend that some of the present Government's illiberal activities can be compared with some of the appalling tragedies of oppression in eastern Europe. Similarly, it is wrong for Conservative Members to argue that the collapse of these regimes heralds the end of socialism in the West. I call for a little bit of glasnost and perestroika between the major parties in the House as we try to understand events in central and eastern Europe.
I was glad that the Minister mentioned Bulgaria and the tragic incident that happened some years ago in London. I hope that we can rebuild our understanding with that small country with its population of 9 million. When the Secretary-General of the Bulgarian Communist party spoke to the Bulgarian Parliament on 17 November, he stressed the role of the national assembly and MPs in the legislative process. I hope that it will be possible for us to have observers to this Parliament not just from some of the other central and east European countries and the Soviet Union but from Bulgaria. When describing some of the changes taking place in Bulgaria, which, in contrast to some of the other central and east European countries are still intra-party changes within the Communist party, the Secretary- General said :
"Our society is on the threshold of a qualitatively new stage of development. The country's all-round appearance is changing every day and even every hour. The structures of the command and bureaucratic system are beginning to shake, the administrative idols of yesterday are going to pieces. The fresh air of changes has entered the political atmosphere."
It is wonderful to be able to quote such a statement from the present political leader of Bulgaria.
We look with confidence to the changes taking place throughout central and eastern Europe. In particular, we look to the importance of those changes for the cultural and linguistic minorities in the Soviet Union and the cross-border minorities. I was concerned, although not surprised, to hear the leader of the Romanian regime make a statement which seemed to signify some attempt to repossess Moldavia. Because Moldavian people speak a language which is very close to Romanian, that is no argument for the Romanian leader to assert that a new state form should be imposed to annex Moldavia. The attempts of the Soviet Union to provide a degree of linguistic autonomy in Moldavia could result in other linguistic minorities within the Soviet Union achieving more effective linguistic and economic autonomy which appears to have been established between the Baltic states and Moscow.
Central and eastern Europe are moving towards a pluralistic democracy, but many recent developments have taken place because of the recognition, even by Mr. Gorbachev, that the national question is at the root of the re- establishment of democracy.
It is important to emphasise that there are different types of nationalism. There is the negative nationalism of nation states which oppress other nationalities and there are progressive forms of nationality such as the assertion of cultural identity which leads to a feeling of belonging to a particular group without that, of necessity, becoming a way of attacking the validity, independence or autonomy of another cultural group. In central and eastern Europe and on the borders of the Soviet Union cultural autonomy
Column 987and cultural rights are being restated, but that should not necessarily lead to political breakdown of order or the repression of one minority by another.
Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry) : The scale of events in the past few months is driving all hon. Members towards a measure of consensus. Rather than go back over the wide-ranging discussion on a number of issues such as defence, perhaps it would be more helpful for me to concentrate on four specific points.
First, I endorse the message put so eloquently by the Father of the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) and others about food aid to Poland this winter. This week I have also been in touch with Lady Ryder. It is quite clear from those discussions and from today's debate that the Government need to recognise that it is not much good being a free Pole this winter if one is also a dead Pole. Therefore it is essential that we intervene quickly.
I am surprised that my second point has not been touched on this morning. It relates largely but not entirely to Poland and concerns environmental pollution. Those of us who have travelled in eastern Europe are immediately aware that that is a great problem. Pollution is confined by no national boundaries. In their own interests, instead of concentrating on the economic use of their resources, and spending so much extra on reducing their smoke stack emissions by 2 per cent. or 5 per cent.--desirable as that may be--western countries should consider ways in which they can give practical help with the awful problems in some eastern European countries with all their impact on human health and the general happiness of the people. Thirdly, I wish to discuss nationalism which has been discussed by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) and the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas). I have a Welsh wife and inevitably I am interested in the relationships between the particular and the general in our political systems.
What has happened in eastern Europe is that the release of the Soviet hegemony has allowed old pressures and old territorial disputes to reassert themselves. While we look back to the flashpoints of 1939, the corridor, Sudetenland or whatever, many issues still further back are likely to reassert themselves such as the treaty of Trianon, the resentments thereof, or Teschen, Suwalki or the ethnic balance in the Carpatho-Ukraine. These are matters to which the Foreign Office research department no doubt addresses itself. They have not been aired in the House for many generations, but they will be raised again.
What I would say to those emerging from the period of domination in eastern Europe is that they have a duty and opportunity to work together to find a better way to resolve disputes. One of the great contributions of the European Community and the West is that we have found a way of making a better contribution to resolving the peaceful disposition of nations and their national and minority interests. Who now talks about the problems of Schleswig or Alsace? We found that we can accommodate those problems within a system of prosperity, where, although national boundaries are not irrelevant, they are no longer the dominant issue of political concourse.
Column 988My final point, with which I wish to deal at greater length, is how we respond to eastern Europe. Inevitably, we are still driven by the old statist, even Marxist, analysis of relations between states. We say, "What should Britain be doing about it" or "What should the Government be doing about it?", yet it is much more a matter of how individuals relate to the new position. We want to join people together, not just Governments or political systems. The analogy that I should like to offer the House is microsurgery, the complicated joining of blood vessels, arteries and muscles that have been severed by unnatural conditions over 45 years. The armoury of a civil society can be re- established in our common house in Europe.
The Government can give a lead through matters such as the know-how fund and, more immediately, through food aid. I should particularly like to mention the work being done by the Great Britain-East Europe Centre. Next week, some hon. Members are training--that is a pompous word--Hungarians for their new political responsibilities. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Mr. Powell) wished to be associated with these remarks, but I hope that the Government will recognise in their funding that this is an explosion of opportunities that must be taken.
Going outside the immediate sphere of Government and Government aid, the prime responsibility will be on business, which clearly is expected by the East. Closer economic ties are essential to increase prosperity and to bind its peoples together. The emphasis is on the importance of joint ventures, investment banking, sub-contracting arrangements and other ways of linking ourselves. I was particularly grateful for the remarks of the president of the Confederation of British Industry about economic links, and I should like the boards of the top 100 companies to consider as an agenda item whether, and if not why not, they should spend 1 per cent. of their capital investment on East bloc countries. Smaller companies should at least think about such a proposal.
It is not only a matter of business and economic relations, because all aspects of civil society--our clubs, academics, artists, the media, trade unionists, students and ordinary families going on holiday--should consider what they can do. Today, I am wearing the tie of the Hungarian overseas economic chamber of trade--a new bit of civil society that is being re- established, and it is a privilege in which we can all share.
I shall close on a specific point for my hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to consider. We know that to achieve success there must be travel from East to West as well as from West to East. It is still easier to travel from West to East, but travel is expensive for people in the East bloc, and we are compounding that by the British visa policy. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will consider some aspects of that policy over the next few months.
A visa charge of £20 is more than a week's wages for a working person, and it is a fortune for a student in one of those countries. I am not sure that it is cost effective, because visitors from the East bloc may spend money here, and, if they pay for their visa, we may pile up quantities of non-convertible currencies. A second problem is the availability of visas. It is not satisfactory for people to have to go for example from Riga to Moscow to get them. Thirdly, the coverage of visas is not sufficiently flexible. We need to look at ways in which we can encourage working visits. There are not as many worries about
Column 989security now, because there are ways for visa policy to achieve that. The Home Office is clearly worried about others overstaying. I understand that fear, but we have to find ways in which people can come from the East on a working holiday, or a temporary assignment, earn a few pounds or some other foreign currency and take the money back to start a business--and good luck to them.
Great events are taking place and we must respond to them with breadth of spirit. There should be emotions of fear and hope together in all politics. I am anxious that our fears may be allowed to crowd out our hopes and theirs.
The Minister will not be disappointed by a non-partisan speech from me today. I do not have much in common with the Government or with some Conservative Members on many topics--
Everyone is overwhelmed by the breathtaking sweep of events in eastern Europe and its scope--from the Balkans to the Baltic. The scale of those vast working-class movements must be underlined. The workers, trade unionists, students, intellectuals and members of the police and the armed forces in those countries are joining together in the struggle for democracy and freedom.
It is amazing to see heads of state falling like ninepins in eastern Europe, and to see general secretaries of parties go, like so many of yesterday's clothes.
I say with some pride that only the Marxists within the Labour movement foretold the recent events in eastern Europe with any confidence. They did not have a crystal ball but they had faith in the working class, nationally and internationally, and in the inevitability of workers' movements in those Stalinist countries. My hon. Friends the Members for Bradford, North (Mr. Wall) and for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) adequately exposed the political ignorance of Conservative Members, who said that what they had seen in eastern Europe and Russia was either Socialism or Communism. That shows an ignorance of what Marx spoke about, and a lack of knowledge about politics.
The breathtaking speed at which events have taken place has even been amazing to Marxists. However, I am amused when people such as the Minister and Conservative Members applaud the coming to power in eastern Europe of people such as Egon Krenz. If we cast our minds back, we will recall that he made a statement about the events in Tiananmen square, which applauded that type of activity by the Chinese bureaucracy.
Next week, there will be the following early-day motion on the Order Paper :
"That this House welcomes the magnificent movements in Eastern Europe, for full democratic control over what happens in society and recognises that this outburst of discontent and opposition in East Germany and Czechoslovakia, in particular, reflects deep anger against the corruption and mismanagement of the Stalinist bureaucracy ; sees the movement leading in the direction of genuine
Column 990Socialism, not a return to capitalism ; congratulates the workers of the Soviet Union, particularly the striking miners of Vorkuta, in the Arctic Circle, who are leading the struggle for better pay and conditions and for an end to one-party dictatorship ; notes that their fight has been in the face of vicious anti-strike laws of a type that even Her Majesty's Government drew back from ; believes that these mighty working class struggles deserve the full support of the British and international labour and trade union movement and considers that the only way forward for the peoples of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is on the basis of a return to the principles of genuine workers' democracy and socialism which formed the basis and inspiration for the October revolution."
[Laughter.] Again, ignorance is displayed on the Conservative Benches with regard to history and current events. Despite the gleeful rubbing of hands at the prospect of fresh markets by the party of big business, the demands of workers in struggles in Russia and eastern Germany take various forms.
The four demands that Lenin put forward were, first, the election and right of recall of officials. That has been undertaken. Secondly, wages should be no higher than the wage of a worker. Thirdly, there should be immediate transition to the position where for a time all become bureaucrats, and therefore no one becomes a bureaucrat. Fourthly, there is to be no standing army but the armed people. There are four additional demands : first, free trade unions independent of the state ; secondly, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly ; thirdly, the right to strike ; fourthly the right to free elections with the participation of all political parties except the Fascists.
I have been in contact with workers in Russia, including the striking Vorkuta miners, and workers in East Germany. I have had messages from a town's workers' committee which say :
"We were glad to receive your letter and share the principles which Lenin proposed for the creation of a democratic workers' state--there is no other way--and we also concur with your opinion about the need for personal contact in the name of strengthening the spirit of friendship and cooperation. We are devoting all our strength and knowledge for the building in our native land of a democratic state. We will defend the interests of the workers by all legal means open to us including strikes. With warm greetings from the members of the town's workers' committee."
This is not a return to capitalism. It is the conditions of the October revolution towards which workers in Russia and eastern Europe are striving.
Another letter signed by a city workers' council set out clearly what they are striving towards. They are striving towards democracy and freedom. They are striving towards Socialism with a human face. Those slogans are equally vivid for workers in East Germany. Workers' councils in East Germany are demanding links not with Rotary clubs and the Confederation of British Industry, but with workers. They want to establish a genuine workers' state in eastern Europe. Reunification of Germany has been mentioned. According to people with whom I am in contact, workers in eastern Germany went to see Chancellor Kohl when the Berlin wall was opened. They saw that he was jeered and booed by West German workers. Despite good economic conditions in West Germany there is poverty and unemployment there. People tend to gloss over that. The East German people have emblazoned in their memory the history of the war and the Fascism which was brought
Column 991about by the crisis of capitalism after the first world war. Emblazoned in their memories too is the crushing of the working class throughout Germany by the Fascist regime.
We applaud the free movement of people. We have plenty of facts, figures and statistics. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) referred to the 18,000 East Germans who are settling in Bremen. Although 3 million to 4 million people are travelling backwards and forwards between East and West Germany, very few of them are staying in West Germany.
I am the first to admit that, for many East Germans, the GDR is a prison of sorts. The wall is a symbol of that prison, despite the tremendous gains that have been made in health, welfare, education and other areas of life. The movements to West Germany are merely an expression of throwing off the shackles now the wall has been opened. East Germans are not in any way beguiled by capitalism in West Germany. It is bit like a child finding the garden gate open and wanting to go through, but quickly returning when it knows which side its bread is buttered on. They are not taken in by the West Berlin propaganda.
Most East Germans say, "Do not go. Stay and fight to reform our country." Reunification is not on their agenda, certainly not on a capitalist basis, although possibly on a Socialist basis as part of the Socialist transformation of the world.
Events in Poland underline the movements in eastern Europe. Jaruzelski has said that the Solidarity of today is very different from the Solidarity of 1981, when its aim was to defend the living standards of workers and have worker control of management. Unfortunately, that 1981 revolution was not completed but was overthrown by suppression. It did not come to terms with what was necessary to achieve proper democracy and, consequently, there was a setback.
With today's Solidarity, we have pontification from the intellectuals and the professional people about going a little further. We need look no further than comrade Walesa who, on a recent visit to the United States, said to American business men : "We seek buyers for 80 per cent. of the Polish economy." Is that in the best interests of the working class of Poland? Walesa said that the businesses could not find buyers in Poland because Poland was too poor. He told the business men :
"You can make millions and billions of dollars".
Even the Financial Times was moved to contrast the atmosphere of militancy in the American Federation of Labour/Congress of Industrial Organisations-- which is not noted for beng militant but was reflecting the mood of American workers--and Walesa's appeal to the United States for capital.
Another feature of Poland is seen in the current position of a former dissident who is now Minister of Labour. He is now working to suppress the development of the workers' struggle. He said : "For a long time people couldn't strike, so someone has to strike for them. That's what I did. I used to co-operate with strikes. Now I have to extinguish them."
Column 992That speaks volumes for what Solidarity and some of its leaders have become.
A contradiction has arisen because of the crisis and the direction that Solidarity has taken. Walesa has said :
"The system has cornered us in a cul-de-sac and I don't know whether we will save ourselves from civil war."
Taking power and obtaining freedom and a form of democracy do not obviate the crisis within the system. Walesa said :
"If the government forget about society--there will be a clash and I will be on society's side."
At the same time, he is trying to sell off Polish industry to the Americans. He said :
"I'm helping the government. I wish it well. But I must not forget where I hail from."
That contradiction shows the dichotomy in eastern Europe. The bottom line is what the younger generation of workers in the eastern bloc are talking about. A young leader of Solidarity has criticised Walesa's support for the Government leader, saying :
"We are a trade union. Our leadership should be Unionist. We are too close to the government, too entangled. Our interests are entirely different. Government is an employer in this country." We applaud the striving towards democracy, but what does democracy mean? What does it mean in the Third world? We have heard that two thirds of the world's population suffers from starvation and poverty, resulting in death. What is democracy in South Africa for millions of workers? What is it in Chile, where tens of thousands of workers have been trampled under foot in the name of democracy? What is it in south and central America where united imperialism is interfering with it? What is democracy under capitalism in Africa? What is democracy worth in Britain for millions of workers and the unemployed, the sick, the people who cannot get into hospitals, the 10,000 pensioners who will die this year and the young who have no future except YTS?
The people in eastern Europe are not soft. They can read and understand politics. They understand eonomics, unlike Conservative Members. Those people see clearly the crisis within capitalism in Britain and internationally. They looked at the blip--such as it was--last October and they understand what is going on. They see the warning signs, and they may listen to the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the Dispatch Box warning of inflation rising next year and of a recession in the British economy. They understand what is happening in America and throughout the western economy. Do you think, Madam Deputy Speaker, that they will grasp that nettle when they realise that there is an international crisis of capitalism? To what conclusions will they come?
The want to link up the workers' struggles internationally. While Mr. Walesa is selling off half of Poland in America, it is little wonder that the AFL/CIO is moving to a more radical phase. In May I was in New York at the founding conference at which trade unionists were forming a party of labour to challenge the parties of capital in the United States. They were proceeding not on the basis of privatisation and a free market, but with a programme of Socialism which will be an attraction to workers in eastern Europe. The crisis in eastern Europe has nothing to do with Socialism or Communism ; it is a crisis of the bureaucracy which has stifled the tremendous gains made in 1917. all went well under the plan until about 10 years ago, but now there is a sclerosis in Russian society. The Russians have
Column 993spent the reserves that they gained previously and the economy is grinding to a halt. Those are the crimes of the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy is not merely a handful of people at the top. The bureaucracy is not merely Mr. Gorbachev and one or two more in the Politburo. It is a vast, monolithic body made up of 20 million bureaucrats. It is a party nomenclature which has decisive control of every aspect of life, including the economy, families, children and lifestyles. It is a self-perpetuating elite which is depriving the working class of control. Mr. Gorbachev had to move and then reform the bureaucracy because of the pressure from below, but changing a few chairs around and changing the people on those chairs will not change what is happening. Since glasnost, there have been bigger shortages and democratic steps do not put food in people's bellies or build houses for those in dire need.
The slogans of the workers and the demonstrations of eastern Europe are clear. They are saying not that they want capitalism, but that they want to build Socialism, that there should be medicine for all and not only for the few, and that they should get the millions back from the Mafia and return them to the people. They call for power to the people and power to the Soviets. They remind us that the system of reserved seats for the party should be abolished.
The miners are currently struggling in Vorkuta and elsewhere. One of them, talking about perestroika, said
"The Government wants to operate Perestroika from above ; we're doing it from below. Perestroika is going too slowly and things are getting worse."
Indeed, they are. Previously there was fear of repression, but that is dissolving. The miner went on to say that it is not so much a matter of being afraid, but that they have been
"taught for so long to wait and be patient. They could see we were patient. We believed in the brighter future' under Stalin, under Khruschev, under Brezhnev. That's what we were looking forward to. Now people's psychology is that they are going to create Soviet power themselves."
That is a clear sign that those people do not want to return to capitalism or feudalism.
The conditions in Russia and eastern Europe have been described in other speeches today. The irony is that the Prime Minister especially applauds the workers' struggles in eastern Europe and, incidentally, the Vorkuta miners' strike, which is illegal. If workers struck illegally in this country, the courts would be used against them. Despite the fines of £1,000 a head for the Vorkuta miners, the strikes are going ahead and, despite intimidation, workers are in struggle.
It is not surprising that such events should occur in Vorkuta. In 1938, the last remnants of the Left opposition who fought to defend workers' democracy were obliterated at Vorkuta by Stalin's agents. A memorable miners' badge at Vorkuta says :
"The spirit of the fight against Stalin lives on in the miners." When the coincidence of the Vorkuta strike and the Left opposition was pointed out, a striking miner in Donets strike committee said that that was the reason why he and his colleagues were so militant. The traditions and history of working class struggle are indelibly burnt in the memory of those workers and of British workers. Those whose relations participated in working-class struggle should remember that. Eventually British workers will have their say.