The two most important developments in the world today, from the point of view of the advance of socialism, are in Latin America and China.
In Latin America forces seeking to establish socialism have advanced as part of a turn to the left by almost all of the continent. In Venezuela a direct struggle to establish the second socialist state in the Latin America, after Cuba, is underway. For more than a decade that socialist programme has commanded the support of the majority of Venezuela’s population against the determined opposition of the US and its allies.
From Chavez’s election in 1999, through the defeat of the right wing coup in 2002, to the breaking of the attempted sabotage of Venezuela’s oil industry by its management in the same year, to Chavez’s successive electoral victories, this is 13 years of the most sustained progressive movement seen in the world in that period. The explicitly socialist struggle in Venezuela has interacted with other left wing currents in Latin America to propel the situation in the whole continent forward.
China has witnessed the most rapid economic growth ever seen in a major country in human history and lifted 620 million people, more than the entire population of the European Union or Latin America, out of internationally defined poverty. It has created the second largest economy in the world and one which, at current growth rates, will overtake US GDP in size in under a decade.
Trade with China, which is now the world’s largest exporter and the most rapidly growing importer, has allowed a whole series of semi-colonial countries, in particular in Africa and Latin America, to break with economic dominance by the US. This helped enable Latin America to greatly speed up its economic growth and consequently improve the living conditions of its population.
China has become an increasingly important partner for Venezuela, as with other Latin American countries, in both trade and investment. Also China, despite strong imperialist opposition, launched a satellite for Venezuela which has greatly improved communications for the population in that country.
But while the objective interaction between Latin America and China is already strong the subjective study of lessons from each other had lagged behind. The general international economic boom prior to the 2008 financial crash meant that most of Latin America’s economies were able to advance with only mildly left wing, but not specifically socialist, economic policies. There was therefore no urgent incentive in Latin America to study China’s highly successful socialist economic model. China, on its side, was cautious in forging close links in what had previously been seen as the US’s political backyard for fear of provoking a sharp clash with US imperialism.
Recently, however, there have been clear signs that both Latin America and China are now much more actively studying each other. The 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath has led to a radicalisation of economic policy in some Latin American countries. Whereas in 2008 Venezuela responded to the financial crisis by mistaken tight financial policies, which created an economic recession, it has responded to the new wave of international financial crisis in the last two years with strong programmes of state investment in housing and infrastructure. The result has been both economic growth and sharp improvement in the population’s living conditions.
In Cuba a ‘China style’ economic reform has begun. Simultaneously a number of figures in Brazil have begun to discuss China’s economic model. In short China’s economic policies are beginning to be more studied or followed in what had previously been a situation of rather eclectic and reformist Latin American economic policy making.
At the same time as China’s economic policies began to be studied in Latin America, China has clearly become more involved in interaction with Latin America. Going beyond bilateral relations with individual countries China has now proposed a free trade agreement with the Latin American economic bloc Mercosur. In an interesting development the Chinese Communist Party has issued a long study of its relations with political parties in Latin America. This was published illustrated with a photo of Che Guevara and Zhou Enlai – a clearly interesting and non-politically banal choice.
It is therefore clear that subjective as well as objective links between Latin America and China are speeding up. This is one of the most important developments in the world as it brings together the two most powerful forces currently pushing forward the struggle for socialism.
THE new axis of evil, the leaders of the US, France and the UK, have come together to threaten Syria with war, with US army units assembled close to Syria’s borders in the wake of the recent military exercises in Jordan, in which US, British, French, Jordanian and Saudi forces took part.
Obama, Cameron, and the ‘socialist’ Hollande have issued their edict based on the wmd lies that were used to touch off the murderous assault on Iraq.
The big lie was that they had to attack Iraq because it had wmds that could be used to attack British troops in Cyprus and other places in a few hours. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were murdered, and the advanced state of Iraq was bombed and shelled ‘back into the Stone Age’, with only ‘important buildings’ such as the Oil Ministry left standing.
Now we are being told that if Syria uses its alleged chemical weapons, or threatens to do so or to move them, the imperialists will feel obliged to take military action to save people’s lives, and in the process slaughter further hundreds of thousands of people.
As everybody knows, the Syrian opposition is more than capable of staging a fake chemical attack or flooding the world’s media with tall stories that Syrian chemical weaponry is on the move and will be used, to trigger an imperialist assault.
The imperialists have their big lie, and they have the forces on the ground to manufacture the cause for war when, and as, required.
It is only a matter of making the decision to proceed.
As the Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Jamil said of the Obama-Cameron-Hollande axis, they are looking for an excuse to intervene to try and head off an internal settlement between the Syrian government and sections of the opposition, and to destroy Syria as an anti-imperialist state.
Such an intervention will touch off a regional war – there is already heavy fighting taking place in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, and an attack by the imperialists on Syria will spread the war to the Lebanon with an Israeli attack on Hezbollah, and draw Iraq and Iran into a struggle for the survival of the anti-imperialist states in the Middle East and the Gulf.
The Saudis and Qataris are the most enthusiastic backers of such a war. They see an attack on Syria, and Hezbollah, as the essential prelude to the final solution, defeating and partitioning Iran, leaving them to run the Middle East and the Gulf for the imperialists.
Any such war will see Russia and China, out of the need of self-preservation, supplying the Iranians and Syrians and the Lebanese anti-imperialists with arms, equipment and supplies.
The imperialists would also experience ferocious opposition in both Syria and the Lebanon, with the prospect that oil supplies could be cut, making the three-day week in the 1970s after the Yom Kippur war seem like a picnic.
However, for the imperialist powers their desperate crisis leaves them no option but to carry out the most desperate measures, which will threaten the lives of tens if not hundreds of millions of people.
The British workers and the workers of Europe must not allow a new Iraqi-style war with Syria.
The peoples of the Middle East and the workers of the UK, the EU and the US have the same enemy, the UK, EU and US ruling classes, and their feudal Arab servants in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Any victory of the imperialists in Syria would be a defeat for the workers of the world. Our enemy is at home.
Workers in the UK must answer any attack by the imperialists on Syria with a general strike to bring down the coalition and bring in a workers government and socialism. This is the only way forward.
The News Line: Feature http://wrp.org.uk/news/7856Saturday, 25 August 2012‘The situation… provides a historic opportunity to break free from the global capitalist market’ says Syrian deputy premier Qadri Jamil
Syrian Youth in Britain demonstration outside their embassy in London on August 4th in support of President Assad and in opposition to the US/UK-backed terror campaign in Syria
SYRIAN deputy Premier Qadri Jamil, and Syrian Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs Ali Haydar have spoken on Damascus TV following their meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Jamil said: ‘The Syrian government delegation’s visit to Moscow – as you can see from the makeup of this delegation – is a political visit with primarily political objectives.
‘The Syrian crisis has been on for a year and a half. The current Syrian government placed national reconciliation at the top of its agenda. Achieving national reconciliation, as we understand it, requires the commencement of a comprehensive political process securing a safe exit from the current situation in Syria.
‘About an hour ago we ended a lengthy and cordial meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The meeting was very important. We discussed in detail the prospects of a solution to the Syrian crisis. The Syrian people want the crisis to end. This crisis causes bloodshed. This crisis puts much strain today on the Syrian economy, which reflects negatively on the life of the Syrian citizens.
‘Our position as to how this crisis can be resolved has been clear from the very beginning. We must go to dialogue without preconditions. Setting preconditions for a dialogue is effectively an obstruction of the dialogue. Those who want dialogue to start should go immediately for it and put their ideas and visions about a solution and about future Syria, the new and renewed Syria, on the dialogue table.
‘I do not think the discussion of any issue at the dialogue table is forbidden. But there must be commitment to certain principles in order to launch the dialogue.
‘These principles have now become known: first, rejection of all forms of foreign intervention, and, second, rejection of all forms of violence. The dialogue table cannot be a platform for dialogue on the admissibility or inadmissibility of foreign intervention or the use of violence.
‘These two points are not conditions, but rather principles because the dialogue will be doomed to failure if no agreement is reached on these two principles. If we agree on these principles, I think all other issues become amenable to solution through a dialogue seeking to achieve accord.
‘This particular issue was the subject of expanded discussion with Mr Lavrov. As you know, a Syrian government economic delegation visited Moscow a few weeks ago. Several understandings were reached during that visit, and these require implementation, monitoring and discussion to advance them in reality.
‘We in the Syrian government seriously want, on the basis of the policy statement that the government presented to the People’s Assembly, to move towards the East. For us, this means relations with all the countries that resemble us and that have historically had situations identical to ours.
‘For us, the East means Russia, China, India, and also Venezuela – in other words, the East is a political, not only a geographic, concept.
‘We believe that the global situation today, represented by the crisis of the capitalist power, provides a historic opportunity for all these peoples to break free from the global capitalist market and change the principles of unequal exchange by which they have been governed for hundreds of years.
‘At this moment, the Syrian people and their government want to benefit from this historic opportunity because this serves both the Syrian people and the international economic relations as it will greatly alleviate the persecution from which all these peoples suffered through the unequal international exchange system that prevailed during the neocolonialism and that was directly practised during the old colonisation epoch.
‘So, for the Syrian government, heading East is a strategic and very serious slogan. We know that this is not an easy thing to do because it involves a change of a system, a system of international relations and a system of domestic development at the same time. It is a political, economic, and social change. But we insist on taking this road.
‘Hence the intensification of our meetings with all the friends, especially when Syria is suffering from unjust sanctions imposed by the EU and the United States. They claim that these illegitimate and unilateral sanctions target the regime, but they effectively and practically harm all Syrians.
‘The Western, European, American position, with regard to the sanctions, is a hypocritical position that largely harms the Syrian people and citizens who are today suffering a great deal as a result of these sanctions.
‘And because a friend in need is a friend indeed, we sense that the Russians and all the other friends – the Chinese, the Iranians, and all the others – want to help us to ease the impact of the sanctions on the Syrian citizens’
Answering questions, Jamil said national dialogue has been proposed by the Syrian regime since July 2011. But every time the Syrians were close to a political solution, ‘foreign interference’ intensified to prevent it.
‘I – not only me but the Syrian people – accuse the West of adopting a hypocritical position. While it sheds crocodile tears over the Syrian people, it obstructs every possibility for political solution.’
He said that violence in Syria is being encouraged through the influx of armed men, including Al Qaeda elements, and the provision of armed men with weapons and money.
Jamil also said the West wants the bloodshed in Syria to continue in order to end Syria’s role or even ‘cancel Syria itself as a political, geographic unit in the future.’
The Syrian deputy prime minister added that when Lavrov talks about a transitional government in Syria ‘he does not depart from the logical context of a solution to the Syrian crisis, a solution to which the Syrian government – before the formation of the latest government – announced its commitment.’
He continued that a ‘transitional government or a national unity government has one function; namely bringing the country out of its crisis, and this is what Syria wants.’
Asked about oppositionist Haytham Manna’s call for bringing to trial all those who militarised the Syrian uprising and so caused Syrian bloodshed, Haydar saluted Manna and all Syrian nationalists.
‘From my official position I address greetings to Haytham Manna’ and ‘to all those who adopt a nationalist discourse’, and he noted that Manna was strongly attacked abroad for his rejection of foreign military intervention.
Jamil stressed Minister Hydar’s ‘positive evaluation’ of the Coordination Committee’s recent initiative, and said he sees prospects for expanding the circle of the participants in the dialogue.
There are ‘strong signs’ that ‘the commencement of a comprehensive political process is now very imminent.’
On chemical weapons, the Syrian deputy prime minister said the talk about chemical weapons in Syria by the outside world ‘reminds us of the myth of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
‘The West is looking for an excuse to directly intervene in Syria. If this excuse does not work, it will try to find another one. But it does not understand a new fact established by the international reality after the Russian-Chinese veto and continued to this moment: direct military intervention in Syria is impossible because those who think of it choose a confrontation that goes beyond Syria’s border.’
He described US President Barack Obama’s threats to Syria over its chemical weapons as ‘media threats’ the president wants to employ in his election campaign.
Asked about the opposition’s call on President Bashar al-Assad to step down, Jamil said: ‘Setting the resignation as a condition before the start of the dialogue implicitly means closing the dialogue table before its opening.
‘But on the dialogue table, nothing prevents discussing any issue any of the conferees thinks of or asks to be discussed.
‘Even this issue can be discussed. But is it democratic to demand resignation before we find the mechanisms through which the Syrian people can express their views, even on this issue?’
He added: ‘I believe the entire Syrian people must be consulted on this issue. If this issue is imposed by the outside world, it will be a serious precedent in international relations.’
And calls for Al-Assad’s resignation ‘encroach upon the Syrian people’s right to self-determination.’
Jamil stressed: ‘The Syrian people are the ones to decide the fate of any person anywhere. Seizing this right is effectively an insult and trusteeship on the Syrian people.’
He reiterated that ‘there is no taboo’ on the dialogue table.
Haydar welcomed any effort by any foreign country to facilitate the dialogue in Syria but said such a country must not take sides.
And while these foreign parties can facilitate the dialogue, the Syrian people alone will determine the forms and mechanisms of change.
‘No foreign party can interfere in this,’ he concluded.
Four years ago, the Summer Olympics were held in China. The U.S. media, from right-wing Fox News to the liberal pundits of MSNBC, had a great deal to say about the host nation. Claims were made about China’s air quality due to pollution. Tibetan separatists assaulted a woman in a wheel chair while snatching the Olympic torch in Paris. The anti-China and anti-communist attacks and rhetoric seemed endless. The China bashers were given a multimillion-dollar megaphone, before millions of viewers, to call for the U.S. to boycott the Olympics and paint the Chinese government as the face of evil.
This year, however, the Olympics were held in London, and the tone of the press was quite different.
But here are some facts to consider about these two countries.
No corner of the globe has been untouched by the lust for wealth and profits of the British Empire, the British capitalists, or the plundering monarchs who preceded them. Their human rights violations have gone on for centuries.
Let us not forget the infamous “Opium War,” when Britain declared war against China for refusing to accept the importation of narcotics.
British settlers throughout Africa colonized, exploited and killed millions of people, indisputably. It was Britain that once colonized Zimbabwe, calling it “Rhodesia” after a brutal imperialist thug named Cecil Rhodes. The revolution led by Robert Mugabe kicked the British out, and they have not forgiven Zimbabwe, especially as it redistributes stolen land back to the people.
It was against Britain that the people of India fought for independence, only to face brutal repression. It was Britain that issued the Balfour Declaration, allowing the earliest settlements on Palestinian land, and paving the way for decades of Zionist terror, war and apartheid against the Palestinian people.
British troops currently occupy the North of Ireland, with a record of torture and murder there that is miles long.
British bombs recently tore apart Libya, as they helped lead a NATO crusade for oil. Britain has killed thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan.
British workers, youth face austerity
Conditions inside Britain itself are not so great either. The British government is imposing austerity. Public sector workers in Britain are being rapidly laid off.
College students are facing privatization and fee hikes, and being arrested when they protest these attacks. British youth are taking to the streets and fighting the police. Like many youth throughout the world, they face a future without hope inside a dying capitalist economy.
Fascist thugs like the English Defense League are terrorizing the immigrant communities. The open fascists of the British National Party represent the country in the European Parliament.
If a government’s real or alleged crimes are grounds for a boycott, Britain fits these criteria perfectly.
But such information hasn’t appeared in the Olympic coverage. The editorial pages and pundits of cable news have remained silent about Britain’s ugly history as a founding pioneer of racist colonialism and capitalist imperialism.
The banks and corporations that plunder the world have no problem with Britain. Many of their giant banks are even headquartered in London. The British government, from the right-wing racist Tories to the “socialists” in the Labour Party, are not merely their friends, but their hired stooges as they sit atop a world empire.
China’s story is quite different
In 1949, China had a revolution. The brutal autocrat Chiang Kai-Shek, who was adored by the British and U.S. ruling classes, was driven out. Mao Zedong announced, “The Chinese people have stood up!” The drug addiction which Britain reinforced with the Opium War was nearly wiped out in the following decades. The signs in China’s parks that said, “No Dogs or Chinese Allowed,” were removed. Women emerged with unbound feet.
Today, instead of trading with Britain, the old exploiter and colonizer, many African countries are happy to do business with the People’s Republic of China.
China’s history, as celebrated in its opening ceremonies four years ago, contains truths that are quite threatening to the banks and corporations. They show that the capitalist world order of profits and misery is not the only option. A quarter of humanity opted out of bondage with a people’s revolution in 1949, and they are better off as a result.
In the opinion of the ruling elite, Britain, with its unemployment, colonialism and racism, sets a much better example for the global 99% to follow. The last thing the global 1% who rule Britain, the U.S., and most of the world want us to hear, are the words Mao Zedong once said to the people of China: “It is right to rebel!”
For decades after Hafez al-Assad came to power in 1970 Syria's political and economic system seemed to guarantee the country's stability and independence.
The Ba'athist version of "Arab socialism" kept the country out of the clutches of the West, its anti-Israeli stance made it a key regional and Arab power and its state sector also allowed the country to improve living conditions and pursue modernisation.
In the early 1970s, Assad strengthened links with the Soviet Union.
In 1972 he brought the Syrian Communist Party (SCP) into his Progressive National Front alongside Arab socialist, Nasserist and nationalist groups.
From Assad's perspective this not only broadened the regime's base but also acted as a means of turning potential critics into subordinate allies.
While the SCP attempted to use its legality to press for deeper social change, its acceptance of legal status also meant it was forced to work within the limits defined by the Ba'ath.
Although Assad improved relations with the West and other Arab states - with the singular exception of Iraq, ruled by a hostile rival current of Ba'athism - the Soviet Union became a major military and close economic ally of Syria.
Soviet experts categorised Syria as one of several countries of "socialist orientation" and the Syrian Ba'ath as part of an international trend of "revolutionary democrats."
Both terms implied certain important distinctions between Syria and what the Soviets regarded as fully socialist states. Nonetheless the assumption was that Syria's social development was laying the ground for socialist development.
Subsequent developments in Syria and elsewhere - at various times Soviet writers had also spoken of Egypt, Algeria and Iraq in similar rose-tinted terms - showed how easy it was to reverse this process. Later these very same countries would opt for capitalist orientation with reactionary undemocratic regimes.
Nonetheless, throughout the late 1960s and 1970s there seemed to be rational grounds for optimism.
A US Congress report noted: "In the 1960s, land reform, nationalisation of key industries and the socialist transformation of the economy affected the pace and scope of economic development. Growth of the economy, measured by GDP at market prices in terms of constant 1980 prices, averaged 9.7 per cent a year during the 1970s."
Despite the stellar performance of the 1970s, by the early to mid-1980s warning signs were appearing.
Growing in parallel with the state sector was a specific form of capitalist development that fed off lucrative state sub-contracts and skimmed money through bribery and black marketeering.
Dubbed by Marxists as the "bureaucratic bourgeoisie" or the "parasitical bourgeoisie," these crony capitalists used personal connections and political patronage to amass fortunes.
Noting similar developments in their own country, South African communists have colourfully described these economic strata as "tenderpreneurs."
Writing in World Marxist Review in June 1984, SCP politburo member Khalid Hammami wrote that in his country "the parasitical bourgeoisie is growing and corruption is rife. The ruling quarters are suspicious and fearful of all initiative or independent activity on the part of the masses."
This is reinforced from a different perspective by a recent overview by Jihad Yazigi, editor of the business magazine Syria Report.
He has argued that in the past public-sector advances had built enormous legitimacy for the Syrian government among ordinary people but that "their disillusionment since that time has followed three decades of state divestment, liberalisation of trade, neglect of agriculture and of rural areas, and government prioritisation of the services sector."
Yazigi notes that Bashar al-Assad's effort to open up the economy also had a negative impact as free trade agreements and tariff reductions resulted in a flood of foreign products overwhelming local producers.
Especially hard hit have been farmers in rural areas affected by drought and the cuts in government subsidies, which "reduced the contribution of agriculture to GDP from around 25 per cent to 19 per cent in less than a decade."
Syria's current economic problems have been compounded by the explosive growth of the non-productive sectors of the private sector, the "parasitical bourgeoisie" Hammami warned about.
Marxist economist Qadri Jamil estimates that corruption accounts for between 20 to 40 per cent of Syrian GDP, generated through government deals and the exploitation of government resources such as selling subsidised goods on the black market.
Bashar Assad's close family and associates have certainly been beneficiaries.
The country's richest man Rami Makhlouf is Assad's maternal cousin with assets ranging from real estate to the country's major mobile phone operator. All are business sectors that rely heavily on state approval and licences.
Growing unemployment - especially among the young - rising poverty and the ostentatious emergence of a politically connected business class have been key domestic causes of Syria's unrest alongside demands for greater political freedom.
However, past attempts to push the Ba'ath Party and the country on to the path of political self-reform and economic rejuvenation appear to have been fruitless and the Assad leadership responded lethargically only after mass protests erupted in 2011.
As the struggle has shifted from civilian protest to military struggle the legitimate grievances and demands of the initial protests and Assad's own belated proposals for reform are being sidelined.
Instead the real battle lines are being drawn over issues of acute regional importance. Syria is a crucial fulcrum in resistance to US hegemony in the Middle East since it has close links with Hezbollah in Lebanon and with Iran.
This is not to whitewash Syria's foreign policy history. Hafez al-Assad intervened in the Lebanese Civil War on the side of right-wing Maronite forces in 1976 against the Palestinians and the Lebanese left.
Syria continued to occupy much of northern Lebanon until 2005. Syria's "elder-brother" interference in Lebanon created enormous lingering resentment.
In the first Gulf war of 1990-91, Syria supported the US against its neighbour Iraq. US secretary of state James Baker was a regular visitor during this time to Damascus.
Despite this, Syria has in general followed an independent line on international affairs.
Now the US sees an opportunity to change that and claim a post-Assad Syria as a client state.
US strategy at the moment shies away from direct intervention but opts instead to use proxy forces.
The Washington Post's well connected columnist David Ignatius wrote on July 19 that "the CIA has been working with the Syrian opposition for several weeks under a non-lethal directive that allows the United States to evaluate groups and assist them with command and control. Scores of Israeli intelligence officers are also operating along Syria's border, though they are keeping a low profile."
What constitutes lethal or non-lethal directives for the CIA is a moot point, especially given credible reports of the agency's direct involvement in arming selected militias of the rebel Free Syrian Army. Aside from the usual suspects - the US, France and Britain - the international anti-Assad coalition consists of seemingly unlikely bedfellows.
Saudi Arabia, which is currently witnessing fresh protests among its own Shia population, would love to see a new Riyadh-friendly regime in Damascus, thereby depriving Iran of a key ally.
Turkey's Islamist government has assiduously wooed the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood and is the major logistical support for the Free Syrian Army command. Furthermore it would like to neutralise Syria's Kurdish national movements, which have been supportive of Turkey's own Kurdish minority.
Israel continues to occupy Syrian and Lebanese as well as Palestinian territory. Israel took the Golan Heights after the 1967 war and the area is now home to some of Israel's most advanced spy technology. Damascus is less than 40 miles away.
In an interview published in the Miami Herald on July 17 a senior Israeli intelligence official based near Israel's border with Syria admitted Israel was gathering critical details of the fighting.
"We know, down to the names of the battalion commanders, what is happening in Syria," the official is quoted as saying. "That is information we are sharing with the relevant partners."
One can only guess who those "partners" are but it can be safely assumed that, directly or indirectly, this sensitive military information is being fed to the rebel militias to allow them to co-ordinate their attacks.
The left in Britain, whatever their criticisms of the Assad government, should have few illusions about who the "Syrian revolution" actually benefits.
Pussy Riot/Femen et al Naive, unwitting stooges for western neo-liberal interests. Bleeding hearts paving the way for NATO boots.
Since when did the west give a shit about the welfare of a bunch of anarcho-feminist punk rockers? Politically naive youngsters doing what politically naive youngsters do, I have no gripe against them, they no doubt felt they were doing right, but their subjective idealism is being used to further the interest of the objective enemy of all humanity. They are pawns in a much greater game than just playing pranks in a church, a game in which they have no control and no real friends and for which they are now paying the price.
This is the shape of imperialism in the 21st Century, using liberal cause celebre to stir and instigate revolts to their advantage and gain. "Human rights" and "free speech" were the west's big issues during the cold war years, now they return to the model and add gay rights, womens rights, hell, even animal rights gets a look in.
As if they give two fucks about any of those things. But it allows bleeding hearts the world over to believe it is they who are calling the shots. even when they become actual gunshots. When western liberals call for "human rights" they are in effect calling for air-strikes.
Imperialism is wagging the liberal dog. The liberals provide the bark, the imperialists the teeth. And it is the rest of the world that gets shat on from a great height. Time to put this sick old dog to sleep for good.
The pro-imperialist "rebels" of the Free Syrian Army
Christians and other minorities have been targeted by the opposition forces simply because of their religious identity. Above, a demolished church.
According to a Reuters report on Aug. 1, based on information provided by government sources, the Obama administration signed a secret order earlier in the year authorizing support for Syrian opposition groups. Known as an “intelligence finding,” the order authorizes the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide tactical and financial assistance to opposition groups in an effort to overthrow the Syrian government.
The same order also provided for collaboration with a secret command center close to the Syrian border in Adana, Turkey, with the aim of providing military, communication and coordination support to opposition groups.
While the order does not explicitly authorize U.S. agencies to arm the opposition, U.S. and NATO forces have been involved in the conflict militarily from the very outset. The main armed group, the Free Syrian Army, has been operating as a proxy force of NATO from the beginning of the uprising in 2011, funded, armed and trained by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, the regional U.S. client states. Meanwhile, many foreign intelligence agencies, including the CIA, have helped to plan and coordinate terrorist attacks in Syria. The FSA has also enjoyed direct assistance from NATO special operations forces on the ground.
While Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been providing the payroll for FSA mercenaries, the U.S. Treasury Department confirmed that it had granted authorization to the Syrian Support Group, a Washington-based representative of the FSA, to conduct financial transactions on the group's behalf. According to another statement by the U.S. State Department the same day, the U.S. government had also set aside a total of $25 million for "non-lethal" assistance to the Syrian opposition for military communications equipment.
UN peace envoy Annan resigns
Meanwhile on Aug. 2, U.N. envoy Kofi Annan announced his resignation due to the failure of what he called an “impossible mission,” referring to his U.N. peace plan. In his resignation statement he made at the U.N. headquarters, Annan said: "At a time when we need—when the Syrian people desperately need action—there continues to be finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council."
In other words, Annan, the main author of the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, which advocates the “right” of imperialist powers to engage in armed intervention for “humanitarian” purposes, is frustrated because the Russian and Chinese governments have vetoed three separate Security Council resolutions that would have opened the door to direct military intervention in Syria.
His frustration may also be related to the fact that while his peace plan was a diplomatic method of legitimizing the rebels and opening the way for the U.N. and the Arab League to intervene in Syria’s internal affairs, the United States and its imperialist allies had no patience for any diplomatic process, preferring outright regime change, which they see as within reach. In parallel with Annan’s frustration, White House spokesman Jay Carney noted that Annan’s resignation showed the failure of Russia and China to act at the U.N. Security Council.
Annan, having resigned as envoy and without the mask of U.N. neutrality, wrote an article on the Financial Times website that was much more straightforward in revealing the R2P-style “peace” he had in mind all along. Revealing which side (imperialist) he has really been on all along, Annan writes: “Military means alone will not end the crisis. It is clear that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office." Totally ignoring the role the United States, United Kingdom, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been playing in stoking a destructive civil war while his peace plan was in effect, the only advice he had for the imperialist front was to press the opposition to embrace a political process.
It is important to note that throughout Annan’s peace process, Syrian opposition groups including the FSA had categorically refused to accept any peace resolution that did not enforce Assad’s removal.
What does the disclosure of US secret order really reveal?
Shortly after Annan’s resignation, the U.N. General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution, authored by Saudi Arabia, demanding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad transfer power to a transitional government. Syrian envoy Bashar Jaafari pointed out that the countries supporting the resolution, specifically Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were not exactly paragons of human rights. Russia and China voted against the resolution. The Russian ambassador to the U.N. noted that the resolution was written as if there was no armed opposition at all, adding that the most active backers of the resolution are actively supporting and financing the opposition and giving them mercenaries and arms.
The secret Obama order for U.S. involvement in Syria in itself does not reveal anything new as far as U.S. policy toward the region is concerned. What is truly revealed by the combination of this secret order, the resignation of Annan due to the failure of his so-called peace plan, and the subsequent U.N. resolution by the oppressive Saudi Arabian monarchy is the utter hypocrisy of imperialist diplomacy and its mouthpieces like Annan, as well as the total mockery of international law that has transpired in the process.
It is a reminder of how the real plan on the table has never had anything to do with peace and everything to do with the destruction, by any means possible, of an independent state that stands in the way of imperialist plans to secure more resources to exploit. It is also a reminder of the danger of a military escalation of the conflict.
Civil war and Syrian society
Syria is a secular state with a population made up largely of Sunnis, Alawites and Christians. The Alawites are a sect of Shi'a Islam, as distinct from the majority of the Syrian population, who are Sunni Muslims. There is also a sizeable Christian population. While the Assad family and some in the ruling circle are Alawites and the rebels are mostly Sunnis, the dividing line among the population is not simply one of Christians and Alawites on the government's side, versus Sunnis on the rebel side. There are definitely many Sunnis who support the government. But with the opposition led by the FSA, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, which are mainly Sunni extremists opposed to the secular orientation of the Syrian state, sectarian divisions have been accentuated over the course of the civil war.
Syria’s pluralistic society that once transcended sectarian divisions is now facing total disintegration and ethnic cleansing, reminiscent of Libya. Throughout the course of the conflict, Christians and other minorities have been targeted by the opposition forces simply because of their religious identity. About 80,000 Christians are estimated to have been displaced from their homes just in Homs province in March by the FSA, a preview of the terror that would likely be unleashed against the sectors that opposed the revolt and foreign intervention, if the opposition forces were to come to power in Syria.
Speaking to The New York Times, a Syrian Christian states that he used to see himself primarily as “Syrian” and that religious identity, in political terms, was an idea that never occurred to him—until an opposition gang attacked his family earlier this year in Homs. “It’s a label they pinned on us, if their revolution is for everyone, as they keep insisting it is, why are Christians being targeted? It is because what they are waging is not a struggle for freedom, and it’s certainly not for everyone.”
Were it not for the overt or covert military, financial and logistic support by the U.S. and its regional client states of the opposition forces, were it not for their direct or indirect involvement in the conflict in Syria, these reactionary, sectarian forces would have likely been defeated long ago by the Syrian government with its military superiority and its mass support from many sectors of the Syrian society, despite the relentless demonization and isolation campaign against it. The conflict would likely have ended before reaching the current level of destruction and sectarian violence. Just this fact alone makes the U.S. government and its client states in the region directly responsible for the carnage and destruction in Syria. They are guilty of war crimes against the Syrian people.
It's getting to be hard times for capitalism's erstwhile spoilt-rotten banking fraternity these days.
Not that capitalist governments are trying to abolish the financial graft that passes for a market economy in these debauched times. Far from it.
But times are tough in the world of profits and margins and when thieves fall out, we all see the results.
Although it would have been gratifying to see the money men of the markets torpedoed by a huge worldwide socialist movement, let's take dissent in the boss-class ranks as a cheerful second best.
The Standard Chartered Bank has been the latest edifice of capitalism to fill everyone - on our side of the fence at least - with pure vindictive glee.
Shares in Standard Chartered PLC dropped sharply last Tuesday, down nearly 25 per cent at one point in early trading on the London Stock Exchange.
Why? Because the New York state department of financial services alleged on Monday that Standard Chartered had schemed with the US's bete noir, the Iranian government, to launder $250 billion (£160bn) from 2001 to 2007.
The regulator ordered Standard Chartered representatives to appear in New York City on August 15 "to explain these apparent violations of law" and to demonstrate why its licence to operate in the state "should not be revoked."
The agency alleged that Standard Chartered conspired with Iranian clients to route nearly 60,000 different US-dollar payments through Standard Chartered's New York branch "after first stripping information from wire transfer messages used to identify sanctioned countries, individuals and entities."
The regulators called the bank a rogue institution and quoted one of its executives as saying: "You fucking Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we're not going to deal with Iranians."
And so it goes on. The order accuses the bank of falsifying business records, obstructing governmental administration, failing to report misconduct to the state quickly, evading federal sanctions and other illegal acts.
The bank, naturally, denies almost everything - as it would, being an insititution which up until this week boasted of being "boring."
Now, we hold no brief for US sanctions on Iran. They are a political manoeuvre by the US in its geopolitical chess-game to control the world.
But what's happening now is, or should be, a wake-up call to those innocents who fondly believe that capitalism and democracy can exist side by side in the same society. They can't.
The battle between the bourgeois-democratic US government and the money men of big capital should prove that adequately enough. In this relatively small battle it's likely that the US regulators will win.
But it is just a small battle, despite the eye-wateringly huge sums involved.
And the banks have already proved that they are so tightly enmeshed with the capitalist infrastructure that national governments won't let them fail because if the banks fail so, ultimately, does capitalism.
But that doesn't mean that the internecine struggle between the various anarchic and mutually hostile elements of capitalism for dominance is going to be allowed to drift.
After all, capitalists' big weakness is that they don't even like each other. Their very philosophy demands that they fight like cats in a sack.
Free-market capitalism is essentially a war of each against the other as well as a fight against the poorest and most numerous class - us - so any advantage gained by a fellow capitalist is fair game for trashing, unless you can get a share of it.
Another little tale emerging this month gives us a hint of just how this all works.
For many years now, the big entrepreneurs and any cowboy trader who had the imagination rushed off to avoid tax wherever they could.
And that meant our old mates the tax havens. But capitalist governments don't like you evading their tax when they need it to give to their mates the bankers, although you can avoid all you like if it's destined for supporting the poor, the weak and the sick.
So now, when the big banks need the big bucks or they'll keel over and take the good ship capitalism with them, those tax-haven sunseekers are ceasing to be the flavour of the month in the corridors of power.
Even the Cayman Islands is - or at least was - turning on its head and seeking a bit of payback from all those tax exiles lining up to beat the Germans to the sun loungers in the mornings.
And boy, did it shock those expats.
Caymans Premier William Mc-Keeva Bush was proposing what amounts to the territory's first ever income tax.
And it would fall only on expatriate workers - at a minimal 10 per cent.
But it provoked absolute outrage in the pages of the Telegraph. Well, it would, wouldn't it?
So much so that good old Premier Bush dropped it like a hot potato last week.And as someone once said: "Well, he would, wouldn't he?"
Because the Cayman Islands has democracy the way the rest of us have piles - a right pain in the bum when it plays up.
It's a wonderful democracy in the Caymans. There's nothing else quite like it. The territory has 56,000 people on a string of little islands.
But at last count in March 2011 it had 91,712 companies registered. It had 235 banks (not branches), 758 insurance companies and assets for the registered companies totalling $1.607 trillion (£1.25tn).
So you can probably see where the power lies there. It ain't in the democratic mandate.
Anthony Travers, the chairman of the Cayman Islands Stock Exchange, described the now defunct tax plan as "probably the single greatest existential threat to the Cayman Islands in over 200 years."
Which is about as far over the top as you can imagine. In fact it's verging on the hysterically nutty, but what would you expect from a man who notoriously described socialists who wanted expats to pay their taxes as the "Tax Taliban."
For now the forces of the exile army of profiteers and tax duckers - a collective noun which encompasses all those who don't want to pay their taxes whether by avoidance or evasion - has won the skirmish.
But the day of the island tax-dodgers is nearly over because the big boys want their money and people such as Mr Travers will be simply swept to the wayside by their own.
For the likes of tax duckers, however, there will always be another scam. They are, after all just the fleas and parasites on the back of the capitalist wolf.
That's why it's the whole system of capitalism, not just its more visible pests, that is the target for us of the Tax Taliban.