Saturday, 31 August 2013

AWL – Apologism Without Limits

A few weeks ago, the AWL seemed to have modified their policy on Syria, to recognise that the logic of their position could only mean the coming to power of the jihadists. Their latest outburst - here - shows that their apologism for imperialism over rides any such concern. They proclaim,

“Equally, if the US destroys the bases used by Syria’s military to massacre its own citizens you will not find the AWL on the streets protesting.”

This is what Trotsky and the early Communist International had to say about those that adopted such a position.

“The British Socialist who fails to support by all possible means the uprisings in Ireland, Egypt and India against the London plutocracy – such a socialist deserves to be branded with infamy, if not with a bullet, but in no case merits either a mandate or the confidence of the proletariat.”

Manifesto of the Second World Congress 

“Every party that wishes to belong to the Communist International has the obligation of exposing the dodges of its ‘own’ imperialists in the colonies, of supporting every liberation movement in the colonies not only in words but in deeds, of demanding that their imperialist compatriots should be thrown out of the colonies, of cultivating in the hearts of the workers in their own country a truly fraternal relationship to the working population in the colonies and to the oppressed nations, and of carrying out systematic propaganda among their own country’s troops against any oppression of colonial peoples.” 

The AWL's apologism for imperialism has long since meant they are way beyond infamy. To be honest such a gang hardly merits the expense of a bullet.

He was actually a bigger enemy of the Iranian workers
than was the Shah.  The mediaevalists backed by
imperialism, and the feudal regimes of the Gulf
are likewise the main enemy of Syria's workers. 
Their headline proclaims that Assad is the main enemy. But, for a Marxist that is not true. Assad's regime is state capitalist. As such it represents everything that capitalism, as a mode of production, represents, as a stage in history. That is, whatever its political regime, it is based upon all of those things that go along with the capitalist mode of production, i.e. the rationalism, and modernism that flowed from the Enlightenment. On the other hand, the jihadists opposing Assad, represent everything that went before that, they represent mediaevalism and mysticism. In a struggle between rationalism and modernism, and mediaevalism and mysticism, Marxists support the former against the latter.

Does support here mean that we have to be apologists for Assad, in the same way that the AWL are apologists for Imperialism and their jihadist allies? Absolutely not. Marx 'supported' the bourgeoisie against the feudal aristocracy on the same basis. We support modernism and rationalism because it represents the potential for progress to the future we desire, whereas the mediaevalism and mysticism that the jihadists represent only offers a regression to the past. The very worst of Capitalism, for a Marxist is always preferable to even the very best of feudalism, the worst of modernism is preferable to the very best of mediaevalism and mysticism.

No, Assad is not the main enemy in Syria, the jihadists are, and socialists should do all in their power to ensure their defeat. Staying quite whilst imperialism arms those jihadists for its own purposes, whilst it bombs the forces of the regime so that those forces are provided with a military advantage is not an option for a Marxist, even were it not a matter of the basic principle that Marxists oppose the actions of imperialism in such interventions.

The AWL say of the massive loss of life and devastation in Syria,

“The main responsibility for this utterly avoidable catastrophe belongs to the Syrian government and military.” 

But, that is not true. The Assad regime is vile, but it did not simply begin killing people and destroying the country on a whim. When the initial uprising of the Syrian people themselves began, the regime began to suppress them violently, but on nothing like the scale of what has happened over the last year or so. Under such conditions, as those which existed at the start of the uprising, Marxists always have to ask themselves the question about whether they have sufficient forces to carry through such a revolution, and what the costs of persisting will be.

Marx was right to warn the Paris workers in 1870 against
starting a revolution, because they were not yet ready.  He still
supported the Paris Commune, but as he feared, it ended in
defeat and the slaughter of tens of thousands of workers.
Sometimes, even when we conclude that it is not, we may have no choice if we are unable to control that movement. Marx advised in 1870 against the Parisian workers rising in revolt, because he felt they were not yet ready. But, when they did, as a revolutionary he naturally threw his support behind them. In the “July Days” in 1917, Lenin tried to hold the movement back for similar reasons. He was right, because the consequence of the “July Days” was a period of reaction when he and other Bolsheviks had to go into hiding. But, Marxists should not act like WWI Generals simply sending the forces of the working class over the top on every possible occasion to be slaughtered. We have a duty to try to preserve the forces of the working class, and to fight battles where possible only when we have a reasonable chance of victory.

The truth is that the forces of the working-class, and of the bourgeoisie in Syria were not strong enough to carry through a political revolution in Syria, just as, in fact, has turned out to be the case in Egypt, and Libya. In Tunisia, too, the bourgeois democratic political revolution is as tenuous as in Egypt. It is the organised force of the political-islamists there too that has won power, and the new polity is really just a different form of Bonapartism, where the final word has yet to be spoken. In to that vacuum in Syria stepped the jihadists, backed by the Sunni Gulf Monarchies, and imperialism for their own strategic reasons.

The real reason there has been such massive devastation and loss of life in Syria is not down to Assad's regime, it is down to the ferocity of the civil war waged by those jihadists, and by the mass of weapons those forces have been given by imperialism and its allies. As Trotsky put it opposing the same kinds of interventionists as the AWL,

“To speak of the 'liberation' of Macedonia, laid waste, ravaged, infected with disease from end to end, means either to mock reality or to mock oneself. Before our eyes a splendid peninsula, richly endowed by nature, which in the last few decades has made great cultural progress, is being hurled back with blood and iron into the dark age of famine and cruel barbarism. All the accumulations of culture are perishing, the work of fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers is being reduced to dust, cities are being laid waste, villages are going up in flames, and no end can yet be seen to this frenzy of destruction...Face to face with such reversions to barbarism it is hard to believe that 'man' is a proud sounding word. But at least the 'doctrinaires' have one consolation, and it is not small: they can with a clear conscience say, 'Neither by deed nor word nor thought are we guilty of this blood'” (The War Correspondence of Leon Trotsky – The Balkan Wars 1912-13, p 332)

Trotsky speaks of "doctrinaires" here, because just as the AWL attack socialists for opposing imperialist intervention, their liberal equivalents in Trotsky's time, such as Miliukov and Kirillovic, accused socialists like Trotsky of being doctrinaires for their opposition to the intervention.

Trotsky opposed the reactionary nature of the Ottoman Empire, just as we should oppose the Assad regime today. But, Trotsky's opposition to Turkish rule did not commit him to support or even to refrain from opposing the imperialists that sought to intervene, for their own reasons in Macedonia, just as we should oppose the intervention of imperialism in Syria today. As Trotsky said,

“The Social Democrats of Austria denounce every step taken by their government toward intervention in the affairs of the Balkan Peninsula, expose the antipopular character of Austro-Hungarian imperialism, and demand the complete countermanding of mobilisation, which is ruinous to the people and fraught with bloody consequences.

Not in the thundering of guns and not in patriotic howling, but in this enlightening work carried on by the international proletariat do we find the best outcome of all mankind's previous efforts to emerge from darkness and savagery on to the road of free development.” (p 317)

Indeed, in the past the AWL have quoted from these writings of Trotsky. They cite his comment,

“An individual, a group, a party, or a class that ‘objectively’ picks its nose while it watches men drunk with blood massacring defenceless people is condemned by history to rot and become worm-eaten while it is still alive.” 

as justification of their refusal to oppose imperialist intervention. But, the hallmark of the AWL's bureaucratic centrism is the way it continually bowdlerises such comments to justify its latest zig-zag. In fact, far from speaking out to oppose atrocities, and thereby justify intervention, Trotsky's quote above is written from entirely the opposite perspective! The atrocities he is speaking of above, are not the atrocities committed by the Turkish regime, whose existence he by no means denied or excused, but were the atrocities of the 'liberation' forces! His statement here is a part of a series of statements opposing 'liberation' from above, and demanding vehement opposition to imperialist intervention!

But, when it comes to questions of opposing imperialism, the AWL are anti-Trotsky Trotskyists, just as when it comes to their statism and economism they are anti-Marx Marxists.

Trotsky goes on, in a piece of this statement that the AWL leave out,

“On the other hand, a party or the class that rises up against every abominable action wherever it has occurred, as vigorously and unhesitatingly as a living organism reacts to protect its eyes when they are threatened with external injury – such a party or class is sound of heart. Protest against the outrages in the Balkans cleanses the social atmosphere in our own country, heightens the level of moral awareness among our own people. The working masses of the population in every country are both a potential instrument of bloody outrages and a potential victim of such deeds. 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’.” (p 293)

Trotsky's comment was written in opposition to the equivalent then of the AWL today, Pyotr Miliukov, a Russian liberal apologist for imperialist intervention, who like the AWL focussed only on the atrocities of the Turkish regime, and kept quiet about the atrocities of the 'liberation' forces and their imperialist backers.

Writing to Miliukov, Trotsky wrote,

“You defined your war as a crusade for civilisation against barbarism. You strove, with your pencils and scissors, to adjust all our telegrams and correspondence to those two categories. But now Europe will learn that the path of the crusading army was marked by crimes that must evoke shudders and nausea in every cultured person, in everyone capable of feeling and thinking.” (p 282-3)

Of course, Trotsky was no friend of the Turkish regime any more than socialists today can be friends of Assad's regime. But, the fact that we were in favour of Turkish despotism being dealt with, just as we are in favour of Assad's despotism being dealt with, does not mean that we are indifferent to how that is achieved.

“But it is not at all a matter of indifference by what methods this emancipation is being accomplished. The method of “liberation” that is being followed today means the enslavement of Macedonia to the personal regime in Bulgaria and to Bulgarian militarism; it means, moreover, the strengthening of reaction in Bulgaria itself. That positive, progressive result which history will, in the last analysis, extract from the ghastly events in the Balkans, will suffer no harm from the exposures made by Balkan and European democracy; on the contrary, only a struggle against the usurpation of history's tasks by the present masters of the situation will educate the Balkan peoples to play the role of superseding not only Turkish despotism but also those who, for their own reactionary purposes, are, by their own barbarous methods, now destroying that despotism...

Our agitation, on the contrary, against the way that history's problems are at present being solved, goes hand in hand with the work of the Balkan Social Democrats. And when we denounce the bloody deeds of the Balkan 'liberation' from above we carry forward the struggle not only against liberal deception of the Russian masses but also against enslavement of the Balkan masses.” (p 293-4)

The AWL say,

“Bashar Assad’s small ruling inner circle has chosen to reinforce and exploit sectarian divisions in Syria in order to cling on to power.”

In fact, the Syrian armed forces are drawn from across the sectarian divide, and although some defected to the Free Syrian Army, the vast majority have not. As part of a minority community, it would be stupid for Assad to foster sectarian divisions, because that would narrow his potential base of support. The real basis of sectarian division is that which has been generated by the foreign jihadists, backed by Al Qaeda and by viciously anti-Shia forces, who are also behind the upsurge in sectarian violence in Iraq. The real basis of sectarian violence in Syria, is the massive amount of weapons and jihadists fighters that have been sent into the country by the Gulf Monarchies as part of their geo-strategic proxy war with Iran.

It is notable that the AWL raise the demand for the withdrawal of the forces of Hezbollah and Iran from Syria, but they make no such call for the Sunni jihadists to be withdrawn, just as they actually welcomed the intervention of the forces of the Gulf States in Libya, even proclaiming that intervention by such feudal regimes was now one of the means by which bourgeois democracy was to be spread!!!!

The BBC put out this picture of rows of dead children's bodies
in Syria.  The trouble is, the picture was taken 10 years earlier, and is of
dead children's bodies in Iraq!!!
As in the past, the AWL simply trot out the claims of the jihadists and their imperialist backers that the chemical attack was carried out by Assad's regime. But, even British MP's were this time not happy with the “evidence” provided to support this allegation. The same seems to be true in the US, though Obama seems set not to even allow the US Congress to debate the matter, in case he gets the same bloody nose that has been inflicted on Cameron.

Before the Iraq War, a substantial amount of evidence was produced to show that Saddam had WMD, and action was required immediately. Of course, all of that substantial amount of evidence was simply bullshit, and cleverly presented lies, but at least it was substantial. The inept Cameron could not even do that. He came before the House of Commons with two sheets of A4. John Kerry with all of the US's massive array of surveillance and other spying paraphernalia, has come forward with nothing more. They seem to have been so ashamed of how little they had, they didn't even provide their British counterparts with a copy. Their evidence seems to consist of “common sense”, and a series of Youtube videos. But, of course, from the beginning Youtube videos have been part of the stock in trade of Al Qaeda, and the 'rebels' in these various conflicts.  The Youtube video they have not referenced is of those same jihadists sawing off the head of a Syrian Christian bishop with a bread knife.  But, these are the forces the AWL wants to see US bombing help take power in Syria!

Even the British Joint Intelligence Committee, admitted they could find no rational explanation as to why Assad's regime would use chemical weapons when they are winning the civil war, and when they knew it would lead to an attack by the US. The US intelligence agencies themselves cannot give an affirmative assurance that the regime actually did carry out the attack, only a statement that its likely that they did.   Even Friday's FT quotes the many questions about the evidence, including that of a US chemical and biological weapons expert who asked why it was that first responders at the scene appeared to be wearing normal street clothes, not bio-hazard suits??  Yet, the AWL are happy to provide a justification for bombing to begin!

The AWL ridicule Galloway for his alleged comment about chemical weapons being provided by Israel. In reality, the jihadists could have obtained them from anywhere. But, Galloway's argument is no less legitimate than the logic of their own argument that it must have been the regime, despite the fact that it must have known that such an attack would provide just the excuse imperialism needed to intervene. In the end the question of who was responsible is irrelevant, because both sides are equally vile and capable of carrying out such atrocities. The issue of responsibility here does not change the basic responsibility of socialists in such situations, or what our prescription is to deal with the situation.

In the end, as Trotsky said in relation to the Balkans, only the peoples of the area can sort it out for themselves, and our responsibility is to oppose the intervention of imperialism, or of the Gulf Monarchies, or other expansionist powers such as those of Iran, Turkey, Russia and China.

As I'm writing, Russia has several warships stationed in the Mediterranean of the coast of North Africa. Russia has provided Syria with anti-ship missiles and other defensive equipment. If the US launches Cruise Missiles against Syria illegally, without a UN mandate, the Russian ships would be entitled to shoot them down. If it does so, what then? If those Russian ships follow the US example, and launch an attack on Israel chemical weapons facilities as part of a duty to protect the Palestinians from future attacks, what then? The US says it intends only a limited action. Yeah, like there was only a no fly zone in Libya. Syria, as a sovereign state has the right to defend itself if attacked. If it sinks a US warship that sends Cruise Missiles against it, what then? The FT report that the UK Ministry of Defence had already drawn up plans for the likelihood that if Britain attacked Syria, then Syria would launch Scud missiles against the UK military base at Akritiri in Cyprus.

In similar circumstances, in the Balkans, Trotsky wrote,

“But the majority of politicians, while quite properly refusing the Great Powers the right to make any claims on the Balkans, desire at the same time that Russia should help, arms in hand, the Balkan peoples to reorganise the Balkans as these leading political personalities would like the Balkans to be. This hope, or this demand, may become the source of great mistakes and great misfortunes. I say nothing about the fact that this approach to the question transforms the Balkan War into a conscious provocation to a measuring of strength on the all-European scale, which can mean nothing short of a European War. And, however dear to us the fate of the young Balkan peoples, however warmly we wish for them the best possible development of cultured existence on their own soil, there is one thing we must tell them plainly and honestly, as we must tell ourselves: We do not want, and we are unable to put our own cultural development at risk. Bismark once said that the whole Balkan Peninsula was not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. We too can say today: If the leading parties of the Balkans, after all their sad experience of European intervention, can see no other way of settling the fate of the Balkans but a fresh European intervention, the results of which no one can foreordain, then their political plans are indeed not worth the bones of a single infantryman from Kursk. That may sound harsh, but it is the only way that this tragic question can be seen by any honest democratic politician who thinks not only of today but also of tomorrow.” (pp 153-4)

He was right the Balkan Wars were the prelude to the slaughter of World War I.  Still less today in an era of potential nuclear annihilation can socialists simply stand back while imperialism once again throws its weight around. The fact that the AWL are happy to proclaim their refusal to oppose imperialism shows just how far they are from being socialists.

Media Wars

When I was a kid, the media was very limited. In fact, my first memories are not even of TV, but still of listening to Two Way Family Favourites, on a Sunday morning, on the radio, followed by 'The Clitheroe Kid', 'Round The Horne” and 'The Goon Show'. It was nearly 1960 before we got a TV, and then the only channels were BBC1, and ITV. Because we lived in a village on a hill, we got some variety because the old style TV aerial picked up ATV as well as Granada, and BBC Midlands as well as BBC North, and on a good day, BBC Wales and Harlech.

It wasn't until the mid 1960's that BBC2 was introduced, and with it the novelty that programmes didn't finish at half past ten at night, but with the 'midnight movie' ran on for another hour or so! And TV didn't start until almost tea-time anyway. Because I lived in a small village I never had more than a 2 minute walk to school, so I always came home at dinner time. The only concession was that during this time you could watch 'Bill and Ben' on 'Watch With Mother', and later 'Lunch Box' with Noel Gordon. It wasn't until well into the 1970's that you started to get even lunch time news programmes.

News presentation itself was still pretty staid with a news reader smartly dressed speaking in BBC English. Again it was only later into the 1960's, and 70's that presenters like Reggie Bosanquet, Andrew Gardner, and Kenneth Baker and Angela Rippon began to loosen it up a bit. Sport was similar.

Sport was something mostly that happened on a Saturday. Harry Carpenter would present boxing midweek, and later on, especially after the World Cup, and Celtic and Manchester United winning the European Cup, big football matches would be shown. But, mostly sport was reserved for Saturday with Dickie Davies presenting World of Sport on ITV, and David Coleman or my uncle Frank presenting Grandstand on BBC. (Frank Bough isn't actually my uncle, he's my dad's cousin or second cousin).

Even for a big event like the FA Cup final, the build up would be perhaps for just an hour or so before the kick-off with the commentary being provided by a single commentator like Kenneth Wolstenholme.

Compare all that with today. We have 24 hour TV, and hundreds of channels though most of them are selling stuff including soft porn. In fact, all of them are selling stuff, including the BBC, and including its news channels, because even the BBC is stuffed full of adverts for its own programmes. News today includes news of who is going to be on the BBC's latest reality show, or opportunity for its celebrities to appear on some other programme out of their usual guise, a novelty that began with Angela Rippon's appearance on Morecambe and Wise's Christmas Special, and which we've all had to suffer from since.

And in the same vein the news itself is now little more, therefore, than entertainment. There is a big difference between being a meteorologist, who has to have studied for several years at University, to actually understand what drives the weather, and who spends their time with scientific data to analyse what it might do, and a weather presenter, who only needs to look good in front of a camera, and be competent enough to read an autocue, which tells them what to say about what the weather is possibly going to do.

Long gone are the days when the news changed so little during the day that a single news reader could present a news bulletin at tea-time, and again at 9 or 10 p.m. Today, news as entertainment requires at least two news readers to be keeping each other company at any one time, so that they can take it in turns to read the same news over and over again, during their shift, again from an autocue, and yet you suspect that the £93,000 a year, one of them a while ago let slip, they get paid for reading the same stuff every 15 minutes, is considerably more, in relative terms, than Reggie Bosanquet got paid, for managing to do it on his own, all those years ago.

And, just as nowadays, the run up to the FA Cup starts several days before it happens, and the actual programme begins in the morning and drones on continually until hours after the match has taken place, so the news follows the same approach. No matter how interesting the discussion with some studio guest might actually be, if some event might be occurring that day, the interview has to be suspended so that we can rush live over to see – what? - a cameraman, doing a white balance, or a set of vacant microphones waiting for someone to provide them with a justification for their existence. Its like a channel of film of paint drying. But, then lots of people did watch Big Brother.

It seems like a confirmation of the dialectical concept of quantity turning into quality, except here it is a massive increase in the quantity of TV that has turned its quality into dross. Yet, all of these channels seem to have to compete over who can provide the largest quantity of dross, in part it seems to justify all of the people who are employed on huge salaries to present it. Its typified by the ubiquitous tickers that scroll across the bottom of the screen, repeating the same one or two sentences endlessly, and by the use of video tape loops of the same 20 seconds of footage that play over the voice of the news presenter repeating the same empty drivel over and over again whenever some event has occurred, but which is inescapable because the news itself has become a never ending repetition.

In fact, precisely because the real content of the news has been emptied out, because all we are given is the most superficial presentation of events, simply dragged out for an eternity, rather than any meaningful examination of the facts, its no wonder that it is presentation that has replaced content, and so the presenters themselves have to become high paid celebrities and entertainers. But, for the same reason the news itself takes on a different role.

There was the old joke that wars would stop if only Kate Adie retired, because it seemed that wherever there was a war, Kate Adie was there also. Unfortunately, not true, but over the last week, it has struck me just how much the drum beat of war over Syria seemed to be being beaten by the news channels. And of course, that is not surprising. With news as entertainment, wars are no different than the FA Cup, they are an opportunity for the TV companies to justify all of the money they spend on those presenters, and their fancy bits of kit, and studios. The disappointment of the TV news presenters was palpable after Parliament voted against another war in the Middle East.

No doubt, just like an FA Cup Final another such war would have given plenty of opportunity for 24 hour news channels to have gone overboard with their pre-match analysis, action replays of bombs destroying buildings, and undoubtedly people inside them; there would have been all the clever graphics of team tactics and so on. The news celebrities would have had a field day.

Its very reminiscent of the decay of the Roman Empire. They too made death and destruction a spectacle for entertainment. They called it bread and circuses. A means of keeping the population happy rather than revolting in the streets at their deteriorating conditions.

Northern Soul Classics - Soul Self Satisfaction - Earl Jackson

If there's a record that typifies the period for me.  This is the one.  Magic Northern dancer.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Cameron Fatally Wounded

British Imperialism was damaged last night. The vote against another imperialist war in the Middle East was in the end a result of the opposition to such adventures that is now prevalent amongst the British working-class after Iraq. That opposition made itself felt as pressure on MP's of all parties. The fact that British Imperialism was weakened also weakened to an extent US Imperialism that has used British support as cover in the past. That is good news for the global working-class, because a weakened Imperialism means a weakened global capitalist class. But, if British Imperialism was damaged, David Cameron himself was fatally wounded.

In recent months, it has been clear that Cameron has no control over his party. The right-wing of the Tories have pushed increasingly for a more narrowly nationalistic policy over Europe, and policies even more attuned to the interests of the small capitalist base they represent. The success of UKIP in drawing votes away from that base has pressured them even more, and forced Cameron into increasing moves to the Right. In part, that same narrow-nationalist focus was partly behind the attitude of some Tory right wingers in opposing another war. That small-capital base they represent is more concerned with keeping taxes down than with fitting in with the global strategic ambitions of Imperialism.

Cameron is only likely to see increasing challenges to his leadership on such issues from those same backbenchers who were unhappy with his leadership. But, also one of his only lines of attack against Ed Miliband over recent months has been to claim that he was a weak leader. Having become the first Prime Minister to fail to get the backing of Parliament to fight a war in 200 years, having failed largely because of the fact that large numbers of his own party voted against him, he can hardly throw those stones from the position of the glass house he now occupies.

Not only Cameron was damaged. Nick Clegg and the Liberal leadership have become indistinguishable from the Tories. Some of them, like Danny Alexander, are if anything more Tory than the Tories. They have been branded with the mark of Cain now as much as Cameron. The kudos they previously had in opposing the Iraq War was lost when they supported the war against Libya, but yesterday was worse for them, because they stood shoulder to shoulder with Cameron and the other warmongers, and lost. As with every other aspect of Government policy the liberals will suffer for it at the next election.

It is not as though the position adopted by Ed Miliband and labour was particularly radical anti-imperialism – though it was a far better position than the usual pro-imperialist, pro-jihadist position adopted by the AWL. As usual, the AWL refused to oppose the war plans of imperialism, even bragging about the failure to adopt that basic position for socialists, and thereby put themselves again on the side of the imperialists by default, and the side of the vile jihadists who will be the ones to benefit from the bombs raining down on the people of Syria, just as they have done in Iraq, and Libya. In fact, watching the debate yesterday, many of the Tory backbenchers had a better stance than that adopted by the AWL, which is an indication of just what a pathetic gang they have become.

In fact, Labour's amendment also fell. Some Labour MP's refused to support it because they rightly believed it left the door open to Labour supporting intervention at some point in the future. Tories undoubtedly voted against it, because although they were prepared to vote against Cameron, they were not prepared to vote for Labour. But, it also appears that Miliband changed his original position because he faced opposition from within the party for a position that seemed too friendly to Cameron.

The weakening of Cameron and British Imperialism, and the fact that Miliband was forced to stiffen his position should give heart to the British working-class. We should utilise it to oppose other aspects of Liberal-Tory policy, and demand that Miliband stiffen his position of opposition to austerity and other attacks on British workers.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Could These Vile Reactionaries Have Used Chemical Weapons On Their Own People? Yes!

The case for war against Syria, for an act of war is what any military strike would be, is being premised on the claim that only the Assad Government could have done it, and that there is no reason the jihadists would have carried out such an attack on their own people.  Really?  These are the same jihadists that have no compunction about sending brainwashed, young kids to their deaths as suicide bombers.  These are the same vile reactionaries who promise their young men that if they die in battle they will go straight to their version of heaven, where they will be feted by young virgins.  What fate awaits dead young virgins they seem thereby to have already decided - a continuation of the same treatment they receive on Earth!

These are the same vile reactionaries that were prepared to fly aeroplanes, carrying hundreds of innocent passengers, into the World Trade Centre, so as to kill thousands more innocent people, including Muslims.  Are these vile reactionaries capable of killing their own people using chemical weapons?  Absolutely.  In fact, throughout the whole period of the civil war in Syria, they have been shown time and again to have been prepared to commit atrocities, in order to present them as being atrocities committed by the regime, just as in Libya, they followed a similar strategy in order to provoke and provide the justification for an attack by imperialism to do the job they themselves were incapable of doing.

That doesn't mean they did do it, any more than the claims by the US and UK Governments mean that the vile reactionary government of Assad was responsible.  The fact is, we don't know.  As I set out the other day, with Assad's forces having the upper hand, and knowing that any large scale use of chemical weapons use would be likely to provoke an intervention, there seems little reason why they would, but there is every reason why the jihadists would.  The claim that the jihadists did not have access to these weapons is weak.  They have over past months over run a  number of government facilities in different areas.

But, in addition, their arms suppliers in the CIA, in the reactionary Gulf States, in Turkey, do have access to such materials.  Israel has masses of chemical weapons, and who knows what advantage Israel might have in provoking an attack.  Personally, I believe that in the end Israel is safer with Assad, than they ever would be with an Al Qaeda backed regime in Syria.  But, no one can fathom what the calculation of such powers might be.

In the end, the question of who fired first is always irrelevant.  For socialists the principal remains that we oppose the intervention of Imperialism in solving the tasks of history that the working class itself must resolve.  As part of that process, and as the question has been raised, we should ask Cameron and Obama the obvious question.  You have cited time and again that use of such weapons has been illegal for 100 years, so why do you still have so many of them yourself?  When will you scrap your own stocks of chemical and biological weapons?

Capital II, Chapter 6 - Part 6

Adam Smith argued that the formation of supply was peculiar to Capitalism. Marx says this is wrong.

“As a matter of fact, supplies exist in three forms: in the form of productive capital, in the form of a fund for individual consumption, and in the form of a commodity-supply or commodity-capital. The supply in one form decreases relatively when it increases in another, although its quantity may increase absolutely in all three forms simultaneously.” (p 142)

Under direct production, little in the way of commodity-capital is needed, but the producer needs a larger supply for individual consumption. But, Marx explains,

“It does not assume the form of a commodity-supply and for this reason Adam Smith declares that there is no supply in societies based on this mode of production. He confuses the form of the supply with the supply itself and believes that society hitherto lived from hand to mouth or trusted to the hap of the morrow. This is a naive misunderstanding.” (p 143)

Under these previous modes of production, the supply of productive capital took the form of a stock of means of production. The difference here is that Capitalism develops the productivity of labour by a greater development of the technical instruments of labour, which in turn leads to the extension of the means of production.

“The material forms of existence of constant capital, the means of production, do not however consist only of such instruments of labour but also of materials of labour in various stages of processing, and of auxiliary materials. With the enlargement of the scale of production and the increase in the productive power of labour through co-operation, division of labour, machinery, etc., grows the quantity of raw materials, auxiliary materials, etc., entering into the daily process of reproduction. These elements must be ready at hand in the place of production. The volume of this supply existing in the form of productive capital increases therefore absolutely, in order that the process may keep going — apart from the fact whether this supply can be renewed daily or only at fixed intervals — there must always be a greater accumulation of ready raw material, etc., at the place of production than is used up, say, daily or weekly. The continuity of the process requires that the presence of its conditions should not be jeopardised by possible interruptions when making purchases daily, nor depend on whether the product is sold daily or weekly, and hence is reconvertible into its elements of production only irregularly. But it is evident that productive capital may be latent or form a supply in quite different proportions. There is for instance a great difference whether the spinning-mill owner must have on hand a supply of cotton or coal for three months or for one. Patently this supply, while increasing absolutely, may decrease relatively.” (p 144-5)

The more capitalist production is developed, facilitating transport and communication, then the more regular and rapid becomes the supply of these necessary means of production. As a result, the less the individual capitalist needs to hold as latent capital, of these items.

But, this reduction in supply, held as latent capital, does not represent a reduction in supply in total, only a change in its form e.g. coal supplies may not be held as stocks by capitalists burning it, but take the form of productive-capital and commodity-capital regularly supplied by the coal producer.

“In the third place the development of the credit-system also exerts an influence. The less the spinner is dependent on the direct sale of his yarn for the renewal of his supply of cotton, coal, etc. — and this direct dependence will be the smaller, the more developed the credit-system is — the smaller relatively these supplies can be and yet ensure a continuous production of yarn on a given scale, a production independent of the hazards of the sale of yarn.” (p 145-6)

Other commodities, required as means of production, can take long periods to produce e.g. agricultural products. If production is not to be interrupted, then a large stock must be in hand to suffice until the next crop. Where productive capitalists managed to reduce such stocks it was to the extent that Merchant Capitalists held them instead. Modern Capitalism resolves this problem also by sourcing supply from different parts of the globe and by replacing natural products with synthetic equivalents.

Back To Part 5

Forward To Part 7

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Syria – Prelude To World War III?

Seemingly minor events such as the assassination of an
arch-duke, can lead to world wars.  They are merely the spark
that ignites the inflammable material that has been built up over
a longer period.
Could intervention in Syria by the US, UK and France lead to World War III? In the immediate future probably not. Russia and China and Iran and Iraq, and Hezbollah stand behind Assad, whilst the US, EU, Gulf Monarchies and Al Qaeda stand behind the jihadists opposing him. Although, the uprising in Syria started off as a popular movement for democratic reforms, the weakness of that movement, rooted in the limited strength of the Syrian working class and liberal bourgeoisie, meant that as with Iraq before it, as with Libya, and as with, in similar, but different ways, in Tunisia and Egypt, that movement was quickly hijacked by the reactionary forces of political Islam. As a result, it quickly became turned into the cockpit of the brewing sectarian civil war across the region between Sunni and Shia muslims, which itself has its material basis in the contending interests of the Sunni Gulf Monarchies, and Shia Iran. But, it also became the cockpit of the contending global strategic interests of the main global economic powers. Its in that context that, as I've written before - Lessons Of The Balkans - history warns us that what begins as an apparently minor conflict, turns out to be the canary in the coal mine that warns of the coming explosion.

In the Balkans, at the start of the twentieth century, a largely Christian, and Slavic, population began to struggle for liberation from the oppression of the Ottoman Empire. As Christian populations they looked, as they always had to the main Christian and Slavic power in the region, Russia. In fact, as Trotsky pointed out, the conflict that erupted probably would not have been started, had it not been for the fact that liberal politicians in Russia, like Ivan Kirillovich and Pyotr Miliukov, encouraged them in the belief that Russia would, in fact, come to their support.

The parallels with today are quite obvious. On numerous occasions minority and oppressed populations have been encouraged to engage in struggles that they appeared to have no chance of winning on their own, by external powers that offered up the prospect of support if they engaged in that struggle. Sometimes, those external powers have actively been involved in fermenting such struggles, providing money, advisors, and special forces. In the period up to the collapse of the USSR in 1990, this rarely led to an actual intervention by the external power. The US, intervened directly in Korea, and in Vietnam, and the USSR in Afghanistan. The fact, that in each of these cases the external power was defeated provides some explanation as to why they may be reluctant to get involved in such expensive adventures.

The US, had far more success in achieving its aims by simply using its extensive special forces, including those of the CIA, in supporting internal oppositions. That was a policy it adopted throughout Latin America, and was most ludicrously exposed via the Iran-Contra scandal. But, after the fall of the USSR, the US assumed a global hegemony it had not previously enjoyed. It now felt free to intervene itself directly in a way it had not done since the Vietnam War. That opened the door to press home its advantage against the former USSR, by undermining Russia's client regimes in the Balkans, particularly in Serbia. In addition, it set up bases in a string of Central Asian former, Soviet Republics, the so called “stans” where it had no qualms about allying itself with dictators who boiled their opponents in oil. 

By these means, it began to establish a ring of steel around its former cold war enemy, whose size and large military still meant it could emerge once more in the future as a global opponent. It also meant that it placed it in a strategically important position against its rising new, global competitor, China. In order to complete that picture, the US decided to move the bulk of its forces away from Europe, and towards the Pacific.

In order, to establish its complete dominance in the Gulf, the US needed to undermine the regime in Iran. Iran was and is a powerful country. The US undoubtedly could win any war it set out to wage against it, but only at great cost in blood and treasure. The US backed its client, Saddam, as a means of achieving its aims via the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980's, including providing him with chemical weapons. But, Saddam could not finish the job. The US came to see him as an unreliable ally, and began the process of removing him, as a prelude to undermining the regime in Iran itself, a process that would necessarily mean removing the support that Iran might obtain from others in the region, such as Syria, and Hezbollah.

That did not work out as they expected. Their chosen stooges in Iraq lacked support, and instead the main beneficiary of the Iraq War was Iran itself, as the Iraqi Shia, understandably saw their interests as aligned to those of their Iranian brethren. The War also opened the floodgates on other cleavages long suppressed across the region, ripping them apart. The Kurds, long denied a state, took the opportunity to demand autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan, which led to a strengthening of the demand for a Kurdish state across the region, into Syria and Turkey. The replacement of Sunni hegemony in Iraq, with Shia hegemony opened the door to the developing Civil War across the region we see today.

In fact, this worked out so badly for the US that it strengthens my belief that the second Gulf War was an adventure by the Bush regime rather than a strategic decision by the US state. The first Bush, who was more closely linked to that state apparatus, as a former head of the CIA, than the son, stopped short of toppling Saddam. In fact, having made the usual promises to the Marsh Arabs, and the Kurds of support for any rebellion, the US once more left them to be slaughtered by Saddam. The imposition of sanctions and the no-fly zone, could as easily have been intended as a means of replacing Saddam by some other Sunni dictator acceptable to the US, and the Gulf Monarchies. It is certainly the case that the latter have made it clear that they will not allow their Sunni brethren in Iraq to be persecuted, and they are financing and arming the jihadists in Iraq in the same way that they are financing and arming them in Syria, and the way they financed and armed them in Libya.

In this context, the Gulf Monarchies play a similar role to that played by Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece in the Balkan Wars. That is its they that stand in the front line of providing support to the jihadists in these various countries. In fact, Saudi Arabia, has provided most of the funding for global jihadism through the network of madrassas spread across the globe, which act as a means of recruiting and training the forces of Al Qaeda and its affiliates. Anyone seeking clean lines between any of these forces will search in vein. As Trotsky pointed out to the Palestinian Trotskyists, wars are never fought between democracy on the one hand and authoritarianism on the other. They are fought out over economic and other material interests, and in the course of war, the alliances necessarily shift.

In the run up to World War II, for example, it was not clear whether fascist Italy would be part of the camp of the “democratic” Allies, as they had been in World War I, or with the “fascist” camp of the Axis. Britain certainly did all it could to have Mussolini and his fascist regime in their “democratic” camp. In reality, each country or force will seek to further its own material and strategic interests, and will ally with whoever is seen as best achieving that.

The Gulf Monarchies allied with the US in the Iraq War, but they certainly had no interest in the establishment of a Shia dominated regime in Iraq. The Shia in Iraq itself allied itself with the US, as the US was removing Saddam for them. But, even as they did so, they were taking arms and support from Iran, which was used to attack US forces in Shia dominated areas of the country! Al Qaeda, and other Sunni jihadist groups take money and weapons from the Saudis, and from the US and its allies to fight in Libya and Syria, but those same organisations will use those weapons against the US, and against the Gulf Monarchies, and against Israel, when they have achieved their immediate goal of removing Assad. The US will support the jihadists even whilst fighting a “global war against terror” in order to remove Gaddafi, Assad etc. so as to eventually get to Iran, and thereby undermine the influence of Russia and China in the region because it is arrogant enough to believe that when it has achieved its immediate objectives, it will be able to rein in those forces.

In fact, the US created those forces. It was the US that created Bin Laden in Afghanistan, providing him with large amounts of weapons via Pakistan in order to fight the USSR. It is applying exactly the same tactics today in Libya, in Syria, in Iraq etc. In fact, it is only another version of Iran-Contra, but this time more out in the open.

In the Balkan Wars at the start of the twentieth century we saw a similar pattern. Behind Bulgaria, and Serbia stood Tsarist Russia and the Triple Entente. But behind Turkey stood Germany and the Triple Alliance. Having achieved their original goal, instead of leading to a period of peace and stability, it led only to further bloodshed and division, much as we have seen after the Iraq War, and after the war against Libya. The former allies themselves then launched into a war against each other. Of course, the liberal politicians attempted to distance themselves from this second war and its consequences, pretending that it had nothing to do with the first war.

Trotsky responded,

“Well, but who are the allies of yesterday liberating now?...

And do you think that by that vigorous outburst you exhaust the question? Don't you agree that between this 'disgraceful' war and the war you called a 'liberating' war there is an indissoluble connection? You don't agree? Let's look at the question more closely. The emancipation of the Macedonian peasantry from feudal landlord bondage was undoubtedly something necessary and historically progressive. But this task was undertaken by forces that had in view not the interests of the Macedonian peasantry but their own covetous interests as dynastic conquerors and bourgeois predators.” (Trotsky On the Balkan Wars p 325)

The liberal Kirillovich, responding to Trotsky, argued in defence of the first War because the end result was what bourgeois democrats would want, the overthrow of an oppressive regime. The AWL use the same argument today to justify not opposing imperialist intervention. But, Trotsky, responds,

“If you don't see the link between today's disgrace and yesterday's 'glory', that's because you imagine that in the Balkans somebody is conducting a policy and answering for its reasonableness. In actual fact, policy is making itself down there, just like an earthquake. It was precisely the first war, the 'war of liberation' that reduced to insignificance, to a negligible quantity, all the factors of calculation and political discretion. Blind, unthinking spontaneity came into its own – not the benign spontaneity of awakened mass solidarity, which already has so many good deeds to its credit in history, but malign spontaneity, the resoluteness of which is only the other side of blind despair.” (p 327) 

That is a good description of the anarchy and civil war that is developing in the Middle East. It has already been seen in the spread into Mali, and other parts of North Africa, where Al Qaeda related groups are increasing in size and in their attacks. For now, the Egyptian military have reasserted their Bonapartist control, but the Muslim Brotherhood remain a significant social force, and once Assad is removed, it is a very brave person indeed, who thinks that those jihadist forces will not ally with the more radical sections of the Brotherhood, and the Salafists to overthrow that military regime in Egypt, the Monarchy in Jordan, and will link up with similar forces in Lebanon against Hezbollah, and that this will not lead inevitably to its extension, into an all out conflict between those forces and Israel.

If Israel then responds to such an existential threat by using its own very substantial stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, or even more its sizeable stockpile of nuclear weapons, we will then see to what extent the US opposition to the use of such weapons stands up. The only measure short of such use, would indeed be an all out invasion and occupation of much of the area by the US.  Of course, the US talk about chemical weapons is totally hypocritical.  It remains the only country that has used nuclear weapons.  Its use of Agent Orange in Vietnam has killed thousands, and continues to cause terrible birth defects.  Its use of depleted uranium munitions is and will continue to have similar effects for decades to come.

So, its easy to see how a limited war can quickly escalate to a global or at least major regional conflagration, because the law of unintended consequences means that responding to individual events as though they were discrete, and not linked by many complex threads to other contingencies will necessarily result in the mushrooming of events that will quickly run out of control in the way Trotsky describes. War may be the extension of politics by other means but it also has its own logic once started.  No one believes Cameron and Obama when they talk about limited strikes on Syria.  They told us that they were only imposing a no fly zone in Libya!  That meant 20,000 bombing runs, and Cruise Missile attacks, as well as the deployment of special forces.

But, every sovereign state has the right to defend itself against attack.  If Britain and the Us attack Syria, it will have the right to respond.  Syria is reported to have anti-ship missiles supplied by Russia.  If a UK ship launches a cruise missile attack, and is subsequently sunk by an anti-ship missile, what then?  If Syria deems that attacks have been launched from NATO bases in Cyprus, and responds by launching its own missiles against those bases in Cyprus, what then?  And, of course, turkey, which is trying to once again assert its historic dominance of the area is keen for an attack on Syria, if Syria then responds by a counter attack on Turkey, what then?

The Balkan Wars did not lead immediately to World War I, but they did lead inexorably to its outbreak later. The Iraq War, the support for jihadist forces against Libya and Syria and so on, the support given by the US to the Gulf Monarchies, and by Russia and China to Iran, and Syria all play into the development of a regional war in the middle east way beyond what it would have been otherwise. The ability of those forces to play that role, and the weakness of the global labour movement to provide the workers with an alternative set of solutions, increases the suffering of the peoples of the region, and makes a brutal and reactionary outcome all the more likely.

In the immediate future, the material conditions that exist today are not those that existed during the period of the Balkan Wars and leading up to World War I. At that time, the Long Wave Boom that began in 1890 was just about to end. Profit rates were falling, markets were becoming tighter, and so the pressure to find cheap sources of raw materials, and to establish protected markets were increasing sharply. Moreover, colonialism the drive to carve up the world geographically continued to be a dominant force based on the previous power of merchant and money capital.

Today, the world is only just entered the second half of the Long Wave boom that started in 1999. large amounts of surplus value still exist, and continue to be created so that the capital exists to simply buy the needed raw materials. The boom means that global markets continue to be able to absorb the huge amount of production being undertaken. In fact, in those economies like China where the boom has been most pronounced, the scope for expanding consumption is vast. Moreover, in the last 60 years Imperialism has replaced Colonialism as the characteristic feature of global capitalism. That is it is not the division of the globe into geographical empires tied to nation states that has dominated, but rather the export of industrial capital across the globe, the breaking down of barriers to better effect that, and attempts to establish supra-national state bodies geared to the needs of multinational industrial capital.

Yet, having said that, Capital has not succeeded in establishing some Ultra-Imperialism of the kind envisaged by Kautsky. It has partially succeeded in that during the period of the Cold War. It has partially succeeded in that it has established larger economic blocs such as the EU. But, the EU itself demonstrates the problems and the danger. The EU during the debt crisis has been almost paralysed in making the necessary political decisions, because of the continuation of national states, and of national interests. In fact, the rise of such narrow nationalist sentiments most clearly reflected in Britain in the Tory Party, are a reflection of the failure of big industrial capital to have asserted its influence over the power of small capital.

In a sense, what we have today is merely the situation of 1914 of competing nation states, writ large as the competition of large economic blocs – the US and North America, the EU, China-Japan and Asean, and Latin America – with alliances between some or all of these where there interest coincide. For so long as the boom continues that situation may persist, but as I pointed out some time ago - Third World War – the current Long Wave Boom will not last forever. On past experience it will run out around 2025. Then thee divisions will become critical.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Assad's Government Is Vile But Not Stupid

Is the Assad regime capable of launching a chemical attack on its own people? Absolutely! Is it likely to have launched such an attack last week? Probably not.

The Russian government has its own axe to grind in Syria, and the Middle East in general, but Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, is almost certainly correct in saying that the Syrian regime had very little to gain from launching a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, whilst their jihadist opponents had everything to gain from such an atrocity. Moreover, it cannot be a coincidence that such attacks seem to be a common occurrence whenever UN Inspectors are in town, or when some other high profile international initiative is under way. Why on Earth would Assad's regime launch such an attack, at a time when the general consensus is that its forces, bolstered by the resources of Hezbollah in street fighting, have gained the upper hand in recent weeks? The Syrian regime has masses of conventional weapons at its disposal, including overwhelming air power. So why use chemical weapons that could blow back into other parts of Damascus. Why use chemical weapons when it has been made clear that this would be a “red line” beyond which the US and other imperialist forces would intervene militarily?

One explanation, of course, could be that the US and its allies have not intervened on previous occasions, and with the military in Egypt once again asserting its control and cracking heads, with the US sitting with its hands folded, continuing to provide $1.3 billion of military aid to that same military that has just carried out a military coup, you might be able to get away with it. Possible, but unlikely. Assad's regime knows that the Egyptian military have been a long time ally of the US. The US hedged its bets with Morsi, but it must feel more confident with the military, even if it would prefer in the longer term some real bourgeois social democracy in Egypt. But, in any case, why take that risk when you don't need to?

In fact, events in Syria are following a well worn path. As Lenin pointed out long ago, when Imperialism goes to war either against another Imperialism or against some non-imperialist power, it never does so openly under its own banner. How could it? If an imperialist power declared, we are going to war with A, in order that our own capitalists have a freer reign to make profits, to control markets, or control trade routes etc. it would never win the support of its people to fight such a war. It must always fight under some assumed banner of fighting oppression of some sort or other. The fact that its task in making that argument is easier in some cases than others does not change the underlying reality.

There is considerable evidence, for example, that the US was increasingly blockading Japan in the years ahead of Pearl Harbour, in order to force Japan into a military response, that would provide the US with a pretext for war.

In 1956, Britain and France clearly thought they had the backing of the US, or at least that it would be neutral, when they invaded Egypt to take control over the Suez Canal. After all they had just supported the US in invading Korea. Instead, the US came out to proclaim itself the champion of the oppressed in the Middle East against British and French colonialism. In the process, it undermined European influence in the area, creating the conditions for the US to become the dominant super-power in the middle east, building its relations with the Arab ruling classes, obtaining military bases in the Gulf, and access to cheap oil.

In its back yard, the US needed less sophistication in simply sending in the CIA dirty tricks teams to undermine any nationalist regime that dared challenge its interests. But, during that period, it made it clear that it would intervene wherever necessary to obtain those results. In the 1970's, the US announced openly that if the Italian Communist Party – which was in fact very little different to the Labour Party – won the elections then the CIA would destabilise the Government! Today, with the NSA having such massive control over information flows around the globe, as Snowden has demonstrated, its ability to do so is now far greater than existed 40 years ago.

In 1991, the US told its client regime in Iraq, that if they attacked Kuwait, in order to resolve a dispute over access to oil deposits, the US would not intervene. This is well documented. When Saddam acted on that advice, it provided the pretext for the US and its allies to launch the first Gulf War. Again the characteristics of that have been repeated elsewhere.

For years, the Serbian and Albanian Kosovans had lived in relative peace. That peace was disturbed by the activities of the Kosovan Liberation Army, a gang of essentially criminal thugs, with fascist tendencies that were supported by the CIA. They began a campaign of sectarian attacks on Kosovan Serb villages, that was clearly designed to provoke a response. When it did, and Milosevic's tanks rolled into Kosovo that was the pretext the US and its allies required to launch their war against Serbia.

The pretext for the second Gulf War was even more ridiculous. Even their own intelligence services were telling the US and its allies that the information was not reliable. But, those who brought this information forward were quickly dumped on. The most farcical episode was Colin Powell's presentation of the supposed evidence that relied upon a series of cartoon depictions. With all of the billions of dollars of surveillance equipment in space and on the ground, they could not even provide actual photographs! Perhaps, they didn't know how to use Photoshop.

Yet, the need to launch a war immediately was announced. Of course, none of that is to suggest that Japanese Imperialism in 1942, or Britain and France on the one hand, or Nasser on the other, in 1956, or Saddam in 1991 and 2003, or Milosevic in in 1998, were worthy of the support of socialists. They most certainly were not, any more than was Gaddafi, or is Assad. But, just because we have no reason to support any of these or other vile regimes, does not mean that we support or are indifferent to the actions of those that attack them. We do not proceed on the basis that “my enemy's enemy is my friend”.

That was Trotsky's message from the Balkan Wars at the beginning of the last century. Our first priority remains to oppose the ambitions of Imperialism under whatever banner it launches its wars. The tasks of history remain tasks that we the working class have to fulfil, and we cannot and should not either sub-contract or allow those tasks to be assumed by Imperialism.

“on the contrary, only a struggle against the usurpation of history's tasks by the present masters of the situation will educate the Balkan peoples to play the role of superseding not only Turkish despotism but also those who, for their own reactionary purposes, are, by their own barbarous methods, now destroying that despotism...” (Trotsky On The Balkan Wars p 293-4)

And he warns of those who talk about liberation under such conditions as those we see in Syria today.

“Our agitation, on the contrary, against the way that history's problems are at present being solved, goes hand in hand with the work of the Balkan Social Democrats. And when we denounce the bloody deeds of the Balkan 'liberation' from above we carry forward the struggle not only against liberal deception of the Russian masses but also against enslavement of the Balkan masses.” (p 293-4)

“This means that European democracy has to combat every attempt to subject the fate of the Balkans to the ambitions of the Great Powers...

Democracy has no right, political or moral, to entrust the organisation of the Balkan peoples to forces that are outside its control – for it is not known when and where these forces wills top, and democracy, having once granted them the mandate of its political confidence, will be unable to check them.” (p 148-52)..

“'Free'! And to whom, pray, are the Macedonians topay the costs of their 'liberation'? And exactly how much do these costs amount to? How easily people operate with words, and now with living concepts, when they are not involved themselves! You, Ivan Kirillovich, say that peace is not an end in itself and so on, but you are letting your vision of reality be obscured. 'Free'! Have you any idea what the areas that were recently the theatre of war have been turned into? All through those places a terrible tornado has raged, which has torn up, broken, mangled, reduced to ashes everything that man's labour had created, has maim and crushed man himself, and mortally laid low the young generation, down to the baby at the breast and even further to the foetus in the mother's womb. The Turks burned and massacre as they fled. The local Christians, where they had the advantage, burned and slaughtered as the allied armies drew near. The soldiers finished off the wounded, and ate up or carried off everything they could lay their hands on. The partisans, following at their heels, plundered, violated, burned. And, finally, along with the armies, epidemics of typhus and cholera advanced across the 'liberated' land.” (p 330)

A look at Iraq, Kosovo, and Libya illustrate the power of Trotsky's analysis still for today, and his demand that Marxists oppose vigorously such imperialist intervention. The legacy of imperialist intervention in all those instances has been total devastation, and the creation of even more division and chaos and inhumanity. As Trotsky sets out in those writings on the Balkans, only the working class can fulfil these tasks of history. We should begin the job of making ourselves capable of doing so.