Saturday, 14 June 2014

ISIS – The Fruit Of Liberal Intervention and Third Campism

ISIS, the jihadist forces that seek to establish an islamic Caliphate in the territory of Iraq and El Sham, what in the West would be called the Levant, have in recent days walked almost unopposed into several major Iraqi cities, and are threatening to do the same with Baghdad. These are the same forces that have been fighting with western backing for the last few years in Syria. They are marked both by their extreme brutality, and their desire to take the society over which they rule even further back in time – to around the 13th century – than other mediaevalist Islamic forces. In 2003, there were essentially no jihadist forces in Iraq, today after the US and UK war to depose Saddam Hussein, they are on the verge of taking over a sizeable part of the country, as well as of Syria, and expanding their reach within the region.

This disaster for liberal interventionism comes on top of the other disasters arising from liberal intervention. In Afghanistan, the west supported Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda against the USSR, which was attempting to build a secular state by its own typically bureaucratic means. The US provided Bin Laden with the latest weapons via Pakistan, and in the process helped build the Pakistani Taliban. Not only is the Taliban now posed to take over again in Afghanistan, as the US leaves, but it is carrying out daily attacks in Pakistan too, where it is becoming increasingly likely to be able to take over a nuclear armed state.

In Libya, having obtained UN approval by the deceptive means of claiming only to be seeking a no-fly zone, the US, UK and France bombed the hell out of the country, and with their feudal gulf allies, supplied the Libyan jihadis with weapons to overthrow Gaddafi. When the small numbers of those forces were still unable to make much headway, the imperialists and their feudal allies sent in their own special forces to do the job for them. In a similar way that Trotsky described the situation in Spain during the Civil War, where bourgeois politicians were able to obtain the support of the Stalinists in a Popular Front, whilst the actual Spanish bourgeoisie had deserted them, the Libyan bourgeois politicians found support not only from western imperialism, which had created them, but from sections of the Left.

These sections of the Left, to the extent they had ever understood Marxist analysis and principles, forgot them in their rush to support anything that looked like a revolution. In their desperate attempts to put themselves on the side of a revolution, they instead found themselves in the role of “useful idiots” supporting a social counter-revolution. First among equals amongst these useful idiots was the AWL. It had two powerful forces attracting it in that direction. Never slow to be on the side of anything that was being promoted by US “Democratic Imperialism”, it could be relied upon to support the attacks on Libya, and the feudal and jihadist forces being used to carry them out. And, its politics determined by a subjective moralism, whose categorical imperative is to oppose anything that smacks of Bonapartism and authoritarianism, it repeatedly finds itself placing itself in the camp of all sorts of reactionary forces fighting those regimes.

Third Campism of the sort that determines the politics of the AWL on the one hand, and the SWP on the other, as Trotsky pointed out, has nothing to do with Marxism. Its actions are determined by nothing more than petit-bourgeois moralism, dressed up in the language of kitsch Marxism. It arose from the revulsion of petit-bourgeois moralists at the reality of the deformed workers state in Russia, particularly after it entered into the Stalin-Hitler Pact. To justify its abandonment of the defence of that deformed workers state, it then engaged in frantic attempts to theorise its actions on the basis of pseudo-Marxist analysis of the class nature of the Soviet State, as being either state capitalist or some form of new class state ruled by a bureaucratic collectivist class, never before seen in history, that somehow sprang form nowhere in the space of a few years to become a ruling class; a concept, which in itself is quite alien to Marx's method of analysis, and theory of historical materialism.

Its this subjectivism and moralism that determines the politics and positions adopted by third campist organisation such as the SWP and AWL. That is why depending on the moral imperative – opposition to Imperialism for the SWP, opposition to Bonapartism/authoritarianism for the AWL – they end up on opposing sides of conflicts. But, that same method leaves them driven into support for whichever reactionary class camp represents the force on the ground fighting their chosen corner. The SWP to oppose Israel, proclaim “We are all Hizbollah now”, whereas the AWL declare that the feudal Gulf monarchies were doing God's work in bringing bourgeois democracy to Libya, and in terms that the SWP would be proud of, claimed that it was inevitable that the jihadists would take the lead in the fight against Gaddafi, after years of repression!

What both organisations have in common is that they are led into this kind of popular frontist stance, because they have lost faith in the ability for the working-class to provide the solutions itself. In their rush to support something that looked like a revolution, they forgot, if they ever understood, the basic Marxist lessons about the difference between appearance and reality. They mistook electoralism and parliamentarism for the reality of the balance of social forces. So, they were happy to see the electoral victory of the bourgeois politicians in Libya as the end of the story, even though it was clear that the electoral victory meant nothing given that real political power rested with the jihadist and other militias in the streets, who had the weapons, the discipline, the organisation, and the ideological drive to impose their will, in a way that the petit-bourgeoisie that had simply voted for the bourgeois politicians never had, even during the conflict against Gaddafi.

When the fighting broke out in Syria, therefore, they made all of the same mistakes, and now in Ukraine, they are making the same mistakes all over again. Despondent at the working class organising to impose its will, they instead look to other more powerful forces. In the process, by placing themselves in to one of the opposing camps of the bourgeoisie, rather than in the admittedly weak camp of the working-class, they act only to store up greater problems for the future.

For centuries, the Hapsburg Empire was viewed with disdain both by the other European Monarchies, and then in the 19th Century, by the emerging bourgeois democratic regimes. But, as Rosdolsky describes in his essay on the “Non-Historic Peoples”, they were tolerated for one simple reason, which is that they performed a useful function for Europe, in acting as a buffer against the potential incursions of Islamic reaction from the Ottoman Empire. In a sense, the Bonapartist regimes in the Middle East arose both because of the existence of these reactionary, and frequently antagonistic and schism ridden forces, and at the same time acted as a means of keeping them in check.

The societies over which these Bonapartist regimes ruled, were riven with sectarian division, and a series of cross cutting cleavages, divided not just horizontally on the basis of class and status, but vertically on the basis of religion, sect, tribe, region, as well as the other vertical divisions of gender and sexual orientation. These multitude of vertical divisions prevented the formation in many cases of strong class allegiances able to outweigh them. Given the economic history of the region, as societies frequently dominated by foreign powers, and with rent based economies dominated by revenues determined by the extraction of oil, that favoured the continuation of feudal type political regimes, rather than the development of industrialised economies that required the development of bourgeois democracy, it was inevitable that the major classes of bourgeois society – the bourgeoisie and proletariat – would be weak. Its no wonder that where that rent based nature of the economy is most predominant – in the Gulf – is where feudal political regimes continue to dominate.

The inability of any class to be able to exert social hegemony, is the prime condition for the state itself to rise above society, and that is precisely what happened in many of the countries where some measure of industrial development occurred. The brutality of many of these regimes was a brutality whose material basis was the need to suppress the ferocity of the social antagonisms that existed beneath, based upon these vertical cleavages.

In much the same way that the Hapsburg's were looked on by their European peers with disdain, but were tolerated because they acted to provide a buffer against Islamic reaction, so the Bonapartist regimes fulfilled a similar function. That the US has been at the forefront of opposing those regimes, and, at the same time, funding and supporting the development of the jihadists, that have provided the shock troops of the assault, is also not surprising. The Middle East is a long way from the US. Its main allies in the region, in the Gulf, are under no immediate threat from the jihadists, and there is no suggestion that the US sees any irony in supporting such undemocratic regimes, whilst decrying others. In fact, the gulf states are the biggest backers of the jihadist forces that do the work of fighting a proxy war for the US in Libya, Syria etc.

In just the same way that the US has created the conditions for the conflict in Ukraine, by pushing the borders of NATO right up to those of Russia, and by pumping, on its own admission, billions of dollars into the coffers of Ukrainian forces it seeks to cultivate, so too the US, by its actions in the Middle East, has pushed the forces of jihad right up to the borders of the EU, and increasingly inside it too.

The Liberal Interventionists and Third Campists have, by giving succour to these reactionary forces, helped bring about the current state of affairs, whereby 12th century social forces, armed with 21st century weapons, now stand at the gates of Baghdad, on their way through Istanbul to Vienna. Stopping them requires not a further undeclared popular front with the forces of the bourgeoisie and democratic imperialism, but an uncompromising commitment to building the forces of the working class and socialism, and a defence of the ideas on which that relies, along with an uncompromising battle against the ideas of the reactionaries.

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