Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Imperialism and the catastrophe of the Middle East.

Middle East being Blown Apart by Imperialism
Sean O'Torain.

The Arab world is a made up of twenty or so countries stretching from Morocco across North Africa to Oman and out into the Indian Ocean. I am no expert on this world. Once as an ordinary seaman I sailed through the Suez Canal. But I think with a basic knowledge of history and by painting in broad strokes and considering events in light of what is known as the Theory of the Permanent Revolution, we can understand what is going on.

The Arab countries lived for centuries in relative peace with their tribal feudal/cultures. For the sake of simplicity I will leave out the plundering of the Crusades. Then by the latter half of the1800’s, capitalism and in particular, the capitalists of Western Europe and North America, gained strength worldwide. By the end of the First World War, North American capitalism became dominant. Around the same time, the Ottoman Empire based around what is now Turkey, broke up. Most of the Arab Muslim world was part of the Ottoman Empire which also reached as far north as parts of Central Europe. Oil had been discovered in the region some time earlier. So this along with the break up of the Ottoman Empire, the advanced capitalist countries licked their chops at the prospect of new territories and new profits from this new energy source.

Capitalism did not develop evenly. Western European and US capitalism was to the fore and in these countries became known as Imperialism. Imperialism organized its capital and went out and looted, plundered and slaughtered the rest of the world. This Imperialism invaded the Arab world. British, French and Italian imperialism in particular divided up the region of the Middle East into different countries, created ramshackle nation states where in most cases there previously were none. (Read Robert Fisk on this here). In most cases they paid no heed to any organic or natural cohesion that existed previously. Whole countries were formed by the sword and people forced into or out of countries where they had no roots. The Zionist state of Israel was formed out of the land of the Palestinian people. This dividing up of the region and the creation of new states  helped Imperialism with its divide and rule strategy. It helped it divide the peoples of the region along religious and other lines and so helped them loot the wealth.

When a minority rules a majority, as was the case with the forces of Imperialism in the Arab world, they have to divide the majority, undermine what is a natural unity and opposition to their oppression. We all know this as the Divide and Rule tactic like British imperialism used in Ireland on religious grounds and US imperialism did in North America with the Native Americans before it almost wiped them out with genocide. Like it did by dividing the working class along racial lines in the US. Like it does in Israel with its Zionist policies and the Arab peoples. 

The aim of Imperialism in the Middle East and the Arab world, was and is, to steal the wealth of the region. For this they had to divide the region. People do not like to be robbed. This resulted in the vast majority of the people in these newly formed nation states remaining trapped in a state of poverty.  Ireland was much like this up until the 1960’s.

Being divided, uprooted, in starvation and living a precarious existence meant a disaster for the masses of the Middle East. But there is an even greater disaster and that’s the situation we are seeing now as nations are breaking up, war and violence is everywhere leading to the mass migration of people whose numbers are so great they are destabilizing Western Europe. The region is being blown apart and thousands of men, women and children, entire families have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to escape.

So it’s important to recognize that the dominant feature that explains the catastrophe of the Arab World today is the role of and crimes of Imperialism. Do not be fooled by the polite talking diplomats and Bourgeois of the Imperialist world. They are war criminals. They plundered and divided and destroyed the Arab world. They are to blame. But this is not the whole explanation. How were they able to accomplish this so thoroughly?

Help From Within
Imperialism had help in this venture from sources in the Arab world---- that is the capitalist class or bourgeois of these countries are partners in crime with Imperialism, in Imperialism’s crimes for a share of the loot.  The Saudi’s, the Jordanian ruling class, the Egyptian, the lot of them, even the Iranian Mullah’s are all or have all been  partners of US imperialism at one time or another to varying degrees.

What was and still is, their role relative to Imperialism. The Bourgeois in countries like Britain, France, Germany, Italy etc., came on to the scene of history much earlier and in an organic way, developing within their own borders and displacing their own feudal ruling classes.  They had wealth and eventually political power and were able to develop and unify their countries economically and territorially.

But things were different for the capitalist classes, for the bourgeois in the Arab world.  They could not do the same. Why not? Why could they not stand up to and drive back Imperialism as it expanded in to their world and develop as advanced capitalist countries, with unified territories and a unified home market?

Leon Trotsky explained in his Theory of the Permanent Revolution that in countries where the capitalist class came on to the scene of history late, that is when Imperialism had already developed and ruled the world, the bourgeois in these newly late coming countries, these colonized  countries, colonized countries, were not able to carry out their historic tasks. These tasks were: to drive out imperialism, unify their national territories, unify and develop a vibrant capitalist economy and home market; they were too weak, dominated by powerful imperialist nations and too linked to the feudal landed aristocracy to do so. And they were also too afraid of their own working class. The weak capitalist classes in such countries and this includes the Middle east capitulated to Imperialism. They had come on the scene of history too late to play an independent role.

One or two small countries in the Arab world may have half achieved this with the crumbs snapped up from the table of Imperialism, but in the main this has not been the case. So the catastrophe of the Arab World flows from a combination of the aggressive dividing and looting of Imperialism and at the same time the inability of the Arab Bourgeois, all its wings, to stand up to and defeat Imperialism, utilize their huge natural wealth and to develop the Arab countries and lead them into the future with a modern capitalist economy and unified nation. Even the Saudi Bourgeois, armed as it is by US imperialism, and with massive oil wealth, cannot develop a modern capitalist country. They are hated by their own population who are also pacified by government employment and benefits from their massive oil wealth and the importing of foreign labor to do the hard work.

Historically and up to the present day, Imperialism was and is the aggressor, the local Bourgeois the capitulator. So the history of these countries has been one of never ending mass poverty, wars and break up,  millions of people fleeing their homes, mass wars and slaughter.

In 2003 the idiot Bush brought down Hussein in Iraq and opened the door to the implosion of the region into which he and US imperialism hoped to penetrate, strengthen its base, both in Iraq and up into Central Asia and further surround Russia and China. That did not work so well. We see the savagery of ISIS, the increased tensions and even the possibility of nuclear war between the various powers.

Things took another dramatic turn in 2011. The other major force in the region stood up. In the Arab Spring, the masses, took to the streets. Across the region in country after country the masses of the population rose in revolt and rocked and in some cases brought down the local Imperialist stooge regimes like Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt who Hillary Clinton and the Obama Administration defended until it became impossible to continue to do so. Hillary Clinton said that Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak was “like family”.

But the Arab Spring was not an action by Imperialism or by the local Bourgeois. It was an action by the other force in the region. The masses. They rose up against Imperialism and its stooge regimes. It was in fact an uprising of the working class and the youth and the lower layers of the middle class and the women. The uprising may not have been fully conscious of itself as a working class uprising but that is what it was objectively. It had the potential to drive out Imperialism and its stooge regimes. It had the potential to unify the Arab world into a democratic socialist region with democratic socialist rights and the right of self-determination for all nations.  But tragically this did not happen. Instead the region has sunk back into chaos as into the vacuum that developed there arose reactionary groups like ISIS and new Imperialist stooge regimes and civil war and all sorts of militias. The Arab working class is potentially the most powerful force in the region. It was the backbone of the Arab Spring. So why did this happen?

This happened because this massive potential force for change, the Arab working class was not conscious of itself as an independent force with independent interests, and was not organized independently to achieve these interests. The working class in the Arab world, and in fact in the Middle East as a whole, if united and mobilized could drive out Imperialism and its stooges, defeat the sectarian militias, and unify the region in a democratic socialist sustainable federation of the Middle East.

Only the Arab working class can solve the crisis in the Middle East and of capitalism in general. Under capitalism the Middle East is being blown to bits. The responsibility for solving the catastrophe in the Middle East and in fact throughout the entire world rests on the shoulders of the working class. This is what has to be understood if the catastrophe in the Middle East is to be brought to an end. In fact , even more, if we are to survive as a species on this planet.

It is not enough to state that it is the task of the working class to solve the catastrophe in the Middle East. The question has to be asked why has the working class so far been unable to solve this catastrophe. Why has the working class not carried out the tasks history has laid before it?

The answer is not complicated. It has been unable to do so because of its leadership. Not just the leadership of the working class in the region, there are many trade unions in the region, but also the leadership of the working class internationally. There are 200 million workers organized in trade unions worldwide. This is a potentially massive force. It could change the world. It was no accident that it was Hussein and the Iraqi regime that US imperialism destroyed with such ferocity. Iraq was the most secular of the Arab countries and therefore least influenced by Imperialism’s religious stooges and it also had a high and percentage of trade union members in its work force. There were many strikes in the docks of Basra and other workplaces. The Iraqi’s have a long militant tradition of fighting against British imperialism.

The working class is held back by its leadership internationally, both the leaders of the Social Democratic and Stalinist parties and the trade unions Before the collapse of Stalinism the bureaucracy in the former Soviet Union controlled large trade unions internationally including in the Middle East. Locked into its position of seeking always to make peace with Imperialism because of its reactionary stages theory, it continually prevented the working class in its organizations from overthrowing capitalism. It’s stages theory was that history was at its democratic stage and the idea of socialist revolution was not on the table, so Stalinism had to make peace with Imperialism.

Stalinism put down any effort by the working class internationally to carry out the socialist revolution. It did so also in the Middle East. Stalinism along with Imperialism has blood on its hands when it comes to the Middle East. The Stalinist leaderships made it impossible for the working class in the Middle East and internationally to end Imperialism and in relation to the Middle East to create a new democratic socialist Middle East. The Stalinist as well as the Social Democratic working class leadership are both responsible for the working class so far being unable to solve the problems of the Middle East or the world.

So to sum up: The cause of the catastrophe of the Middle East is the looting, plundering, slaughtering and divide and rule policies of Imperialism and its local stooges. Along with this is the weakness and failure of Arab capitalism to defeat imperialism and build a unified territory and economy across the region. And the responsibility for solving the catastrophe in the Middle East lies with the working class in the region and internationally. But, and it is the big but, It is not only a question of the working class, it is also a question of the policies and leaderships of the working class. The leaderships of the working class with their pro capitalist policies are responsible for preventing the working class from ending Imperialism and capitalism and ending the catastrophe of the Middle east.

Again to refer to Leon Trotsky: He said: “The crisis of the human species is the crisis of the proletarian leadership." Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than the catastrophic conditions that now exist in the Middle East.

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