Monday, January 29, 2007

Lebanon: Sectarianism, Capitalist Greed, and Foreign Meddling


Ever since the July War ended, Lebanon’s bi-polarity returned with escalated manner. For starters, none of the camps stepped down from their goals. The opposition coalition, headed by the Shiite based Hezbollah and the Christian Party Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), remained as strong as ever. The FPM want to secure the Presidential Chair of its leader General Aoun, specially the current President (shoved by the Syrians three years ago) was to end. Pressure from the United States has increased to disarm Hezbollah. What Israel failed to do in a military sense, its ally was attempting to do in a political sense. The pressure of the United States has triggered a reaction from Hezbollah’s sponsors, Imam Ali Khamenei to react with escalations. Hezbollah and AMAL decided to withdraw from the 14th of March (anti-Syrian) government in order to oust the government in an attempt to safeguard its arms and make sure that its allied parties get the chair. Eventually, the National Dialogue collapsed between the reactionary leaders since none refused to step down on their demands.

The demands were several, and they didn’t change, rather simply escalated. For starters, the 14th of March wanted to disarm Hezbollah under the banner that the Lebanese Army should be the only legitimate force to go head to head with Israel. They argued that to fortify Lebanon economically and socially is the only solution for Lebanon to collide with Israel. This is not mistake the government with a reformist dimension. The government has followed a neo-con economical perspective of free market and its economic policies have increased class inequality within the Lebanese. The same figures of 14th of March were allied to the Syrians during the Syrian Mandate over Lebanon. The 14th of March also wanted to oust President Lahoud but they failed. Currently, with Lahoud’s term almost over, they are planning to win the Presidency through the majority of seats within the Parliament. Several seats of the Parliament were won through their alliance during the 05 elections with Hezbollah and AMAL. 14th of March coalition also insist on the International Tribunal to occur in order to investigate the assassination of the late Rafiq Harriri (his son Saad is the spearhead of the Sunni St. within 14th of March) and the rest of the assassinations. The alliance believes that is the way to get rid of Syrian influences in Lebanon, and best case scenario to change the Syrian Baathi regime from Beirut. Some of the 14th of March are even optimistic that they will disarm Hezbollah. Worse, the head of the Christian Party within 14th of March, Samir Jaajaa, was optimistic that the Tribunal can occur via UN’s Section Seven.

The 8th of March represents all the parties who were damaged by the withdrawal of the Syrian Mandate on Lebanon, except for the Free Patriotic Movement, who claim they are allied to 8th of March but not part of it and the small Nasserite Group, Movement of the Commoners. The Opposition hence got the majority of the largest sect in Lebanon, the Shiites, and the strongest Christian figure, according to the 2005 statistics of the Parliamentary results, General Aoun. There has not been any statistics to see whether the status quo between Aoun and Jaajaa changed. The Opposition were demanding that the Tribunal at first be local, then didn’t mind to be International as long as they had a say in it. Hezbollah in specific are worried that the United States would abuse the International Tribunal for political purposes, specially since George Bush himself indorsed the Tribunal. Second, they demanded the effective 1/3 of the government in order to veto any decision within the government. The problem is present because the current Lebanese President, along with the opposition, had the 1/3 in the national 2005 government, but several figures of the President switched sides. The 1/3 would allow the Opposition to dominate all institutional sectors on the political level. They already have the President of the Nation (who has to be a Christian Maronite but lacks any effective mechanisms), they already got Speaker of the Parliament, head of AMAL Nabih Berri (who attained with alliance to 14th of March and Hezbollah), and a crippled government.

Post-July Polarization

When the war broke out, the government took it almost one week to issue any public statement. This was the biggest mistake from the 14th of March since the Opposition keep reminding the government how they reacted late to the Israeli aggression on the Lebanese citizens.

After the war was over, with the United States and its international allies allowing the Israelis to bomb Lebanon for a whole month, the international community expressed support to the government, headed by Harriri’s movement, an Economist and Ex-Finance Minister, Prime Minister Seniora. The excessive support of Bush made Hezbollah and AMAL (the other Shiite based party) to worry more. Moreover, the entire Arabian rich Gulf nations supported the government since Harriri had strong ties with them, as well as France. The Gulf are not really respected by the Opposition since they took one side, and never liked the Parties who are in alliance with Syria. Moreover, Hezbollah, who for religious reasons abide by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei (Shiite), for religious reasons, cause a threat to their 14th of March leaders. The Israeli government also expressed support to the government and on several occasions expressed the need to pressure the International Community to protect the Lebanese Government. They insisted more when the Shiite Block withdrew from the government. Even though PM Seniora refuted to even talk with Olmert, the government was tacked as US puppies.

Hezbollah, need to safeguard their right to arm as a resistance group to Israel (and since the Civil War they didn’t aim their bullets anyone Lebanese) and hence not in their history they have been involved in Lebanese politics to that detail. Their leader, Hassan Nasrallah, stated that once there is an alternative is clearly given to Hezbollah to disarm, then they will do it.

With the date of approving the International Tribunal and none of the camps reaching common grounds, the five Shiite ministers of Hezbollah and AMAL (along with the President’s remaining Minister, a Christian Greek Orthodox) resigned. Prime Minister Seniora refuted to assign any substitute ministers under the claim that only AMAL and Hezbollah represented the Shiite community. With Hezbollah and AMAL not in the government, the Opposition launched a full scale propaganda that the government was not constitutional since it lacked any Shiites in it, or not the entire Sects were represented. The successful results of Aoun’s, who lived in exile for over a decade, movement against the Lebanese Forces furthered the demand that even the Christians were not represented (a very highly controversial issue).

Eventually, the Opposition decided to escalate further their demands, which was either a National Unity Government which included the 1/3, resignation of the current government, or do early parliamentary elections. They decided to stage an open demonstration.

Pierre Gemayel Jr. got assassinated

Just when the Opposition was about to launch its demonstrations and the camps’ leaders of both sides exchanging insults and accusations, the Industry Minister, the young Pierre Gemayel Jr., was assassinated through close-by shooting by an unknown side. None knew who it was. The 14th of March accused Syria and Iran behind the assassination with the assassination and included it within the International Tribunal’s investigations (again supported by Bush himself) while the Opposition accused Samir Jaajaa (head of the Lebanese Forces Party) to assassinate him since they wanted to cancel the demonstration. It is worth to mention that Pierre Gemayel came from the legendary Phalange Party leadership and he is the nephew of Bashir Gemayel, who invited the Israelis to enter Lebanon back in 1982 to install him as a President.

Sectarianism and the Great Divide

When Sectarianism is strong, class struggle is weak. Lebanon is divided into different sects, which belong to four major religious Sects. Each leader represents a Sect and attempts to proclaim himself/herself as the Sect defenders.

The largest Sect, the Shiites, are most unified under the leadership of Hezbollah and AMAL with support from Iran and Syria. The Shiites historically have been oppressed and lacked any real political parties till AMAL movement was organized. They were present in the poorest areas, and were excluded mainly from the governmental budgets.

The Sunni sect is dominated mostly by the Harriri Family, which is currently spearheaded by the Late Rafiq Harriri’s son, Sa’ad. The Sunnis are way better off than the Shiites, but this does not mean they do lack any support from the Sunni lower-classed. After all, the name of the game by the Sect Leaders, is the fact each leader is defending their sect from the others. Currently, due to the polarized region between Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shiite) in Iraq has triggered this polarization to new dimensions in Lebanon.

The Christians are divided between the camps. There is currently no official records what is the status quo as the latest dates back to 2005. A lot of changes occurred in the Status Quo between the Pro Government or Pro Opposition Christians. The bulk are the Christian Lebanese Forces, and with the assassination of Pierre Gemayel, the situation is heated up between Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and Jaajaa. There are smaller Christian parties, such as the Pro-Opposition Marada (concentrated in the North) and Pro-government figures parties such as Neyla Mou’awad, the Phalange, the Liberation Party, and others. The deadliest current clashes has been in the divided Christian community.

The smallest minority, the Druze, has been dominated by Walid Junblatt and his Progressive Socialist Party. I have to warn my readers not to be deceived by the name of the party as its base is purliy Durzi in nature. The Durzi Sect is the smallest Sect, but historically a very strong militant party. They are an off-shoot of Islam but are a Sect of their own with major differences such as the belief in reincarnation. The opposition have their own leader, prince Talal Irslan, but lacks the base to face Junblatt politically.

The secular parties are too weak to lead anything. The Lebanese Communist Party was part of the 8th of March coalition indirectly, and decided to withdraw. It is a Stalinist party currently, but has a huge respectable history of defending the workers and heroic sacrifices. The Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) is a party that demanded greater Syria, with the unification for different historical, geographical, sociological, and economical reasons the re-unification of Greater Syria (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Cyprus, Iraq, historic Palestine). They are still a very well organized and pro-Baathi Syrian Government. The Democratic Leftist Movement is a movement made of ex-LCP party and independents but their demands lack any leftist motives rather they support the Sectarian line-up (like the SSNP) and lack any real base since the movement is elite oriented in its nature.

The Demonstration

The demonstration began, after memorial for Pierre Gemayel ended, in December the 1st 2006. The number of Participants ranged between 1.5 million to 2 million Lebanese (Lebanon’s population is supposed to be 4 million). The Opposition leaders clearly announced that this demonstration (which is still ongoing till now with tens of thousands per day unless a major event occurs) will continue till National Unity Government occurs (with the 1/3 veto) or early parliamentary elections.

The opposition, other than relying on its Sectarian base, blamed the Seniora government for the corrupt for historical debts and business performances. Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement never participated before in the government (except for Hezbollah in 2005 and withdrew after one year). Most of the Government and Opposition figures by the way have been part of the governments under the Syrian Mandate. Hezbollah would rely on its Shiite base as Aoun would rely on his own. The Governmental Palace was surrounded by the demonstrators, but the governmental remained, partly due to its support base and mainly due to the international support it received from almost all nations involved except Iran and Syria.

The Media itself played a major role in charging up the situation. Each political faction almost has its own media. Most of the media has its listeners based on Sect and coalitions and almost each Media reports a world of its own rather than what is happening. For example, Hezbollah’s Manar and Harriri’s Future TV report the news only of what they or their leaders say. This has increased the division among the Proletariat and even charged the supporters of the government or opposition. While the supporters of the Opposition gathered in Martyr’s Square (previously Pro-Government demonstrators gathered) and neighborly Solh square, with at night festivals and speeches, the Pro-Government demonstrated elsewhere through out Lebanon in locations whereby the Pro Government supporters are a majority. The Newspaper and the Television created public opinion rather report it. The Arab League’s Chairman attempted to consolidate both factions but failed since each camp has gone beyond the “return route” and will attempt to subdue the other: 14th of March government voted on the International Tribunal (with the Shiite block still resigned) while the Opposition made its promise that they will not leave the streets till there are Parliamentary Elections or Real National Unity government.

I have to mention that every time Bush or Olmert expressed support to the Seniora government, political instability increased in Lebanon. The Opposition would accuse the Government they are US-Zionist puppies, while the Government respond that they are charging the region in a sectarian manner and that Hezbollah decided solo to drag Lebanon to a war against Israel. Despite all that, Lebanon proved it is a democratic nation while all factions are demonstrating against each other peacefully till the riots broke when the Opposition decided to escalate its movement.

Riots, Clashes, and the semi-return of the Cantons

With the deadlock progressing between both reactionary camps, the government decided to go solo in developing a reform plan and bring financing from the international community. The Syrian Social Nationalist Party, part of the opposition, was raided by the security forces and weaponry was confiscated. The government attempted to use the SSNP as scapegoat for the assassinations.

With the Government going to Paris to get financing in a solo manner, the Opposition decided to escalate, as warned from the beginning of the demonstrations, and decided to do civil disobedience. This involved demonstrating through out Lebanon and blocking the streets. Last Tuesday witnessed the Opposition hitting the street and clashes between the Opposition and the Pro-Government. The army remained neutral through out the process, like they did in 1958, and attempted to separate the demonstrators. The army was successful to open some main roads, but ended up simply dividing the opposing parties. Fist to fist clashes occurred in some shared regions between the Sunnis and the Shiits, but the severe clashes erupted in the North between the Christian leaders. That doomed day reflected that not only Hezbollah has weaponry, but proved that all parties have at least light weaponry. Part of the riots exploded with unknown snipers shooting at both sides. Accusations sprung between both camps who is more “civilized” and the media reported the other as “dictators” (in case the media is pro-opposition) or “rebellious” (in case the media is pro-government). The demonstration was supposed to last for a week, but Riyadh and Tehran intervened to avoid a blood bath.

The Media charge-up played its role. As about 7 people got killed last Tuesday, Sectarianism was again to prove fatal. Two days later, a new political instability occurred. A fight broke up in a certain university, while again unknown snipers shot at everyone (which Opposition and Government leaders accused each other with) and riots broke up and spread to neighborly streets. Just as Tuesday was to be remembered mainly for the clashes between the Christian Leaders’ supporters, Thursday was the clash of the Sunnis and Shiites in Beirut. Stones flew everywhere, and eventually some shooting occurred. The army successfully smuggled the students outside the area, and one student died with a bullet in the head while a lot got injured mainly from stones. By nightfall, the Sunnis at their stronghold at Tareeq Jdeedi region, burnt down an SSNP HQ. The army declared curfew in Beirut which was effective from 9:00 in the evening till Friday 6:00 in the morning. This occurred as the Government succeeded in attaining 7.6 billion dollars in form of grants, loans, or for free (under the Patronage of the French President Chirac).

In any case, some of the political parties' supporters did check-points requesting identification cards during those demonstrations. The sad part of the story that the ones mainly involved in the riots are university students, which does not really give an optimistic picture of Lebanon in the future.

Currently, politicians still are escalating their accusations, and foreign intervention is taking place. Accusations with treason are flying, and the reactionary leaders are not stepping down to consolidate each other. On Thursday, Harriri accused the others of irrational acts but asked his supporters to calm down. Nasrallah had to issue a Fatwa to make sure that his Shiite supporters remain calm. This proved that both leaders are beginning to lose control of their supporters as their media are charging their supporters with hatred. Just yesterday political leaders accused each other as uncivilized, or pawns for a regional war, while the other claims to be the “real Lebanese”.

Some of the donors in Lebanon at Paris said that the crisis in Lebanon can’t be resolved till the Palestinian Israeli issue is resolved. Others argue that the brutal invasion of the US on Iraq to oust out its dictator Saddam also polarized the region since the Sunnis and Shiites are clashing there. The US are intervening in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq directly. Lebanon’s proletariat are divided, and all secular parties are too weak to do a unified front. Bottom line, politicians are struggling for a greater piece of the pie, and the Proletariat are paying the price for their greed. The situation cannot be solved directly, since the core problem is Sectarianism and how it paves way for foreign meddling. One major solution is to encourage secular thought and integrate civil marriage. The crisis continues, I recommend reading my blog for some updates.

RENEGADE EYE & MarxistFromLebanon

Monday, January 22, 2007

Homage To Catalonia: Orwell and Spain

This weekend I had the pleasure of reading George Orwell's "Homage To Catalonia". It was about Orwell's experience fighting with the POUM forces during the Spanish Civil War.

The POUM was an ex-Trotskyist militia, that Leon Trotsky had tactical disagreements with. Yet the POUM was thoroughly anti-Stalinist, and much too independant for the Republican leadership, allied with the Stalinist Communist Party.

The issues of the Spanish Civil war politically, are still dealt with today. Should one advocate socialism while fighting for a nation? Do you align yourself with liberal bourgeousie? Do you take part in parliment? What is anarchism? This is an excerpt of that great book.

It was the first time that I had ever been
in a town where the working class was in the saddle. Practically every building
of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags or with
the red and black flag of the Anarchists; every wall was scrawled with the
hammer and sickle and with the initials of the revolutionary parties; almost
every church had been gutted and its images burnt. Churches here and there were
being systematically demolished by gangs of workmen. Every shop and cafe had an
inscription saying that it had been collectivized; even the bootblacks had been
collectivized and their boxes painted red and black. Waiters and shop-walkers
looked you in the face and treated you as an equal. Servile and even ceremonial
forms of speech had temporarily disappeared. Nobody said 'Senior' or 'Don' or
even 'Usted'; everyone called everyone else 'Comrade' and 'Thou', and said
'Salud!' instead of 'Buenos dias'. Tipping was forbidden by law; almost my first
experience was receiving a lecture from a hotel manager for trying to tip a
lift-boy. There were no private motor-cars, they had all been commandeered, and
all the trams and taxis and much of the other transport were painted red and
black. The revolutionary posters were everywhere, flaming from the walls in
clean reds and blues that made the few remaining advertisements look like daubs
of mud. Down the Ramblas, the wide central artery of the town where crowds of
people streamed constantly to and fro, the loudspeakers were bellowing
revolutionary songs all day and far into the night. And it was the aspect of the
crowds that was the queerest thing of all. In outward appearance it was a town
in which the wealthy classes had practically ceased to exist. Except for a small
number of women and foreigners there were no 'well-dressed' people at all.
Practically everyone wore rough working-class clothes, or blue overalls, or some
variant of the militia uniform. All this was queer and moving. There was much in
it that I did not understand, in some ways I did not even like it, but I
recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Jamail & al-Fadhily: Media Under Growing Siege

(MFL notes: I chose this article to reflect on the situation in Iraq. Long live US "Democracy!")

*BAGHDAD, Jan. 10 (IPS) - The U.S. administration continues to tout Iraq as a shining example of democracy in the Middle East, but press freedom in Iraq has plummeted since the beginning of the occupation.*

Repression of free speech in Iraq was extreme already under the regime of Saddam Hussein. The 2002 press freedom index of the watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked Iraq a dismal 130th. The 2006 index pushes Iraq down to 154th position in a total of 168 listed countries, though still ahead of Pakistan, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, China and Iran. North Korea is at the bottom of the table.

The index ranks countries by how they treat their media, looking at the number of journalists who were murdered, threatened, had to flee or were jailed by the state.

The end of Saddam's dictatorship had for a while brought hope of greater press freedom. More than 200 new newspapers and a dozen television channels opened. The hope did not last even weeks.

"We were overwhelmed by the change that accompanied what we thought was the liberation of our country," journalist Said Ali who had earlier been arrested many times for criticising Saddam's regime told IPS. "I was arrested then for criticising low-ranking officials, and that was why I did not stay in jail long. The change of system in 2003 brought me hope of a better situation, but it proved false."

First, journalists began to face the danger of getting shot in the streets by nervous U.S. soldiers. Many journalists were killed in such firing. Later they began to face exile, arrest and bans on reporting after they began to expose abuses against Iraqi civilians. Journalists were targeted also for reporting the growing resistance to the occupation.

Order 65 of the "100 Orders" penned by former U.S. administrator in Iraq L. Paul Bremer established a communications and media commission. Under the order passed Mar. 20, 2004 the commission had complete control over licensing and regulating telecommunications, broadcasting, information services and all other media establishments.

On Jun. 28, 2004 when the United States supposedly handed power to a "sovereign" interim government, Bremer simply passed on the authority to U.S.-installed interim prime minister Ayad Allawi, who had longstanding ties with the CIA and the British intelligence service MI6. These orders have since been incorporated into the Iraqi constitution.

Within days of the "handover" of power to the interim Iraqi government, security forces raided and shut down the Baghdad office of al-Jazeera Arabic satellite channel.

The network was banned from reporting out of Iraq initially for a month, but the ban was then extended "indefinitely", and remains in place today. In November 2004 the Iraqi government announced that any al-Jazeera journalist found reporting in Iraq would be detained.

Others were picked on too. "My friend Sophie-Anne Lamouf, a French journalist who was covering Fallujah events from her hotel in Baghdad was exiled," an Iraqi journalist told IPS. "I could not believe going back to the dark ages was possible, but it is true."

Other journalists say resistance groups and criminal gangs are the biggest threat today. Another threat to media workers has been abduction either for ransom or to draw international attention to the kidnappers' cause.

"The worst thing that happens to a journalist in Iraq is the fighters' opinion that some of us are CIA spies," Iraqi journalist Maki al-Nazzal told IPS. "This would definitely lead to thorough investigations and sometimes has led to death."

During the siege of Fallujah in April 2004, 12 foreign journalists reported freely and left safely. But the situation changed soon afterwards. Under truce negotiations during that siege, U.S. forces asked leaders of the city to expel al-Jazeera journalists as part of a cease-fire agreement.
In September this year, the Iraqi government shut down the Baghdad bureau of al-Jazeera's competitor al-Arabiya. And on Jan. 1 this year, the Baghdad office of al-Sharqiya satellite channel which broadcasts from Dubai was ordered closed by the Iraqi government on grounds of "inciting sectarianism" following the Dec. 30 execution of Saddam Hussein. A news reader had appeared wearing black mourning clothes.

All non-Iraqi journalists now base themselves in well-protected hotels. For fear of resistance fighters, criminal gangs, the U.S. military or death squads, most never leave the hotels. When they do, they go "embedded" with the U.S. military.

According to the U.S. based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 92 journalists and 37 media support workers have been killed in Iraq since the occupation began in March 2003. Reporters Without Borders says at least 94 journalists and 45 media assistants have been killed since then.
Among the dead was IPS journalist Alaa Hassan who was shot and killed by armed men as he drove to work Jun. 28 this year.

Reporters Without Borders added that Iraq was one of the world's worst marketplaces for hostages, with at least 38 journalists kidnapped in three years.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that at least 14 journalists have been killed by the U.S. military. Many Arab media organisations say that number is far higher.

Death squads are now another growing threat to the media. The al-Shaabiya satellite channel bureau was attacked by death squads last year. The company chairman and many members of the staff were killed.

(Ali al-Fadhily is our Baghdad correspondent. Dahr Jamail is our specialist writer who has spent eight months reporting from inside Iraq and has been covering the Middle East for several years.)

RENEGADE EYE & MarxistFromLebanon

Friday, January 12, 2007

“What is the problem? I am also a Trotskyist!” - Chavez is sworn in as president of Venezuela

This important article is again from In Defense of Marxism. This changes the discussion from the last post. His program and goals, are more far reaching than many presume.

By Jorge Martin
Friday, 12 January 2007

On Wednesday, January 10th Chavez was sworn in as president of Venezuela for a new term of office, and he delivered a speech in which he announced the members of the cabinet and repeated the main lines of his government, which had already been outlined in a major speech on Monday 8th.

After the massive victory in the presidential elections in December (in which Chavez received 7.3 million votes, 63%), Chavez had insisted that this was not a vote for himself, but rather a vote for the socialist project that he had been defending. The announcements made in the last few days in Venezuela send a clear and strong signal of the direction he intends to go in.

The composition of the new government can be considered a shift to the left. First of all vice-president Jose Vicente Rangel, who had publicly opposed the expropriation of the Caracas golf courses by Caracas Mayor Juan Barreto and explicitly said that the government respected private property has been removed. He has been replaced by Jorge Rodriguez, who is generally seen as being on the left of the Bolivarian movement. His father, of the same name, was an historical leader of the Socialist League in the 1970s, and died as a result of torture while he was in the custody of the secret police.

Chavez also put emphasis on the fact that "for the first time in history, we have a minister of the Communist Party in Venezuela", referring to David Velasquez, the new Minister of Peoples' Power for Participation and Social Development. The Communist Party in Venezuela has not played a vanguard role in the Bolivarian revolution. Before Chavez started talking about the need to go beyond capitalism and of socialism as the only answer, the PCV insisted that socialism was not on the immediate agenda in Venezuela and that the Revolution was, at that stage, only about the struggle against imperialism, repeating the old and treacherous ideas of the Stalinist two-stage theory. The Party was caught off guard by Chavez's announcement about the need to struggle for socialism and in a 180 degree turn quickly tail-ended what the president had announced, thus following events rather than offering a lead.

Among the new ministers to be incorporated into the government Chavez also pointed to the new Minister of Labour, José Ramón Rivero, which he described as "young and a workers' leader". "When I called him" Chavez explained, "he said to me: 'president I want to tell you something before someone else tells you... I am a Trotskyist', and I said, 'well, what is the problem? I am also a Trotskyist! I follow Trotsky's line, that of permanent revolution."

José Ramón Rivero was a trade union leader in the state owned aluminium smelter Venalum, in the industrial state of Bolivar, and had become one of the members of parliament for the Bolivarian Workers' Front, FBT. In the recent period the FBT has been dominated by its most moderate elements that have launched a campaign against the left wing in the UNT. It remains to be seen what the attitude of Rivero as a Minister of Labour will be. He will be judged for his position in relation to workers' management, factory occupations, nationalisations and the defence of workers' rights.

But the statement of Chavez that he is a Trotskyist reflects the leftward evolution of his political thinking and his personal growing radicalisation. At the beginning of the Venezuelan revolution in 1998 Chavez quite openly admitted that he was in favour of the "third way" and did not in any way challenge capitalism as such. It was only in January 2005, at the time of the expropriation of Venepal, that he first said that "within the limits of capitalism there is no solution to the problems facing the Venezuelan masses" and that the revolution must go towards "socialism of the 21st century". This change in his political thinking came about as a result of several things, he said, of the experience of the Bolivarian Revolution (trying to apply basic reforms such as free healthcare and education for all and being confronted by an armed uprising on the part of the capitalist class), reading and discussing.

Shortly before he declared himself to be a socialist, he had bought a copy of Trotsky's Permanent Revolution, at a meeting in Madrid where he spoke in front of an audience of workers and youth at the headquarters of the Workers' Commissions trade union (the CCOO). He obviously became very interested in the ideas of Trotsky, as these provided a socialist ideal, which was completely opposed to the Stalinist caricature that had fallen in the Soviet Union. More or less at the same time, in an interview with Al Jazeera he explained that in his view, what had fallen in the Soviet Union "was not socialism, what was there had moved away a lot from the original aim of Lenin and of Trotsky, particularly after Stalin".

At that time this was a major turning point in the Bolivarian Revolution and opened up the debate about socialism and what it meant throughout Venezuelan society in an unprecedented way. The recent announcements by Chavez can be seen in the same way as yet another major turning point in the Revolution.

Chavez also stressed that the new ministers were "ministers of peoples' power" and that they should spend Monday to Wednesday in their offices carrying out their duties, but then from Thursday to Sunday they should be "out in the streets implementing a plan of work".

"Nothing, nobody will be able to divert us from the road towards Bolivarian socialism, Venezuelan socialism, our socialism" he stressed. In the swearing in ceremony as president he declared that the aim was to establish the Bolivarian Socialist Republic of Venezuela, and even the formula he used for taking the presidential oath was overtly socialist. "I swear for the people and for the fatherland that I will not give rest to my arm nor respite to my soul; that I will give my days and my nights and my whole life to the building of Venezuelan socialism, a new political system, a new social system, a new economic system." And he finished his speech with the new battle cry "Fatherland, Socialism or Death!"

Like any other major steps forward in the Bolivarian revolution, Chavez is both interpreting and responding to the pressure of the revolutionary masses from below, but at the same time taking the initiative, launching bold ideas and proposals and consciously pushing the whole process forward. The response of the revolutionary rank and file to the announcements made on Monday 8th, and particularly the nationalisation of telecom company CANTV and electricity company EDC, has been enthusiastic. Trade union activists have been contacting the UNT leaders expressing their support for these measures. The "Trade Union Alliance" at SIDOR, the steel works in Bolivar that were privatised in the 1990s have already issued a statement asking the president to renationalise the company. They have added that renationalisation should not be just a return to the previous situation when the SIDOR was state-owned, but rather that this should be accompanied by the introduction of workers' management like the one that is already being experienced in nearby aluminium smelter ALCASA.

The new minister of labour, Rivero, has already organised meetings with the trade unions representing workers in the companies that are to be nationalised to discuss their future, and has added that a discussion has taken place in the new council of ministers about the "setting up of workers' councils" in the companies, starting in the Ministry of Labour itself.

But also, like in previous turning points, the bureaucracy and the reformist elements within the Bolivarian movement (and particularly within its leadership) are already conspiring to water down the content of Chavez's announcements and proposals and to block the revolutionary initiative of the masses. The announcement of the nationalisation of CANTV and EDC immediately sent their shares into a downward spiral on the Caracas stock exchange and their trading was suspended. But quickly the new Minister of Finances Rodrigo Cabezas explained that, "the process of nationalisation will take place respecting the constitutional framework which amongst other things outlaws expropriations". This was not the line taken by Rivero, the new Minister of Labour, who reminded journalists that many workers and former workers of CANTV do own shares which they got during the privatisation process (as was the case in SIDOR) and that they, together with the government, represent 20% of the total shareholders. He said the government was looking for ways to protect the interests of these small shareholders, but not of those "who bought their shares on the New York stock exchange or somewhere else".

The struggle is therefore far from over and it is necessary for the revolutionary rank and file, and particularly the revolutionary trade unionists, to take the initiative on all fronts and to give content to all these announcements: the need to nationalise the key sectors of the economy, the need to dismantle the bourgeois state and replace it with a revolutionary state based on workers' and peoples' councils, and the building of a united party of socialist revolution. The Revolutionary Marxist Current (CMR) in Venezuela is insisting on the need to call a national workers' conference to discuss all these issues and the role of the working class in the new stage of the revolution, and that such a conference should launch a national day of action of factory occupations. This is closely linked to the struggle of workers at Sanitarios Maracay, the first company in Venezuela to be occupied by the workers where the workforce is producing and selling products under workers' control. A call has already been issued for a new national demonstration to support the call of Sanitarios Maracay workers for nationalisation under workers' control. This could become a focal point for the activity of the working class in the new stage of the Revolution, at a higher level than what the nationalisation of Venepal represented in 2005.

The next few months will be crucial for the future of the Bolivarian revolution and the working class must play a key role.
Renegade Eye

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Nazanin Fatehi’s Trial is on January the 10th.

Press Release

Nazanin Fatehi’s trial is on January the 10th.

Nazanin Fatehi’s final trial will be held at Tehran on January the 10th.

Nazanin was 17 when she was attacked by three young adults in the city of Karaj. Nazanin is accused of killing of one of the men while defending herself and her niece who was 16 at that time.

Currently the International Committee Against Execution as well as Ms. N. Afshin –Jam in Canada, are running a huge campaign to save the life of Nazanin Fatehi. The campaign for saving Nazanin’s life is planning to lunch awareness programs between January first and 10th to draw one more time the attention of the general public to children and teen’s execution in Iran and death sentence in Iran in general and to save Nazanin’s life through international and national protests.

Kobra Rahmanpoor and Shahla Jahed are at the verge of being saved from execution.

Based on the news received by the International Committee Against Execution, the Islamic regime of Iran is close to kneeling down in front of extensive international and national protests against the executions of Kobra Rahmanpoor and Shahla Jahed.

It is now 7 years that Kobra is in prison, accused of murdering her mother in law and sentenced to death. Kobra was working as a housekeeper when she was raped by a man who was older than her father. After complaining regarding the rape, the rapist asked Kobra to marry him. After the marriage Kobra was assaulted many times again. In a dispute with her mother in law, Kobra who was in a position of self defense killed her mother in law who was attacking her with a knife. Kobra was arrested the very same day and was sentenced to death in a matter of few days. The campaign for saving the life of Kobra has been one of the largest and most successful actions in the fight against execution. The Islamic Republic authorities have mentioned that 90% of Iranians are against this death sentence and being under the pressure of massive protests, the authorities are considering nullifying the death sentence.

Shahla Jahed, who is also in prison with murder accusation, is a known figure in the world. Her trials were taped and shown as a movie in many theatres of Holland and have received awards as a documentary movie. The campaign for saving Shahla’s life has drawn world’s attention to the situation of women in Iran and to the “governmental intentional killing”. Right now there is a rumor regarding annulation of her execution order and it is probable that the Islamic regime will be obliged to retreat in this case too.

Delara Darabi, painter, pianist and poet is at the verge of execution

Delara is 19 and is in prison due to murder accusation. She is an artist and her painting exhibitions have been very popular in Tehran.

Currently her family is asking the help of everyone to save the life of the young Delara. Her father is also requesting to move her to another prison as she is being harmed at the prison of Rasht.

Hamzeh, 17 years old is sentenced to death

Hamzeh is only 17. In a quarrel with her boyfriend Mehdi who was 20, she attacked him with a knife. Seven months after the incident while being hospitalized at a hospital in Tehran, Mehdi died. The Islamic Republic of Iran has sentenced Hamzeh to execution. The life of Hamzeh is also in danger.

The International Committee Against Execution is in constant communication with the family and lawyers of these prisoners sentenced to death and is trying to save the lives of them.

The International Committee Against Execution is asking everyone to help save the lives of these young women.

International Committee Against Execution

Jan 5, 2007

International Committee Against Execution

0049 177 569 2413
Maryam Namazie

Friday, January 05, 2007

Predictions 2007

As much as I try to use the dialectical method, as any human I'm surprised by events. It is early enough in 2007, to make predictions for the year. My predictions are just that, but still better than a mystic scammer as Sylvia Browne.

*Nuri al-Maliki's days as Iraq's prime minister are numbered. He will be
replaced by someone who will make Saddam seem like a boy scout.

*Britney will go into drug treatment as a career move.

*Even though the Democrats have no alternative program to Bush's on Iraq, the left-
liberals will stick with the party, despite grumbling.

*The IWW's organizing of Starbuck's, will be major news in the labor movement.

*The Academy Award will go to Letters from Iwo Jima. The Raspberry Award
will go to Fur, the Nicole Kidman as Diane Arbus film.

*The weather is already out of character, from the norm for this part of the
year. Expect that trend to continue.

I expect that yours are better.RENEGADE EYE