|The Global British Empire was the greatest prison|
and charnal house in history.
Instead of removing Saddam and replacing him with a US friendly, and more reliable, agent, as the neo-Cons had planned, instead Iraq became, essentially, an adjunct of Iran, which is what those more enlightened sections of the US State Power must have feared from the beginning. The US has now to either cut its losses from that venture, or to press on. In other words, it would now have to wage a war against Iran, in order to destroy the influence of the Shia majority in both Iran and Iraq, and the potential for them to lend assistance to their brethren in the Gulf States where they are oppressed by a Sunni ruling class. It is, of course, the Gulf States, which control the majority of the oil, which is the main concern of the US. Those Gulf States have only very small populations, and a powerful Iran and Iraq, together with Syria would be in a strong position to come to the support of their Shia populations, as a means of overthrowing the existing feudal monarchies. They do not do so openly because that would bring the US into the conflict. But, if the US is seen to be intervening anyway, then there would be no reason for Iran, Iraq, and Syria together with other Shia forces in the region not to respond accordingly.
But the course of events demonstrates the danger of this strategy for the US. Libya shows how easily control can be lost. Once again, Imperialism used an existing and potential atrocity to justify its intervention. As with the Falklands, with the Balkans, with Iraq, with Afghanistan no stable, certainly no progressive, solution to the problem was achieved. Instead, countries and economies were destroyed, tens of thousands of people were killed, and the use of depleted uranium munitions in each case is leaving a toxic legacy for generations of the peoples of these countries to suffer. As could have been predicted by any Marxist, and as indeed I did predict, instead of the rule of Gaddafi being replaced by some nice European type, or even Latin American style bourgeois democracy, Libya has descended into a sectarian hell-hole. One half of the country, with the oil, wants to secede from the other; tribes that have been at odds for generations fight to settle scores, to win advantage etc.; and clerical-fascist forces undertake jihad to secure domination.
As Trotsky pointed out long ago, Imperialism does not fight wars for moral purposes. So, despite all of our understandable feelings of disgust at events in Syria, and feeling that something must be done, we have to conclude that what must not be done is for us to call for Imperialism to intervene in Syria. Indeed, as Trotsky pointed out in relation to the Balkans,
“Therefore an uncompromising protest against atrocities serves not only the purpose of moral self-defence on the personal and party level but also the purpose of politically safeguarding the people against adventurism concealed under the flag of ‘liberation’.”
We should do all in our power to support the workers of Syria, and any truly revolutionary forces allied with them – which does not include clerical-fascists, or forces acting as the agents of external powers – and part of that includes opposing the intervention of our own Imperialist states. But, the Left does not have a good record in this regard.
Thus, in countries that are already fully capitalist and have workers’ parties that really act as the vanguard of the proletariat, the struggle against opportunist and petty-bourgeois pacifist distortions of the concept and policy of internationalism is a primary and cardinal task...
With regard to the more backward states and nations, in which feudal or patriarchal and patriarchal-peasant relations predominate, it is particularly important to bear in mind:..
...the need for a struggle against the clergy and other influential reactionary and medieval elements in backward countries;
third, the need to combat Pan-Islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc.;..
fifth, the need for a determined struggle against attempts to give a communist colouring to bourgeois-democratic liberation trends in the backward countries; the Communist International should support bourgeois-democratic national movements in colonial and backward countries only on condition that, in these countries, the elements of future proletarian parties, which will be communist not only in name, are brought together and trained to understand their special tasks, i.e., those of the struggle against the bourgeois-democratic movements within their own nations. The Communist International must enter into a temporary alliance with bourgeois democracy in the colonial and backward countries, but should not merge with it, and should under all circumstances uphold the independence of the proletarian movement even if it is in its most embryonic form;”
Yet, on the one hand we have seen those such as the SWP ,who have lost faith in the working-class, and instead engaged in a Moralistic Quest against Imperialism, align themselves with the most rancid and reactionary forces, purely on the basis of their claims to be “Anti-Imperialist.” Instead of maintaining a strict separation and hostility, to these reactionary forces, the SWP have proclaimed, “We are all Hezbollah now!” On the other hand, we have seen their mirror image in the AWL, which, for the same reasons, has engaged in its own Moralistic Quest, but this time lining up behind the forces of “Democratic Imperialism”, and has in the process found itself likewise lining up with similarly reactionary forces, be it apologising for people like Sistani in Iraq, or the Qatari Royal family in its intervention in Libya, or its support for the Clerical-Fascist rebels in Libya.
As Trotsky once said, it is our responsibility to tell the truth to the workers, even when that truth is unpalatable. When a strike cannot be won, and a tactical retreat will enable our forces to best survive, we have to say so. When workers rush ahead of themselves as they were doing in 1870, when Marx advised the Parisian workers not to rise up, or as they did in the July Days of 1917, we have to warn against adventurism. When our forces are too weak, to be able to intervene decisively, to achieve the ends we seek, we also have to say so. The fact is that our forces are currently very, very weak. We have to recognise that fact, and act accordingly to build them up on a principled basis. As Trotsky warned the Palestinian Trotskyists prior to WWII, who wanted to abandon the position of opposition to Imperialism against the threat of fascism,
“That policy which attempts to place upon the proletariat the unsolvable task of warding off all dangers engendered by the bourgeoisie and its policy of war is vain, false, mortally dangerous. “But fascism might be victorious!” “But the USSR is menaced!” “But Hitler’s invasion would signify the slaughter of workers!” And so on, without end. Of course, the dangers are many, very many. It is impossible not only to ward them all off, but even to foresee all of them. Should the proletariat attempt at the expense of the clarity and irreconcilability of its fundamental policy to chase after each episodic danger separately, it will unfailingly prove itself a bankrupt. In time of war, the frontiers will be altered, military victories and defeats will alternate with each other, political regimes will shift. The workers will be able to profit to the full from this monstrous chaos only if they occupy themselves not with acting as supervisors of the historical process but by engaging in the class struggle. Only the growth of their international offensive will put an end not alone to episodic “dangers” but also to their main source: the class society.”
|Trotsky advised the Spanish workers to build their|
own organisations and maintain a strict political and
organisational separation from their class enemies.
Our task in Syria, as elsewhere, is to support the Syrian workers to help them organise to defend their interests against their class enemies be they within the regime of Assad, or within the ranks of the clerical-fascists and their Imperialist and feudalist backers. As Marxists, the most important way we can fulfil that task is to carry out our role as set out by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto, by acting as the memory of the class, conveying to the Syrian workers the lessons of history, and the dangers they face from their class enemies under whatever mask. The most significant weapon we have to assist the Syrian workers is the scientific method of Marxism, and the ability arising from it, to understand the situation of the workers, and the means by which to advance it. That involves not only carrying such a programme to the workers, but of doing whatever we can to assist them in building their own organisations and structures in order to advance their position, and transform the material conditions which limit it. That involves the building of Workers Defence Squads and Militia to physically defend the workers. It involves building Factory Committees and Peasant Committees as alternative organs of power to the institutions of bourgeois democracy. It involves the occupation of workplaces, and the establishment of Co-ops where possible to provide the workers with material means of support. It involves the building of Neighbourhood Committees to co-ordinate the Factory Committees, the Militia and so on, as a preparation for building Workers Councils. It involves the building of a mass Workers Party capable of quickly developing alongside the consciousness of the workers, and establishing an ever more adequate, ever more revolutionary programme.
But, we have to tell the truth, and state openly that our resources for achieving this are scant. The resources of the Syrian workers are small, and the forces of their opponents are great. We do no favour to the Syrian workers in hiding that fact and encouraging them towards adventures. But, that does not imply defeatism either. It does not imply that the Syrian workers should throw in their lot with one group of their class enemies as opposed to another i.e. lesser evilism. It implies that the Syrian workers should all the more keep their distance from both these groups of its enemies, and focus instead on building up its own resources and defence, ready for when it is in a position to go on to the offensive. As Lenin advised, it requires the most flexible of tactical approaches, playing off one group of its opponents against the other, making tactical short term alliances with one, and then the other, to gain whatever advantage it can to build its own forces.
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