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Solidarity with Iraq and Iranian Protests.

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Tahrir Square Baghdad: In Iraq Iranian Backed Militias Now Killing Protesters.

Iran is an active player, that is the leader,  in the fight against the recent Iraqi people’s protests.

Last week:

Two days ago (Guardian)

At least 15 people stabbed after Hashd al-Shaabi supporters march to Tahrir Square.

More than a dozen people have been stabbed in a Baghdad square that has become a focal point for anti-government and anti-Iran protests after supporters of an Iranian-backed militia flooded the area.

Thousands of men waving sticks, Iraqi flags and the insignia of the Hashd al-Shaabi armed group descended on Tahrir Square on Thursday morning in apparently coordinated marches from across the capital.

Anti-government protesters who have been occupying the square for several weeks, some of whom are critical of Iranian influence in the country, said at least 15 people were stabbed before the militia-linked marchers withdrew by the late afternoon.

Today: (BBC)

Iraq has seen one of the worst flare-ups in weeks of anti-government protests, with gunmen killing at least 20 people in Baghdad early on Saturday.

The unknown attackers raided key protest sites in the capital sending demonstrators fleeing into the streets.

The unrest in Iraq began in October, fuelled by anger over corruption, unemployment, poor public services and the influence of Iran.

More than 400 people have been killed since the protests started.

Witnesses described chaotic scenes from the latest attacks, which happened overnight on Friday.

Armed men on pick-up trucks are said to have driven through areas that have formed the centre of the protests in Baghdad, forcing demonstrators to flee from bullets.

It is not clear who is responsible – state television called the assailants “unidentified men”.

Earlier this week several people were stabbed in Baghdad after supporters of an Iranian-backed militia swarmed into a square occupied by protesters.

In another development, a drone dropped a bomb on the house of the influential Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, a source within his party said. He was out of the country at the time.

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, has resigned over the protests but those who have taken to the streets want a fundamental overhaul of the country’s political system.

Iraq uses a quota-based system that allocates positions to political parties based on sectarian and ethnic identity.

But many Iraqis say it only encourages patronage and corruption and there is particular concern over Iran, the dominant Shia Muslim state which has close links to Iraqi Shia politicians who have been running the country since the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

Iran itself has seen protests against the Islamist theocracy grow.

The Islamists have used extreme violence.

 

It is well known that the Khomeinist regime consolidated its power under the banner of ‘anti-imperialism’.

Many of the Iranian left, and the left internationally, bought this line.

Today we see the same anti-progressive positions being peddled by some  anti imperialists like the Stop the War Coalition and their allies in other Western countries.

Their priority remains fighting against imperialism.

This have been many  counter-voices from the Iranian left.

In the context of the present-day protests against the Islamist reactionaries, – one that could be extended to their actions by proxy against the Iraqi people, and across the near east through their alliance with Assad in Syria and sectarian forces in Lebanon)   now offers an important analysis of the unfolding fight against the Hassan Rouhani clique that has implications for these other crises.

First of all Khanlarzadeh offers some serious ideas about what kind of solidarity we should offer those fighting for their rights in Iran.

She writes in response to  the US petition, “Letter Against US Imperialism”, “As anti-imperialist activists, scholars, artists and lawyers located in the United States, we stand in solidarity with the peoples of Latin America, Africa and Asia in their calls to end imperialism, sectarianism and neoliberalism, and we view the recent protests in Iran within this broader international context of resistance.”

The people of Iran are resisting the economic, political and militaristic violence imposed on them both by international and domestic elites. The majority of the Iranian people do not seek regime change because they have already lived through two monumental events that destabilized their lives – the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the Iran-Iraq War that lasted from 1980 until 1988. The elder generations can still recount the horrors that followed the toppling of Prime Minister Mossadegh during the U.S. and British-backed coup of 1953.

Iranians seek economic and political stability, and above all, they seek to maintain their national and individual dignity. We stand by them and their calls for domestic reform, and as people in the United States, we demand the end of the sanctions regime and U.S. and Israeli interference in the lives of the Iranian people.

In a detailed response to this declaration (milder than some of the rhetoric coming up from some ‘anti-imperialists’ who fight shy of direct backing for any form of  protest seen to further US interests, “Imperialist powers intensify pressure on Iranian regime in wake of protests“) states

“The petition pretends to know what Iranian people want: “The majority of the Iranian people do not seek regime change because they have already lived through two monumental events that destabilized their lives […]  Iranians seek economic and political stability, […]. We stand by them and their calls for domestic reform [….]” The petition claims Iranians want stability, but who are these Iranians who want stability? It’s certainly not the protesters who shouted for the fall of the dictator (Ayatollah Khamenei) in the streets and actually destabilized the country by forcing the government to use maximum force to silence them and to the surprise of the petitioners, kill more than 200 of them. The violent politics of stability has, in fact, been employed by the government to silence any cry for transformation towards improvement.

As Khanlarzadeh says, these forces position reminds one, of “the famous Ayatollah Khomeini quote, “All the anger you have accumulated in your throat must be screamed at the US.”

At a time when even the Communist Party of Britain has called for solidarity with the Iranian protests, some clarity on the issues is welcome.

Morning Star November.

Communist Party of Britain general secretary Robert Griffiths wrote to the Iranian ambassador yesterday to express grave concern.

Mr Griffiths said: “While our party has campaigned against the imposition of sanctions by the United States, we deplore and condemn the suspension of civil rights, the indiscriminate killing of demonstrators and mass arrests which have taken place over the past week.”

Codir is calling on individuals and organisations to show their solidarity with the Iranian people “in this their darkest hour.”

Anti-Imperialism As An Intellectual Trap

Written by Andrew Coates

December 7, 2019 at 5:40 pm

Bolivia, Some Left Analyses to Help Understand the Tragedy.

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Pic: Marcelo Ebrard

Events in Bolivia are deeply saddening: Evo Morales has been offered and accepted asylum in Mexico

This Blog, having followed Morales’ government with sympathy for some time, relies on others close to events to clarify the situation.

These are some articles to help understand events in Bolivia.

What happened in Bolivia? Was there a coup?

 Pablo Solon, former Bolivian ambassador to the UN under Morales.

From Systemic Alternatives, “an initiative that aims to build an interactive dialogue to deepen the analysis and strengthen the alternatives that are being developed by grassroots movements and thinkers to overcome the capitalist system.”

This initiative is coordinated by Attac (in France), Fundación Solón (Bolivia) and Focus on the Global South (Asia).

version en español – version française]

  1. Evo Morales could have finished his third electoral mandate on the 22 January 2020 as a very popular president and the possibility of running for – and even winning – the 2024 elections, if he had not forced through his re-election for a fourth term. As the President of Bolivia, he a) did not recognise the 2016 referendum which voted NO to his re-election [1], b) pushed in 2017 for the Constitutional Tribunal to suspend the articles of the constitution that said that a person could only be re-elected one time, c) committed fraud in the elections on 20 October to avoid a second round and to impose a party majority in parliament.
  2. The government proclaimed itself winner of the elections despite serious irregularities: a) The rapid count was stopped inexplicably the day of the election b) the company in charge of the rapid count said that an order to do so came from the President of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) and that the electricity and internet were cut so they couldn’t continue their work[2], c) independent analysts[3] and the university of La Paz revealed various electoral illegalities, d) the company contracted by the electoral tribunal to supervise the elections declared that the process was “viciado de nulidad” (corrupted and nullified) for a number of reasons[4], and e) the election audit requested by Evo Morales’ government and carried out by the OEA determined in its report that “it could not validate the results of the present election”[5].
  3. The government tried to dismiss the indignation generated by the electoral fraud. To begin with, Evo Morales said they were small groups of young protestors bought off by money and better grades who did not know how to blockade and he even offered to give workshops on how to blockade[6]. Then as the strikes grew in all the cities, he resorted to the tactics of intimidation and gave the green light to his supporters to lay siege to cities to “see if they can last”[7]. The confrontations and violence provoked a number of deaths and hundreds of injuries. Far from ending the blockades and strikes in the cities, they grew more radical.
  4. The government has treated the mobilisation as a fascist and racist coup. It is true that the sectors of the reactionary right have celebrated the protests. In Santa Cruz, the main leader of the Civic Committee, Luis Fernando Camacho, comes from an ultra-right organisation called the Union of Cruceño Youth. However, in other cities, there have been quite different articulations by independent groups with politicians from right and left leading the protests. In Potosí, the opposition to the government radicalised before the elections due to the signing of a 70 year contract without  payment of royalties for the production of lithium hydroxide in the salt flats of Uyuni. In the case of La Paz, the National Committee for the Defense of Democracy counts among its main leaders two Ombudsman who served under the Evo Morales government and had denounced human rights violations such as the repression of the indigenous march of TIPNIS in 2011. For his part, Carlos Mesa, who was vice president during the neoliberal government of Sanchez de Lozada, and became the main electoral opponent of Evo Morales does not have a structured party base and was more a vehicle for opposition at the ballot box then a key organizer of the protests. The rebellion which Bolivia is experiencing is largely a spontaneous act led particularly by young people against the abuse of power.
  5. It is important to be clear that there are indigenous peoples and workers on both the government and opposition side. The government clearly has more support in rural areas, but the opposition also includes coca producers from the Yungas, peasant leaders, mining workers, health and education workers, and above all young students, both middle and working class. Contrary to what happened in previous conflicts, it was the government that exacerbated the racism, saying that the protests were trying to take away the rural indigenous vote made in support of the government. During the conflict, there have been racist attacks from both sides. The burning of the wiphala, the flag of the Aymaran and Quechuan peoples, is absolutely deplorable. However, it is also notable that on social media, there are many groups who are part of the protests who challenge these attacks and defend the wiphala.
  6. The police initially defended groups linked to the government who were attacking the blockades. The most emblematic case happened in Cochabamba, which witnessed fierce confrontations by youth against groups from MAS and the police. In order to guarantee their support, the government of Evo Morales during the conflict gave them a ‘loyalty bonus’ of 3000 Bolivianos (431 USD). After days and nights of permanent confrontation with the population, the police mutinied. This was not a decision made by the top-ranking police but the rank-and-file. The government tried to negotiate with the police, changing some of the police commanders most challenged by the rank-and-file, but the mutiny expanded to cover the majority of garrisons. The police stopped policing the youth protesters and this changed the balance of forces.
  7. The Military High Command has been on the side of Evo Morales as we have witnessed throughout the demonstrations, evident in the statements of its commander-in-chief[8]. The military in Bolivia are the only sector that receive pensions equivalent to 100% of their salary. During the Evo Morales government, they received many benefits, state enterprises and embassies. However, the military command’s political calculus was that deployment in the streets would have high risks that could later lead to trials and prison as occurred during a government-ordered massacre in October 2003 [under a previous government]. Therefore, the military decided not to confront the anti government protests, and after hearing the audit report from the OEA, ‘suggested’ to Evo Morales that he should resign. The military rather than taking power was trying to protect its own interests and its institution.
  8. The current situation in various cities across the country is one of extreme tension, violence and vandalism. Various houses of government and opposition figures have been ransacked and burnt. Television studios and broadcast towers have been attacked. On the night of the 10 November, groups of vandals and some of MAS also attacked various neighborhoods in different cities. Residents are organizing themselves to defend themselves against attacks and looting which affect businesses, factories, pharmacies and public transit.
  9. Evo Morales has only resigned verbally and not yet sent a written note to parliament. The president and members of TSE have been detained by the police when they tried to escape. In general, there is a tendency to resolve the vacuum of power by institutional means through the Legislative Assembly. Nevertheless, this strategy will not be easy as MAS controls more than two-thirds of the parliament and must accept Evo Morales’ resignation and elect a transitional president who convenes new elections in the shortest period possible. If the MAS parliamentarians do not smooth the way for an institutional exit to the crisis, the political vacuum could create more situations of vandalism, violence and revenge and become extremely dangerous.

La Paz, 11 November, 11am


[1] https://fundacionsolon.org/2019/10/23/carta-al-movimiento-antiglobalizador-sobre-la-situacion-en-bolivia/

[2] http://www.la-razon.com/nacional/informe-neotec-trep-elecciones_0_3249875031.html

[3] https://www.reduno.com.bo/nota/villegas-envia-pruebas-de-fraude-electoral-en-bolivia-ante-la-oea-201911724459

[4] https://www.scribd.com/document/434031751/EHC-REP-Consolidado-Resumen#from_embed

[5] http://www.oas.org/documents/spa/press/Informe-Auditoria-Bolivia-2019.pdf

[6]   https://www.lostiempos.com/actualidad/pais/20191025/morales-arremete-contra-mesa-se-burla-bloqueos-cochabamba

[7] https://www.eldeber.com.bo/154733_evo-amenaza-con-cercar-ciudades-que-estan-en-paro-y-descarta-negociacion-politica-para-salir-de-la-c

[8] https://eldeber.com.bo/130695_comandante-de-las-ffaa-manifiesta-su-apoyo-a-evo-morales-y-amenaza-a-los-opositores

While the gringo lefties (such as, inevitablyNoam Chomsky) are rushing to call it a “coup,” voices on the left in Bolivia and South America provide a more nuanced assessment.

The Uruguayan writer Raúl Zibechi warns of “A Popular Uprising Exploited by the Ultra-Right.” (In English here, and in Spanish here.) He notes that as well as the COB, another major trade union, the Syndical Federation of Mine Workers of Bolivia  (FSTMB) had also Stated: “President Evo, you have done much for Bolivia, you have improved education, health, and brought diginity to many poor people. President, do not allow your people to burn, don’t allow more deaths to go on being president. All the people will value you for the position you must take; resignation is inevitable, compañero President. We must leave the national government in the hands of the people.”

He also notes Morales’ alienation of former indigenous allies now in the opposition, such as Rafael Quispe’s organization CONAMAQ. Zibechi concludes:

If there is anything left of ethics and dignity on the Latin American left, we should be reflecting on power, and the abuses committed in its exercise. As feminists and indigenous people have taught us, power is always oppressive, colonial and patriarchal. That is why they reject leaders [caudillos], and why communities rotate their leaders so that they don’t accumulate power.

We cannot forget that in this moment there is a serious danger that the racist, colonial and patriarchal right manages to take advantage of this situation to impose rule and provoke a bloodbath. The revanchist social and political desires of the dominant classes is as present, as it has been over the last five centuries, and must be stopped without any vacillation.

We will not enter into the game of war that both sides wish to impose.

Another analysis is offered by Pablo Solón of the Fundación Solón in La Paz, Morales’ former UN ambassador but today in the left opposition. (English here, Spanish here.) He asks flatly, “What happened in Bolivia? Was there a coup?” He also warns of right-wing exploitation of the crisis, but does not exculpate Morales of fraud, and calls him to task for serious errors.

First he notes that the company contracted by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal itself to review the election results found that the process was “nullified by corruption” [viciado de nulidad]. (An account in Argentina’s La Nación identifies the company as as the Panamanian firm Ethical Hacking, although, confusingly, another account on DW has the Tribunal pointing to the Ethical Hacking review as vindicating the results.)  Solón charges that the Morales government “minimized the indignation generated by the fraud. In the beginning, Evo Morales said the protests were small groups of youth tricked by money…

In an interview with Solón by Britain’s Political Economy Research Centre, he elaborates on the deeper long-term strategic errors by Morales and his party:

Originally, we conceived of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) as a political instrument of social organizations. The objective was not to construct a political party in the traditional sense, but rather for the social movements, and in particular the peasant and indigenous movements, to have a political arm with which to intervene in elections, but with the social movement always retaining decision-making power, not the party…

One of the mistakes that the government made, for which I am also responsible, was to involve too many leaders from social movement organizations in the administration of the government. We weakened the social organizations through the incorporation of their leaders into the state apparatus.

This was a grave error. We did not consider the importance of maintaining the independence of social organizations from the state. The error was to fail to recognize that within the state we were going to suffer through a process of transformation and that, therefore, there had to be a kind of capable counter-power – not only to exercise control over those of us who were in government, but also to transfer more areas of decision-making and action from the state toward this counter-power of social organizations.

We did precisely the opposite. We build an ever more important cult of personality around the figure of Evo Morales. This allowed him to win the second election overwhelmingly, but it laid the basis for the disaster that would come later.

Another neither/nor perspective is offered by Maria Galindo of La Paz feminist collective Mujeres Creando (in English here and Spanish here). First, she repudiates the version of events proffered by Morales and his supporters:

It tires me to have to repeat that the Movement to Socialism (MAS) is exporting to the world the idea that what is happening in Bolivia is a popular progressive bloc against an extreme and fundamentalist right. The government of Evo Morales was for many years responsible for dismantling of popular organizations by dividing them, corrupting them and imposing clientelist leadership, making pacts with the most conservative sectors of society including fundamentalist Christian sects…

But next she turns to right-opposition leader Fernando Camacho:

In the face of the delusional leadership of Evo, the Santa Cruz region produced another delusional, apparently antagonistic but at the same time complementary leader. A white man, entrepreneur, and president of a “civic” organization who uses religious fanaticism and an openly misogynist discourse…

Meanwhile, on the subject of the “game of war” warned of by Zibechi, frightening footage has emerged on social media (see herehere and here) of Morales’ most militant supporters, the Ponchos Rojos, running through the streets in El Alto with wiphala flags, setting off dynamite, and chanting “Now yes, civil war!” (it sort of rhymes in Spanish: ¡Ahora si, guerra civil!)  and “Rifle, machine-gun, El Alto will not fall!” or “El Alto will not be silent!” (The Spanish can be translated either way: ¡Fusil, metralla, El Alto no se calla!)

A largely favourable balance sheet of Morales  actions in Libération.

Bolivie : Evo Morales balayé, son bilan enraciné

Par François-Xavier Gomez 

In power for nearly fourteen years, the first indigenous leader elected to the head of the country has conducted an ambitious and effective policy of reducing inequalities. But dropped by the army, the head of state resigned Sunday, after three weeks of protests against his new mandate.

Already disputes about what has happened are taking place on the European Left.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 12, 2019 at 11:32 am

Ex Key Galloway Ally Salma Yaqoob tries to Become Labour Mayor of Birmingham.

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Related image

Yaqoob Back in the Days of Respect.

Ex Respect leader and anti-war activist Salma Yaqoob launches shock bid to be West Midlands Mayor

Outspoken activist Salma Yaqoob has launched an audacious bid to win the right to challenge Andy Street as West Midlands Mayor, BirminghamLive understands.

Ms Yaqoob, former leader of the Respect Party and an ex Birmingham city councillor, has decided at the 11th hour to throw her hat into the ring to win the Labour nomination – despite questions over her party credentials.

Subject to confirmation from Labour’s executive that her candidacy meets membership criteria, she will stand against Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne, thought to be the frontrunner, and unions favourite Pete Lowe from Dudley in the race to be selected as the party’s official candidate to take on Street next May.

The reason why she left Respect was not disagreement with its politics, but a personal spat with Galloway over his defence of Julian Assange.

He suggested accusations against Julian Assange by two Swedish women did not constitute rape “as most people understand it” and Assange was simply guilty of “bad sexual etiquette.”

Yaqoob was caught up in the backlash and left the party as a result.

This is what she said afterwards,

I’ve always admired George’s anti-imperialist stances and I don’t regret, for a second, standing side by side on those issues. But for me, to have to make a choice between that and standing up for the rights of women was a false choice. I thought it was a blurring of something that didn’t need to be blurred. It’s not that complicated – you can hold two ideas at the same time.” Of course, “we’re all human, we can’t always make perfectly worded and crafted sentences – I really hoped a clarification would sort that out.” She published a statement setting out her own position, but then, as she describes it, things escalated. Although she says Galloway never got directly in contact – and still hasn’t – she felt she was being personally maligned; that “under the guise of different names there were personal attacks”.

Salma Yaqoob, in her first interview, explains why she left the party, what comes next – and her thoughts on George Galloway

The interview continued,

There is also a significant cohort worried about the nature of the membership of Respect, that it is an uneasy alliance of far left and Islamist far right. “I will not accept that. I’ve been there from the beginning. I know that we have fought those very reactionary forces, we challenged them from within. I get the hate calls – I get people in the streets saying, ‘She is trying to wreck our homes.’ I’ve had the death threats, that anyone who beheads me will go straight to heaven. Because I promote democracy, because I have a very clear stance on pluralism. Pluralism is not about just supporting people you happen to agree with anyway. I would challenge anybody to say where I have pandered to, never mind encouraged, any reactionary stance.”

This is denying reality, the alliance between Respect and Islamists is a fact that can’t be wished away by referring to their distance from the most extreme, violent, wing and ignoring the link between the party with ‘moderate’ Islamists of, amongst others,  the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

Her own ignoble role in denying Islamist influence during the Trojan Horse scandal is a matter of record. (1)

 

One can admire her standing up for democracy against the Jihadist wing of Islamism.

 

One can also admire the fact that she has stood up for Syrian refugees.

And she believes in a Third EU referendum, not to mention loathes the Boris Johnson Coup.

Yaqoob appears to have made a personal enemy in arch-right wing Leaver MP Roger Godsiff which is good.

 

But her background in Galloway-style bogus ‘anti-imperialism’ is still there.

 

Because of this, Lansman’s is very far from a unanimous left-wing view:

(1) “While Ofsted’s inspection of Park View is not thought to have found any evidence of extremist behaviour, the report concludes:

  • The academy did not do enough to alert students to the risks of extremism.
  • Speakers invited to the school were not vetted and pupils not taught about the safe use of the internet.
  • Staff are scared of speaking out and some feel governors get inappropriately involved in the running of the school.
  • Pupils are not given adequate preparation for living in a multi-cultural society.
  • Education about sex and relationships is ineffective.

The school’s managing trust has issued a statement rejecting the findings, saying inspectors have misrepresented the facts, adding there was “no suggestion” in the report of extremism being present in classrooms.

Park View Educational Trust said: “Ofsted judges that Park View is not doing enough to raise students’ awareness of the ‘risks of extremism’. We reject this.

“It is also crucial to note that the Ofsted reports make absolutely no suggestion, nor did they find any evidence, that trust schools either promote or tolerate extremism or radicalisation.”

The trust added it had been working with the government’s Prevent anti-extremism programme since at least 2012.

It said there was “an open working environment” but accepted improvements in areas like staff pay, recruitment and progression could be made.

However, it said “a disillusioned workforce would soon result in (academic) standards slipping” and this had not been the case, with three-quarters of GCSE pupils earning grades A* – C, including maths and English, last year.

Mr Gove is facing renewed pressure from his Labour shadow, Tristram Hunt, over the government’s handling of the threat of extremism in schools.

Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “How you can go from outstanding to inadequate? And that’s because the inspection criteria is not fit for purpose.

“We want a much broader criteria to make sure these problems don’t arise.”

Ms Yaqoob, who described herself as “a Birmingham mum”, alleged that Ofsted’s findings were “prejudged” and she had yet to see “a shred of evidence” that pupils were being radicalised.

“The kids of Birmingham are already damned as being extremist,” she added.

“One of the [Ofsted] inspectors asked a girl who was sitting next to a Muslim boy whether she felt intimidated.

“The assumption being that a Year 11 Muslim boy is, by virtue of being a Muslim boy, intimidating.”

BBC

Written by Andrew Coates

September 17, 2019 at 1:41 pm