The Guardian

The Guardian August 22, 2001

Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland

Building the Party and how!

by Rob Gowland

Figures released by the Organising Department of the Communist Party of 
China (CPC) show that the Party's membership had reached 64.5 million by 
the end of 2000. Throughout the '90s, an average of 1.9 million people 
joined the CPC each year".

There are now 43 Party members for every 1000 people in China. To give some 
idea of what that means, if we had the same ratio of members to population 
the CPA would have a membership of over 775,000! Now "there's" a target to 
aim at.

* * *
Raise the "Kursk" A very curious article appeared in "The Sydney Morning Herald" on August 11 about the imminent raising of the nuclear submarine "Kursk". The Kursk sank a year ago during manoeuvres in the Barents Sea with the loss of all 118 crew. Datelined St Petersburg, the article, by Craig Nelson, appears to be either the result of an interview with a disgraced former Soviet submarine commander or a re-written press release put out by the same officer, one Alexander Leskov. Leskov was a highly decorated submarine commander (decorated for his skill in tracking US subs in the Mediterranean) whose extreme drunkenness and indiscreet letters earned him condemnation as an enemy of the state twice! The "Kursk" was the largest, most modern and most "advanced" nuclear sub in the world. Every aspect of its design and performance would have been of vital interest to the Pentagon. Leskov, however, pushing a line popularised by Soviet "dissidents", bemoans the lack of "military openness" on the part of Russia: "It turns out that the Government's words about openness are just that words. "There's no openness at all, and there's no chink in the armour of military secrecy." Which is a relief. Russia is not the Soviet Union, but I still prefer the Bush White House and the Pentagon not to have everything their own way. Immediately after the sinking, the head of the Russian Navy and other military leaders made quite explicit statements (one of which was reproduced in The Guardian) concerning the probable cause of the disaster: accidental collision with or deliberate ramming by a US or British sub, several of which were shadowing the Russian manoeuvres. As the top Russian officers pointed out, it would not be the first time that a Soviet or Russian nuclear sub had been deliberately collided with for purposes of intelligence gathering. The Western media, now with "lots" of correspondents on the ground in Russia, was quick however to launch a campaign of vilification of the Putin Government over the sinking. Nelson's article echoes most of the concerns of this disinformation campaign. So too does Alexander Leskov. According to Nelson, the 61-year-old Leskov tried to set up his own "investigation" into the sinking of the "Kursk". But it seems his demands to be given access to all the data on the "Kursk" and the sinking have been turned down, despite his disingenuous assurances that the national security of Russia would be safe with him. "We've been barred access to all evidence, though we're from the military and if there really was information vital to national security, we weren't going to reveal it." Oh, well, that's all right then. The Russian Government's salvage operation involves severing the bow of the "Kursk", which still contains up to 15 unexploded torpedoes, and raising the rest of the 14,000 tonne vessel, which still contains 106 bodies (not to mention 2 nuclear reactors and 22 cruise missiles). Attempting to lift the vessel with the damaged bow still attached could result in detonation of one or more torpedoes and another disaster. Nevertheless, the removal of the bow is damned by the anti-Russian media (and Alexander Leskov) as an attempt to "cover up" the "real cause" of the sinking. Incidentally, according to Nelson, Leskov regards the theory that the "Kursk" was struck by a US or British submarine as "stupid". He cites "the inability of another foreign submarine to operate in such shallow waters". Pardon? The US and British navies do not have subs that can navigate in the Barents Sea? Any way, the "Kursk" is lying on the bottom in 108 metres of ocean. How deep does an ocean have to be? Leskov also discounts the Russian military's theory on the grounds of "the danger of outsiders operating in an area congested with at least 20 Russian vessels during military exercises". This is precisely the point made by an indignant Russian High Command at the time, complaining of the Anglo-US practice of endangering ships and lives by sending their submarines into the manoeuvres of supposedly friendly countries. Leskov it seems has his own theory: that the "Kursk" collided with a Russian ship or was hit by "a wayward Russian missile". Let's hope that once the bulk of the sub is raised they can then try raising the smaller but dangerous bow section. If successful it could put a significant crimp in this latest disinformation campaign.

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