Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stop Israel's Massacre in Gaza!

By Walter Leon
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Two years after the Israeli ‘Defence’ Forces indiscriminately slaughtered over a thousand Lebanese civilians in the quaintly-titled Operation Just Reward, Israel has turned its attention to Gaza, in the form of Operation Cast Lead. Stripped of its innocuous-sounding name, this operation becomes a lot less palatable: according to Palestinian medical sources, nearly 300 Palestinians have been killed, including numerous women and children. Israel’s targets have included police stations (which are unsurprisingly situated in densely-populated areas), the headquarters of a Hamas-owned satellite television channel, and the Islamic University, Gaza’s only higher education institution.

According to witnesses, hospitals are overwhelmed with the injured and the bodies of the dead are piling up in the morgues. BBC correspondent and Gaza resident Hamada Abu Qammar describes a typical grisly scene:

“I followed one woman who was screaming ‘my son, my son’ as she searched the building.

Eventually they located him, a young man was in his twenties. The staff would not let her see the body, but I saw it. It didn't have a head and there was no stomach. She fainted on top of the remains of her son, which were covered with a white sheet.”

Israel’s ‘Ceasefire’ and the Complicity of the Arab World

The attacks have come as a six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas elapsed. However, even when this ceasefire was in place, this did not mean the people of Gaza were free of problems. Israel has instigated a crippling blockade of Gaza that has starved its people of food, fuel and even medical supplies. As John Ging, head of operations of the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), said in an interview with The Electronic Intifada in November, “there was five months of a ceasefire in the last couple of months, where the people of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence. We in fact at the UN, our supplies were also restricted during the period of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of closure we ran out of food.”

Nor should Israel alone be held responsible. Whilst Israel was instigating these brutal attacks, Egypt was playing host to Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni. According to the BBC, “[a]s jets pounded the southern Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians stormed over a fence on the Gaza-Egypt border, but Egyptian security forces fired shots to prevent them entering.”. In fact, Egypt has consistently participated in the blockade of Gaza, time and again doing Israel’s dirty work, caging Palestinians like animals and denying them essential supplies. Arab states called for an ‘emergency’ session of the Arab League, but Egypt opposed this and Saudi Arabia expressed ‘reservations’.

Why has Egypt done this? Well, firstly, as the world’s second largest recipient of US military aid (no prizes for guessing the first largest), Egypt is a ‘key regional ally’ (i.e. pawn) of the United States, and as such, will carry out US policy. Writing in Haaretz, the liberal Israeli newspaper, Zvi Barel argues that “Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which view Hamas as an Iranian ally whose goal is to increase Tehran's regional influence at their expense, prefer to wait a bit in the hopes that Israel's military operation will strip Hamas of its ability to dictate terms.” In other words, the Egyptian and Saudi regimes (and their US puppet-masters) are hoping Israel succeeds in destroying the Hamas government and replacing it with something more pliant. They are prepared to see Gaza’s streets drenched with Palestinian blood to make this happen.

The Masses Rally

Of course, the pusillanimous collaboration by the Arab states has not been matched by its people. In Egypt and Lebanon, rallies of tens of thousands have taken place in support of the Palestinians. Large rallies have also taken place in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Jordan. Revulsion at the complicity of the Arab states was evident: left-wing Lebanese television station Aljadeed (New TV) showed demonstrators outside the Egyptian embassy, some waving red flags and one sporting a Ché Guevara t-shirt.

Even in Israel itself, where the population is subjected to a relentless propaganda machine in support of the state, a rally of over a thousand people assembled spontaneously in Tel-Aviv, attended by organisations from “Gush Shalom and the Women’s Coalition for Peace to the Anarchists Against the Wall and Hadash [with whom the Israeli Communist Party are involved]”.

A demonstration also took place in London outside the Israeli embassy. According to police reports, 700 people attended the stormy demonstration, blockading the road outside the embassy and bringing traffic to a standstill. Clashes between protesters and the police broke out when a group of protesters tried to storm the barrier that was penning them in.

The Futility of Terrorism and the Bankruptcy of the Fundamentalists

So what is Hamas, the supposed leader of Palestinian resistance to Israel, doing to defend the Palestinians? Unfortunately, their ‘resistance’ strategy is based on futile terrorist attacks on Israeli civilian targets. Since taking control of Gaza, the Islamic movement has fired hundreds of homemade rockets at the Israeli border town of Sderot. Whilst these attacks have rarely been deadly (less than 20 Israelis have been killed in such attacks since Israel removed its settlers from Gaza), they have made life miserable for the inhabitants of this poor, working-class town.

These attacks do nothing to militarily damage the regional superpower; they do however serve to harden Israeli public opinion, particularly amongst the poor workers of Sderot, who should be the Palestinians’ natural allies. Such attacks help to create a fortress mentality within Israel, encouraging its workers and poor (themselves heavily exploited by Israeli capitalism) to support ‘their’ state in its attacks against ‘the enemy’. The Israeli military can then take advantage of favourable Israeli public opinion to launch an attack. Its aim is to destroy or severely weaken Hamas, and see it replaced by something more pliant.

For its part, Hamas is primarily interested in gaining power over its own stretch of territory. The terrorist attacks on Israel are aimed at strengthening its position at the negotiating table; Hamas has already shown its willingness to accede to Israel’s demands (even going so far as to aid the Egyptian security forces in preventing Palestinians from entering Egypt via Gaza), but its support base forces it to drive a harder bargain than Fatah. This is a problem for Israel, whose dominant economic and political position will be threatened if it concedes too much.

Is There an Alternative?

If Hamas were serious about organising a resistance against Israel’s occupation, it would base its strategy not on futile acts of terrorism by small bands of ‘heroes’, but on arming the Palestinian masses. It would organise regional defence committees in every city, town and village, democratically controlled by the workers, peasants and refugees, and composed of every able-bodied man and woman. Such a force would have a genuine mass base, and, conducting a campaign of guerrilla street-fighting, would be a formidable foe for the Israeli occupation forces. But such a force would threaten the power of Hamas (and of the powerful, semi-feudal clans that dominate Palestinian politics). One of Hamas’ first actions upon taking control of Gaza was to raid the offices of the Palestinian Trade Union Federation, in an attempt to stifle any independent organisation of Palestinian workers.

For its part, the Israeli labour movement has a moral duty to oppose Israel’s barbarous actions. The Histadrut (Israeli Trade Union Federation) should refuse to cooperate with the ‘war effort’, calling strikes amongst workers involved in the handling of military supplies, and, if necessary, an anti-war general strike. The workers and poor of Israel are the natural allies of the Palestinian masses of Gaza and elsewhere. This war will not benefit them – it will mean more curtailing of civil liberties by the state (Israeli police already have unprecedented powers to search people’s homes without even informing them), more cuts in public spending, and more threats of terrorism as Hamas or Hezbollah retaliate.

Of course, we are under no illusions that the Israeli labour movement is about to take such actions – even more than in Britain, Israeli trade union leaders are very much integrated into the state machine. But some rank-and-file members, Israeli workers, will start to ask awkward questions at union meetings, demanding that their leaders take action.

We demand


An immediate cessation of hostilities by the Israeli military against the population of Gaza
An immediate lifting of the crippling economic blockade, to allow free movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza
An end to the futile terrorist attacks on the civilian population of Sderot; the leadership of the resistance must arm the Palestinian masses and organise regional defence committees in every city, town and village
Support for the suffering masses of Gaza by the Israeli labour movement – no cooperation with the Israeli war machine
For a Socialist Federation of the Middle East


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Greetings

Holiday greetings to all.

The comments at the last post on the Spanish Revolution, were so interesting, in a few weeks I'll repost the whole thing, so more people can join. Many who have strong opinions are out of town,

In the future I will do a post about the Watergate Scandal, that'll provide a different view. Was it really a great moment in journalism?

If you go to the movies after Xmas, there are two good vampire movies around. The best by far one is Let The Right One In. I thought Twilight was great fun.

Besides the resolution to get more exercise, by eating and sleeping more, I hope to post more about Africa.


Friday, December 19, 2008

John Peterson: The Spanish Revolution 70 Years Later

On November 13, 2008 at Mayday Books in Minneapolis, Graeme and I, attended a forum on the Spanish Civil War. The speakers included this blog team member John Peterson, talking about the Trotskyist position on the war. In addition an anarchist and moderator spoke.

A good movie to see about the Spanish Civil War is Ken Loach's Land and Freedom, based on George Orwell's Homage To Catalonia. In addition Bertolucci's 1900 deals with lessons similar to those of the Spanish Civil War.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Greece: Massive School Student Attack Against Police Stations All Over the Country!

By Editorial Board of Marxistiki Foni
Wednesday, 10 December 2008

On Monday morning we witnessed a phenomenon that we have not seen in Greece since the uprising of December 1944. In every town of Greece a total of about forty thousand school students, young 15-year old teenagers, attacked the police stations. In Athens, Thessalonica, Patras, Larissa, Corfu, Komotini' and in many other towns across the country the attack of the school students pinned down the heavily armed and well-equipped police officers inside their stations simply with the use of small rocks, tomatoes and yoghurts! Without any fear whatsoever, thousands of teenagers gave an example of heroic struggle against police brutality.

The Karamanlis government took immediate measures to close the schools for one day in the name of "mourning for the young student". In reality what he was aiming at was to stop the students from occupying the schools. On Monday night the government met behind closed doors and as the media reported, some ministers went as far as proposing calling in the army to maintain "public order"! The government has officially announced that it has rejected any such suggestions and is insisting on the "democratic road", while at the same time Karamanlis has announced a series of discussions with the opposition political parties with the aim of creating a common front of "national unity".

In spite of the final outcome and the official position taken, these discussions among the government ministers is a serious warning to the workers and the youth of Greece of what can happen if in the next period they do not build a socialist alternative to the present rotten and barbaric bourgeois power.

The government is desperately seeking points of support in society and on the same night, they found a very useful ally among the desperate and semi-lumpen elements who oblige the government with their blind methods. These groups, with about 2000 people in total, mixed with anarchists, hooligan elements and also infiltrated by police provocateurs, in reality destroyed from the very beginning the massive demonstration of 25.000 people on Monday evening which had been called by SYRIZA, the KKE, University Student unions and school teachers. Without any political logic these elements went on the rampage, smashing small shops together with banks, burning "luxury" Mercedes but also scooters, burning kiosks (small newsagents and tobacconists) and ordinary residences, and they also looted shops, stealing mobile phones, watches and other things.

Yesterday, the school students and thousands of people demonstrated all day long in the centre of Athens and after that they attended en masse the funeral of the young Alexandros who had been killed a few days earlier. But the police, not happy at having killed one student, provocatively attacked the demonstrators outside the cemetery. One team of police officers tried to terrorize the demonstrators by shooting many times in the air with live ammunition. All these scenes were broadcast on the TV channels, provoking a new big wave of anti-government feelings throughout Greek society.

The government has tried to exploit this mood of "tension" in society to get today's general strike called off. Karamanlis in fact made an official request to the union leaders to cancel the strike rallies. However, under the pressure of the working class the union leaders have had to reject the government's request. So as we write this short report the working class in Greece is mobilising in yet another general strike, the 10th since the ND formed its government.

The atmosphere in Greek society is electric. The Marxists believe that only the working class in a united class action with the youth, strictly separate from the criminal methods of the lumpen and hooligan elements, can defeat the government and its bosses. All the conditions have been laid for a big victory of the movement and the fall of this government. The forces are gathering whereby a radical transformation of society would be possible. This explains the growth in popularity of all the left parties.

What is missing is a leadership with a clear political perspective, a genuinely socialist perspective for putting an end to the present system which is the cause of growing poverty and with it increasing state violence. The Greek Marxist Tendency is intervening in the movement and raising demands that correspond to the needs of the movement. There is a vacuum on the left and what is required is a clear orientation for the mass left parties of the Greek workers and vanguard youth. The calls must be one for a united front of the left parties, in alliance with the trade unions and youth organisations, whose aim must be to bring down this hated reactionary government and usher in a genuine workers' government based on a programme of expropriation of the capitalist class. That is the only serious answer to the present brutal methods being used by the Greek ruling class.

Source: Marxistiki Foni


Monday, December 15, 2008

Negative Economic Indicators Pile Up as China is Hit by Global Capitalist Crisis

By Jorge Martín
Friday, 12 December 2008

As the annual meeting of the Central Economic Work Conference closed in China a flurry of negative economic indicators were announced. In November, Chinese exports fell by 2.2% (after having recorded a growth of 19.2% in October), imports fell by 17.9% (compared to a growth of 15.6% in October). Foreign direct investment in China dropped by 36.52 percent in November to $5.3 billion, according to Ministry of Commerce figures. The Ministry of Finance announced that China's fiscal revenue dropped 3.1 percent in November from a year earlier, after having already fallen 0.3% in October. Construction of homes, offices and factories fell at least 16.6 percent in October after rising 32.5 percent a year earlier. Yet another indicator which shows the rapid slow down of the economy is power consumption which was down 3.7 percent year on year in October, the first year on year monthly decrease since 1999. Car sales dropped 10.3% from a year earlier in November, the third monthly decline this year. Finally, inflation fell to a 22-month low of 2.4% in November, raising the prospect of a deflationary spiral. This is just to mention a few of the bleak economic figures released in the last few days.

The speed at which the Chinese economy has been hit by the global crisis of capitalism is breathtaking, but if you analyse the reasons for it, it is hardly surprising. Over a long period of 30 years, the Chinese leadership has gradually embraced capitalism as they sought a way out of the impasse facing society as a result of the bureaucratic planning of the economy. In this process the Chinese economy became fully integrated into the world capitalist economy, becoming capitalist itself. Now it is facing its first capitalist crisis of overproduction.

Some of the dominant features of the Chinese economy, which have allowed it to grow at an unprecedented pace for a very long time, are its very high rates of investment, massive growth of exports and a large pool of skilled cheap labour. Now all these factors are turning into their opposite.

As the global economy enters into crisis, demand for Chinese products is drying up. The November fall of 2.2% in exports (which account for 40% of GDP) represents the first fall since June 2001 and the largest drop since April 1999 in the aftermath of the South East Asian crisis. During the 1990s China's exports grew at an annual average of 12.9%; from 2000 to 2006 that growth nearly doubled to 21.1% each year. Now Chinese exports have fallen in all of its markets, 6.1% to the US, and 2.4% to the ASEAN countries. This will have a serious impact both on the Chinese economy but also on the world economy, with exports contributing more than a quarter to total world economic growth. The recently released figures of the World Bank for the Chinese economy, which revised expected growth for 2009 to 7.5%, were based on a 4.2% rise in Chinese exports, but many economists now believe that there might not be any growth at all in exports.

Qu Hongbin, the chief China economist at HSBC, said he expected things to get worse in the coming months and has suggested that exports could fall by 19 percent in the first quarter of 2009. "Combined with cooling property markets, this points to the rising risk of a hard landing," he said in a statement. "It's official: as the world's workshop, China will suffer as the global downturn deepens."

The Chinese toy industry which represents 70% of world toy production is already in deep trouble. According to the Chinese Customs Bureau, two thirds of all toy factories have shut down. In total, tens of thousands of factories have closed leaving hundreds of thousands, if not millions of migrant workers unemployed. Cao Jianhai, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted in October as saying, "By the year's end more than 100,000 plants will have closed". Now this might be a conservative estimate. This manufacturing crisis has already led to a massive increase in strikes, worker protests and rioting, particularly, but not only, in the Pearl River Delta. Labour disputes almost doubled in the first 10 months of the year.

The fall in imports which has also been announced (17.9% year on year in November) is also worrying. It means that, as companies are closing down or unable to sell their products abroad, the demand for raw materials and components is drying up. This will have a massive impact on China's neighbours, which supply her. Amongst those which have already been badly affected are Taiwan, which sent almost 36 percent of its exports to China; South Korea, 25 percent; and Japan, 19 percent.

"China is a huge source of demand for commodities, and now its slowdown is a key reason behind the collapse of commodity prices," said Nicholas Lardy, a senior fellow at the Washington based Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics. "It's experiencing the sharpest deceleration of economic growth since reforms started 30 years ago." China is the world's biggest metals buyer and the second largest consumer of oil.

However, the crisis is not limited to toys or the export sector. As we have said, the other engine of the Chinese economy has been the very high rate of investment. This has been the case with the building of factories, infrastructure and housing for the rapidly growing urban population. Building is one of the biggest drivers of China's expansion, contributing a quarter of fixed asset investment and employing 77 million people. This led, like in most capitalist countries in the last period, to a housing and real estate bubble which has now burst. Some analysts calculate that house prices in Shangai fell by 20% in the third quarter of 2008 and official figures show that house prices nationally stalled at 0.2% in October. At the end of October, Yan Yu, a business management scholar at Peking University, was already warning: "House prices here in Dongguan have fallen by up to 50% this year," leaving many homeowners owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. According to Macquarie Securities, "construction will contract 30% next year after expanding 9 percent in the first three quarters of 2008."

The contraction of the building sector has affected the production of steel, cement and a whole series of related industries. Steel prices in China have already fallen sharply. According to Jing Ulrich, chairwoman of China equities at JPMorgan Chase & Co., spot "prices of hot-rolled sheet have plunged almost 40 percent since the end of June". Zhengzhou-based Bayannur Zijin Nonferrous Co. is reducing zinc output by 30 percent. The price of zinc, which is heavily used in the building and car industries has already collapsed by nearly 50% on the world market.

It is the slowdown in production that is leading, as we have seen, to the danger of deflation, with prices in November growing only by 2.4%, the lowest rate in 22 months. The country's economic authorities have changed their approach from one of fighting inflation to one of attempting to prevent the devastating effects of deflation. "Declining prices, if they persist, generally create a vicious spiral of negatives, such as falling profits, closing factories, shrinking employment and incomes, and increasing defaults on loans by companies and individuals, all of which will aggravate the economic downturn," warned Dong Zhiging in the China Daily.

Effects On the World Economy

Not so long ago, leading capitalist economists were arguing about decoupling, a theory that maintains that the "emerging economies" in the world would not be severely affected by a recession in the US and other advanced capitalist countries. In March this year, The Economist maintained that "recent data suggest decoupling is no myth. Indeed, it may yet save the world economy." However, reality is stubborn and now The Economist is forced to admit that China's "dreadful trade figures" are a "blow to the world economy". These figures, they say, "are particularly shocking because China's racing trade has been an engine of world trade, and thus global growth."

From a position of hoping against all reality that China would help soften the blow of the crisis of capitalism in the advanced capitalist countries, there is now a serious possibility of China helping to drag down world trade and with it world economic growth. This is leading to a growing conflict with the United States. The recent visit by US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson only served to underline this. While the US is putting heavy pressure on China to revalue its currency in order to make Chinese exports less competitive in the US, it would be in the interest of the Chinese economy to devalue its currency, particularly after the recent export figures. The stage is set for protectionism and trade wars. In any case, it is not even clear that a devaluation of the yuan would help boost Chinese exports. Her neighbour South Korea has seen a devaluation of around 30% of her currency and still South Korean exports collapsed by 18% in November. Even if your products are cheaper, they are not going to be sold if there is no one out there to buy them!

Social Consequences

The legitimacy of the Chinese leadership has been based over the last 30 years on their record of guaranteeing economic growth and increased living standards. Even though the capitalist reforms have meant the destruction of millions of jobs, appalling levels of exploitation for migrant workers moving to the cities, the partial destruction of the health care system, etc., all this could be sustained as long as the economy was growing, jobs were being created and living standards in general increased. However, if this is no longer guaranteed or is threatened by the slowdown of the economy, then the danger is that the already growing number of labour disputes and conflicts may turn into a generalised movement against the government, the state and the leadership of the CCP.

The Chinese Toy Industry Faces Hardships

Zhang Ping, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, declared that: "excessive bankruptcies and production cuts will lead to massive unemployment and stir social unrest." Faced with this situation, the most challenging since the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, by their own admission, the Chinese leadership has responded by implementing a series of measures, both economic and political.

First of all, in order to limit the impact of workers' protests new instructions on police behaviour have been issued. The idea is to prevent small scale protests from escalating into massive riots or becoming generalised. Thus we saw in the recent taxi drivers' strike in Chongqing, how the authorities combined the stick with the carrot. While 20 striking drivers were arrested, the local party secretary Bo Xilai also met with a delegation of taxi drivers, made a whole series of promises and the discussion was broadcast live on the internet and TV. However, this change in tactics (less repression, more concessions in order to defuse tension) also carries its risks from the point of view of the authorities. As news of what was seen as a victory for the taxi drivers in Chongqing spread, taxi drivers in other cities also went on strike.

The state has also introduced new regulations to prevent mass redundancies. In the provinces of Hubei and Shandong, companies now need government approval if they are planning to make 40 or more workers redundant. "These measures can help protect social stability, which is now more important than economic development," said Liu Junsheng from the labour-wage institute of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of Hubei, talking to the Changjiang Business Daily. However, it is difficult to see how this measure is going to have any real impact. Many of these small and medium sized enterprises are foreign-owned and their Korean, Taiwanese and other owners have often just closed shop without any prior notice and run away. Local municipalities have been ordered to ensure that workers receive proper redundancy payments and that unemployment benefit is made available to them. Regardless of how effective these measures will be in practice, they are very significant in understanding how worried the state apparatus is about trying to prevent unrest.

Unemployment is already rising, according to official figures. However, official statistics do not include all of the country's army of migrant workers (tens of millions of them) which in many cases are not registered to work in the urban areas and who are going to be the worst hit by the crisis. In an article in the China Economic Times on December 5th, capitalist hardliner Zhou Tianyong, economist of the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, predicts that China's real unemployment rate "could rise to as high as 14 percent next year". Zhou Tianyong also contends that the current rate of unemployment is already 12%, far above the official 4% figure.

Economic Measures

On the other hand a number of economic measures have also been introduced. On November 9th, a massive government plan was announced, to spend an approximate US$586 billion, about 7% of GDP, over the next two years. This package includes infrastructure projects, but also investment in health, education and housing. However, as details were released, it became apparent that only about a quarter of this money was to be spent by the central government, and it was not clear how much of this money was new money, as opposed to other investment projects already agreed. Some economists have estimated that the impact of this stimulus package could be as much as 1% of GDP, and that it would only start to have an impact well into 2009. Looking at the more recent economic indicators, this may not be enough.

The government has followed up these measures by announcing tax rebates and tax cuts, and a cut in interest rates (the largest in 11 years). The aim of these measures is clear: to stimulate domestic consumption in order to make up for the fall in exports. The measures implemented in China are somewhat different to those adopted by Britain and the US for instance. While advanced capitalist countries have responded to the crisis by throwing money at the banks, in the hope that they will then start to lend to consumers, consumers will start to spend and thus the economy will be reactivated, in China what we have is a more classical Keynesian approach: a massive programme of public works, aimed at creating jobs, thus giving people money to spend, thus reactivating the economy.

The Chinese have one of the highest rates of savings anywhere in the world, and the thinking is that if they can get them to spend that money, then the economy will be boosted by its internal market. However, the main reason for these high rates of savings is the fact that the capitalist reforms destroyed or scaled-back the Iron Rice Bowl system of life-long secure employment and social welfare programmes that existed in the past. Now, the average Chinese household has to pay for a large part of their health, education, pension and other related costs. They are saving because they are terrified of getting sick, losing their jobs, getting old, and need to pay for part their children's education costs. If you add to this the effects of rapidly falling house prices which will hit the urban middle classes, and the risk of rising unemployment, the real impact of any Keynesian stimulus plan is likely to be limited.

It is true that China holds the largest foreign currency reserves of any country in the world (nearly US$3 trillion) and its debt is at a very low level (around 12% of GDP). This allows the Chinese authorities a certain room for manoeuvre to intervene in the economy and try to prevent the slowdown from turning into an outright recession. However, we should not forget that this position is similar to that of Japan in the 1990s, just before it entered a 10 year depression, despite the government spending massive amounts of money in infrastructure projects.

The picture that clearly emerges from looking at all these figures is one of a country where all the fundamentals that have driven the economy forward for the last few decades are now clearly turning into their opposite. China is facing a crisis of overproduction. There is too much capacity to build cars, toys, textiles, computers, houses, roads, fridges, steel, aluminium, cement... This massive capacity has been built on the basis of state investment in infrastructure and the export sector. This, like in any capitalist cycle, has reached its limits.

This is precisely what Marxists predicted. In April 2006, the International Marxist Tendency produced a draft document called "China's Long March to Capitalism". This is what we said at the time:

"Any significant decline in world markets would therefore drastically affect the growth of the Chinese economy, as happened to South Korea in the past. China is already facing the prospect of overproduction in steel, iron ore and coal, and also in consumer goods. The signs are there of a future crisis of overproduction.(...) This is inevitable, given the frenzy of investment in the country, where an incredible 45% of GDP is made up of investments, a level of investment which is historically unprecedented; not even Japan reached these levels during the post-war boom. So long as exports continue to grow and the west continues to get deeper into debt, they can live with this, but with this rate of growth in investment levels China is doubling its productive capacity every 4-5 years, a rate of growth that will inevitably lead to a massive crisis of overproduction."

Inevitably this economic crisis will have a massive impact on the consciousness of all layers in society. Above all the legitimacy of the leadership of the CCP, which has led the country to the restoration of capitalism, will be shattered. China's economic growth has created a fresh, multi-million strong, young working class and it has now started flexing its muscles. In the next period we will see ever wider layers of the Chinese working class enter the path of struggle.

For thirty years the Chinese workers have observed the leadership of the Communist Party gradually moving towards capitalism, seemingly without the interruptions in growth that we have observed periodically in the West. Now China is facing its first real recession, the Chinese workers will begin to see the other side of capitalist counter-reforms. In spite of everything they will see that the "market" is not the solution, but is actual the cause of the present crisis.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Dancing Girls of Lahore Strike over 'Taliban' Law

Patrick Cockburn and Issam Ahmed in Lahore
Friday, 12 December 2008

The dancing girls of Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, are on strike in protest against the tide of Talibanisation that is threatening to destroy an art form that has flourished since the Mughal empire.

The strike, which is supported by the theatres where they perform, was sparked by the decision of Lahore High Court last month to ban the Mujra, the graceful and elaborate dance first developed in the Mughal courts 400 years ago, on the grounds that it is too sexually explicit.

"The Mujra by its very nature is supposed to be a seductive dance," says Badar Alam, a cultural expert. He recalls that attempts were made to ban it during the 1980s. "Gradually, it returned to commercial theatre, mostly by paying off officials. The question remains: does the government have the right to engage in moral policing?"

The government and High Court in particular have no doubt about their right to do just that. They have tried to encourage "family friendly" dances, but once-packed theatres are now near empty, despite dropping their prices from 300 rupees to 25 rupees a seat.

In the face of the strike and the lack of enthusiasm for alternative entertainment, the court has suspended its ban. It has, however, ordered dancers to cover their necks with shawls and wear shoes (they used to dance barefoot but the court deemed that too erotic). "Do they expect girls to dance in a burkha?" asks stage manager Jalal Mehmoud. "Mujra has been going on for so many years it is part of our culture."

The dancers are also distressed by the situation. "Theatre needs dance like food needs water," says Rabia, a dancer and actress. "Some girls were making up to 15,000 rupees in one night. Hundreds of these girls from poorer backgrounds will be out of the work if the crowds do not come back."

The ban on dancing is a symptom of a more dangerous trend in Pakistani society. "If the government engages in moral policing," says Badar Alam, "it gives vigilantes licence to do the same. It fuels intolerance and de-secularisation by violence and intimidation and opens the door to extreme Jihadi Islamic movements."

Over the past few months, there has been a crescendo of violence in support of fundamentalist morality in Lahore. In the middle-class Garhi Shahu neighbourhood, young men and women used to meet in fruit-juice bars. There was nothing particularly salacious going on but, two months ago, three bombs exploded among them, killing one man and wounding others.

One bomb went off in a juice bar called Disco, where Mohammed Zubair Khan said he doubted if his customers would ever come back. "Everybody's frightened," said Saeed Ahmed Afiz, the owner of a another bar. Asked what he thought of those who had ruined his business, he declared surprisingly: "They were not terrorists because they did not kill anybody. They did the right thing." Asked about the man who died, Mr Afiz added unfeelingly: "Maybe he was just here to see the show."

A striking feature of those suffering persecution from fundamentalists is not their fear but their acceptance that, if they had encouraged immorality, they deserved punishment. The main centre for selling CDs and DVDs in Lahore is Hall Road. But when one of the tough-looking shopkeepers received a threatening letter accusing him and others of selling risqué films, the mood was not one of defiance, but of submission. The traders heaped up the forbidden DVDs and CDs in the middle of Hall Road and made a giant bonfire. "I swear we sell no pornography," said one nervously.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pilobolus Dance Theater

Pilobolus is an internationally renowned contemporary dance company, based in Connecticut. It was formed at Dartmouth College in 1971, by Alison Chase.

Their style stretches the human and other forms, while not merging with gymnastics.

The prize winning company performed last year at the Academy Awards Ceremony.


Monday, December 08, 2008

USA: Workers Occupy Chicago Factory

By David May in the USA
Monday, 08 December 2008

Beginning Friday, around 300 workers at the Republic Window & Door factory in Chicago have occupied the plant demanding severance and back-pay owed by the company. For the first time since the birth of the CIO union federation in the 1930s, U.S. workers are occupying their workplace. As the bosses push to place the burden of the failing economy on workers' shoulders, the class struggle is back on the agenda in the U.S.

The 300 mostly Latino members of the United Electrical Workers union began the occupation on the last scheduled day of operations before the bosses would close the factory. The company gave the workers less than 60 days notice of the closure, in violation of federal labor laws. The company reported that its monthly earnings had dropped by around 25% to $2.9 million. But the company continued filling orders through the last scheduled day of operation, which gave workers little room to believe that the factory needed to close its doors.

Republic management told workers that it was necessary to close the factory in order to get loans from its main creditor, Bank of America. UE workers picketed the Bank's Chicago headquarters on December 3rd. Despite pledges from the bank and Republic management for a meeting on Friday with the UE local 1110 to discuss severance and other issues, this meeting was sabotaged when Republic management failed to show up. Workers replied by occupying the factory.

Bank of America was one of the many large banks to get a part of the gigantic $700 billion bailout package approved by the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress in October. It was also supported by both Barack Obama and John McCain. Yet despite getting billions from the taxpayers, the vast majority of whom are working class , the bankers refuse to use public money for anything other than private gain. This is a painful reality of capitalism!

The other side to this reality is that it is not possible to get any meaningful concessions from the bosses, even something as basic as severance pay, except through the class struggle. We have to ask, if Bank of America is being "fueled" with public money, why is there not public ownership? If Republic is getting public assistance, this money should be used to keep the factory open and workers in their jobs. If there is no room for the bosses to continue making a profit, place the factory under public ownership and democratic workers control, send the bosses packing without compensation and remove the profit motive. In the meantime, the only way UE workers will receive the severance and back pay owed to them is through maintaining the occupation until management and Bank of America relent. To do this, UE workers need the full support of the wider labor movement.

This sit-in occupation of the factory is an example for millions of other workers across the U.S. who are facing a growing wave of layoffs, closures, pay and benefit cuts. Solidarity rallies have already been organized in the Chicago area. The AFL-CIO and Change to Win union federations should now mobilize the labor movement on a national scale to support the Republic workers. An injury to one is an injury to all!

The Workers International League joins others in solidarity with UE local 1110. We ask our readers and supporters to email solidarity letters to UE Local 1110, and to call on our unions to pass solidarity resolutions and to organize solidarity actions.

Solidarity messages can be sent to UE Local 1110 at: leahfried@gmail.com


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Mumbai Massacre

By Alan Woods
Tuesday, 02 December 2008

Last week the world was stunned by the bloody scenes of carnage in the aftermath of the terrorist onslaught across Mumbai (formerly Bombay). The attack, which began late Wednesday night extended over ten different sites in India's financial capital. It struck Mumbai's two best-known luxury hotels and other landmarks in the city of 18 million. It was carried out by a small group of gunmen, who had apparently arrived by sea, split into groups to attack multiple targets across the city, including the main railway station and a hospital. TV channels described the attacks as "India's 9/11."

The massacre was not brought to a close until Saturday morning. Finally, two and a half days, the final standoff at the Taj Mahal hotel was over, as Indian commandos took the building by force. The Taj, filled with terrified civilians, was a grim sight. "Bodies were strewn all over the place, and there was blood everywhere," a commando said. "Terrorists are far more advanced today. We didn't realize that they had satellite phones for communication or that they would be so advanced and use incendiary bombs," one commando said. The siege was particularly troubling because "they didn't spare women or children." To date, 188 people have been killed and nearly 300 injured.

Azam Amir Kasab, 21, the only terrorist to survive, told authorities that he was ordered to kill "until the last breath," and that the attacks involved just 10 terrorists, who hoped to kill 5,000 people, targeting mostly "whites, preferably Americans and British," according to a report in The Mail on Sunday. It seems the operation was carefully planned six months ago. The terrorists reportedly posed as students during a visit to Mumbai a month ago to familiarize themselves with the city's roads and to film the "strike locations."

Indian investigators said today the terrorists underwent months of commando training in Pakistan. The latest report from Reuters this morning underlined the hypothesis of a Pakistan connection, which is universally accepted in India. Two senior investigators told Reuters on condition of anonymity that evidence from the interrogation of Azam Amir Kasav clearly showed that Pakistani extremists had a hand in the attack. The clean-shaven, 21-year-old with fluent English was photographed during the attack wearing a black t-shirt emblazoned with the Versace logo. He has said his team took orders from "their command in Pakistan," police officials said.

According to a police officer close to the interrogation, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, the terrorists were trained by the Lashkar-e-Taiba group, under the direction of a former member of the Pakistani army. Another senior Indian officer told Reuters: "They underwent training in several phases, which included training in handling weapons, bomb making, survival strategies, survival in a marine environment and even dietary habits".

U.S. and Indian officials are investigating the possibility that the attackers arrived off the coast of Mumbai in a large ship and then boarded smaller boats before initiating their attack, the paper said. A US counterterrorism official said there was strong evidence that Lashkar-e-Taiba had a "maritime capability" and would have been able to mount the sophisticated operation in Mumbai.

Indian security officers believe many of the gunmen may have reached the city using a rubber dinghy found near the site of the attacks. On Saturday the Indian navy said it was investigating whether a trawler found drifting off the coast of Mumbai, with a bound corpse on board, was used in the attack. Navy spokesman Capt. Manohar Nambiar said the trawler, named Kuber, had been found Thursday and was brought to Mumbai. Officials said they believe the boat had sailed from a port in the neighbouring state of Gujarat. Indian authorities stopped a cargo ship off the western coast of Gujarat that had sailed from Saudi Arabia and handed it over to police for investigation.

A Reactionary Provocation

The authorship of these atrocities has still not been established, although a little-known group calling itself Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility early on. There are many theories but few hard facts. But one thing is quite clear: This was a completely reactionary provocation, which benefits only the most counterrevolutionary forces in Indian and Pakistan society.

The massacre has struck a heavy blow against the moves towards improving relations between India and Pakistan. In the last few days the streets of Mumbai and other Indian cities have witnessed angry demonstrations with some people demanding war with Pakistan. Whoever was behind the attack must have anticipated and desired this response.

Inevitably the Indian authorities and some other Indian security analysts are pointing an accusing finger at Pakistan. Pakistan has denied that its government had anything to do with the attacks. These denials are almost certainly true, although they do not preclude Pakistani involvement. However, the possibility that the Mumbai atrocities were planned and orchestrated within India itself cannot be discounted. India is no stranger to terrorist violence. It has been shaken repeatedly by terror attacks in recent years. Mumbai itself has been hit by terror attacks before.

In March 1993, Muslim underworld figures linked to Pakistani terrorists allegedly carried out a series of bombings on Mumbai's stock exchange. Those attacks killed 257 people and wounded more than 1,100. On the evening of 11 July 2006 there was a series of eight bomb explosions at seven locations on local trains and stations in Mumbai during peak traveling hours. 52 people were killed in those bombings. In July 2007 a series of seven blasts ripped through railway trains and commuter rail stations, killing about 190 commuters.

India has witnessed a series of terror attacks in recent months. In May, at least 80 people were killed by a series of blasts in the tourist city of Jaipur. In July, about 50 were killed by a series of explosions in the western city of Ahmedabad. Last month, about 60 people died in Assam, in India's north-east, in similar circumstances. These attacks are usually blamed on Muslim militants, but Hindu fanatics have also been involved in bloody terrorist acts. In recent weeks, police have rounded up 10 members of what they say is its first Hindu terror cell. Among those arrested are a serving army officer and a Hindu priest.

The arrest of an Indian army officer adds a new element into the equation. There are elements in both the Pakistan and Indian army who have never been reconciled to the peace process and fear being sold out by America. The Islamic extremists get most publicity, but there are plenty of Hindu, Jewish and Christian extremists too. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is based on Hindu chauvinism and there are many more sinister elements to the right of the BJP: the RSS, VHP and the Shiv Sena (Army of Shiva). They have links with the armed forces and intelligence services in India that mirror the links of the jihadi groups with the Pakistan armed forces and the ISI.

The conditions of the masses in both India and Pakistan are increasingly desperate. Unemployment, poverty, rising food and energy prices - all this makes life for millions of people unbearable. In India the election of the Congress government gave rise to hopes that were soon dashed. In Pakistan, too, the election of the PPP government has solved nothing for the masses. Both Manmohan Singh and Zardari are in trouble and the right wing opposition in both countries wish to take full advantage of the situation.

In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks there has been sharp criticism of India's alleged lack of preparedness and the conduct of its intelligence services. The sharpest attacks came from the domestic press. This noisy campaign is directed against the ruling Congress government. The growing fury of the masses is also directed against Congress, which is blamed for the intelligence lapses many Indians believe let these gunmen kill 188 people and besiege India's financial capital for three days.

Already two top politicians from the ruling party have resigned, and Congress faces defeat in a series of state elections. The bomb attacks on Indian cities this year - with threats that more would follow - benefit the right wing opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. They have given the chauvinist a stick to beat the ruling party in the run-up to elections due by May. All this is undermining Congress' grip on power, which was already shaky. The latest issue of The Economist writes:

"India's friends and neighbours can hope for a measured reaction, but they should not assume it. After an attack on its national parliament in 2001, India mobilized hundreds of thousands of troops on the border with Pakistan. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), then in power, routinely accuses its successor, the Congress party, of being soft on terrorism. The desperate spectacle in Mumbai could damage Congress's prospects in pending state polls and even cost it the next general election, which must be held by May. The BJP is now choosing its words carefully but a front-page newspaper advert, presumably commissioned before the Mumbai attacks, accused Congress of being ‘incapable and unwilling' to fight terror; a sentiment illustrated with a large splatter of blood."

Is it possible that this latest provocation was organized and planned on Indian soil in order to sabotage the thaw between India and Pakistan and create a wave of chauvinism and war hysteria that would benefit the Indian reactionaries and undermine the Congress government? Such a hypothesis cannot be ruled out. However, the pattern of Hindu extremist violence is very different to what we saw last week. These elements specialize in whipping up mobs for pogroms against the Moslems in India's cities and villages.

This attack - a combination of grenades and automatic weapons - was quite different. The choice of targets underlines the possibility that this was a group connected with Islamic fundamentalism. The fact that they singled out a Jewish centre and killed Israeli hostages (including a US-based rabbi and his wife) is significant. The targeting of Jews lends support to the view that the attack was organized by Islamic fanatics. There is no history of animosity towards Jews on the part of Hindu extremists.

Similarly, the fact that they singled out British and American people links this attack to Islamic fundamentalism. Witnesses said the attackers had specifically rounded up people with US and British passports. The way in which the massacre was carried out is in line with the well-known methods of al-Qaeda. There was no warning message and the gunmen killed men, women and children without mercy. They intended to kill as many people as possible, as in the 9/11 attacks, the London bombings and the atrocity in Madrid.

The other significant point is that the gunmen were well-prepared and well armed. Their detailed knowledge of the targets suggests that they had reconnoitred at least some targets ahead of time. They were also carrying large bags of almonds to keep up their energy. This was no bunch of amateur fanatics but a professionally-trained, well-organized group. "It's obvious they were trained somewhere. ... Not everyone can handle the AK series of weapons or throw grenades like that," an unidentified member of India's Marine Commando unit told reporters. He said the men were "very determined and remorseless" and ready for a long siege. One backpack they found had 400 rounds of ammunition inside. The question is: who trained them and where?

In the past, U.S. and Indian intelligence services have used communications intercepts to tie Kashmiri militants to terrorist strikes. According to one Indian intelligence official, during the siege the militants have been using non-Indian cell phones and receiving calls from outside the country. The implication is that these calls were made to Pakistan.

Indignation in Pakistan

Lashkar-e-Taiba has denied any involvement in the Mumbai killings and condemned the attacks. The chief of the United Jihad Council, an umbrella group for over a dozen Kashmiri militant groups, also denied any role in the Mumbai attack. "We very strongly condemn the attacks on innocent civilians in Mumbai and say it categorically that none of the Kashmiri freedom fighting groups has anything to do with it," group leader Syed Salahuddin said. Pakistan has asked for evidence of the involvement of anyone in Pakistan, but India, it seems, has so far not supplied any. Pakistan denies the allegations and says it only ever gave moral and diplomatic support for Kashmiri freedom fighters. But the Indians will greet this claim with scepticism.

The Pakistani media immediately protested that Islamabad should not be held responsible for the carnage in India's financial hub and the peace process should not be derailed. Pakistan's leading dailies have warned against the "blame-game", arguing that it would hamper the ongoing efforts to normalize relations between the two countries. "India gives Pakistan a dirty look," said a headline in the Daily News, while another paper said Indian intelligence was under fire and seeking to lay the blame elsewhere. The Dawn argued that the two countries "without apportioning blame on each other should cooperate in the investigation to make them productive."

"Although one can understand the anger and concern which is widely felt, one would still advice the exercise of restraint in this hour of crisis," the paper said. "There is need for confidence-building between the two countries." The same tone of sweetness and light was adopted by the Pakistan Daily Times, which said that both India and Pakistan faced the same threat of terrorism and needed to work out a "cooperative strategy". This is very much in line with the views of Washington, which wishes to avoid a confrontation between Islamabad and New Delhi at all costs. Unfortunately, the tensions between the two countries have a logic of their own that may be difficult to control.

The condemnation of the atrocity in Pakistan's official circles has been swift and unusually outspoken. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari promised that he would take immediate and strong measures if proof was provided of Pakistani involvement. He warned India on Saturday against any "over-reaction" after the militant attacks in Mumbai and vowed the "strictest" action if Pakistani involvement was proved.

"Whoever is responsible for the brutal and crude act against the Indian people and India are looking for reaction," Zardari said in an interview with Indian CNN-IBN television. "We have to rise above them and make sure ourselves, yourself and world community guard against over-reaction." These are strong words and go far further than any concessions made to India by the leaders of Pakistan in the past.

The reason for this is twofold: firstly, Zardari mortally fears a war with India that would certainly lead to his downfall in the near future. Secondly, he and his government are entirely subordinate to the interests of Washington, which he hopes will pay his bills and keep his bankrupt country afloat. "This is a world threat and all the more reason we have to stand up against this threat together," he said, echoing Mr. Bush's mantra of the global war on terror.

The involvement of the official rulers of Pakistan in this affair may therefore be safely discounted. There remain, however, the unofficial rulers of Pakistan, who in reality hold much more power in their hands than the elected government and President. We refer to the ISI, Pakistan's sinister Intelligence Services that constitute a state within the state, has close contacts with the Taliban and al-Qaeda and is constantly involved in all kinds of shady activities beyond the control of the government, the foreign office and judiciary.

It is quite clear that elements in the ISI were behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. They would like to destabilize the Zardari government, which they see as too close to the Americans. They would like to halt the actions of the Pakistan army against the Taliban in the tribal areas. The ISI hates India, and is opposed to the peace negotiations. They therefore had every motive to launch a secret operation aimed at provoking India and simultaneously destabilizing the PPP government. A war with India would be ideal from their point of view, as it would bring the war against the Taliban to an abrupt halt, stir up anti-Indian feeling in the population and create the conditions for a coup that would bring to power the army, the ISI and the Islamic fundamentalists. There are also powerful economic interests involved here. The real motivation of the so-called fundamentalists is not the Koran but the lucrative trade in drugs that has flourished thanks to the war in Afghanistan.

In order to deflect the blame from Islamabad, some Pakistan commentators have advanced the theory that this was the work of Hindu extremists. "Ongoing investigations into some [past] terrorist attacks that were alternately blamed on Indian Muslims and Pakistan have shown that they were actually carried out by a Hindu terrorist network," the Daily Times said. That is perfectly true, but on this occasion the facts do not fit the hypothesis of an attack by Hindu fundamentalists. Every aspect of this massacre points to the jihadis and the ISI that manipulates the fanatics for their own interests.

State Within a State

The Pakistani government on Saturday first said it would send Lieutenant-General Arshad Shujaa, the powerful chief of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), to New Delhi to "help with enquiries". This had apparently been the request of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Then the Pakistani government changed its tune, saying only that it would send "a member of the military's Inter-Services Intelligence agency". Finally, in an abrupt (and unexplained) somersault, Islamabad said that it was unlikely that any Pakistani intelligence officer would be going to India in the near future.

This clearly indicated a crisis. Why was this mission aborted? Government sources said the change came after "reservations in top military circles" over the unprecedented move. "The military leadership was not consulted before an announcement was made to the media regarding the decision to send the ISI chief to India," a senior government official said. "Reservations" is code for a blazing row in which the Pakistan military refused to obey the order of the government to go to India. This little detail is significant and can be explained by the tensions between the government and the ISI.

For many years the army, and particularly ISI, was notorious for making and unmaking politicians, political parties and governments. The ISI political wing was originally established by PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto while he was in power to keep an eye on his political enemies. It later turned against him and participated in his overthrow and judicial murder. The ISI would later turn against his daughter Benazir, first by setting up a political party - the Islamic Jhamoori Ittehad led by Nawaz Sharif - against her in the 1988 elections, and later by plotting to overthrow her government. The ISI was also named in the reported rigging of the 2002 elections.

The creation of the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League (Q) was also the handiwork of the ISI. It systematically worked on politicians in the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and in the PPP to break away and join the new party that was created especially to provide political backing and legitimacy to General (retd.) Musharraf. It was undoubtedly implicated in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

The ISI had the support of the CIA, which conspired with it to further the cause of the anti-Soviet Mujahadin in Afghanistan. But when Washington came into conflict with the Taliban and invaded Afghanistan, a rift opened up with the ISI, many of whose leaders have personal interests in Afghanistan and are heavily involved in the drug trade and remain committed to the cause of the Taliban.

Musharraf played a double game, maintaining an uneasy balance between the Americans and the fundamentalists and the ISI. The election of the PPP-led government gave Washington the possibility of strengthening its hold on Islamabad. Under pressure from the Americans, Zardari tried to take over the ISI some months ago but had to back off hastily when the Army showed its teeth. More recently there were reports that the ISI political wing has "either been disbanded or made inactive". Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told journalists that the political wing had been shut down. He called it a "positive development." However, in the same breath, he described the ISI as "a precious national institution" and said it wanted to focus fully on counter-terrorism activities.

These words show how terrified Pakistan's politicians are of the ISI and indicate the limitations of their scope for action in relation to it. Later reports seemed to have confirmed that the "political wing" of the ISI was to be closed down. Not only was the political wing to be disbanded, but the officials working there were said to have been given "other assignments". These "assignments" were linked to counter-intelligence, which was supposed to be the agency's original role. But to place the same officials who have spent years engaged in political intrigue once more in counter-intelligence is merely to shuffle the cards in the same pack. What is to stop these gentlemen engaging in the same murky game of intrigue in their new positions? The answer to this question is fairly straightforward.

The Dawn newspaper commented the ISI should be able to concentrate more on intelligence about terrorist activity not distracted by its political duties. This was naïve in the extreme. In all countries, including the most "democratic", the secret services act like a state within the state. They meddle in politics and spy even on Cabinet Ministers and other political leaders. In a state like Pakistan, where democracy exists only on condition that it accepts an army boot on its neck, to demand that the ISI should not meddle in politics is plain stupid.

The Army Rules

Ever since Pakistan was established as a state, the army has staged a coup every seven years or so. Military dictatorships alternate with weak democratic regimes in a perpetual game of musical chairs. And even when the generals graciously hand over the trappings of government to the civilians, they still expect to exercise a determining influence over policy, monitoring and managing political activities inside and outside the government. The idea that henceforth the agency would refrain from meddling in politics flies in the face of all experience.

One can imagine the anger in the upper echelons of the ISI at this attempt to trim their claws. It may well have been this that sparked off the recent action in Mumbai. In order to embarrass the Zardari government, and to strengthen the hand of the military in general and the intelligence services in particular, what better than to stir up trouble with India, and this take the heat off the ISI and their Taliban allies? The motive was certainly present, as was their ability to carry it out. The ISI secretly sponsors, arms, trains and finances jihadi groups, which it can manipulate for its own sinister purposes, like the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. It would have been a simple matter to dispatch a small suicide mission to Mumbai. The lives of young fanatics are just small change for these gentlemen, and the political and military dividends of provoking a clash with India represent a handsome return on such a modest investment. As the atmosphere of mutual distrust and suspicion grows, so does the risk of an armed clash between the two states. This would mean many more people killed and wounded than those in Mumbai. But war also would mean that the military (and the ISI) would be back in the saddle. And what are a few tens or hundreds of thousands of lives compared to that?

With every day that passes, recriminations are mounting in India and this is generating an increasingly ugly and dangerous anti-Pakistan mood, raising tensions between the nuclear-armed states. New Delhi has not accused the Pakistan government of involvement but has expressed its frustration that Islamabad has been unable or unwilling to prevent militants using its soil to stage terrorist attacks in India.

This situation suits the right wing extremists, religious fanatics and chauvinists on both sides. It also suits the army generals of both countries. There are others too who would like to see another war between India and Pakistan: the arms traders, gangsters and drug barons. There is a link between the fundamentalists, terrorists and criminal gangs involved in gun-smuggling. Above all, a war would serve as a means of diverting the attention of the mass of poor people who are suffering terribly as a result of the crisis. It would undermine the PPP government in Islamabad and the Congress government in New Delhi, preparing the way for more right wing regimes in both countries.

The interests of Imperialism

Although Washington is very interested in India, especially from an economic point of view, in the short term it cannot dispense with Pakistan, whose army is fighting a war against the Taliban in the tribal areas that lie on the frontier with Afghanistan. Therefore the warnings from Islamabad will alarm the United States and other governments with troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan currently has around 100,000 troops in the border areas, and the army is fighting Islamist militants in several tribal regions. The country's support is therefore crucial to efforts to defeat the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Washington must therefore strive to keep both India and Pakistan happy. It does not want a war. The FBI rushed to send a team of agents to India to help investigate, and a second group is on alert if needed. President Bush issued a statement on Friday, saying the wounded were "in his thoughts and prayers": "My administration has been working with the Indian government and the international community as Indian authorities work to ensure the safety of those still under threat. We will continue to cooperate against these extremists who offer nothing but violence and hopelessness." In reality, it is US imperialism - the most counterrevolutionary force on the planet - that offers nothing but violence and hopelessness and is spreading wars and terror throughout the world in defence of its own predatory interests.

President-elect Barack Obama also expressed condolences about what he called "outrageous terrorist attacks in Mumbai," and said he fully supported the Bush administration's efforts to protect US citizens in India:

"The United States must stand with India and all nations and people who are committed to destroying terrorist networks, and defeating their hate-filled ideology," he said in a statement. Senior Bush administration officials met on Friday afternoon for more discussions about the attacks, said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. She said they were focused on "ensuring everything possible is being done to help American citizens affected by these horrible attacks."

In reality, the tears shed in Washington are of the crocodile variety, and crocodiles are very dangerous animals. It was the USA that originally created and nurtured the monster of Islamic fundamentalism as part of its Cold War against the USSR. It was the USA that created Bin Laden and his terrorist gang in their war to expel Russia from Afghanistan. It was the USA that encouraged and armed the Taliban for the same purpose. And it was the USA that created and sustained the criminal dictatorship in Pakistan and worked hand in glove with his Intelligence Agency, the ISI. Now the dog has bit the hand of its master and the master wishes to have the dog put down. But this is easier to say than to do!

Now they are waging a "war on terror" everywhere, which provides them with a convenient excuse to intervene in the internal affairs of any country in the world, to bully, to bomb and to invade with impunity. At present they are waging a bloody war in Afghanistan against their former friends and allies the Taliban and al-Qaeda. This war is killing large numbers of innocent men, women and children every day. But George W. Bush, who is the biggest terrorist in the world, reserves his tears for such cases of terrorism that do not serve his interests.

Barack Obama has not yet taken possession of the Oval Office but is already coming out in his true colours. He has already said that he intends to pull US troops out of Iraq - and send them to fight in Afghanistan. For this purpose he needs the support of the government of Pakistan, and therefore a war between Pakistan and India is the last thing he needs. Pakistan would divert troops to its border with India and away from fighting militants on the Afghan frontier, if tensions erupt in the wake of the attacks on Mumbai, a senior Pakistani security official said on Saturday. "If something happens on that front, the war on terror won't be our priority," the senior security officer told journalists at a briefing. "We'll take out everything from the western border. We won't leave anything there."

This is no idle threat. Pakistan and India have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. Since both sides now possess nuclear weapons, the danger is very clear. New Delhi said on Sunday it was raising security to a "war level" and had no doubt of a Pakistani link to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. But a war would definitely not suit the interests of US imperialism, whose main concern in the area is the energetic prosecution of the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan cannot fight a war on two fronts! If it is fighting India it cannot fight the Taliban. This is the real motivation for Bush's tears and Obama's earnest pleas for Peace.

America's Real Concern

What worries U.S. officials is the possibility of a flare-up in animosity similar to one that occurred after Pakistani militants attacked the Indian parliament in December 2001. Prompted by these fears, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called the foreign minister of India twice, along with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, since the crisis began. "There were very worrying tensions in the region," said Gordon Duguid, a State Department spokesman. "She was calling the president of Pakistan to get his read on how those tensions might be affected."

The Secretary of State downplayed the threat of conflict between two countries, which almost came to war in 2002 after an earlier attack on India's parliament which also was blamed on Pakistani militants: "This is a different relationship than it was a number of years ago. Obviously they share a common enemy because extremists in any form are a threat to the Pakistanis as well as the Indians," Rice said.

The allies of the USA are also trying to calm the Indians down. In its Asian edition, the Financial Times said Indian leaders should not rush to point the finger of blame at foreign powers. "It is far from clear who is behind the 10-pronged assault, the most devastating in a series of attacks over a miserable year for India," the paper said in an editorial.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is clearly terrified that this incident could precipitate a war. He has appealed to India not to punish his country for last week's attacks. He told the Financial Times on Monday. "Even if the militants are linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba, who do you think we are fighting?" Officials in Islamabad have warned any escalation would force it to divert troops to the Indian border and away from a U.S.-led campaign on the Afghan frontier. This, and not any humanitarian considerations, is what Washington is worried about.

The Only Solution - Socialist Revolution!

The British government was at one stage said to be investigating whether some of the attackers could be British citizens with links to Pakistan or Kashmir. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir and there are many Kashmiris living in Britain. Some British newspapers even published articles saying that some of the terrorists came from Bradford. These scandalous statements were made without a single shred of evidence, and were clearly calculated to inflame racist and anti-Moslem sentiments in the population. Later official statements denied that any of the terrorists were from the United Kingdom. This shows how terrorist acts serve the aims of the reactionaries and imperialists of all countries.

The other theory is that this is the latest incident in a sustained covert war against India in which Pakistan has created and exploited a number of Islamist terrorist groups over more than a decade and a half. The principal focus of this war remains at present the state of Jammu & Kashmir, which India has held captive for over half a century. The people of occupied Kashmir have suffered terrible oppression at the hands of the Indian army. This has engendered a deep feeling of bitterness and desire for revenge among a section of the Kashmiri youth, who are open to be manipulated by sinister forces. This strategy has failed entirely to secure a mass base among India's Muslims, but a handful of recruits - sufficient to sustain a sporadic and, given contemporary technologies, fairly devastating, terrorist campaign - has been made available. This is a bloody blind alley for the people of Kashmir and the youth.

After over half a century, the rival bourgeoisies of India and Pakistan have shown that they are totally incapable of solving the problems of the masses. The people of India, Pakistan, Kashmir, Bangladesh and Nepal are all suffering from the same misery, disease, poverty, illiteracy and homelessness. To the horrors of national and caste oppression, the brutal subjugation of women, slavery and child labour are added the nightmare of pogroms, terrorism and wars.

To the cynical army generals, chauvinist madmen and religious fanatics on both sides war and mutual slaughter are the only solution. But terrorism and wars have not provided any way out for the last 50 years and they will not provide it now. The prospect of an all-out war between two nuclear powers like India and Pakistan present a horrific perspective for the future.

The only way to free Kashmir and solve the problems of the masses is by revolutionary means: through the victory of the socialist revolution in India and Pakistan and the establishment of a Socialist federation of the whole Subcontinent. This revolutionary idea is advancing slowly but surely. The marvellous JKNSF convention on November 29, which united thousands of Kashmiri class fighters under the banner of revolutionary socialism, shows that the best elements of the youth are open to the ideas of Marxism, which is gaining ground against the nationalists and fundamentalists. This is the real way forward for the revolutionary workers and youth of Kashmir, India and Pakistan: the road of socialist revolution that leads to the Socialist Federation of the Subcontinent.

London 2nd December 2008.