Saturday, 2 August 2008

Israel and the USS Liberty

Some time ago BBC Four showed a documentary titled "Dead in the Water". It was about the USS Liberty, a US spy ship stationed off the Israeli coast at the outbreak of the six-day war. The Liberty was attacked first by Israeli jets with torpedoes, then strafed, and later it and survivors in the water were attacked by Israeli torpedo boats. The official story put out by the Israeli government and accepted by the US government is that it was an accident. Israel claimed that they thought the boat was Egyptian. The documentary showed fairly conclusively this was a load of bollocks.

Not only was the ship quite clearly marked, its name in huge letters, it was flying the US flag, it had been there for some considerable time etc., etc. but further information including from Israeli pilots (one of whom refused to attack the ship because he knew it was American) showed that its identity was known before the start of the attack.

So why did the attack take place. The documentary interviewed a number of people involved at the time, including the US Defence Secretary Robert McNamara. From these interviews a number of pieces of information came out. Firstly, the US had been flying missions from inside Israel over Egypt. This together with pictures from US spy planes and satellites provided the kind of intelligence the Israelis needed to make the decisive strike on Egyptian assets that eventually was decisive in the war. At the time, Egypt and Syria were Soviet clients in the area, and as part of the Cold War geopolitics, the US had a clear interest in the outcome. This also seems to be perhaps the reason for the attack on the Liberty. The US seems to have thought that there was a possibility of the Soviets coming in to support Egypt and Syria.

What the programme uncovered, and what is still not mentioned in many of the US sites which deal with the attack on the Liberty is that jets from the US 6th fleet had been despatched for Cairo with nuclear payloads. They had been launched to retaliate against an Egyptian attack on the Liberty. Adding, to this is the fact that having shot up the Liberty the Israelis jammed its radio transmissions. This could only be done apparently if you knew the frequencies on which the ship was transmitting. However, due to the bravery of sailors on the Liberty who climbed the masts to rig radio masts whilst being strafed by Israeli warplanes the ship was able to get out an SOS, and to transmit a message that it was under attack by Israeli warplanes. Only then when crews on the ships of the 6th fleet picked up this message did Mcnamara call back the US warplanes. The plan seemed to have been to nuke Cairo in order to frighten off the Soviets from intervening.

The incident shows just how far the US is prepared to go in creating situations which justify its imperialist ambitions.

See: Dead In The Water

and associated links.

See Also:

Attack on the USS Liberty

In recent years Israel has fought a number of wars in the region. The invaswion of Lebanon, and attacks against Hezbollah, and even its support for Fatah as against Hamas, have been recognised by most observers for what they are - proxy wars between the US and Iran. If Israel attacks Iran on the pretext of the potential of IRan developing nuclear weapons such an attack can only be seen as a continuation of that policy. It will undoubtedly be used as a pretext - once Iran responds - for a full scale attack by the US in defnce of its Israeli allies.

The working class in Israel must begin to mobilise now against any such attack by Israel, an attack which will be catastrophic for Israeli as well as Iranian workers. The world Labour Movement must mobilise to support Israeli workers in such action, but must also mobilise against the huge mobilisation of US imperialism in the Gulf, which is preparing such a War in order to maintain and develop its strategic military positions in the Region - and up through the resource rich and vitally important Central Asian republics - as it recognises the growing competition it faces with the new dynamic world economic powers in China, India and Russia - a competition frighteningly similar to that in the 20 twenty years that led up to World War I - a competition, which the increasingly sclerotic US economy is ill-prepared to win, but which its military hegemony can still secure. The strategy was set out clearly in the "Project for a New American Century". It is the reason the US invaded Iraq, and has constructed three huge fortified US enclaves there as large as small cities, it is why it has done deals with various dictators in the Stans to forge a series of strategic bases that can be used in a war against both China and Russia for the vast resources of Central Asia, it is why it has established its bases in Afghanistan, it is why it has attempted to sow nationalist discontent in Tibet, and in the Balkans where again it has established important strategic military bases and outposts.

Marxists do not concern themselves in such situations with whether one side or another in such wars between expansionist capitalist robbers - and Iran is expansionist if not imperialist, which is why the US will be forced to attack it sooner or later - but only in looking to the interests of the working class, and mobilising them against the war aims of the capitalists. But, as Trotsky pointed out workers ultimately cannot prevent capitalist powers going to war, or control the actions of capitalist armies. The best they can do is to be defeatists against their own governments, and striving to turn imperialist war in a class civil war. Only through the overthrow of the capitalist regimes in Tel Aviv, Washington and Tehran can workers snatch the control of the military out of the hands of their own immediate enemies - the capitalists - only on that basis can a guarantee against imperialist war be obtained.


Anonymous said...

this is pretty apocalyptic stuff mate. unfortunately the scenarios you present are all too believable and realistic. I really am deeply fearful of what the next few years holds in store for us. I think the US is more dangerous than ever due the the neo-cons' influence in government there. Do you think global war is on the horizon?


Boffy said...

No, not on the horizon, but just over it. Marxists believe following Lenin, and his analyis in "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism", that capitalism has a necessary drive to war built into it. In the latter part of the 19th century, as newly emerging capitalist powers such as Germany and France, and the US, scrambled around the globe for their own protected markets into which to sell goods, to export Capital, and to purchase cheap raw materials and food, Engels noted that the inevitable consequence of this growing competition would necessarily be military conflict. He was right, it emerged with WWI.

The world economy moves in an approximately 50 year cycle, as I have outlined elsewhere - approximately 25 years up, and 25 years down. In the period from around the end of the 1880's until 1913-14 the world was in one of these upward phases. New dynamic economies arose, world trade grew rapidly, demand for raw materials etc. grew strongly. Hence the scramble for these colonies. During these phases, capitalism does well. The absolute volume of profit grows, bu the rate of profit tends to decline as more machinery and fixed Capital is used compared to Labour, whilst the absolute increase in the demand for Labour raises wages, and the demand ofr materials raises prices for these basic resources.

As the end of this part of the cylce approaches these factors beome more a break on capitalist development. Capital seeks to hold back the growth of wages, seeks to squeeze raw material prices and so on. Social conflicts arise, and also as the decline in the Rate of Profit becomes no longer offset by its absolute increase Capital seeks more and more to find overseas employment for this Capital, the extent of competition with other Capitalist powers can no longer be contained within the bounds of mere economic competition, but breaks out into open military conflict between them.

That was the nature of the First World War. The Second World War was still an imperialist War, but was slightly different. By the time of WWII the world was effectively already carved up between the mian imperialist powers. It could no longer be a question of simple competition for the acquisition of new colonies. It could only be a question of one imperialist power taking colonies from others. Moreover, the Versailles Treaty had aimed and succeeded - until Hitler - in confining Germany, and constraining its economic development. That too was an aspect of inter imperialist competition, and one which ultimately Germany would fight to burst out of.

We are in a different situation to WWII, but more similar to WWI. After WWII, partly under the auspices of US Imperialism the system of colonies was dismantled. The US had no colonies to speak of, and its economic hegemony meant that it had an interest in seeing all these protected markets opened up to its goods. Moreover, it recognised that the system of Colonial rule had very heavy overhead costs in terms of administration. It was much better to do deals with a local comprador bourgeoisie to bear that cost. Moreover, the USSR was not intereste in fermenting genuine socialist revolution around the globe, but only in expanding its own sphere of influence whilst if possible avoiding any open conflict with imperialism. It believed that its aims could be achieved by financing national liberation movements whose aims were basically to carry through bouregois democratic revolutions and establish nationalist regimes. Where it could gain the support of such forces to its own vision of "socialism" all the better - for example Vietnam - but such cases wer likely to result in opposition from imperialism, and so the USSR fought wars by proxy using these local forces rather than its own, and keeping its own involvement to the level of finance, and "technical" support.

The consequence of this was that Trotsky's argument in "Permanent Revolution" had to be modified to accommodate this new circumstance. TRotsky had argued that the bourgeoisie would not carry through a bouregois democratic revolution - and included in this is a revolution for national liberation - because in the modern epoch an organised revolutionary proletariat would be able to draw behid it the peasantry and petit-bourgeoise to carry a revolution on into a socialist revolution. The bourgeoisie would then always draw back, and side with either an imperialist power or the old landlord class.

But, this assumed that the workers would be organised to fight for a socialist revolution. IN country after country it was clear that the Stalinists would actually hold back the workers from such a struggle - they had done that in China in the 1920's and in Spain in the 1930's for example - so it became increasingly possible for such national bouregoise's to choose the path of bourgeois democratic revolution. IN Latin America for instance we saw a big growth in bouregois democratic regimes that replaced former despotisms, military regimes, and Bonapartist and comprador regimes.

The fall of Stalinism enhanced that prospect even more, and the growth of bouregois demcoracy around the world has increased accordingly. We now have a system of states more like that pre 1914, than that pre 1939. The main differecne is that most states around the world stad much higher developmentally than they did then.

BUt, since 1999 the world has entered a new Long Wave upswing, and a look at the world economy shows a huge icnrease in economic activity. Every economy in the world is booming or at least not in recession, despite the current slow down. Demand for raw materials and food have soared as the new economies suck them in, which has caused the soaring prices of these commodities. Deman for Labour has risen to. China nad India have addresed that by drawing from their vast reserves in their peasantry. The US and Western Europe have addressed it by taking in immigrants from Eastern Europe and elsewhere. But, despite that, and the hopes of the bouregoisie that this plus the attacks on the Labour mvoement over the last 30 years would have undermined the working class, wages have begun to rise. Workers in France resisted the attacks of the Government. Workers in China and the rest of Asia have increasingly undertaken militant strike action. Workers in Germany have won succesful strikes for double digit pay rises, even the tanker drivers in Britain won a 14% pay rise, and workers in the US are now winning bigger pay rises too.

For now, the absolute rise in the volume of profit, the prosperity generated by the new upswing - which I beleive will be greater than anything the world has ever seen - is maintaining the compeition between the capitalist robbers within bounds. For now, China is capturing supplies of raw materials an foodstuffs through bilateral deals in Africa and Latin America. The US is using the power of its Capital to buy up and establish new ventures in Kazakhstan and the Caspian Basin and so on.

Yet, even now there are choke points. The fact that we have probably hit Peak Oil, and that the US economy like most of the world is dependent upon oil, means that a crisis around oil supply can break out at any point. The US has started to become protectionist. It has blocked attempts to buy US assets by both China, and by Kuwait. The collapse of the recent WTO discussions are another example of that. These are clear indications of a brewing conflict.

When the last boom period ended in the mid 70's we did not see the kind of explosion that we saw in WWI. Largely, that can be explained by the fact that the main line of clonflict lay between the Warsaw pact and the US and NATO. Both camps were heavily armed with nuclear weapons. Moreover, faced with a common enemy in the form of the USSR the other impreialist powers sheltering under the nuclear umbrella of the US hegemon, operated like a form of global corporation as Karl Kautsky had once described it in his theory of super-imperialism. BY the time, the USSR collapsed the world was well ensconced in the down leg of the cycle. Demand for food and raw materials was no longer an issue. Indeed, they fell to record low prices.

Today, the situation is different. The US remains the largest economy in the world, but large is not necessarily strong. In fact, the US economy has been seriously weakening for the last 30 years, manifest in its Trade and Budget deficits. Moreover, financial analysts are now calculating that on curent projections China will passthe US to become the world's largest economy within 10 years. In addition, Europe for the last 18 years has not needed the US nulear umbrella. It has icnreasingly begun to plough its own furrow. Witness the conflicts over the Airbus and Boeing etc., the refusal to support the US in Iraq, and so on. The dollar has fallen by 50% against the Euro as the European economy has strengthened.

Meanwhile, China has become a superpower, and high oil prices have bolstered not just the oil producers in the Middle east etc. but have also rejuvenated the Stalinist State in Russia. After the calamity that befell the USSR as a result of the yeltsin boureois counter-revolution - GDP fell 40%, unemployment rose to phenomenal levels, people were left to scavenge for food in dustbins - the Stalinist State apparatus took advantage of discontent, to begin to recoup control into its hands. The growth of the economy from oil revenues facilitated that process, as it began to use powerful state economic bodies such s Gazprom to simply buy up other important sectors of the economy. In addition it has used traditional Stalinist methods such as the arrest of Khodorkovsky, and the seizure of his assets, as well as the recent events over TK-BNP. The extent of control of the Chinese Stalinist state does not preclude the return to such methods there at some point either.

China has been building new huge submarine bases in the pacific in deep water with the clear intention to use naval power in the region to exert strategic control. At the same time, the US has been developing its Star Wars II Programme with the clear intention that it can launch pre-emptive nuclesr strikes against its opponents in the belief that any retaliation can be simply knocked out of the sky.

The greater the economic development over the next decade or so, the greater the contradictions that will be built up within the system, and the greater the calamity that will befall the world when that contradiction comes to be resolved.

I doubt that the Star wars initiative will succeed. Certainly, I wouldn't want to be a US military advisor recommending reliance on it. Chairman Mao once said that China could win a nuclear war, because it could afford to lose tens of millions of people, and still have hundreds of millions left. One would hope that the urent leaders are rather better informed.

It is far more likely then that global conflict when it ensues will take the form of war by proxy, or attempts at limited wars launched agaisnt weak states. The current build up of forces in the strategic positions of the world such as I outlined above is the prelude to that.

But War has its own logic and dynamic. I would not like to gamble on the competing robber barons being able to conatin conflict if it breaks out. It could turn out that the working class ended up like the slaves unable to fulfil their historic mission, or at least fulfill it in time, and that the world is headed at best for barbarism at worst (?) for the extinction of humanity as a species. Let's hope not. Better still let's organise and struggle for workers to begin to take back the means of production from the bosses here and now through the mobilisation of the Workers Capital to establish Co-operatives, and on that basis to create a Co-operative international co-operative, which is the only guarantor against war.