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Revolution #56, August 13, 2006
“What we’re seeing here, in a sense, is the growing—the birth pangs of a new Middle East…”
U.S. Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice
As of August 4, one out of four Lebanese have been driven from their homes. Nearly 1,000 have been killed. Their cities have been bombed; hospitals, power plants, schools—whole communities—have been destroyed.
When the Lebanese obey Israeli orders to flee, they find themselves bombed from the air. When they huddle in their homes, seeking shelter, they are bombed—as they were at Qana, where at least 28 people, most of them children or handicapped people, were killed in an Israeli bombardment. [see article “The Bloody Hands of the U.S. and Israel in Lebanon”]
Through it all, Bush and Rice—and all their major Democratic Party counterparts—back Israel up. They rush bombs to the Israelis, to make sure they don’t run short. They insist that there be no ceasefire until Israel completes its offensive and re-occupies southern Lebanon. They respond to the outrage of the whole world by demanding that everyone fall in line with this latest atrocity in the so-called “war on terror.”
They are all, all of them, torturers, roasting the people of Lebanon over flames, slowly turning them on a spit, in the service of their “new Middle East.”
And note well: collective punishment of the civilian population, attacking facilities that people need to survive, and the use of “disproportionate force” that may harm civilians are all war crimes. Crimes carried out by Israel, and overseen by the United States.
This whole situation must be fully confronted and acted on. In short, THIS MUST STOP!
* * * *
In one sense, this “new Middle East” of Rice’s is the latest extension of a century of imperialist strangulation of the Middle East. To dominate the region’s oil resources, and the strategic advantage that affords, the imperialists—first led by Britain and France, and then the U.S.—have dominated the region politically. They have propped up reactionary regimes of various stripes, and working through the UN they violently created and implanted Israel as a settler-state enforcer in the region, financing its development and showering it with $90 billion in military aid. They have systematically wiped out opposition to this, including communists and revolutionary secular nationalists. They have at different times built up and used, and then turned on, Islamic fundamentalist forces.
But there is also a way in which this is new. Today, the force at the core of the U.S. ruling class—the Bush regime, in short—sees both a need and an opportunity to further extend and hammer down their control in the Middle East. Hence the war against Iraq—which is also a war crime, and which has already taken the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis, with more falling each day. Hence the threats of war against Iran. And hence too the total unleashing of Israel—for the last six years against the Palestinians, and now against Lebanon. This war, as Rice so candidly reminded us, is not about a kidnaped soldier—this is, from the U.S. viewpoint, about a “new Middle East,” one which right now demands that the U.S. reshape Lebanon through Israeli terror, deal a blow to Hezbollah, weaken and perhaps overthrow the Syrian government, and lay the basis for militarily attacking Iran. It is about further crushing and trampling on the Palestinians—who themselves have endured incredible terror at Israeli hands even as the Lebanon invasion has gone on. It is about a whole plan for the U.S. domination of this region to go to a higher level than it already is.
The suffering already incurred is bad enough. Beyond that lie the serious risks of an even broader and more devastating war, with even more disastrous consequences for people in the region and all over the world, including in the U.S.. The U.S. ruling class as a whole is hellbent on “reshaping” the Middle East, no matter what the butcher’s bill. They are fully aware of the dangers involved but to them there is a greater danger yet: the prospect of a U.S. defeat in the region, of even the existence of a force that does not fit into its plans and even gives the impression of defying it.
And you cannot vote the “new Middle East” out of office. You cannot use the channels of the system to fix this. The Democrats have gone along with the rape and torture of Lebanon every step of the way, outdoing many Republicans in this. [See “This Is Not Our Dance; Let’s Step to Our Own Tune,” and "Democrats Defend U.S. Attack Dog Israel"] The Democrats, you see, are a ruling class party. They too see U.S. domination of the Middle East as essential to their interests. They too see Israeli aggression—and the overall maintenance and buttressing of Israel, which is a theocratic settler-state, dominating the people of the region—as essential to their interests. And they make no secret of this! Far from it.
But these are NOT the interests—nor even the immediate sentiments—of the overwhelming majority of the people who vote for and place their hope in the Democrats. This “new Middle East” threatens disaster for people in the Middle East and indeed for people everywhere on the planet, including in the U.S. itself. No one will be left unaffected by where those now in power in the U.S. are rapidly pushing things. And yet the Democrats on this critical issue stand—as they do on so many others—right in line with this disastrous direction. If you pour your energies and resources into the Democratic Party at this point and think this will have anything to do with altering this horrific course, you are deceiving yourself—and helping to deceive others. And that is unacceptable.
In short, the unavoidable conclusion: if you see what is being done to Lebanon for what it really is, then you can’t stew in impotent frustration and tell yourself there’s nothing that can be done. You can’t even just register your protest, and then watch as the U.S. and Israel go about their murderous business. And you can’t allow others to, either. There has to be a serious effort to mobilize massive political resistance to STOP this. To STOP this whole invasion and to reverse the whole course that this is part of. To take a leap out of the confines of “protest as usual”—which does not seriously challenge the way things are and the way they are heading—and to bring in a whole different political dynamic.
To be even more blunt, but no less sober: if you confine yourself to the limits of Democrat vs Republican at this point. . . if you do not seek to break out of those murderous constraints. . . if you go along at a time like this. . . then you have to face the fact that you are being complicit with a monstrous crime.
Don’t be. There IS a way to act.
* * * *
The only two poles in this cannot be support for the U.S. and Israel on the one hand, or support for the Islamic fundamentalists on the other. Neither of these forces represent progress. The imperialists talk endlessly of “democracy in the Middle East,” but what they are really spreading is imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.
In regards to actually breaking with imperialism, the Islamic fundamentalist forces do not in essence fight for anything more than a slightly different deal within the imperialist setup—one in which they and the class forces they represent are “dealt in” to the spoils. Iran, for instance, remains solidly within the framework of imperialist production relations, with an economy structured to serve the needs of imperialist capital. At the same time, the fundamentalists have a cohesive and coherent “package” that combines a posture of opposition to certain elements of imperialist domination with very reactionary social relations: including the heightened oppression of women, the theocratic domination of all spheres of life and a general reinforcement ignorance. Each of these two poles reinforces the other. . . and this too is part of the disastrous course that must be reversed.
There must emerge another pole in this, one that firmly stands against imperialism and for genuine liberation. In our view, this means communist revolution, which alone strikes at the roots of imperialist domination—the production relations at the heart of it (which in this era are international in their scope); the oppressive institutions that it has spawned or carried forward in new forms; and the ways in which all this finds reflection in people’s thinking. In this regard, we urge our readers to listen to the new talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, USA, on “Why We’re in the Situation We’re in Today. . . And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution,” which analyzes both how we have arrived at this situation and the kind of revolution needed to get out of it.
Coming from that communist viewpoint, we—again—think it imperative to politically reach out to everyone who opposes this invasion and to bring forth real and powerful political opposition to this invasion. Now. People all over the world must see a political force emerge that very seriously takes on this imperialist offensive, that makes clear that there is a difference between the U.S. power structure and the great majority of people in the U.S.—who have no fundamental interest in murdering, oppressing, and ripping off the people of the world.
In that context, we have to stress the overwhelming importance of the October 5 actions called by World Can’t Wait/Drive Out the Bush Regime, and its watchword of we must “Bring This To A Halt.” The vision laid out in its Call and on its website—of people massively coming out “from below” to repudiate the whole direction of this regime (including but also beyond its depradations in the Middle East) and the increasingly and ever more sharply apparent disastrous course of events, and with a determination to build from there—must be realized. The millions to whom this Call and this program can speak must be seriously addressed and, yes, challenged to break from the painful paralysis that has locked people into the killing confines of “politics as usual” and rendered people in America largely mute in the face of towering crimes and a terrible trajectory.
Only by doing this—only by breaking out of those confines, with powerful demonstrations on October 5 and in a continuing way from there, and on a continually growing scale and by acting, on a massive scale and with the sense of urgency and determination which the situation demands, can the people really change the whole political dynamic and bring this whole horrifically accelerating course to a halt. If we don’t do that, there will be very serious consequences for people all over the world; if we do, the possibility of a truly different and radically better future can open up to a whole different level.
Revolution #56, August 13, 2006
The Bush Regime in the Middle East:
Israel’s invasion of Lebanon is taking place in the context of the Bush regime’s crusade to forcibly reshape the entire Middle East in order to solidify and deepen America’s grip on the region and its vast petroleum wealth. This in turn is part of its broader agenda of attempting to create an imperialist empire that is both unchallenged and unchallengeable—across the entire global and for decades to come.
This staggering agenda demands crushing all impediments to U.S. hegemony, whether resistance from the masses, reactionary states and forces not firmly under U.S. control, or rival global powers—current and potential.
This is why there is every reason to be alarmed that what we are witnessing in Lebanon (and in U.S. actions toward Iran) may be preparing—or may lead—to a wider and even more murderous U.S.-led war across the Middle East.
Israel’s actions are taking place in the context of both its history as an outpost of imperialism in general, and the specific demands of the Bush agenda in particular. In a nutshell, what Israel is doing (and has done) does not flow from its “Jewishness,” (nor is Israel the “tail” wagging the U.S. “dog”), it flows from its character as an outpost and creation of imperialism—and the particular needs and goals of U.S. imperialism now.
The Bush regime’s goals have meant that Israel has become even more crucial and central to U.S. designs in the region than before—as demonstrated by the close coordination between the U.S. and Israel in the current war (see "Massacres and Invasion: The Bloody Hands of the U.S. and Israel in Lebanon").
What the U.S. and Israel are trying to achieve in the Middle East—and the difference between today’s wars and past U.S. interventions and invasions—can be summed up in three dimensions: even more brutally imposing imperialist domination, necessarily in a more murderous way; doing so across the entire region, not just in this country or that; and carrying out this agenda in a more all-or-nothing, “world war” way.
The Imperialist and Genocidal Nature of Bush’s “New Middle East”
The U.S. rulers talk of spreading “democracy” across the Middle East and describe the current atrocities against Lebanon as the “birth pangs” of a new region. But what is being shown in Lebanon is instead the reality that, as Bob Avakian has put it, “What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.” And it is doing so more openly and brutally than ever.
Lebanon has an elected government, of which Hezbollah is part, and Hezbollah has a mass base among Lebanon’s Shi’ite population, the country’s largest ethnic/religious group which comprises some 40 percent of the population, or at least 1.5 million people.
Did the U.S. and Israel respect the votes and desires of the Lebanese people? No, and not because Hezbollah is at bottom a reactionary organization, representing traditional and feudal interests, which can neither thoroughly oppose imperialism nor contribute to the genuine liberation of the Lebanese people. They did so because Hezbollah has contradictions with Israel and has allied in various ways with Hamas in Palestine as well as Syria and Iran. So Hezbollah is an obstacle to unfettered U.S. regional hegemony and making Lebanon completely pliant to the U.S. and Israel, crushing the Palestinian people, and isolating and weakening Syria and Iran.
Hence Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declares (8/2) that the U.S. “will not allow a return to the status quo ante [the way things were before],” and that there will be no ceasefire until Hezbollah is disarmed. Who gave the U.S. imperialists the right to destroy the “status quo” and determine Lebanon’s future?
There are real genocidal implications to this Bush program, both because the imperialists are attempting to impose or reimpose more direct forms of imperialist domination and because there is a Hitlerian, “final solution” element to this agenda of not tolerating impediments, but seizing the moment to “fully resolve” them.
Think about Hezbollah’s roots among Lebanese Shi’ites, and the implications when Israel’s U.S. Ambassador declares, “We will not go part way and be held hostage again. We’ll have to go for the kill— Hezbollah neutralization.” (Washington Post, 7/16). Or when Jed Babbin, a former official in the Bush I administration states on CNN (7/28); “I’m willing to kill as many people as it requires to take out Hezbollah.” Or when Israel’s Justice Minister Haim Ramon claims (7/27), “Everyone in southern Lebanon is a terrorist and is connected to Hezbollah.”
Lebanon Shiites have been a major target in Israel’s air war. “Probably 90 percent of the people who fled their homes in Lebanon—some 800,000 people by United Nations accounts—are Shiite. This represents nearly a quarter of the Lebanese people. I suspect close to 95 percent of the more than 800 Lebanese killed so far are Shiite.” (“Who Is Really at War? The Patterns So Far,” Chibli Mallat)
Attacks are also continuing in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, causing world renowned writers Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, John Berger, Howard Zinn and others to warn in an open letter on July 19 that Israel was aiming for “nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation.”
Targeting Syria and Iran
No single action the U.S. takes in the world today can be understood apart from its overall objectives, and its support for Israel’s attack on Lebanon is no different: this war is also aimed— directly or indirectly—at Syria and especially Iran.
There is speculation in the media that the hardcore of the Bush regime is attempting to use the crisis to trigger a war with Syria and/or Iran. (See for example, Salon.com, where Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton official and Israel supporter argues that high-ranking Bush officials are working to “widen the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and Israel and Hamas into a four-front war…. laying the condition for regional conflagration with untold consequences.”)
In an article titled “Iran Is Bush’s Target in Lebanon,” the LA Times (July 30) quoted a U.S. official who stated, “Israel’s battle with Hezbollah is merely part of a larger struggle between the U.S. and Iran for influence across the Middle East,” and that the U.S. and Iran “are conducting a proxy war” in Lebanon.
(This past week, the U.S. diplomatic assault on Iran escalated with the UN’s demand, delivered on July 30, that Iran stop enriching uranium before August 31 or face possible sanctions.)
A Murderous and Explosive Logic at Work
The U.S. is not only attempting to gain tighter control of states in the Middle East; it also envisions making deep political, social and economic changes to more thoroughly open them up to U.S. capital and more completely integrate them into the U.S. empire.
There is a murderous and potentially explosive logic at work here. On one hand, the Bush regime is compelled to stay on the offensive to realize its goals: any slowing down could stall and/or derail the whole juggernaut. What they’re doing on a world scale requires an unrelenting offensive, a dynamic in which any hesitation or retreat works against their aims and could potentially unravel the whole thing. This means that they are not going to easily pull back in the face of obstacles and difficulties, for example in Iraq, but instead envision battling through years of turmoil and upheaval to create their new world order. (Right-wing imperialist George Will recently described the Bush approach as one that “makes instability, no matter how pandemic or lethal, necessarily a sign of progress,” which he warned “creates a blind eye.” Washington Post, 7/18). Instead, they are driven to push on through—even “escape forward” from the contradictions they face and create by widening the war, to both maintain its momentum and because they feel they can only deal with the difficulties they are facing on a larger stage.
On the other hand, the very enormity and brutality of U.S. objectives, coupled with its relentless push ahead carries with it the potential for things getting wildly out of their control and for major strategic defeats (as well as fierce infighting within the ruling class over how to manage the situation), all of which can happen very quickly. There is already widespread talk that the U.S.-Israeli assault on Lebanon has failed and may backfire.
Yet as Revolution’s editorial points out this week, such surprising events and/or defeats will not translate into halting the U.S.’s murderous path unless the masses of people resist now, and seize upon any difficulties the imperialists face to mount even greater resistance.
Revolution #56, August 13, 2006
Massacres and Invasion:
As the war in Lebanon enters its fourth week, the horrific crimes of Israel and the U.S. are continuing without letup. Whole villages and towns in Southern Lebanon have been reduced to rubble. According to the Lebanese government over 900 people have been killed. The vast majority, about 90 percent of those killed, are civilians and it is estimated that one third are children. 3,000 have been wounded, and more than a million, a quarter of Lebanon’s population, displaced.
Israel is a TheocracyFor all its pretensions of being an outpost of modern democracy—Israel is a theocracy, an explicitly Jewish state justified on the basis that Jews are “god’s chosen people.” Obscurantist “Ultra-orthodox” forces have a major role in setting and enforcing laws and invoke literalist interpretations of religious texts to justify expanding the present borders of Israel.
Over 10,000 Israeli troops have mounted a ground invasion into Lebanon, and have indicated that they may occupy Lebanon up to the Litani River, 15 miles from the border that separates Israel from Lebanon. Israel’s Prime Minister talks of the war continuing for weeks. Civilians are being killed for remaining in their villages and they are being targeted as they try to flee. United Nations observers, Red Cross ambulances, and the Lebanese military and civilian infrastructure have been bombed and destroyed by Israeli missiles and shelling.
In the face of this, the U.S. is actively blocking efforts to bring about a ceasefire and speeding up arms shipments to Israel.
There is every reason to fear that what we are witnessing is part of a U.S. campaign to prepare for a broader and even more murderous war across the Middle East.
At 1 o’clock a.m. on July 30, Israeli warplanes began an all-night assault on the village of Qana in Southern Lebanon. Israeli missiles and air strikes hit Qana about 80 times that night, destroying much of the village including a three-story house where 63 members of two extended families had sought shelter. The Red Cross reports that so far 28 bodies have been found, 16 of those were children or disabled people. They say the actual total number of possible dead may be higher.
The killings in Qana concentrate the criminal and terrorist nature of Israel’s war.
In a town of 12,000 inhabitants where most had fled previous Israeli assaults, these two families had been unable to leave. They were poor—most worked in tobacco or construction—and the families were big and many of their members weak, with a 95-year-old, two relatives in wheelchairs and dozens of children. A taxi north, costing around $1,000, was unaffordable.
Lebanese television reported the massacre almost immediately after it happened, and yet Israeli attacks continued through the night, preventing rescue workers from arriving for many hours. Many of the victims were not killed immediately by the bombings but died later of shock and suffocation.
The whole world watched as survivors and people from neighboring villages dug through the rubble and pulled out one dead body after another, holding the dead children up to demonstrate to the world the terror being delivered to Lebanon by the U.S.
Israel blamed Hezbollah for the Qana massacre, supposedly for using the population as “human shields.” They claim that Hezbollah rockets had been fired from the area. However, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, none of the dozens of international journalists, rescue workers, and international observers who visited Qana on July 30 and 31 reported seeing any evidence of Hezbollah military presence in or around the home around the time it was hit.
Muhammed Mohmoud Shalhoub, a 61-year-old farmer who was in the basement of the house but survived the attack, denied that there were any Hezbollah fighters or military equipment present. “If they [the IDF] really saw the rocket launcher, where did it go? We showed Israel our dead, why don’t the Israelis show us the rocket launcher?” Mr. Shalhoub asked Human Rights Watch.
On August 1, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that “questions have been raised over military accounts of the incident. It now appears that the military had no information on rockets launched from the site of the building, or the presence of Hezbollah men at the time.”
Israel also argues that civilians “shouldn’t have been there,” since warplanes had dropped leaflets warning them to leave. Qana is nowhere near Israel, contradicting Israeli claims that they only seek to clear a border “security zone” for “self-protection.” More importantly, for weeks now Israel has used missiles, artillery, and machine guns to attack private cars, taxis, buses, trucks full of people, and moving vehicles in general, even at least one clearly marked ambulance, forcing those people who have the means to leave to choose between being moving targets or sitting ducks.
A look at statements from Israeli political and military leaders in the days prior to the Qana massacre reveal that the massacre was part of a deliberate targeting of civilians in Southern Lebanon in order to pave the way for an Israeli ground assault.
After two weeks of bombing Southern Lebanon, Israeli forces moved in but met stiff resistance from Hezbollah fighters, and suffered relatively heavy losses.
Haim Ramon, the Israeli “Minister of Justice” said at a security cabinet meeting days before the attack on Qana, “Everyone in southern Lebanon is a terrorist and is connected to Hezbollah. Our great advantage vis-a-vis Hezbollah is our firepower, not in face-to-face combat.”
On August 3, Human Rights Watch issued a report titled, “Fatal Strikes, Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon.” The report looks at a selection of Israeli air and artillery attacks that killed 153 civilians in Lebanon. The report concluded, “The pattern of attacks during the Israeli offensive in Lebanon suggests that the failures cannot be explained or dismissed as mere accidents; the extent of the pattern and the seriousness of the consequences indicate the commission of war crimes. (The full report is available from Human Rights Watch (hrw.org).)
Made in the U.S.A.
“America is responsible for this!”
— Villagers in Qana after the massacre (Salon.com, 7/31)
This massacre, as well as the entire war on Lebanon, is made in the U.S.A. The Israeli warplanes and bombs have been supplied by the U.S., and are being used to achieve political and military goals in the interest of U.S. imperialism.
Journalist Robert Fisk, writing for the UK Independent (31 July), says he examined the fragments of one of the missiles that wiped out most of two families. It was American-made, and on it was written, “For use on MK-84 Guided Bomb BSU 37 B.” The warplanes involved are also believed to be American.
In the hours after the Qana massacre, as pressure grew around the world for an immediate ceasefire, Condoleezza Rice met with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert. After their meeting Olmert released a statement declaring, “We will not stop this battle, despite the difficult incidents [that’s what Israel calls the massacre of over 40 civilians, including children – Rev.] this morning. We will continue the activity, and if necessary it will be broadened without hesitation,” adding that Israel intended to continue bombing and strafing for an additional 10 to 14 days.
The New York Times quoted a “senior Israeli official” as saying, “Do you think that, with the close relationship he has with Bush and Condi, he would go and say something like that without their consent?”
Intensifying Conflict and Talk of a Ceasefire
As we go to press Israel is announcing that it will push to occupy a 15-mile deep area of Southern Lebanon south of the Litani River, and will call up thousands of additional reserves to add to the 10,000 already in Lebanon. Israeli forces are in fierce combat with Hezbollah fighters in the South.
Israel has also begun bombing areas near the Syrian border, which could draw Syria into the war as well. On August 4, an Israeli air strike killed at least 33 farmworkers who were loading trucks with fruit in a parking lot in the northeastern tip of the Bekaa Valley. Syria’s official news agency said 17 of the dead were Syrian workers, five of them women.
Israeli bombs continue to pound Southern villages as well as areas around the city of Tyre. And Israel has renewed its bombing of the Shiite area of Southern Beirut.
Israeli bombs also destroyed four bridges along the main north-south highway in the largely Christian region north of Beirut, far from areas of Hezbollah influence. With the road from Beirut to Damascus already cut at several points, this attack severed the only remaining road between Lebanon and Syria, completely isolating Lebanon from the outside world including supplies of fuel, food, and medicine at a time of severe crisis.
“Today’s destruction has given us a severe problem and it cuts off our only lifeline for humanitarian relief,” said World Food Program spokesman Robin Lodge to the New York Times. “This was almost the only open route we have to the outside world.”
Amidst all this destruction, Condoleezza Rice says that when she’s ready, that is, when it will serve the interests of the United States and Israel, she will allow a ceasefire, which the U.S. has blocked up until now. Both military and diplomatic activities work to serve overall political/strategic objectives. Hence U.S. diplomatic maneuvers serve as “cover” for the Israeli war machine, which continues fighting until its objectives are met. Then and only then will they consider ceasefire, which in turn can serve to further U.S./Israeli objectives under different conditions.
It is by no means certain that there will be a ceasefire. In fact there are indications that the war could escalate in dramatic and unpredictable ways.
We need to be clear that if there is a ceasefire with an “international force” of European soldiers it will only be to continue Israel’s work of taking over Lebanon. It amounts to violation of Lebanon’s right of self-determination and a forcible restructuring of Lebanese politics to U.S. imperialist and Israeli specifications.
Furthermore, consider the implications of what it means when the U.S. and Israel say they are going to destroy Hezbollah. Forty percent of Lebanon’s population is Shiite, at least 1.5 million people. This is the largest ethnic/religious group in Lebanon, and one that has been historically suppressed by imperialism and other forces within Lebanon. Hezbollah’s mass base is Shia. So there’s a genocidal implication to the U.S. and Israel saying they’re going to destroy Hezbollah as a political force.
Imperialist Problems and a Different Future
As the war grinds on, increasingly the U.S. and Israel are facing difficulties. The anger of the people is creating problems for pro-U.S. Arab regimes. The resistance of Hezbollah fighters is making it harder for Israel to occupy Lebanon than initially anticipated.
Just because the U.S. and Israel have tremendous wealth and military power does not mean they have everything under their control. On August 1, The Wall Street Journal fretted in an editorial that “Israel is Losing the War” arguing that the war is dragging on too long and that this only serves to strengthen Hezbollah and damage U.S. strategic interests in the region.
A recent article from A World to Win News Service said, “The problem is that all of the main actors on this stage, in terms of those playing speaking roles, are reactionaries and will not be able to represent the people’s interests to the end. Their politics reflect the fact that they are exploiters whose interests are necessarily narrow because they are rooted in clan, semi-feudal and imperialist-dependent capitalist relations. At the same time the potential power of the vast Middle Eastern masses who have not been allowed to speak has never been clearer. That is the contradiction that needs to be addressed if the great storm whose rising wind can be so readily felt is going to change things in the people’s favor.” (The Interests Behind Israel’s Attack on Lebanon, and the Interests of the People, 24 July 2006, posted at revcom.us)
The vicious U.S./Israeli attacks are uniting the country of Lebanon in unprecedented ways. Lebanon is known as a country with severe ethnic and religious divisions. From 1975 to 1990, Lebanon fought a civil war pitting various ethnic groups against each other with different regional powers backing different groups. But on July 31 religious leaders from the Maronite, Sunni, Shia, Greek Orthodox, and Druze community called for an immediate halt to Israel’s “war crimes against the Lebanese people.”
The day following the Qana massacre, thousands of Lebanese, religious and secular, men and women, angrily attacked the UN headquarters in Beirut. Major demonstrations against the U.S., Israel, and the UN also took place in Brussels, Paris, Cairo, Damascus, Tehran, several cities in Pakistan, Delhi and elsewhere, all to demand that Israel’s killing be halted. The previous week, London witnessed a protest march of several tens of thousands, and a protest blocked the avenue in front of the Israeli embassy in Bogotá, Colombia.
Every day the war drags on, the anger of people around the globe at Israel and the U.S. grows stronger, with a potential to puncture through the plans of the imperialists and reactionaries. People in the United States, the country most responsible for the crimes being carried out in Lebanon, have a special responsibility to oppose these crimes.
Revolution #56, August 13, 2006
The Democratic Party, as a whole, and as a political force, has vehemently and vociferously joined in giving Israel unqualified support—all in the context of Israel’s latest outrageous crimes in Lebanon.
On July 17, at a rally in New York City, Israel’s UN ambassador Dan Gillerman said: “To those countries who claim that we are using disproportionate force, I have only this to say: You’re damn right we are!”
Next to him were two prominent Democratic senators, Hillary Clinton of New York and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.
Lautenberg said: “It’s up to Israel to design how strong her response ought to be.”
Clinton added: “We will support [Israel’s] efforts to send a message to Hamas, Hezbollah, to the Syrians, to the Iranians… We will take whatever steps are necessary.”
That same day, Israeli warplanes set Beirut’s harbor ablaze, pounded villages, neighborhoods, and highways across Lebanon, and flattened the Palestinian foreign ministry in Gaza City along with surrounding homes.
Then Nouri al-Maliki, the “Prime Minister of Iraq” came to the United States and the Democrats went into a frenzy after this U.S. puppet felt constrained to denounce Israel’s actions and would not “recant” these remarks during his July 25 meeting with Bush.
At a July 19 press conference, Nouri al-Maliki said: “The Israeli attacks and air strikes are completely destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure. I condemn these aggressions and call on the Arab League foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo to take quick action to stop these aggressions. We call on the world to take quick stands to stop the Israeli aggression.”
Immediately the Democratic Party, spearheaded by its congressional representatives, demanded that al-Maliki be dis-invited from his scheduled July 26 address to Congress.
Senator Hillary Clinton called al-Maliki’s statement “outrageous.” House Democrats called al-Maliki’s statement “shocking,” “abhorrent,” and “offensive in the extreme.”
“Which side is he on when it comes to the war on terror?” the Democratic senator Charles Schumer demanded to know—using his own version of Bush’s “You are either with us or with the terrorists.”
The Democrats threatened that al-Maliki should not expect U.S. support, if he continued to criticize Israel’s attack on Lebanon.
The Democrats have now made this part of their criticism of Bush and the Republicans—saying they weren’t hard enough on al-Maliki.
In Connecticut, Democrat Ned Lamont is portrayed as the”antiwar candidate” challenging the pro-Bush Democrat Joe Lieberman. Lamont’s statement on Israel’s attacks, posted on his website, says: “At this critical time in the Middle East, I believe that when Israel’s security is threatened, the United States must unambiguously stand with our ally to be sure that it is safe and secure. On this principle, Americans are united.”
This self-exposing behavior by the Democrats is a glaring example of the fact that they are a U.S. ruling class party. That they are themselves sharply and repeatedly, bloodthirsty defenders and instruments of U.S. imperialism, and its attack dog Israel. And how, as such, they champion—and viciously attack any criticism of—the most bloody and horrendous crimes being committed by Israel, with the full backing and support of U.S. imperialism.
Revolution #56, Posted August 1, 2006
Received from A World to Win News Service
24 July 2006. A World to Win News Service. Israel’s attack on Lebanon is causing horrendous death and destruction. The future may hold even worse. Israel has staged two major invasions and countless incursions into its northern neighbour before. But this time the war is taking place within the context of and in the service of something new and even more terrifying. There is every reason to fear that it is part of a US campaign to prepare for a broader and even more murderous war.
While millions around the world watch the television footage of mounting civilian casualties in horror – the UN’s Jan Egeland says that a third of the dead are children – the US has openly defied any notion of human decency. It has gone so far as to brazenly block the UN from calling for a ceasefire. George Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice justified this by dividing the globe into those who want this war, on the one side, and on the other the “snakes”, “terrorists”, “subhuman” Middle Easterners, wishy-washy Europeans and worse who oppose it. Rice unashamedly declared that the war must continue until Israel has achieved its objectives – that peace would only help “the terrorists” by allowing them to escape Israel’s wrath and to rearm. As the US conducted a “diplomacy” dedicated to shutting up the clamour for peace, in the military realm it rushed through a shipment of more hi-tech, high-explosive bombs for Israel. What kind of world has this become when “Save the children!” is a pro-“terrorist” position and killing children is considered acceptable if they are the offspring of “snakes”, and thus potential “snakes” themselves?
The Bush regime declares that we are witnessing the widening ripples of September 11, 2001. This is the truth – turned upside down. The events surrounding Israel’s attack on Lebanon have little to do with the World Trade Center attack, that continuing pretext for a phoney “war on terrorism”. Instead, they are truly reflective of “the post-911 world” in another way: they are the consequences of the Bush regime’s decision to seek undisputed American control of the entire Greater Middle East. This campaign began with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and now threatens war against Iran, a major target of today’s US-sponsored Israeli attack on Lebanon. Israel’s actions can’t be understood without taking this context into account.
Bush and his ilk have tried to tie Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran into a single package. There are connections, but they are not at all what the US government claims. These regimes and organizations are not tied together by religion, and still less by any desire to wage war on the US. In fact, their interests are often contradictory, and they don’t really want to be tied together at all. What they have in common is that the Bush regime considers them obstacles to the realization of its vision of an American Middle East. Pro-American and Israeli critics have complained that Israeli’s naked cruelty only inspires more hatred among the region’s people. But this is not at all in conflict with what the US and Israel are trying to do with this war now. With the broadening of the attacks that have until now been centred in Palestine, the US is using Israel to deal pre-emptive blows. The aim is to weaken and split perceived enemies, prevent them from taking advantage of the hatred of Israeli crimes that inflames people more every day, and impose “shock and awe” to dishearten any organized opposition in advance.
In one sense, the situation is very easy to understand. Many millions of people all over the world are becoming more furious about this war every time they watch the news. But at the same time it’s complicated because there are many different kinds of contradictions working on different levels that are influencing one another. There are very real, distinct contradictions working at the local level, each with their own particular logic, and they in turn are embedded in layers of broader regional and global contradictions that shape them.
Hamas and the Palestinians
The contradiction between Israel and the Palestinians continues to be a driving force in this situation, even with much of the world’s attention focused on Lebanon. It was not Iran or Syria but Israel itself that set off the chain of detonations, not only by taking away the Palestinian people’s national rights over decades, but also by deliberately escalating its humiliation and oppression of the Palestinians right now. Hamas, it should be recalled, had maintained a ceasefire with Israel. That ceasefire came to an end in June after a series of Israeli kidnappings of Hamas leaders in Gaza and at least three massacres of civilians by Israeli rocket attacks. Those who would like to claim that Israel’s “security” was in danger want to ignore the fact that it was not until after these events that Hamas resumed firing its small homemade missiles at Israel and conducted the operation resulting in the capture of an Israeli soldier.
Despite the Hamas-elected government’s efforts to come to terms with Israel, Israel clearly took the decision to crush it instead. On another level, especially after the events of the last weeks, it seems that Israel’s decision to seek to eliminate Hamas now was linked to wider strategic considerations, as we’ll see.
Hezbollah and Lebanon
The Lebanese organization Hezbollah chose the moment of Israel’s attacks on the Palestinians to launch a cross-border operation into Israel from the north, attacking a patrol and capturing two more Israeli soldiers. Although this conflict overlaps with the Palestinian question, it mainly involves a different issue.
Lebanon has never been a unitary state. France originally created it by carving out a coastal slice of Syria and, in typical colonial fashion, favouring various ethnic groups over one another. The term “Lebanonization” has come to describe any country where the rivalries between ethnic and religious-based forces make a stable national government impossible. For decades Israel and Syria, sometimes in unity and often in conflict, tried to dictate Lebanese life. In 1976, when the armed Palestinian national liberation organizations and Lebanese groups were on the verge of defeating forces originally put into power by France and by then tied to the US and Israel, Syria invaded Lebanon to save the existing political set-up – at American urging. Then, in 1982, Israel invaded to crush the Palestinian movement based among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees living in camps there, and the revolutionary ferment that attracted people to Beirut from throughout the region and beyond. History will never forget the massacres in the camps of Sabra and Shatila carried out by Israel’s local allies under the supervision of Ariel Sharon, then the leader of the Zionist army.
Armed and trained by Iranian Revolutionary Guards with help from Syria, Hezbollah came into existence and grew rapidly because it was the only force fighting the Israeli occupiers after the Palestinians were no longer a major political factor in Lebanon. Ironically, although it is not only based among the Shia, one of the country’s half-dozen major religious communities, but a vociferous exponent of Shia Islamic ideology, Hezbollah’s reputation as a national liberation organization is a major factor making it popular among Lebanese of all ethnic groups and religions, including leftists and other secular people.
For several years now Hezbollah’s leadership has been signalling its willingness to achieve a stable relationship with Israel and the US and leave the Palestinian question unresolved. (Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah said this to American journalist Seymour Hersh in an interview in the July 28, 2003 New Yorker magazine.) Controlling southern Lebanon, Hezbollah has actually prevented Palestinian refugees from attacking Israel across the border. For a decade, even during the hide tide of the Palestinian intifada, both sides of the border have been very quiet, except for minor Hezbollah/Israel clashes in the Shebaa Farms area still under Israeli occupation. Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israel show that they are a much better armed and more formidable military force than any of the Palestinian groups. Yet these rockets were kept in storage until after Israel started bombing and attacking Hezbollah.
Hezbollah had captured Israeli soldiers and traded them for its own prisoners several times in recent years, even after Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2005, but this time Israel reacted by unleashing a war. This shows that Israel’s aims had changed. Had Hezbollah’s? Some observers, such as the progressive American expert Juan Cole, have said that in deciding to show support for the Palestinians in this symbolic way (after all, they could have fired their Katyushas), Hezbollah was reacting to the situation in Lebanon itself, basically trying to preserve and expand its power within the Lebanese government in the face of rising Israeli and US pressure. That, Israel felt, was unacceptable. But again, even those who consider Israel’s existence legitimate cannot present facts to argue that the Zionist state’s “security” was endangered by this act. Among similar media accounts, the San Francisco Chronicle (21 July) reported that Israel’s armed forces had been planning and even rehearsing this attack for at least a year. Israeli aggressive air incursions into Lebanon over the last months seem to have been meant to prepare as well as perhaps provoke a war.
Again, here we have to shift our gaze to see the contradictions on a higher level that this particular contradiction is embedded in. Syria was at its most powerful when it was a Soviet client state. Its young president Bashar Assad would like to come in from the cold war and find a place in the new US-dominated world, but his requests have so far been rejected, as Assad complained to Hersh. Assad’s eagerness to reach an agreement with the US and Israel appears to be confirmed by the indisputable fact that Syria has kept quiet about the continuing Israeli occupation of the militarily strategic Golan Heights seized in 1967.
The Syrian and US secret services worked together very closely after 2001, when Assad believed that he could hand the US intelligence about Al-Qaeda as a means to a broader arrangement. According to Hersh, former CIA head George Tenet protected the Assad regime against Bush regime figures who wanted to attack it. But when Assad refused to endorse the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, unlike his father who supported the 1991 US invasion, the US put the Syrian regime on its target list. Even so, while Assad may have felt that an open endorsement of the American occupation of Iraq might mean the end of his regime, Syria seems to have implicitly accepted the occupation. For instance, when the US armed forces crossed over into Syria in June 2003 and wiped out a convoy of vehicles – civilians unrelated to the Saddam Hussein regime figures the US claimed it was perusing – Assad held his tongue.
Here, too, claims that Israel is “protecting” itself are a lie. Israeli sent fighters to buzz Assad’s presidential palace in June, saying that they did so to demonstrate their ability to kill him whenever they want to. This was before the Hezbollah cross-border operation Bush wants to blame on Syria.
Israel’s aims in Lebanon and beyond
When France turned against Syria and joined with the US in demanding that country’s withdrawal from Lebanon, the weakened and much chastened Assad regime complied. This led to the so-called “Cedar revolution”, the formation of a new Lebanese government Bush hailed last year as an example of how the US is spreading “democracy”.
But that was last year. The US was happy to see Syria go, but it wants to keep Lebanon Lebanonized, just as it has worked hard to create religious-based “identity politics” in Iraq to gain allies and undermine opposition. Since then, the US and Israel have been pressuring the Lebanese government to disarm Hezbollah. In fact, that is the central demand of Israel’s current attacks on Lebanon. The amount of hypocrisy involved is stupendous. First of all, Israel demands that Lebanon implement UN Resolution 1559 requiring the disarming of all militias – this from the Zionists who for decades have defied UN resolutions to withdraw from the territories they occupied in 1967. Secondly, Israel is calling for the Lebanese government, which includes Hezbollah, to send out its weak and divided army, many of whose soldiers and officers support Hezbollah, to “disarm” (fight) the country’s only real fighting force capable of putting up resistance to Israel. This would amount to making Lebanon an Israeli protectorate.
Israel’s military actions so far make their political aims unmistakable. Israel openly avows that at least for now, it wants to empty the Shia population of Lebanon south of the Litani River, a well-populated farming area 20 kilometres from the border at some points... Lebanese newspapers report that half a dozen southern villages have been hit with cluster bombs and phosphorous. Israeli planes dropped leaflets on villages warning the population that the entire area was about to be pulverized, but then, when villagers tried to flee, Israel systematically rocketed all moving vehicles. In one of the worst incidents early in the war, a convoy of villagers in pickup trucks headed for the city of Tyre. Israeli gunfire hit the women and children in the back of the lorries. Then an Israeli helicopter came up and fired rockets, killing 23 of the 24 people. The only survivor was a four year-old girl burned on 70 percent of her body. Other, similar incidents include an attack on a crowded minibus, also near Tyre, and countless rocketings of private cars and taxies filled with families.
The bombing raids have also targeted the heavily Shia suburbs on the southern edge of Beirut. An Israeli commander announced that they would destroy ten multi-story buildings in the Shia residential suburb of Dahaya for every rocket fired at the Israeli city of Haifa. Israel boasts that its raids demonstrate that support for Hezbollah means death. When refugees were taken in by mainly Christian villages and neighbourhoods, Israel bombed them as well. Among other aims, this is meant to discourage people from taking in those fleeing the south.
Shias, historically given little place in Lebanon’s imperialist-assigned ethnic government arrangements, are by far the country’s single biggest community and may amount to half its population. (There hasn’t been a census for decades, because it would officially reveal that those groups whose clan leaders are most directly tied to Israel and the West and guaranteed the top posts in the government on the basis of their supposed majority status are in fact a small and shrinking minority.) Israel is attacking not only Hezbollah but Shias in general to make a point: they can’t be allowed to threaten the country’s power arrangements. Israel has also specifically targeted Christian and other communities. For instance, the Israeli army destroyed Lebanon’s Christian and Sunni Moslem-owned television and mobile telephone facilities, claiming that they were being used for “Hezbollah propaganda”. In fact, Israeli’s real target was television news footage of Israeli atrocities riveting and unifying all Lebanese and the communications networks that tie the country together.
While claiming that its goal is for the Lebanese government to send its army to take control of southern Lebanon, Israel has even bombed Lebanese army barracks that have nothing to do with Hezbollah. It has also hit government offices and facilities in general. Perhaps the most telling component of Israel’s bombardment campaign is the targeting of the country’s physical infrastructure and economy. Air strikes against bridges and roads have cut the south off from the rest of the country. They have also hit roads, bridges, the Beirut airport, all the seaports, petroleum storage facilities and factories all over Lebanon, all trucks and other moving machinery, including ambulances. Some 800,000 of the country’s less than four million people have been driven out of their homes. This adds up to a decision to ensure that when Israel is done, the country will be crippled and helpless. When Rice met with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora (by Lebanese law, that office must be held by a Sunni), she assured him of Bush’s “support” but refused to give him the support he asked for, flatly rejecting his plea for a ceasefire to prevent the country from being torn apart. As other commentators have pointed out, this was a gangster message: cooperate with us or else.
In short, the immediate American-Israeli war aim is to create an entirely subservient Lebanon, indirectly, at least, if not literally through occupation. Israeli commanders have not ruled out occupation, but they clearly fear having to face the kind of long-term resistance that they have been unable to defeat in the past, in Lebanon, and of course the West Bank and Gaza. Those fears have been sharpened by the Israeli army’s dramatic difficulties in the two key ground battles with Hezbollah so far. Israel suffered what army sources called heavy casualties in trying to take a village called Maroun al-Ras, just across the border. It failed in its initial assault on southeastern Lebanon’s major town, Bint Jbeil. Israeli officers complain that their tanks and monster military bulldozers are not effective enough against the tunnel warfare Hezbollah is waging.
Bush’s repeated statements putting the blame on Syria for Hezbollah’s actions has mystified many serious analysts who can’t see much evidence of major Syrian active involvement. In fact, the only specific US charge is that Syria has been a conduit for Iranian supplies for Hezbollah. But rather than a sign that he doesn’t understand what his advisors tell him, Bush’s insistence is a key part of what’s really going on, just as the phoney Bush/Blair claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were not a mistake but part of what can truthfully be called a conspiracy. The aim is to isolate, paralyse and perhaps overturn the Assad regime as a further step in preparing for war with Iran. A well-informed 24 July New York Times analysis said that the US aim was to force Syria to “distance” itself from Iran and cut off Hezbollah supplies. Syria is Iran’s only state ally. The Iranian regime has often said it would consider any attack on Syria as an attack on itself – and that would be very definitely the case.
Some pro-Bush political figures openly proclaim it and “everyone” – everyone who seriously studies the situation and doesn’t just swallow propaganda – knows it’s true: the looming threat of a US war with Iran is an enormous and probably decisive factor behind Israel’s actions.
The Iranian regime noisily welcomed the Hezbollah operation. It, too, is sending a message. After decades of on-again, off-again relations with Israel, with the mullahs receiving Zionist weapons during the early years of their reign and maintaining contacts and economic ties even in recent years, the Iranian regime would like to harness the regional hatred for Israel in a desperate bid to ensure its own survival.
This anger at Israel, at the US standing behind it, and at the American protectorates that rule most of the Middle East, has an enormous potential power. Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf monarchies are widely understood by their own people to be American neo-colonies. All of these regimes have much to fear if a nationalist fever and a mood of resistance were to sweep the region. At a rare illegal rally in Cairo, demonstrators carried portraits of Hezbollah leader Nasrallah together with those of Gamal Nasser, the Egyptian president considered the symbol of Arab nationalism in the 1950s and 60s. Similar incidents have been reported in other countries, including Gaza, where marchers carried portraits of Nasrallah and Yasser Arafat. At this moment in the Middle East, Nasrallah – a “terrorist” for Israel and the US – is many times more popular than any of the darlings of American imperialism. For the Iranian theocrats, the anti-Israel and anti-American sentiments of the people might not be the weapon they want, but they see the potential for harnessing this hatred as the best weapon they can get.
In short, Israel’s attacks on Hamas and Hezbollah are also secondary attacks on Iran, aiming at weakening two groups that could cause trouble in the event of a US-launched war against Iran. It is also possible that the Iranian Islamic Republic welcomes a chance to show the US that it does have armed influence in the region and can fight back.
The “terrorist international united front”
Whatever connections there may be between Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran’s mullahs and, according to a leading US State department official, North Korea (!), they are not mainly about religion or ideology. Hamas is a Sunni organization, an offshoot of the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt. The Brotherhood was financed by Saudi Arabia and encouraged by the US to undermine the nationalist Nasser regime and the communists. Hamas was on the receiving end of many Israeli secret police favours in a campaign against the Palestinian Liberation Organization. It has ties with Iran’s ruling Shia mullahs, but probably not much religious sympathy. The same seems true of Hamas’ relations with Hezbollah. As for Syria, Assad’s father slaughtered thousands of civilians to put down a rising by the Moslem Brotherhood. In Lebanon, Syria allied with Christian reactionaries against the Palestinians. And as for North Korea…
The last country, especially, makes it plain that the main thing all these regimes and groups have in common is worry that their survival is incompatible with the Bush regime’s vision of an American-squashed globe. Tellingly, the weaponry Iran is supposed to have supplied Hezbollah is mainly Soviet-era technology, another indication that the U.S. is trying to overturn a world order that grew out of the existence of the rival Soviet imperialist bloc. When Bush ideologues scream about now being the time to move against “the worldwide terrorist united front”, what they mean is that they can’t wait to wage war on all the organized forces that stand in their way anywhere. In this “all or nothing” logic, since these potential enemies might help each other, it’s best to go after them all at once. (The U.S. former rightwing Congressional leader turned imperial strategist Newt Gingrich seemed to have this in mind when he enthused over the prospects for what he called “world war 3” growing out of Israel’s attack on Lebanon).
The explanation for the cruelty and wild ambitions of Israel’s military campaign cannot be found in Israel alone. Israel is just one more weapon of mass destruction in the American arsenal. The US created, armed, financed and directs Israel for strategic purposes that have little to do with Zionist influence in the United States. What is most basically at stake is what we have already seen in Iraq: the US is determined to make the entire Middle East into a string of American neocolonies, countries formally independent but under its economic, political and militarily control. The ultimate goal is not only to grab the region’s oil and the riches created by its people, but even more to use this control as a central pillar of an American-dominated global political system that can guarantee – against all rivals as well as the people – the conditions of profitability for American capital throughout the world...
The problem is that all of the main actors on this stage, in terms of those playing speaking roles, are reactionaries and will not be able to represent the people’s interests to the end. Their politics reflect the fact that they are exploiters whose interests are necessarily narrow because they are rooted in clan, semi-feudal and imperialist-dependent capitalist relations. At the same time the potential power of the vast Middle Eastern masses who have not been allowed to speak has never been clearer. That is the contradiction that needs to be addressed if the great storm whose rising wind can be so readily felt is going to change things in the people’s favour.
Revolution #56, August 13, 2006
Three weeks ago we announced the posting of important new talks by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP,USA, on bobavakian.net and here on revcom.us. As we said last issue, “These talks are truly pathbreaking explorations in communist theory and its application to a breathtaking range of questions, including political questions which are urgently and sharply posed in today’s situation. They are also living laboratories in the communist method and approach to the world.”
This week there will be a further dimension given to all this, as the question and answer sessions for these talks go up on these sites.
This Q&A includes an answer to the following question:
“My question deals with some of the material from the two series: ‘Views on Socialism and Communism’ and ‘The Basis, the Goals, and the Methods of the Communist Revolution.’
"I’ve been thinking about two things: One is a statement by Arundhati Roy in an interview where she basically said (this is paraphrasing), ‘I support the Maoists in India even though I would probably be the first person they would kill.’ Second I’ve also been thinking about this in relation to the need to make a distinction as you’ve emphasized between those who are actively plotting to overthrow the socialist state and those who are just dissenting or even vehemently opposed to it, but not actively plotting to overthrow it.
“My question is – taking into account the socialist experience and the very secondary aspect where Arundhati Roy might have a point based on what happened in China and also taking into account the particularity of India and the particularities of this country: what should communists say to the Arundhati Roys of the world in relation to this contradiction and why should they believe us?”
A wide range of other questions were raised and taken up, over 20 in all, going from the importance of taking on the relativism and positivism in today’s climate, to the need to embrace non-communist ideas; from the oppression of Black people, to the situation in Latin America and its relation to the world situation; from key political struggles today and their relation to the urgent need for revolution, to the role of coaching in basketball . . . and many, many more. The answers to these questions – along with the “Concluding Remarks,” which are also going up on the site – give you a living sense of communism: not only the vision of communist society and the struggle to get there (though many of the questions touch on different aspects of that) but of the genuinely communist approach to all spheres of society. They give you as well a very living sense of Chairman Avakian, listening intently to and delving deeply into these questions as they come up.
We invite you to come listen to these sessions; as we’ve said before, there’s really nothing like this in the world today.
Revolution #56, August 13, 2006
Behind the Giddy Castro Death Watch
Cuban leader Fidel Castro has undergone emergency intestinal surgery. The U.S. media have been almost giddy in reporting “death watches” about Castro’s possible passing from the scene. The Bush administration is licking its chops about a potential leadership crisis in Cuba. There is cold-hearted calculating going on about openings and pretexts for U.S. interference and intervention to bring about “regime change” in Cuba. Reactionary elements in the Cuban-American community have been given platforms to call for the return of the “Cuba of old.”
President Bush stated that the U.S. would support those working “to build a transitional government in Cuba committed to democracy.” One has to ask, do the Cuban people really want the democracy that the U.S. brings to Iraq and the world?
The removal of Fidel Castro from power has been a goal of U.S. foreign policy since the Cuban revolution of 1959. Why? Fidel Castro led a mass anti-imperialist struggle that declared to the U.S.: Cuba does not belong to you! The Castro regime nationalized U.S. enterprises and holdings. It gave hope to the oppressed throughout Latin America that they too could oust the yanqui exploiters. For U.S. imperialism, this was unforgivable. And for decades, the U.S. has worked to destroy this regime: invading and blockading, infiltrating spies and saboteurs, and making direct attempts on Castro’s life.
That Cuba is not genuinely socialist and that Castro is not a genuine communist (see "U.S. Imperialism, the Cuban Revolution, and Fidel Castro") has hardly diminished U.S. imperialism’s hatred for this regime. Castro has refused to give in to U.S. terms and demands to turn Cuba back over to U.S.-sponsored forces and interests. He has remained a vocal critic of U.S. foreign policy. He has given support to various anti-U.S. forces in Latin America. With the U.S. waging its “war on the world” and demanding of all, “you are either with us or against us,” Castro’s obstinacy is even more unacceptable to the U.S. rulers.
In 2003, the Bush administration put together a multi-agency Commission for Assistance for a Free Cuba, chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In 2004, the Commission issued its first report outlining steps the U.S. would take to bring about regime change. These included subversion of Castro’s plans to relinquish duties to his younger brother Raul. A follow-up report last month recommended an $80 million fund to support Cuba’s opposition and the deployment of U.S. aid once a “transitional government” was in place. Last year, Rice announced the creation of a new post to help “accelerate the demise” of the Castro government.
Now that Castro is hospitalized, the Bush team is making louder noises and bolder threats against the Cuban regime. The assumption is that Cuba is a ripe fruit for imperial plucking. A State Department spokesman stated, “the United States would take an active role in shaping events on the island if the Cuban leader dies.” Just before Bush left for vacation in early August, he warned that the U.S. would “take note of those, in the current Cuban regime, who obstruct [Cubans’] desire for a free Cuba.” In other words, the U.S. is declaring the right to insert itself in a “post-Castro Cuba” and even drawing a line in the sand: there will be no place for remnants of the Castro regime. This is a big part of the reason that reactionary Cubans are being revved up in Miami. They are being counted on as loyal servants and enforcers of U.S. plans for “Cuba after Castro.”
There are important geostrategic considerations bound up with U.S. maneuvering for a “post-Castro” Cuba. In waging their “war on the world,” the U.S. imperialists have not paid as much attention to Latin America as they have to the Middle East and Central Asia. The government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela has been flexing its oil-revenue muscles and allying with Castro. If the U.S. can take down a weakened Cuba and reintegrate it into its imperial network, this will send a message to Chavez and other governments staking out more independent positions from the U.S.
The U.S. is also using the current situation to blast out lies about communism—that communism is “totalitarian control” over people. This caricature has nothing to do with real communism, which is about the proletariat taking hold of and consciously transforming society to abolish all classes and class distinctions and to emancipate all of humanity.
The U.S. media trots out reactionary Cuban exiles to talk about the “horrors” of communism and how they personally suffered. But who are these people and what is their program? Many were part of families who were beneficiaries of the pre-1959 Cuba of U.S. corporate control and privilege. And they want to turn Cuba once again into a U.S. neo-colony—which will mean “horrors” for the masses of Cubans.
Cuba is not socialist (see background article) but has certain formal characteristics that make it appear to be socialist: state-owned enterprises and extensive state-financed social programs. The Bush administration, working from the anticommunist script, rhapsodizes about “privatizing” Cuba’s economy. For whom: the Miami elite seeking their estates and power…for U.S. corporations seeking cheap labor? The New York Times editorializes for an “economically dynamic society” in Cuba. Well, let’s look at the wonders of unfettered capitalism in Latin America. In the 1990s, deregulation and privatization were widely imposed on countries by the U.S. and the International Monetary Fund. The result was a “lost decade” of development and a vast increase in poverty and inequality. And Cuba, while not in fact socialist, has a lower infant mortality rate—and this is a Third World country—than does Washington, D.C.
The U.S. has no right to meddle in Cuba’s affairs. It has no right to dictate Cuba’s future. U.S. plans for Cuba must be called out and opposed for what they are: the brutal maneuverings of empire.
Revolution #56, August 13, 2006
For more than 100 years, the United States has caused incalculable misery and suffering for the Cuban people. Any moves by the Bush administration against Cuba must be resolutely opposed. On the other hand, Fidel Castro is not a communist and Cuba is not a socialist society. The Cuban people need to make a genuine revolution to build a genuinely liberating society.
Cuba came under the domination of U.S. imperialism as a result of the Spanish-American War of 1898. The Cubans had been fighting for their independence from Spain, but the U.S. seized on the situation to turn Cuba into a neo-colony.
Cuba achieved formal independence in 1898. But in 1901, the U.S. Congress passed the Platt Amendment. This amendment, which was incorporated into the Cuban constitution until 1934, set conditions for U.S. intervention in Cuba’s domestic affairs. And the U.S. landed marines in Cuba in 1906, 1912, 1917, and 1920. The amendment also established a U.S. military colony in Cuba—the Guantánamo naval base—that is now used as a detention camp and torture chamber in the U.S.’s war on the world.
By the 1950s, the U.S. controlled 80 percent of Cuban utilities, 90 percent of Cuban mines, close to 100 percent of the country’s oil refineries, 90 percent of its cattle ranches, and 40 percent of the sugar industry. Cuba also became an investor paradise for U.S. gambling syndicates, real estate operators, hotel owners, and mobsters. The U.S. propped up the repressive and widely hated regime of Fulgencio Batista. This was the backdrop for the Cuban revolution of 1959.
The Cuban revolution was a just and popular rising against U.S. imperialism. The U.S. was not reconciled to its defeat. The U.S. wanted to regain its lost holdings and profits. But of even greater concern, it worried about the example Cuba set for others in Latin America. The U.S. moved along two tracks in the early 1960s: to crush Cuba and stamp out revolutionary movements throughout the region; and to launch the Alliance for Progress—promoted as a free-market solution to poverty but serving only to deepen U.S. economic penetration of Latin America.
In 1961, the U.S. carried out the Bay of Pigs invasion, which the Cuban people defeated. The CIA tried several times to assassinate Castro. The U.S. blocked Cuba’s ability to have normal trade with Western countries.
Fidel Castro mouths Marxist phrases. But he is not a communist. And the revolution Castro led did not break Cuba out of the bounds of bourgeois economic, political, and social relations.
Castro sought to substitute one form of imperialist dependency for another. Prior to 1959, Cuba had been a “monoculture”: an economy based on sugar production for a world market dominated by U.S. imperialism. Castro did not lead and mobilize the Cuban people to fundamentally restructure this economic legacy. That would have required a radical and mass-based land reform to lay the foundations for a collective and self-sustaining agriculture that could feed the population. It would have required the step-by-step development of an industrial capability that would contribute to the development of a diversified agriculture and strengthen economic self-reliance.
Instead of making this kind of radical break with imperialism, Castro sought a “quick fix.” Sugar would remain king of the Cuban economy and Cuba would remain hostage to the world market. But in place of the United States, the social-imperialist Soviet Union became the linchpin of neocolonial arrangements (the Soviet Union ceased being socialist in the mid-1950s). The Soviet Union guaranteed Cuba a reliable market for sugar and provided Cuba with credits and oil, part of which it re-sold on the world market for food.
By the mid-1960s, Cuba became tightly enmeshed in the Soviet bloc. Castro supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and of Afghanistan in 1979. He launched ideological attacks on Mao and the Cultural Revolution. Castro also provided foot-soldiers for Soviet operations to expand imperial influence in Africa.
Cuba called itself socialist. But the entire Cuban economy was subordinated to a capitalist economic logic—produce, produce, and produce what you produce best: sugar. The masses of Cubans became wage slaves to this commodity logic. Their labor and energies were not serving the all-round transformation of society but rather the reproduction of relations of dependency and imperial exploitation.
Based on these economic arrangements, Castro was able to pump revenues from sugar sales into social programs, like health care and education. These measures produced certain benefits for Cuba’s poor. Politically, this helped solidify a base of popular support for Castro. Did this make Cuba socialist? No.
In “Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism,” Bob Avakian discusses three alternatives in today’s world. The first is to let the world stay the way it is—which is clearly unacceptable.
The second alternative is to leave intact the fundamental relations of economic exploitation and rule by an oppressive class but to put some band-aids on certain social problems and inequities of class society. This is what Cuba represents. Fidel Castro has created a kind of “neocolonial welfare state” in which the masses remain exploited and powerless over cardinal affairs of society. But all this is dressed up with socialist phraseology. (How Castro has maintained this welfare state after the collapse of the Soviet bloc cannot be addressed here, but in recent years it has very much involved oil subsidies from Venezuela and financial ties with China.)
There is, Avakian points out, a third and truly emancipatory alternative. This is to make thoroughgoing revolution: to lead, unleash, and empower the masses to create a society without any form of exploitation; to overcome all oppressive relations and ideas; where intellectual ferment and dissent are fostered; and through continuing revolution to create the conditions enabling the masses to become masters of society. This third alternative, real communism, is what Cuba (and the whole world) needs.
Revolution #56, August 13, 2006
On August 2, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before Congress that “what we are considering now is a better product.” His new summer item: NEW RULES FOR TORTURE. Once again with the Bush crew, language sanitizes and anesthetizes. Gonzales said he wants to bring “clarity” to the Geneva Convention’s prohibition of torture, a regulation that he previously called “quaint.” What he is concerned about is the U.S.A. being able to continue a deadly, immoral, and illegal policy and practice of torture around the world—and he wants it legalized because he knows that he and the Bush administration have committed internationally recognized war crimes.
How have we come to a place where a serious discussion is held in government on the efficacy—not the immorality — of torture? How have we come to a place where such heinous considerations take on the deadening aura of business as usual? And how do we get to a different place?
There is a deadly dance afoot in official politics and political discourse in this country. A dance that is mind-numbing in its ritualized circular repetitiveness, yet it is a dance that is sliding perilously close to a precipitous cliff. There are consequences in lives and for the future.
In early June, eight men were strapped in chairs with feeding tubes jammed up their nostrils by the U.S. military. Eighty more were refusing food, protesting the U.S. government holding them in purgatory in Guantánamo for 4+ years without charges. By mid-June, three had committed suicide. Rear Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr., in a stunning display of fascistic Orwellian logic, denounced the suicides as “asymmetric warfare” and proposed a criminal investigation of the detainees’ attorneys.
In early July, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Hamdan decision, decreed that the Bush administration overstepped with their international torture and gulag setup, ruling that they had to get Congressional approval for their military tribunals and that the international law of the Geneva Convention couldn’t be summarily ignored. This is what led to Gonzales’ appearance August 2.
For a moment after the Hamden decision, hope abounded in progressive circles that at last Bush’s criminal fascistic direction as symbolized in torture and detention might finally be reversed. Yet, within days the Bush administration was adamantly demanding Congress codify its policy — an option pointed to by the Court ruling. And now, the terms of official debate are about legitimizing torture and detention in ways that don’t come back to bite the U.S. military in the ass. If the current trajectory continues — very soon a very bad law will be passed.
This pattern is repeated in every sphere. In response to broad outrage at the revelation of massive secret illegal NSA spying on Americans’ phone conversations, the administration strong-armed a “compromise” with the “moderate” Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter. A deal worthy of Tony Soprano, the proposed legislation would allow the illegal spying to continue, with the proviso that the government should get constitutional approval for the program from the secret rubber stamp FISA courts, although they could even avoid this, if they decide it would jeopardize national security. In addition, the right to all further judicial review will be eliminated. In sum, in exchange for being forced to get Congressional approval, Bush can continue secret spying on personal calls, maybe approved by a secret court, appointed in secret by Chief Justice Roberts, and even this can be circumvented in secret.
Some Democrats protested, some proposed alternate bills, but no one has called forward the people to refuse to go along with this. The expectation in Washington is that some version close to Specter’s compromise will pass. Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman said: “This is the president and the Congress coming together to codify the capacity for future presidents to take action to protect the country.”
This is the process through which a radically new social order—the architecture and structures of fascistic social norms—are rapidly being bolted into place, with repercussions that could last generations, if not stopped. It should be a familiar dance by now. Look back at the Patriot Act. Rammed through in the days after 9/11, before Congress even read it; within months, people came to oppose its police-state measures such as government looking into your library reading. Over 400 cities, towns, and states passed resolutions against it. Yet in early March 2005 Patriot Act II was cemented into law by a Senate vote of 89-10.
The dance is a basic four-step box pattern. The Bush Regime unilaterally “creates new reality” on the ground. The policy gets exposed or runs into obstacles. Then, some Democrats express outrage and complain that they should have been consulted and that they could have administered whatever the atrocity is, even better. Finally, the policy gets passed and codified into new law, and we move on to dance the whole four-step over again—now with even less room to move.
Listen to them—the Democrats tell you that this is what they are doing! In response to the Supreme Court Hamdan Decision, NY Senator Chuck Schumer—who is running the Democrats’ 2006 Congressional election campaign, said: “Had they come to Congress a few years ago on this issue, my guess is they would have gotten most of what they wanted.” No opposition to torture or secret incarceration without charges, trial, or representation from Mr. Schumer. We must break out of this box—or we will dance our way to the Death Camps.
What is so starkly revealed in the example of the Patriot Act is that there was, and today still is, ample broad opposition to the Bush program— enough to stop it, but that as long as this opposition remains harnessed to politics as usual, hoping for a Democratic victory in the mid-term elections so that then the Democrats will do something, which they will never do—the deadly dance will go on.
Remember a year ago when Roberts was nominated to the Supreme Court? The Democrats, including the leadership of the women’s movement, said to the horrified and angry people in their social base: we’re holding our powder, we’re going to really take them on with the next nomination. And then, as surely as the “left” foot follows the right, Alito was confirmed six months later without a fight. Yet if all the anger and hatred for this course can get harnessed and expressed through truly independent mass determined opposition to the whole program, then a whole new struggle for the world’s future will be afoot.
The logic of this dynamic is, quite literally, killing. Abortion is on the verge of being made completely unavailable to the vast majority of women and possibly totally illegal within a year or two. No problem, the Democrats will run anti-abortion candidates to build a majority and the women’s movement will keep quiet. And then? The Christian fascists will go after birth control and the Democrats’ “right to life” Roman Catholic senators will do what? Go against the pope?
If you seriously, honestly, think about everything that has changed since September 11, 2001: the laws; the governing norms—the separation of powers, the separation of church and state; how it is routine today that the leaders of both parties make obligatory visits to, and genuflect before, the theocratic fascist lunatics Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson; if you take on board that 1/3 of the U.S. Congress has top ratings from the most conservative, Christian Fundamentalist organizations —if you take all of this in, a picture emerges of just how far down the road to fascism we’ve traveled. These things add up and you can wake up one day and find that there is no ground left to stand on.
What has to change before we dance a different step to our own tune?
For one thing, people have to learn to turn down that invitation to the Democrats' midterm election prom. Why? Listen to Al Gore, current star suitor of progressives who desperately want to go to the dance, speaking to Rolling Stone about Iraq:
“We’re all, in some ways, lashed to the mast of our ship of state here. Because the little group at the helm should resign. You know, Rumsfeld and that whole gang have made horrible mistake after horrible mistake…”
Rumsfeld and his boss should resign, but the essence of Gore’s point, and the problem with Gore himself, lies in the first sentence, “We are all lashed to the mast…” We, who? Just what are the actual interests of the ship of the U.S. imperialist state in the Mideast and throughout the world? And what does that have to do with the people’s interest in ending the war, and not living in and perpetuating a new Rome? Like Ahab lashed to the whale, Gore and the rest of the Democrats will bind us thrashing about in a sea of trouble to save their ship.
People see the carnage and the danger of wider war from this conflagration and hope against what they are being told by all of the Democratic leadership that somehow, if in power, they would do different. But they and the Republicans are proceeding from a different set of imperatives. Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker that there is no pressure coming from the Democrats or anywhere else in official Washington that forcing Iran to capitulate was not ultimately worth the price of war.
The Democratic Party, like the Republicans, act in the interests of the system as a whole. Responding to the imperatives of a fast-paced global unfettered capitalism they all recognize the need to forcibly assert an unchallengeable empire. They agree and are both party to using the War on Terror as the rubric to advance this internationally, they agree that this requires tightening the home front, they agree that the social compact of the New Deal and the Great Society, with their array of social support programs, is over—it was, after all, Clinton who ended “welfare as we know it”—and that this requires a reassertion of traditional morality to salve and stupefy.
Yet, there are sharp differences between them. At the core of the Republican Party is a highly organized Christian Fascist movement determined to impose biblical literalism as law. Currently, these theocrats are in an uneasy coalition with the neo-con cadre such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz, who developed the Bush strategic doctrine of unilateral pursuit of empire— unrestrained by international law, treaty, or diplomacy. This strategic doctrine finds its echo in and is reinforced by the “theology” absorbed by millions of Christian Fundamentalists who read and believe in La Hayes “End Times.” Kevin Phillips in “American Theocracy” writes that “chaos in the explosive Middle East, far from being a threat, actually heralds the awaited second coming of Jesus Christ. Oil-price hikes, murderous hurricanes, deadly tsunamis, and melting polar ice caps lend further credence.”
The Democrats have no coherent program in answer. This is, first of all, because they are lashed to the same imperialist ship—they are not going to risk undermining U.S. global hegemony. Since 9/11 the top Democrats have been insisting that they could wage the “war on terror” even better. If your interest is securing strategic control of the Mideast to muscle out potential rivals, secure the resources under U.S. control, and bludgeon the Islamist fundamentalists and secure the region with completely pliant client regimes, then you want the Iraq war to succeed, and will only offer ways to conduct it better.
The Bush Regime sets new terms—advancing their international and domestic fascistic program, the Democrats find themselves with less and less ground to stand on—unless they are prepared to take on the whole direction, which they [a] are not, and [b] don’t intend to, since they are proceeding from the same set of necessities of empire. This is why, absent a mass struggle from below to STOP the whole direction of the Bush regime, even if the Democrats win in November, we will not.
At the current moment there are illusions that perhaps Bush is done, he is having to use diplomacy at this point to deal with Iran and North Korea. Time magazine has a cover with Bush’s cowboy hat on his boots with the headline: “The End of Cowboy Diplomacy.” But this too is a dangerous illusion. The very problems created by the Bush regime in Iraq and Afghanistan actually argue—from their perspective—for even more aggressive action;or else their whole strategic initiative could be lost. The very radical fascist changes that the Bush regime is trying to effect in the world and at home argues for a logic of continual offensive until victory.
A Bush spokesperson opined to Ron Suskind in the New York Times that the Bush administration creates its own reality. That reality has already done great harm. It has also created a huge sea of people who deeply hate all that it is doing. This is the force that, as the World Can’t Wait call for October 5 puts it, can “decidedly break the paralysis that still grips much of American political life… breach[ing] the walls around us to say Enough!”
Making that break requires saying NO to the deadly dance and stepping out on our own.
There is time. Not all the time in the world, but time enough to save the future.
Revolution #56, August 13, 2006
Aftermath of Election
The struggle over the presidential election in Mexico has become an explosive political crisis that could potentially leap out of electoral bounds and challenge the governability and legitimacy of the rulers of Mexico and cause huge reverberations in the U.S. as well. Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party (PAN) was declared the winner of the election by a very thin margin of 245,000 votes, or just over half a percentage point over Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Coalition “For the Good of All—The Poor First.” AMLO is demanding a recount of the votes. He maintains that the declaration of Calderón as the winner of the election by the Federal Election Institute was illegal because this body does not have the authority to declare a winner, and that the Institute was instrumental in carrying out widespread vote fraud at the ballot boxes and cybernetically through its computer system. He also charges interference by the president in favor of Calderón, that there was an illegal media campaign against him and that government programs to benefit the poor were used to pressure voters to vote for Calderón. The election will be decided by the Federal Election Tribunal, which has, as we go to press, announced that there will be a partial recount of the votes. It remains to be seen how AMLO will respond and what he will call for. It also remains to be seen what impact this will have on the struggle of the masses.
In the aftermath of the elections, millions of masses responded to the demand for a full vote recount in weekly demonstrations in Mexico City in their tens of thousands, one on July 18 of over a million people and on Sunday, July 30, over two million people from all over the country flooded into the central plaza of Mexico City, the Zócalo, and the surrounding streets of Mexico City in the largest demonstration in the history of the country. In front of that crowd in the Zócalo, AMLO exhorted the crowd to stay in the Zócalo day and night and blockade the streets to pressure the court to agree to a vote recount. AMLO has also impressed on his supporters that if the votes are recounted and Calderón is still declared the winner then he will respect this decision.
At this moment, the political center and major streets of Distrito Federal in Mexico City (DF) have been blockaded with 47 encampments, called for by AMLO together with his political advisors, most of whom were high-level operatives within the PRI (Party of the Institutional Revolution that governed Mexico for 70 years) senators and diputados from the PRD from all the different states in Mexico, and community organizations to be maintained until the Federal Election Tribunal agrees to recount the votes of the presidential election. There have also been blockade actions at various ports of entry into Mexico.
With the installation of the blockade, for the first time since the elections, a negative response was felt in the Mexican stock market—and the peso lost value in relation to the dollar. The decline was said to be due to the “increasing uncertainty around the election and the more “radical” measures being taken by the “For the Good of All” coalition as well as the delay in a decision being communicated by the Federal Electoral Tribunal. Market handlers said that the volatility is expected to continue as long as the street protests continue. Until this time, the Mexican government had been emphasizing the macroeconomic stability of Mexico, no matter what political storms might ensue, which is very important since the whole Mexican economy is geared to attracting and maintaining imperialist investment.
But on August 2, President Fox’s spokesperson stated that the blockade is putting the economy of the country at risk. Fox spoke to the press in reference to the actions that AMLO is taking: “you shouldn’t play with fire, you shouldn’t take these risks, because the stability and economic discipline of the country should be maintained, and this is achieved when there is a country at peace.” And the business community has called for an investigation to find out if city funds are being used to finance the blockade. They claim business is suffering a loss of $23 million per day, that the blockade is putting 3,000 businesses and 15,000 to 32,000 jobs at risk and the cancellation of 3,400 hotel rooms. They are threatening a tax strike to recoup losses. The Federation of the Bar and College of Attorneys (Federación de la Barra y Colegio de Abogados) are offering free legal consultation for the commercial and tourist sectors to sue AMLO for the economic losses they are suffering as a result of the blockade and for criminal charges to be brought for illegal use of electricity.
The city government of DF are members of the PRD, including the Mayor, Alejandro Encinas, and the head of the police force. Organizations in support of the PAN are mobilizing also, and it has been reported that 93 community organizations are calling for the mayor of DF to resign and for the Federal Election Tribunal to respect their vote and declare Calderón the winner. The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico compared the aggression against free transit in DF to the terrorist attacks occurring around the world and the bombing of innocents in Lebanon. They praised Felipe Calderon’s “political maturity.” In the past week, they had invoked Catholics to carry out a week of prayer for “reconciliation and peace in our country.”
What’s Behind the Current Turmoil?
Mexico is a polarized society in turmoil, with a mix of contradictions which are all moving and developing—and influencing each other and intersecting as well with the massive struggle that has been developing in the U.S. among immigrants against the attacks on immigrants in this country.
Heightening globalization has caused tremendous dislocation for many, many of the masses of Mexico. The economic development of the country is increasingly uneven and polarized. This goes hand in hand with an intensifying contradiction in society between those who support the PAN politically, many of whom have benefited from the PAN programs (of the current president, Fox), and those for whom the programs of the PAN have brought greater misery. NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) has caused the economy in some areas and regions of the country to expand and grow. Particularly in the northern part of the country, where much of the large-scale capitalist agriculture is concentrated, or in centers of commerce where there is a lot of infrastructure, there has been more influx of foreign investment and there is a growing middle class. But it should also be noted that this is not a uniform growth and expansion. The industrialized areas also include shantytowns filled with super-exploited maquiladora workers, and the export agriculture sector depends on migrant workers from the south.
Other vast sections of the people (especially in the southern part of Mexico) are lacking in basic services, roads, transportation, and schools, and for them, the economic changes in the past decade have been devastating. Millions have been forced to leave their homes in search of the means to survive. But these are not people who are being drawn into or integrated into a developing, articulated economy. Every year, 15 million people migrate within the borders of Mexico, and there are 18 million people living in shantytowns on the outskirts of the big cities with no running water, in what government officials have described as “belts of misery.” Still millions more—1 out of every 10 people—migrate to the U.S. in search of work to support themselves and their families. People are driven to the U.S., and the U.S. needs these workers for its industry and other jobs. And this immigration is at this point in time essential to the functioning of the Mexican economy as well, with remittances/money sent to Mexico from the U.S. being the second largest source of income for the country as a whole. And the ability of people to immigrate to the U.S. especially and find work has long been spoken of as a “safety valve” which relieves the pressure on Mexican society caused by their desperate conditions and inability to find work.
Discontent and rebellion have been spilling out all over Mexico. One struggle which has had nationwide impact is a struggle in the southern state of Oaxaca to force the governor out of office. A teachers’ strike that took over the city center in May, demanding a living wage and better education, was attacked on June 14 by helicopters and an invasion of police. After this repression, the teachers’ movement was joined by indigenous communities who are striving to take over the government of their towns with popular assemblies. In 30 counties (municipios) of Oaxaca the people have taken over the municipal buildings to force out the government officials. The main demand of this struggle which has now spread throughout the whole state, has become that the PRI governor of Oaxaca must step down. The teachers and their supporters have declared a permanent occupation of the government center in Oaxaca, the government buildings of the legislature, the courts, and the executive offices and have set up an alternative government in Oaxaca. On August 2, a march of women took over the television station in the city center and began broadcasting.
Another part of what has been setting the stage for the crisis which is developing around this disputed election has been vicious government repression intended to terrorize people, but having the effect of strengthening the outrage of the people. On April 20, to break a strike of the Miners and Metalworkers Union at a giant steel complex in Michoacán, state and federal police were brought in by the Mexican Navy in a surprise attack. The workers defended themselves with slingshots and balls of iron. 1,000 police sent by the PRD governor Cardenas opened fire on the workers who built a barricade of flaming cars and used the heavy machinery to drive off the police. Two workers were killed and 73 were wounded. This intense struggle came soon after the February 19 explosion at the Pasta de Conchos mine in Coahuila state, where 65 miners were buried alive. The labor secretary blamed the miners for their own deaths to cover up the lack of safety in the mine. Their bodies have still not been discovered. On May 3, the famous community of Atenco who in 2002 beat back the government plan to pave over their farmland to build a huge airport to facilitate free trade, was viciously attacked and punished for their rebellion. The leaders were arrested, a child was killed, and while being transported to prison the women and young men were raped by the police. And a UNAM student was left brain-dead and died one month later. The leaders of this struggle are still in prison. People across the country are outraged.
All this is the context for this outpouring around the results of the elections. The elections have become a focal point for all the discontent. Now, hundreds of thousands of people from the poorest and most oppressed are joining with many in the intelligentsia and other middle strata and are pinning their hopes for change on AMLO becoming the new president of Mexico and coming onto the streets determined to fight put AMLO in office. But the truth is that while AMLO has a somewhat different program for Mexico’s economy and may institute a few reforms and make a few concessions to the people, his program is not at bottom different than Calderón’s. AMLO too is a representative for the big national and international capitalists, especially the big U.S. capitalists and the landlords.
Different Programs…Serving the Ruling Interests
The charges of fraud in the elections are just, but the truth is that even the cleanest of elections, the choice is over which representative of the ruling class—and in this case U.S. imperialism—is going to preside over the running of the state and government for the next six years. AMLO and Calderón have different programs—and differences over how to deal with the difficult mix and range of contradictions facing both the U.S. imperialists and the rulers of Mexico, internally and in their relation to each other as oppressor and oppressed nation. But these candidates are both defenders and political representatives of the system dominated by U.S. imperialism and big national and international capitalists and landlords. They are acting within the framework of laws which serves these interests—and cannot step out of them.
Calderon has stated that he will push forward with the “structural reforms” and privatization of the economy which will allow more foreign investment and streamline the ability of foreign capital to superexploit the Mexican workers. He is considered the “more reliable” candidate by the U.S. and, to insure his victory, the electoral advisors Rob Allyn and Dick Morris were contracted. Rob Allyn’s company was involved in Bush’s “victory” in 2000 and 2004. Dick Morris wrote an article in the New York Post on April 3 about the supposed nexus between AMLO and Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and threw out these same accusations in the “spots” on TV for the PAN campaign. All with the object of building up the fear that the election of AMLO would cause instability, chaos, and loss for the middle classes. For example, one element of this smear campaign said that AMLO’s economic policies would cause middle class people to lose their homes and that he would attack the Catholic Church. When the government unleashed vicious repression on the struggling masses of Atenco—beating, raping and killing two of them—Calderón called the victims “barbarians” who deserve to be punished with severity.
And with regard to AMLO, no one should confuse what AMLO says in his speeches with the interests he actually defends. AMLO has a long history of working to protect the very laws and economic and social order that serve the interests of the big capitalist and landlord classes and the imperialists they serve. His game is to consistently speak against the system in order to rally his social base, which is the poorest and dispossessed of Mexico, to back a few reforms of the system that oppresses them. His closest advisors are those who were high-level officials in the PRI government at the very time when the neoliberal policies he claims to be against were put in place. He speaks against the effects of NAFTA, but is not in favor of breaking out of it. He plans to renegotiate it and he is in favor of “making globalization work” primarily through attracting more maquiladoras, which are based on low wage, highly exploitable labor, by giving tax breaks to foreign investors. When he was mayor of DF he contracted Rudolph Giuliani as an advisor to implement the draconian “zero tolerance” measures of criminalizing the poor, in a city of vast unemployment where millions live through the informal economy. He consistently sent the police to beat and imprison those who came to DF to protest.
And further, it is not possible inside of this electoral framework to even substantially change the conditions and lives of the masses. This is most fundamentally because the political system must serve the underlying economic system of capitalism in Mexico, and the country’s subordination to imperialism.
Turmoil, and Potential
The high expectations of change on the parts of those struggling around these elections, together with the explosive situation in the country, have the potential for things to get very out of control of the ruling class in ways the ruling class considers dangerous to the stability of their system. People are answering the call of AMLO to fight for a different outcome in the election, and thus far, the powers that be have been able to channel and confine the struggle into forms and demands which are acceptable to both the U.S. and Mexican rulers. The potential exists for the struggle to break out of these bounds. And there must be sharp struggle to bring forward and unleash the independent historical actions of the masses, out from under the wing of the bourgeois ruling class forces—and all electoral candidates — in order to move towards the change that the people desperately want and need.
Through this turmoil and upheaval, the possibilities exist for the masses to advance their struggle. But not by relying on or putting their hopes in AMLO—or the Mexican elections and electoral process, nor by fighting to make it truly democratic. Work must be done and struggle waged to transform the anger and outrage people feel over the outcome of the election. And still more—the burning desire they have for a different world must be forged into a revolutionary movement which truly challenges the whole setup and gets to the root of the problem: who holds state power. And where the question becomes how to uproot all the economic and social relations that are oppressing the people today.
“It is quite possible to envision a scenario in which, on a qualitatively greater level than today, the development of the social situation and of revolutionary struggle in Mexico would interpenetrate with and have repercussions on the development of social contradictions and social struggles in the U.S. This could have a tremendous impact, this can influence native born people in positive ways towards a more internationalist view. It would hold the potential for further igniting and positively interacting with rebellion and with more conscious and organized revolutionary struggle in the U.S. itself.”
Revolution, “The ‘Border Crisis’ and Revolution: Stepping Back on Some Strategic Dimensions,” May 28, 2006
Revolution #56, August 13, 2006
Kevin Barrett, a teacher’s assistant and lecturer for the last ten years on Islam, African literature, and other subjects at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, has become the most recent target of the right wing wolves attacking critical thinking and dissent in academia. Republican State Representative Steve Nass last week sent a letter signed by 61 (out of 133) state legislators—all but one of them Republican—to the Governor of Wisconsin and university officials demanding that Barrett’s one-semester contract to teach “Islam: Religion and Culture” be terminated. Nass backed up this threat with the warning that some of the legislators who signed the letter will have the university system’s public funding cut in the next budget if Barrett isn’t fired.
Why has Barrett, who holds degrees in English literature and French from San Francisco State University, was a Fulbright Scholar, and received a Ph.D. in African languages and literature and folklore from the University of Wisconsin two years ago, been determined by these self-appointed dictators of academia to be “unqualified to teach”? Or as Barrett himself asked: “Why is liberal Wisconsin going bananas over an $8,000-a-year lecturer who’s not even teaching his own views in the course? I go out of my way to bring in diverse interpretations for students to look at.” What supposedly makes Barrett unfit to teach is that he does not accept the official story about what happened on September 11, 2001, and said so on a local radio station. Barrett is a co-founder of Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth and is a member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth. Barrett has been quoted as saying “To me, after having studied the facts for two and a half years, the most probable hypothesis is another Pearl Harbor. An inside job, designed by intelligence agencies, probably authorized and commanded by VP Cheney.”
One week of Barrett’s fall course on Islam will explore “9/11 and the war on terror.” As Barrett said in a letter to the New York Times, “In an introductory course on Islam, it is entirely appropriate to devote a week to inquiring into the structure, history and influence of the ‘war on terror’ as it is perceived by Muslims as well as non-Muslims. The fact that somewhere between 60% (Pew, 6/2006) and 89% (al-Jazeera, 10/2003) of Muslims and al-Jazeera viewers respectively believe that the story of the ‘19 Arab hijackers’ is a lie is interesting, and worthy of critical analysis and inquiry. Likewise, the fact that 42% of Americans believe that the 9/11 Commission Report is a coverup (Zogby, May 2006) and that half of New Yorkers believe that top U.S. officials committed high treason and conspiracy to mass murder on 9/11/01 (Zogby, 8/2004) is worthy of critical analysis—in the New York Times as well as the academy. Since there are a great many critics of the 9/11 Commission Report who appear to be arguing rationally and citing evidence that is not easily dismissed, it is imperative that the full light of critical scrutiny be focused on their claims.”
To Steve Nass and his right wing cohorts, certain ideas and events, and in particular the official orthodoxy about 9/11, must not and cannot be subjected to critical thinking. Those who try to do so are to be driven from the academy and from any public forum. Over a year ago Nass led an unsuccessful effort to prevent University of Colorado Ethnic Studies professor Ward Churchill from speaking at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, following a nationwide orchestrated right wing storm whipped up over remarks Churchill made in the wake of 9/11. The University of Colorado first tried to fire Churchill for his political statements, and then assigned a faculty committee to pore over Churchill’s body of work with a fine-toothed comb. On the basis of this committee’s findings, Churchill, a tenured professor, now faces firing for alleged research misconduct.
A statement signed by over 600 college educators condemning and calling for opposition to the witch hunt against Ward Churchill says in part: “However one views his choice of words or specific arguments, [Churchill] is being put in the dock solely for his radical critique of U.S. history and present-day policy in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001. Apparently, 9/11 is now the third rail of American intellectual life: to critically probe into its causes and to interrogate the international role of the United States is treated as heresy; those inquiring can be denied forums, careers, and even personal safety.” (emphasis added)(www.defendcriticalthinking.org) Kevin Barrett is now the most recent educator to pay the price for critically probing into the official history of 9/11.
Barrett has also been subjected to threats by powerful talk show bullies. In a July 18 letter to Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Fox network, Barrett wrote, “It has come to my attention that one of your announcers, Bill O’Reilly, has stated on national television that he would like to see me murdered and thrown into Boston Harbor.” O’Reilly criticized the leadership at the University of Wisconsin on his July 11 program. “This guy would have been gone at Boston University, my alma mater, in a heartbeat…this guy’d be in the Charles River floating down, you know, toward the harbor.”
The immediate response of University of Wisconsin administrators was to conduct a 10-day university review of Mr. Barrett—solely on the basis of these reactionary attacks. The New York Times reported (8/1/06) that the University provost, Patrick V. Farrell, said “the university was not focusing on Mr. Barrett’s political views but on the teaching and learning experience in the classroom.” “I want to avoid as much as we can creating some kind of a political test for instructors or faculty, to say that only those whose thinking fits within some predetermined mold are well equipped to teach our students. I think that creates a dangerous precedent.” But in the same article Chancellor John D. Wiley was reported as saying that “university officials would keep an eye on Mr. Barrett by meeting with him throughout the semester. ‘We don’t go around and question all our instructors to find out what all their views are.’” No, but apparently a lecturer who comes under fire by powerful right wing forces in the government and by the “Republican Noise Machine” solely for their political views, can expect to have their teaching and learning experience in the classroom scrutinized on an ongoing basis. And they can expect to be on their own to respond to death threats from vicious mouthpieces as powerful as Bill O’Reilly.
According to the New York Times, some Wisconsin students said “they thought it was a crucial part of a college education to learn about a variety of theories, including radical ones, before forming opinions on a topic.” One student said, “It’s a student’s decision in a class whether they believe what a professor is saying. Just because he said his opinions on a radio station does not mean that’s what the course is going to be about.” Another said that “such a controversial discourse should be welcomed at a public university that is known for fostering outspoken academic debate. ‘If it doesn’t happen somewhere like the Madison campus, then I don’t know where else it would happen.’” And one student who said she “did not believe that the government could have been involved in the September 11 attacks,” added, “So many very important things that we know now were considered radical when they were first presented as ideas.”
This is just the kind of thinking that powerful forces in and out of government representing those now at the core of power are determined to stamp out. The fact is that the whole agenda of this ruling class, internationally and within this country, cannot stand up to critical thinking and a rational pursuit of the truth. So they have to change the definition of what’s the truth and how the truth is arrived at. And they have to rule out of order and beyond the pale critical thinking and dissent which would call into question not only things like the immediate causes of 9/11, but the more fundamental realities of U.S. history and its current international role and ambitions.
This attack on Kevin Barrett again underscores the urgent need for a movement on the campuses across the country, among faculty and students alike, to stand up to these attacks on dissent and critical thinking, as a critical part of challenging the whole direction those at the core of power are driving this country, and the world.
Revolution #56, August 13, 2006
World Can't Wait Builds for Day of Mass Resistance
Over the past couple of weeks, there have been important developments in the battle for a day of mass resistance on October 5th to bring a halt to, and drive out the Bush Regime. On August 3rd, World Can’t Wait placed a full page ad in the New York Times reaching millions with a startling graphic, the call for October 5th, and an impressive list of signers, and a call for donations. (The ad can be read or reprinted from http://worldcantwait.org/images/aug06ad.pdf) The World Can’t Wait Summer Bus Tour has been traveling through the South is now in the Midwest, spreading the message, connecting people with the vision, and mobilizing people for - as World Can’t Wait puts it in an article at their web site,
“a great wave were unleashed, moving together on the same occasion, making, through their firm stand and their massive numbers, a powerful political statement that could not be ignored: refusing that day to work, or walking out from work, taking off from school or walking out of school — joining together, rallying and marching, drawing forward many more with them, and in many and varied forms of creative and meaningful political protest throughout the day, letting it be known that they are determined to bring this whole disastrous course to a halt by driving out the Bush Regime through the mobilization of massive political opposition.”
Reprinted from worldcantwait.org
October 5: There is a Way! There is a Day!
Think of all the people who are deeply distressed over the direction in which the Bush regime is dragging the country - and the world… All the people who are outraged over the way in which this regime is arrogantly seeking to bludgeon into submission people in the Middle East, and throughout the world, while trampling on the rights of the people in the U.S. itself… All the people who care about the future of humanity and the planet we live on, and who recognize the many ways in which the Bush regime is increasingly posing a dire threat to this… All the people who are stirred with a profound restlessness by these feelings but are held back by the fear that they are alone and powerless; or who say that they wish something could be done to stop and reverse this whole disastrous course, but nothing will make a difference; or who hope that somehow the Democrats will do something to change this, when everyday it becomes more clear that they will not… All these people, who make up a very large part of the population of this country and whose basic sentiments are shared by the majority of people throughout the world…
Imagine if, from out of this huge reservoir of people, a great wave were unleashed, moving together on the same occasion, making, through their firm stand and their massive numbers, a powerful political statement that could not be ignored: refusing that day to work, or walking out from work, taking off from school or walking out of school — joining together, rallying and marching, drawing forward many more with them, and in many and varied forms of creative and meaningful political protest throughout the day, letting it be known that they are determined to bring this whole disastrous course to a halt by driving out the Bush Regime through the mobilization of massive political opposition.
If that were done, then the possibility of turning things around and onto a much more favorable direction would take on a whole new dimension of reality.
It would go from something only vaguely hoped for, by millions of isolated individuals, and acted on by thousands so far, to something that had undeniable moral force and unprecedented political impact.
There is a way to make this happen. There is a day, coming soon, on which people will be mobilizing to make this a reality. There is a vehicle and a means through which anguish, outrage and frustration can be transformed into truly meaningful, positive and powerful political mobilization.
On October 5, 2006, on the basis of the Call, The World Can’t Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime!, people throughout the country will be stepping forward in a day of mass resistance. The breadth, the depth, the impact and the power of that day depends not only on those in The World Can’t Wait organization, and others, who are already organizing for this day — it depends on you, on us, on all those who have been hoping and searching for a means to do something that will really make a difference.
If we fail to act to make this a reality, then it will definitely make a difference — in a decidedly negative way. But if we do take up the challenge to build for this, and then do take history into our hands on that day, through political action on the massive scale that is called for — it can make all the difference in the world, in a very positive sense and for the possibility of a better future for humanity.
AS THE CALL, THE WORLD CAN’T WAIT - DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME!, CONCLUDES:
“The point is this: history is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. The future is unwritten. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US.”