YESTERDAY’S statement by Theresa May to parliament on the range of ‘reprisals’ against Russia for the alleged involvement of the Russian state in the attack on the double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter amounted to nothing more than an attempt to massively divert workers from the real enemy, this Tory government.
Ever since Skripal was allegedly poisoned in Salisbury on March 4 the Tories and the bourgeois press and media have stoked up a hysterical attack on the Russian Federation and its President Vladimir Putin. Yesterday, she opened her statement, following the expiry of the ludicrous deadline set by her for Russia to either admit it had poisoned the spy with a nerve agent Novichok or admit that it had ‘lost control’ of supplies of it, by saying that this definitely proved Russia was responsible.
Russian officials treated this deadline with the contempt it deserved, pointing out that not a shred of evidence has been produced to substantiate these claims and that they had promised to co-operate with any investigation if the British government provided samples of the alleged Novichok nerve agent. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said: ‘As soon as the rumours came up that the poisoning of Skripal involved a Russian produced agent, which almost the entire English leadership has been fanning up, we sent an official request for access to this compound so that our experts could test it in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.’
Of course, May never had any intention of submitting her accusations to any scientific test, she dismissed them out of hand just as she and the government have dismissed repeated Russian denials of any involvement in the attack on Skripal. The Tories have seized on the incident to whip up a storm of hatred against Russia as a convenient ‘foreign enemy’ to divert attention from their own crisis. In the event, May’s list of reprisals was rather weak, consisting of expelling 23 Russian diplomats and unspecified sanctions, along with the promise to ‘freeze’ Russian assets in Britain.
May was very careful in her speech to distinguish between those ‘bad’ Russians and the ‘good’ oligarchs who infest London, saying that ‘we must be careful’ not to harm the many Russians who make a contribution to the country. The main contribution these ‘good’ oligarchs make is to the Tory party. She reacted with fury this week when Jeremy Corbyn raised the matter of over £800,000 of donations from Russian oligarchs – money May was adamant would not be returned.
Equally furious was her response when Corbyn asked after her statement whether the government would be supplying Russia with samples of Novichok. She refused to answer but instead accused him of not joining the ‘consensus’ across the backbenches that Russia is an evil rogue state. In the Tory attempt to whip up hatred against Russia, anyone who raises even a mild question like that is branded a traitor to the British state.
In fact, what we witnessed yesterday was another stage in the attempt by the Tories to conjure up a demonic external enemy as a diversion from the real enemy of the people – this Tory government and the bosses and bankers it serves. It is not Putin nor the Russian people who has imposed mass poverty on the workers and their families, who has, as John McDonnell rightly said last Wednesday, transferred the capitalist debt onto the poor through permanent austerity, creating millions of families living in poverty and reliant on food charities to survive while the wealthy reap huge tax cuts.
Only the day before her statement, the Tories had voted to cut free school meals for a million of the country’s most deprived children. Workers will reject and ignore this attempt to demonise Russia and portray it as an enemy – they know the real enemy of the working class and middle class is this Tory government and no attempt at diversion can prevent the tide of hatred rising up against them.
The main issue for workers is not Russia nor in-fighting by Russian oligarchs but to kick out this Tory government and go forward to a workers government and a socialist system that will expropriate the bosses and bankers under socialism.