Friday, May 30, 2008

Nepal: The April 2006 Uprising, the Constituent Assembly and the Abolition of the Monarchy

By Rajesh Tyagi in Delhi
Friday, 30 May 2008

The newly elected Constituent Assembly in Nepal, a fallout of the April uprising of 2006, is now in motion. It has made a formal declaration of an end to the monarchy, with a ‘graceful' exit for it.

As a system of governance, the monarchy had already lost all its steam since the great people's uprising of April 2006, while the forces of medieval reaction ‑ hitherto protected under the wings of the monarchy in Nepal ‑ were already adapting with Nepali bourgeois rule. Because of this, the abolition of the monarchy in Nepal as a state system, and the consequent emergence of a republic, has but a limited significance. This is in sharp contrast to the bourgeois overturns in 19th century Europe, where the emergence of bourgeois republics, represented a turn in world history. In 21st century Nepal, such a republic (although a step forward in bourgeois democratic terms) is of no real meaning and of no practical use for the people of Nepal, unless and until it puts power directly in the hands of the working class and through it the peasantry. Power would be meaningless until it is directed against the bourgeois.

Old school of Stalinism and Maoism

Unfortunately, in Nepal, the Communist leadership, miseducated in the old schools of Stalinism and Maoism, neither has any perspective nor is ready to lead the proletariat to take power. It instead, seeks the power in collaboration with bourgeois/landlords. Its failure to comprehend the true mechanics of revolution in Nepal has resulted in missing the great opportunities to accomplish the revolution, which had presented them again and again.

The great tide of revolutionary upsurge of April 2006 against the old bourgeois-monarchist regime in Nepal receded after the leadership failed to take that historic movement to its logical conclusion - the destruction of monarchy and seizure of power by the proletariat. Revolution was thus forced to pull back from the threshold of victory, with meagre concessions offered by the monarchy. Failing to lead the rebellious people to a successful revolution and consolidate the power of the proletariat (backed by the peasantry), the disoriented leadership, instead, presented the concessions as a big achievement for revolution. This passive and reformist policy of the Communist leadership resulted in a rapid receding of the revolutionary mood of the people in Nepal. Instead of realising its error and preparing for a new wave, the leadership has since taken an about urn, more and more, towards legalism and class collaboration, adapting itself to the ebb in the revolution that they themselves were responsible for.

However, the April 2006 upsurge has left its imprint on the history of Nepal. The importance of the upsurge lies not in the concessions it succeeded in wresting from the hands of the monarchy, as both the bourgeois and the Maoist leaders both perceive, but in the fact that it illuminated a new path through the action of the proletariat in key cities, once again endorsing the bankruptcy of Stalinism/Maoism. What could not be achieved in more than ten years of armed struggle was achieved as if by a magic wand in 10 days of a general strike of the proletariat. This uprising had virtually shaken the monarchist regime from its roots. There lies now a whole gulf between the new Nepal as it emerged after April 2006 and the old one as it existed before the uprising.

The high tide of revolution during upsurge of April 2006, forced a radical rupture between the old and new Nepal. The monarchy lost all its strength and legitimacy, after its armed forces tried their best to drown the uprising in blood, but were paralysed before the might of the rebellious people, leaving the monarchy in the lurch. During the uprising, for the first time, the urban proletariat marked its entry onto the political scene as a class, turning the seat of monarchist-bourgeois power ‑ the city of Kathmandu ‑ into the centre stage of revolutionary drama. This put various hypotheses of revolution in Nepal to the test, first among them the formulations of Maoism and its slogan of the "Chinese road", and refuted them through living revolutionary practice. It refuted the myth spread by the Maoist leaders about the weakness of the working class in the backward countries, where the peasantry constitutes a majority. It showed beyond all doubt that despite its small numerical strength, the proletariat is fully capable of taking the leadership of the revolution by organising itself into a vanguard detachment of the peasant mass, independent of the bourgeois and in opposition to it.

All the forces of old Nepal - the Monarchy, the forces of medievalism led by it and the bourgeois ‑ trembled before this upsurge. Although the upsurge was spontaneous, demonstrating the political immaturity of the working class, it brought forward the immense political energy latent within the proletariat, which on its own had embarked upon the threshold of a political overturn, and if it was forced to retreat, it was only due to the absence of a true leadership.

What prevented the Communists from Taking Power?

What stood between monarchy and the people? What prevented the Communists from taking power at the head of the working class, aided by the peasantry? Practically nothing! But the Communist leadership in Nepal, miseducated in the school of Maoism/Stalinism, refused to take the power through the working class and in opposition to the bourgeois, as it was prepared to take power only in alliance with the bourgeois and not against it. They had planned to execute a bourgeois-democratic revolution, through a "bloc of all classes", with the bourgeois as a partner. Neither were they willing, nor ready to lead the revolution against the bourgeois. The bourgeois, in its turn was not ready to wipe out the monarchy.

The false leadership of the Maoist/Stalinist parties, thus found itself in a dilemma and a virtual political crisis during the upsurge of 2006. All of these Communist Parties and groups in Nepal at that time were closely collaborating with bourgeois parties in one way or another. The upsurge suddenly confronted them with the question of taking power by wiping out the monarchy, for which the stage was all set by history. But firstly the bourgeois parties like the Nepali Congress, having one of their heads faced towards the monarchy, did not at all wish its destruction, especially at the height of revolution. Moreover, the destruction of the monarchy through a radical onslaught of the masses would have immediately posed the question of power, with hostile classes facing each other - bourgeois/landlords on one side and the proletariat/peasantry on the other.

The bourgeois would have had to be confronted in a direct and decisive struggle for power, if the upsurge was to culminate in a successful revolution. The Communist parties, who rubbing shoulders until the previous evening with the bourgeois parties, were not ready for this eventuality and thus found themselves in a dilemma. They could not have turned the tables overnight against the bourgeois, calling its destruction. They therefore voluntarily let the historical opportunity pass and missed the shot. The line of collaboration with the bourgeois in a "bloc of all classes", the "two stage theory of revolution" and the slogan of the "Chinese road" proved fatal for the revolution. The false perspective of the Maoist leaders thus resulted in political paralysis of the revolution. The proletariat had to return from threshold of power, which it could have taken in a revolutionary manner.

Due to their incorrect perspective, regarding the role and correlation of social classes and consequently the nature and dynamics of revolution in Nepal, the Maoist leaders neither could feel the pulse in April 2006 nor could catch it in their own electoral victory in April 2008.The election victory, only but a meek and belated echo of the revolutionary thunder of April 2006, came as a surprise to the Maoists themselves, in the same way as the upsurge of April 2006 had taken them by surprise. The irony is that the Maoists are still demonstrating their political bankruptcy, while failing to understand the true meaning and spirit of the electoral mandate of 2008.

The Nature and Meaning of the Mandate

The Maoists, as with their failure in estimating the nature and depth of the uprising of April 2006, have also failed to assess the nature and meaning of the mandate given to them by the workers and toilers of Nepal. The Maoists pose this verdict as a vindication of their incorrect politics, which in fact is a mandate to remove not only the monarchy and feudalism, but also to cross over to more real and fundamental tasks, which are socialist in nature, and thus they fall beyond the domain of democratic revolution. But the Maoists have taken it upon themselves to stand as guarantors against this "cross over", which is the real essence of Maoism at work in Nepal today.

The Maoists are translating the mandate in a spirit opposite to and abrogative of the mandate itself. They refuse to accept this mandate for a revolutionary stride forward and to consolidate the power in the hands of the proletariat with the support of the peasantry. Instead, they are interpreting this mandate, in the first place as a "fractured mandate", thereby proposing a broad front of all political forces in the country to carry out the mandate, i.e. to build and consolidate a bourgeois democratic Republic. Instead of taking the mandate for a complete overturn, not only of the monarchy, but the bourgeoisie as well, the Maoists are seeking to perfect their alliance with the bourgeois and are planning a peaceful capitalist development in Nepal, in conjunction with it, for at least a decade to come. Refusing to see the complete adaptation between capitalism and medievalism in present-day Nepal, the Maoists falsely attribute a role to the bourgeois in the struggle against the monarchy and propose an alliance with it. Instead of marching towards a proletarian overturn in a direct fight against the bourgeois, they are striving to forge a union with it, basing themselves upon the bogus doctrine of the "two stage" revolution - presently democratic (bourgeois!), and only at some point in the future socialist. Their limited programme does not go beyond the contours of a bourgeois republic, and they are preparing a roadmap which is essentially capitalist in nature. At a juncture in history when the forces of revolution have sufficiently matured to advance against both the monarchy and the bourgeois, the Maoists are capitulating, pinning their hopes upon the bourgeois, instead of directing the revolution against it.

With a bright hope for a radical change in their lives, the people in Nepal have hailed and celebrated the electoral defeat of the pro-establishment parties, both royalists and bourgeois. But the Maoist leadership has already set about drowning these hopes, by seeking an alliance with the bourgeois/landlords and their parties.

Reassuring the Bourgeoisie and Landlords

Immediately following the election result, Prachanda declared, "In this 21st Century we need the cooperation of everyone for development". He further added that the "CPN(M) is ready to work with all parties to write the Constitution".

In an interview to the Nepal Times, Baburam Bhattarai clearly added further clarification:

"When we say we want to end feudalism, we don't mean we want to end private ownership. Our revolution in our language is a bourgeois democratic revolution. In other words collectivisation, socialisation or nationalisation are not our current agenda. We like to assure everyone that once Maoists come to power, the investment climate will be even more favourable. There should not be any unnecessary misunderstanding about that".

Both Prachanda and Bhattarai met the Federation of Nepal Chambers of Commerce and Industry, for more than two hours, wherein they called upon the capitalists:

"Within 10 years let us work magic for economic revolution and mesmerise the whole world. We will allow private investment and promote foreign investment".

Doubly reassuring the capitalists they told the gathering:

"Do not lose confidence. We are not going to capture industries. We need your cooperation to gain economic prosperity."

Amidst applause from the elite gathering, Prachanda declared: "We are Maoists of [the] 21st century", and repelling all apprehensions of those present, he added further: "A strong hand is needed to build a strong nation".

Both Prachanda and Bhattarai in their speeches cited South Korea and Malaysia as models of how the investment would be encouraged in Nepal. When asked about China, Prachanda praised it for elimination of the feudal system "that established a solid foundation for economic growth". He claimed that, "once we restructure the state and involve the private sector, it will be possible to achieve that economic growth".

On 30th April Baburam Bhattarai asserted that Nepal would see an economic revolution in the next 10 years. The Maoist leaders then deliberated with top World Bank officials about the future development plans in Nepal, pledging that bourgeois interests would be protected under their rule. They have offered immunity to the King along with his properties, if he abdicates voluntarily, which after the revolt of 2006, is a big concession to the King.

Dousing the Flames of Revolution

The false Stalinist/Maoist leadership is engaged now in dousing the flames of revolution that may have survived after the debacle of April 2006. While hobnobbing with the local and foreign capitalists, the Maoist leadership is openly calling for a change in the role of the Communist Youth, i.e. the Young Communist League (YCL). Prachanda has assured the capitalists that the YCL would disengage from its past to assume "constructive" activities. The YCL, representing the younger generation of revolutionaries in Nepal, would become the first casualty of political manoeuvre of this false leadership, which has already taken a turn towards reformism. To facilitate the smooth and peaceful participation in bourgeois power, the Maoist leadership has shown its readiness to return the properties confiscated during the last decade. It has agreed even to the dissolution of the armed militias under its control.

Instead of taking power through the direct action of workers and peasants, the Maoists are all set to assume the power through a "bloc of all classes", including the capitalists, both local and foreign. The blueprint they have for development of Nepal in the next decade to come is essentially based upon a nationalist perspective, to be executed in conjunction with the bourgeois, in sharp contrast to the dictatorship of the proletariat and its internationalist perspective. For the present, bourgeois property will remain sacrosanct and it will be protected, and capitalism will be developed. These Maoist leaders, these petit bourgeois revolutionaries, are practically surrendering all power to the bourgeois, converting themselves into a "bureaucratic crust" representing this power. This they do in the name of "democratic revolution", which they strictly counterpose against the "Socialist revolution" leaving the latter to take place only in some distant unspecified future.

However, paradoxically, there exists a peculiar overlapping of democratic and socialist tasks in the revolution in Nepal. The monarchy and bourgeois are integrated here with each other in a very close and inseparable manner, as the big bourgeois property and industry in Nepal belongs to members of the royal family, either the Shahs or Ranas, alongside with the feudal estates that they possess. The Nepali bourgeois, of which the royal family constitutes an upper crust, is amalgamated on the one hand with medievalism in Nepal, while on the other it is directly subjugated to world capitalism. Thus, any alliance with the bourgeois in Nepal would retard the struggle on both fronts. The revolution in Nepal cannot advance even an inch in alliance with the bourgeois. Revolution can advance only as a two-pronged sword one of whose edges is always directed against the bourgeois. Political alliances with the bourgeois as a partner would only more and more deepen the political crisis. The bourgeois republic in Nepal is a fiction in which neither the bourgeois nor the proletariat has any faith or interest.

Any sort of arrangement with the monarchy or the bourgeois would thus be outright reactionary and an open betrayal of the revolution. Merely a formal abolition of feudal titles, instead of the destruction of feudalism and above all the monarchy, would not bring any change in social relations in Nepal. Not able to conceive this ABC of Marxism, the Maoists are treading the path of class conciliation, instead of class struggle. While insulating the capitalist property against its invasion by the revolution, the Maoists are deceitfully paying lip service to the cause of the destruction of feudalism in Nepal, ignoring the fact that the two are inseparably amalgamated with each other.

Symbolic Abolition of the Monarchy

The fact is that while the bourgeois preferred the ceremonial survival of the monarchy, the Maoists want its symbolic abolition. They seem to be two sides of the same coin. The past of the Stalinist/Maoist parties in Nepal is tainted in this aspect. Their long association with the monarchy under King Birendra, is not a secret in Nepal. This opportunist striving for political leadership, both bourgeois and communist, in competing with each other for a place in the lap of the King, is sarcastically termed in political circles in Nepal as the "princely trend". They collaborated with the monarchy even against bourgeois democracy, when they should have taken the lead in the fight against the monarchy, and now that it is the moment to fight against bourgeois, they collaborate with it. If the Maoists have been able move against the monarchy in Nepal, it has only been under the immense pressure of the people and their own rank and file cadres.

The formal abolition of the monarchy is meaningless if it merely limited to the abolition of a few titles and privileges. The immediate programme of the revolution in Nepal is to remove the monarchy with all its political and social institutions, confiscate the properties of the Royals and destroy all feudal relations in the country. While executing this immediate programme, which of course would meet with fierce resistance from the forces of reaction in Nepal, above all from the bourgeois itself, the revolution must cross over to the destruction of bourgeois property as well, in an uninterrupted wave. This is the clear verdict of the recent elections.

The Maoist leaders refuse to understand and execute the revolutionary verdict. They are zealously striving to establish a bourgeois democracy and thereby arresting the revolution at the bourgeois democratic stage. Maoists fail to recognise that at the advent of the 21st century, bourgeois democracy, being devoid of all political energy, is incapable of presenting any viable alternative to the feudal regimes and it is only the dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e. genuine workers' democracy, which may successfully execute the programme of the revolution.

The Nepali Bourgeois Exhausted its Role Long Ago

The Nepali bourgeois had in fact already exhausted all its energies by 1958, i.e. within a decade of the armed struggle started by itself with the demands of a bourgeois parliamentary democracy in place of the monarchy, but which it openly betrayed by accepting and confiding in the constitution handed over by the monarch. It bargained away parliamentary democracy for a constitutional monarchy. The weak bourgeois miserably failed in taking the revolution even an inch further or to resolve any of the tasks of a democratic nature. The "revolution" of the bourgeois thus came to a halt over half a century ago. Neither can it be repeated, nor can there be a second bourgeois revolution now. Only a proletarian revolution can accomplish these leftover democratic tasks, as part of its uninterrupted revolution and not as a bourgeois-democratic revolution as our Maoists think. It is not parliamentary democracy, but the dictatorship of proletariat, supported by the peasantry, which is on the agenda.

The people have voted for the Maoists hoping that they would do away with the apparatus of exploitation and repression, but they seem to be betraying this faith, as they now propose to take power through an alliance with the bourgeois. One can see ‑ with no special effort ‑ that the plan of the Maoist leaders for the whole of the next decade includes everything for a bourgeois development of Nepal, but nothing for furthering and expanding the revolution, nothing for the workers and peasants of Nepal. What they failed to achieve at the height of the mass upheaval during the April 2006 upsurge, cannot be achieved through legal means under a constitutional bourgeois democracy.

The workers and the youth in Nepal, who had raised the banner of revolt against the monarchy in April 2006, with the slogans "We want the head of the King" and "It is we not the King who are the real power", and who supported the Maoists in gaining electoral victory, in the bright hope of radical changes, now wonder if this is what they had fought for. Enormous contradictions have erupted between the revolutionary potential that the situation offers and the very narrow programme with limited demands presented by the Maoists. The programme of the Maoists is based upon a nationalist perspective of national "progress" and national "unity", that is a "progress" essentially along capitalist lines and a "unity" between the workers/peasants on the one hand and the capitalists/landlords on the other.

Critical Juncture in History

At this critical juncture in history, when enormous revolutionary opportunities are presenting themselves in Nepal, the Maoists are singing the song of the "bloc of all classes" to appease the bourgeois/landlords of Nepal and the world capitalists. Instead of directing the revolution further against the landlord/capitalist bloc, and expropriating the expropriators of the toiling people ‑ something for which they got a clear mandate in the elections ‑ the Maoists are making lucrative offers of collaboration to local and foreign reactionaries, even inviting them to share power. It is not without reason that the strategists in the US have already started discussing if and how the Maoist-led coalition government can be utilised for furthering US designs in the region!

The Maoists received this unprecedented vote, not because of their present political perspective ‑ as is the general perception, but which history will very soon prove out and out incorrect ‑ but because as an accident of history they happened to occupy the whole spectrum of the "extreme left" in Nepal, in the absence of a genuine proletarian party. This explains how and why the Maoists in the recent unfolding of events failed to foresee or comprehend this victory in advance, a victory which appeared to them only as a bolt from the blue, and why they fail even now to understand the meaning of the mandate.

As far as the stealing of the march by the CPN(M) over the other Stalinist/Maoist factions is concerned, the same has to be understood by the fact that while all the other factions had remained inside the old parliament, thus having their opportunism exposed very soon in their day to day activities, the CPN(M) although in essence it relied on the very same politics, escaped this fate, as it had boycotted parliament for a long time. With this advantage over the other factions, the CPN(M) could secure an advantage over them, and consolidate a big electoral victory in its favour. It is however clear that this vote is not an endorsement for the opportunist politics of the Maoists, with all its zig-zags, but is a radical vote for extreme left policies, with a clear mandate to carry forward the revolution. This pattern of voting clearly demonstrates the severity and depth of the social and political crisis in Nepal, to which the programme of the Maoists of revolution by stages - now democratic and later socialist ‑ is no match. The Maoists, at the very threshold, refuse to understand and execute the mandate in this spirit. Instead of carrying forward the revolution, they have started to apply brakes to the revolution, depriving it of its class essence. The Maoists conceive the question of the abolition of the monarchy as if it affects all the classes in Nepal in the same way and as if all the classes are equally interested in it, thereby depriving it of its class essence.

Workers and peasants are not going to achieve anything by proclamations of a "Republic". Such proclamations become meaningless without power being firmly in the hands of the workers, followed and supported by the peasantry. People have not given a mandate for a bourgeois republic to be realised through the bogus formula of the "bloc of all classes". The mandate cannot be understood in simplistic arithmetical terms of proportionate votes to parties representing different social interests. To understand the mandate one must have a correct assessment of the nature of revolution and the role of different classes within it, which presents itself in algebraic fashion. The perception of the Maoists that the "people have voted for different parties to work together for the development of Nepal" is not only incorrect but outright bogus. There is a historic and unprecedented swing of the political pendulum in favour of the forces of the revolutionary left, which means a forcible overthrow of all the exploiters, one after the other. The mandate is for the abandonment of the bogus idea of a bourgeois republic. The mandate is against the perspective of "stage-ism", against compartmentalisation of democratic and socialist stages of the revolution and essentially in favour of a dictatorship of the proletariat supported by the peasantry. But the Maoists, in the absence of a revolutionary mindset, fail to understand this mandate, and take it as a mandate for peaceful bourgeois development in Nepal, with the cooperation of all.

The course of political development in Nepal is pushing the Communists to take power through the proletariat and as a proletarian dictatorship, but the Maoists are not prepared to take it and are willingly wasting the opportunity, surrendering power to the bourgeois, clearing the road for capitalist development. Misinterpreting the mandate, the Maoists refuse to carry it out against the enemies of the people. Instead of taking it as a mandate to accomplish the revolution, the Maoists have taken it as one for a peaceful collaboration of the classes. They are out to invite everybody, from the bourgeois Nepali Congress to the CPN-UML, to form a bloc with them to run the country peacefully and on the path of bourgeois development. They are clearly heading towards open class collaboration with the bourgeois, instead of its outright expropriation.

Inventing a Revolutionary Bourgeois in Nepal

The Maoists wish to execute the revolution according to their blueprint of a "two stage revolution" and for this they invent a revolutionary bourgeois in Nepal - the Nepali Congress etc. etc. ‑ as a collaborator and as a pledge for a capitalist growth of Nepal for at least one decade to come!

The Stalinist/Maoist parties in Nepal, whether it be the CPN-Maoist or the UML or other small parties, all share politically this common perspective of "stage-ism", i.e. the bogus Menshevik "two stage theory", which was discarded long ago by the February and October revolutions in Russia in 1917 and that since then has repeatedly been refuted by revolutionary experience in different countries. Based upon the compartmentalisation between the "democratic" and "socialist" tasks of the revolution, and adopted later by the Comintern under Stalin, this line has proved a virtual trap to arrest the revolution at the bourgeois democratic stage for an indefinite period. It serves to disorient and demoralise the proletariat, pushing the revolution to ebb, reinforcing and strengthening the bourgeois and ultimately losing power to it. This is exactly what happened in China, Spain, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Chile, Nicaragua and other parts of the world, wherever this theory of revolution in stages was applied. Everywhere it proved disastrous for revolution, and resulted in defeat for the masses. With this common perspective, shared among all of them, all the Stalinist/Maoist communist parties in Nepal aspire to a bourgeois-democratic revolution, which according to their dreams would establish "a democratic power shared by all classes, for a period. Staring out from this common political platform, on which they do not have any dispute among them, these parties take to different routes to execute this Menshevik programme. While all the others took the parliamentary road, the Maoists took to the armed struggle, but only to establish the selfsame bourgeois democratic regime in Nepal, cherished by all of them.

Shocked and moved by the immense revolutionary energy generated by the upsurge of April 2006, of which the cities and the urban proletariat were the epicentres, and which successfully demonstrated the limitations of partisan warfare in rural Nepal, without the leadership of the city proletariat, the Maoists reverted back to the cities, but only to reinforce their alliance with the bourgeois/landlords and their parties such as the Nepali Congress. This backtracking of the Maoists to the cities in the wake of the April uprising, abandoning the partisan struggle in the rural areas, deflates all the boasting about the April upsurge coming about as the result of ten years of partisan war. The upsurge came, in fact, as a refutation of the Maoist strategy, which they termed as "Chinese road".

This common perspective of "stage-ism" and the common goal of "bourgeois democracy" is the real political platform of the Stalinist/Maoist parties of the old type, who dominate the political scene in Nepal for the time being. None of these parties attempts to answer the discourse on real and fundamental issues of politics and instead raise issues of secondary and tactical importance only, to draw the political lines. The Maoists focus their disputes around tactical issue such as the forms of struggle, falsely counterposing them to each other ‑ armed action vs. parliamentary action ‑ while in essence they all carry out the same political line of class collaboration, whether through parliament or through partisan struggle.

No Fundamental Difference Between Different Maoist Trends

The Maoists had parted their ways from the unified CPN, criticising its leadership as renegade and revisionist, mainly for its participation in parliamentary politics. They immediately proposed armed struggle of the peasantry as an alternative strategy. This strategy was, however, changed after April 2006 uprising, but the political perspective of Maoism - the "two stage theory" and the "bloc of various classes", was retained. The Maoists did not differ with the then CPN on any of the political positions or fundamental standpoints, but raised disputes on the tactical aspects, subsidiary to the main strategic issues.

The 2006 upsurge, however, compelled the Maoists to change their tactics, to shift the focus of their work from the rural areas to the cities, even contrary to the preaching of Maoism. Prachanda said in an interview in 2006, that in any event they would not return to the villages to restart the armed struggle. Similarly, in 2007, CP Gajurel told a press conference that a city-based revolution was in the offing in Nepal. Yet the Maoists failed to change their fundamental political perspectives and retained it in all fundamental particulars. Still they continue to refuse to open their eyes to the futility of their old Stalinist/Maoist perspective of "revolution in stages" and "bloc of various classes", thereby diminishing the role of the proletariat and instead artificially carving out a role for the bourgeois in the revolution. They grasped the importance of action in the cities and the futility of rural based warfare, in wilful and clear deviation from the conventional "path" of Maoism, but their failure to understand the nature of the revolution in backward countries, and the role and attitude of the bourgeois and proletariat within it, made them cling to their prejudices about the bourgeois and its parliamentarism, instead of making preparations for a proletarian overturn in Nepal.

Now the question arises as to how this bogus recipe of "two stage theory" and of "bloc of all classes", laced with the gloomy dreams of the growth of capitalism, will be swallowed by the workers and poor peasantry in Nepal and why they should wait for another 10 years to come. Here comes into play the Prachanda doctrine, "a strong hand to build a strong nation". This strong hand would punch the proletariat and the peasantry, if they refuse to swallow the recipe of capitalist development prepared by the Maoists. Workers and peasants in Nepal will soon find that the Maoists will be playing the role of a policemen standing as a guarantee for the protection of bourgeois property in Nepal, as they have pledged time and again.

As apologists of the Menshevik theory of "stage-ism", the Maoists are revealing themselves as red lieutenants of the bourgeois/landlords. The power in their hands, sooner rather than later, will turn into a bureaucratic apparatus for crushing the revolutionary proletariat and peasantry, which in any case would not confine itself to the "democratic" stage of revolution even for months, not to say of a decade, and would strive to carry forward the revolution by crossing over the narrow limits of the bogus programme of the Maoists' democratic revolution. The state power, if not directed against the bourgeois, would certainly be directed against the workers and peasants!

History is Presenting the Question of Power Starkly

While the Maoists are busy in forging the unwarranted collaboration between hostile classes, under the slogan of a Republic, history is presenting the question of power starkly - who will rule Nepal, the bourgeois or the proletariat? The simplistic Maoist slogan of a democratic republic does not present any answer to this. The dispute is over the role and character of this democratic republic. Would it be realised in opposition to, or in conjunction with, the bourgeois? A republic under proletarian dictatorship or the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie? The fate of the revolution is bound to this issue. The Maoists show their utter incapacity to resolve this issue in a revolutionary way. The bourgeois, however, is unable to come to power unless and until the revolution itself is betrayed, its flames are put down and power is surrendered voluntarily by those at the head of the revolution.

The present turn in the politics of Nepal, presents only a caricature of the February revolution in Russia in 1917, with no October overturn in the offing, in the absence of a Bolshevik opposition. We will soon witness the same surrender of power by its Menshevik leadership, before the local reaction and imperialist bourgeoisie. We will find this leadership zealously defending the bourgeois state, law and property against the people. Unable to advance the revolution even an inch further, with every passing day, the Maoists would find themselves more and more trapped inside their false web of bourgeois democracy. Either the Maoists abandon the working people becoming open apologists of bourgeois democracy or the working people becoming more and more disillusioned, will eventually be forced to look for an alternative to the Maoists.

From the point of view of the proletariat, the abolition of the monarchy is only a means to an end and not an end in itself. The Maoists/Stalinists, the epigones of Leninism, are seeking collaboration with the bourgeois in Nepal, as they head towards a bourgeois republic in complete betrayal of the mandate both of the 2006 uprising and the recent elections. The proletariat must organise itself to take power in Nepal with the aid of the poor peasantry and thus execute the mandate by overturning both the monarchy and bourgeois. To be able do this, it needs first to detach itself from the influence of the Stalinist/Maoist leadership and its false perspective. What is needed is a genuine Marxist opposition within the Nepalese Communist movement capable of gaining the ear of the rank and file with the aim of establishing a genuine Leninist policy, armed with the perspective of permanent revolution, instead of the old Stalinist/Maoist outlook that seeks class-conciliation instead of class struggle.

Delhi, May 28, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Karl Marx's Letter To Abraham Lincoln

Address of the International Working Men's Association to Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America

Presented to U.S. Ambassador Charles Francis Adams
January 28, 1865


We congratulate the American people upon your re-election by a large majority. If resistance to the Slave Power was the reserved watchword of your first election, the triumphant war cry of your re-election is Death to Slavery.

From the commencement of the titanic American strife the workingmen of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class. The contest for the territories which opened the dire epopee, was it not to decide whether the virgin soil of immense tracts should be wedded to the labor of the emigrant or prostituted by the tramp of the slave driver?

When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world, "slavery" on the banner of Armed Revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century; when on those very spots counterrevolution, with systematic thoroughness, gloried in rescinding "the ideas entertained at the time of the formation of the old constitution", and maintained slavery to be "a beneficent institution", indeed, the old solution of the great problem of "the relation of capital to labor", and cynically proclaimed property in man "the cornerstone of the new edifice" — then the working classes of Europe understood at once, even before the fanatic partisanship of the upper classes for the Confederate gentry had given its dismal warning, that the slaveholders' rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy crusade of property against labor, and that for the men of labor, with their hopes for the future, even their past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. Everywhere they bore therefore patiently the hardships imposed upon them by the cotton crisis, opposed enthusiastically the proslavery intervention of their betters — and, from most parts of Europe, contributed their quota of blood to the good cause.

While the workingmen, the true political powers of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war.

The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world. [B]

Signed on behalf of the International Workingmen's Association, the Central Council:

Longmaid, Worley, Whitlock, Fox, Blackmore, Hartwell, Pidgeon, Lucraft, Weston, Dell, Nieass, Shaw, Lake, Buckley, Osbourne, Howell, Carter, Wheeler, Stainsby, Morgan, Grossmith, Dick, Denoual, Jourdain, Morrissot, Leroux, Bordage, Bocquet, Talandier, Dupont, L.Wolff, Aldovrandi, Lama, Solustri, Nusperli, Eccarius, Wolff, Lessner, Pfander, Lochner, Kaub, Bolleter, Rybczinski, Hansen, Schantzenbach, Smales, Cornelius, Petersen, Otto, Bagnagatti, Setacci;

George Odger, President of the Council; P.V. Lubez, Corresponding Secretary for France; Karl Marx, Corresponding Secretary for Germany; G.P. Fontana, Corresponding Secretary for Italy; J.E. Holtorp, Corresponding Secretary for Poland; H.F. Jung, Corresponding Secretary for Switzerland; William R. Cremer, Honorary General Secretary.

18 Greek Street, Soho.

credit: The Red Mantis


Friday, May 23, 2008

David Mamet's Right Turn

The American right has had few victories lately. Reaganism is in its death agony. The one gain that mattered for them, isn't noticed. They are not great supporters of live theater (except blogger Incognito), so they don't pick up on what occured.

The great writer, director, and producer David Mamet had an essay in the Village Voice called David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal. He announces here that he is neoconservative. This is from his essay: But if the government is not to intervene, how will we, mere human beings, work it all out?

I wondered and read, and it occurred to me that I knew the answer, and here it is: We just seem to. How do I know? From experience. I referred to my own—take away the director from the staged play and what do you get? Usually a diminution of strife, a shorter rehearsal period, and a better production.

The director, generally, does not cause strife, but his or her presence impels the actors to direct (and manufacture) claims designed to appeal to Authority—that is, to set aside the original goal (staging a play for the audience) and indulge in politics, the purpose of which may be to gain status and influence outside the ostensible goal of the endeavor.
That could be written by an anarchist.

Mamet wrote anti-corporate plays as Glengarry Glen Ross and Speed the Plough. He is best known for his works using abusive language, characters talking over one another, and at times sentences unfinished. His 1992 Oleanna, was based on the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas hearings, was an explosive work about sexual harassement. Now Mamet is calling Thomas Sewell his main political influence.

I'm interested in the roots of his political change. He always was pro-Zionist and a long time NRA member. He is not Bill O'Reilly. How is it that someone of his abilities, becomes neoconservative? Just like John Steinbeck, who wrote Grapes of Wrath became anticommunist. The roots of Steinbeck's change was American exceptionalism. Christopher Hitchens was never a trotskyist, rather he mistook Al Schachtman for being Trotskyist. Does anyone see the embryo of Mamet's conservatism in his art?

At theaters now is David Mamet's tribute to Mixed Martial Arts called Redbelt.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Israel Turns 60 – Where Next for the Jewish and Palestinian Peoples?

By Luke Wilson
Friday, 16 May 2008


On May 14th, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, leader of the Jewish Agency in Palestine, declared the independence of the State of Israel. Soon afterwards, the constant fighting between Jewish and Arab militias would erupt into a full-scale war, dragging in neighbouring Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and displacing over a million people. Though figures vary, it is estimated that over 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes by the nascent Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and Jewish militias. Just as tragically, more than 600,000 Jews fled or were driven from their homes across the Arab world; many would make their homes in the new State of Israel.

60 years on, the problems of this troubled region remain, with repercussions for the rest of the world. The Palestinian refugees and their descendents, now believed to number 3-4 million, still live in squalid refugee camps, and face often daily harassment and terror at the hands of the IDF. On the flip-side, the creation of Israel, which was supposed to solve the ‘Jewish question’ and emancipate the Jews from antisemitism, has manifestly failed to achieve this: Israel’s citizens have had to live through several major wars and a consistent terrorist threat, and an undercurrent of anti-semitism exists today even in the West (albeit at relatively low levels).

So where did the movement to found the modern Israeli State come from? What roles did imperialism and the Soviet Union play in bringing this about? And what does the future hold for the Jewish and Palestinian peoples?

The Historical Roots of Zionism

The term Zionism refers to the nationalist movement with the aim of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Its origin is attributed to Theodor Herzl, a wealthy Austro-Hungarian journalist, who put forward the idea at the first World Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland. Initially, Zionism largely involved wealthy Jews buying land in Palestine from absentee Arab landlords (often leading to the eviction of the existing Palestinian tenants), and donating it to Jewish settlers, who would form collectives and work the land.

Zionism was Herzl’s answer to the age-old ‘Jewish question’, that of emancipating the Jewish people from anti-semitic discrimination and raising them to a level of equality with other peoples. The nineteenth century had seen severe anti-semitic reaction across Europe, particularly in Tsarist Russia, where many were butchered in pogroms. However, Zionism was a bourgeois answer to the question, seeking emancipation by separating the Jewish people from the struggles of other peoples for emancipation from the drudgery and enslavement of capitalism.

In the early years, Zionism attracted little interest from European Jews, wealthy or poor, bourgeois or proletarian. My own ancestors, who were of the German petit-bourgeoisie, had little interest, forsaking the harsh desert of Palestine for more hospitable surroundings in England (though many of their descendents have since ended up in Israel, after the holocaust). For the Jewish proletariat across Germany and Eastern Europe, the class struggle, in the form of the Bund and the Bolsheviks, was more attractive than the isolationism of Zionism. Nonetheless, a steady trickle of Jews, mostly of European origin, entered Palestine throughout the early twentieth century: by 1914, around 60,000 Jews (7% of the total population) called Palestine home, and by 1941 this had risen to just under 475,000 (30% of the total population)[i].

Relations Between Jews and Arabs in Palestine

The manner in which the Zionist movement colluded with absentee Arab landlords to expel Palestinian farmers from their land naturally created hostility between the Jewish settlers and the Arab inhabitants. Nonetheless, there were examples of joint struggle of Jewish and Arab workers against their employers.

In 1920, the General Federation of Jewish Workers in Palestine, or Histadrut, was established. A coalition of various political parties or movements, its roles included absorbing new Jewish immigrants, establishing workers’ cooperatives, and providing basic social services. Already, the industrialisation caused by settlement was attracting Arab workers from the surrounding countries, whose standard of living was on the whole much lower than that of the European Jews. As with all capitalist concerns, the businesses sought to employ these workers at lower rates, thus helping to drive down wages (and foment racism at the same time). However, a contradiction arose: the Zionist movement’s social base was Jewish immigration (it relied heavily on help from Jews outside Palestine to make it happen), and hence there was an ideological commitment to providing work for Jewish immigrants.

In 1921, David Ben-Gurion proposed a programme of creating parallel unions for Arab workers, to prevent them being used to undercut Jewish wages. However, under capitalism, the contradictions wouldn’t go away, and Ben-Gurion gradually came to the conclusion that total separation of Jews and Arabs was necessary, i.e. Palestine had to be partitioned.

Despite this reactionary role by the Histadrut leadership, joint struggles did happen. For example, 1931 saw a joint strike of Jewish and Arab bus and taxi drivers against heavy taxes imposed by the British occupiers. Both the leaders of the Histadrut and the growing pan-Arab nationalist movement vehemently opposed this strike, and it collapsed. A more detailed account of this period can be found in Arab-Jewish Workers' Joint Struggles Prior to the Partition of Palestine.

Sadly, these joint struggles were isolated examples. The reactionary role of the Histadrut and Palestinian Arab Workers' Society (an Arab union formed due to Arabs being excluded from the Histadrut), as well as the treacherous role of the Stalinists in the Soviet Union (who opportunistically vacillated between gratuitous anti-semitism and support for Zionism!), ultimately sabotaged the potential for unity along class lines.

The Holocaust, the Imperialists and Stalinism: Partition, a Crime Against Both Peoples

The Holocaust changed the dynamics considerably. The butchering of six million Jews created millions of refugees looking for a home. Many of these fled to Palestine. However, despite Zionist propaganda, it should be noted that the Zionist movement did not play an honourable role regarding saving these poor souls. Whereas the labour movements of the USA, Britain and elsewhere organised campaigns to open the borders of their countries to Jewish refugees, the Zionist movement and the Jewish communal leaderships played little role: their interest was in populating Palestine with Jews, not saving Jews from the gas chambers.

Nor were the British and US imperialists the ‘saviours of the Jews’. Consistently refusing to bomb the railway tracks leading to the extermination camps, they also vehemently resisted Jewish immigration into their own countries, and Britain severely restricted Jewish immigration into Palestine. The US government famously turned away the S.S. St. Louis, a boat full of refugees fleeing Nazi terror, in 1939 (many of the refugees eventually perished at the hands of the Nazis), and the British similarly refused to allow the Struma to land in Palestine in 1942 (the ship was later sunk by a Soviet submarine).

Contrary to some views on the left, neither the British nor US imperialists gave unconditional backing to the Zionist movement (see Some historical clarifications on Israel/Palestine for more details). Britain promised Palestine first to the Arabs (in 1916), then to the Jews (the famous Balfour Declaration of 1917). Following their historical imperialist policy (replicated, for example, in India), they attempted to maintain control by turning the resident peoples against each other. In fact, Britain was against the emergence of a strong Jewish state: British officers commanded the Jordanian units that attacked Israel in 1948! The holocaust had caused Jews of all political stripes (including… communists) to emigrate to Palestine, and the British feared a Jewish state might fall under Soviet influence.

Amazingly, some Stalinists believe that Stalin was a consistent fighter against Zionism. This could not be further from the truth! Whilst Stalin did indulge in the most obnoxious anti-semitism (including murdering many Jewish Bolsheviks), he in fact supported the partition of Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state, believing he could use it as a bulwark against the British-influenced Arab monarchies. Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia was in fact one of the first states to arm the new Jewish state after the United Nations voted to partition Palestine.

Similarly, the US initially supported the embargo of Israel. It changed its position as a result of its manoeuvring against British imperialism, as Britain’s position weakened in the Middle East. Still, Britain and the US would only come to fully support (and dominate) Israel as the Soviet Union extended its influence over Arab states, particularly Egypt and Syria.

On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. Britain agreed to withdraw gradually from Palestine, relinquishing control to the UN. However, as we have seen, it was already manoeuvring to strengthen its own interests. The British occupation of Palestine had seen consistent violence between Jewish and Arab gangs, and between Jewish guerrillas and the British army (in 1946, the Irgun, a Jewish guerrilla group, blew up the King David Hotel, home to the British military command, killing 92 people). In 1948, this broke out into full-scale war. As we have seen, over 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes by the nascent Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and Jewish militias, and more than 600,000 Jews fled or were driven from their homes across the Arab world. Whilst these Jews would later become citizens of Israel (admittedly amongst the poorest), the Palestinians to this day remain refugees.


As the Soviet Union extended its influence over Egypt and Syria, Israel would become an ever-increasingly important bulwark of US imperialism in the region. The Cold War turned the Middle East into a battleground, and Israel’s short history has been a bloody one. Even since the fall of the Soviet Union, Israel has been a key part of US attempts to maintain control over the region. Poverty in Israel is also rising. Capitalism has failed to create a prosperous society for Israel’s Jews. Pensioners are reduced to eating rotten fruit thrown out by supermarkets at the end of the day; civil servants go unpaid for over a year; students are crippled with rising fees and debt.

As for the Palestinians, they continue to live as refugees in the Occupied Territories, Lebanon and Jordan, confined to the margins of society. A decades-long guerrilla-campaign by various petit-bourgeois groups around the Palestinian Liberation Organisation has failed to liberate this people; indeed, the PLO leaders have (as in Ireland with Sinn Fein) transformed themselves into collaborators of the worst sort. Hamas cannot provide an alternate to Palestinians.

It’s therefore safe to conclude that Zionism has utterly failed the peoples of Israel and Palestine. What has it done for Jews in the West? Well, despite the relative economic prosperity of Jews in the West (for example, in Britain, nearly 60% of Jewish males and 30% of Jewish females are employed in ‘managerial and professional’ occupations, much higher than any other religious group[ii]), violent attacks against Jews still occur, and are actually increasing. Many of these attacks are by young Muslims, brought up with television images of suffering Palestinians, and encouraged by reactionary religious leaders to attack their Jewish neighbours.

In addition, a section of respectable political discourse centres around disturbing conspiracy theories of Jewish domination, particularly of the US government (Mearsheimer and Walt’s 2006 paper, for example, purports to show that a Jewish lobby directs US policy in the Middle East counter to US strategic interests). The fact that anti-semitism still plays a political role is because the Jewish Question has transformed itself into a national question (something Marx could not have been expected to predict when he argued in On the Jewish Question that Jews would be freed from anti-semitism when they were economically emancipated). Zionism’s gift to the Jewish people is a continuation of anti-semitism.

Is There a Solution?

Capitalism, with its history of pitting different ethnic or religious groups against each other in search of lower wages, clearly offers no solution. Nor can we have any faith in the manoeuvring of the imperialist powers, and their so-called ‘peace-plans’, which would lead to a hopelessly weak Palestinian Bantustan (like the black ‘homelands’ in apartheid South Africa, which were actually just labour reserves for South African capitalism) under the economic heel of Israel, and continued exploitation of Jewish and Arab workers.

Some sections of the petit-bourgeois left give support to Islamic fundamentalism, and argue for the destruction of Israel and its replacement by a single Arab (possibly Islamic) Palestine. Obviously we cannot support any such thing. To begin with, it would have catastrophic consequences for Israel’s Jews, who would be a persecuted minority in an Arab/Islamic state. Secondly, a capitalist Palestine, even an Arab/Islamic capitalist Palestine, would be incapable of raising the Palestinian people out of poverty. Capitalism drives down wages and living conditions, it does not raise them. Thirdly, Israel has the Middle East’s biggest military machine. Whilst guerrilla tactics have had some success in defeating Israeli aggression (Hezbollah’s victory in 2006 is one such example), destroying the state is another matter entirely.

In the last analysis, the only allies the Israeli and Arab workers and poor have are each other. The marvellous workers’ movements across Egypt show that the power of capitalism and imperialism can be challenged. Only united in revolutionary struggle against their common enemy, the vampiric capitalist class and imperialist overlords, can the workers of Palestine, Israel and the wider Middle East transform society into something better.
[i] Israeli - Palestinian - Population Statistics

[ii] See second figure in National Statistics - Employment Patterns


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Uprising in Lebanon: For Revolution or Stabilization?

By Dekel Avshalom in Israel
Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Well over 60 people have been killed during the street fighting in Lebanon between Hezbollah and Maronite militias. What instigated the fighting was a decision of the Lebanese government to eliminate Hezbollah's telecommunications network. Hezbollah leaders regarded that move as a declaration of war on their movement and started an armed struggle against the government.

During the fighting, the utter impotence of the Lebanese state was clearly evident. It took only two days for Hezbollah to conquer the west of the capital city Beirut. Prime Minister Fuad Siniora ordered the army to intervene, but the army refused his command. The only ones that were prepared to fight for "stability" were the Maronite militias. After realizing the weakness of the state, Siniora backed down completely, announcing that Hezbollah's telecommunications network would remain intact.

The recent events show beyond any shadow of a doubt that the Lebanese state has no real power, and has stopped functioning. It is also clear that today Hezbollah is the most powerful political movement in Lebanon. Since the end of the 2006 war against Israel, there has been nothing to stop Hezbollah from taking control of the state and removing the minority-rule of the Maronite oligarchy. However, Hezbollah still seems to respect the Lebanese "rules of the game". It even expressed support for the Lebanese chief of staff - the Maronite Michel Suleiman - as the country's next president. What prevented Hezbollah from taking over lies in the nature of the Lebanese class struggle.

Class Struggle in Lebanon

Like many "post"-colonial counties, Lebanon is an artificial state, created by French imperialism. It was fashioned in a way that would allow the leaders of a Francophile religious sect - the Maronite Christians - to control the state while being a very small minority in the Muslim dominated Middle East.

A controversial ethnic survey conducted in 1932 showed that the Maronites were the largest ethnic group in Lebanon (although not having an absolute majority). The other two major groups were the Sunni and Shiite Muslims. This survey gave the Maronites the pretext to concentrate the bulk of political power in their hands. This pretext is used to this today, despite demographic changes in favour of the Shiites.

While the Sunni leaders were largely co-opted by the Maronites, the Shiite remained the most socially deprived group. Many still living in rural areas, and another sections in the poorer urban suburbs, the Shiites live in immense poverty, while the Maronites and the Sunnis benefit greatly from Lebanon's emerging role as a financial nexus for Middle Eastern petroleum-capital and investors from the West.

This situation could not remain stable for long. The Maronite oligarchy found itself facing increasing opposition from the entire Lebanese population (including many rank-and-file Maronites). They accused this opposition from below of promoting "separatism" - trying to destroy the "peaceful co-existence" of the different ethnic groups in Lebanon. Actually, the opposite was true. This opposition revealed the collaboration of various ethnic groups, Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, Palestinian refugees and Druze, all united in the fight against the exploiting class, that had been using the ethnic shield to retain political and economic power. The true separatists were the Maronites themselves - which consistently fought against uniting Lebanon with the rest of the Arab world, especially with Syria.

Tensions erupted in a civil war which started in 1975 and officially ended in 1990. During that war a new section emerged within the Shiite ruling class. While the co-opted Shiite landowners were largely supportive of the order in Lebanon, a more populist faction emerged from among the Shiite religious leaders. This faction - called Amal (Hope) - demanded equality for the Shiite poor and grew out of their support.

This populist yet reactionary organization managed to stop the influx of many Shiites into the Left and secular resistance movements. The secular Left opposition demanded true equality for all peoples in Lebanon and an immediate end to the ethnocratic nature of the Lebanese state. By detaching the most exploited section s of the population from the Left opposition, Amal turned a class struggle that united various ethnic groups into an ethnic struggle that kept these groups apart. In this way it perpetuated the deadlock that governed Lebanese society from its beginnings.

In 1982, the situation of the Maronites was most dire. In desperation they pleaded with Israeli imperialism to assist them. Israel invaded Lebanon using the pretext of bringing under control the PLO- the Palestinian national liberation movement. This invasion very quickly became a long-term presence designed to protect the Maronite oligarchy. The Shiite villagers were concentrated in the south of Lebanon, which meant that they suffered most from Israel's aggression. This brought forth radicalisation within the Shiites and their leadership. As a consequence, Hezbollah grew as a more radical faction of Amal and finally, with the aid of Syria and Iran, took over as the leader of the Shiite resistance movement.

Hezbollah is a Dead-End

Hezbollah and Amal diverted the Lebanese class struggle along reactionary ethnic lines. For that reason they play a counter-revolutionary role in Lebanon. By hijacking the Lebanese class struggle, Hezbollah receives great political support which enables it to be the leading force in the Lebanese political arena. However, its separatist and reactionary nature prevents it from being a progressive force that can mitigate the distress of the Lebanese people.

The Lebanese counter-revolution could not have been accomplished without the generous assistance of the imperialist powers. From the days of French colonial rule until the present conflict, the imperial powers have consistently intervened in order to maintain the pro-Western oligarchy in Lebanon. This intervention was required to fight the Arab secular Left which was affiliated to the Soviet Union and raised the progressive flag of uniting the Middle Eastern artificial countries into a single state. At times of great distress for the Maronites, Western troops were sent to defend them. In the uprising of 1958 American troops were sent in. In the uprising of the seventies and eighties Israel intervened. These interventions prevented the Left from taking over. Disappointed by the failures of the secular Left, many Lebanese turned to religion.

However, precisely because Hezbollah only represents a faction of Lebanese society, it cannot solve any of the contradictions in Lebanon, just as the Maronites cannot do. Hezbollah took part in destroying the supra-ethnic nature of Lebanon's mass resistance movement - the only type of resistance that can solve the problems created by ethnocracy. Hezbollah can only replace one type of ethnic rule with another - but unlike the Maronites, Hezbollah will find it much more difficult to maintain stability. First of all, the Lebanese bourgeoisie are mostly of Maronite and Sunni origin. The army is also controlled by these groups. They are not ready to give political power to the Shiites. Secondly, Hezbollah will find itself isolated in the international arena. It will not be able to recruit the entire Lebanese society to defend its rule.

This drives a more inclusive standpoint to Hezbollah's political approach. Hezbollah's domestic actions show that all it wants is a piece of the political pie, and not much more. Just as Hamas did not go forward after taking over Gaza, Hezbollah also shows unwillingness to disrupt the present order: if they get too greedy, they might lose it all. An example of this is Hezbollah's support for the economic policy of Lebanon's late Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, a flat income tax rate and the permission to import cheap Syrian labour in 2005, which utterly deteriorated the already poor conditions of the Shiites. Hezbollah was also silent about smuggling from Syria, which drove many Shiite farmers into bankruptcy. Hezbollah used funding from Iran to build a welfare network which gave it support from the same Shiites it had helped to push into even greater poverty. This example shows that Hezbollah would prefer political stability rather than the interests of its constituency, as long as it is getting its share of the pie.

The recent conflict in Lebanon was not about taking power, it was about maintaining it. Hezbollah retaliated to what appeared to it as an intention of the government to alter the status quo. Once the government backed down from its intentions, Hezbollah announced a cease-fire and withdrew from Beirut.

Thus, thanks to Hezbollah's counter-revolution, Lebanon will continue to be ruled by oligarchs, dividing up this tiny country among them, and completely paralysed in mending the social ruptures that they have provoked. The only hope for Lebanon is the re-emergence of the supra-ethnic class struggle that was derailed into a dead-end ethnic struggle. So far it seems that Hezbollah is stronger than ever: its victory over Israeli imperialism and the weakness of the Lebanese government has placed great power into its hands. However, this power is based on illusions: it cannot solve any of Lebanon's social problems.

There should be no mistake about it: Lebanon's problem is not an ethnic one, and not even a national one. It is an international problem. Lebanon is a small part of the international class struggle. The Maronite oligarchy is nothing but a puppet of global imperialism - earning their due in return for their contribution to preventing the Arab world from uniting. To bring true liberation for the peoples of Lebanon, it is necessary to go beyond arbitrary ethnic piece-of-the-pie struggles.

All over the Arab world, people are beginning to realize that the Islamic movements have no solutions. In Egypt, Jordan, Iran and Iraq we are beginning to see the mighty Middle Eastern proletariat reassemble itself for the next round of its battle against imperialism and the reactionary local elites that serve it. This is the only political power, the only hope for the plight of the Arab masses in Lebanon and in other countries. The international grip of imperialism can only be fought against by an international resistance of the workers. Any form of resistance that entails dividing workers along ethnic or religious lines will do nothing but maintain the imperial world order. RENEGADE EYE

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Who Pays the Opposition Students in Venezuela?

By Pablo Roldan and Mauro Vanetti
Thursday, 08 May 2008

It is not true that US imperialism does not help the Third World! One of its agencies, the Cato Institute based in Washington DC, just signed a cheque for $500,000 (yes: half a million bucks!) to a young Venezuelan. Yon Goicoechea has been awarded the "Milton Friedman Liberty Prize", for his merits in the promotion of "Individual Liberty, Free Markets, and Peace".

Well, we have to admit that Mr Goicoechea is not exactly a poor boy from a Caracas slum. He is a law student at the expensive Andrés Bello Roman Catholic University in Caracas, whose fees are 5,820 Bolivares Fuertes (officially equivalent to $2,710) per year, a very high price in Venezuela. Nevertheless, this badly needed financial aid was honestly earned by Mr Goicochea for the good job he did in the cause of the free market (i.e. capitalism) and democracy (i.e. conspiracy against the elected government of Hugo Chávez). The reason he is considered a hero by the Cato guys is that he is the leader of the "students' movement" that opposes the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela.

Yon Goicoechea

Right-wing and Anti-Democratic

The main activities of this movement have been organising demonstrations (and clashes with the police), with the typical display of inverted Venezuelan flags and an overwhelming presence of white-skinned people, on the following issues:

*In favour of the private right-wing TV channel RCTV, that supported the coup against Chávez in April 2002;
*Against progressive reforms in the universities (e.g., equalising the weight of students' and teachers' votes in elections for
university institutions) and promotion of affordable universities for the poor;
*Against the progressive reforms proposed by the Constitutional Referendum held on December 2, 2007.

There is no need to comment on the recurrent accusations about "erosion of human and civil rights" or "a constitutional reform that would have turned the country into a dictatorship". In the current war that the US ruling class and the nation's government are waging against the Bolivarian government of Venezuela, those statements have the same character as the old stories told by the British and American governments during the First World War about German soldiers cutting off the breasts of Belgian women - they are purely war propaganda fabrications.

Fabrications that our free and independent media, watchdog of democracy and freedom, waste no time in reproducing: "Venezuelan student leader who challenged Chávez wins prize", says Associated Press; "Student who challenged Chávez wins $500,000", announces US Today; and CBS tells us "Venezuelan student leader wins award for challenging Chávez". The movement has also been defined as "non-violent" in the award ceremony, but first-hand accounts by revolutionary students tell quite a different story (see Opposition Violence at Venezuelan university - What Really happened at the UCV).

In the muddied waters of CIA platforms and "neo-liberalism", "free-market libertarianism" or however Friedman's intellectual miscarriage is labelled, there can be no irony in the fact that an award for "Advancing Democracy" is conceded to someone who is attempting to destabilise, and eventually overthrow by any means possible, the democratically elected government of Venezuela, a country where, according to the Andean Commission of Justice (Comisión Andina de Justicia) - a body not very friendly to the Bolivarian revolution - 77% of people believe in democracy and 59% are satisfied with the levels of the democracy they experience, the highest rate in the region, and probably in the continent, if not the world.

Could it be otherwise when there have been over 11 democratic elections since Chávez was voted in? These were local, regional and national, including a recall referendum on the president himself, and all were declared free, clean and fair by such pro-revolutionary bodies as the Carter Centre or the European Union. The government was also (unfortunately) defeated in the last constitutional referendum - which would be unheard of under a dictatorship.


After spending weeks denouncing the totalitarian character of the "Chávez regime", Yon Goicoechea and his friends demanded their "right" to be heard at the National Assembly. Contrary to what they were expecting, the National Assembly invited them, along with students belonging to revolutionary organisations, to express their concerns and debate about free speech and freedom of the press; never before had a student representative been invited into the National Assembly.

The session opened with Douglas Bravo, a student opposition leader from the Metropolitan University, a private and notoriously elitist centre. He read out his speech, which was as vague as it was well written. On the one hand, he promised to continue the fight for the RCTV to the very end. On the other, he hinted to the possibility of a national reconciliation process if the revolutionary government stopped being a revolutionary government and behaved as every respectable government is expected to behave, defending the interests of the capitalist and landlords.

At the end of his speech he said in a declamatory way: "a dream of a country in which we can be taken into account without the need to wear a uniform", at which point he and his friends took off the red T-shirts they were wearing and revealed a series of pro-RCTV slogans. They started to withdraw from the Assembly, but revolutionary students convinced them to stay and, at least, listen to the intervention of Andreína Taranzón, a revolutionary student from the Central University of Venezuela.

Taranzón finished, and here came our hero. Yon Goicoechea took on the speaker's role, but having already done their show for the media, he did not feel like debating anything. Goicoechea announced that the opposition party was leaving. "We did not come to this Assembly to play at being politicians, we are students", said Goicoechea, "Having spoken once and listened once, we leave". And they left, leaving behind the script of the speech read earlier by Douglas Bravo.

The script was signed by ARS Publicity, part of Globovision's business group. Not only was the speech scripted, but also its performance. César Trompiz, a revolutionary student from the Bolivarian University, read out the last sheet of the script: "A dream of a country in which we can be taken into account without the need to wear a uniform [take off the t-shirt] with no more to say [pause] so far".

These "oppositionists" are not just generously funded by the oligarchy, they are also remote-controlled!

Tools of World Capitalism

Mr Goicoechea has been long praised by the Western press for his role in giving the Venezuelan opposition a "fresh" image and a new, relatively clean, face. Among the Goicoechea enthusiasts we also find the editorial board of Playboy-Venezuela, who put him (not his picture, that space was already occupied by a half-naked girl) on the front page of this, er..., serious political magazine.

The talent scouts who have hailed him the champion of anti-Chavism are not such an innocent group. The board who appointed Yon as a modern-day capitalist hero has an interesting composition:

*Kakha Bendukidze, a Georgian leading politician and good friend of the White House, who profited out of the US-backed
privatisation and destruction of the Soviet planned economy.
*Ed Crane, president of the Institute, member of the Mont Pelerin Society, a freemasonry-like think tank founded by rabid
anti-socialist economist Friedrich von Hayek. He is a vocal supporter for the abolition of the Social Security insurance system
in the US, because the sick, old and disabled, if poor, should be given the freedom to die without any government
interference in their health conditions.
*Francisco Gil Díaz, Mexican minister of finances until 2006, now hired by the giant banking group HSBC (the largest capitalist
company in the world).
*The capitalist Charles G. Koch (Koch Industries), who's been described as "the world's most successful private billionaire".
*Another European neo-liberal ultra-rich ideologue known by the name of Karen Horn.
*Andrew Mwenda, a Ugandan journalist who opposes sending aid to Africa and debt relief for the highly indebted countries.
*Mary O'Grady (The Wall Street Journal) and Fareed Zakaria (Newsweek), two other journalists on the payroll of Big Business.
*Rose Director, the widow of the laissez-faire economist Milton Friedman and a lunatic "libertarian" economist herself.
*Another individual who has won a Friedman "award" was Hernando de Soto, who was economic adviser in promoting the "Fujishock" in Perú, a packet of shock economic measures during the Fujimori dictatorship (free market and dictatoirship!).

Milton Friedman gave good economic advice to the dictator Augusto Pinochet who strictly collaborated with his pupils, the Chicago Boys, while he was in charge of dramatically worsening the living conditions of Chilean workers, killing and torturing thousands in the process. Receiving the Friedman Prize must have been a great honour for Yon Goicoechea. Who knows, a future career as a Venezuelan Pinochet is still possible for this brilliant advocate of capitalist freedom!

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Talented Patricia Highsmith and the Mystery Novel

Louis Proyect wrote an interesting story about the crime novels of Patricia Highsmith, the creator of the Tom Ripley series, in Swans Magazine. Tom Ripley is a cynical and amoral character, reflecting the brilliance, sexuality and politics of Highsmith's writing. Read the Swans article to be introduced to an intriguing writer.

Ernest Mandel, the great Belgian Marxist economist and Trotskyist politician, was a life-long fan of crime novels and took time off from his busy schedule to write Delightful Murder: a Social History of the Crime Story in 1984.

In the chapter titled Inward Diversification, Mandel treats the class detective story in which the hero (Sherlock Holmes, et al.) outwits the villain as a kind of parable on commodity production in the early competitive days of industrial capitalism:

However, there is a more fundamental quality of the thriller and spy novel that justifies treating them as distinct sub-species of the original detective story, despite all that they have in common. The detective outwits the criminal essentially by means of logical prowess. The paraphernalia of the trade -- Sherlock Holmes's magnifying glass or chemical retorts -- are mere secondary tools, subordinated entirely to Reason. The criminal, too, is clever, and often outwits the police, but cannot outwit the great detective's super-brain.

Here we have the purest, most elementary expression of bourgeois society: commodity production and commodity circulation under conditions of perfect competition. Everything is rational, totally geared to the maximization of income (profits), through continual cuts in production costs and sales costs including profit margins). All's well that ends well. In the end, rational
individual economic behaviour by all will bring the maximum well-being (including the satisfaction of the consumer) to the maximum number of individuals. Let the best one win (Sherlock Holmes, not the criminal), and this will be good for everybody, including the criminal (if not for his body, at least for his immortal soul).

With the arrival of monopoly capitalism, however, reason has more and more trouble triumphing over irrationality, particularly in the era of fascism. A Sherlock Holmes has little chance of coming out on top of a jackbooted SS member who would defy the law even when confronted by his guilt. To get to the top of the heap under such a system, having superior intelligence is insufficient. Instead you need cunning and determination, two qualities that typify Tom Ripley, the quintessential modern man.

The crime novelist of the monopoly capitalism epoch can even decide to subvert the norms of the genre by making the criminal rather than the detective the real hero. Indeed, Mandel points to Patricia Highsmith as best representing this category. In Ripley's world, the criminal always comes out on top. Even if Tom Ripley achieves his goals through brutal violence and a talent for falsehood, he will be a mere piker in comparison to the men who have invaded Iraq and wrought the financial scams that have resulted in the forfeiture of millions of American homes. Unlike Ripley, who retains a raffish charm throughout the series of novels that bear his name, these criminals evoke nothing but disgust and a fervent desire to disarm them before they manage to destroy the planet.Louis Proyect Renegade Eye