Friday, 20 May 2011

Imperialists Call For More Death & Destruction In Libya

Two months ago, the main Imperialist powers pushed a resolution through one of their international state structures – the United Nations – to allow them to intervene in Libya. As with all such wars, the Imperialist powers covered their true intentions with a hypocritical veneer of concern for the people of Libya. Just how thin that hypocritical veneer really is can be see from looking at the reality of the situation. Firstly, the very weapons being used against the Libyan people by Gaddafi, are weapons that until a few months ago, were being sold to him, by those very same Imperialist powers. Secondly, Imperialism itself has hardly been shy in imposing terrible atrocities on civilians around the globe, in pursuance of its own politico-strategic, and economic interests. A look at the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Civilians killed or maimed by the War launched against them by the US and UK, is evidence to that, and possibly millions of Iraqi children died as a result of more than a decade of sanctions imposed on them by those same powers.
Even today, those Imperialist powers are reported to be using depleted Uranium munitions in Libya, which will have devastating effects on future generations of Libyans, long after the conflict of today is forgotten. Thirdly, those Imperialist powers show no similar concern for civilians in Bahrain – where the US even has its fleet anchored, and so could intervene easily – as they are attacked and imprisoned by the Bahraini Royal Family, and the US's other allies, the regime in Saudi Arabia, and Gulf Co-operation Council. And, in Obama's speech yesterday, that hypocrisy was repeated.
On the one hand continued threats against Libya, and Syria, whilst simply asking, oh so nicely, if the regimes in Bahrain, Yemen and Israel would stop acting in exactly the same way. Obama's statements about a Palestinian State, within 1967 borders, were meaningless, because, despite the massive financing of Israel by the US, it is clear that he will not even threaten to withdraw that, let alone start bombing Tel Aviv, in order that the Israeli regime stops killing Palestinians, stops building illegal settlements on Palestinian land etc. If Obama's statements in that regard had any meaning, yesterday, it was to reflect a growing awareness that, if the Arab Spring does continue, and results in meaningful change, the US's relations in the region will have to change, and its reliance on Israel will be diminished, at the same time that Israel will have a far more effective opposition in the form of bourgeois democratic states on its borders, under pressure to respond to the demands of their people, including in relation to a defence of the Palestinians.

It is clear, reading between the lines of news stories, such as this one from the BBC, that the real intentions of the Imperialists, in Libya, has nothing to do with protecting Libyan civilians, and everything to do with installing a regime there under its control. The UN resolution 1973 was supposed to provide for the protection of civilians against Gaddafi's use of air-power, by introducing a “No Fly Zone”. From Day One, the imperialists began, not a No Fly Zone, but an operation of providing air cover for the anti-Gaddafi forces.
There have been no reports of any Libyan aeroplanes having been shot down as part of this no fly zone, other than a military jet belonging to the anti-Gaddafi forces themselves! But, there have been lots of reports of tanks, and other vehicles being destroyed, and more bizarrely, for a No Fly Zone, of Libyan ships being destroyed. There have been lots of reports of bombing of civilian areas in Tripoli, where the majority of the population lives, many of these attacks being clearly designed to try to kill Gaddafi and his family. And, as that BBC story points out, after two months of this intensive bombing War against Libya, General David Richards has called for that bombing to be intensified further with more attacks on Libyan infrastructure.
In other words, far from protecting civilians in Libya, what the Imperialists are demanding is even more death and destruction to be inflicted on the Libyan people. On top of the long-term problems that will arise from the use of depleted Uranium munitions, further attacks on Libyan infrastructure will mean that after this War is over, then, whoever wins, Libya will have a major economic catastrophe to deal with, as that infrastructure has to be rebuilt. And, just as the Imperialists were happy to sell weapons to Gaddafi, when they saw him as their best available option, so after the War, they will be happy to sell materials etc. to effect that rebuilding of the infrastructure, to whoever is in charge.
They will no doubt be keen to ensure that if they can install their preferred regime, from within the ranks of the anti-Gaddafi forces, some of whom the Imperialists were negotiating with long before the rebellion in Benghazi began, then that regime will provide them with the most advantageous terms. What is for certain is that the real costs of that will be imposed by Imperialism and its Libyan allies upon the Libyan workers.

When the rebellion in Libya began three months ago, I, like most people, saw it in the reflection of the unfolding events across the Middle East and North Africa, as just another popular revolt against a hated dictator.
But, it quickly became clear that this was not the case. In all those other instances, the popular revolt had taken a familiar form. Simmering discontent, and working-class revolt, had provided middle class layers of society with the confidence to rise up with their own political demands. These layers had quickly taken the lead in the street protests as the working class was left in the background. As popular revolts, they centred upon the main population centres, particularly the Capital cities. But, that was not the case in Libya. The revolt began in a traditional centre of revolt against Gaddafi and his tribe, in Benghazi. But, that revolt did not spread to Tripoli. Those who have acted as cheerleaders for the forces involved in the rebellion have explained that by arguing that revolt in Tripoli was subdued by the military might of Gaddafi's regime – indeed some have even justified the intervention of Imperialism on that basis.
That was never a very good argument. Gaddafi has never treated the military well, because he feared a coup. In part, that explains why sections of the military placed themselves in the head of the rebellion in Benghazi – many of these same people have been developing relations with Imperialism for some considerable time. Moreover, the Egyptian military was much more powerful than Gaddafi's, but it was neutralised. Indeed, it had been not only neutralised but turned in Benghazi.

But, it is now clear that the argument has no legs whatsoever. Gaddafi's military power pales in comparison to just the military might from the air being used again Libya by Imperialism. On top of that, it is clear that Imperialism has had Special Forces on the ground in Libya from Day One.
They have also been training and equipping the anti-Gaddafi forces with weapons for some weeks, at the least. Yet, despite all of this massive military fire-power, being rained down on Gaddafi, and his forces, not only has their been no sign of rebellion against him in Tripoli, but even with all of that fire-power on their side, the anti-Gaddafi forces, even where they were strong, in the East, have been able to make no headway whatsoever.

Of course, it may have been that there was and is opposition to Gaddafi in Tripoli. But, at the time, I pointed out that the intervention of Imperialism was likely to have the opposite effect, in that regard, to that, which those, such as the AWL, anticipated. In relation to the arguments put forward by the AWL and others, which are a repetition of the arguments put forward by the Stalinists in the 1930's, calling for Imperialist intervention against Hitler, Trotsky wrote,

"The democracies of the Versailles Entente helped the victory of Hitler by their vile oppression of defeated Germany. Now the lackeys of democratic imperialism of the Second and Third Internationals are helping with all their might the further strengthening of Hitler’s regime. Really, what would a military bloc of imperialist democracies against Hitler mean? A new edition of the Versailles chains, even more heavy, bloody and intolerable. Naturally, not a single German worker wants this.
To throw off Hitler by revolution is one thing; to strangle Germany by an imperialist war is quite another. The howling of the “pacifist” jackals of democratic imperialism is therefore the best accompaniment to Hitler’s speeches. “You see,” he says to the German people, “even socialists and Communists of all enemy countries support their army and their diplomacy; if you will not rally around me, your leader, you are threatened with doom!” Stalin, the lackey of democratic imperialism, and all the lackeys of Stalin – Jouhaux, Toledano, and Company – are the best aides in deceiving, lulling, and intimidating the German workers."

(From "Phrases & Reality")

And he spells out the implications of this idea put forward by the Stalinists and Reformists like the AWL that workers can support such actions by imperialist states. He writes,

"Where and when has an oppressed proletariat “controlled” the foreign policy of the bourgeoisie and the activities of its arm? How can it achieve this when the entire power is in the hands of the bourgeoisie? In order to lead the army, it is necessary to overthrow the bourgeoisie and seize power. There is no other road. But the new policy of the Communist International implies the renunciation of this only road.

When a working class party proclaims that in the event of war it is prepared to “control” (i.e., to support) its national militarism and not to overthrow it, it transforms itself by this very thing into the domestic beast of capital. There is not the slightest ground for fearing such a party: it is not a revolutionary tiger but a trained donkey. It may be kept in starvation, flogged, spat upon it – it will nevertheless carry the cargo of patriotism. Perhaps only from time to time it will piteously bray: “For God’s sake, disarm the Fascist leagues.” In reply to its braying it will receive an additional blow of the whip. And deservingly so!"

An Open Letter To French Workers

Trotsky once said that Marxists should always face the truth squarely in the face. I would have loved for the rebellion against Gaddafi to have been a genuine popular revolt, but it quite clearly is not! Whatever, the reality of the igniting of that rebellion, whatever the revolutionary credentials of those involved in its inception, indeed whatever the revolutionary credentials of sections of those still involved in it, it is quite clear that, taken as a whole, it is now acting as nothing other than a Fifth Column, as useful idiots, for the War being waged by Imperialism against Libya, for its own politico-economic and strategic interests.

In The
Discussion On Self-Determination Summed Up
, Lenin writes,

“A simple reference to what Marx and Engels wrote in 1848 and 1841) will prove to anyone who is interested in Marxism in real earnest and not merely for the purpose of brushing Marxism aside, that Marx and Engels at that time drew a clear and definite distinction between “whole reactionary nations” serving as “Russian outposts” in Europe, and “revolutionary nations” namely, the Germans, Poles and Magyars.
This is a fact. And it was indicated at the time with incontrovertible truth: in 1848 revolutionary nations fought for liberty, whose principal enemy was Tsarism, whereas the Czechs, etc., were in fact reactionary nations, and outposts of Tsarism.

What is the lesson to be drawn from this concrete example which must he analysed concretely if there is any desire to be true to Marxism? Only this: (1) that the interests of the liberation of a number of big and very big nations in Europe rate higher than the interests of the movement for liberation of small nations; (2) that the demand for democracy must not be considered in isolation but on a European—today we should say a world—scale.

That is all there is to it. There is no hint of any repudiation of that elementary socialist principle which the Poles forget but to which Marx was always faithful—that no nation can be free if it oppresses other nations. If tile concrete situation which confronted Marx when Tsarism dominated international politics were to repeat itself, for instance, in the form of a few nations starting a socialist revolution (as a bourgeois-democratic revolution was started in Europe in 1848), and other nations serving as the chief bulwarks of bourgeois reaction—then me too would have to be in favour of a revolutionary war against the latter, in favour of “crushing” them, in favour of destroying all their outposts, no matter what small-nation movements arose in them. Consequently, instead of rejecting any examples of Marx’s tactics—this would mean professing Marxism while abandoning it in practice—we must analyse them concretely and draw invaluable lessons for the future. The several demands of democracy, including self-determination, are not an absolute, but only a small part of the general-democratic (now: general-socialist) world movement. In individual concrete casts, the part may contradict the whole; if so, it must be rejected. It is possible that the republican movement in one country may be merely an instrument of the clerical or financial-monarchist intrigues of other countries; if so, we must not support this particular, concrete movement, but it would be ridiculous to delete the demand for a republic from the programme of international Social-Democracy on these grounds.”

In a world in which the US, often backed up by its smaller imperialist allies, occupies a position similar to that of Tsarism described by Marx and Engels, and echoed here by Lenin, it ought to be quite clear that Marxists do not view the question of bourgeois democracy or self-determination in absolute terms. As Lenin points out here, the achievement of these bourgeois reforms is not our objective. Our objective is the Socialist Revolution, and for that we have to build the independent, self-activity of the working class, and we have to look to the interests of workers on a global scale, not just be distracted by the immediate events or issues in any one country, particularly in small countries.
That may have the appearance of callousness, but in Class War, just as in any other war, we have to analyse things, as Lenin says here, in concrete terms, we have to be guided by what is in the long-term interests of the working class at a global level.

Trotsky made that clear in his response to the Palestinian Trotskyists in the 1930's, who wanted to adopt the position put forward by the AWL and others. He wrote,

"The authors of the document come out flatly against abstract pacifism, and in this they are of course correct. But they are absolutely wrong in thinking that the proletariat can solve great historical tasks by means of wars which are led not by themselves but by their mortal enemies, the imperialist government.
One may construe the document as follows: during the crisis over Czechoslovakia our French or English comrades should have demanded the military intervention of their own bourgeoisie, and thereby assumed responsibility for the war – not for war in general, and of course not for a revolutionary war, but for the given imperialist war...

"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."

A Step Towards Social Patriotism.

And this position echoes a position previously outlined by Engels to Kautsky in relation to Socialist Policy in relation to Colonialism. Engels wrote,

"In my opinion the colonies proper, i.e., the countries occupied by a European population, Canada, the Cape, Australia, will all become independent; on the other hand the countries inhabited by a native population, which are simply subjugated, India, Algiers, the Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish possessions, must be taken over for the time being by the proletariat and led as rapidly as possible towards independence.
How this process will develop is difficult to say. India will perhaps, indeed very probably, produce a revolution, and as the proletariat emancipating itself cannot conduct any colonial wars, this would have to be given full scope; it would not pass off without all sorts of destruction, of course, but that sort of thing is inseparable from all revolutions. The same might also take place elsewhere, e.g., in Algiers and Egypt, and would certainly be the best thing for us. We shall have enough to do at home."

Engels Letter To Kautsky 1882

We have seen how willingly Imperialism intervenes against proletarian revolutions, as it did in 1917 against Russia, but we have seen how it is prepared to intervene militarily or by covert means even against bourgeois nationalist regimes that challenge its politico-economic strategic interests.
That is why Marxists have to wage an all-out struggle against Imperialism, and those that act as its agents, conscious or otherwise, just as Marx and Engels argued the importance of the struggle against Tsarist Russia, and its allies – including those elements within the nationalist movements in those small Central European states, who looked to Tsarism for support to compensate for their own weakness.

But, being implacable opponents of Imperialism does not mean adopting the principle "My Enemies Enemy Is My Friend" as so many on the Left have done. It does not mean that we have to see every movement that calls itself "anti-imperialist" as being truly revolutionary, and progressive, and thereby deserving of our support. Indeed, in the Comintern Theses on the National and Colonial Question that is made clear in its statements declaring opposition to Pan-Islamism and other such movements,

"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"

And, in the debate on the Theses, Lenin comments,

"The point about this is that as communists we will only support the bourgeois freedom movements in the colonial countries if these movements are really revolutionary and if their representatives are not opposed to us training and organising the peasantry in a revolutionary way. If that is no good, then the communists there also have a duty to fight against the reformist bourgeoisie, to which the heroes of the Second International also belong. There are already reformist parties in the colonial countries, and on occasion their representatives call themselves Social Democrats or Socialists."

There may well be truly revolutionary elements within the anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya. They should quickly separate themselves from the rest of those forces that are now in alliance with Imperialism. We should do all we can to support those truly revolutionary forces in Libya, and we should in any case, do all we can to assist in the building of an independent, working class movement, capable of developing its own industrial and political organisations, of developing its own democratic institutions and proto-state organs such as Workers Militia.
The challenges for such forces in Libya will be great, facing enemies on all sides. But, responding to the difficulty of that challenge by an opportunistic adaptation, by choosing instead to take the easier option is equally if not more doomed to disaster. If any truly revolutionary forces within the anti-Gaddafi bloc exist, then remaining within that bloc can only lead to the same kind of disaster for them that befell the Communists within the Kuomintang, or the revolutionary workers in Spain that remained tied to the Popular Front.

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