Monday, 9 July 2012

Whither Syria - Part 2

The Global British Empire was the greatest prison
and charnal house in history.
What is clear, is that with every War fought by Imperialism, the basis of it is always covered by a superficial commitment to be fighting to oppose some case of inhumanity of one kind or another, even though it is clear that this is nothing but the most flagrant hypocrisy, and that what actually lies behind it is a pursuit either of the interests of the ruling class, as represented by its State, or else of the interests of some political elite as represented through the Political Power. In neither case is the real purpose of the war to pursue some high moral purpose. There was no moral superiority of either side in WWI. In WWII, it is hard to see how a British Imperialism that oppressed, and murdered millions of Colonial Slaves could claim any moral superiority over the Nazis and their oppression and holocaust against the Jews, particularly given the warm welcome that Hitler's rise to power had been given by the British ruling class, and its mouthpieces such as the Daily Mail, and particularly given that Churchill's anti-Semitism was not significantly different from that of Hitler. Nor could the US claim any moral superiority in that regard. The factories of Ford and General Motors, in Germany, continued to produce tanks and other military hardware right up to the US entry into the War in 1941! Both Britain and the US knew that Jews in Germany were being persecuted by the Nazis from 1933 onwards, yet not only did it not cause them to propose doing anything about it, but when Germany intervened in the Spanish Civil War, it did not lead them even to provide arms for the Republic to fight them.

Rumsfeld & Saddam when they were best buddies
and the US was supplying him with WMD.
In Iraq, it was the US which had provided Saddam with WMD in the first place, and they had little objection to him using them for the purpose of the war against Iran. In the first Gulf War, they left the Marsh Arabs and Kurds at the mercy of Saddam, having encouraged them to revolt. In reality what it did, was to weaken them. The US, had no reason to strengthen the Shia or Kurds in Iraq. The latter also threatened its NATO ally Turkey. The former were always likely to link up with their Iranian brethren. The US State had an incentive to seek Saddam's overthrow by a Palace Coup. But, the real lesson of Iraq, is that the clerical-fascists appear to be more adept than the western bourgeois-democratic politicians. The representatives of the Shia clerical-fascists in Iraq, were able to use the US and its entourage to remove Saddam, and his Sunni dominated Bonapartist regime. All the time that Shia clerical-fascists, such as Sistani, were issuing warm words to the US, while they carried out this function, provided them with money and weapons, and suppressed the Sunni insurgency, they were, at the same time, liaising with their Iranian co-religionists, who provided their own insurgency with the weapons to attack the US in the Shia dominated areas.  In fact, it is reminiscent of how Medieval Popes were able to set one European Prince against another in order all the time to advance the cause of Catholicism across the Continent. 
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.
Large numbers of Special Forces troops were sent
in to Libya by the West and Gulf Monarchies, and
are now being sent in to Syria.
The US backed war of Saddam's Iraq against Iran demonstrated that any military attack on Iran would be extremely costly in human life. Although, the laboratory experiments in the Balkans, and in Iraq and in Libya, demonstrated that the new high-tech weaponry, at the disposal of Imperialism, can have a devastating effect, it cannot win wars. In the Balkans, it required a powerful ground offensive. In both Gulf Wars that was also true. In Libya, despite over 20,000 bombing and Cruise Missile raids that devastated the small country, not only was it not enough, but the rebel forces fighting under cover of it, were still able to make no sustainable advance. Only when Britain, France, Qatar and other countries sent in significant numbers of Special Forces, using the latest weaponry was it possible to begin to win ground and keep it. Even then despite two months of intensive bombing and shelling, that caused what international agencies described as a humanitarian catastrophe, they were kept at bay by the people of Sirte. Those same powers appear to have also sent in such Special Forces to Syria. The US and Gulf States are also sending in the latest weapons. Recent footage of Syrian tanks exploding from the inside suggest that they are using depleted uranium munitions as happened in Libya.
While Clerical-Fascists like the Muslim Brotherhood
and the more militant Salafists have come to political
power, clerical-fascist militias and Al Qaeda related
groups like the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, have
increasingly been obtaining control of the streets.
As the uprisings erupted across the Middle East and North Africa, appears to have caused both problems and opportunities for US Imperialism and its allies and the planned attack on Iran, or at least on its nuclear installations  With Islamist forces taking over the Political Power in Tunisia and Egypt, any attack by Israel, which looked the most likely, on Iran, would act to provoke a backlash. A US attack might provoke a similar response. At the same time these uprisings provided opportunities. The support for the rebels in Libya came from the Sunni Gulf Monarchies. Al Qaeda, which is now running rampant in Libya, in Mali, and in Sudan is indeed, a Sunni Islamist grouping. On the one hand this is problematic for the US, which has based its “War on Terror” around an Al Qaeda bogeyman, but, of course, this bogeyman is one largely of its own making. Bin Laden was created as part of the US support for these very Islamist terrorists in the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. They were funded by the US's Saudi backers, and supplied with weapons by the US via, its Islamist supporters in Pakistan.
A whole complex web exists of funding, and weapons supplies, and the supply of trained jihadists that are in turn funded, educated and trained through the Madrassas across Europe and the Middle East, Africa and Asia. They are funded by the US's Sunni Gulf backers, particularly the Saudi Wahhabis, they are provided with weapons often through CIA channels, which itself infiltrates these organisations, and acts to raise further funds through the production and distribution of drugs, in a similar way to that which operated with the Iran-Contra scandal.  The US strategy is clearly to utilise these uprisings to mobilise Sunni clerical-fascism as a powerful force across the region to isolate, and then destroy Iran, and its supporters in Iraq, and in Syria. It is no wonder that the US and its entourage has kept quiet about the atrocities being committed by the Sunni feudal regimes in Bahrain, and the other Gulf States, or the use of Saudi troops to suppress the people of Bahrain.
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.

The same was true of WWI and II, of course. The First World War, not only caused massive destruction, but its resolution, through the Versailles Treaty, created, as Trotsky points out, the conditions for the rise of Hitler in Germany, and the inevitability of another war. The Second World War only eventually established a new bourgeois democracy on the bones of the working class in Germany, across Central and Eastern Europe, and in Japan and other parts of Asia. In West Germany, under the boot of the US and Allied powers, the workers were crushed, and their labour movement incorporated into the State. Whilst former Nazis were appointed as judges, and to other high posts, and Nazi industrialists feted, the Berufsverbot laws banned Communists and Leftists from holding positions, imposed censorship etc., and led to the murder of Rudi Dutschke. In Japan too under the heel of the US Occupation the Labour Movement was crushed, and resurrected in tamed fashion, once again incorporated into the State, and a period of one party rule under the LDP instituted that ran almost until today.
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.

It is perhaps not surprising that as revolutions do not come along very often, when something that looks like a revolution erupts, people on the Left seek to associate themselves with it. Of course, Marxists should support genuine revolutionary movements, but as Lenin points out above we are not just revolutionaries, we are proletarian revolutionaries. Our goal is not bourgeois democracy, but Socialism. Moreover, just because some group rises up against the current Establishment does not make it in itself revolutionary. Counter-revolutionary, and reactionary forces also rise up against the status quo! As the Theses On The National & Colonial Questions says,

Petty-bourgeois nationalism proclaims as internationalism the mere recognition of the equality of nations, and nothing more. Quite apart from the fact that this recognition is purely verbal, petty-bourgeois nationalism preserves national self-interest intact, whereas proletarian internationalism demands, first, that the interests of the proletarian struggle in any one country should be subordinated to the interests of that struggle on a world-wide scale, and, second, that a nation which is achieving victory over the bourgeoisie should be able and willing to make the greatest national sacrifices for the overthrow of international capital.
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.

Back To Part 1

Forward To Part 3

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