process of European Union towards integration has now been halted. This was
shown at the 2007 EU summit, which was supposed to agree on a new European
Constitution but only served to expose deep divisions between the different
European bourgeoisies. Two years after French and Dutch voters rejected it, the
continent’s assorted prime ministers and presidents have salvaged large parts
of the old text and stitched them together into a new "reform treaty".
expanded union of 27 countries could not hope to function on rules designed for
a 15-nation block. The proposal for a rejigged voting system immediately ran
into resistance from the Poles. This forced the others to agree to keep the
current system of voting in force until 2014, with a further three year
transition period after that. And at the end of that period the EU may, if it
chooses, revert back to the old system. In other words, the whole thing is off
for a decade or so.
tendency towards greater
integration, which appeared unstoppable, was predicated on economic growth. But
this has now stalled. The European Central Bank raised interest rates to 4% in
June 2007, its eighth quarter-point increase since December 2005. The European
bourgeois is worried about inflation and the latest rate rise is unlikely to be
the last. Growth is expected to be around two percent in 2008.
these conditions the tendency towards integration has been halted and may go
into reverse in the next period, when the contradictions between nation states
reappear. It is unlikely that the EU will disintegrate. The European
capitalists must somehow keep together in the face of growing competition from
the USA and China. But all
the dreams of creating a European super-state capable of challenging the USA are in
has been feeble in most of the euro zone’s economies. A GDP growth of 0.6% in
the first quarter of 2007 was greeted as a tremendous achievement. Now even
this result is beyond their capabilities. The falling dollar is pushing up the
euro to record levels and hurting European exports.
Chinese currency, linked to the dollar, is also falling against the euro. This
is provoking howls of pain from Brussels and
threats of retaliation against both China
and the USA.
This is an early warning of the protectionist tendencies that will inevitably
gather momentum in the next period either with a slowdown or a recession.
any case, the economic growth of the last period solved nothing and merely
incited the indignation of the workers who increasingly understand that they
are not being rewarded commensurately to the efforts demanded from them by the
rapacious bosses. The stage is set for an increase of the class struggle in one
country after another. In some ways a continuation of the present feeble boom
would be the best scenario. A slump is not necessarily a recipe for class
struggle and economic growth in modern conditions is certainly not a recipe for
class peace, as we see in the mass strikes in France.
the victory of Sarkozy was immediately followed by an explosion of strikes by
one section of the workers after another. Unemployment has been oscillating
around ten percent, but the level for young people under 25 is about 20 percent
and for young people of North African origin the figure is 40-50 percent. This
was the main reason for the uprising in the banlieus two years ago.
Recently there have been further indications of unrest among the unemployed
youth, mainly of North African extraction.
have been big movements of the students against Sarkozy’s counter-reforms in
education. This shows the accumulation of discontent that has accumulated
beneath the surface for decades. This is what led to May 1968 and the same
thing can happen again. In Germany,
the biggest country in Europe, that previously
was its economic locomotive, unemployment was
high for the whole of the last period. There have been big strikes on the
railways and other sectors, and ferment in politics, with the left (Linke)
party rising to 20% in the opinion polls.
Italy there was the
demonstration of half a million in Rome against
changes in the pensions law and in little Denmark the even bigger
(proportionately) demonstration of 100,000 against cuts. These are proof that
the workers will not easily accept the destruction of their past conquests. Italy is now the sick man of Europe.
In the past the Italian bourgeoisie would get out of a crisis by devaluing the
Lira and increasing the budget deficit. Now both these safety valves are
entry into the euro forbids large budget deficits and excludes devaluations.
The Italian capitalists therefore have no other alternative than a direct
confrontation with the working class. They must take back all the concessions
of the last 50 years. This is a finished recipe for a period of stormy class
In Greece only three months after the
re-election of the right wing New Democracy government the great majority of
the Greek people participated in a big movement against the bosses’ attacks on
the social security system. The 24-hour general strike on December 12, 2007 was
called by GSEE (blue and white collar workers) and ADEDY (public sector office
workers) the two largest unions, which represent about 2.5 million Greek
workers. The mobilization also involved the lawyers, the journalists, the
shopkeepers, the owners of small companies and the engineers. All the main
means of transport (metro, buses, ships, airports) were completely paralyzed
for the whole day, except for the metro which was allowed to operate for a few
hours to transport the demonstrators to the strike rallies.
In all the major industries of the
country, in the big state-owned companies, in all the main workplaces, participation
in the general strike was from 80-100%. In many workplaces (such as shops,
service enterprises, offices) where the number of workers is small and where
there is no active union, the official participation, as could be expected, was
not so big. However, many of the workers in these small workplaces refused to
go to the work using the excuse that there were no means of transport or they
had "health problems". In reality all of them took part in the
There were 64 demonstrations in
different parts of the country. Of course, the biggest rallies took place in Athens. The biggest was
that organized by the GSEE and ADEDY with the participation of 50-60,000
workers. The other rally, called by PAME, the KKE (Greek Communist Party) trade
union front, saw the participation of 20-25,000 people. In all these
demonstrations there was a very militant mood.
So, just months after its re-election,
the Karamanlis government is in a very difficult position. Already before the
general strike, opinion polls revealed that 70% of the Greek population
disagrees with the government’s policy on social security, while 58% also
disagrees with the economic policy of both the PASOK leadership and the ND
government and even 25% of the ND voters (who voted for the ND only three
months ago) disagree totally with the economic policy of the ND government.
The original plan of the government,
just after it was re-elected, was to attack the working class immediately. But
the government has a very slim majority in parliament of only two MPS and may
not manage to stay in power. Here again we see the weakness of the bourgeoisie
and the difficulties they have in carrying out a policy of cuts.
there is an increasingly sharp polarization to the right and left, despite a
period of fast economic growth. The right wing (PP) and the Church is using
language not heard since the 1930s, on the eve of the civil war. Of course,
that is not the immediate perspective for Spain or any other European
country. But in the next period that will change. In the end the bourgeoisie
will come to the conclusion that there are too many strikes, too many
demonstrations, too much "anarchy" and that Order must be restored.
governments always prepare the way for even more right wing
governments. At a
certain point there can be a movement in the direction of Bonapartism
in Europe that in turn will lead to a further polarization
and intensification of the class struggle. Bourgeois democracy is not
fixed for all time. What we have seen in Latin America can be
replicated in Europe, not only in the rise of revolutionary but also of
that is the music of the future. Unlike the 1930s, the contradictions in
society cannot be resolved quickly by a movement towards revolution or
counterrevolution. The class balance of forces is enormously favourable to the
working class and the mass basis of reaction that existed in the 1930s in the
peasantry and petty bourgeoisie has been whittled away. The fascist groups in
most countries are small and, although increasingly vocal and violent, cannot
play the role they did then. This is shown by the students, who are
overwhelmingly left wing in outlook, whereas before 1945 they were inclined
ruling class therefore cannot move towards reaction in the immediate future.
But the working class cannot move to the taking of power because its
traditional mass organizations have become transformed into powerful obstacles
in the path of socialist revolution. The present uneasy equilibrium between the
classes can continue for a period of years with ups and downs. But the crisis
of capitalism will make itself felt and is already making itself felt. The
masses will learn from experience and at a certain stage will move to take
power as they did in the 1970s.
The Middle East and Asia
In Iraq, despite the presence of a
large number of troops armed with the most modern weapons of destruction, the
Americans have lost the war. This has produced a crisis of the regime. The
ruling class has lost confidence in Bush. As with Nixon, it was easy to put him
in office, but it is much harder to get him out. The Iraq Study Group headed by
James Baker, a trusted representative of ruling class, gave quite sound advice
from the perspective of the US
bourgeoisie. They said: "We’ve lost – let’s get out as quickly as
possible; do a deal with Syria
let them sort out the mess."
Instead George Bush sent in more
troops and threatened Iran.
His slogan is: "One last push and we will win". This is like the generals
in World War I, who were always ordering their soldiers over the top for one
last time. Now the "surge" is in place and an extra 21,000 soldiers
are now there, bringing their tally in Baghdad
up to 31,000-plus and nationwide to 160,000, the highest troop level since late
Having secured Baghdad,
the Americans hoped to tackle the so-called Sunni Belt just outside Baghdad, in particular
the nearby mainly Sunni towns to the south – Mahmudiya, Latifiya and Yusufiya.
But this has resolved nothing. Pushed out of Baghdad, the guerillas just moved to other
areas. Some 2.2m Iraqis out of a population of 27m are now reckoned to have
while the UN estimates that another 2m have been internally displaced.
Sooner or later the Americans will
have to leave Iraq.
They are attempting to put together a state that can hold the line when they
leave. But the state in the last analysis is armed bodies of men. The Iraqi
police consists of around 188,000 men trained by the Americans, but by the
middle of 2007 no less than 32,000 had been lost – through death
(8,000-10,000), injury (similar numbers), desertion (5,000-plus) and other
reasons. The 137,000-strong army is said to be better and less obviously
sectarian but it useless against the insurgents.
Things are no better on the political
front. The Americans demand that the Iraqis build a broad based national
government, state, police, etc. But the government of national unity is no such
thing. It is a group of factions, each grabbing a share of the spoils. There is
a bloody sectarian civil war in Iraq.
The government and the Americans can’t solve the problem. US imperialism
is responsible for this nightmare. They stoked the flames of sectarian conflict
when they based themselves on the Kurds and Shias against Saddam Hussein, who
had based himself on the Sunnis. Now the situation is out of control.
General Petraeus candidly admitted
that the surge would be in vain unless the breathing space his troops are
trying to create is used by the Shia-led government to embrace a wider range of
Sunnis. General Petraeus’s masters in Washington
know that if the puppet Maliki cannot do any better, America’s surge – and the increased
loss of American life that it is already entailing – is doomed to fail.
They tried to derive some comfort from
the fact that until recently Kurdistan was
relatively quiet. "The North is OK," they used to say. But the worst
bloodshed and violence will take place in the North. Kurdistan
is ethnically mixed. The National Question cannot be resolved under capitalism, either in Iraq or
anywhere else. Now there is conflict between Sunnis, Shias, Kurds, Turkmens and
is looking threateningly at Iraq.
Ankara will never accept an independent Kurdistan on its borders. The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK)
has recommenced its guerrilla war inside Turkey and has bases inside Kurdish
Iraq. The parliament in Ankara has passed a
resolution that would allow them to intervene militarily in Iraq. The
Turkish army will move to crush them. It is already massing its forces on the
border, just looking for an excuse to invade. They have already staged
incursions. If Iraq begins
to break up on national-sectarian lines, the Turks will move to occupy the area
around Mosul and Kirkuk, which they have always coveted for
its oil wealth. This will bring new conflicts and instability.
in the USA
Imperialists do not wage war for
amusement, but for plunder, markets and spheres of influence. But they are not
getting money out of Iraq
– it is costing them a colossal amount – at least two billion dollars a week
and thousands of dead and wounded. Iraq has the world’s third-largest
reserves but they are of little use as long as the crude remains mostly beneath
the ground. The oil infrastructure is in a critical condition after 17 years of
war and sanctions. Output remains well below the (depressed) pre-war peak of
2.5m barrels a day.
The military are pessimistic about the
prospects and increasingly open about it. General Petraeus has warned that
"counter-insurgency operations can last nine to ten years." But
they do not have nine to ten years. Public opinion in the USA is now
overwhelmingly against the war. Even many Republicans have had enough.
Whatever the Americans do now will be
wrong. If they remain it will mean more casualties and solve nothing. Largely
as a result of Iraq,
Bush’s popularity has collapsed. The list of American dead and wounded
continues to grow and a disproportionate number of victims in Iraq are from
poor Latino or black families.
This is at bottom a class question. If
the occupation continues it could provoke movements in the USA similar to the mass movement against the war
40 years ago. It can even provoke a crisis of the regime with revolutionary
implications. The combination of economic recession, with the resulting fall in
living standards, unemployment and the repossessions of people’s homes with war
is an explosive cocktail.
But if they leave it will be even
worse. They will leave behind a chaotic situation that could even lead to the
break up of Iraq
into its constituent parts. This will lay the basis for further instability,
regional wars and terrorism – that is, precisely the opposite of what was
In the autumn of 2007, while Bush was
still beating the drum for war against Iran,
startling revelations appeared in the press relating to Iran, the
President’s favourite "rogue state". Unknown sources revealed that US
Intelligence had established some time ago that Iran had no immediate possibility
of acquiring a nuclear military potential. This was the exact opposite of what
Bush has been saying in recent months. He has, in fact, been saying that it was
necessary to take immediate action against Iran because at any moment it would
have had acquired nuclear weapons.
How did Bush react to this? Did he
correct the misleading propaganda about Teheran’s imaginary nuclear arsenal?
Did he immediately announce the abandonment of any plans for a military strike
No, he did not. He repeated all the same old nonsense and redoubled his threats
And the Israeli government joined in, asserting that its own Intelligence
contradicted the reports from Washington.
Evidently, the hawks in Israel
are enthusiastic about the prospect of giving Iran a bloody nose and do not want
their fun to be spoilt by anybody.
Who was behind these revelations?
Whoever it was, it was somebody in a high position with privileged access to
highly sensitive intelligence information. It seems very probable that a
section of the establishment has decided to prevent a new military adventure in
the Middle East by releasing information that exposes all the Administration’s
propaganda on this issue to be as accurate as the old lies about Iraq’s
"weapons of mass destruction."
This incident exposes the existence of
a growing split inside the US
ruling class. There is a growing realization that the foreign policy of the
Bush administration is having negative consequences for US imperialism
and one section of the ruling class would like to put the brakes on or even
remove him. Implicit in all this is a crisis of the regime itself.
It seems most probable that the next
elections will be won by the Democrats. But what can they do? They will be left
with an inheritance of war, terrorism and economic crisis. It will not take
long to discredit them, preparing the ground for a serious radicalization of
politics in the USA.
war has already had consequences that were unforeseen by the ruling
clique in Washington when they launched their Iraq adventure.
George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice sincerely desire peace in the
Middle East – peace under American control. The problem
is that the two goals are mutually exclusively: you can have peace or
domination, but you cannot have both.
US imperialism seeks to strengthen
its stranglehold on the region as a key part of its general policy for world
domination. The criminal invasion of Iraq
was intended, among other things, to establish a firm and reliable American
beachhead in the Middle East. It has not
achieved this goal but has only succeeded in provoking a wave of instability
throughout the region.
By removing the Iraqi army – the only
force that could act as a counterweight to Iran,
altered the strategic balance of forces in the whole region. This has benefited
Iran, which has extended its
influence in the Shia population of Iraq and throughout the region.
This directly threatens the interests of Saudi
Arabia and the Gulf
States, where reactionary pro-US monarchies are
sitting on huge reserves of oil.
Like an elephant in a china shop, US imperialism
has rampaged through the region, utterly destroying what elements of stability
that existed there before. Surrounded by bits of broken crockery and fearing
that other valuable plates may be broken, President George Bush called the Annapolis conference in a
desperate attempt to stick the broken pieces back together again.
The Saudi monarchy, one of the main
allies of US
imperialism in the area, is hanging by a thread. It could be overthrown at any
time and whatever regime replaces it would not be a friend of Washington. Therefore the House of Saud has
been pleading with Washington to help it on
two fronts: by stepping up diplomatic, economic and military pressure on
Teheran and by brokering some kind of peace agreement that would, they hope,
solve the Palestinian question and relieve some of the pressure on Saudi Arabia.
would be only too pleased to oblige but there are a number of problems of a
most intractable nature. The main problem is Israel,
which is now the only reliable ally that Washington
has in the whole region. US
imperialism does not have much leverage with the Israeli ruling class in the
present situation. The USA
proposes, but Israel
Syria and Lebanon
The Americans thought they were clever
when they engineered the overthrow of the pro-Syrian regime in Lebanon.
all they succeeded in doing was to plunge the country into chaos and
creating conditions for a revival of civil conflict. Now Lebanon is
deadlocked over the election of its president. Belatedly, some people
in Washington have realized that Syria’s role is crucial. It is
possible that the decision to invite Damascus to
send a representative to the peace talks at Annapolis was recognition
of this fact.
Syria’s decision to send its deputy
foreign minister – less than a full negotiator, but more than just a token
presence – in return for a merely token discussion at Annapolis about
Syrian-Israeli peace may indicate that Syria wishes to reach a compromise with
Washington. Whether this is possible is a debatable question.
The Americans need Syria to prevent Lebanon from exploding into open
civil war. But George Bush is too stupid and narrow minded to comprehend the
realities of world diplomacy. He offered Syria
no concessions to secure its support, but instead gave Damascus a rap on the knuckles in his speech.
He made a pointed and unnecessary reference to Lebanon’s need for an election
"free from outside interference and intimidation". That is a joke considering
the blatant interference of the USA
in the whole region. But the Syrians did not see the funny side of it.
The Palestinian question lies at the
heart of the turbulent situation in the Middle East: a key area for US foreign
policy both for economic and strategic reasons. For decades this has been like
a festering sore that is poisoning relations between states and creating the
risk of new conflicts, terrorism, instability and wars.
After the collapse of the Soviet
Union, the US imperialists
wished to increase their influence with the Arab countries and were prepared,
to some extent, to put pressure on Israel. They therefore put pressure
to make concessions. This led to the Camp David talks and the Madrid
agreements that established a truncated Palestinian territory. This was a
pathetic caricature that in no way satisfied the national aspirations of the
Palestinians. It satisfied nobody.
The result was further violence,
terrorism, conflict and bitterness, with an open split in the ranks of the
Palestinians, with Hamas seizing control in Gaza, growing chaos and instability and the
elements of civil war. The crisis in Gaza
is a civil war between Hamas and the PLO under Abbas.
withdrawal from Gaza was a tactical move
intended to strengthen its stranglehold on the West Bank.
We see the cynicism of the imperialists (not only the Americans but also the
EU) when they immediately suspended funds for the Hamas government, which, say
what you will, was democratically elected. As soon as the clash between Mahmoud
Abbas and Hamas occurred, the imperialists restored funds to the West Bank and the stooge Abbas. They want to use one side
to split the Palestinians and thus ensure that the Palestinian struggle for a
genuine homeland is aborted.
The Israeli ruling class looks on with
quiet satisfaction as Palestinians fight each other, and occasionally sends in
the tanks or tightens the economic screws just to show who is boss. The
situation is a nightmare for the Palestinian masses, who see no way out. The
tactics of Hamas solve nothing but only reinforce the position of the Israeli
imperialists, providing them with the excuse for further acts of aggression and
repression without even causing a dent in their armour.
The slogan of the Israeli ruling class
is: what we have we hold. The Zionists have no intention of giving any
important concessions. Hamas boasted that they had expelled the Israeli army
from Gaza. That
is a joke. The Israelis withdrew from Gaza as a
tactical move to silence international criticism and create the impression that
they were giving up something important, when in reality they have no interest
in Gaza. This
was intended to strengthen their stranglehold on the West
Bank, which is the decisive question.
The Israelis have relentlessly
continued building the monstrous wall that slices through Palestinian territory
on the West Bank, robbing large chunks of land
under the pretext of "defence". The settlers have become increasingly bold and
insolent. After the incidents in Gaza no Israeli
government will want to confront the settlers in the West
Then there is the little matter of Jerusalem, which both
Jews and Arabs claim as their natural God-given capital. As for the right of
return of Palestinians expelled from their homes since 1948, there is no
question of Israel
accepting them back, since that would completely upset the demographic balance
of the "Jewish state".
and the USA
have an interest in arriving at some kind of a deal over the Palestinian
question. To that extent they can talk and talk again. But whatever deal they
arrive at will be against the interests of the Palestinians.
They have been cultivating the
Palestinian "leader" Mahmoud Abbas as a compliant stooge to put his stamp on
whatever they agree among themselves. But this is not so easy! Abbas, like most
people, would like to live to a ripe old age, and is also fearful of losing
even more support among the Palestinian masses than he has already lost. He
cannot afford to be seen to openly capitulate to the demands of Washington and
the Israelis. But in the end he will have no choice in the matter.
The peace summit in Annapolis has solved nothing. After four
months of endless talks about talks, Condoleezza Rice, the American secretary
of state, failed to obtain what Abbas needed: some kind of a deal on the
setting up of a Palestinian state.
States is supposed to monitor both sides’ compliance with
the "road map" peace plan of 2003, under which Israel
is meant to freeze settlement-building in the West Bank while the Palestinian
Authority (PA) takes action against militants who attack Israel.
This means that the USA has been
given the role of arbiter in the conflict by mutual consent of both the
contending parties. The United States
has agreed to supervise both sides’ compliance with the road map; this has been
presented as a win for the Palestinians since in the past Israel has been
the de facto arbiter of performance. But what this can achieve in the given
situation is strictly limited. The referee in a football match is supposed to
be neutral and therein lays his authority to decide the issue. But since this
referee is clearly inclined to one side, this "arbitration" cannot be worth
The first test is clear: what will
Olmert do about the 100-plus "unauthorized" outposts established by hard-line
settlers? The road map requires him to dismantle around 60. But previous
attempts to take even one down have led to violent clashes between the police
and settlers, who are regrouping for a showdown after losing their fight to
stay in the Gaza Strip in 2005.
It is possible that he might put some
pressure on the settlers (these are only pawns in the game of chess and pawns
can always be sacrificed in order to win more important objectives). But a
wholesale liquidation of Jewish settlements on the West
Bank is unthinkable. The settlers are fanatics who are quite
capable of provoking serious disturbances both on the West Bank and in Israel proper
and no Israeli government would want to risk such destabilization. The problem
of the settlers will therefore remain, acting as a permanent provocation to the
Palestinians. It is hard to see what role the "arbiter" has to play on this
America has appointed a general,
James Jones, as a security envoy to the PA. This does not mean much. And it is
clear that Israel
will not make his job easy. An Israeli official says that any impression that
Mr. Olmert plans a total construction freeze, as the road map stipulates, is a
"convenient misperception". This little detail is highly significant. It
exposes the hollowness of US
diplomacy. In fact, the whole thing is just that: a convenient misperception.
Where the "arbiter" will be implacable
is on the point of cracking down on the militants. The large amounts of money
the Americans are sending to the Palestinian Authority are not free of charge.
They expect something in return. They expect Abbas to crush the Palestinian
militants in order to prepare the way for a deal that will fall far short of
Palestinian aspirations. That is why for many months Washington has been arming the Palestinian
Authority and training its security forces. This is a preparation for the civil
war they know will come.
The Israeli reading of the road map is
that the PA must entirely dismantle terrorist groups before any final-status
deal that the two sides reach can go into effect and they will demand complete
compliance before any further steps are considered. But this is beyond the real
possibilities of Abbas, who fears that a serious conflict with Hamas could lead
to the complete collapse of his armed forces. Therefore the Palestinians are
insisting that they need only begin the
task of "restoring order".
Thus, the present talks have solved
nothing, nor could they solve anything. This conflict is too deep and bitter to
be solved by talks. And even when the talks resume in December, how can they
solve the important questions: the borders of the Palestinian state, the
division of Jerusalem,
the fate of 4.5m Palestinian refugees abroad, the sharing of water resources,
and other burning issues.
Olmert will concede just enough to
keep the peace process going, so as not to annoy the Americans. But he will not
concede so much that it provokes the right-wing parties to leave his coalition.
The latter have made it plain that they are not prepared to make concessions on
the key questions. For instance, they have moved a parliamentary bill that
would make it much harder for Israel
to give up any of Jerusalem
to the PA.
For his part, Abbas, who got much less
out of Annapolis
than he hoped, runs the risk of being accused of capitulation by his opponents.
The Palestinian Authority’s security forces have been cracking down viciously
on anti-Annapolis demonstrations in the West Bank.
This is a warning of things to come. Far from bringing a genuine peace
agreement for the creation of a Palestinian state, Annapolis will bring only more conflict,
bloodshed and civil war between Palestinians, leaving a legacy of bitterness
that will last a long time.
only way out
In many countries the working class,
after years of despondency and exhaustion, is taking the road of struggle. We
see this in the impressive strike wave in Egypt,
but also in Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon
and in Israel
itself. It is necessary to place on the agenda the fight for working class
policies, for proletarian international solidarity and the struggle for
socialism as the only lasting solution for the problems of the masses.
It is essential that the revolutionary
youth in Palestine
understand this. If we accept the argument that Israeli society is just
reactionary mass, then the cause of the Palestinian people would be
forever. But it is not true! In Israel
there are rich and poor, exploiters and exploited, just as in any other
country. It is necessary to work to forge links between the
revolutionaries in Palestine and the masses in Israel – Jews as well as
That is the only way to drive a wedge between the reactionary Zionist
class and the masses.
We are told that this is impossible.
That is not true! On more than one occasion in the past, there have been clear
indications that the message from the occupied territories was getting through
to the masses in Israel.
At the time of the massacre of Palestinians in Lebanon
there was a huge demonstration of protest in Israel
and in the first Intifada there were clear indications of discontent in Israel, including
in the armed forces.
Tactics like suicide bombings and
rocket attacks on civilian targets are wrong because they are
counterproductive. For every Israeli citizen that is killed they will kill many
more Palestinians. This does not do any damage to the Israeli military machine
but it is of extraordinary help to the Israeli ruling class and state. By
pushing the masses towards the Zionist state, these tactics strengthen the very
thing they intended to destroy.
We fight for socialist revolution
throughout the Middle East and in Iran,
the Gulf and North Africa. We fight against
imperialism – the main enemy of all the peoples. But we also fight against
landlordism and capitalism – the main agents of imperialism. We are opposed to
religious fundamentalism, which attempts to divert the healthy anti-imperialist
instincts of the masses into the blind alley of religious fanaticism and
reactionary obscurantism. We stand for workers’ power and socialism and a new
social order that expresses the interests of the masses. We are for the
creation of a Socialist Federation of the Middle East, where Jews and Arabs can
be guaranteed a homeland in Autonomous
That is the only real way forward!
No solution to the Palestinian
question is possible on the basis of wheeling and dealing with imperialism. The
only possible solution is to divide Israel along class lines: to break
the stranglehold of reactionary Zionism. But this demands a class position. It
is difficult to put forward this position in the given circumstances, but
events will provide the Marxists with openings as the masses come to realize
the futility of the old methods. In the meanwhile it is necessary to patiently
explain our ideas to the most advanced elements. In future our ideas will find
a mass echo.
There is a growing revolutionary
potential in Iran.
Ahmedinejad is playing at anti-Americanism as means of diverting the attention
of the masses. However, after the recent revelations about Iran’s nuclear programme, it would appear that
the prospects of an air strike against Iran have receded – at least for
This does not suit Ahmadinejad at all.
His support is rapidly eroding inside Iran, and his only hope was to keep
beating the drum about the danger of US aggression in order to divert the
masses’ attention away from their most pressing problems and thus save his
regime. He has made a public statement to the effect that the new revelations
expose Bush as a liar (which they do) and completely justify the policies of his
regime (which they do not).
Of course, Ahmadinejad is not capable
of waging a serious fight against imperialism but he had an interest in
maintaining the tension in order to deflect the attention of the masses from
their real problems. Now it is unlikely that Bush will be able to act. This
will make it easier for the development of a widespread movement of opposition
by the Iranian workers and students, which has already begun and is destined to
transform the whole political life of the region in the coming period.
The mullahs are clinging to power but
their support is collapsing. The regime is experiencing a slow process of
internal decomposition. After decades in power they are seen as corrupt and
repressive. The youth is in open revolt. Despite the powerful apparatus of
state repression, Ahmadinejad has been booed and heckled by the students. This
is a very important symptom. It is normal for the revolution to begin with a
movement of the students. That was the case in Russia in the period 1900-03. The
student protests prepared the way for the mass movement of the workers in the
1905 Revolution. It was also the case in Spain in 1930-31. In May 1930,
"When the bourgeoisie consciously and
stubbornly refuses to take upon itself the solution of the tasks flowing from
the crisis in bourgeois society; when the proletariat appears to be still
unprepared to undertake the solution of these tasks itself, then the proscenium
is often occupied by the students … The revolutionary or semi-revolutionary
activities of the students mean that bourgeois society is passing through a
deep crisis …
"The Spanish workers displayed an
entirely correct revolutionary instinct when they lent their support to the
manifestations of the students. It is understood that they must do it under
their own banner and under the leadership of their own proletarian
organization. This must be guaranteed by Spanish Communism, and for that it
needs a correct policy." (Leon Trotsky, Problems
of the Spanish Revolution)
These words are fully applicable to Iran today. The
students are protesting and demonstrating despite the heavy presence of the
Iranian regime’s security forces. On Students’ Day (Dec. 4th) around
500 students and left-wing activists took part in an illegal gathering at Tehran University.
The crowd chanted slogans denouncing the recent arrests and the climate of
intimidation and the meeting ended with the singing of the Internationale. This
shows that the radical and revolutionary traditions of the Iranian students’
movement going back to December 1953 are alive and in good health. But from a
symptomatic point of view it is still more important.
Lenin explained that there were four
conditions for revolution. The first is that the regime should be split and in
crisis. The Iranian regime is deeply split and in a complete impasse. It has
reached that point which, as de Tocqueville pointed out, was the most dangerous
moment for an autocracy is when it begins to reform. At this point a split
opens up between conservatives and reformers. The latter say: "we must reform
or there will be a revolution." The former say: "If we reform there will be a
revolution." And both are correct. Iran reached that point some time
The second condition is that the
middle layers of society should be in a state of ferment and vacillating
between revolution and the status quo. That ferment is reflected in the
movement in the universities but it is not restricted to that. Sections of the
middle class such as the small traders (bazaris) who in the past supported the
mullahs are now also disaffected. The mass base of reaction is being whittled
away, while the social reserves of revolution are growing all the time.
The next and most important element in
the equation is the working class. The mighty Iranian proletariat is the most
decisive force in the revolution. The Iranian workers are now on the move.
There has been a major strike wave, involving many sections of the working
class: bus workers, shipyards, textiles railways, the Haft-Tapeh sugar works,
oil and other sections. These strikes may begin with economic demands, but
given the nature of the regime they will inevitably take on an increasingly
political and revolutionary character.
In other words, all the conditions
mentioned by Lenin are either present or are maturing. The last condition alone
is missing: the revolutionary party and leadership. Our Iranian comrades have
done excellent work, which is as yet in its early stages, but which can take
off rapidly as the revolution develops. Iran is at a stage comparable to
the situation on the eve of January 1905. Let us remember that the Russian
Marxists were also extremely weak at that time, but grew with tremendous speed
once the working class began to move.
Ours is the only tendency that
detected a revolutionary potential in Iran. The Iranian working class has
been inoculated against Islamic fundamentalism. It is young and fresh and free
from the prejudices and distortions of reformism and Stalinism. It can move
very quickly in the direction of the most advanced revolutionary ideas. The
Iranian Revolution will cut across the stagnant and unbreathable atmosphere of
reaction that hangs over the region. It will cast off the yoke of religious
fundamentalism and resolutely take the road of socialism and workers’ power.
At this moment in time, the Iranian
revolution is the key to the Middle East. It
will cut through the fog of religious fundamentalism and reaction. It will give
hope and a new perspective to the workers and youth of the Arab world who are
beginning to reawake to the class struggle. It will cause shock waves that will
spread to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the whole of Central
Asia and its repercussions will be felt far afield.
As in Iraq
so in Afghanistan
the imperialists have failed in their fundamental objectives. The country is in
a complete mess and the shockwaves emanating from this have destabilized Pakistan. The
war drags on and western casualties are mounting. The US plan to rely on air power in Afghanistan in
order to avoid American casualties has failed. Instead the bombing has caused
heavy civilian casualties. This is the Pentagon’s version of the gentle art of
winning friends and influencing people.
British-led troops are fighting on the
ground in Helmand province. But they taking a
lot of casualties in a war they cannot win. The Taliban avoid head-on battles,
are now resorting to more suicide attacks and roadside blasts. These
"asymmetrical" (i.e. guerrilla) tactics are very effective and are used even in
suicide-bombing attack that almost killed the US vice president Dick Cheney.
British general, David Richards, is
said to have warned colleagues in London
that NATO was making "the best of a bad job" because it was short of troops.
But it is far easier to state the problem than solve it. Where will NATO get
more soldiers? Instead, more of America’s
allies will start to drop out. The will to continue fighting will evaporate as
increasing casualties affect domestic politics. This has already caused a
political crisis in Italy.
It will not be the last.
Some countries, such as Britain, Denmark
are increasing their forces. But others are not keen to lose more lives. The
Germans are present but their troops are confined to the north (where there is
little or no fighting) and are forbidden to leave barracks at night!). The
Afghan mission is unpopular in Germany,
and almost brought down the Italian government in February 2007. The Dutch are
shaky and Sarkozy has said he would also like to leave ISAF though officials
say no such move is imminent.
The acute shortage of troops on the
ground means that the imperialists will have to compensate with heavy
firepower. This means even more civilian casualties, which will further
alienate the Afghan population. The Taliban, by contrast, have plenty of money,
men and arms, financed by the Afghan poppy crop.
The opium economy and the insurgency
are mutually reinforcing; drugs finance the Taliban, while the fighting
encourages poppy cultivation, especially in Helmand, which is set to harvest
another record crop this year, producing more opium (and from it heroin and
other illegal drugs) than the rest of Afghanistan put together.
The drugs business is highly
profitable, worth some $320 billion annually. The opium trade is the equivalent
about a third of Afghanistan’s
total economy. The Afghan opium trade is worth around $60 billion at street
prices in consuming countries – and is out of control. Afghanistan
last year produced the equivalent of 6,100 tonnes of opium, about 92% of the
world total. At least the Taliban exercised some control, now there is none.
These days Taliban commanders and drug smugglers are one and the same.
Some of the biggest drug barons are
reputedly members of the national and provincial governments, even figures
close to Hamid Karzai. The Economist (28/6/07): "The whole chain of government
that is supposed to impose the rule of law, from the ministry of interior to
ordinary policemen, has been subverted. Poorly paid policemen are bribed to
facilitate the trade. Some pay their superiors to get particularly ‘lucrative’
jobs like border control."
Pakistan – the key
is a key element in US
foreign policy in Central Asia. But it is in
deep trouble, beset by a fatal combination of economic collapse, Islamist
insurgency, terrorism, splits in the state and political chaos. The exact
outcome is impossible to predict. But one thing is clear: instability will
grow, and together with it a growing social and political polarization that
will give a powerful impulse to both revolutionary and counter-revolutionary
Events in Pakistan are moving fast. General
Musharraf was compelled to quit as army chief and call an election. This sets
the stage for a big shift in Pakistan.
The splits and conflicts at the top are providing a breach through which the
accumulated discontent of the masses is thrusting itself forward. Events will
then take on a logic of their own.
The dictatorship was brought to its
knees by mass demonstrations and protests and by the intolerable contradictions
that afflict Pakistan
at all levels. As we predicted, the return of Benazir Bhutto brought millions
of workers and peasants onto the streets. This is not thanks to, but in spite
of, the policies and conduct of Benazir, who is an ally of US imperialism
and until recently was attempting to reach a compromise with Musharraf.
The Musharraf dictatorship was
undermined as a result of its own contradictions and inner rottenness. This
internal decay was shown by the lawyers’ crisis. Then there was the Red Mosque
crisis, etc. As a result the imperialists decided to ditch Musharraf and
prepare for Bhutto’s return to Pakistan. The
return of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, and the formal exit from the army of
General Pervez Musharraf spelled the beginning of the end for the dictatorship.
It has simply ran out of steam and is collapsing under its own weight.
has had a stormy history since it attained formal independence, together with India, in 1947.
Since then the weak Pakistan
bourgeoisie has shown itself completely unable to take this huge country
forward. It remains plunged in dire poverty and feudal backwardness. The
economy is in a mess and the country is going backwards not forwards.
The weakness of Pakistan
capitalism has been manifested in extreme political instability. Weak
"democratic" regimes have been succeeded at regular intervals by military
dictatorships of one kind or another. The last dictator, Zia al Huq was
murdered (probably by the CIA). Musharraf fears the same fate, and is
desperately clinging to power. But power is already slipping through his
The proclamation of emergency was a
desperate gambler’s throw that plunged the country into political
chaos, as we
predicted. It did not suit the interests of US
imperialism, for which Pakistan
now has a key strategic importance because of the war in neighbouring
Afghanistan. Washington exerted pressure on Musharraf to crack down on
the pro-Taliban forces that have been crossing the frontier to fight
forces in southern Afghanistan.
This pressure from all sides
undermined Musharraf. His army has suffered severe losses in the Tribal Areas
where they have tried unsuccessfully to uproot the militants. There is still a
powerful wing of the army and above all the Intelligence Services (ISI) that
supports the Taliban and al Qaeda and is protecting them.
Musharraf is powerless to do anything
about this. The army was his only basis of support, and that proved to be very
shaky. Therefore, the strategists of US imperialism came to the
conclusion that Musharraf was no longer any use to them and was disposable.
They were looking to Benazir Bhutto to take over instead.
for the Pakistan People’s Party
For the lawyers and professional
politicians "democracy" is a matter of getting into lucrative parliamentary and
ministerial positions. Their main objection to Musharraf is not one of
principle but merely that the army was getting too big a share of the state pie
and not leaving enough for them. For the "political class" the whole question
boils down to a struggle to see who gets their snout into the pig’s trough.
The American bourgeois have other
interests. They have their own (much bigger) pig’s trough at home. The defence
of what they call "American interests" is ultimately connected with this. But
in order to protect "American interests" (that is, the interests of the big US banks and
multinationals) they must attend to foreign policy.
US foreign policy has two
departments: the first is the US Army, Navy and Air Force, the second is
diplomacy. The first uses naked force to crush enemies, the second uses a
combination of threats, bribery and corruption to obtain the support of
"friendly governments", since friendship is also a commodity and can be
purchased like any other commodity.
Unfortunately, also like any other
commodity, friends can cease to be useful and their market value declines
accordingly. The market value of General Musharraf’s friendship has been very
low for quite some time now. Therefore Washington
is looking for new friends in Islamabad.
Benazir lost no opportunity to pose as
a pro-western "moderate". But behind Benazir and the PPP stand the masses who
yearn for a change. They are loyal to the original socialist aspirations of the
PPP and are demanding roti, kapra aur
makan (bread, clothing and shelter), which Pakistan capitalism is not able to
give them. The attitude of the masses was shown when Benazir returned to Pakistan: at
least two million people came onto the streets: the overwhelming majority were
workers, peasants and poor people.
was at first relieved when Nawaz Sharif was deported back to Saudi Arabia in
September 2007, but, having witnessed the mass mobilizations that were provoked
by Benazir’s return, is now pleased to see him back. The Saudi royal family
demanded that the leader of the Moslem League be allowed back. The Saudis want
to prevent a PPP victory at all costs, and wanted Musharraf to lean on the
Muslim League to keep Benazir out of office. The imperialists wanted to balance
between Sharif and Bhutto. They wanted to push them into a coalition as a
safeguard against the masses.
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto
has transformed the entire situation. The masses have been stirred into action.
If the elections are held, they will vote massively for the PPP. In the short
term, the "centre" will gain in the form of a PPP government, possibly in
coalition with the Muslim League. But this will be shown to be impotent and
unable to solve the fundamental problems of society. The "centre" will be
exposed as a gigantic zero.
of the regime
The imperialists and the Pakistan ruling
class were not afraid of Benazir Bhutto but they are terrified of the masses
that stand behind the PPP. They want a fundamental change in society and will
not be satisfied with empty speeches and promises.
Benazir wanted to form a coalition
with Sharif because she needed an excuse for not carrying out policies in the
interests of the workers and peasants. But the workers and poor peasants will
not accept any excuses. They will press forward with their most urgent demands.
This will open up a whole new situation for the class struggle in Pakistan.
All the petty intrigues and manoeuvres
are taking place at the top. The journalists and commentators are fascinated by
this "political drama", which resembles the noisy squabbling among the midgets
at a circus. All these endless combinations and deals are only the froth on the
waves of the ocean that are the visible expression of the powerful currents
underneath. What is decisive, however, is not the former but the latter.
The crisis in Pakistan is not
a superficial political crisis but a crisis of the regime itself. Weak Pakistan
capitalism, rotten and corrupt to the marrow, has led a vast country of 160
million people into a horrific impasse. For more than half a century the
bourgeoisie has shown itself incapable of carrying the Nation forward. It now
finds itself in a complete impasse, which threatens to drag it down into a
Only the masses, led by the working
class, can show a way out of this nightmare. The real constituency of the PPP
is the masses: the millions of workers and peasants, of revolutionary youth and
unemployed who came onto the streets, after the assassination of the PPP leader.
They were not cheering an individual but an ideal: the ideal of a genuinely
democratic and just Pakistan:
a Pakistan without rich and
poor, without oppressors and oppressed: a socialist Pakistan.
In the next period the masses will
have to back to the school of the PPP where they will learn some harsh lessons.
But the masses in general always learn from experience. How else are they to
learn? The next period will be a period of storm and stress. A PPP government
will be immediately subject to enormous pressures from all sides: the masses
will demand measures in their interests, and the imperialists, landlords and
capitalists will demand measures in the interests of the rich and powerful. It
will be ground between two millstones.
Only our tendency understood and
predicted this development. As usual, the ultra left sects were utterly
incapable of understanding the way the masses think and move. As always the
Marxists participate in the real, living movement of the masses, fighting for
the same concrete goals against the same class enemies. We do not lecture the
workers and peasants from the sidelines like a school teacher lecturing little
children. We explain patiently, stage by stage and help the workers to draw
their own conclusions.
In the end, the workers and peasants
will learn how to distinguish between those leaders who stand for the interests
of the working people and those who do not. The Marxists in the PPP will oppose
all attempts to form coalitions or deals with the Moslem league. We demand the
implementation of the original programme of the PPP, a socialist programme
based on the expropriation of the landlords and capitalists. We will develop
the necessary transitional demands to relate every concrete struggle for
advance to the goal of the socialist transformation of society.
As in Iran,
the classical conditions for revolution are developing in Pakistan. Every
revolution begins at the top, with splits in the old regime. That first condition
already exists in Pakistan.
The middle class is completely alienated from the ruling clique. This is partly
reflected in the protests of the lawyers, although the movement contains
contradictory elements. In recent years there has been an upsurge of the class
struggle in Pakistan,
with major strikes like that of the telecommunications workers and Pakistan
Steel. In the last few days there was a national strike of PIA (Pakistan
Airways). These strikes have hardly been mentioned by the media outside Pakistan but
they are of great symptomatic importance. They show the reawakening of the Pakistan
The final and most important condition
is the existence of a revolutionary organization and leadership. Does this
exist in Pakistan?
Yes, it does! The Pakistan Marxists represented by The Struggle have grown in
strength and influence in recent years. They have conquered one position after
another and have succeeded in uniting the overwhelming majority of the militant
youth and working class activists around them. They have a strong and growing
presence in every region, every nationality and every important city.
In the struggles of the workers, they
have played an outstanding role. Together with the PTUDC (Pakistan Trade Union
Defence Campaign) – the most important militant trade union organization in Pakistan, they
have scored significant victories like the defeat of the attempt to privatize
Pakistan Steel. In Kashmir they have won over the majority of the students to
Marxism and in Karachi
and Pakhtunkhua (the North West Frontier) they have won many adherents from the
former Communist Party.
We were the only ones on the Left to
understand the role of the PPP and the only ones to predict how the masses
would respond. The Pakistan
comrades intervened on these demonstrations, distributing revolutionary
literature and chanting revolutionary slogans. They were enthusiastically
received by the workers and peasants who want the same things that we want.
Important developments are on the
order of the day and our comrades are in a good position to take advantage of
them. The battle lines are being drawn ever more clearly: either black reaction
or the triumph of the socialist revolution in Pakistan,
and in the whole subcontinent. Pakistan
may well have the honour of being the first country to strike a blow for
socialism and light the flame of revolution that will set both Central Asia and the Subcontinent ablaze.
In world revolution as a whole, Latin America remains at the front line. This is the
final answer to all the reformists, cowards and apostates who accepted the
arguments of the bourgeoisie that revolution and socialism were off the agenda. US
imperialism is increasingly worried about what is happening south of the Rio Grande. The reason
for this growing alarm is that the revolutionary ferment is spreading from one
country to another.
Revolutions do not respect frontiers
and the revolutionary ferment is spreading to countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, etc. That is why they are
trying to isolate Venezuela.
imperialism cannot tolerate the Venezuelan Revolution. But as happened in Cuba, US imperialism could push Chavez
beyond the limits of capitalism. If this occurs, its effects will be felt
throughout the continent and beyond.
In the 1980s, civil wars in Guatemala, El
Salvador and Nicaragua propelled the region to
the forefront of the cold war. But lately the Middle East has pushed Latin
America aside in Washington’s
foreign-policy priorities. Now that is changed. The concern in Washington was reflected in the visit of George Bush to
a region he has neglected throughout much of his presidency. Although his route
was chosen with great care and confined to "friendly" countries, the US president
was met with protest demonstrations.
Everywhere Washington sees the hand of Chavez and the
Bolivarian Revolution. This is typical of the police mentality, which sees
revolutions (and even strikes) as the result of malign conspirators and not
objective processes. It is true that Chavez and the Venezuelan revolution are
acting as a catalyst of revolution throughout the continent. But even the most
powerful catalyst can only work if the conditions are given. The objective
conditions for socialist revolution are given in practically every country in Latin America.
What is required to guarantee success
in the shortest time and with the minimum of sacrifice is a revolutionary
Marxist Party and leadership. That is perfectly true. But nature abhors a
vacuum. The masses cannot wait until we have built the revolutionary party! In
the absence of such a party, Chavez serves as a catalyst. He is giving a voice
to the aspirations of the masses to change society. That explains the violent
hostility he faces from US imperialism, which is determined to get rid of him
one way or another.
influence in Latin America is at a low ebb.
They could not even get the OAS to intervene against Venezuela. Latin American attitudes
to their powerful neighbour to the North have been hardening. In a recent poll
for the BBC World Service, 64% of Argentines, 57% of Brazilians, 53% of
Mexicans and 51% of Chileans said they had a "mainly negative" view of American
In the past, the Marines would have
landed long ago. Today this is impossible, politically and even physically. The
US army is tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is unthinkable that
it could be involved in another military adventure at this time. So they are
obliged to use other methods: diplomacy and intrigue. But even in this terrain
Bush is limited by falling popularity.
America backed military
dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s but has changed its tactics after burning
its fingers with the likes of Noriega. It now generally prefers weak democratic
regimes, although that did not stop it from organizing the 2002 coup in Venezuela.
Bush’s commitment to democracy is relative and dictated purely by tactical
considerations. This is not to
say they won’t attack. They are already attacking. But they cannot invade
openly – they must resort to indirect methods, diplomatic pressure, economic pressure
and political intrigues.
In Nicaragua Daniel Ortega won the
presidential elections, despite American officials openly campaigning for
right-wing candidates. Washington was clearly
involved in the massive electoral fraud in Mexico designed to prevent the
election of the PRD candidate Lopez Obrador. It tried but failed to prevent the
election of Rafael Correa in Ecuador.
However, it succeeded in installing its stooge Alan Garcia in Peru and now wants to reward him at the same
time as it intrigues against Venezuela,
Bolivia and Ecuador.
imperialism is trying to place a cordon
sanitaire around Venezuela,
(and also Bolivia and Ecuador). That
was the meaning of Bush’s tour of Latin America and the attempt to sign bilateral
trade agreements with certain Latin American countries (Colombia,
Brazil, Panama, Peru). Washington is hostile to the
governments of Evo