Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The Liberation of Aleppo – A Sick Joke

“To speak of the 'liberation' of Macedonia, laid waste, ravaged, infected with disease from end to end, . 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'” (Leon Trotsky, War Correspondence, The Balkan Wars 1912-13, p 332)

The Stalinist “Morning Star” has today eulogised, on its front page about a similar “liberation” of Aleppo. This liberation has come after weeks of devastating bombing, and the starvation of the people of Eastern Aleppo, along with the attendant lack of medical supplies, resulting in disease and pestilence similar to that described by Trotsky in relation to the liberation of Macedonia during the Balkan Wars. As Trotsky also wrote in that connection,

“'Free'! And to whom, pray, are the Macedonians to pay 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 maimed 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 massacred 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.” (ibid, p 330)

There is no doubt that, just as with the Balkan Wars, there were enemy combatants also in Eastern Aleppo, mingled with the civilian population. Those enemy combatants, the clerical fascist forces of people like the Al Nusra, and other Al Qaeda offshoots and clones, are guilty of at least the same kinds of atrocities as those of Al Assad, and his Russian backers. They have killed indiscriminately, tortured and terrorised local populations, beheaded opponents and so on. Nor is there much doubt that where such forces have obtained possession of chemical weapons they have used them, just as the government forces have done.

The only difference is one of scale, of the fact that the Russian backed government has been able to rain down death and destruction from the air, whereas the rebel forces have done so from the ground, up close and personal. But, the fact that they have done so, is no justification for the actions of the Assad government, and its Russian backers. To talk about “liberation” of the people of East Aleppo, is a sick joke on the part of the Morning Star. It “... means either to mock reality or to mock oneself.” That is especially true given the reactionary, authoritarian nature of the Assad regime itself, against whom the population several years ago, once more had risen up in peaceful protest.

This liberation of Eastern Aleppo is a mirror image of the liberation of other areas, and countries seen across the globe over the last few decades, at the hands of western imperialism. When those forces liberated Kuwait, for example, from Saddam Hussein, it was only to place control back in the hands of the feudal Kuwaiti royal family, and led to the attacks on Palestinian and other Arab workers in Kuwait, who had been seen to be supportive of Saddam, and his removal from power of that brutal and corrupt ruling family. It also led to the Marsh Arabs who had been encouraged to rise up against Saddam, by that western imperialism, being left to suffer the consequences at his hands.

When, those same western imperialist forces invaded Serbia, having first stoked up ethnic violence in Kosova, via the support for the fascist gangs of the Kosovan Liberation Army, via the intermediary of Osama Bin Laden, with whom the CIA were still dealing, having supported him in Afghanistan against the Russians, it had similar consequences. The ethnic violence stoked up by the KLA had eventually led to the Milosevic regime sending in its tanks to defend Kosovan Serbs. Western imperialism then began its bombing campaign against Serbia, killing many Serbian civilians, and bombing the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.

That was the prelude to the US and its allies sending in ground troops to occupy Kosovo, and weaken the Serbian government, a long standing ally of Russia, for many of the reasons set out by Trotsky in his writings on the Balkan Wars. The persecution and ethnic violence against Kosovan Albanians, which had largely been brought about by the CIA backed activities of the KLA, and its attacks on Kosovan Serbs, was now basically reversed under the new regime established by US imperialism and its allies. There was then systematic persecution and ethnic violence against Kosovan Serbs and Roma, as  Human Rights Watch documented.

When, that same US imperialism and its allies launched its illegal war against Iraq, it led to the death of around 2 million Iraqi people. That came on the back of well documented shortages of food, and medical supplies for the Iraqi people that went on for many years, due to the sanctions imposed on the country by the US and its allies, which led itself to the death of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children. The physical destruction of most of Iraq's infrastructure as a result of the bombing and shelling during the war, including the wanton destruction, and looting of treasures by US military personnel, reminiscent of the actions of ISIS in Palmyra. The first concern of the invading regime was not the protection of civilians, or of these historic and irreplaceable treasures, but to ensure the protection of the oilfields!

In the aftermath of the invasion, the liberation saw the establishment of systematic torture at Abu Ghraib, and a series of violations of the Geneva Convention, along with other War Crimes, that now the British government seeks to avoid any of its forces having to be held account for, and for which the US government has never felt the need to be held account, because it refuses to submit to the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction. The aftermath saw the allies of the US amongst the clerical fascist Shia forces and their gangs, begin to roam the streets murdering gays, and persecuting Sunnis, which took its ultimate expression once a sectarian Shia government was in place, and which led to a condition of more or less civil war, which in turn opened the door for ISIS.

Of course, the US, its allies and their apologists seek to separate these events from the invasion itself, as though they were unconnected. As Trotsky demonstrates, the same thing happened with the Balkan Wars, where following the “liberation”, the forces involved began to fight amongst themselves.

“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.” (ibid, p 327)

The same was true of the actions of western imperialism in liberating Libya. Not only was the country decimated by the 20,000 plus bombing missions and Cruise Missile attacks, including the use of depleted uranium, but the consequence was that the country was then riven by sectarian and communal warfare undertaken by competing clerical-fascist gangs that filled the vacuum. The western imperialist bombing and shelling of Sirte, where the population resisted for three months, was at least as bad as the attacks on Eastern Aleppo.

In the aftermath, the clerical fascist gangs not only attacked each other, and the usual targets of homosexuals etc. but also attacked workers, particularly black workers, because given the nature of the Libyan economy, most workers were employed by the state, and so seen as connected to Gaddafi's regime. Once again, the liberation has led to the current desperate state of Libya and its people.

So, it is sheer hypocrisy for Tory politicians, the Tory media, and right-wing Labour politicians to criticise the Morning Star, for its sick joke, in talking about the liberation of Aleppo, because they have been guilty many, many more times of perpetrating the same sick joke whenever, western imperialism has liberated other parts of the globe. It is also ironic that right-wing Labour MP's have used the Morning Star's sick joke, as a means of attacking Jeremy Corbyn, via the old Stalinist tactic of the amalgam. Those right-wing Labour politicians aid as usual by Tory politicians and the Tory media have attacked Jeremy Corbyn, not directly but by attacking his Press Secretary Seamus Milne.

Milne's Stalinist pedigree makes him an easy target to connect to the headline of the Stalinist Morning Star, even though he had nothing to do with that headline. Corbyn's opponents then ridiculously attack Corbyn for something that not only has he not done, or supported, but which his Press Secretary also has not done! More ridiculously, Corbyn's opponents then make a further link between this Stalinist sick joke, and Milne to Momentum! Yet, only a few days ago, they were talking about the fact that Momentum is being dominated by Trotskyists, and part of their evidence for that was the scribblings of other Stalinists.

Either these Labour politicians have no grasp of political history, and the bitter opposition of Trotskyists and Stalinists, whose most visceral expression was the murder of Trotsky himself by a Stalinist agent, although many more murders of Trotskyists were undertaken by Stalinists, including that of Trotsky's son Leon Sedov, or else, those Labour politicians and their Tory supporters are prepared to say anything to score political points, no matter how absurd.

Socialists should be appalled at the violence and misery inflicted on the people of Aleppo and other parts of Syria whether committed by the forces of Assad and his Russian backers, or by the forces of ISIS, or Al Nusra etc. supported by the Saudis and other Gulf autocracies, behind which stands the forces of the US, and as seen this week, with Theresa May's visit to Riyadh, and her slap down of Boris Johnson, the UK. Socialists can have no faith in any of these reactionary forces providing a progressive solution for the people of Syria or anywhere else. Only the working-class, forging itself, as a global class, into a force for progressive change, and for its own self-defence can offer such a solution.

As Trotsky put it,

“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.” (ibid, p 293-4)

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