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StWC Blind Spot on the Kurds.

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Western blind spot: the Kurds’ forgotten war in Syria.

A victory for the Kurds and their allies in Syria is a victory for all who want a future that is dictated neither by fundamentalists nor imperialists.

The current narrative from Cameron and Obama is simple: the head-chopping Islamic State is a threat to all of humanity, so western forces need to return to the Middle East. Yet this narrative is far from supported by the empirical evidence. Non-existent weapons of mass destruction and non-existent Islamic fundamentalist jihadists were used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by George Bush and Tony Blair. Iraq was transformed from secular totalitarianism to chaos: in turn, chaos and opposition to occupation seeded a jihadist movement.

Western support for opponents of Assad in Syria gave the so-called ‘Islamic State’ an opportunity to take territory. ISIS was able to seize huge quantities of heavy weaponry supplied by the USA and its allies. Thus, if US intervention has created or at least massively accelerated the growth of a monster, critics argue that more intervention will no doubt provide the Islamic State with more weapons, more support and more chaos on which to thrive.

Another reason for doubting the narrative is the fact that the most successful opponents of ISIS are not only unsupported by the west but are effectively at war with a NATO ally. If the ‘war on terror’ was real, the words Kobane, Rojava and YPG would be on our TV screens more often than a marriage date with George Clooney. In fact, few of us have much knowledge of the forgotten war in the Middle East. This is a war that ISIS, up until a few days ago, was losing. But a NATO country has joined to help defeat not the jihadist beheaders, but their most feared opponents.

As I write, the city of Kobane in the mostly Kurdish city in northern Syria is under threat from ISIS, who have laid siege to the city for over a fortnight. ISIS forces from all over the region, equipped with tanks and missiles stolen from Iraqi forces supplied by Qatar and the USA, have sustained a huge attack on this city on the border of Turkey. You won’t hear about Kobane on much of the media and not so far in speeches from Obama and Cameron. These are the Kurds the west does not support, and mentioning their very existence is virtually an existential threat.

The Kurds, who are said to be the largest stateless nation and are spread across Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq, have been fighting for autonomy for decades. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey saw their leader Ocalan captured in 1999. He remains in prison. In Syria, as a result of the civil war, the Kurds have created an autonomous self-governing republic, made up of three cantons, one of which is Kobane. The three cantons are known collectively as Rojava [western Kurdistan]. For several years the Rojavans have been fighting and beating ISIS and other jihadists like the Al Nusra front. When ISIS threatened thousands of Yazidi in Iraq, killing many and forcing others into apparently slavery, this triggered international outrage. It is largely forgotten that the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the community self-defence force from Rojava, crossed to Mount Sinjar and rescued many Yazidis.

While Rojava is known as a Kurdish territory, political and religious pluralism is strongly promoted. Syriac Christian militias are allied with the YPG, which also draws in Arab and Armenian fighters. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims, although others are Yazidis. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) is usually seen as a sister party of the PKK but there are many other Kurdish and non Kurdish political parties in Rojava. The PKK affiliated party advocates political diversity, feminism and self-governance. Originally a Marxist-Leninist organisation, remarkably the PKK sees itself as an anarchist political organisation inspired by the ideas of the American social ecologist and green anarchist, Murray Bookchin!

An anarchist from North London who visited Rojava noted that they are carrying out an almost unique democratic experiment: ‘We went to a meeting of one the communes based in the neighborhood of Cornish in the town of Qamishlo. There were 16 to 17 people in the meeting. The majority of them were young women. We engaged in a deep conversation about their activities and their tasks. They told us that in their neighborhood they have 10 Communes and the membership of each Commune is 16 people. They told us “We act in the same way as community workers including meeting people, attending the weekly meetings, checking any problems in the places we are based, protecting people in the community and sorting out their problems, collecting the rubbish in the area, protecting the environment and attending the biggest meeting to report back about what happened in the last week”. In response to one of my questions, they confirmed that nobody, including any of the political parties, intervenes in their decision making and that they make all the decisions collectively.’ Others have termed Rojava the Chiapas of the Middle East, in reference to the Zapatistas of Mexico.

The Rojava Charter, a kind of constitution, is a remarkable document. It states, “[w]e the peoples of the democratic self-administration areas; Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians (Assyrian Chaldeans, Arameans), Turkmen, Armenians, and Chechens, by our free will, announce this to ensure justice, freedom, democracy, and the rights of women and children in accordance with the principles of ecological balance, freedom of religions and beliefs, and equality without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, creed, doctrine or gender, to achieve the political and moral fabric of a democratic society in order to function with mutual understanding and coexistence within diversity and respect for the principle of self-determination and self-defense of the peoples….The autonomous areas of the democratic self-administration do not recognize the concept of the nation state and the state based on the grounds of military power, religion, and centralism”. The feminist part of their ideology reflects a strong commitment: in fact 30% of YPG members are women, all-woman fighting units (YPJ), are common, and women share the highest military rank with men.

Rojava offers the threat of a good example. A self-governing anarchist society with ecological aspirations may or may not be the utopia it sounds like, however the west has little time for alternatives to capitalism that might just work. The allies of the US and UK tell us all we need to know about their war on terror. These allies include Saudi Arabia, which beheads citizens on a regular basis, outlaws LGBT people, doesn’t allow women to drive and like ISIS, does not tolerate churches, Shia mosques or the advocacy of religions other than the most constrained form of Islam. Like Saudi Arabia, Qatar has funded jihadists, and then we come to Bahrain which has been heavily repressing their population.

The roll call of allies is a list of shame, which includes some of the most repressive states on our planet. It is an oil-soaked catalogue of monsters. The Kurds currently armed and supported by the US in Iraq belong to a rival political organisation to the PYD. The suspicion is that Islamic State attacks, which were moving in on the shopping malls and US centres in Iraqi Kurdistan, prompted the US intervention. For, however loud the calls are to oppose ISIS, the YPG who so far have been the most effective opponents of jihadism are largely ignored.

Turkey, another NATO ally, has been accused of supporting ISIS, as part of its longstanding conflict with the Kurds. Turkey has refused to fight ISIS, their border has been porous to jihadists wishing to join ISIS and the recent release of over 49 Turkish hostages by ISIS has been met with a suggestion of a deal between Turkey and the so-called Islamic State. Turkey has been strongly repressing the Kurds, and has argued for a buffer zone, which would essentially remove Rojava and replace it with Turkish troops. Turkey has also attempted to prevent thousands of Kurds from crossing the border to fight ISIS as they besiege Kobane. It has been alleged that $800 million of oil has been sold by ISIS in Turkey.  There is also evidence that Turkish troops have been training ISIS.

ISIS are currently concentrating their forces against their most effective opponents, the YPG and its independent democratic cause. In Kobane, the forces of ISIS terror, against which the west is supposedly at war, are at the door and massively outgun the besieged Kurds, thanks to the help of the west and its allies. The dark ironies of geopolitics cannot be made clearer: ISIS is armed with weapons captured from the US, who flooded the region with weapons, while Turkey, a NATO member, is further strengthening the terrorism against which NATO has declared war, by repressing a democratic movement fighting indigeounously against ISIS.

There have been reports of US attacks on ISIS positions near Kobane, but there is some debate as to whether these have been effective. Meryem Kobanê, Commander of the YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) in Kobane, noted on Saturday, September 27, that the strikes missed the ISIS forces.

The US and UK intervention has brought nothing but misery to the Middle East. The silence from Obama and Cameron regarding Turkey’s repression of the Kurds, shows that the ‘war on terror’ is more about the rhetoric than reality. All of us who want to see societies based on pluralism, self-governance, respect for minorities and empowerment of women, need to challenge our elected leaders over their failure to challenge Turkish opposition to Rojava. A victory for the Kurds and their allies in Rojava is a victory for all who want a future that is dictated neither by fundamentalists nor imperialists.

For more information on Rojava and the struggle against ISIS, see the following websites:

http://peaceinkurdistancampaign.com/news/

http://rojavareport.wordpress.com/

To this can be added this significant report,

Saturday, September 27, 2014 By I. Zekeriya Ayman

The People’s Democracy Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtas, who won nearly 10% in the recent presidential election. The HDP is leading a big campaign of solidarity with Rojava against the IS assault.

With the US and allied nations, including Arab countries, carrying out air strikes in Syria, the Turkish government is trying to convince the West it does not support the Islamic State (IS) forces the US is targetting.

Newly elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (the former prime minster) linked the adjective “terrorist” with “IS” for the very first time on September 23 during a US TV interview while attending the United Nations climate summit.

“Turkey will do whatever needs to be done to stop this terrorist organisation, militarily, and politically,” he said.

But the truth is that IS has received vital support from the Turkish government. It is known that IS has received crucial support from Turkey, which includes:

* Turkey positioning itself as an easy bridge for IS foreign militants to reach Syria, and Iraq;
* Trapped IS militants in Syria and Iraq escaping to Turkey to regroup and train;
* IS casualties being treated in Turkish hospitals and even having an hospital exclusively for their use;
* Turkey providing basic needs to IS under the guise of “humanitarian aid”;
* The Turkish government providing weapons and ammunitions directly to IS and provided safe passage for arms deliveries from elsewhere; and
*Turkey opening and closing its borders to suit IS.

The main reason the Turkish regime has supported IS, besides its interest in the toppling the Syrian regime, is the growing Kurdish resistance in Syria and the creation of a revolutionary “liberated zone” in the Kurdish territory of Rojava.

See more…..here.

The STWC is also silent on the Kurdish struggle.

Iraq demonstration

Parliament has voted for the third Iraq War. The last two have brought almost unimaginable suffering to the people of Iraq and have helped to create the current chaos, driving the country to the brink of break up.

They claim this is a humanitarian operation to defeat Isis. In fact, Isis is backed by various middle east powers and a new aerial bombardment will not defeat it. It will however, kill innocents, further fragment the country and inflame violence.

The record of the west’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya show that as well as creating misery and mayhem, western military interventions make the world a more volatile, dangerous place.

Cameron’s new war has built-in mission creep. Discussions are already underway for Britain to join the bombing of Syria, and there are growing calls for boots on the ground.

The Stop the War Coalition is asking every one of its supporters to attend the demonstration against the insanity of another war on Iraq.

There is this by contrast,

 

Kurds began a hunger strike tonight London in solidarity with the city of #Kobane, under siege & attack from ISIS. 

Danish Leftists Back Military Aid to Iraq.

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Danish Revolutionary Socialists Says: Arm Kurdish Freedom Fighters!

Danish socialists voting for a parliamentary decision to send a military plane to Iraq under US command is not usual. Even more unusual is the fact that I – considering myself a revolutionary Marxist – voted to support that decision. Nevertheless, that is what happened a few weeks ago.

The parliamentary group of the Red-Green Alliance (RGA – Enhedslisten) voted together with all out parties for sending a Hercules airplane to Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government. The plane will transport weapons and ammunition to the Kurdish militias fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).”

Reports Michael Voss (of the Danish  Red-Green Alliance, Enhedslisten – De Rød-Grønne), known as Enhl, and SAP (Socialistisk Arbejderparti) in International Viewpoint (journal of the Fourth International).

The nightmare of some ‘anti-imperialist’ hipsters has had a real political impact…..

Why Danish leftists supported military aid to Iraq Monday 15 September 2014

Comrade Voss  made the honest point that,

In that way there is a temporary coincidence of interests between imperialism and socialists on the simple issue of fighting IS. We want to supply the Kurds with weapons, and US imperialism want to supply the Kurds with weapons – for the time being. Not supporting it, only because of the US command, would be as if Lenin had refused to travel in the sealed train supplied by German imperialism through imperialist Germany to Russia in the middle of the Russian revolution, as another NL-member said.

And that,

I don’t think that much argument is needed to back the fact that revolutionary socialists also want to fight and stop IS, a murderous, sectarian and deeply reactionary force. A victory for IS will set back any social, democratic, pro-women or anti-imperialist development that may have taken place in parts of Syria and Iraq.

But that their MPs made sure that,

  • that the Danish Hercules plane cannot be used for any other purpose than delivering arms to the forces fighting IS
  • that this decision does not allow any other Danish military activity in the region;
  • that whatever happens, a new parliament decision is necessary if the government wants to prolong the activity of the airplane after 1 January 2015

As a follow up to the decision the RGA have taken other initiatives to stop military and financial supply for IS, to popularise the fight for the Kurdish peoples’ right to self-determination and to have the PKK removed from the US and the EU list of so-called terror organisations. A special Danish aspect is the fact that the TV-station of Kurds for all Europe was based in Denmark until it was recently banned, and 10 people from the Kurdish community face trial for collecting money for organisations that – according to the police – transfer the money to PKK.

When the first shipment of weapons to the PKK/YPG by a Danish airplane under US command has taken place, it will be hard for the authorities to explain that they are supporting a terror organisation.

This decision took place in mid-August (reported in International Viewpoint on the 15th of Septmeber.

 Danish arms to support Kurds in Iraq

25. aug. 2014 13.14 

The Red-Green Party’s central committee has agreed that its parliamentary group may vote yes to send Danish arms to support Kurds fighting in Iraq.

However, final approval by parliament on Wednesday is needed before a Hercules transport aircraft containing a consignment of light weapons can be sent as Denmark’s contribution to the USA’s action in Northern Iraq, where Kurdish fighters are being hard-pressed by the militant Islamic State (IS).

“I’m pleased that the central committee has approved the parliamentary group’s proposal for Denmark to support the campaign by sending a transport aircraft with weapons and ammunition to the hard-pressed Kurdish fighters in Northern Iraq,” said Nikolaj Villumsen, spokesman on defence for the Red-Green Alliance.

Proposal today

The government received the final support of all parliamentary parties on Sunday after the remaining parties had acknowledged their approval at a meeting of the Foreign Policy Committee on Thursday.

Today, the government will present its proposal to send the aircraft to Iraq as soon as possible with a consignment of weapons and solders to protect the aircraft.

“The Islamic State is one of the most perfidious movements the world has seen for many years and must be forced back before it commits new crimes against humanity.

“It must be emphasised, however, that our support for this limited action will not entail any Danish military intervention in Iraq and is purely intended as support for the Kurds to help them defend themselves against the Islamic State. We are not entering into a new war in Iraq,” said Villumsen.

Put in their place in 2011

In March 2011, the Red-Green parliamentary group was quickly put in its place by the party when it wished to support the use of Danish F-16 fighter aircraft to support the Libyan Army.

At the party’s AGM, a procedure was established for how the parliamentary group could support Danish military action, when it was made contingent on approval by the central committee.

The authorities are indeed concerned,

Some Danish politicians, however, are sceptical that the Danish involvement could inadvertently support the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which the European Union (EU) labels a terrorist organization.

Since IS captured about a third of Iraq in June, the PKK, which is based in Iraqi Kurdistan, has become part of the war. The PKK’s affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, are fighting IS alongside the KRG’s Peshmerga troops. Rudaw.

The Red-Greens are noted for their support for a foreign policy based on human rights.

Enhl initially backed plans for UN-led intervention in Libya but pulled back, after party protests, once the campaign got underway.

The Red-Green Alliance currently has 12 seats in the Danish Parliament (Folketinget) with 6,7 % of the vote.

Wider Backing for Military Action Against Islamic State/Daʿesh

Support for the Kurdish and other democratic fighters against Islamic state is widespread on the European left, a stand that contrasts with the isolationist Stop the War Coalition in Britain.

As the Guardian prints Richard Seymour’s hipster take on ISIS the StWC has just published the weighty reflections of Russell Brand: Will Obama’s bombs stop the ISIS beheadings?

By contrast over the weekend one of the Editors of the French Communist Party daily l’Humanité, and MEP, Patrick Le Hyaric, said of  the Islamic State, Da’esh, , “il faut briser les reins à ces égorgeurs.” – we must break the backs of these murderers.

He continued, “Nous avons, à cet instant, une pensée particulière pour nos frères et pour nos sœurs kurdes qui combattent en première ligne contre la cruauté sauvage de l’Etat islamique, en Irak comme en Syrie..” We have a special place in our thoughts for our brother and sister Kurds who are fighting in the front line against the savage cruelty of the Islamic State,in Iraq as in Syria.

Le Hyaric emphasised however that military action should be decided by Parliament and endorsed by the United Nations, and not take place through the channels of NATO.

The French Nouveau parti anticapitaliste, NPA,  (the largest group associated with the Fourth International) has yet to publicly take a position on their Danish comrades’ decision.

Other articles in International Viewpoint, such as one by David Finkel published on the same day as the above contribution, repeat the well-known refrain that, “the global terror of imperialism generates its ugly local and regional counterparts from Taliban to the “Islamic State.” The terrorist forces arising in shattered societies can’t be eradicated without uprooting the global system that inevitably breeds them.”

The British FI group, Socialist Resistance has shown deep sympathy for the Kurdish struggle and the fight against ISiS.

Socialist Unity Goes ‘Imperialist’ as Left unites to Back US Bombs on Islamic Fascists.

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John Wight goes imperialist?

Exclusive on Russia Today John Wight backed US air-strikes on the Islamic fascists in Iraq.

This is entirely welcome comrade!

Yes this is the same John Wight, more widely known for insane rants like this one,

 

The Guardian newspaper has published an ad by supporters of the apartheid State of Israel, which among other things smears the Palestinian resistance as ‘child killers’. Given that Israel’s latest massacre of Palestinians in Gaza has up to now involved the slaughter of 400 children, this is beyond parody. The right wing Times refused to carry the ad, while the supposedly progressive Guardian published it.

 

Imperialism, Anti-Imperialism, and the Left. A Reply to Andrew Murray.

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Communist Party of Australia’s View of Imperialism.

Imperialism, anti-Imperialism, and the Left. A reply to Andrew Murray.

Imperialism, the Marxist historian Victor Kiernan claimed, shows itself, “in coercion exerted abroad, by one means or another, to extort profits above what simple commercial exchange can procure.” Andrew Murray begins Imperialism has Evolved since 1914, but it still Rules to World (Morning Star. 2.8.14. reproduced on 21st century Manifesto), by citing this assertion to observe that the “wars of 1914 and 1939 are the outstanding examples of what happens when that international system of extortion breaks down.” “Break-down and crisis” are as much a feature of “imperialism” as growth and slump are of capitalism. We might explain this, as a critic of Kiernan once noted, as the result of an inherent “atavistic” tendency to revert to type. (1)

Murray paints a picture of contemporary ‘imperialism’ in which there are “instruments of inter-imperialist mediation and control” such as Nato and the IMF, which bear some marks of “ultra” or “super” imperialism. That is, as Lenin put it in 1915, the view that there was underway an “international unification of national (or more correctly state-bound) imperialisms which “would be able to eliminate the most unpleasant, the most disturbing and distasteful conflicts, such as wars, political convulsions which the petty bourgeois is so much afraid of.”(2) At its most developed the idea of ‘ultra-imperialism’ would foresee a “single world trust” that would swallow up all states and enterprises. This, Lenin argued, simply would not happen.

Does the past show us the future? We can clearly set aside any idea of a single Capital dominating capitalism. Politically the existence of inter-state institutions, including international justice systems, does not eliminate rivalry between countries. There is no effective “global governance”. Conflicts have a recurrent source. “The shaper contradiction is between that world order managed and maintained by US power and those big powers which stand to a significant extent outside of it. There are two – Russia and China.”

Dominant, naturally, is the “US-led bloc”; the imperialism “constitutes the dominant system in the world today”. This is bound, hand and foot, to a policy of aggression, “the main driver of war lies in the policy of the US and the imperialist world order it has created to further its leading business interests, and those of its capitalist allies, Britain pre-eminent among them.” That is, despite signs of US “retreat” and “difficulties in the Middle East, it is “commanding” with world-wide military bases, and control of the (above) “inter-imperialist” bodies, like the IMF and Nato.

Anti-Imperialism.

Threaded into this analysis Murray states, “anti-imperialism now is at the heart of any serious progressive politics”. Sometimes it may lead progressive to “deal with contradictory cross currents”. One, is that “Russia’s role as a challenger to global US hegemony and the legitimacy of many national demands arising from the break up of the Soviet Union, may often mandate contingent support for the positions of the Putin government”. That is with the “contradictory” recognition that Russia has “corrupt oligarchic and repressive” practices, in “restored Russian capitalism.”

It is odd that anybody would consider that backing any aspect of Russian foreign policy is ‘anti-imperialist‘. It may be done with reasons, but if the government of Putin is the head of a capitalist state, meshed into the imperialist system, then how exactly it is a consistent part of anti-imperialism? It is hard to see many people rushing to the defence of one group of oligarchs fighting another.

One wonder how many other ‘challengers’ to US hegemony also “mandate” contingent support? To be supported (or in real terms, given kind words and some public show of endorsement) how far can a foreign policy trump a domestic one? A debate has begun on the US-left, with echoes in Europe, on Hamas. The American International Socialist Organization reject any backing for the violent, reactionary ISIS and Islamic State Islamists in Syria and Iraq. But they offer “unconditional but critical” support for the Gaza wing of the Muslim Brotherhood which has right-wing anti-socialist and anti-liberal policies. (3) The importance of their anti-imperialist battle with Israel over-rides their anti-democratic and corrupt practices.

Others might argue that it would be better simply to oppose Israel’s actions in attacking the Palestinians and depriving them of their rights than in to offer any succour to a group with a proven record of hostility to any form of left-wing and progressive politics. No amount of bluster about solidarity can disguise this side of Hamas. Israel’s actions need to be fought by a coherent movement, one not entangled in this dead-end. Such a push requires co-operation with Israeli citizens opposed to their state’s policies, and not a call to drive them into the sea. This is not to “blame” Hamas, it is simply not to take their political side.

Romantic third-worldism appears to have survived the collapse of any specific “non-capitalist” development after the fall of Official Communism and the rise of neo-liberal economics and politics. Perhaps we are seeing signs of a part others about to plunge into a second-youth, digging out dusty copies of Frantz Fanon to find inspiration for their “anti-imperialism”. (4) It continued to exist in the half-life of university “post-colonial” theory and some marginal groupuscules, like the French Les Indigènes de la République. These self-appointed representatives of the “natives” battle against neo-colonialist secularism and Marxism. They really are unconditional backers of Hamas, and treat the racist anti-Semite, ‘anti-Zionist’, and Holocaust denier, Dieudonné with great tenderness.

It is perhaps unfair to draw such conclusions from what are, at present, straws in the wind. But it is disingenuous to claim that you give “unconditional” support to a movement or party when you reserve the right to be “critical”. Heroes do not generally appreciate unfavourable comments, even if made very discreetly, from their fans. No doubt politics is full of tales of unrequited love. The left groups that popularised this and similar formulae in the 1960s and 1970s, notably the Trotskyist United Secretariat of the Fourth International, knew many such disappointments, from African national liberation movements, to the IRA, to cite but a few.

People often comment on a distinct strand of visceral anti-Americanism in what is left of post-war leftism and Communism. It could be said  that sometimes it plays a role not dissimilar to Marx’s eminently forgettable phobia against Tsarist Russia (Revelations of the Diplomatic History of the 18th Century, mid 1850s)  That led Marx to make some claims which can only be described in terms of conspiracies, the “secret collaboration between the Cabinets of London and St. Petersburg” back to Peter the Great(!). Today it is frequent to see people throw responsibility for wars and exploitation on the US in terms of intrigues, spying, most recently, through the etheral spheres of the Net.

The Communist Party of Britain (CPB) is, one hopes, made of sterner stuff. While there is a continuing regret at the demise of ‘actually existing socialism’ only a few have found a new home in the national conservatism of Putin’s Kremlin – though many more indulge its media, such as Russia Today. Andrew Murray notes that the Russian Federation’s actions in Ukraine have been circumscribed by the need to maintain “economic links with important Ukrainian enterprises”. The Communist Party of Britain, and some left groups, contains people who do not consider Russia imperialist. Murray suggests “otherwise” – on the basis of its international economic interests. This is indeed an illustration of how the left cannot “conditionally” align with any existing capitalist power. But mroe deeply is he seriously suggesting that it might be a good thing if Russia stood by the separatists? Why exactly? What socialist objective does that meet? It is bad enough having a right-wing pro-EU pro-US government with far-right involvement. But does a break-away solve the problems of the Ukraine? What criteria are being used to determine this?

Imperialism Otherwise.

It is the case that the “territorial” and “economic” mechanisms that states are caught up are shaped by the hegemony of one great power, the United States. ‘It’, or rather the fractions and networks that dominate the country’s economic and politics, has played a key (though, as is obvious, by no means exclusive) role in spreading the neo-liberal economic agenda. It has tried to exert, with no great success, territorial rights in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and across the globe. These actions have been a major cause of great, and continuing, bloodshed. (5)

But Murray’s “otherwise” has to be extended. There are plenty of ‘other’ factors to consider behind conflicts in the world today.Nor are things reducible to the US-leadership. However, adding the European Union to this list of powers still leaves us short of determining the overwhelming influence of a new ‘concert of imperialist nations’. To give one example,  the failure of the ‘Arab Spring’ can hardly be reduced to the machinations of the Pentagon, the EU, or the galaxy of US-inspired think tanks and ‘advisers’ on democracy. Domestic politics, state structures, and the rise of the “micro-powers” of Islamic coercion, and the pressures of economic flows, could be put into the very long list of causal factors at work behind the (still unsettled) outcome of these revolts. 

If there are forces for the left to support they can probably be best found in those determined to put democracy and social justice above religious and national concerns. Göran Therborn recently argued that the “new middle classes” in the developing world could divide into those who take sides, “either with the oligarchs against the poor, or with the people against the oligarchs. (6) This expresses a theme popular amongst journalists, that democracy is the central issue of our time and the basis for new cross-class alliances led, in the South, by a “modern” Westernised professionals and the intelligentsia.

The recent record (from the Arab World to Turkey) of such movements is not one of success. Syria has apparently melted down to a confessional war, stained by state mass murder and the rise of the totalitarian genocidal ISIS, which has spread into the Iraqi Islamic State. In Baghdad a confessional Shiite regime clings to power. Egypt has returned to a repressive military oligarchy. States founded on religious authority, repression, and sexual apartheid, from Iran to Saudi Arabia, remain in place.

Many Marxists have always argued that democracy is tied to the struggles of the labour movement, a more permanent, and more radical and better-founded basis for change. Therborn may be right that economic change means that its class bases have weakened. Yet it’s worth noting that Tunisia, a case apart in the Arab Spring, in which some hopes may still be placed, is marked by opposition to the domination by Islamists of a, sometimes stormy, partnership between intellectuals and the powerful trade union federation the UGTT (Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail).

Western governments may create, or exacerbate wars. Their prime concern remains the economy. Neo-liberal economics do not rely on heavy-handed domestic repression. In Europe and elsewhere, it is the privatisation of the public sphere, and exploitation by a new class of rentiers, that is the most pressing threat. 

How does this affect  internationalism – something  basic behind genuine open-minded  ‘anti-imperialism’? Globalisation and mass migration have created a sense that the “distance” between lands is far less than it was 100 years ago.This is a fight that could unite people across the world against the ‘empire’ of those enlarging their grossly unequal territories, not divide them.  On this democratic and socialist basis we could be said to be “anti-imperialist”. But there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that corresponds today to the Comintern’s Fourth Congress, “anti-imperialist united front”, nor, given the diversity of  world politics and states, does one look likely to reappear.  There is no division of the world into clear-cut “camps” to choose. We have to make our own choices. (7)

References.

(1) Page 58. Imperialism. Pioneer of Capitalism. Bill Warren. NLB 1980.

(2) Page 12. V.I. Lenin. Introduction to Imperialism and the World Economy. N.Bukharin. (1915). Merlin Press. 1972.

(3) What do socialists say about Hamas? July 31, 2014

“We differentiate between utterly reactionary Islamist movements such as ISIS, and Islamist movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah. The latter two movements came into existence to resist imperialism and entered into many confrontations and struggles with Zionism and imperialism in defence of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and the Lebanese people.

We consider Hamas, which originated in the midst of the first Palestinian Intifada at the end of the 1980s, and won wide popularity among Palestinians because of its rejection of the concessions and surrender which Fatah offered to the Zionist enemy and the United States, and through its military resistance to the brutal Israeli assault on Gaza, to be a resistance movement against Zionism and imperialism.

From this perspective we unconditionally support Hamas when it is engaged in military or non-military struggles against Israel, because it weakens the Zionist state and terrifies the Arab regimes and the United States, and therefore strengthens the potential for class struggle in the Arab states against this imperialist system.

Our unconditional support for Hamas is not uncritical, however, because we believe that the movement’s strategies in the struggle to liberate Palestine – like the strategies adopted by Fatah and the Palestinian left before it – have failed and will fail in the future.”

(4) See: Capitalism, Class and universalism: escaping the cul-de-sac of postcolonial theory. Vivek Chibber. Socialist Register. 2014.

(5) “In the course of four decades of unremitting struggle, a military and political order was constructed that transformed what had once been a merely hemispheric hegemony into a global empire, remoulding the form of the US state itself” Page 110. Imperium. Perry Anderson. New Left Review. No 82 (New Series) 2013. See also, Imperium. Perry Anderson. Critical Thoughts. Andrew Coates. “The Bush administration’s shift towards unilateralist, towards coercion rather than consent, towards a much more overtly imperial vision, and towards reliance upon its unchallengeable military power, indicates a high-risk approach to sustaining US domination, almost certainly through military command over global oil resources. Since this is occurring in the midst of several signs of loss of dominance in the realms of production and now (though as yet less clearly) finance, the temptation to for exploitative domination is strong.”(P 75) The New Imperialism. David Harvey. Oxford University Press. 2005.

(6) New Masses? Göran Therborn. New Left Review. 2nd series. No 85. 2014.

(7) The anti-imperialist united front. Alliance for Workers Liberty. 2013.

Two nations, two states! AWL Editorial on Gaza.

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Workers Liberty (the paper of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty) has just made a carefully weighed assessment of the horrendous Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Since the latest round of Israeli air bombardments of Gaza began on 8 July, around 200 Palestinians have died.

77% of have been civilians according to UN estimates. Many have been children

On 14 July, Israel ran a ground-troop operation in Gaza, and said it would expand its list of targets for bombing to include civilian institutions with suspected links to Hamas, the Islamist party which governs Gaza. Given that Hamas’s political infrastructure is substantially enmeshed with the frail Gazan state, this could include almost any target Israel chooses. Also on 14 July, Israel began a leaflet-dropping campaign instructing residents of northern Gaza to evacuate as it was preparing to widen its bombing campaign. Hamas has instructed Gazans to stay put.

On Tuesday morning 15 July, Israel announced that it had accepted a ceasefire proposal from Egypt, but Hamas hesitated, and later that day Israel was bombing again.

Gaza’s economy, always sore beset by Israeli restrictions, managed to grow nearly 15 per cent in 2011 and 7 per cent in 2012. Hamas was also boosted by the Palestinian “unity government” announced on 2 June this year, which allowed it to hope that public-sector workers in Gaza would be paid by the Palestinian Authority.

However, since a military-dominated government took over in Egypt in July 2013, ousting Muslim Brotherhood president Morsi, Egypt has shut down many of Gaza’s routes to the outside world, and unemployment in Gaza has risen. The Palestinian Authority has stalled on paying wages: public sector workers in Gaza struck over that on 26 June.

Hamas wants to put pressure on Egypt and Israel to ease their grip on Gaza. Right-wing Israeli prime minister Netanyahu wants to keep Hamas off balance, and is under pressure from a growing far right in Israel.

The current conflict grew after three Israeli teenagers, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftal Frenkel, went missing on 12 June in the West Bank. Israeli forces raided thousands of homes in the West Bank, arresting 570 Palestinians and killing several (5 by one report, 10 by another) in the process. The teenagers were found dead near the Palestinian town of Hebron on 30 June.

Far-right Jewish nationalists abducted and murdered 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir on 2 July. Hamas began a barrage of rocket fire, and has now launched nearly 1,000 rockets at Israeli towns. It has also threatened to attack Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. So far, no Israelis have been killed. Israel responded by bombing Gaza.

No state, Israeli nationalists claim, should tolerate rocket barrages, however poorly aimed and ineffective, against its civilian population. That is the rational kernel to the Israeli case. But Israel’s actions go well beyond self-defence. Aerial bombardments of a densely-populated area, with an impoverished and essentially captive population, by one of the best-armed states in the world against are so disproportionate as to undermine the self-defence argument.

The Palestinians, too, have the right to defend themselves. Hamas rockets do not provide that defence.

Israel’s bombardments cannot be abstracted from Israel’s longstanding oppression of the Palestinians. Likewise, Hamas’s rockets are aimed at civilians and must be considered in the context of the social and political project of Hamas. Hamas is a clerical-fascist political party, which, despite the recent concessions to bourgeois diplomacy of some of its leaders, states its hostility to the Israeli-Jewish people even existing in historic Palestine.

Israel’s war on Hamas cannot possibly have a progressive outcome. While Israel continues settlement building in the West Bank; while it keeps the population of Gaza under semi-permanent siege; discriminates against Arabs within its own borders; and operates a regime of walls and checkpoints, it creates the conditions in which Hamas grows.

The only way out is peace. And, for peace, Israel holds all the cards. Ending the siege of Gaza, dismantling West Bank settlements, ensuring equality for Israeli-Arabs, and allowing the Palestinians their right to set up a genuinely independent state in contiguous territory alongside Israel would allow peace — and security for Israel’s people.

The hope for the future of both the Israeli and Palestinian people lies in the political potential of the Palestinian labour, women’s, and LGBT movements, and the potential of the labour movement and internationalist, anti-war left inside Israel. Those movements can provide an alternative politics for Israeli and Palestinians that cut across the nationalism and chauvinism of both sides.

That potential can be glimpsed in the demonstrations which have taken place in Israel, on 3 July and 13 July. On 3 July, thousands demonstrated in Tel Aviv demanding an end to the atmosphere of incitement and vengeance following the deaths of the Israeli teenagers. On 13 July, hundreds of anti-war activists, many from the Israeli political left, demanded an end to the bombing, and faced violent reprisals from far-right nationalists.

As Yacov Ben Efrat, wrote in the left-wing Israeli magazine Challenge following the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2010:

“Solidarity between Jewish and Arab workers is the only way to overcome the cycle of bloodshed. The supreme interest of the workers on both sides of the conflict is to build a political and social alternative, egalitarian and humane, against a right-wing Zionist chauvinism and an Islamic fundamentalism that are leading both peoples into catastrophe”.

This editorial would seem to be the right framework for any serious left-wing discussion of the issues this catastrophe raises.

Update (hat-tip JV)

This is essential and very depressing reading,  With the Oslo dream shattered, Israel must do the creative thinking. (Haaratz)

The Palestinians do not recognize the Jews’ right to a state, so Israel must take steps on its own to improve the atmosphere.

By .

I would add that this is significant, Le courageux combat des pacifistes et progressistes israéliens Israël-Palestine, Rosa Moussaou (l’Humanité)

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Written by Andrew Coates

July 17, 2014 at 11:38 am

As Ukraine Armed Conflict Begins What Side Will the Pro-Kiev Left Take?

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Reports this morning indicate an accelerating fight in the Ukraine.

Ukraine crisis: Casualties in Sloviansk gun battles

Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian armed men have traded gunfire in a battle for control of the eastern town of Sloviansk, the interior minister says.

At least one Ukrainian officer was killed and both sides suffered casualties, Arsen Avakov said.

Pro-Russian forces took over the town on Saturday, prompting Kiev to launch an “anti-terror operation”.

Kiev and Western powers accuse Moscow of inciting the trouble. The Kremlin denies the charge.

BBC

Le Monde puts this in the context of a “general offensive”,

Le gouvernement ukrainien, confronté à des insurrections armées prorusses coordonnées dans l’Est, a lancé dimanche 13 avril une opération « antiterroriste »de reconquête à hauts risques.

The Ukrainian government, faced with armed pro-Russian and co-ordinated insurgencies   in the East, has launched a highly risky  “anti-terrorist” operation of reconquest on  Sunday, April the 13th

So how will those who stand ‘for’ the Ukraine react?

Will they ‘choose’ sides and back the “anti-terrorist operation”?

This is the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty position on the Ukraine.

Russia: hands off Ukraine! Keep Russian troops out!

Western governments: cancel Ukraine’s debts!

The labour movement should back Ukraine’s left in its efforts to create “third pole” against both Russian imperialism and the Ukrainian oligarchs.

This is Socialist Resistance’s line,

A defeat for Russian imperialism in Ukraine is both a victory for that mass movement and the Russian working class. Socialists in imperialist countries should see their primary responsibility as establishing links and building support for those groups in Ukrainian and Russian society which are opposing the oligarchs and organising a real movement against them. That is rather different from helping Putin hold on to power by annexing his own imperialist “buffer zone”.

Others are less decided.

This is the Left Unity Party’s view,

Left Unity statement on Ukraine

Left Unity has issued a statement on the situation in Ukraine, saying that there should be “no foreign intervention in Ukraine – whether political, economic or military”.

The acting officers of the new left wing party are calling for “democracy and equality for all the people of Ukraine”, condemning the different forms of nationalism, corruption and neoliberalism, and the drive to war.

Against nationalism, corruption, privatisation and war

The continuing political and economic crisis in Ukraine is taking a dangerous military turn.

Left Unity takes the position that there can only be a political solution to this crisis and that neither foreign military intervention nor foreign political and economic intervention provide the answers to Ukraine’s complex problems.

But does this also mean ‘backing’ the ‘anti-terrorist’ offensive?

We simply ask.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 13, 2014 at 11:01 am

Denis MacShane Attacks Western Military Interventions (Yes)

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http://www.brentwoodweeklynews.co.uk/resources/images/2656254.jpg?type=articlePortrait

MacShane Against Western Interventions.

Under the headline, “L’interventionnisme militaire occidental est un échec permanentDenis MacShane former European Minister under Tony Blair attacks Western interventions. (Le Monde  10.12.2013).

MacShane begins by citing Kipling on the ‘White Man’s burden and reflects that President Hollande is now taking on this weight with his intervention in the Central African Republic.

While wishing him success he notes that,

Depuis l’expédition de Suez en 1956, aucune intervention militaire menée par les forces européennes en dehors de l’Europe n’a obtenu les résultats espérés. Dans tous les pays où elles ont établi une présence, elles laissent derrière elles plus de problèmes que de solutions.

From the Suez Expedition in 1956 onwards no European military intervention – outside Europe itself – has achieved the aims set for it. In every country in which it has established a presence it has left behind it more problems than solutions.

MacShane covers the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, and reflects that “Le droit d’ingérence et la doctrine de l’intervention sont des concepts qui remontent à l’ère de Francis Fukayama et sa thèse sur la fin de l’histoire.”, the doctrine of the need  to interfere and to intervene (Note, called humanitarian intervention in English) are concepts which belong to the time of Francis Fukayma, and his theory of the End of History. Bernard Kouchner in Paris, Michael Ignatieff at Harvard and Tony Blair argued that this was necessary when countries ignored United Nations norms.

He asserts that interventions failed in Sudan and Rwanda, though worked in Kosovo.

Because of the latter, and the intervention in Sierra Leone, Blair backed the invasion of Iraq.

MacShane observes that far from being just the decision of Bush and Blair  419 left’ MPs in the British Parliament voted for that war.

But…

“Dix ans plus tard, je préfère dire comme Benjamin Franklin que « la pire des paix vaut mieux que n’importe quelle guerre ».

Ten years later I’d rather say, like Benjamin Franklin that “the worst peace is better than any war whatsoever.”

The balance sheet of wars in Afghanistan, the Arab world and in Africa is completely negative. Libya in particular is a disaster, with militias and Salafist warlords in control.

The attitude of the British Labour Party, under Ed Miliband, towards these expeditions, has also changed. They refused to support Prime Minister Cameron, and the French Socialist-led Government, to meddle in the Syrian civil war.

The disgraced former Minister then quotes Churchill, “« Jaw jaw is better than war war »

Sometimes such interventions are justified, as in Sierra Leone.

But while every country should back its army, rare are the occasions when history justifies armed interventions.

MacShane Parliamentary Record.

  • Voted very strongly for the Iraq war.
  • Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war.

Wikipedia says of MacShane, “Denis MacShane (born Denis Matyjaszek; 21 May 1948) is a former British Labour Party[1] politician who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Rotherham from 1994 until his resignation in 2012.[2] He served in the Labour Government as Minister for Europe from 2002 until 2005.

On 2 November 2012, he was suspended from the Labour Party after the House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee found that he had submitted 19 false invoices “plainly intended to deceive” the parliamentary expenses authority. Later that day he announced his intention to resign as MP for Rotherham.[3][4][5] On 9 October 2013, MacShane was removed from the Privy Council and stripped of the right to use the title of The Right Honourable.[6] On 18 November 2013 he pleaded guilty to false accounting at the Old Bailey, by submitting false receipts for £12 900.[7]