Monday, December 19, 2016

Imperialism, workers and the collective process

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Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

The crisis in the Middle East cannot be solved within the framework of capitalism, it is a result of it; a crisis of the system itself, just as the looming environmental catastrophe is.  We shared Clark's comments in this video below in a posting last week and as his comments reveal, the so-called migrant crisis in Europe is not a migrant crisis and these people are not migrants, but refugees, victims of imperialist war. They are fleeing the consequences of US foreign policy in the region, intensified further with the increased presence of Russian imperialism and influence in the region through the proxy war being fought in Syria.

The Wikileaks Files, based on the leaked US government cables between US Embassies, foreign diplomats and the US state department, reveal the level of imperialist meddling and subsequent violence that results from it. Like the more intense and violent weather patterns, the poverty, disease and starvation in places like Africa and other parts of the world, these crises are market driven, they are not some sort of natural phenomenon.

This blog has weekly conference calls that some of our readers and supporters participate in and last Saturday we had an excellent discussion on the world situation including the events in the Middle East. We’d like to share them here. We do not take votes or make formal decisions based on them but try to reach some sort of understanding of the world around us through a collective process.

Can Trump or will Trump make a deal with Russia?  There has undoubtedly been a shift with regards to Russia’s influence in the Middle East with the recent events in Syria and now in Aleppo if things work out as reported. This also strengthens Iran.

We discussed the possibility of US (and western policy in general) policy toward the Saudi’s shifting a little. The Saudi’s have faced some open criticism from Trump and others like the UK’s Boris Johnson.  Trump likes to refer to himself as the great dealmaker. Is there a possibility of a deal with Russia which would also include Iran in some way?  His selection of Exxon’s boss as secretary of state seems to point in this direction as well.

Both the US and Russia agree that Isis and Islamic fundamentalism in general has to be dealt with and the House of Saud is the principle supporter and funder of Islamic fundamentalists. Also, it is becoming increasingly difficult for US imperialism to condemn the Assad regime given the Saudi slaughter in Yemen including the massacre of civilians and children there. This is all done with US planes, bombs and logistic assistance.

The recent legislation allowing US “terror victims” to sue Saudi Arabia and Trump’s support for that is another factor that has the Saudi’s worried and they are considering their financial strategy in the US with regard to their sovereign wealth fund and also energy investments. They are concerned that their funds could be sequestered in the event of lawsuits for example.

As ruthless as the Saudi regime is, it’s capacity for wreaking havoc on the world’s working class and poor population with its US weapons pales when compared to US imperialism. Obama’s visited Laos in September this year where he apologized for the US bombing of that country. Despite never declaring war on Laos officially, the CIA led intervention dropped 2.5 million tons of ordinance and 270 million cluster bombs on the country from 1964 to 73.  This amounts to a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours per day, for nine years.” (ABC News).  

For his involvement in this alone, Henry Kissinger is a mass murderer. More here: Where's Laos? The Pentagon could teach ISIS about real violence.

Although it is not yet a done deal it appears that the Russian, Iranian, Syrian government axis has achieved a victory over what by most accounts is a mixture of various Islamist groups in eastern Aleppo; although there are varying reports with regard to the actual composition of this opposition. And it is questionable whether Assad has a government at all.  The slightest hint of a nod to Iran or an increase in Iran’s influence in the region is a red flag to the Saudis.  All these factors tend to point in the direction of a shift but there can be no certainty in much these days other than further chaos.

We also discussed the history of the region and how western imperialism, the British and French in particular consciously prevented the formation of an Arab speaking nation spread from Africa’s West coast to the Arabian peninsula and Eastern Mediterranean. It was the Sykes/Picot agreement in 1916 between Britain and France that created Syria. Instead of a united Arab nation of numerous tribes, separate nation states carved out by imperialism in their interests and staffed with client regimes are what we have today.  We start from the position that it is not Islam, not Arab culture but western imperialism that is to blame for the horror we now have in the Middle East and Arab world.

There was a general agreement that capitalism was the root cause of the present global situation and that what we are witnessing is the breaking apart of the world situation that arose after the collapse of Stalinism when the US bourgeois made the terms, Full Spectrum Dominance and The American Century popular. For a whole period there was relative stability as the two great powers, the former Soviet Union and US imperialism existed in the bi-polar world, making deals, amid a policy of “containment” for the US and “peaceful co-existence” for the Stalinists.  However, the American century has not materialized and while being the most heavily armed and most powerful economy, US imperialism has seen its influence on the global stage weakened with the rise of China and to a lesser extent Russia but the events in Syria have changed that.  It was raised that the war in Syria is also driven by these efforts by US imperialism to encircle both Russia and China with military installations and weaponry. At the same time as deals are being attempted, this has increased tensions between these great powers and will continue to do so.

The question arose as to what could replace the present system.  Exploitation is exploitation. We all agreed that competition both in the workplace and in society in general is the problem. This led to a healthy discussion about socialism and what that means as well as what we mean by human nature.. Of course, there are no guarantees in this world. But the massive media propaganda portrays humanity as greedy, selfish, individualistic. Yet we are collective creatures, we cooperate daily in work and our personal lives. Capitalism is alien to us. Human society has advanced through collective effort not individual action. And in a sense, there is no such thing as individual success. A great scientist like Einstein did not arise out of nothing. His views of the world were developed through a historic trail of human thought.

Socialism, one comrade pointed out, is the intervention of the human brain, the collective brain of the working class in to every aspect of human life particularly the production of our needs and the allocation of the resources of society both human and financial. It’s not for nothing that the main goal of what the bosses call teamwork on the job, is tapping in to the brain of those that actually do the work. If we are the ones with the knowledge of how to produce, we should decide collectively what we produce, how and when. But this role we have to take from them as they produce for profit, not society’s needs. As we have done on many calls, how the surplus value we create is distributed and how the needs we create are circulated socially was discussed. This includes the issue of money and the banks; money makes the circulation of commodities in a complex society possible. In a democratic socialist society there will be no “private” bankers or banks in that sense. Like all the dominant productive forces in society, those that create commodities for use and those that store ands allocate society’s excess will be collectively owned managed.

Workers produced their own money in Limerick 1919
We shared examples of what has happened concretely when the modern working class has moved to change their condition, from the Paris events of 1871 to the Russian Revolution, the Seattle General Strike of 1919 and the Limerick Soviet in Ireland (Soviet is just the Russian world for council). In these social uprisings, workers threw up their own organizations, councils in the workplaces and the communities. These organizations then dealt with issues relevant to our communities and also, in the case of Russia in in 1917 spread to different industries. The Seattle General Strike lasted five days and the workers there controlled that city and its docks through an elected committee of 100. The minutes of that committee are still available to be read online and in print. Every ruling class claims its system is the only way society can be organized and is the apex of human civilization. In the case of the Limerick Soviet in Ireland the workers controlled the city for two weeks issuing their own money.

We discussed the media and the recent surfacing of “fake news”. The point was made that the most prolific source of fake news is our local TV stations nightly message to the masses. 

I do not take notes but I wanted to give our readers some idea of the discussions that some of us that follow this blog are having weekly. On Saturday’s call there were comrades from North Carolina, Arizona, New York City, Chicago, and the SF Bay Area. We were moistly Green Party members but not exclusively.

I would like to point out how important a collective process is. In an earlier blog posting on Syria I made it clear that the crisis in Syria cannot be solved on the basis of capitalism, that only the intervention of the working class and replacing capitalism and the filth that accompanies it with a democratic socialist society is the only way out.

But the working class has been decimated in Syria. Hundreds of thousands are dead. Millions are displaced, homeless or are in refugee camps. But this does not change the fact that the working class and socialism is the only way out. I stand by this assertion. Neither US imperialism, Russian imperialism, or the Assad regime, can solve the crisis that Syria or the rest of the Middle East is engulfed in.

But in my earlier comments I also said that with regard to Eastern Aleppo, if the recent victory by Syrian government forces over what I personally believe are predominantly Islamic fanatical groups often funded by the US, brings and end to the massacres and torture of civilians, surely we should support this. The immediate thought for me is that it would give the working class a rest, allow the class to recover somewhat, after all, the city is pretty much bombed out as is much of Syria.

But this is a contradictory argument. It contradicts my view that capitalism cannot solve the Syrian crisis because the victory of the Syrian government in Aleppo strengthens it overall and also strengthens Russian Imperialism and the mullahs in Iran who suppress their own working class.  And even if it does mean a temporary lull from the violence of the proxy war, a strengthened Russian/Syrian alliance will not allow a genuine working class resistance movement to develop in Aleppo or elsewhere, it will move to crush working class resistance with the help of a strengthened Russia and Iran.

It will weaken the working class as a whole as in the future, the same forces driving out the Islamists will be killing and torturing Syrian workers down the road.  This is a position I have held my conscious political life but it shows how complex issues can appear at times and how important collective discussion can be in helping us maintain a balanced approach and steer clear of pitfalls. An important historical issue that was raised in the discussion on Syria was Northern Ireland. Some of my Irish friends in the North had told me that when the British state sent in the army during the Derry Uprising the majority of the Catholic population welcomed them; “We even took them tea and biscuits” one woman told me. The socialist organization I was in and later expelled from, opposed the intervention of British troops arguing that within a very short time they would be shooting Catholics, and sure enough, that occurred. Standing against the stream, a position I have been in many times in my political/trade union activity, is crucial, “even when there’s no one else there” as one comrade stressed.

I am grateful to the comrades and the collective process for helping me recognize a mistake and helping me correct it. The tragedy is that the horror that we are witnessing in Syria, one of many ” horrors” that are occurring throughout the world, are a result of the absence of an international working class movement against capitalism. That movement itself, is delayed due to the absence of a leadership. It is this we have to change and oppose any forces that delay it further. It means humanity experiences unnecessary suffering, but that is a result of capitalism and cannot be solved by it and we have to be careful not to fall prey to our genuine desire to halt immediate suffering by supporting a process that in the long run weakens the working class further, increases human suffering and that will eventually lead to the destruction of life as we know it.

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