Monday, October 29, 2007

Open Thread: Post 220

****This is post 220. The blog started 03/26/2005. I chose the name "Renegade Eye." because the good titles for blogs were taken. All of that is not too important, other than point out this is the post, to talk about what is not usually commented about.

****Pete Seeger at 88 years, finally came out publicly against Stalin. He wrote a song recently denouncing Uncle Joe.

**** Which blogs do you visit and why? If you are lefty, do you stay away from rightist blogs? Why do rightists visit leftist blogs? I personally visit blogs, that support my blog, by commenting or linking to me. I don't play Devil's Advocate all the time.

**** Use Who Links To Me?, to find out who links to you. I have about three blogs a week, many I never visited, link to my blog. If someone links to you, or comments at your blog, link to them. Blog ratings have to do with how many people link to your blog, or mention your blog.

**** I was tagged by PCoE, and asked about my five top political influences. Who are yours? I was highly influenced by Lyndon Johnson. During the Vietnam War, I realized that Democrats share goals with Republicans. Besides Trotsky and Lenin, my early blog readers know Christopher Hitchens influenced me in good and bad ways. Add my old friend Harvey from high school.

**** I want to plug Lefty /bloggers/cartoonists Ben Heine and David Baldinger.

**** At Minnesota's St. Thomas College, it's president Rev. Dennis Dease, due to the recommendations of Zionist groups, uninvited Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu from speaking to a peace conference. When the decision was made public, the college reversed itself, due to worldwide pressure. Some of the Zionist groups that tried to stop him from speaking, now are sponsoring him. Professor Cris Toffolo who heads the Peace and Justice Studies Program there, invited Tutu initially. Tofollo has since been demoted, and Tutu won't speak, until the professor is back in her position.

This is the free for all post!


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Kurds of northern Iraq – another betrayal is being prepared

By Fred Weston
Wednesday, 24 October 2007

On October 17 the Turkish parliament voted by a huge majority, 507 votes to 19, to grant the army permission to take military action inside northern Iraq, in the Kurdish territories. Since then we have had contradictory statements coming out of Turkey, combined with a frenetic flurry of diplomatic pressures. Meanwhile the Turkish army keeps amassing more troops on its southeastern border. This scenario promises to make the situation inside Iraq even more unstable.

The US-sponsored invasion of Iraq has proven to be an absolute failure. When the US troops first went in we were fed a mass of media hype about it being a short, sharp war that would establish a "modern" bourgeois parliamentary democracy, that would usher in stability and prosperity across the whole region. But that was all it was: media hype.

Almost four years ago, in November 2003 we wrote:

"What is happening in Iraq is that the US and its allies are beginning to get bogged down. The US military machine proved very good at occupying Iraq. In terms of conventional war they have an unbeatable army. But that is not the end of the story. It is one thing to win a war; it is another to hold down a whole people. Opposition to the presence of foreign troops in their country is growing among the Iraqi people. The official version is that the attacks are carried out by ‘pockets' of Saddam supporters. This is a lie to appease the consciences of people back home. And it is becoming increasingly difficult to sell this version of ‘the facts'. It is becomingly increasingly evident that the resistance movement is growing and getting ever more confident." (The Iraqi quagmire, By Fred Weston, November 18, 2003).

Since then an increasingly desperate US administration has tried to make up for its own inability to hold down Iraq by using the ethnic card. They have whipped up Shias against Sunnis in the hope of being able to "divide and rule". Instead of achieving their aims this has made things worse. Initially it was not the intention of US imperialism to break up Iraq along ethnic lines. They wanted a strong Iraq as an ally of US imperialism. Instead they have weakened it and allowed other states to emerge as strong regional powers. This is the case of Iran for example.

But in all this mess, there was one part of Iraq that was considered stable: the northern Kurdish area. In the US invasion of Iraq the leaders of the Iraqi Kurds had backed the US and provided help to the troops. While the US troops got on with taking over the rest of the country they could at least rest assured that the North would look after itself. In order to achieve this they had assured the Kurds some form of regional autonomy. And the Kurdish area has become a de facto autonomous region.

The problem is that the US, although Bush may think it is all-powerful and can decide the fate of all peoples in the world, is in reality very fragile. It has overstretched itself and this is not helped by having a particularly unintelligent president at its helm, who has made all the possible mistakes one could imagine.

Back in February 2003, In The In Defence of Marxism Manifesto on the imperialist war against Iraq, (By Alan Woods and Ted Grant) we warned the Kurdish people:

"Let us be clear about this: it is an act of betrayal to present this war of aggression as a means of attaining Kurdish self-determination. Turkey, the main US ally in the region, would never allow it. The Turkish bourgeoisie is not contemplating joining this war for the sake of democracy, and certainly not for the sake of the Kurds! It has its eyes on the oilfields of Kirkuk and Mosul, which the Kurds also claim. Ankara has made it plain that if the Kurds try to take the oilfields, the Turkish army will invade and crush them, with the Americans looking on."

At the time we were criticised for adopting this position. But it is the duty of Marxists to always state the truth. We support the right of the Kurdish people to self-determination, but we must also explain how this is to be achieved. In the same article we explained:

"We defend the right of the Kurdish people to have their own homeland, but point out that this is only possible through the revolutionary overthrow of the reactionary regimes in Baghdad, Teheran and Ankara. On a capitalist basis there can be no real solution to the Kurdish problem. The Kurds must unite with the working people of Turkey, Iraq and Iran in the fight for workers' and peasants' power. On the basis of a socialist federation, it would be possible to achieve an autonomous Kurdish Socialist Republic, with the fullest democratic and national rights - including the right to secede, if they so wished.

"Those who argue that the only way to achieve national self-determination is by supporting imperialism against Baghdad are deceiving the people. This is a criminal and reactionary policy that will lead the Kurds and Shiites once more into a blind alley. There is no way out for the Kurds, Shiites and other peoples of the region on this basis."

What is happening now confirms everything we said on this question. The overwhelming vote of the Turkish parliament to allow its army to enter Northern Iraq is a clear indication that Turkey will not allow the Kurds to have any form of autonomy, let alone an independent state. If the Kurds in Iraq were to achieve this, it would create a serious problem inside Turkey where a large Kurdish population lives. It would encourage them to move in the same direction.

The latest headlines now read "Diplomacy staves off Turkish incursion". Condoleezza Rice and Gordon Brown have been adding their pressures to hold the Turkish army back. But while all this goes on the Turkish army keeps amassing troops on the Iraqi border. Turkey's Prime Minister, Erdogan is under huge pressure at home to send the troops in, but he makes the right noises for western consumption. He has declared that Turkey has no territorial designs on Iraq. That is like a lion saying it has lost its appetite for meat.

It is a fact that a Turkish invasion of Northern Iraq, far from helping to stabilise the area, would further exacerbate tensions. In the long run it would also create serious problems for Turkey. It is one thing to carry out sporadic raids into Iraq; a full-fledged invasion and occupation would be a different matter. But the Turkish ruling class are not looking at that at this stage.

There are two factors pushing them. One is that they are concerned about the stability of Turkey that would be put at risk by an autonomous or independent Iraqi Kurdistan. The other is that Turkey also has its own imperialist ambitions. They have their eyes on Iraq's northern oilfields that are within the Kurdish territories. As a result of the war in Iraq, Turkey has been strengthened. A huge amount of US military hardware is transported through Turkey across the border into Iraq. Turkey is also a key NATO ally of US imperialism and if it raises the stakes US imperialism is forced to listen.

We should add another, equally important factor: the situation inside Turkey. The social and economic conditions in Turkey are preparing a new wave of class struggle. Economic growth has been significant in recent years, exceeding 6%. However, inflation is high, standing at 9.8% in 2006. Under pressure from the European Union, the IMF and the World Bank, Turkey is being pushed to carry out widespread privatisations and attacks on welfare. Unemployment officially stands at over 10%, with underemployment calculated at around 4%. The real level of unemployment is most likely much higher and the overall level of poverty can be seen by the fact that according to official figures 20% of the population lives below the poverty line. On top of this there is huge social and economic polarisation, with the poorest 10% of the population consuming only 2.3% of national wealth, and the richest 10% consuming 30%.

In these conditions concentrating attention on the southeastern border is a very useful way of diverting attention away from the real social issues that affect Turkish society.

The Turkish army also should not be seen as any regular army. It has played a key role in the development of the Turkish state over decades. For years it was in direct control of the state, ruling through military dictatorships. Their power however was not purely military. They owned, and still own to a degree, important sectors of the economy directly.

The European Union in particular has been pressurising Turkey to change all this ‑ particularly through privatisation ‑ and open their economy. This has created conflicts within the Turkish state itself. One wing of the Turkish bourgeoisie has been pushing for entry into the European Union, listing all the advantages that this would present in terms of markets and investment.

But the European Union, in particular the French and the Germans, have been delaying Turkey's admission and it may be many years before it is allowed in. Partly this is due to concerns about Turkey's unemployed flooding into the more developed EU countries, in a similar manner to what we have seen with Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and so on.

Another reason for delay is that Turkey is viewed as a stooge of US imperialism and therefore is seen as being potentially a lever for US imperialism to impose its policies inside Europe.

All this has pushed a wing of the Turkish ruling class in drawing the conclusion that its interests lie elsewhere, not to the West but to the East. The present move in regards to Iraq fits well with this outlook. The Turkish army in particular is sending a clear message to all who want to hear that they are a powerful nation, with a powerful military machine, and they are a force that needs to be taken seriously. That is why they have pressurised parliament into voting the way it did last week.

Now, in an attempt to hold back Turkey from going into Iraq, the toothless Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri Maliki has promised that his government would work on limiting the PKK's "terrorist activities which are threatening Iraq and Turkey". The Turks have in fact been demanding that both the Iraqi government and the US army do something to remove the PKK bases from northern Iraq. In an attempt to stave off a Turkish invasion, the Iraqi government has now called on the PKK to leave Iraq.

The question is: how can the Iraqi government police the northern border if it cannot even hold whole areas of the rest of the country, and how can the US troops dedicate forces to the north when they are bogged down elsewhere? In fact, General David Petraeus, the US military commander in Iraq has stated quite openly that it would be very difficult for anyone to police the northern border. Therefore his only proposal is that "pressure" should be put on the PKK to stop its attacks on Turkish military.

The PKK is said to have between 3000 and 3500 guerrillas based in northern Iraq. From here they have intensified their attacks on the Turkish army. How is this force supposed to be "pressurised" into halting its armed operations, by words alone?

An advisor to the Iraqi government, Sami al-Askari has stated openly that, "The Kurdistan regional government should not allow PKK fighters to infiltrate in to Turkey from northern Iraq," but he added that, "The Iraqi government will not use its army and police to stand in front of the Turkish army because security in that region is the responsibility of the multinational forces and the peshmerga."

Thus the only real way of removing the PKK bases would be to get the Kurdish peshmerga forces to move against their Kurdish brothers. Turkey is in fact demanding that the PKK camps inside Iraq be closed down and that the group's leaders should be arrested and extradited to Turkey. Massoud Barzani, the regional president of Iraqi Kurdistan has no love for the PKK, nor does Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president, who is also a Kurd. They would betray the Turkish Kurds if they could, in order to defend their own greedy local interests.

That, however, is easier said than done. The Turks are in fact posing demands that they know cannot be met. Turkey's foreign minister, Ali Babacan has stated that a military option would be "the last resort" and added that, "We will continue these diplomatic efforts with all good intentions to solve this problem caused by a terrorist organisation." But after having reassured his imperialist friends with these sweet words he added that, "If we do not reach any results, there are other means we might have to use." Prime Minister, Erdogan made the same point to Gordon Brown during his recent visit to Britain, stating that the Turkish military could use force "at any time" if the Iraqi government failed to act.

This is all diplomatic talk to prepare public opinion for a Turkish military operation inside Iraq. The killing of several Turkish soldiers and the disappearance of eight, who may have been captured by the PKK, is being used by the Turkish government to justify its stance. The situation reminds us somewhat of Israel's invasion of Lebanon last year. It is common knowledge now that the Israeli military placed their own soldiers in danger of being kidnapped, so as to have the excuse to go into Lebanon. Here a number of deaths among Turkey's soldiers and a few gone missing is a very good excuse for the Turkish army to go in.

Marxists never base themselves on the simplistic concept of "who started it". It is always possible to fabricate an excuse. The point is that Turkey has always had imperialist aspirations in the region. The fact that the PKK has bases in northern Iraq, is merely an excuse to interfere in the affairs of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurds in northern Iraq have de facto achieved an element of regional self-rule, although still as part of Iraq.

The problem is that now there is the serious risk of Iraq breaking up. Should the US troops pull out now Iraq could break up into its component parts. It was never a "natural" state made up of a homogenous people. Like most of the states in the region, its borders were drawn up by the imperialist before they left after direct colonial rule was no longer possible. For a period, however, there was a genuine Iraqi identity that had been established. That has now been torn in pieces, precisely by the blunders of US imperialism.

Should Iraq break up, the northern Kurdish region could break away as a separate entity. That is never going to be allowed to happen by Turkey. As we explained in July 2004, (The war in Iraq and the impending collapse of the Saudi Arabian monarchy By Greg Oxley and Layla Al Koureychi):

"Turkey has made it quite clear that it will never accept autonomy for the Kurds in northern Iraq. This is because Kurdish autonomy would act as a stimulus to the struggle of the Kurds within Turkey itself. The Bush administration has been playing for time, trying to reassure both the Kurds in Iraq and the Turkish government. But this double game cannot go on forever. Ultimately, the only way for Washington to prevent a Turkish intervention would be to move in the direction of disarming the Kurds. This would inevitably lead to armed conflict."

As the US army is not really in a position to this now, it opens the prospect of the Turkish army going in to do the job. In the next few days we will see how far Turkey will go. Their hand may be held back temporarily through a combination of heavy US pressure on Turkey and measures inside Iraqi Kurdistan against the PKK. The problem is that there are no real forces that can seriously deal with the PKK. That would indicate that the situation will eventually lead to a Turkish invasion of northern Iraq.

Inside Turkey the nationalist are whipping up the anger of a layer of the population, organising rallies calling for the troops to go in. The other side to this is the growing protest inside Iraqi Kurdistan. Last week thousands of Kurds in Iraq protested in Irbil and Dahuk against the decision of the Turkish parliament. Some of the banners read, "We will resist the Turkish". The Kurds know only too well what the Turkish army is capable of, as it has killed thousands of Kurds in Turkey, razing whole villages in the process.

The fact is that Turkish troops have already been operating inside Iraq, with the consent of the Iraqi government. In September the Turkish and Iraqi governments had struck a deal that allows the Turkish army to cross the border in pursuit of PKK guerrillas. This is merely a continuation of a de facto deal during the Saddam Hussein era that allowed such operations. The leaders of the Iraqi Kurds also tacitly consented to these operations, before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

When this recent deal was struck, the Iraqi Minister of the Interior stated that, "An enemy of the Turkish people and democracy in Turkey is an enemy of the Iraqi people and democracy in Iraq." This gentleman ignores the fact that there is no true democracy either in Turkey or Iraq and that in both countries a part of the "people" are Kurdish.

Even Bush has admitted that Turkish troops have been operating in Iraq for some time. But these have been limited incursions "chasing" the PKK guerrillas across the border, as they put it. What is being posed now is an invasion that would possibly end up with Turkey creating a buffer zone inside Iraq along the whole of its border, a de facto occupation of a part of the country. This is what the Turkish army in fact is demanding.

The patience of the Turkish military must be wearing thin. Back in 2003 the Turkish parliament passed two motions authorising the army to enter Iraq. Then it would have been part of the general attack on Iraq, with Turkey taking responsibility for the north. This, however, far from guaranteeing stability, would have provoked the Iraqi Kurds into revolt. The Americans gained the collaboration of the leaders of the Iraqi Kurds by promising some kind of autonomy. This would have been impossible under Turkish bayonets! In this we see how the Kurds are being used as mere pawns.

If the US has to choose between the Kurds in the north of Iraq and its Turkish allies, we know what choice they will make. They will betray the Kurds as the imperialists have done many times in the past.

We see their attitude clearly over the issue of the Armenian genocide. Just before the Turkish parliament voted massively for military operations inside Iraq, the US Congress had been discussing whether to officially recognise that the Ottoman-era mass killings of Armenians was in fact genocide. It seemed that there would be a majority in favour of recognising this fact. But under pressure, many congressmen have started having second thoughts. Now it seems unlikely the motion will go through. This is clearly an attempt to appease the Turkish government.

This little incident shows how dear "principles" are to a man like Bush, and with him the whole of the US ruling class. Everyone knows that the Armenians were massacred in huge numbers. It is one of the many crimes of history, carried out by the various ruling classes of this world. But the US rulers are prepared to betray the Armenian people quite easily. Just as easily they will betray the Kurds, who until recently they referred to as "allies".

When the Turkish army goes in, the USA will not stand in its way. It will betray the Kurds as we have warned many times. They have used the Kurds and will discard them once they have no more use for them.

The Kurdish nation is one of the largest in the world without its own territory. Over the decades and centuries it has been used by this or that imperial power, without ever achieving anything. The Kurds have been gassed, bombed and massacred by different powers. This will continue so long as capitalism dominates the region.

If Iraqi Kurdistan were to move seriously in the direction of separation this would push the Kurds in Turkey to do likewise. The Kurds have a right to live in peace and govern themselves, but this will not be achieved under the present set up. As we have seen, Turkey is not going to relinquish control over its southeastern regions.

Therefore the road to genuine Kurdish self-determination lies in the overthrow of capitalism in Turkey, the overthrow of the rotten Islamic regime in Iran, the expulsion of US imperialism from the region and the establishment of a workers' state in Iraq, together with the overthrow of all the rotten despotic regimes in the region.

Thus, the Kurdish workers need to unite with their Turkish, Iranian, Iraqi brothers. On the basis of the class struggle in all these countries, that will inevitably develop in the coming period, the perspective must be posed of socialist revolution across the region that would allow for the formation of a Socialist Federation of the whole of the Middle East, within which not only the Kurds, but all the peoples would find room for a homeland and genuine self-determination. There is no other way!

Any other way, involves deals and manoeuvres involving the imperialists and the local ruling elites. On this basis we go back to square one and the whole bloody business starts up once more.RENEGADE EYE

Monday, October 22, 2007

Pakistan: The oppressed awaken from their slumber – sabotage won’t stop them

By Lal Khan
Monday, 22 October 2007

October 18, 2007 saw the largest ever mobilization of the masses on the streets of Karachi in almost a quarter century. According to the police, over 1 million participated, while the PPP leadership put up the figure at three million.

This huge convergence of the masses came after more than two very difficult decades dominated by reaction and a lull in the class struggle. The fall of the Berlin wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the intense disillusionment with the "democratic" experience and a right-wing shift of the traditional political and trade union leadership and other factors caused an apathy and skepticism among the masses in Pakistan.

This pushed back the political consciousness and blunted the will of the toiling masses to move into action. Apparently, this massive influx of people from all over Pakistan that thronged to the Karachi airport was to welcome Benazir Bhutto, the chairperson of the PPP on her return after an eight-year self-imposed exile.

However, there was much more to this mammoth welcome than what has been portrayed by the bourgeois media. The people could have had a much clearer glimpse of their leader on the television thousands of miles away than they did traveling such long distances in hazardous conditions, spending sleepless nights and putting in so much effort, energy and their meager savings to make this journey.

Thousands of buses and other vehicles traveled from as far as Kashmir and the remote areas of Pustoonkhwa. But their basic motive was to be "there", to be part of a movement where they could express their grievances and deprivations, where they could exhibit their will and determination to struggle for a transformation of a system and society that govern their lives.

Their platform, their mode and the means of the expression of their will was the Pakistan People's Party - yet again. And Benazir too, after almost two decades, again had to resort to the slogan of "Roti, Kapra and Makan" (Food, Clothing and Shelter) in her latest statements from abroad to ensure a mammoth crowd would welcome her and give her the political strength to bargain with the state and US Imperialism for greater control of the affairs of the state when catapulted once again into power.

But once she boarded the special vehicle to lead the procession she was flabbergasted. The first words she uttered after looking at the oceans of human heads in all directions, were, "It is un believable".

Way back in 1998, Alan Woods, while speaking to a large meeting of workers in Karachi said, "When she returns to Pakistan millions will turn out to welcome Benazir, despite her policies and statements".

But above all this massive turn-out of the masses towards the PPP once again vindicates the universal law worked out most concretely by Ted Grant on the question of mass movements, their orientation and adherence to their political and historical traditions.

For decades Benazir has been moving to the right in her economic policies, hobnobbing with US Imperialism, and has been trying to convince the Pakistani state and ruling classes of her adherence to the policy of preserving capitalism. Even before this return, she was in negotiations with the Musharraf regime and tried to strike a deal which was superficially rapidly eroding her political credibility. This was proclaimed especially by the chattering classes and the radical petty bourgeoisie who dominate the print and electronic media, as well as the intelligentsia in Pakistan. Locked in their narrow two stage theory they can only mechanically analyse politics and economics. The masses had a different perception.

Benazir had been twice in power in 1986 and 1993 and abandoned the masses in order to prove her loyalty to the existing order. Obviously, like every other ruler in this system, she indulged in the corruption and graft that is inevitable in this setup. Contrary to the perception of the media, the intelligentsia, Benazir and her sycophants, her popularity and support are not based on her "statesmanship", "political astuteness" or "negotiating/ maneuvering skills" but on the legacy of the PPP that was born out of the 1968-69 revolution in Pakistan.

During the revolution, there was a virtual take-over of society and economy by the workers, poor peasants and the youth. From November 6, 1968 to March 29, 1969 there was a situation of dual power in Pakistan. Had there been a Bolshevik party at the head of the movement it could have taken power on at least 5 different occasions.

The workers had occupied the factories, the youth and students had taken control of universities, they refused to pay fares in buses and trains and the poor peasants in large areas of the countryside had besieged the landed estates. Most of the pro-Moscow and Pro-Peking left called for a "democratic stage" and even denounced the movement against the military dictatorship of Ayub Khan - as he was a close friend of the Chinese bureaucracy.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir's father, recognized the basic socialist character of the movement and called for a socialist transformation of society. This clicked with the struggle and conscious of the masses and the PPP became the largest party in Pakistan's history almost overnight.

However, even with a relatively clear socialist programme and slogans, the 1968-69 movement was unable to achieve a revolutionary victory. This was due to the lack of a subjective factor - a Bolshevik Party. Bhutto carried out some radical reforms in agriculture, health, education and other sectors. He also nationalized large sections of the banking sector and industry - but the capitalist system was not overthrown. Hence, Bhutto was hanged by the vicious Zia dictatorship for going even that far.

This was the inevitable outcome of making half of a revolution. His legacy continues and is the main reason for the PPP's support in Pakistan, despite of Benazir's policies of compromise.

This clearly resonated on October 18 and the main slogans on the welcoming demonstration were "Bhutto you are still alive". If not consciously then subconsciously the main reason behind the PPP's support is the perception of it being a vehicle of change. That is why when the masses step into the arena of political struggle they initially converge around the banner of the PPP. This is also the reason that important sections of the state are terrified of this mass support for the PPP and cannot trust or give a free hand to Benazir in spite of her assurances and measures to preserve the capitalist system.

They only allow her to enter the echelons of power when the threat of a mass movement is imminent and after using her to diffuse such movements they ditch her. Now when the state is in severe crisis and its internal conflicts are out in the open it would be more difficult to devise a political regime based upon a contradictory class basis. This was proved by the two severe bomb blasts in front of Benazir's caravan which killed 139 people and maimed another 500.

Islamic fundamentalism is mainly a state sponsored phenomenon and feeds upon the horrendous brutality inflicted by US imperialism in its "war against terror." Its temporary rise is mainly due to the collapse of the left and the refusal, mainly on the part of PPP leadership, to stand up against imperialist aggression. This is despite the fact that US imperialism was instrumental in the coup and assassination of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto by General Zia ul Haq in April 1979.

The terrorist act against the people on the procession has been quite effective in diffusing the impact of this marvelous mass upsurge. The media and intellectuals are harping in some sort of game of speculative accusations on these blasts. From the look of it, this madness seems to have a method in it. It also shows the wrangling within the state and rattling of its structures. But these acts, whether carried out by the state or its Frankenstein monsters will not be able to totally curb the movement. The PPP leadership is trying to pacify the wrath of the masses against this outrageous act. But the vengeance of the masses will express itself in the electoral process - or more fervently in the revolutionary storms that loom large on the horizon.

The Islamic fundamentalists had called for several "Million Man Marches", in the last couple of years against the US. But they could not get even 5% of that to their rallies. Now the fundamentalist alliance is also splitting, which is another reflection of the contradictions within the state. This could further aggravate their bigotry and fanaticism leading to more instability and turmoil. This distilled essence of capitalism cannot be controlled or curbed by this state or the system.

Similarly, when Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister and a fabulously rich business tycoon, returned to Pakistan on September 10 this year, he could not muster a reception of more than five thousand people. This was in spite of the fact that there was a big media hype and massive sums of money pumped into propagandizing his "huge" popularity.

This was easily curbed down by the Musharraf regime. Nawaz Sharif would have long ago gone into political oblivion had Benazir not tried to prop him up as a political partner for "democracy". Her main aim was to create an alliance with the right-wing to diminish any left radicalization within PPP against her class collaborationist policies. The media hype around Sharif was possible through the massive amounts of money pumped in to get the media coverage. Sharif's social base is mainly amongst shopkeepers, wholesale dealers and small businessmen and sections of the urban petty bourgeois. These strata of society are historically and socially incapable of launching any defiant struggle against dictatorships. Sharif was also the product and political heir of the worst military dictatorship in Pakistan's history under Gen. Zia ul Haq.

The media and radical petty bourgeois are shouting that the deal with Musharraf facilitated her return and allowed a mass turn-out to welcome Benazir. This is an insult upon injury to the downtrodden who braved so much agony and so many obstacles to reach Karachi. No doubt the state did not put up much resistance to the moving crowds. It is also true that those bourgeois and petty bourgeois PPP leaders who wanted party tickets to win elections also invested a lot of money in transportation and huge banners etc., to prove their loyalty. But larger capital was invested to swell the rallies of Musharraf, the Muslim League and the MMA (Islamic parties) but they were no match for what happened when Benazir returned.

The state's resistance to the PPP rally was also weak because the state was split on the issue. They were terrified that if they attempted to block the millions from coming to the streets, that it could produce an explosion that would be impossible for the state to control. No obstacle can stop a mass of millions from reaching their destination.

It is not just the question that the Americans forced the possible coalition between Musharraf and Benazir (although both entered negotiations reluctantly) to strengthen Musharraf in the ongoing war against the Taliban. The main motive of the serious strategists of imperialism for pushing this deal was their fear of a workers' uprising against privatization and other vicious attacks on the Pakistani proletariat.

Under the thunder of the terrorist bomb blasts, the political wrangling and the churned up "election" mania, the present regime, clearly in its twilight, is trying to carry out massive redundancies and complete the IMF's assigned agenda. Just in the telecommunications (PTCL) sector alone the regime is sacking 29, 000 workers in an effort to carry out orders for privatization. Similar steps will be taken to carry out major redundancies and restructuring in other main sectors of the economy. The plan then would be to bring Benazir into some sort of a power-sharing deal and get her endorse these crimes against the working classes.

It won't be easy. This is not 1988 or 1993. The bomb blasts in Benazir's procession show how far the state and society have deteriorated since she was in power the last time.

The masses who converged to Karachi certainly don't want this. They will vote Benazir into government as they have no other alternative at this point in time. They came out for exactly the opposite. They endured hundreds of casualties, stood waiting for her arrival for 30 hours, thousands walked miles and miles to reach the venue, and remained without food, water and sleep. For what? Certainly not for privatization, deregulation, restructuring, price hikes, unemployment and poverty. The oppressed and exploited gathered not to endorse corruption, liberal "democracy", capitalist policies and the appeasement of imperialism.

Benazir has, at least verbally, changed the founding principle of the PPP from "Socialism is our economy" to "Mohammadi (Islamic) egalitarianism". This won't work in the long run. "Roti kapra aur Makan" (Food, Clothing and Shelter) can't be provided through trickle down economics, necessary to maintain this crisis ridden capitalism and cozy up with US Imperialism.

On the basis of capitalist policies her stint in power will not be very long. On the one hand the intensifying crisis of Pakistani capitalism is exacerbating religious bigotry and terror. The economy is in shambles with the highest trade, current account, and budget deficits in history. Social indicators are amongst the worst in the world. The oil price hikes and the impending world capitalist economic crisis will have devastating effects on the already sinking Pakistani capitalism.

The state is deeply mired in internal conflict, and society in a deep malaise. The continuation of these policies would exacerbate the contradictions. On the one hand further blood, chaos and anarchy could push towards a barbarous nightmare, the elements of which are already making a frightening appearance in border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But this rally on October 18 has clearly shown the other face of Pakistan. On April 10, 1986 Benazir was accorded a similar rousing reception of more than a million people. On April 11, at a press conference she confessed that if she wanted to take power the previous day she could have done it easily. She was right! But she refused to take a revolutionary path. Still she was brought into power through a compromise with the establishment. She dashed the hopes of the masses and tried to maintain the status quo. The movement ebbed and she was overthrown.

Again in 1993 she was pushed into power by mass pressure from below. Yet once more she shifted further to the right. Will the story be the same this time around? Will this vicious cycle go on forever? We don't think so. The misery and poverty is too immense. Living conditions are intolerable. The masses have endured a long period of reaction and oppression. It has taken an enormous effort for the masses to come to the fore. Millions united in a mass gain great confidence and a sense of collective strength. If Benazir follows her precedent this time around, it will not be the right-wing reaction or the State that will lead the revolt. Opposition will come from the same masses that came to welcome her with high hopes.

No force of reaction has ever and could ever mobilize such a huge sea of people in Pakistan. The toiling masses came out for change. They opted for what has been their political tradition for more than three generations. If this fails then the next time they enter the arena of history, instead of going to Karachi Airport they will move to occupy factories, take control of railways, telecommunications, electricity networks and expropriate imperialist wealth and assets, besiege landed estates and seize other key sectors of the economy on a much higher plane than their ancestors in the 1968-69 revolution.

The Musharraf-Benazir deal is still in confusion. Even if they try to act on the Washington script there are too many bumps and potholes on this path. It can fall apart as a result of any event - from judicial activism to terrorist attacks. Even if this uneasy alliance crosses onto the election plane and takes the shape of a new regime, the chances of its continuation are very bleak and imbedded with internal and external danger. The uprising of the masses from below will blow it apart at the first blow. The turbulence in the economy and convulsions in society are too severe to overcome by this conflicting implementation which the US is trying to manipulate.

This working class of Pakistan will take its destiny into its own hands and transform society. The Marxists in the PPP have been vindicated once again in their strategy and perspectives by the events on October 18 - after 21 long years. This vindication brings the revolutionary challenge much closer and clearer to them. The tasks of history are being posed more concretely today than perhaps ever before. The mass mobilization in Karachi has clearly expressed what people want - emancipation from exploitation, drudgery, misery, disease and slavery. A revolutionary socialist alternative was put forward to this movement by the Marxists. Through the events in the next few weeks and their experiences, the wider layers of the masses shall turn towards the revolutionary path. The tasks of the Marxists is to ensure that these toiling masses achieve their socialist victory - sooner rather than later.RENEGADE EYE

Friday, October 12, 2007

Contracting Out the War in Iraq

After Blackwater USA’s recent street shoot out in Baghdad, which resulted in as many as 17 civilian deaths, the role of mercenaries in Iraq has received extra attention in the media. Although they have played a key role in the occupation of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, these “private security contractors” have for the most part flown under the public radar. For example, the debate over a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq usually centers around the 160,000 military personnel occupying the country. But what about the estimated 182,000 private contractors now deployed in Iraq? During the 1991 Gulf War, the troop-to-private contractor ratio was about 60 to 1. Now they outnumber uniformed troops, more than doubling the actual size of the occupation force.

Private contractors in Iraq do everything from cooking food and doing the laundry to driving trucks and building bridges. Using them on such a vast scale is part of the privatization of the war, which is not only politically convenient, but results in massive profits for the companies involved. As of July 2007, there were more than 630 war contracting companies working in Iraq for the U.S. government.

Not only has there been a “surge” of uniformed troops, but mercenaries have headed to Iraq by the thousands. The use of mercenaries has allowed the Pentagon to increase the number of armed troops on the ground without resorting to a draft. Although the UK has steadily drawn down its troop levels, many of these troops have been replaced by private contractors, and thus aren’t counted in the troop levels disclosed, thus cutting across the growing anti-war mood. And since they are technically “civilians”, the estimated 900 dead mercenaries and 13,000 wounded aren’t counted in the official casualty figures (over 200 Blackwater contractors have been killed alone).

Blackwater USA was founded in 1997 by former Navy Seal Erik Prince – with the help of his billionaire parents. Headquartered in North Carolina, it is one of at least 28 private security contractors operating in Iraq. It has an estimated 1,000 employees in Iraq, and specializes in protecting high level functionaries and dignitaries. The four mercenaries killed by a mob in Fallujah in March 2004, which subsequently led to the “Guernica”-style pulverization of that city by the U.S. military, were working for Blackwater.

They are part of a “shadow army” of an estimated 30,000 security contractors operating in Iraq that is better armed, trained, and funded than the militaries of many countries. According to Blackwater’s corporate website: “We are not simply a ‘private security’ company. We are a professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations firm ... We have become the most responsive, cost-effective means of affecting the strategic balance in support of security and peace, and freedom and democracy everywhere.”

As with everything else under capitalism, the security contractor industry is ultimately about profits. In an astonishing report by Vanity Fair, it is estimated that private contractors working in Iraq are paid as much as much as the combined taxes paid by everyone in the U.S. with incomes under $100,000. Jeremy Scahill, an independent journalist who has written extensively on the subject reports: “Some in Congress estimate that up to 40 cents of every tax dollar spent on the war goes to corporate war contractors. At present, the United States spends about $2 billion a week on its Iraq operations.”

He continues: “RJ Hillhouse, a blogger who investigates the clandestine world of private contractors and U.S. intelligence, recently obtained documents from the Office of the Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) showing that Washington spends some $42 billion annually on private intelligence contractors, up from $17.54 billion in 2000. Currently that spending represents 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget going to private companies.”

With a $750 million-plus contract in Iraq alone, Blackwater is a clear example of how family connections and hefty campaign contributions to politicians can lead to enrichment through government contracts. In total, billions of dollars have been handed out to companies such as DynCorp, Triple Canopy, Erinys and ArmorGroup.
These and other mercenary corporations also operate in Latin America, Africa, and other parts of the world. In Colombia, under the fig-leaf of the “war on drugs”, private defense contractors receive as much as half of $630 million in U.S. military “aid” sent as part of Plan Colombia, a spearhead of U.S. imperialism against the Latin American revolution.

In African countries such as Congo, Sudan, and Somalia, mercenary companies are cashing in on lucrative contracts handed out by the United Nations’ “peacekeeping” missions. Doug Brooks, a lobbyist for the private military industry, proudly explains that his association’s “member companies have more personnel working in U.N. and African Union peace operations than all but a handful of countries.”

These mercenaries are hired at extravagant rates of pay, far more than uniformed troops. Many soldiers “retire” from active duty military service and work for private security companies instead. It has been noted by some commentators that many are actually paid more than the Secretary of Defense. They are mostly ex-U.S. and UK special forces personnel (trained at tax-payer expense), but also include Chilean special forces from the Pinochet era and South African mercenaries from the apartheid era. It is not uncommon for the most-experienced of these “guns for hire” to make as much as $1,000 per day, with the average closer to $600 a day. By contrast, the average U.S. soldier makes just $57 per day.

The September 16th shooting of innocent civilians was not the first time Blackwater has been involved in this kind of incident. It was recently revealed that Blackwater guards had previously killed 21 Iraqi civilians and wounded 27. The State Department has reported 56 shooting incidents involving Blackwater USA in Iraq this year alone.
And yet, it remains unclear whether or not the “sovereign” Iraqi government has the “authority” to expel Blackwater from the country. Former U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer, who headed the Coalition Provisional Authority that governed Iraq after the fall of Saddam, passed “Order 17” before “handing power” to the Iraqis in 2004, an order which guarantees immunity from prosecution for private contractors, including his own private Blackwater guards.

The latest incident was too much even for the puppet government of Al-Maliki. But after initially “expelling” Blackwater from the country, the Iraqi government had to back off. Blackwater is such an integral part of the occupation that without them, the security situation would deteriorate even more quickly. They now say that Blackwater’s license to operate in Iraq expired on June 2, 2006, meaning its employees are no longer immune from prosecution. They now want the U.S. to terminate all contracts with Blackwater in Iraq within six months and pay $8 million in compensation to each of the victims’ families. This situation underlines the true relationship of forces in the new “free and democratic” Iraq. The fact is, the Iraqi government is entirely at the mercy of the U.S. imperialists and their hired guns.

But who really controls these forces? Even from the perspective of the ruling class, the widespread use of mercenaries has gotten out of control. Former Ambassador to Iraq Joseph Wilson thinks “it’s extraordinarily dangerous when a nation begins to outsource its monopoly on the use of force and the use of violence in support of its foreign policy or national security objectives. [This] makes [private security contractors] a very powerful interest group within the American body politic and an interest group that is in fact armed. And the question will arise at some time: to whom do they owe their loyalty?”

Blackwater mercenaries – specialists in protecting private property through the use of overwhelming force – were among the first sent into New Orleans after the Katrina disaster. There is talk of privatizing the Border Patrol as well. This is not the distant future, but the very real present. Capitalism has nothing to offer the world working class but repression of the majority and mega-profits for the few; or at least, to the highest bidder.John Peterson

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Why Marxists Cannot Support Islamic Fundamentalism – The Case of Hamas

By Communist League of Action - Morocco
Tuesday, 02 October 2007

In order to understand the causes behind the confrontations between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza, we need to study the politics that led to these confrontations. By posing things in this way things become clearer.

We believe that the political reasons for these confrontations are the struggle for "a fair repartition of the cake" between the "old" and the "new" - the interests of the masses count for nothing... We believe, like "most people on the left", that it is "a mere power struggle between two equally reactionary forces".

The victory of Hamas brings nothing to the Palestinian masses in terms of their living conditions or their liberation struggle. Comrade Yehuda Stern is right when he says: "the victory of Hamas in Gaza does not solve any of the fundamental problems of the Palestinian masses" and that "one would have to be a fool to consider Hamas as a revolutionary or even a consistently anti-imperialist organization."

Hamas has not led this war for the masses nor for national liberation. They have led it because "They, too, wish to become part of the capitalist system. They climb on the shoulders of the oppressed masses and try to take the lead in order to use their strength to achieve a ‘better compromise' with the imperialist oppressor. [Their aim...] is to be accepted as part of a viable ruling elite by the imperialist powers that dominate the world scene."

There is not one progressive atom to these policies of Hamas. The war between the reactionary forces to determine which amongst them will be the representative of the imperialists in the country is not a war in which we must take part. Revolutionaries do not need to support one camp against another. On the contrary, the policy of the Marxists is to denounce this war and call for class policies on the part of the mass organisations.

When reading a part of comrade Stern's article, we can only come to the conclusion that he demands support for Hamas since the masses "support" this organisation, and that we must be with them in their war against Fatah - because this war is "a decisive battle between imperialism and the Palestinian people" and because "the victory of Hamas has galvanized the Palestinian and Arab masses against imperialism and shaken the confidence of the Israeli workers in their oppressors."

However, after only a few lines we see in the same article by the same author that "Hamas does not have any real alternative to offer to capitalist exploitation". We also see that "Hamas is a populist movement" and above all "we should always keep firmly in mind that Hamas does not want to overthrow capitalism. They merely wish for banks and monopolies with Islamic names. If they follow the same path of making deals with the imperialist powers, which at a certain stage will be inevitable, its leadership will be exposed as just another group of bourgeois politicians, no better than Fatah, especially should they attempt to set up a regime in their image to assert their domination. This, in the long run, is the only possibility in Palestine, where the ruling class is extremely weak and lacks any popular base."

Furthermore that "we do not give the fundamentalists any political support" [our emphasis].

We even see that in the article it is stated that that Hamas' war is "a decisive battle between imperialism and the Palestinian people" and their victory is "a severe blow against imperialism" etc. If this were the case the comrade would have the right to demand political support for Hamas (= fundamentalists) and it would be a serious error not to... However, all this talk of "the decisive battle" and "severe blow" is wrong and the truth is that Hamas "merely wish for banks and monopolies with Islamic names." We must remember that "Hamas is a populist, reactionary movement, whose leadership not long ago had announced its willingness to negotiate with the USA and Britain," etc. In this case, we must not give "any political support".

From our point of view, we believe that:

Firstly, this war is not "between imperialism and the Palestinian people". It is between two camps of the same class for domination, as we have already explained.

Secondly, the victory of Hamas will not weaken the confidence of the Israeli masses in their oppressors. On the contrary, Hamas is a semi-fascist, anti-Semitic religious party. Its propaganda about exterminating the "infidel" Jews and its methods are the best arguments in the hands of the Israeli ruling class for maintaining the "sacred unity"...

Hamas does not have a lot of room for manoeuvre even if they come to an agreement with imperialism and "climb on the shoulders of the oppressed masses and try to take the lead in order to use their strength to achieve a ‘better compromise' with the imperialist oppressor".

Hamas in reality, as our comrade says, "has already signalled that it is willing to reach a compromise with the imperialists and their representatives in Palestine, i.e. the Fatah movement and President Mahmoud Abbas".

This could lead to desperation, where at least a small fraction of their rank and file could begin to launch suicide attacks against the Israeli masses. In this case, "This act [will create] more hatred between the Israeli masses and the Palestinian masses. By pushing the Israeli working class into the hands of the [ruling class] these terrorists are in reality the best friends of the [ruling class]. If they did not exist [the Israeli ruling class] would have to invent them. The logic behind this criminal act is to strengthen the right-wing, giving more legitimacy to the terror of the state." (see: Israel: Ashdod bombings: How reaction and individual terrorism feed off each other. Obviously, this will not "shake the confidence of the Israeli workers in their oppressors."

Thirdly, the "galvanisation" of the Arab masses against imperialism around forces such as Hamas is comparable to the "galvanisation" called for by Bin Laden and other fanatics...

Do the Palestinian masses support Hamas?

The last election gave Hamas a large victory (in parliamentary terms, although not in terms of votes) whereas Fatah and the other groups suffered an important defeat. The comrade is right when he explains this victory by saying: "This victory of Hamas would not have been possible without a massive turn of the Palestinian masses both in Gaza and the West Bank against Fatah and the leaders of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) after more than a decade of extreme corruption and collaboration with imperialism and the Israeli government against their own people."

Hamas has cynically exploited this situation by using demagogic, populist language which concentrates on the struggle against corruption and the continuation of the resistance. Its promises are not limited to this world, but extend even to the "next world"!!

This means that the vote for Hamas was not a vote for its reactionary, anti-Semitic project, nor for its attitude towards women, etc., but revenge against Fatah and a vote for a change in living conditions. This makes us more conscious of the relevance of the revolutionary Marxist alternative to save the masses from alienation.

The masses can sometimes support very reactionary movements ‑ when they find themselves at an impasse, in unbearable living conditions, in the absence of a revolutionary alternative, and when the leaders of the mass organisations behave like traitors. In such cases, and since nature abhors a vacuum, it is possible that a fascist party, or something similar, takes advantage of the situation and takes power.

In such cases we must endure temporary isolation. However, the situation in Palestine is different, and more favourable, as we have already explained - the masses in Palestine voted for a reactionary party, but for progressive reasons.


Hamas is a reactionary bourgeois party. We must unmask it and struggle against it. To do this, we must struggle for class independence. We must struggle for a united front of the mass organisations - the trade unions and left currents - on the basis of a militant programme against the barbarism caused by this confrontation, against the Israeli aggression, and for the improvement in the living conditions of the masses. These are only general ideas and we must develop such a programme concretely.

We raise all this despite the fact that we believe that it is premature to speak of an intervention in the mass movement in Palestine at this stage. We believe that we must concentrate our forces on making contact with the most advanced elements there and educate them in the spirit of Marxism, etc. But they must be educated as Marxist cadres who struggle for the independence of the working class.

Comradely Greetings,

Communist League of Action (Morocco)RENEGADE EYE