Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Food and Blogging: The Series Continues

There is no interest in my sardine tacos, or my use of coffee as a spice. I asked several bloggers, to send me recipes; preferably easy to prepare, common ingredients, ethnic etc. In addition if I print the recipe, I'll plug your blog. Send recipes to me at the email address at my profile. I was going to print them all in one post, but I acquired too many. Political agreement doesn't matter. Atleast every month I'll continue this series. Leave comments about food, the blog, restaraunts etc. Everyone who sent recipes, will eventually have them published. I'm going in random order.

Today the recipe comes from Seattle based blogger Premium T.. Premium T.. has been known to share DVDs with Citizen K. T. focuses her blog on poetry and literature.

Now The Main Event

Big Foot Cookies

I developed this when I was an owner of a bakery
called "Two Tartes." There was a demand for a breakfast cookie
so this is the result. The ethnicity is decidedly American

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 T. vanilla

2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 t. salt
1 t. soda

2 cups crushed breakfast cereal -- I like to use Raisin Bran
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped

Cream sugars and butter, add eggs and vanilla. Mix well.
Combine dry ingredients, add to sugar/butter mixture. Hands work great
for this stage of mixing! Add cereal, nuts and fruit. Again, mix with hands.

Make giant cookies using anywhere from a half-cup to a full-cup measure.
Bake at 365 degrees for about twenty minutes.


Friday, February 20, 2009

The Academy Award 2009 Thread

Sunday February 22nd is Oscar time. My friends when I was in high school, were all aspiring theater people. I think of the Academy Awards as a big event.

My picks are in italics. I don't have opinions on every category.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button



The Reader

Slumdog Millionaire

Best actor:

Richard Jenkins - THE VISITOR

Frank Langella - FROST/NIXON

Sean Penn - MILK

Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

Best Actress

Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married

Angelina Jolie - Changeling

Melissa Leo - Frozen River

Meryl Streep - Doubt

Kate Winslet - The Reader

Best Supporting Actor

Josh Brolin - Milk

Robert Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder

Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt

Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight

Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road

Best Supporting Acress

Amy Adams - Doubt

Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Viola Davis - Doubt

Taraji P Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler

Best Animated Feature Film




Best Art Direction

Changeling - James J. Murakami, Gary Fettis

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo

The Dark Knight - Nathan Crowley, Peter Lando

The Duchess - Michael Carlin, Rebecca Alleway

Revolutionary Road - Kristi Zea, Debra Schutt

Best Cinematography

Changeling - Tom Stern

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Claudio Miranda

The Dark Knight - Wally Pfister

The Reader - Chris Menges, Roger Deakins

Slumdog Millionaire - Anthony Dod Mantle

Best Costume Design

Australia - Catherine Martin

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Jacqueline West

The Duchess - Michael O'Connor

Milk - Danny Glicker

Revolutionary Road - Albert Wolsky

Best Director

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - David Fincher

Frost/Nixon - Ron Howard

Milk - Gus Van Sant

The Reader - Stephen Daldry

Slumdog Millionaire - Danny Boyle

Best Feature Documentary

The Betrayal (Nerakhoon) - Ellen Kuras, Thavisouk Phrasavath

Encounters at the End of the World - Werner Herzog, Henry Kaiser

The Garden - Scott Hamilton Kennedy

Man on Wire - James Marsh, Simon Chinn

Trouble the Water - Tia Lessin, Carl Deal

Best Documentary Short Film

The Conscience of Nhem En - Steven Okazaki

The Final Inch - Irene Taylor Brodsky, Tom Grant

Smile Pinki - Megan Mylan

The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306 - Adam Pertofsky, Margaret Hyde

Best Editing

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall

The Dark Knight - Lee Smith

Frost/Nixon - Mike Hill, Dan Hanley

Milk - Elliot Graham

Slumdog Millionaire - Chris Dickens

Best Foreign Language Film

The Baader Meinhof Complex - Germany

The Class - France

Departures - Japan

Austria - Revanche

Waltz with Bashir - Israel

Best Makeup

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Greg Cannom

The Dark Knight - John Caglione, Jr., Conor O'Sullivan

Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Mike Elizalde, Thom Floutz

Best Music (Score)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Alexandre Desplat

Defiance - James Newton Howard

Milk - Danny Elfman

Slumdog Millionaire - A.R. Rahman

WALL-E - Thomas Newman

Best Original Song

WALL-E - "Down to Earth"

Slumdog Millionaire - "Jai Ho"

Slumdog Millionaire - "O Saya"

Best Animated Short Film

La Maison de Petits Cubes - Kunio Kato

Lavatory - Lovestory - Konstantin Bronzit

Oktapodi - Emud Mokhberi, Thierry Marchand

Presto - Doug Sweetland

This Way Up - Alan Smith, Adam Foulkes

Best Live Action Short Film

Auf der Strecke (On the Line) - Reto Caffi

Manon on the Asphalt - Elizabeth Marre, Olivier Pont

New Boy - Steph Green, Tamara Anghie

The Pig - Tivi Magnusson, Dorte Høgh

Spielzeugland (Toyland) - Jochen Alexander Freydank

Best Sound Editing

The Dark Knight - Richard King

Iron Man - Frank Eulner, Christopher Boyes

Slumdog Millionaire - Tom Sayers

WALL-E - Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood

Wanted - Wylie Stateman

Best Sound Mixing

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce, Mark Weingarten

The Dark Knight - Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, Ed Novick

Slumdog Millionaire - Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Resul Pookutty

WALL-E - Tom Myers, Michael Semanick, Ben Burtt

Wanted - Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño, Petr Forejt

Best Visual Effects

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron

The Dark Knight - Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber, Paul Franklin

Iron Man - John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick, Shane Mahan

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Eric Roth, Robin Swicord

Doubt - John Patrick Shanley

Frost/Nixon - Peter Morgan

The Reader - David Hare

Slumdog Millionaire - Simon Beaufoy

Best Original Screenplay

Frozen River - Courtney Hunt,

Happy-Go-Lucky - Mike Leigh

In Bruges - Martin McDonagh

Milk - Dustin Lance Black

WALL-E - Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Pete Docter


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stratfor: The Emerging Obama Foreign Policy

This post was written by Stratfor, a geopolitical strategic planning think tank. I enjoy their reports, and use the data provided, for analysis.

By Rodger Baker
February 16, 2009 | 1913 GMT

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is making her first official overseas visit, with scheduled stops in Tokyo; Jakarta, Indonesia; Seoul, South Korea; and Beijing. The choice of Asia as her first destination is intended to signal a more global focus for U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, as opposed to the heavy emphasis on the Middle East and South Asia seen in the last years of the Bush administration. It also represents the kickoff of an ambitious travel plan that will see Clinton visiting numerous countries across the globe in a bid to project the image of a more cooperative U.S. administration.

Clinton’s Asian expedition is not the first overseas visit by a key member of the new administration. Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Germany for the Munich Security Conference, where he faced the Russians. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell has finished his first trip to his area of responsibility, and is already planning a return visit to the Middle East. And Richard Holbrooke, special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, has visited both South Asian countries in addition to making a “listening” stop in India.

The Emergence of a New Foreign Policy

As with any new U.S. presidency, there will be a period of reshaping policy, of setting priorities, and of balancing internal differences within the Obama administration. The various individuals and visits cataloged above in part reflect the Obama administration’s emerging foreign policy.

A two-pronged Obama foreign policy approach is unfolding. The first prong, relating to the general tenor of foreign relations, involves a modern application of the “speak softly and carry a big stick” approach. The second prong, relating to the distribution of power within the administration, involves a centralization of foreign policy centering on a stronger and expanded National Security Council (NSC) and relies on special envoys for crisis areas, leaving the secretary of state to shape foreign perceptions rather than policy.

The Obama administration faced mixed expectations as it came into office. Perhaps the most far-reaching expectation on the international front was the idea that the Obama administration would somehow be the antithesis of the previous Bush administration. Whereas Bush often was portrayed as a unilateralist “cowboy,” constantly confronting others and never listening to allies (much less competitors), it was thought that Obama somehow would remake America into a nation that withheld its military power and instead confronted international relations via consultations and cooperation. In essence, the Bush administration was seen as aggressive and unwilling to listen, while an Obama administration was expected to be more easily shaped and manipulated.

Anticipation of a weaker administration created a challenge for Obama from the start. While many of his supporters saw him as the anti-Bush, the new president had no intention of shifting America to a second-tier position or making the United States isolationist. Obama’s focus on reducing U.S. forces in Iraq and the discussions during Clinton’s confirmation hearing of reducing the military’s role in reconstruction operations did not reflect an anti-military bias or even new ideas, but something Defense Secretary Robert Gates had advocated for under former U.S. President George W. Bush. A reshaping of the U.S. military will in fact take place over the course of Obama’s term in office. But the decision to reduce the U.S. military presence in Iraq is not unique to this administration; it is merely a recognition of the reality of the limitations of military resources.

Diplomacy and Military Power

The new administration has applied this decision as the basis of a strategy to refocus the military on its core competencies and rebuild the military’s strength and readiness, using that as the strong and stable framework from which to pursue an apparently more cooperative foreign policy. U.S. diplomatic power needs a strong military, and operations in Iraq have drained U.S. military power — something highlighted by the U.S. inability to act on its policies when the Russians moved in on Georgia.

It is not only U.S. political power that is reinforced by military power, but U.S. economic strength as well. Control of the world’s sea-lanes — and increasingly, control of outer space — is what ensures the security of U.S. economic links abroad. In theory, the United States can thus interdict competitors’ supply lines and economic ties while protecting its own.

Despite globalization and greater economic ties, physical power still remains the strongest backer to diplomacy. Ideology alone will not change the world, much less the actions of so-called rogue states or even pirates along the Somali coast. The first principle of Obama’s foreign policy, then, will be making sure it has big stick to carry, one freed from long-term reconstruction commitments or seemingly intractable situations such as Iraq. Only with an available and effective military can one afford to speak softly without being trod upon.

Rebuilding U.S. military readiness and strength is not going to be easy. Iraq and Afghanistan remain to be taken care of, and there are years of heavy activity and at times declining recruitment to recover from. While there are substantial benefits to a battle-hardened military accustomed to a high deployment tempo, this also has its costs — reset costs will be high. A very real domestic military shake-up looms on the one- to two-year horizon in order to bring the Pentagon back into line with fiscal and procurement realities, coupled with concerns about midlevel officer retention. But the Pentagon’s thinking and strategic guidance already have moved toward cooperative security and toward working more closely with allies and partners to stabilize and manage the global security environment, with an emphasis on requiring foreign participation and burden-sharing.

A Greater Security Role for Allies and a Centralized Foreign Policy

Obama will also work on managing the U.S. image abroad. Opposition to Bush and opposition to the war in Iraq often became synonymous internationally, evolving intentionally or otherwise into broader anti-war and anti-military sentiments. Rebuilding the military’s image internationally will not happen overnight. Part of the process will involve using the sense of change inherent in any new U.S. administration to push allies and others to take on a greater role in global security.

In Asia, for example, Clinton will call on Tokyo and Seoul to step up operations in Afghanistan, particularly in reconstruction and development efforts. But Tokyo and Seoul also will be called on to take a greater role in regional security — Seoul on the Korean Peninsula and Tokyo as a more active military ally overall. The same message will be sent to Europe and elsewhere: If you want a multilateral United States, you will have to take up the slack and participate in multilateral operations. The multilateral mantra will not be one in which the United States does what others say, but rather one in which the United States holds others to the task. In the end, this will reduce U.S. commitments abroad, allowing the military to refocus on its core competencies and rebuild its strength.

A strong military thus forms the foundation of any foreign policy. Obama’s foreign policy approach is largely centralized in a bid for a wider approach. Taking China as an example, for the last half-dozen years, U.S. policy on China was based almost entirely on economics. The U.S. Treasury Department took the lead in China relations, while other issues — everything from Chinese military developments to Beijing’s growing presence in Africa and Latin America to human rights — took a back seat. While the U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue (or something similar) will remain a major pillar of U.S.-China relations under Obama, equally important parallel tracks will focus on military and security issues, nontraditional threats, politics and human rights. This multifaceted approach will require close cooperation among numerous departments and divisions to avoid the chaos seen in things like U.S. policy on North Korea.

This coordination will take place in an expanded NSC, one that brings in the economic elements on equal footing with security and political concerns. Combined with the appointment of special envoys for critical regions, this is intended to ensure a more unified and complete approach to foreign policy. This way, Obama retains oversight over policy, while his erstwhile rival Clinton is just one voice at the table. The State Department’s role thus becomes more about image management and development.

Accordingly, Clinton’s foreign travels are less about shaping foreign policy than shaping foreign images of the United States. She is demonstrating the new consultative nature of the administration by going everywhere and listening to everyone. Meanwhile, the hard-hitting foreign policy initiatives go to the special envoys, who can dedicate their time and energy to just one topic. Holbrooke got South Asia, Mitchell got the Middle East, and there are indications that managing overall China strategy will fall to Biden, at least in the near term.

Other special envoys and special representatives might emerge, some technically reporting through the State Department, others to other departments, but all effectively reporting back to the NSC and the president. In theory, this will mitigate the kind of bickering between the State Department and NSC that characterized Bush’s first term (a concern hardly limited to the most recent ex-president). And to keep it busy, the State Department has been tasked with rebuilding the U.S. Agency for International Development or an equivalent program for taking reconstruction and development programs, slowly freeing the military from the reconstruction business.

As Clinton heads to Asia, then, the expectations of Asian allies and China of a newfound American appreciation for the Far East might be a bit misplaced. Certainly, this is the first time in a long while that a secretary of state has visited Asia before Europe. But given the role of the vice president and the special envoys, the visit might not reflect policy priorities so much as a desire to ensure that all regions get visits. Clinton’s agenda in each country might not offer an entirely accurate reading of U.S. policy initiatives for the region, either, as much of the policy is still up for review, and her primary responsibility is to demonstrate a new and more interactive face of American foreign policy.

Clinton’s Asia visit is significant largely because it highlights a piece of the evolving Obama foreign policy — a policy that remains centralized under the president via the NSC, and that uses dedicated special envoys and representatives to focus on key trouble spots (and perhaps to avoid some of the interagency bickering that can limit the agencies’ freedom to maneuver). Most importantly, this policy at its core looks to rebuild the sense and reality of American military strength through disengaging from apparently intractable situations, focusing on core competencies rather than reconstruction or nation-building, and calling on allies to take up the slack in security responsibilities. This is what is shaping the first priority for the Obama administration: withdrawal from Iraq not just to demonstrate a different approach than the last president, but also to ensure that the military is ready for use elsewhere.

To get free Stratfor reports click here.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Open Thread: February 15th Venezuelan Referendum

On February 15th an important referendum will take place in Venezuela. The central question is the removal of the limit on the number of times the president can be elected.

Read Alan Woods on the February 15th Referendum.

February 12th thousands march in support of the referendum in Caracas on Bolivar Avenue.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Iranian Revolution

This analysis of the Iranian Revolution was written by Trotskyist Ted Grant, leader of the UK based Militant Tendency, during the Iranian Revolution. It stands up against anything else written at the time left or right.

By Ted Grant
Friday, 09 February 1979

Part One

Last week in one of the biggest demonstrations in human history over three million Iranians came on to the streets of Teheran to welcome the return of the religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The previous week had seen barricades and workers fighting with the army. In scenes reminiscent of the February Revolution of 1917, soldiers who were meant to be backing the old regime, winked at the crowds and called out "We are with the people."

Iran is a country in the throes of revolution. The forces which are locked in combat are on the one side those of the autocratic monarchy, supported by the capitalist and landlord classes, backed up by the military and police. Facing them is the working class and the middle class who look to the Muslim clergy, particularly the Ayatollah (Holy Man) Khomeini in exile in Paris.

The analysis which follows endeavours to show the real situation which exists in Iran and the main paths which the revolution can follow. The revolution really began a year ago with the demonstrations against the Shah and his hated secret police

A totalitarian system can only maintain itself by means of terror and a system of informers while the masses are inert. But once the masses move into action against the regime it is the beginning of the end. The monstrous secret police are shown to be impotent in the face of the movement of the masses.

The pressure from below produces a split at the top amongst the ruling class. Fearing that they will be overthrown they try and introduce reforms from the top in order to prevent revolution from below. Hence the death bed "repentance" of the Shah and his belated announcement of reforms, particularly the setting up of a "Parliament" which was still nevertheless subordinate to the monarchy.

However these "reforms" opened the way for the overthrow of the Shah's rule. They prepared the way for the direct intervention on the stage of history of the working class with the different layers of the middle class.

The Pahlavi monarch was forced into his inglorious flight from Iran. This took place in spite of the resistance of imperialism, particularly American imperialism. Owen and Callaghan shamefully besmirched the labour movement by coming out in support of the Shah. Their frantic attempts to prop up the tottering Iranian monarchy have failed.

Oil of course has been the key to the policies of British and American imperialism which have enormous investments in Iran. Iran is the second biggest exporter of oil in the world, only exceeded by Saudi Arabia. This oil is vital to Western capitalist states and is one of the factors deciding the policies of British and American imperialism in relation to Iran.

It is the world's fourth largest producer of oil. In 1976, Iran produced 295 million tonnes (10% of world production), the Soviet Union produced 515 million tonnes (17.6%), the USA produced over 404 million tonnes (13.8%) and Saudi Arabia produced nearly 422 million tonnes.


The Shah's rule after 1953 resulted in Iran becoming a country in transition. It has become a semi-colonial country, half-industrialised and half colonial. While remaining under the domination of American-Anglo imperialism she has attempted to strike out on an imperialist path herself. For example, in the Persian Gulf, following the retreat of British imperialism in this area of the world, Iran seized a couple of islands and attempted to play the role of policeman in the Gulf States.

The Shah maintained his regime by perfecting an instrument of terror and repression in the form of SAVAK, the Secret Police. It could best be compared to the Gestapo in its devilish tortures, assassinations, executions and in the horrors which it imposed on the Iranian people.

At the same time, in an endeavour to make Iran one of the great powers of the world, the Shah undertook the industrialisation of Iran at breakneck speed. This was especially so after 1973 when the price of oil quadrupled. This gave enormous billions to the Shah for the purposes of investment.

The Shah was attempting to play the role of absolute monarch in the old sense of the Iranian regime. At the same time he was trying to modernise the economy of the country. In order to gain a basis he introduced "land reforms". These "land reforms" enriched the nobility, the absentee landowners who dominated Iran. They received enormous riches in compensation which they could then invest in industry. The idea was to transform the nobility into a capitalist class, a ruling class on the model of the West.

The real motive behind the land reform was to push the peasants off the land to provide labour for the factories. As The Economist commented: "In place of Iran's village families he [the Shah] allowed his previous Prime Minister Mr Hovieda, to put divisive farm camps, undermining the whole spirit of land reform."

The massive industrialisation begun under the Shah completely bemused those who claim to, or aspire to, leading the Iranian workers. This is particularly true of the Communist party (called the Tudeh party). During the whole of the Shah's reign it has acted as if it was dead. It has put forward no independent policies whatsoever. This is to be explained by the foreign policy of the Russian bureaucracy. The Tudeh Party in Iran is largely a party dominated by the Russian bureaucracy.

The Russian bureaucracy wanted no conflict with American imperialism in Iran because of Iran's enormous importance as an oil producer. Long ago the bureaucracy of the Soviet Union gave up any thought of revolutionary developments which would threaten directly the vital interests of imperialism, especially of the major power of American imperialism because of the inevitable worsening of relations between Russia and America which would occur under these circumstances.

"Yellow press"

The "yellow press" in Britain was wrong to state that these events are due to the intervention and subversion of the Russian bureaucracy, of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party.

On the contrary, the Russian bureaucracy tried to prop up the Shah. They engaged in lucrative trade with the Shah, arranged for enormous quantities of natural gas to be exported from Iran to the Soviet Union and generally endeavoured to maintain friendly relations with the Shah. They looked askance at revolutionary developments in a neighbouring country, particularly one with a large working class which showed its revolutionary character during the course of these events.

The changed relationship of forces on a world scale, has resulted in immense power being accumulated by the Soviet bureaucracy, whilst American imperialism has been weakened. Although not prepared to take any action itself, the Soviet bureaucracy warned against any intervention on the part of American imperialism directly in the affairs of Iran. This, they pointed out, would provoke an immediate counter-response by the Soviet Union, who would then send troops into Iran.

This warning on the part of the Soviet bureaucracy was heeded by the diplomats of the USA. The maniacs of the Pentagon had suggested that aircraft carriers and ships carrying Marines should be sent into the Persian Gulf for the purpose of intervening against the Iranian revolution. This was negated by the State Department, who understood the repercussions this would have on a world scale in the colonial world, and of course the repercussions in Iran and on the Soviet Union.

This shows the waning power of imperialism. American imperialism did not hesitate to intervene in Vietnam, or in Lebanon, or in Dominica. Now because of domestic and international factors, the American imperialists have been impotent to intervene directly in the affairs of Iran.

In this situation the main preoccupation of the CP has been to climb behind religious reaction and the Ayatollah in demanding the setting up of some sort of "Democratic Muslim Republic".

But it is not only the Iranian Communist Party which has shown a feeble reaction in Iran during the course of recent events. The ultra-left sects have also played, as usual, a negative role. Some of them have given sympathy and support to the "revolutionary" students in Iran.


But revolutionary students in Iran were not directed either towards the working class, or to formulate a programme for working class action, but on the contrary were told by the sects to turn to the impotent methods of individual terror. As always with the sects they regarded the working class as impotent, ignorant, illiterate and utterly powerless to change the relationship of forces which existed in Iran. Their conceptions were reinforced by the fact that the working class was completely unorganised before the present development of events.

The argument of the sects and those who turned towards individual terror was that the Shah was industrialising, and all the cards were therefore in his hands. The Shah had raised the standard of living of the working class. The Shah had made enormous concessions to the working class and also to the peasantry. This in its turn would lead to the stability of his regime. They declared that the Shah could maintain himself for decades as a consequence of the "White Revolution" and the development of industry. Incidentally, this idea was swallowed by the imperialists as well. For example, the CIA issued a report as late as September 1978 saying that the Shah had a stable regime and would continue to hold power for at least the next ten to fifteen years!

The real tragedy of Iran is the fact that there was no section of Marxists, either in the ranks of the working class or the students to prepare for these great events, as Lenin and the Bolsheviks had prepared in Russia.

The short-sighted sects could only see gloom and doom in the enormous development of industry. Militant on the other hand, declared that the development of industry also increased enormously the power of the working class, a power which has been demonstrated in the recent period in Britain, in Spain, in the United States, in Japan, and in West Germany.

The mast strikes are an eloquent testimony to the awakening and the power of the workers.

The indescribable tortures the lack of rights and freedom, the humiliations suffered by the masses and specifically the working class of Iran have provoked an implacable movement of the masses. On the surface, the Shah had been riding high, and this was the only thing that could be seen, unfortunately, by the radicals in Iran.

After all it is only about six to eight months ago, when the Shah was giving advice to Britain, on how to deal with strikes, and the "permanent instability" of the "democratic institutions in Britain"!

The old mole of the revolution, however, was burrowing underneath the apparent totalitarian calm which existed in Iran. The CIA and imperialism were caught napping, as were the organisations of the working class.

Nevertheless, in the last few years, there have been many symptoms of the crisis of the regime. Because of the prohibition of all organisations in opposition to the "party" of the Shah, the opposition tended to gather in the mosques. This is particularly so for the peasant, the middle class, and even for the merchant class opposition to the regime of the Shah.

Because of the failures of the Communist Party and radicals, even to attempt to organise opposition within the ranks of the working class, discontent surfaced at the mosques. Radical sermons were preached, which though cloudy and nebulous, were interpreted by the masses in their own fashion.

The Shah dispossessed the Church of its lands. This did not benefit the peasants but only the nobility. That meant that the Ayatollahs, or holy men, the chief representatives of the Muslim clergy in Iran were forced into opposition to the regime.

The masses interpreted the sermons of the mullahs as really standing for a struggle against the totalitarian and authoritarian regime of the Shah. The mullahs put forward the demand for the reintroduction of the constitution of 1906.

It must be remembered that nearly two-thirds of the population in Iran are still illiterate. This is a consequence of the inheritance from the rottenness of the old regime of the landlords and the nobility.


Between October 1977 and February 1978 there were mass illegal demonstrations demanding democratic rights. Then towards the last months of 1978 there were big movements of the students, the merchants, and now also of the working class. Using the religious feast days as an excuse, demonstrations of thousands began to take place. The repression by the forces of the Shah, by the army and the police, merely incensed the population and resulted in bigger and bigger movements in Teheran, and in all the cities of Iran.

As the struggle deepened, it was the movement of the working class, as in Russia, which became the main battering ram for the awakening people. In the first Russian revolution of 1905, the revolution was begun by a demonstration led by the priest, Father Gapon, calling for concessions, and calling for the Tsar, "Little Father" to set things right. This provoked the firing by the army on the people; hundreds were killed and thousands wounded and the Russian revolution of 1905 had begun. So in the same way, we had the beginning of the revolution in Iran.

However there are important differences between Russia in 1905 and the present movement in Iran. The Iranian revolution has begun with a far higher consciousness on the part of the masses. The mass of the people did not petition "their Father" the Shah, but on the contrary demanded the end of the monarchy. Their slogans were "Down with the Shah" and "Death to the Shah".

The working class in Iran is a far bigger proportion of the population than was the Russian working class before the revolution of 1917. There are two million Iranian workers in manufacturing alone, and another three-quarters of a million in transport, and other industries. In addition to that there are wide circles close to the working class in the clerical trades, in the civil service, in catering, and in small businesses of that character.

Most of manufacturing industry in Iran is small, but nevertheless there are certain giant monopolies which dominate the scene. Some employ hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands of workers. In Russia, the working class was only four million out of a population of 150 million. In Iran the working class is at least three to four million strong, out of a population of thirty-five million.

In other words, the relationship of forces in the working class as far as its numerical strength is concerned is even more favourable in Iran than it was in Russia in 1905 or in 1917.


But, on the other hand, in Russia there were the Bolshevik cadres and party, and a certain socialist consciousness, at least in the advanced layers of the working class.

The role of the working class in production means inevitably that it develops a collective consciousness, both in the process of work, and in the process of the struggle against their oppressors. This is the reason why it is only the working class which can change society.

Above all, the movement of the oil workers, the so-called privileged section of the working class in Iran has actually decisively undermined the regime. Over the last two months there has been intermittently a general strike in the oil fields. Despite army repression, arrests of leaders and shootings, the oil workers have stood firm and have refused to work for the purpose of producing oil for the hated regime until the Shah left. Again and again the masses, including the middle class have demonstrated.


The civil service and bank workers have played, as in Portugal, a key part in bringing the absolute monarchy to its knees. Their strike resulted in the finances of the country being paralysed. The strike particularly of the Central Bank in Iran was very effective. This followed the burning down of 400 banks by the enraged masses.

The bank clerks, when they went on strike, revealed that in the last three months £1,000 million has been spirited abroad by 178 members of the ruling elite, including the Shah's relations. Now, in preparation for exile after having sent his family abroad, the Shah has transferred £1,000 million to banks in America. This in addition to the £1,000 million or so which is held in banks in Bonn, Switzerland and in other parts of the world. The Iranian Treasury has been plundered by the autocracy.

The revolution has involved most sections of the nation apart from the handful of capitalists, the landlords, the supporters of the monarch and the bulk of the army officers. The merchants and the small shopkeepers have been ruined by the development of modern capitalism in Iran. This has fuelled their hatred of the absolute ruler who they see as the source of their woes. Thousands have been killed as a result of the repression of the forces of the state, the police, the SAVAK, and army. Every city in Iran has seen demonstrations, has seen these demonstrations being fired on, and has seen the attempt to organise reaction against the working class and against the people.

In many of the smaller towns, there have been fascist attacks, by the army and the police with picked thugs, like the Black Hundreds in Russia before the revolution. They have been used for the purpose of beatings and rapes, in order to terrorise the villagers and the working class in the small cities in Iran. Undoubtedly, if they could have got away with it similar methods would have been used in the big cities.

The Shah, in order to leave a kindly reputation and memory gave the miserable sum (for him) of £25 million to a foundation for charity. But of course, used to the splendours of the regime in Iran, the Shah in going into what would be tantamount to exile, did not of course want to be a pauper, he took away some small change - £1,000 million.


The tendency has been in all modern revolutions for the mass to come, in millions, onto the streets. Thus the demonstrations in Portugal of more than a million after the fall of the Caetano regime. In Iran, millions have demonstrated. According to the biased reports of the capitalist press at least one to two million have demonstrated in the streets of Teheran for the purpose of bringing down the Shah. Hundreds of thousands have demonstrated in all the cities with a measurable population in Iran. Tens of thousands in the smaller towns of Iran. This is a movement of the poor, of the dispossessed, of the exploited, involving the workers, the middle class, the white collar workers, the merchants, and even swept into the movement for their own purposes and their own ends, a section of the capitalists. They wish to climb up on the backs of the workers and the middle class.

Part Two

Last week saw the fall of the Bakhtiar government. In the country's two largest cities, Tehran and Isfahan, power passed on to the streets. The armed forces had to be withdrawn to barracks as they threatened to disintegrate under the impact of the revolution. The following article, written before the downfall of Bakhtiar, predicted its demise and analyses what course the developing Iranian Revolution could take.

The flight of the Shah marks the end of the first phase of the revolution. It's a reactionary dream on the part of the Shah that he can make a quick comeback despite Bakhtiar's manoeuvres.

The monarchy in Iran has been finally thrown out as a result of the excesses, the corruption, the cruelty, the torture, of the last quarter century. It will never again be rammed down the throats of the people of Iran while they possess even the minimum of rights.

The decisive feature of the Iranian revolution as in all revolutions was the role which the army has played. It is clear that the Shah has virtually abdicated power, because it would have been impossible to maintain control of the army for any further length of time. The army cracked in many parts. Here we see again the complete falsity of the position of reformism which declares that revolution is impossible under modern conditions because of the role that is played by the army.

The modern army is more susceptible to the movements on the part of the people, on the part of the working class than any army in history. It is no longer a question of the PBI, the poor bloody infantry, footsloggers, without any real training, without any real understanding. On the contrary, the army has to be highly specialised and highly mechanical. They do tasks like other workers and think as workers.

In this way, it makes the army very prone to respond to the workers' movements. The army is composed of the sons, brothers and relatives of the workers, peasants and middle class. We see in every revolution in history, particularly in the Russian Revolution of 1917, and in the German Revolution of 1918 how the masses of the armed forces came over to the side of the people, when they saw the possibility of a complete break with the old regime.

In Iran there were incidents such as when a soldier shot two of his officers when the command to open fire on the demonstrators was issued, and then committed suicide.

On the other hand, there was the movement of the masses, but no clear call to the army to come over to the side of the people. As a consequence, the soldiers still felt themselves under the heavy hand of military discipline and the threat of court martial for mutiny.

There were many incidents when soldiers joined the demonstrators or allowed demonstrators to climb on the tops of tanks. Other incidents show the opposite features. Officers shot five army cadets for trying to leave the barracks to join the demonstrators.

In many cases in the main towns of Iran there were similar instances of refusal to fire on the part of the troops, of fraternisation on the part of the troops and of action on the part of the army, against their officers. Many of the junior officers also, have sympathy with the movement of the masses.

The reason why the army did not come over to the side of the working class, to the side of the people as in Russia in 1917 and in Germany 1918, is that there was no organisation capable of giving a lead.

Had a socialist alternative been offered to the workers and the soldiers, undoubtedly the whole situation in Iran would have been changed. Millions of leaflets could have been issued to the soldiers. Even with an organisation of a few hundred or a thousand members, millions of leaflets could have been issued to the workers and the soldiers. They could have explained the issues that are facing Iran at the present time, and under these circumstances, it is almost inevitable that the army would have come over to the side of the people.

The revolution, like the Spanish Revolution of 1931-37 will have many ups and downs. The masses may be beaten back after a period of struggle. Reaction might be enabled to establish itself.

But it will not be possible in the immediate future for the army to establish a military dictatorship, as the imperialist West would have liked. Any attempt at military dictatorship would be answered with an even more furious movement on the part of the masses and would result in a split in the army.

The ripeness of the situation in Iran for the socialist revolution is indicated by the fact that the liberals, Iran's so-called National Front, actually have had to adopt a "socialist" or semi-socialist programme. It would be as if the Cadets (the liberals in Russia before 1911) were united in a single party with the Social Revolutionaries (the party of radical agrarian reform), and claimed to be a socialist party.

But like the liberals in Russia, the leaders of the National Front, such as Sanjabi, coming from the upper layers of the middle class (or even from within the capitalist class), manifest an enormous fear of the masses. Bakhtiar, who has nominally been expelled from the National Front, has nevertheless formed a government with the aid and assistance of the Shah, and the army.

Sanjabi, as well as Bakhtiar would like to retain the monarchy. They see the monarchy tamed to a limited extent, so that a constitutional monarchy could act as a bulwark against the revolution, against the working class. They have preserved the classical role of the liberals in revolution. Their main endeavours are to try and dampen down the revolution and get a change of regime without altering the basic structures of present-day society.

We see what Trotsky referred to as the law of combined development manifesting itself in Iran. All the elements for the socialist revolution are there. The liberals can never satisfy the aims and needs of the working people or even of the peasants. In the last analysis they are representatives of the capitalist class and of finance capital.

In an interview, Sanjabi, the leader of the National Front, declared:

"We in the National Front want to maintain the army, we want a strong army and we don't want to do anything to discourage the army…We have never called for desertions or tried to create indiscipline. But inevitably it is happening and if it continues it could be dangerous."

Imperialism and of course the Shah himself have been against the attempt to set up a military dictatorship because under present conditions it would be completely incapable of maintaining itself in the face of the resistance of the masses.

The Bakhtiar government by its very nature can only be a stop-gap and transitional regime. Even the imperialists see that the Bakhtiar regime will not be able to maintain itself for very long, and therefore are making overtures to the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Khomeini has declared that he does not wish to establish a reactionary military dictatorship or to establish a semi-feudal dictatorship. It is this element in their programme where the Mullahs have claimed to stand for freedom and democracy, which has been a powerful source of attraction to the mass of the middle class, and of course to sections of the workers as well.

But the utopian programme of Khomeini can in no way solve the problems that face the Iranian people at the present time.

Khomeini has made it clear that he will accept nothing less than the abolition of the monarchy. The Regency Council which has been set up by the Bakhtiar government will not be able to maintain control, or to keep the seat warm for the Shah. Even the abdication of the Shah would no longer be sufficient. Now it is a question of the abolition of the monarchy.

In the situation which exists in Iran, an organisation of even a thousand Marxists, a thousand revolutionaries could make a decisive difference. It is possible that such an organisation could come from the forces which will be gathering around the National Front.

The National Front itself, once it starts getting a mass basis, will inevitably split. The so-called Communist Party (the Tudeh) is dragging behind the Ayatollahs, especially the Ayatollah Khomeini. They have no perspective, no programme, no policy, other than to support the bourgeois revolution at this particular stage.

Without an alternative organisation it is possible, even probable that there will be a swift growth of the Tudeh Party. Such a growth under modern conditions would result in a split within the Communist Party. It will develop contradictions between the members and the leaders. Splits will develop as the worker members come in conflict with the middle class leadership. They wish to support the theocratic messianism of the Ayatollah without criticism or a different policy or perspective.

But the nakedness of the liberals and the mullahs will speedily be reflected during the course of the revolution itself.

Revolution by its very nature is not one act. The Iranian revolution will extend over a number of years. The masses will learn in the school of hard experience. The army will become radicalised, as the soldiers get used to the fact that it was the movement of the masses which forced the abdication of the Shah. The army will be affected by the mood of the masses, and it will not be possible for the old generals of the Shah to restore discipline, in spite of all the efforts of Khomeini, or the liberals.

It is probable that Khomeini will come to power. All the pleas of Bakhtiar that the state cannot allow the Church to play a direct and commanding role in politics will be in vain.

But once having come to power the futility of the reactionary and medieval ideas of abolishing interest while not altering the economic oasis of society will be shown to result in chaos. Maintaining intact commercial and industrial capital while abolishing interest or usury is entirely utopian. Even in medieval times, when the doctrine of both the Christian and Muslim church was against usury, nevertheless it continued to exist in many forms. It would have disastrous consequences while capitalism remained, on the economy of Iran, and inevitably would have to be abandoned.

Support for Khomeini will melt away after he forms a government. The failure of his programme of a Muslim theocratic republic to solve the problems of the Iranian people will become apparent.

The masses of the people have their aspirations not only for democratic rights but for higher standards of living. The trade unions in Iran will have an explosive growth. Already they are mushrooming as workers feel the elementary need for organisation. They will attain a mighty scope in the period that lies ahead. Just as in Portugal, where 82% of the working class is now organised in trade unions, so similar results will be achieved in Iran in the coming months and years. Possibly the majority and even the bulk of the working class in Iran will become organised.

Capitalist democracy under modern conditions with the crisis of capitalism on a world scale cannot establish itself for any length of time in Iran. The workers have already learned and will learn even more in the course of the developing struggle. If the masses are defeated and a capitalist Bonapartist military dictatorship is established it would not be stable, as we have seen with the Latin American capitalist military-police dictatorships, and the dictatorship in Pakistan.

Even in the worst resort, reaction would prepare the way for revenge on the part of the masses, at a not too distant date. It would be 1905 in Russia over again.

But such a denouement is not at all necessary. If the forces of Marxism succeed in gaining support in Iran, then it could result in a brilliant victory on the lines of the revolution in Russia of 1917.

A healthy development of the revolution would be an absolute disaster for the Moscow bureaucracy. There is a large Asiatic population that is nominally Muslim, or sections of which are Muslim, in the Asiatic part of Russia in the Caucasus. In addition to that, if a healthy workers state was established in Iran on the borders of the Soviet Union, it would have an instant effect on the workers in all the main centres of the Soviet Union - Moscow, Leningrad, Karkov, Odessa, Novosibirsk, etc.

But that could only come with the development of a Marxist tendency which had assimilated the lessons of the last 50 years, particularly the lessons of the rise of Stalinism in Russia. The Moscow bureaucracy did not desire and did not want the developments that have taken place in Iran.

But if there was a possibility of the development of proletarian Bonapartism in Iran, a totalitarian deformed one-party state as in China or Russia they would accept such a gift gratefully despite complications with the USA.

This is also one of the factors in the situation as Iran is only a semi-industrial country, and still remains a semi-colonial country. Given the lack of a mass revolutionary tradition of a Marxist character in Iran, such a development among the lower officers and among a section of the elite, leaning on the support of the workers and peasants is possible.

Moscow did not desire the Iranian revolution, but would not refuse to accept the fruit of a revolution which would strengthen their power enormously in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. They would have to explain to their imperialist rivals of the EEC, Japan and United States that this would be a lesser evil than the development of a proletarian democracy in Iran.

Any Marxist Socialist Party would begin with the demand for the freedom to organise, freedom of speech, freedom of elections, freedom of press and all the democratic rights which have been won by the workers of the West over generations of struggle.

They would demand the 8-hour day, 5-day week, and a sliding scale of wages linked to prices. These would be linked with the demand for a revolutionary constituent assembly, at the same time putting a programme of revolutionary demands for the expropriation of the corrupt gang which has controlled Iran for so long.

The expropriation of the wealth of the Shah, the expropriation of the absentee landlords who invested the money that they were given by the state after generations of neglect and exploitation of the agricultural population; the nationalisation of industry without compensation, or compensation on the basis of need only, and a workers' government; for workers' control of industry and workers' management of industry and the state.

In order to gain these things, it would be necessary to form committees of action in the working class, suggesting that these be extended also to the armed forces and small shopkeepers, small business people, linking them up in a way in which the Soviets were linked in Germany and Russia in the revolutions of 1917 and 1918. Unfortunately there is no organisation in Iran at the present time putting forward the policies of Marxism.

The Labour Movement in Britain should have as one of its foremost democratic demands: no interference with the politics of Iran, let the Iranian people decide. The advanced workers on the other hand, should assist in the development of a Marxist Socialist Party in Iran, which could lead to success.


Monday, February 09, 2009

Steven Soderbergh's Che (***1/2)

I'm not going to write many details about this movie. I can safely assume that the important subjects in this biopic, will be talked about in the comments.

There are two versions of the Che movie. One is called the Roadside Edition. This version is the admission cost of two movies, and includes a free booklet. The movie is shown in full, both Part I called The Argentine and Part II called Guerilla in 41/2 hours. The other version is for theaters to show the two parts seperately on different dates. As of today I only saw Part I. Part I starts in Mexico and goes through to the victory of the revolution, with scenes in black and white of Che at the UN. Part II is mostly about Bolivia and his capture. Both parts stand alone as good movies.

I don't understand why Benicio del Toro wasn't nominated for the Best Actor Award, at this year's Oscars. He won Best Actor at Cannes. He seemed thinner than I've ever seen him. You don't often see a main character constantly having asthma attacks.

Benicio del Toro was one of the producers of this film. He spent a few years, studying Che's writings, and meeting people in his life, including his wife.

The movie is in Spanish, with English subtitles. The Puerto Rican del Toro, mastered the Argentine accent of Che.

The camera work was a hand held camera style, with black and white footage in a newsreel style, showing the later UN visit. Soderbergh refrained from using close-up shots, to respect Che's collectivist beliefs.

I found the film mostly accurate. Some of the important debates were beyond Soderbergh's grasp to delve into, but they were touched on, as what is more important, the underground in the urban areas or the guerilla fight? Anybody who has read this blog any amount of time, knows my opinion.

Some of the best parts are related to the ethics of the revolution, as dealing with traitors and thiefs.

This movie is a mirror on Che, not a dramatization like the movie W. It didn't try for much more than the historical record.


Friday, February 06, 2009

Pakistan: Swat - A Paradise in Peril

By Adam Pal in Lahore
Thursday, 05 February 2009

Swat is one of the most beautiful valleys of Pakistan but today it is being ravaged by the barbarism of fanatics decrying the rottenness of a decaying capitalist system. Today the Taliban are governing this beautiful valley. Sections of the Pakistan Army under the guise of a military operation against them are in fact supporting this fundamentalist reaction. On top of this, the aggression of the imperialist forces in the name of the so-called "war on terror" propels these forces further.

Map of the North-Western Frontier Province in Pakistan with Swat highlighted. Made by Pahari Sahib.

The beautiful valley of Swat, which was a few years back a tourist's paradise with its eye-catching landscapes, is now a haven for criminal gangsters joining the Taliban forces. In Lower Swat one can see terraced fields, startlingly green rice paddies, abundant fruit orchards, and views of snow-capped peaks. In Upper Swat the river narrows into turbulent gorges, the mountains tower above and pine forests cling defiantly to the slopes. It is an excellent place for fishing and climbing. For the historian and amateur archaeologist it has several thousand archaeological sites spanning 5,000 years of history waiting to be explored. The other side of the picture, however, is the fact that the 1.7 million population of this picturesque valley is living a life of hell. Nearly 700,000 have emigrated to other places or have been forced to move away.

The Taliban forces led by Fazlullah are imposing the most barbaric laws on the local people and are slaughtering the innocents for not obeying their obscurantist orders. Fear reigns supreme. The Islamic militants have banned girls' education, forced women indoors and have resorted to murder to enforce their version of Islam.

The Green Chowk (Crossing) in Mingora, which is the main city in the valley is now called the Zibah khana Chowk (Slaughter Crossing) as one or two slaughtered bodies of innocent people of the valley are hanged their daily from an electricity pole. A note accompanies the body which says that whoever dares remove the body before sunset will get the same treatment.

Fundamentalist forces are terrorising the beutiful valley of Swat. Photo by Scott Christian.

These Islamic fundamentalists regularly blast government girls' schools and shops which sell Audio and Video CD's. Also the barbers are slaughtered if they shave anybody in the valley. Many other similar barbaric acts take place every other day.

According to the Dawn of February 3, 2009: "The journey upwards from Mardan these days is forbidding. The entire route is a picture of utter desolation. Fear of the unknown has overtaken a place fabled for its fertile fields and majestic mountains. Even a flying visit is enough to fill one with a sense of foreboding that religious extremists would overrun the valley before long. Most people, especially those living in urban areas, seem to have lost the will to live."

The Pakistan Army has started an operation named "Rah-i-Haq" against the Taliban forces, but in actual fact it is aimed against the civilian population and is giving strength to these forces of black reaction. This operation was launched on July 29, 2007. At the launching of this operation the spokesperson of Pakistan Army Brigadier Javed Nasir had said that there are only 700 to 800 Taliban in the Valley and that they could easily handle them.

Now the Operation is in its third phase with two full divisions of the Pakistan Army, the 17th and 37th, in the Valley and yet the conflict is nowhere near an end. According to a conversation with a reporter of Aaj TV in Batkhela, the presence of 45,000 army personnel in the valley would be more than enough to handle the less than 1000 Taliban fighters. The Army is using Gunship helicopters, heavy artillery and mortar guns. But still the Taliban are holding the key areas in the Valley.

The main leader of these fundamentalists, Maulana Fazlullah, systematically uses FM Radios to convey his orders and sermons to the people of the Valley. Four FM Radio channels are being run in separate areas in which messages of the Maulana are conveyed by his deputies. Separate broadcasts are being aired for the Malakand and Shamozai, Matta and Khawaza Khela areas in Swat.

Taliban forces in Swat are imposing taxes on local traders and businessmen. Photo by Scott Christian.

Despite the presence of the Army, the Taliban are spreading their message in the same way as they did, and still do, in Swat. The medium of the message is fear. In fact, fear itself is the message.

In Malakand Shah Dauran a deputy of Fazlullah can be heard in the evenings from around 8.30pm to 11.00pm. In his broadcast Shah Dauran first points out various people in the area who are not obeying obscurantist Islamic laws and announces punishments for them. These punishments are carried out the very next day which include death. Then he announces the names of those who have confessed their mistakes and have come back to the "right" path. In the end there is a segment of "Good News" in which news of bomb blasts and suicide attacks on various places is given. The programme ends with songs of holy war. Shah Dauran has also given his mobile phone numbers where he can be reached and complaints can be placed.

The transmission of radio channels, the continuous supply of arms, ammunition and strategic support for the Taliban and their minimal losses clearly show that sections of the Pakistan Army and Intelligence agencies have no intention of curbing this savagery, rather they support them by all means.

According to newspaper reports, so far 207 Islamic fundamentalist militants have been killed while 325 security personnel and 2000 civilians have lost their lives. According to the Dawn newspaper, "The Maulana's followers hold sway over no less than 80 percent of the Swat valley."

Taliban forces in Swat are also imposing taxes on local traders and businessmen and are operating their own courts. Also mobile companies are paying Rs 30,000 (US$400) per month for each mobile tower in the valley to the Taliban for security. The civilian population is also being charged taxes in the form of cash payments or in the form of arms.

These Taliban forces are actually local criminal elements who have been sponsored by the ISI (Pakistani secret services) and the American CIA to disguise themselves as fundamentalists and ravage this beautiful area only to threaten the workers and peasants of Pushtoonkhwa and curb any form of resistance against this exploitative system. Also this area has become a safe haven for criminals of the whole region and they are coming in big numbers to take their share of the plunder.

The main leader of the fundamentalists, Maulana Fazlullah, systematically uses radio broadcasts to convey his orders and sermons to the people of the Valley. Photo by salimswati.

According to the local people most of these are seasoned kidnappers, car lifters and dacoits who are now part of the Taliban forces. One of the commanders of Fazlullah in Swat is Rahimdad, alias Kuch, who was a famous inter-provincial car thief a few years back.

It has been reported that when a Union Council Administrator in Dheri, Malakand, Ahmed Hussain Khan went to Swat for some personal reasons he met there with Bacha who has been known as a hardened criminal in the area and been to jail in Batkhela several times. Ahmed Hussein Khan told the press that Bacha told him that he is now really enjoying things more since becoming a part of the Taliban. He reportedly gave Khan US$12,000 and some jewellery to handover to Bacha's brother. Also these criminals are deeply involved in drug trade.

It is common knowledge that the secret service agencies like the ISI are deeply involved in the methods, strategy and planning of these fundamentalist forces. Apparently all this destruction of homes, schools, shops and the imposing of reactionary laws may seem as utter madness and yet there is a method in this madness. These forces are trying their best to gather support of the primitive layers of society to propel their agenda further and move forward into the urbanized areas. They seldom attack petty criminals like pickpockets, robbers and brothel houses, so as to gain the sympathy of these primitive layers. But the indignation of the common people towards these hardened criminals is increasing every day.

These reactionary fundamentalists are trying their best to destroy the centuries old cultural and aesthetic aspects of this society. One beautiful aspect of this culture is the classical folk dance which is performed at weddings and other cultural ceremonies. The artists living in the valley are renowned all over the region and have been associated with this profession for many generations. The most famous of all these artistes are from Bhand Mohalla (artistes locality) in Mingora city where not only dancers but also musicians have been living for centuries. The Taliban not only have destroyed this locality but they have also slaughtered Shabnam, a famous dancer. She was popular with men and women alike. Four other dancers were also killed. Now most of the dancers and musicians have migrated to Karachi and other cities and are living a terrible life. The barbarism in Swat is spilling over into the neighbouring areas, especially Malakand which is a gateway to the whole region.

The Malakand agency lies at a strategically important position as it acts as a gateway to Swat, Dir, Chitral and Bajaur. It is in the Lower Swat region amidst high mountains thick with evergreen olive and pine trees. It stands at the exit of a pass known as the Malakand Pass or Darrah Malakand.

The Taliban have threatened the official courts in Batkhela, the main city of Malakand, demanding they stop their functioning within 15 days. Also army check points are starting to appear on the main road, which actually heralds the onslaught of Taliban forces.

CD shop owners are being threatened and orders are being announced from FM radio to obey the orders of the Taliban or face dire consequences. The sporadic killing of innocent people and barbaric acts of intimidating women are already taking place in the area. Lawyers have been warned not to appear in court and that "Whoever will appear before court will be our enemy". Already they have set up 73 Sharia courts to administer "speedy justice". These courts summon people by phone, threatening violators with death.


Madrassahs are mushrooming these days in every nook and corner of Swat and Malakand where poor people send their children to study. These Madrassahs became a source of income in the period of the Afghan Jihad (against Soviet forces) when millions of dollars were pumped in by the American government. These dollars are still coming in, mainly through the drug trade and other criminal activities. Hundreds of children are being sent there by parents who cannot afford the food and clothing of these children. These Madrassahs are being used by the ISI to recruit suicide bombers.

The suicide bombers from these Madrassahs are also now being used to sell services to those who can pay hefty amounts to settle their personal disputes. One such bomber was used in the Bhakkar bomb blast in South Punjab to settle a personal score by a local who had bought this suicide bomber for 12 million rupees. According to some local people some suicide bombers are also instructed to blow them up as a trial for prospective buyers!

Madrassahs, where poor families send their children, are being used by the secret service to recruit suicide bombers. Photo by *Muhammad* on Flickr.

This "industry" of terrorism has been flourishing quite rapidly since the 'War on Terrorism' was started by the Bush administration in America. The sale of arms and suicide bomber jackets is helping to expand this "industry" and new methods are being developed to increase the sales of various forms of terror.

Drone attacks by American and NATO forces in the Tribal areas are aggravating this war and are keeping the sale of bombs, fighter planes and drones growing. A Station Headquarter Officer in Malakand has claimed in the press that "if given a chance I can end the rein of the Taliban of Swat in one week, otherwise I may be hanged".

With the rottenness of capitalist system and a crisis-ridden economy, the multinationals and industrialists in Pakistan may use these forces as a threat to curb workers' rights and to threaten them if they dare hold any protests. In Swat and the adjacent areas, political activities are almost banned and the activists of left political parties are being targeted. Some have been killed and others have migrated to Islamabad or Peshawar.

No mainstream political party has any agenda or solution to this conflict and they are all capitulating, though reluctantly, to these forces. One of the main reasons for this is their compromise with this rotten capitalist system and their slavish attitude to the Army generals and the imperialist masters.

The ANP, the Pushtoon nationalist party, is currently in power in Pushtoonkhwa, along with the PPP as a coalition partner. Also in the Federal government both are collaborating with each other, along with the Islamic fundamentalist party JUI-F. Neither the PPP nor the ANP can offer a way out of this crisis which is a threat to humanity itself; rather they are proposing various ways of compromise with these reactionary forces. In Malakand, which is traditionally a stronghold of the PPP, all the MPs elected in the elections last year have fled from the area.

The only force that is giving not only resistance to this dogmatic force but also offering a solution, are the comrades of the IMT in Pushtoonkhwa. Working in the most perilous conditions, they are patiently explaining that the root cause of all this menace is the disintegrating capitalist system which is imposing these forces on humanity.

They are also encouraging people to raise their voice against unemployment, price hikes and other basic issues like healthcare and education. The inability of the system to provide these basic necessities is not due to any lack of resources but to the lack of planning which can only be done under Socialism.

The comrades of the IMT are working inside the PPP and also in trade unions of various departments and are also organizing the unemployed youth of the area on the platform of the BNT (Unemployed Youth Movement) to wage a political struggle against these reactionary forces. In this struggle, imperialism, the Pakistani state apparatus, the Army and the Taliban are all against them. And yet, the forces of revolutionary socialism are growing in the area. This can be seen from the fact that in the year 2008 after the general elections of February the only political activities carried out in Malakand were those of the comrades of IMT. They celebrated May Day, a big demonstration against price hikes on June 2 and also a rally in support of the Venezuelan and Bolivian revolutions, and another against US aggression in September in Batkhela when they burnt US flags.

The masses are learning fast from their own experiences and are listening to the ideas of socialism. That is why the only threat the Taliban really feel are from the genuine forces of socialism. During the Friday prayers sermons are given in Malakand and Swat condemning the ideas of Karl Marx and Lenin and attacking the theory of surplus value to warn the people to keep away from these ideas. In spite of all this, the struggle of the comrades is still going on amid serious threats but they are waging a serious fight.

When the masses will begin to move they will smash these forces of barbarism and will stand up against all aggression of the State and fundamentalist forces. The movement of hundreds of thousands of poor and downtrodden peasants and workers will not listen to sermons or feel threatened by weapons but will move on to challenge this system. There is a history and tradition of such movements in this region, especially during the 1968-69 revolution. A volcanic eruption from the depths of society will shake the standing army from inside and the ferment in the rank and file will grow to become a revolt.

The comrades are patiently explaining the ideas of revolutionary Marxism and have remained in the area against all odds and threats to their lives. In the coming period they will be able to lead the masses towards the complete transformation of society. On this basis and united with the movement of workers, youth and peasants of other areas of Pakistan, will lay the basis for a move towards a socialist revolution in Pakistan.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

IWSN Campaign: Free All Political Prisoners in Iran!

By Iranian Workers' Solidarity Network
Wednesday, 04 February 2009

The recent arrests of labour and Kurdish activists have once again drawn attention to the fact that the Iranian regime is determined to re-establish the old balance of forces - when it always had the upper hand when dealing with workers and labour activists, women, national minorities, journalists, teachers and the vast majority of the working people of Iran.

The political prisoners, whatever the nature of their activity against the regime or political beliefs, are suffering conditions that are worse than those in the Shah's torture chambers. When they are briefly released, they face conditions among workers, women, national minorities and the youth that are worse than when they were sent to jail. This only compels them to continue the struggle against the inequality, injustices, corruption and brutality that have upheld the rule of this blood-soaked regime for 30 years and are an inseparable part of its strategy for continuing its ignominious life in the pursuit of privatisation, massive redundancies, casualisation of labour, cutting subsidies and raising taxes.

Iranian Workers' Solidarity Network will be highlighting the cases of Mansour Osanloo, Farzad Kamangar, Mohsen Hakimi and Zeynab Jalaliyan to start a campaign for the release of all political prisoners in Iran.

Iranian Workers' Solidarity Network
3 February 2008


Monday, February 02, 2009

The Premier Dardos Award/Open Thread

I was presented by Redman Washington based blogger Killian, who owns the blog Citizen K The Premier Dardos Award. Citizen K according to Killian is Politics. Music. Movies. Books. Travel. Outrage. He is familiar to people who comment here. I met him online, through our both being fans of Ned Sublette's music.

The Premier Dardos Award is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web."

The Rules
1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.

2) Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.

Citizen K wrote presenting me this award:

Strictly speaking, Renegade Eye may not be what the creators of the Dardos Award had in mind: A typical entry is an article pulled from a left-wing publication. But Ren has created an environment that encourages the left and right to debate (often fiercely) while he moderates the discussion with well-placed and articulated comments. He merits recognition, and here it is...

Time to pass it on:

1) A Poetic Justice is what the award was invented to honor. Mark uses every creative outlet, to speak for the suffering. A class act.

2) From India comes A Readers Words. RW writes about arts, politics and culture, with great enlightenment. When something happens in South Asia, I'm checking this blog for insights.

3) African Loft plays a unique role. It is a good place for reading news and opinion from and about Africa.

4) UK based British-Chinese pop culture and lefty diva Madam Miaow, when she is not being talked to by BBC, she is raising heck on her blog, with a humor so sharp it can cut. Miaow was a 2008 Weblog finalist. Here she wins.

5) The nature of my blog requires I give a rightist an award. CB deserves an award for trying to prove capitalism works.

Obviously this ward shouldn't only go to five blogs.

This is also an open thread. Any subject ok.