The strength and the limitations of the revolutionary process in North Africa and Middle East

[Originally published by LIT-CI here ; link

The revolutionary process initiated in the late 2010 in North Africa and Middle East is still one of the centres of the world political situation.

As every revolution, it includes unprecedented combinations. As every complex process, it draws countless discussions. This text pretends to point out more general trends highlighting its already very evident limitations. We will also resume the discussions regarding this process.

Is there or is there not a revolution underway?

The discussion about what is going on in the region begins with the definition: is there or is there not a revolution underway? Right from the very beginning we assumed that this process was a revolutionary one which originated a polemic with the absolute majority of the left.

Trotsky postulated a classical definition of a revolution: “The most indubitable feature of a revolution is the direct interference of the masses in historical events… But at those crucial moments when the old order becomes no longer endurable to the masses, they break over the barriers excluding them from the political arena, sweep aside their traditional representatives, and create by their own interference the initial groundwork for a new régime… The history of a revolution is for us first of all a history of the forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny.”(Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution) Most of the left cannot envisage a revolution underway in the region. They can see specific and momentary events, some “rebellions” as if they were some explosions of righteous anger, and then vanish. In this way, they miss out the global nature of what is happening in North Africa and the Middle East. When a revolutionary process begins, nothing remains the same; there are qualitative changes in the actual facts. And the actuality in that region is very different since the moment the revolutionary process began.

“Arab Spring.” And now what: Winter?

There is another discussion as to what is going on in that region. After almost four years, most of the world left – that never regarded these events as a revolution – consider the process as something finished for all practical purposes.

At first, these trends assumed the journalistic definition of “Arab Spring” to describe the democratic uprising that toppled such regimes as the Tunisian and Egyptian. Now they talk about “the end of the spring” and the beginning of “winter”.

However, a long and complex process as this one includes powerful and stubborn confrontations between revolution and counterrevolution, with ups and downs, with partial victories and defeats. This definition is richer than the simplified comparison with the sequence of seasons of the year.

There is a moment now marked by impasses and ebbs – quite different from the generalised ascent in 2011 – but there is also the opening of new battlefronts, such as those of the Kurds and the resuming of fight in Palestine and the rearrangements that these front cause.

There is a new moment in the civil war in Syria, with the military retreat of the opposition to Assad’s regime together with the military offensive of the government and the imperialist air attacks on the Islamic State.

In Iraq there is a new reality due to the Islamic State’s headway. There is a new civil war, this time it is a confrontation between two counterrevolutionary sectors: the Shiite administration linked to Iran against Islamic State. The struggle for oil fields control lies behind the civil war.

In Egypt, al-Sisi won the elections and launched a fierce attack on the workers increasing the fuel by 80%. It is quite likely that he will clash against a new outburst of strikes. The vicious invasion of Gaza by Israel was defeated by the Palestinian resistance and the global repudiation to the genocide of the Palestinian people.

The impasses of the moment reflect deep limitations

On the one hand, the revolution has heavy limitations to be rooted. In the first place because the working class still represent but a slight weight in the entire process. Secondly, because the revolutionary leadership is practically absent. This combination prevents the mass movement from making headway and opening a higher stage of the revolutions.

Taking advantage of these limitations, the imperialist counteroffensive and the violent repression by the dictatorships have more often than not forced the uprising to recede. But the counterrevolution also shows its own limitations. The continuity and the deepening of the economic crisis lead to increasing pauperisation of the masses. Day after day, the maintenance of the hated dictatorships renews the political radicalisation of the process. The result is the reactivation of the motivations of the revolution causing the ascent to be renewed after each defeat.

There has been neither definite defeat of the masses nor stabilisation in the region. The new Israeli defeat in its attempt to invade Gaza and the extension of the conflict to Turkey prove this.

To substitute the end of the revolution for the current moment of weakness and impasse is a catastrophic error, typical of petty-bourgeois impressionists.

Specific features of the revolutionary process

The development of the confrontations between the revolution and counterrevolution in these four years allows us to take note of some specific features and tendencies of this process.

There are factors in the region that make the conflicts deeper and more severe. In the first place, the biggest oil reserves in the world, strategic for imperialism, are to be found there.

Secondly, imperialist exploitation and oppression literally turn this rich oil region into a barrel of powder. After the peak of bourgeois nationalism as the Egyptian Nasserism and the Baath party (in Syria) in the 50’s of last century, there came a process of recolonisation by imperialism with the capitulation and association of local bourgeoisies. These corrupt and repressive bourgeoisies have an extremely luxurious life contrasted with the tremendous poverty of the majority of the population.

Thirdly, The Nazi fascist state of Israel is also to be found in the region. Even though it is true that Israel is a guarantee of the military domination of imperialism, it is also true that it is a factor of permanent political radicalisation, of conflicts and wars. Israel cannot coexist peacefully together with an Arab population opposing the usurpation of Palestinian territories.

Fourthly, the region was almost entirely dominated by despised dictatorships that ruled for decades before the revolutionary process. Vicious class antagonisms and national oppression in general cannot be solved within the framework of bourgeois democracy.

These structural elements have been very much affected by the economic crisis that began in 2007-2008. Unemployment increase, especially among the youth, as well as of the prices of basic consumption, made the discontent explode. Desperation and lack of perspective for a better future drove the masses to action.

It is no coincidence that the starting point of the entire process was the self-immolation of a door-to-door salesman in Tunisia when the police confiscated his fruit trolley. The protests that ensued spread throughout the country and set fire to the entire region.

Permanent revolution in the region

The process of permanent revolution in the region incorporates these factors. When workers and oppressed peoples of these countries fight against poverty they unconsciously challenge the exploitation and oppression by imperialism and the associated local bourgeoisies.

This economic, material background has not been solved by any of the bourgeois governments that have momentarily been imposed. The contrary is true: they merely worsened the political crises and the wars. The whole process is aggravated by the existence and actions of the State of Israel.

This is a revolution where the urban popular masses are the social subject, particularly the youth, the unemployed and precarious workers.

The proletariat is economically and socially important in several of these countries, such as Egypt and Iran. It is no coincidence that the of the 24,000-workers strike at the textile factory in Machala (Egypt) in 2006 inspired the foundation of the Movement 26th April, one of the engines of the revolutionary process that began in Egypt 2011.

In other countries, the influence of the working class is smaller. On the other hand, reformist leaderships are doing their best in order to avoid any independent proletarian role and so they broaden the backwardness in the level of awareness and in the organisation of the working class.

Urban popular masses are the social subject in these revolutions. In the midst of them, there were workers as individuals but not as an organised and leading class.

In most of the countries of the region, the democratic tasks became the central goals at first. This has nothing to do with the Stalinist stageist policy, where the permanent goal is to subordinate the proletariat to some sector of “democratic” or “nationalist” bourgeoisie.

This is all about the definition that for most of the countries, the centre of the programme at present is the fall of the dictatorships, clearing the path for the socialist revolution, in a similar way that Trotsky envisaged in the Spanish revolution, or in the Russian February revolution.

This allows the unity of action between those who fight these dictatorships, but at the same time imposes on us a constant struggle for proletarian hegemony of the revolutionary process and independent from the bourgeoisie. In the imperialist epoch, revolutions in backward countries start with minimum or democratic demands that the bourgeoisie is unable to comply, pushing the proletariat to lead these struggles, which can only be resolved with the seizure of power.

Another feature of the concept of permanent revolution is fundamental to understand the region and its international character: it is a whole region that is boiling, where processes interact with each other directly. The beginning of the Tunisian revolution quickly spread to neighbouring countries. Israel’s defeat in Gaza was celebrated throughout the region. The Kurdish struggle against IS affects the whole region, in particular Turkey and Syria.

Absence of revolutionary leadership

The mass movement leadership that emerged after the capitalist restoration in the European East are much more fragile because they are not strongly influenced by the proletariat. This is a general feature in the beginning of the century and in the region it is even more accentuated, not only because of the uneven presence of the proletariat from one country to another, but rather because of the lack of strong revolutionary organisations. All this often sterilises the heroic efforts of the masses in struggle.

The role of the traditional left organisations in the region, in particular of Stalinism, of capitulation to the bourgeois nationalism is a fundamental part of this situation.

Very often it is easier to seek religious, of race or of gender identities than of class. This results in fragmentation and in this particular region the Islamic religion predominates.

This region has been traditionally divided according to religious terms, which conceals particular bourgeoisie interests, mainly the dispute for oil resources.

The limits of the bourgeois democracy

In Latin America, a series of democratic revolutions defeated dictatorships in Argentina (1982), Brazil (1984), Uruguay (1985) bringing about a process that led to the establishment of bourgeois democratic regimes over most of the continent.

And yet, in the North Africa and the Middle East this did not happen. In the last four years the overthrow of dictatorships and the establishment of bourgeois democracies in most countries have not happened.

Convulsive processes with insurrections, civil wars, coups did take place but there was no establishment of bourgeois democracy. The same motives (oil, Israel) that originated the dictatorships make their fall more difficult. In Egypt, the Bonapartist regime was maintained even after the fall of Mubarak and Morsi.

In Libya, after the fall of Gaddafi, imperialism has been trying to rebuild the State, but so far they have not managed to stabilise any government, constantly challenged by militias from different groups.

In Iraq, the withdrawal of imperialist troops did not stabilise a national unity government as desired by imperialism, much less a bourgeois democracy. It was established a Shiite government aligned with Iran, with strong Bonapartist characteristics. The Sunni rebellion was capitalized by the Islamic state, and the country is experiencing a new civil war, now between two counterrevolutionary poles.

In Syria, the civil war goes on, now including the confrontation of the regime and imperialism with the Islamic State. In Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia a fierce repression managed to defeat the protests up to now.

The exception is Tunisia, where the Ben Ali’s administration was defeated as well as the dictatorial regime that used to rule the country.

Will these facts change due to the development of the situation as a whole? Yes, it can be. The revolutionary ascent can do lots of things. What we want to assert is that so far this has not been a generalised phenomenon.

Imperialist decadence imposes limits to its own intervention

American imperialism is hegemonic in economic, political and military terms. It is the only nuclear super power, which turns the possibility of a new world war remote at this stage.

But there is an element of reality that we need to analyse. The decline is of imperialism as a whole, not just the U.S. The resultant is that this hegemony is becoming more and more parasitic, with increasing subordination to the great financial capital.

Since its defeat in Vietnam in 1975, American imperialism has been losing its capacity to discipline the world in military terms. That defeat caused the “Vietnam syndrome”: the rejection by the American people of new wars that drive their children to death. While the American imperialism must coexist with bourgeois democracy, they need to respond to these pressures.

After the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001, Bush started a counteroffensive to overcome this situation by using the alibi of “fighting against terrorism”. This, among other things, produced the invasion of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003).

The defeat of Bush’s counteroffensive, particularly in Iraq, resumed powerfully this reflex in American people, this time as “Iraq Syndrome”. This factor is still one of the imperialism’s limitations to intervene in the region.

As a rule imperialism responds to this reality with air attacks, avoiding the exposition of their troops by land invasions, or even outsourcing occupation to other countries, as in the case of Haiti.

At present, for example, imperialism would be in far better military conditions to demolish the Islamic State compared to the attack on Saddam Hussein in 2003. It cannot do so due to political conditions at home that were favourable after the Twin Towers, but not now. So, they have to restrain themselves to air raids.

Bourgeois Islamic trends

Islamic nationalism has been on the ebb tide since the 70s, from Nasserism of Sadat and Mubarak to the Baath party of Saddam Hussein and al-Assad.

After the capitulation to imperialism, the governments from that origin began to implement neoliberal plans in the region. This included Egypt, Syria, Libya and Iraq with dictators who became the target of the wrath of the masses as well as other administrations in the region.

Taking advantage of the dictatorships’ crisis, several traditional bourgeois Islamic parties took office and experienced important crises, as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Ennahda in Tunisia. Perhaps this is what is now beginning to happen to Erdogan’s AKP in Turkey.

And yet, even if decadent, we cannot underestimate these trends due to their mass influence as well as the cyclical crises of their opponents.

Side by side with the people against the Syrian and Libyan dictatorships? Take no sides?

There is another big controversy with much of the left that arose with the outbreak of the revolutionary process in North Africa and the Middle East. When these demonstrations clashed with dictatorships as in Libya or Syria, a new issue was posed: stand with the fighting people or close to those hated dictatorships? This debate took even greater color when the fight has evolved to the military ground turning into civil wars in these countries.

Most of the left came out in defense of those dictatorships, denying the ongoing revolutions and reducing all to imperialist interventions to overthrow “anti-imperialist” governments. They purposely forgot all the capitulation to imperialism of those bourgeoisies, which abandoned their nationalist attitudes of the past to apply the neoliberal plans in their countries. The government of Assad and Gaddafi were supported directly by imperialism until the masses rebelled in these countries, and imperialism had to differentiate from them.

We suffered attacks in full Stalinist style and were accused of being “allies of imperialism” because we supported the peoples of these countries against their governments.

The Cuban and Venezuelan administrations, which supported these dictatorships, drew our attention to their attitude if great ascents dare to challenge them.

At this moment, the position of these trends once again collides with reality. Imperialist air raids against the positions of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria materialise an explicit alliance between Assad and the imperialist governments. According to the Lebanese paper Al Monitor, the U.S., “which lack reliable allies in Syria, may contemplate the regime as the only force capable of holding back the Islamic state in the north of the country”, so they can see no problem “in letting it occupy areas of Aleppo and its peripheries.”

That is why it is important to ask, “Who is the ally of imperialism at this moment?”

The trends dubbed Trotskyist, such as PTS and SoB put an equals sign between the Assad dictatorship and sectors that rose in arms against it and did not take any sides in this revolution. Remaining neutral in the face of something relatively obvious as the struggle of masses against despised dictators is certainly a very serious error.

Failing to see the difference between the fighting masses and their bourgeois or reformist leaders is a foul manner to start any analysis of any process. But even if it were wrong anywhere else, it is even more so in such complex process as that of the Middle East and North Africa, where there are no revolutionary leaderships.

Sectarians are not always ultra-left. In this case, these trends have adopted an opportunist posture. They end up by objectively helping the ruling dictatorships and placing as the left wing of the Castro-Chavista block to attack these revolutions.

Our demand of weapons for the Syrian rebels and weapons for the Kobane people is rooted in the Trotskyist tradition in the Spanish revolution, stained by these trends.

Militaries still in office in Egypt

In Egypt, the military regime obtained a victory with the election of Marshal al-Sisi in May 2014. It was the expression of the continuity of the military regime even after the collapse of the Mubarak and Morsi administrations. The recent absolution of Mubarak was just another piece of evidence of this continuity.

But the 54% abstention in the election of al-Sisi evidenced an important degree of erosion of the regime. An enquiry carried out before al-Sisi took over shows that there is quite a broad degree of discontent with the institutions as a whole. Egyptians are more dissatisfied (72%) than satisfied (24%) with the general situation of the country. The militaries had 88% of support of the population after the fall of Mubarak; 73% after the fall of Morsi and 56% with al-Sisi in the office. The Brotherhood, who used to have 53% of support before their collapse, now stand at 42%.

Once in the office, al-Sisi increased the price of fuels between 40% and 79% which caused an increase in several other prices and making dissatisfaction to accrue.

The working class, of great import in the country, carried out a wave of strikes in February this year (2014) that went as far as rushing the fall of Hazem el-Beblawi administration. Now, faced with this new attack, may manifest once more heavily.

A new civil war in Iraq

In Iraq, American imperialism was defeated by the Iraqi resistance and their troops had to retreat in 2011.

This was expressed in the character of the Shiite Prime minister Nuri Malaki’s government. It was not established as a mere puppet of imperialism, but as part of an agreement with the Iranian Shiite dictatorship. This alternative looked like the best thing to guarantee some stability and to weaken the Iraqi resistance, mainly the Sunni (Saddam Hussein’s ethnicity) something that, at that moment, was in American interest as much as in Iranian.

The U.S. policy was for a national unity administration that would include the Shiite, the Sunni and the Kurds, but Maliki, interested in the exclusive control over oil, carried out an administration of exclusion of the other sectors.

This facilitated the crisis and the Sunni rebellions that ended by being capitalised by ISIS (later on Islamic State), a counterrevolutionary bourgeois alternative. In a rapid offensive, ISIS defeated the Iraqi army fitted out by the U.S. – who fled in disgrace without a combat, and began their control of the Sunni territory of Iraq.

The fall of Maliki, who was substituted by a new administration led by al-Abadi, aims at resuming the imperialist proposal of a government of national unity (with a Sunni vice-president) in order to oppose the Islamic State.

But the civil war goes on. The threat of the division is still posed with the constitution of the Caliphate proclaimed by the Islamic State.

The Syrian impasse

The brutal offensive by Assad, supported by Hezbollah, and the activity of the Islamic State weakened the military resistance against the dictatorship. The death toll of the civil war is almost 200,000, plus six million dislodged people and three million living in other countries.

The presence of a fifth column – the forces of the Islamic State – turned the military situation extremely complicated. With the proclamation of the Caliphate, the IS began to challenge Assad’s government directly. As from that moment on, an imperialist air raid began in explicit alliance with Assad.

The Free Army of Syria, the Islamic Front and the Revolutionary Front had to fight the Syrian State supported by Hezbollah on the one hand and, on the other hand, the powerful army of the Islamic State. The military retreat of the opposition is due to this double cause.

And yet, in spite of its overwhelming military superiority, the regime did not manage to annihilate the revolution. Not even the area surrounding the capital – Damascus –is completely controlled by the Assad dictatorship.

The truth is that paying an increasing sacrifice, the anti-dictatorial forces keep up the struggle, controlling important areas, such as parts of Aleppo and Idlib, peripheral areas surrounding Damascus and in the neighbourhood of Homs. Recently they asserted that they had advanced in military terms between the southwest of Damascus, Dara and Kuneitra, and reopened the way toward Lebanon borders.

The leadership of this opposition is bourgeois and pro-imperialist. The so-called National Coalition for the Forces of the Opposition and the Syrian Revolution (CNFORS) openly supports the imperialist intervention in the region.

Even the sectors directly linked to the armed struggle have not been able to unite the struggle against the regime. The formation of the Council of the Command of the Revolution that unites the Islamic Front and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) can be a step ahead from this point of view.

A new counterrevolutionary factor: the Islamic State

With their military headway in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State proclaimed the Caliphate, with a territory that goes from Diyala in the east of Iraq up to Aleppo in the North of Syria. In an attempt to establish a State with religious reference to Islamic caliphates of the 7th century, al-Baghadi proclaimed himself as the continuation of Mohamed.

Actually, this is not at all a religious war, despite the ideological Sunni background. The caliphate of the Islamic State is a dictatorship with fascist methods of terrorism in order to paralyse the opponents, and whose main target is to control a significant part of oil in the region.

By the control of oil fields, the IS would achieve a yearly revenue estimated at between US$ 600 and US$ 800 million, which can fund their need to heavy weaponry (essentially modern tanks and artillery). As the IS became strong enough to confront the Iraqi and Syrian states directly and now they are trying to build up a new state, imperialism must now face them.

The defeat of Israel in Gaza

The Nazi-fascist state of Israel invaded Gaza trying to take advantage of that moment of relative ebb of the Arab revolution. But the fiery Palestinian resistance and the increasing isolation all over the world determined their defeat.

Even with the support of the imperialist media, it turned impossible to avoid the repudiation of the global public opinion against the Palestinian genocide perpetrated by Israel. Radicalised demonstrations of Palestinian youths threaten to turn the protests into a third Intifada.

Israel had to withdraw without having destroyed the military structure of Hamas and was forced to start negotiations for the end of Gaza’s blockade. Israel defeat produced a crisis in that country’s administration and strengthened Hamas.

However, Hamas advanced in the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority tending to the acceptation of the State of Israel and that it should be the Fatah who would control the accesses to Gaza. The crisis of Israel continues: now the Netanyahu administration had to dismiss ministers who did not agree with the proclamation of the Jewish character of the State of Israel and issued a summons to elections in order to deepen the racist guideline. The countries of the European Union who support Zionists but defend a negotiated solution, made a symbolic gesture in order to press Netanyahu to acknowledge the Palestinian State.

Libya: still in crisis

Since the collapse of the Gaddafi’s dictatorship, imperialism has been trying to recompose the Libyan State. They have not yet achieved their goal. There are still no Armed Forces that can have an upper hand over the different militias or an established political regime with a minimum of stability.

After successive administrations in crisis, last June 2014 elections gave rise to a civilian government opposed to the Islamic hegemony of the previous congress. The new administration had to function in Tobruk, near the borderline with Egypt until the old government, still installed in the capital Tripoli could be dissolved.

There are two governments now, two congresses disputing their legitimacy in the country. But, while the mass movement hasn’t built a leadership independent from the bourgeoisie to impose their government the counterrevolution cannot stabilise the country.

The progressive struggle of the Kurds

The Kurds are one of the most numerous oppressed people without a state of their own. Their population of about 40 million people is spread over the territories of four countries: Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Theirs is a just struggle for the right to national self-determination and the creation of a single Kurdish nation. From this point of view, the struggle of the Kurds against the IS, the Turkish, Iraqi and Iranian governments is just and progressive in spite of their bourgeois and pro-imperialist leaderships that have to be faced by the exploited classes.

Kobane is a Kurdish city in Syria, next to the border with Turkey. The heroic resistance of the Kurds who live there against the siege made by the IS must be supported by revolutionaries around the world. In spite of the military superiority of the IS, the Kurdish resistance partially managed to force the occupation out of the neighbourhoods of the city. An extremely progressive agreement was reached between the General Command of the YPG (Kurdish militias) and the Free Syrian Army to fight the IS.

This battle polarised the entire region, destabilised Turkey and is making the first great defeat of the IS possible.

Turkey is getting destabilised

At present, Turkey is going through a turbulent integration in the conflict in the Middle East.

In 2013, Erdogan’s AKP, an Islamic bourgeois party, faced huge student demonstrations. Nevertheless, they were defeated and Erdogan (who was then Prime Minister) was elected president in August 2014. Right now the regional process joins the battle due to the Kurdish question. The AKP administration has a practical policy of alliance with the IS in Kobane in order to prevent the strengthening of the Kurdish struggle in Turkey.

For decades now, the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani – KurdistanWorkers’ Party) has been fighting an armed struggle for the Kurdish self-determination. Erdogan prevents Kurdish voluntaries from crossing the border to join the Kobane battle and stops any weapons from being sent.

The outcome of this was a Kurdish uprising in Turkey, accompanied by a significant mass movement and Erdogan encouraged fascist bands to attack Kurdish mobilisations against his government. The Syrian conflict is destabilising Turkey.

Tunisian exception

Tunisia is the country where the revolutionary process began in December 2010 and also the country where the first great victory was achieved with the fall of the dictator Ben Ali in January 2011.

The first elected government was that of the Islamic bourgeois nationalist Party of the Rebirth (Ennahda), similar to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This government was defeated by a people’s revolt followed by a general strike after a leader of the reformist opposition, Chokri Belaid, was murdered in 2014.

A Constituent Assembly was elected and it produced one of the most liberal constitutions in the region: it ensures religious freedom, without any lasharia (religious law) imposed, freedom of expression and legal equality between men and women.

In new elections, “Summons for Tunisia”, a secular bourgeois coalition with links to the old officials of the Ali dictatorship won. They ran as an alternative to the Islamism of Ennahda. The new government will have to face the same economic crisis that was one of the basic causes for the beginning of the revolutionary crisis four years ago. Unemployment is still about 16% of the population and 40% among the youth.

Unlike the rest of the region, in Tunisia a dictatorship fell and was replaced by a bourgeois democratic regime.

A revolutionary process with structural impasses and limitations

As we have seen, the impasses and limitations of the revolution in North Africa and Middle East have structural reasons related to the absence of revolutionary leaderships and the slight role played by the proletariat.

On the other hand, neither imperialism nor the local bourgeoisies have been able to provide a solution to the economic crisis and the poverty of the masses. They can neither annihilate the masses violently nor stabilise any government.

There have various attempts at defeating the masses violently. Imperialism has tried it by the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel has tried when its army invaded Lebanon in 2006 and more recently Gaza. Assad is now trying to do the same thing in Syria. None of these attempts proved successful so far.

On the other hand, neither has imperialism, as we have already seen, bet on democratic reaction in order to divert the mass movement towards bourgeois democracy.

The outcome is a convulsive process that cannot be stabilised either by the defeat or by partial victories. An extremely contradictory and complex reality and a great challenge for the revolutionary left. But above all, it is a region that is still one of the centres of the world revolution.

The Garment Worker’s Struggle continues :

The garment workers of Bangladesh have been struggling for decent conditions of work and living wages since for nearly a decade. The movement had reached a pinnacle in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in November last year which took the lives of more than 1000 workers ! This tragic disaster has sparked off one of the strongest mobilizations of garment workers in recent times and has succeeded in winning important advances. One year on the struggle remains strong and continues to score victories. The most recent of which has been an increase in the minimum wage to $100.

The significance of the present mobilization is both in terms of its scale as well as its intensity. Workers have targeted factories and there have been frequent incidence of arson and violence. It has been reported that the strike resulted in the closure of more than 100 factories and a 20 percent decline in national productivity. The strike has already encompassed a vast majority of workers employed in the sector which serves as the backbone of the Bangladeshi economy.

The mobilization in Bangladesh has also served to inspire actions throughout the globe targeting western retail conglomerates which has acted in support of the just demands of the workers in Bangladesh. Important mobilizations have taken place against Walmart and GAP in the USA where workers of these retail giants have voiced their support for the garment worker’s agitation and likewise activists from Bangladesh have given their support to the agitation against unfair labor practices by Walmart. Such solidarity actions have been instrumental at creating safety accords which mark a victorious milestone in the struggle of the garment workers.

The aftermath of the Rana Plaza incident :

The Rana Plaza tragedy revealed in full the exploitative nature of capitalism in Bangladesh as well as which vested interests played the leading role in the most ruthless exploitation of the workers. The garment workers haven’t been silent victims to this. Several times there have been major mobilizations in the garment industry each aimed at the abolition of sweatshop conditions existing in the 5100 factories in this sector. The mobilizations in 2006 and 2009 were significant in the fact that it showed the power of the masses of the workers mobilized in struggle. The mobilizations following the collapse the Rana plaza and another major factory have exceeded them both in terms of scale and impact. Notably, it has succeeded in giving the struggle of the garment workers an international dimension.

The present mobilizations may be traced to the ‘wildcat’ general strike action and has often been characterized by ‘plebian anger’ directed against the very means of production in which they work. The first object of anger for the workers have been the garment factories themselves. Soon after the tragedy at Savar, garments workers have burnt several factories in protest.[2] This action has been reminiscent of Marx’s description of the initial period of struggle by the proletariat in the Communist Manifesto : “They direct their attacks not against the bourgeois conditions of production, but against the instruments of production themselves; they destroy imported wares that compete with their labour, they smash machinery to pieces, they set factories ablaze”. However, unlike the primitive workmen of the mid 19th century that Marx described, the garments workers aren’t interested in ‘restoring the abolished status of the medieval workman’ but in achieving higher standards of welfare and better conditions of work !

This combination of plebian anger with a more advanced trajectory of struggle is a potentially revolutionary combination which can open the way for further more advanced struggles in the near future and gives the garments workers’ fight immense importance in the socio-political landscape of Bangladesh. What is severely lacking in this picture is the presence of an organized revolutionary force which can channelize this raw energy and lead the workers through more advanced tactics in their battle against the viciously exploitative garment bosses and their imperial protectors. Among the major obstacles to build an organized movement of the garment workers are the restrictions on freedom of unionization. Indeed many have lost their lives trying to organize the garment workers into unions.

Importance of international solidarity :

One of the most significant aspects of the present mobilizations of the garment workers is the strength and spread of international solidarity. It must be noted, while the previous mobilizations occurred in an international situation without any revolutionary mobilizations anywhere, the present struggle is being waged with the revolutions in North Africa and the Levant. Furthermore, the waves of upheavals in the last two years in Europe and America have radicalized the workers and youth in those countries. When the worker’s uprising had emerged in Bangladesh there were already protests against companies like Walmart and Gap. The ground was ready for a widespread international solidarity of workers in Europe and America.

Some of the most significant solidarity actions took place in Boston, Madrid, and Toronto among other places. These were aimed against the leading retail corporations which source products from Bangladeshi sweatshops in the name of ‘cheap fast fashion’. Gap and Walmart as well as several important Canadian and Spanish retail brands have been the target of these actions. In addition to this, the dogged advocacy and activism of labor lawyers have been successful in putting pressure on these mega-marts.[6]

These actions together with the continuing advances of workers in Bangladesh have resulted in signing safety accords which bring a degree of accountability in sourcing material for retail. So far European brands have shown greater willingness than others in signing these accords.[7] As of now, 100 brands have signed safety accords. What these advances show is the strength of the mobilization and the concrete impact on the ground. However, shortcomings remain which must be addressed.

Tactics of struggle and international solidarity :

The biggest weakness of the movement of garment workers has also been its hitherto existing strength, the spontaneous nature of the mobilizations. While this has ensured that the workers can erupt freely into unrestrained offensives, it lacks a channelized direction for putting forth demands or a long term goal. While it would be wrong to say that the entire agitation is completely unorganized. The vast majority of garment workers and the vast majority of actions taking place are outside the bounds of labor organization. The main reason for this of course, is the immense pressure mounted by garment bosses (with complete cooperation and protection from the government). In addition to the fact that since the majority of the 3.5 million workers in the industry are women, posing problems unique to organizing women in the labor movement.

This unorganized nature of agitations has created two chief problems. Firstly, it has meant that a long term united programme isn’t being placed to carry on the struggle. Secondly, it means that international solidarity efforts get scuttled owing to a very weak communication between activists in Bangladesh and those in other countries. The restrictions on freedom of political association as well as forming unions, add to the problems of organizing the garment workers. While this situation remains, the focus of demands *( which seem unclear ) appear to be on winning wage increases and attaining some immediate relief from the deplorable conditions of work in the garment sweatshops. This disconnect can only be bridged by a concerted effort to organize on the basis of a programme with clear political aims. Such a programme can and must be realized in a socialist programme with the aim of revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.

Likewise, organizing international solidarity in support of agitations of the garment workers would be indispensable to securing a complete victory in struggle. As has already been proven through the example of the solidarity actions in North America, and Europe, solidarity is not simply a question of token gestures to ‘feel good’ about, but concrete action which produce concrete results. These actions though having impact, are impaired due to the weak co-ordination and communication with activists and unionists on the ground.

Towards a programme of action :

The foundation of action is theory, and theory expresses itself in programme. The right demands and the right slogans translate into the right actions. So it is for the garments workers struggle in Bangladesh. Considering the present situation any programme for action must express the most urgent needs of the garment workers.

1) Full Freedom of Organization and Association !

The foundation stone of a strong democratically organized struggle of the working class is freedom of organization and association. Repressive measures at the workplace and outside must be fought against tooth and nail. An immediate and urgent demand must be for full and unfettered right to organize at the workplace and to associate with any political party. We propose a campaign built around this demand with solidarity of workers from all sectors of the national economy as well as human rights and labor action groups coordinated globally.

2) For Living Wages and a Sliding Scale of Wages !

The highlight of the movement of the garment workers is the demand for wage increases to levels with which they can afford a decent livelihood. But so far, the concessions have been sporadic and piecemeal. Each time the workers have shown their power, the government and garment bosses have given a concession. While the latest concession achieved is a sight better than the last, such victories are not founded on strong roots. What the garment workers need is a lasting solution to their problems. What is needed is a base of living wage adjusted to the cost of living for a family of 5, to be under constant adjustment to inflation levels i.e. To a sliding scale. With each increase of the cost of living wages must automatically increase in proportion. Every wage agreement must mandatorily have such a provision to benefit the workers and their families, many of whom are dependent on the labor of the garment workers.

3) Full nationalization of the garment industry !

Despite all manner of efforts on accountability and imposing strict safety regulations, the garment bosses through their political clout and financial strength, manage to evade answer. One big reason why wage agreements and safety accords aren’t honored has been the protection and privilege of the garment factory owners themselves ! The only way to ensure proper accountability is maintained and worker’s rights are respected is through Nationalization of the industry in the interests of the garment workers and the people at large. Such a nationalization must be done so without compensation and under worker’s control following a cooperative model. Only this way, can the garment workers secure their interests both in terms of decent work conditions as well as a securing a living wage.

Polemic on Syria; Alan Woods : Defend the revolution or contribute to its defeat

The following is a polemical article written by comrades J.M Pau and Juan P of the International Worker’s League – Fourth International. The original text may be found here :

http://litci.org/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2342:alan-woods-defend-the-revolution-till-the-end-or-contribute-to-its-defeat&catid=41:world&Itemid=113

The following article is important not only because it exposes the reactionary politics of the IMT over Syria but also because it deals with the vital question of revolutionary leadership. We repost this article on our blog expressing full agreement with the positions expressed herein :

The positionof Alan Woods and his international political organization on the Syrian Revolution.

Alan Woods wrote last June an extensive article on Syria, to which we will respond with this text.

Many articles have been written on Syria on these years of revolution and civil war. Most of the left, starting with the Castro brothers and the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, openly stood beside the dictator Bashar al Assad and his regime. Alan Woods (who supports Chavez and Chavists governments, and appeared as Chavez’ left adviser) – who runs the IMT on an international level -, changed hispositions, on the assumption that previously he had placed himself in favor of the Syrian Revolution. [1]

Below, we summarize the arguments used by Alan Woods to justify his position with quotationsfrom his own article:

1. The movement in Syria began as a popular revolution with mass support. If that movement had been armed with a genuinely revolutionary programme, it could have succeeded in winning over those sections of society that backed Assad for fear of the alternative. However, in the absence of clear leadership, the movement was hijacked by reactionary elements and pushed in a sectarian direction.

2. America’s regional allies, those bulwarks of reaction, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have been pouring in money, weapons and mercenaries into Syria from day one. Their objective was not at all to help the rebels who were fighting for change in Syria, but on the contrary, to crush the revolutionary elements and transform what began as a popular uprising into a civil war with sectarian connotations.

3. To the degree that the whole thing became militarised, the struggle was deprived of any revolutionary content. Those who controlled the money and arms were able to dictate terms. The counterrevolutionary Salafists and Jihadis, lavishly backed with money and arms from their billionaire paymasters in Riyadh and Doha, seized control. That determined the nature of the so-called opposition.

Based on these arguments, the conclusion drawn is: “The truth is that the Syrian Revolution has suffered defeat,”and everything now would sum up to an imperialist intervention against the country through its allies. In other words, according to Alan Woods, it does not matter which side wins the war: the immediate task of the revolutionaries in Syria would be only to wait for better days.

The truth is that after reading these paragraphs there is no more doubts that Alan Woods or his political current have never supported the Syrian Revolution. But for us, who know his trajectory, it is not surprising that they have gotten to this point, although on this occasion they have been forced to beat around the bush and to tailor some of their positions over time, hiding and changing others to finally have arguments to continue supportingthe ones they regard as their guides for the international revolution: Chavismo without Chavez.

Let us see, at first, Alan Woods’ arguments on the Syria situation.

The article begins by stating that the Western press (let’s say pro-imperialist) only mentions the government’s actions, concealing the Jihadists and Salafists’ brutality. This is not true, because we have all seen the pictures of a Salafist militiaman plucking and eating the heart of a dead soldier of the regime.

Alan Woods, however, does not say a single word about what the Western press did not publish on this macabre fact. On the internet it can be found statements of Abu Sakkar (the militiaman who ate the soldier’s heart) saying that he did it because when they (the rebels) captured that soldiers they watched the videos that were recorded on their cell phones where they (the regime soldiers) showed how they raped rebel women or murdered children.

According toWoods, the Western media only covers the government atrocities, when in fact, what happens is that the media works to amplify the Salafists and Jihadists’ actions, causing civil war looks like a sectarian war, in which the medicine can be worse than the disease itself. And every day, further and further pieces of news appear in this regard: on the financing of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, on the front Al Nusra which states to be linked to Al Qaeda. In other words, Western media does the same advertising job as Alan Woods.

The process of the Syrian Revolution and the Salafists

In March 2011, large demonstrations were held calling for the fall of al Assad’s regime. After eight months of brutal repression, the Revolution began to arm itself and ended up provoking a civil war that still lingers in the country which is now divided into zones controlled by the regime and liberated zones. Alan Woods says that because of its militarization, the revolution has suffered a defeat, after being dominated by the Salafists. This assessment, in our opinion, is flatly wrong.

Firstly, it is necessary to analyze who is actually fighting on the ground. The largest rebel military force in Syria is the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a group of militiamen and battalions relatively heterogeneous, but who keep a common standard. The estimated current soldiers of FSA areof 80,000 men. The largest Salafist group is JabhatAl Nusra, which has about 7,500 troops. As we can see, despite the Salafists progress in recent months (thanks to the international support they have, against the isolation of the FSA), the non-sectarian forces are largely dominant in the military rebel field.

Secondly, in the liberated areas with a major presence of Salafist forces there have been frequent confrontations of the population against them. Lately, even armed clashes have occurred in the city of al Dana or in the Kurdish areas. The Salafists murdered a FSA’s battalion chief and the Local Coordination Committees have spoken against them. In Raqqa, Aleppo and Idlib (the most important liberated zones), there have been streets demonstrations for the same reasons. The Syrian people are far from joyfully accepting the Salafist guardianship, and there is a vivid struggle in the rebel field against the enforcement of the fanatic precepts of these currents.

Third, every Friday demonstrations keep happening throughout Syria. Although they do not count on as many participants as at the beginning, due to the forcible exile, people continue to occupy the streets every week. For instance, on July 19, the Independent Syrian Center for Statistics recorded 73 Syrian demonstrations.

Finally, we want to highlight that organizations which were created by the Syrian masses as from their mobilization, still exist, just as at the beginning. For instance, the extensive network of the Local Committees – the organizations that began coordinating the demonstrations – also took the tasks of supplying the people’s needs (and even being the government in the liberated areas). There is also the Union of Free Students of Syria, dozens of newspapers, many initiatives of the press giving to the world insights of what goes on inside Syria, humanitarian assistance through professional doctors, nurses, psychologists and volunteers, cultural initiatives, etc…

Among the arguments used by Allan Woods, one is worth mentioning:

“To the degree that the whole thing became militarised, the struggle was deprived of any revolutionary content. Those who controlled the money and arms were able to dictate terms. The counterrevolutionary Salafists and Jihadis, lavishly backed with money and arms from their billionaire paymasters in Riyadh and Doha, seized control. That determined the nature of the so-called opposition.”

It is the first time that we read that when a revolution is militarized, it loses its revolutionary content. We revolutionaries believe that it is precisely the opposite: to destroy a regime it is necessary to destroy the key support of the Bourgeois State, which are itsArmed Forces. To achieve this feat, the masses arm themselves or manage to get the Army troops to come over to the revolution side and thus fight the regime with their arms. Therefore, a revolution that manages to destroy the regime’s Army challenges the very Capitalist State. On the other hand, a revolution which leaves intact the Army cannot be more than a “democratic revolution” which, if stalled at this point, will not be able to move to a social revolution.

With all of this, we want to conclude that the Syrian revolution is alive, and that the Salafists are a minority faction from all points of view. To say, as Alan Woods does, that the money and the weapons are in the hands of the Salafists and therefore the efforts of the revolutionaries have been in vain is the greatest contempt of someone who claim to be a Marxist could send to the poor masses and exploited people of the whole world. It is clear that without money and weapons it is more difficult, but if it was the decisive factor there would never have been any revolution in the world, for money and weapons have always been in the hands of the minority, the bourgeois.

Would Assad be”secular” or “progressive”?

AlanWoods acknowledges in his text that the Syrian government commits atrocities. In previous articles of his own organization, Assad was denounced as a capitalist government that implements neoliberal plans. However, in the latter article, when criticizing the Muslim rebels, Woods slips and unveils the characterization that the Syrian regime is “progressive”, and that “the victory of the Jihadis would represent reaction in its blackest and most vicious form. It would signify the liquidation of all the gains of the last 50 years, pushing what was a civilized and decent country back into barbarism. It would mean a savage bloodbath of ethnic cleansing of Alawites, Christians and secular people. The slogan “Alawites to the grave, Christians to Beirut!” gives us fair warning as to the character and intentions of the jihadis. Their aim is to provoke a Sunni/Shia war of extermination.”

We have already responded to one of the main arguments which is the base for those who argue that the Syrian revolution would be a reactionary process for being “under the control” of Salafists. Now we want to give the question back: What about the government side? Would it be “secular” or “progressive”?

Although apart of the left spread this regime’s image, the answer is categorically No. Assad and his regime are not progressive nor in the content, and they do not even worry about hiding it in the form. And the proof of that was the fatwa read by the Mufti [2] of the Republic on television, calling a jihad to defend the regime. Further proof can be seen in the way the Army generals call upon the Syrian youth to enlist to fight “on behalf of Hussein” (son of Ali, the central figure of Shiite Islam). We can also mention the fact that after the conquest of Qusayr, the first thing that the regime troops did was to unfurl an offensive flag on a Sunni mosque. And finally: the government’s bombardments had already destroyed at least 800 mosques in April, to sow fear, but above all sectarian hatred.

Someone could say that this occurs because of the war and as a reaction to the Salafists’ actions, but the Syrian regime could not be characterized as “secular” even before the war.

The Syrian regime is not a secular state where wouldn’tmatter the religion a particular person professes. Religious leaders play a major role in the Syrian regime. The regime has fostered the splitting and has leaned on one of the Muslim factions, the Alawites (10% of the population) in order to control the Army and State institutions. Civil marriage is prohibited and those who want to get married can do it only if they profess the same religion. Syrian Kurds were massacred and discriminated for decades, and only with the beginning of the revolution the citizenship was provided to them, in order to neutralize them.

If any doubt remained about al Assad’s regime, simply look at their allies to dismiss it completely. On the battlefield, the Hezbollah troops serve as the regime ground troops. And the word Hezbollah, literally translated, means “Party of God”.

On the international stage, al Assad’s main support is the Islamic Republic of Iran and its Ayatollah (which translated means “sign of God”) as “the supreme leader”.

It is ridiculous to try to justify the support to Bashar’s dictatorship for being a “secular” regime fighting against “reactionary Islamists”. In fact, it is the regime that makes more efforts to convert the Revolution in a sectarian fighting, in order to weaken it.

Nor does Bashar hesitate to promote massacres against the Palestinians in Syria (which stem from the 1948 refugees. All his speeches in support of Palestine were definitely thrown into the dustbin of history when it started the bombing on the Yarmuk neighborhood (originated from a refugee camp), where more than 150,000 people live, including Palestinians and Syrians. Palestinians in Syria are part of the revolution, because they suffer the same misery and lack of freedoms that affect the entire population.

50 years of accomplishments?

This is the second statement that stands out most in the arguments of Alan Woods: why is it that the Syrian people rose up massively against the regime, if the country had, according to Alan Woods, 50 years of accomplishments, being a ‘civilized’ country in which there were acceptable living conditions?

A few months earlier, on March 1st, 2013, Fred Weston, also of Alan Woods’ current, explained in an article the nature of Al Assad’sregime, showing the unemployment growth, especially among youth, the dominant role ofthe private industry and the fall in the purchasing power of the population, in other words, a situation similar to the rest of the countries in the region.

“The truth, however, is very concrete: there is not a single gram of anti-imperialism in al Assad regime. There is nothing of progressive in which he could somehow justify a possible support from the socialists, including the most critical of the ‘critical support’ “. [3]

If Alan Woods had a minimum of seriousness he would have, before beautifying the regime which his Bolivarian friends support, to say that his own comrade was mistaken, and demonstrate, if possible, where are the “50 years of accomplishments.” Let us remember that they are 50 years of military dictatorship, during which Bashar al Assad’s father held massacres in which thousands of people died. The current dictator “inherited” from his father the country presidency.

The lack of a revolutionary leadership in accordance with the standards required by Alan Woods

It is typical of the propagandists to criticize the masses for not doing whattheir schemes determine, beforehand. That’s exactly what Alan Woods does in his article, even though we have already seen this phenomenon in other texts by his current about the Syrian Revolution.

The above mentioned article starts as it follows:

“The movement in Syria began as a popular revolution with mass support. If that movement had been armed with a genuinely revolutionary programme, it could have succeeded in winning over those sections of society that backed Assad for fear of the alternative. However, in the absence of clear leadership, the movement was hijacked by reactionary elements and pushed in a sectarian direction.”

In at least one point we agree: there is not a revolutionary leadership in Syria whose program aims at the socialist revolution. However, for sure the Syrian masses have a revolutionary program: to overthrow the bloody regime of Bashar al Assad. It is lacking the program of the social revolution and it is lacking the building up a revolutionary party to defend this program, but this can only be built in the trenches of the revolution, as it happens in reality.

Indeed, a good part of the Syrian revolutionaries can be considered politically as “moderate Islamists”. How could we ask the masses to be on the “leftist” side if most of the worldwide “left” has been supporting the capitalist dictatorship which is promoting massacres against the masses? Much of the blame of the Salafists’ progress or the advance of political Islamism is of that very “left” who condemns the revolution just for this reason. How can Woods be so hypocritical to the point of accusing the Syrians of not following the direction he proposes, when his own current collaborated with the late President Chavez, the known friend and collaborator of the Syrian dictatorship?

Revolutions are as they are: they do not follow a predetermined pattern. It is necessary to look at them objectively, to see how they develop in practice in the real world. The Syrian masses rose up peacefully first, however, seeing themselves repressed and murdered, they took up arms to defend themselves and wipe out the regime. The Syrian people could not build a revolutionary leadership to the taste of some and others. This leadership has to be built in the midst of the government bombings and in a scenario in which there are many interests at stake. And amid all of this the Syrian people have been building their own bodies of power, with all its strengths and weaknesses: local committees, the Free Syrian Army, their Free Students organizations…. It is therefore a living process which should be known and supported by all the workers and peoples of the world.

The anti-imperialism of Alan Woods

We leave for the end what isthe justification of the text we criticize: Obama’s statements saying that U.S.would directly subsidize the Syrian opposition with weapons and resources. There are several statements that have not been fulfilled. However, for Alan Woods this is a scandal, because it would mean an imperialist intervention.

We denounce precisely the opposite. The imperialism has long been intervening in Syrian conflict and has done it mostly in favor of the regime. The arms embargo has benefited so far only the Syrian dictatorship, which continues to be armed by countries such as Russia and Iran, through subsidized fuel from Venezuela and the economic support from China, as well as a true foreign intervention, that of the Hezbollah. This is because the imperialism’s policy, which has not yet been changed, is of forcing a deal between the opposition and the regime, to make a transition that would leave intact the current regime foundations, but without the presence of Bashar al Assad. What worries the imperialism the most is the instability of the region. This stability, which Assad had been ensured for the past 40 years, along with the Egyptian regime, has been one of the mainstays of the State of Israel survival.

On the other hand, the imperialism most direct “allies” (as they are defined by Alan Woods) in the region, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been financing the Islamist factions with the clear objective of perverting the revolution and weakening the Syrian masses. Incidentally, neither Qatar nor Saudi Arabia have never sent heavy weapons to the militias they support, which demonstrates that their real intention is far from the prompt and effective overthrow of the regime.

And why wouldn’t the Syrian rebels have the right to receive weapons from the U.S. or Europe? The Syrian masses have the right to arm themselves, no matter where the weapons come from. Let us remember that during the Civil War or the Spanish Revolution, all the left demanded an end to the arms embargo that had been decreed by the “democracies” of Europe. The government of the Spanish Republic requested arms fromFrance and fromEngland. The Syrian people have the same right, otherwise the ones who will be armed to the teeth will be only the military dictatorship and, to a lesser extent, the Salafist militias – and that is what is actually happening.

That “left”ends up by playing the same role as the imperialism in order to isolate the revolution, echoing the U.S. propaganda when they (the U.S.) declare that they will arm the rebels, but disregarding the fact that these statements are never carried out.

A curious omission in all texts of Alan Woods and his current

In March, Fred Weston denounced the Communist parties for giving support to Bashar al Assad’s regime, when he quoted a statement by the Israeli Communist Party who said that Assad was preferable to a rebels’ triumph. As said above, Alan Woods’ collaborator explained that the regime of Bashar al Assad was at all, nor anti-imperialist nor progressive. Eventually he denounced the Communist parties, but never mentioned either the Castro brothers, of the Cuban regime, or the Venezuelan Chavez or his heir, Mr. Maduro.

However, supposing that Alan Woods is right and that the revolution is defeated, we should ask him what were the role of the left in this process, and especially the role of the government he so much defends. Why does Alan Woods say nothing about the role of Chavez and of the Castro regime in the Syrian Revolution?

Both governments have declared themselves friends of Bashar al Assad and Venezuela sends directly the fuel that moves the Syrian tanks and its air force. Both governments are the ones who led the toxic ideological campaign on the Syrian Revolution. These two governments have supported the thesis that the demonstrations and the revolution were an imperialism conspiracy. This is the “left” which declares Bashar as anti-imperialist, as a defender of the Palestinian people and as an enemy of Israel and even as “socialist” and “humanistic”. These are the figures of whom Alan Woods and his friends have forgotten, who helped the isolation of the Syrian revolution on an international basis, isolation that led to the lack of support by the workers and peoples of the world, as happened with Tunisia or Egypt. These two governments are also responsible for the fact that the Syrian people look suspiciously the left because they have seen the way large part of the “left” has supported and continues to support the dictatorship.

We do not condemn Allan Woods and his current for changing their position. Everyone has the right to do so, if convinced by the arguments, and especially if the reality proves that the point of view they previously advocated is wrong. What is not correct is to try to show up as a revolution supporter and then do everything possible to demoralize it, using precisely the arguments of the imperialism, and demoralize the revolutionary summoning them implicitly to accept the “defeat”.

Alan Woods has once again demonstrated that he has abandoned Marxism, which he claims to defend. We, who are Marxists, on the contrary, as it should be, we support the revolution, we are unconditionally with the Syrian people, for the defeat of the dictatorship and we will do whatever is possible, no matter how humble our own possibilities are, to surround them in internationalist solidarity.

__________________________________________

[1] For those who have not read Alan Woods’ article, the full text can be found at the link:

http://www.marxist.com/no-to-imperialist-intervention-in-syria.htm

[2] Ahmad Badr al-Din Hassoun, referred to as”The Grand Mufti of the Syrian Arab Republic.” “Mufti” is a state-religious or academic authority, responsible for interpreting the Islamic law (Sharia) and to issue official statements (fatwas) on controversial issues.

[3] Available at: http://www.luchadeclases.org/internacional/oriente-medio/1181-regimen-de-al-assad-que-se-ha-convertido.html

Report on the situation in Bangladesh

-Tamzid Ahmed

After relentless pressure from the masses, the bourgeois courts were finally compelled to pass the death sentence on accused war criminal Sayedee . After the passage of the sentence, the people were in a celebratory mood, and Shahbag movement welcomed the verdict which was hailed as being a people’s verdict. Against this the forces of reaction led by Jamaat i Islami unleashed their wave of assaults. They claimed that Saydee was innocent and the trial was fabricated. In opposition to the verdict the party called a nationwide ‘hartal’ for two days . During that period a wave of retributive violence was unleashed against minorities and internet activists from the Shahbag movement. The violence was politically motivated and targeted the perceived support base for the present shahbag movement. The bulk of the violence took place in Shatkhira, Shirajgonj, Coxsbazar, Chitattagong shatkania, neelphamari and in the rural reaches near these cities. Nearly a hundred people were killed by the reactionary militias and in crossfire by the police.

The Jamaat is stronger in the countryside than it is in the cities where it’s base consists mostly of petty bourgeois and lumpen elements. In the countryside it has some following among poor and illiterate peasants who are more easily drawn to the islamist ideology. Soon after the trial some sections of the rural population were brainwashed into thinking that Sayedee was seen in the moon! Ironically, many believed this rumour after seeing photo shopped pictures ofSayedee on the moon and started to think of him as a godman! However, the majority of the country was against the Jamaat’s destructive actions, and there were many cases as was seen in Sylhet of villagers defending the property of hindu and buddhist minorities against the islami foes. Popular defenses here were more consistent than the state forces in securing the lives of the minorities under threat from the jamaatis. Opposition to the Jamaat’s actions included some religiousclerics/mullahs who declared Jamaat shibir to be unislamic.

The Awami league of course has shown both cowardice and inconsistency in dealing with fascistic forces in Bangladesh, and are no doubt soft on these criminal parties. But the Shahbag movement and the popular defense against violence thereafter, have shown how to deal with these forces. A very strong ground is being made in the present scenario which can lead to the abolition of islam as a state religion and the adoption of a secular constitution which was present in Bangladesh before 1975. The expulsion of the islami parties which have acted as an extension of the US-Saudi imperialist matrix has begun !

Shahbag Mass Awakening

– *( The following report has been written by our contact from Bangladesh Tamzid Ahmed )

The ongoing protests began on 5th of February . The people were out demanding death sentence for all war criminals . The war criminals were those charged with crimes against humanity during the revolutionary liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971, they are popularly called ‘Rajakars’ who betrayed their motherland and sided with the US aided Pakistan army in suppressing the fight for freedom. Their methods were vile and brutal! They engaged in wanton killings of the civilian population, they would depopulate entire villages, and brutalize their victims. One very popular tactic employed by this army of reaction was to dump dead bodies in rivers to block transport of guerrilla troops through rivers. Till now, many are reported missing whose bodies have not yet been recovered. The Rajakars revelled in the rape of women and used this vile form of sexual oppression as a weapon of psychological warfare, minorities would be singled out for rape and genocide. In the course of the liberation struggle it is believed that almost 3 million were killed .

For 42 years the anger and indignation of the people of bangladesh remain dormant, but now they have risen! The present round of protests started with the judgment of Kader mollah *( popularly known as the butcher of Mirpur) which reduced his award from that of death penalty to life imprisonment. Kader Mollah was found guilty of killing 352 people in mirpur ,raping women and in three other charges .Despite the weight of his crimes, he was still given the relatively light sentence of life imprisonment. It was then that the people of Bangladesh came to the street to demand justice! At first the protests were small drawing only a few people. But as the protests continued more than hundreds of thousand of people came in and now the protests are going on a daily basis. The protestors have occupied the area of Shahbag and refuse to go to home at night. The protestors are committed to see justice achieved and won’t leave Shahbag till every last war criminal is hanged !

Some of the popular slogans at the protest rallies are : “JOY BANGLA!” (Victory to Bengal!) “AGUN JALO ” (Light the fire!) ” KADER MOLLAH TULE NEBO TOR KOLLAH ” Jamaat e islam made in pakistan “. Today is the 5th day they are protesting in the streets .. and theres no sign of their going home ! There is no one political party or organization leading this rally and from all appearances it seems to be a spontaneous rally led by the youth of Bangladesh. It is a fantastic time we are witnessing with the next generation of Bengalis are beginning to finish the revolution left unfinished by their fathers.

On the question of the revolutionary party

We are re-publishing this article written by comrade Jonas Potyguar on the question of the revolutionary party and it’s organization. The article lays bare the critical importance of organizing the party on the principles of democratic centralism and with a distinct emphasis of recruiting workers as its grassroots.

 

88 years without lenin: A revolutionary leninist party, or a party of affiliated sympathizers ? 

– Jonas Potyguar

The topic of construction of a revolutionary party and the discussion hinging round this pivot abound among socialists. The character of a Leninist party has been attacked from all kinds of angles.

It has even been said – and not altogether wrong – that Lenin’s main contribution to Marxism has been the theory and practise of the organisation of a revolutionary party. This is so, because Lenin regarded organisation as a fundamental issue among all the other tasks, whether agitation or propaganda.

He has even stated that the task of organisation is more important than that of the use of revolutionary violence in the revolution and that is what he said in 1919, at the funeral of Sverdlov, the greatest organiser the Bolshevik party has ever had:

“Comrades, people who judge by what they see on the surface, the numerous enemies of our revolution, and those who to this day vacillate between the revolution and its opponents, consider the most striking feature of our revolution to be the determined and relentlessly firm way it has dealt with the exploiters and the enemies of the working people. There is no doubt that without this, without revolutionary violence, the proletariat could not have triumphed. Nor can there be any doubt that revolutionary violence was a necessary and legitimate weapon of the revolution only at definite stages of its development, only under definite and special conditions, and that a far more profound and permanent feature of this revolution and condition of its victory was, and remains, the organisation of the proletarian masses, the organisation of the working people.”1

And he tops this reasoning “…the main task of the proletarian revolution is precisely the task of organisation.”2

That is why, unlike reformists, Marxists wish to exert power together with the organised masses and that is not a feat of some great parliamentary “leaders”. The most serious symptom of capitulation to the apparatuses – whether reformist or bourgeois parliamentary – and the most frequent way in which this is expressed is the abandonment of the organisation of the toiling masses – or the pushing back of this task to second-best position (in their own organisations) – and of the vanguard in the revolutionary party. The most appealing task normally are those that imply audience, where is possible to test out very soon and in front of people one’s own individual aptitudes. The simple “grey” task of organising, recruiting and spreading the orientation of the party through the press, for example, is much more difficult and tedious. But pushing the task of organisation to the second-rate level means to yield to the pressure of the bourgeoisie and to capitulate to the apparatuses where a few leaders “substitute” the labour of the masses and of the advance guard.

 

This is so important that taking it as priority and building the revolutionary party in Russia was the reason for the victory in Russia and the opposite, considering this a secondary task, led to the defeat of the revolution in Germany in 1918.

The secret of the Bolshevik party and their most important lesson on how to build revolutionary parties all over the world was that, understanding the importance of the organisation, they leaned on a tripod that could (and can) ensure strength and invincibility to any revolutionary party: the use of Marxist theory, a close link with the International and their insertion in the workers’ movement.

“Only relying on Marxist revolutionary theory and on the experience of the international social democracy we can merge our revolutionary trend with the workers’ movement…”3

Using this tripod, Bolshevism gets organised in a new type of party, reflecting not only the specificity of the Tsarist Russia but also the new historic epoch of wars and revolutions. It is from his analysis of imperialism that Lenin draws his vision of a new type of party, fighting, for action, for the seizure of power.

“Imperialism is a stage of capitalism in which, after having done all it could have done, it now revolves towards decadence… There may be many similar wars… To fulfil this new task, the proletarian party may need organisations of a totally new type. It is difficult to foretell what the new form of organisation should be in correspondence with this phase.”4

In 1900, defending a party built around a hard core, basically by professional revolutionaries, he said,

“We must prepare men who would not dedicate only their free afternoons to the revolution, but their entire lives…” 5

He asserts that the party must have a flexible structure to define when a frontal combat is required and when it is necessary to retreat properly. He asserts that unconditional centralisation and the most severe discipline of the proletariat inside their party is one of the fundamental conditions for victory over bourgeoisie.

He draws on the norm that the grassroots of the party be active militants, where all the members, without any exception, take part in the struggle, in the movement and in the everyday life of the toiling masses.

After power has been seized, discipline and centralisation are even more important:

“The strictest centralisation and discipline are required within the political party of the proletariat in order to counteract this, in order that the organisational role of the proletariat (and that is its principal role) may be exercised correctly, successfully and victoriously. The dictatorship of the proletariat means a persistent struggle – bloody and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military and economic, educational and administrative – against the forces and traditions of the old society. The force of habit in millions and tens of millions is a most formidable force. Without a party of iron that has been tempered in the struggle, a party enjoying the confidence of all honest people in the class in question, a party capable of watching and influencing the mood of the masses, such a struggle cannot be waged successfully.” 6

For the Bolshevik party, right from the beginning, even when it consisted of a tiny group of intellectuals who acted in hiding, the insertion in the industrial working class was priority. This orientation is based on the Marxist vision, on the Marxist standpoint on the central character of the industrial working class and the very experience of Marx and Engels who did their best to take socialist ideas to the real movement of working class. As early as 1893, Lenin gets in contact with advanced workers of Saint Petersburg and in 1902 he said:

“Our work is aimed, first of all and above all, at factory workers of the cities. Russian social democracy must not disperse its strength, but concentrate its activity on industrial proletariat… we do not deem it wise to orient our strength towards craftsmen and farmhand…”7

Later on, when the party was no longer small, Lenin oriented it towards other sectors without, however, forsaking that priority. Having defined this priority to social advance guard sectors proved correct, for in 1917 Lenin defended the seizure of power when he achieves majority of soviets in two most important working class cities: Moscow and St. Petersburg. We must add that in those days the Russian working class counted 3 millions souls densely concentrated in big factories among 150 million inhabitants. They achieved the miracle of leading dozens and dozens of millions because they were a power inside the industrial proletariat.

Lenin attached an enormous importance to the press of the party. In his famous book What to do? he spreads a vision of a party newspaper as an organizational and political centraliser for the whole party. Thus, in 1912, faced with the first signs of struggle of the working class, he launches a legal newspaper, the Pravda, whose launching was preceded by a several-month-long campaign asking factory workers for their financial support. Contributions came in tens of thousands and there was also a subscription campaign. Pravda had the backing of tens and hundreds of workers, who – with their modest contributions – ensured its publication.

Reflecting directly the situation of class struggle, the ups and downs, victories and defeats, and also the different phases of the construction of the party, there were great wavering as far as the number of militants goes. A party of a few tens of militant cadres in 1901 and of hundreds in 1903 was a founding group, as Lenin put it; “a communist nucleus whose central task was to insert themselves among the masses of workers.” In 1905, at the beginning of the revolution, an advance-guard party with 8 000 militants, most of them inserted in industrial centres, a party in “transition from communist propaganda and agitation to action”. In 1907, at the congress of reunification with the Mensheviks, 77 000 militants with a slight majority of Bolsheviks, the party was already in the period of “mass party” whose essential task was, as Lenin used to say, “take the initiative in massive actions”. At a time of a slump in the struggles, of defeats, in 1910, in most regions the party disintegrated and just a few dozen militants remained. In 1916 the new ascent began and the Bolshevik party had at most 5 000 members and a few cadres. When the revolution began, thousands and thousands of workers joined the political battle and left-wing parties and by April 1917 the party could already boast 79 000 members and by July the figure reaches 170 000, 250 000 by March 1919, 610 000 in March’20 and 730 000 in March 1921.

Bolshevism combined a great inflexibility as far as principles are concerned and a great flexibility at the time of using tactics (forms of struggle) of the most varied type. For example, the defence of using parliament and then boycott, the defence of participating in all the workers’ organisations (trade unions) but censuring the yellow trade unions; the use of terrorism (and also guerrilla) but in a compulsory manner using it only in the service of the working class and as part of the workers’ struggle.

This is absolutely essential in the building of revolutionary parties because to fall into opportunism or ultra-leftism is to give priority to an only procedure, isolate it and turn it into an absolute (for example the use of the parliament). It is just like this popular saying goes: “anything in excess is poison”.

This is how Lenin expresses this vision: “On the other hand, Bolshevism, which had arisen on this granite foundation of theory, went through fifteen years of practical history (1903-17) unequalled anywhere in the world in its wealth of experience… During those fifteen years, no other country knew anything even approximating to that revolutionary experience, that rapid and varied succession of different forms of the movement—legal and illegal, peaceful and stormy, underground and open, local circles and mass movements, and parliamentary and terrorist forms”. 8

If Bolshevism could triumph in the revolution it is because they knew how to expose the opportunists in Russia and in II International; this was one of the causes of victory.

A party of active militants based on professional militants made the building of a mass party for combat and seizure of power possible. This was expressed, for example, in the way Barmin, a young Bolshevik leader, recruited new members in the factories: “Join the party that does not promise advantages or privileges. If we achieve victory, we shall build a new world. If we are defeated, we shall fight to the last man.”

But in order to build a party that can resist the pressure of the bourgeoisie and the defeat it is necessary to mould a party and leaders capable of learning from their errors.

“A political party’s attitude towards its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest ways of judging how earnest the party is and how it fulfils in practice its obligations towards its class and the working people. Frankly acknowledging a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, analysing the conditions that have led up to it, and thrashing out the means of its rectification – that is the hallmark of a serious party; that is how it should perform its duties, and how it should educate and train its class, and then the masses. By failing to fulfil this duty and give the utmost attention and consideration to the study of their patent error, the “Lefts” in Germany (and in Holland) have proved that they are not a party of a class, but a circle, not a party of the masses, but a group of intellectualists and of a few workers who ape the worst features of intellectualism.” 9

But he was not satisfied with just identifying the error but reasoned in a Marxist way that is to say, with the understanding that the pressures inside the party reflected the pressures existing in the bourgeois society and he always tried to propose concrete measures within the scope of the organisation of the party to correct the existing deviation or problem.

That is how in the early 1905, in the middle of the revolution, as he saw a lot of hesitations among the leaders of his faction, he proposed clear steps: that the committees of the party should have a majority of workers. (“eight workers for every two intellectuals, for workers have class instinct) He lost when the votes were taken. But in November 1905 in the middle of the revolutionary crisis, he was requesting one intellectual for several hundreds of workers.

After the seizure of power and by the end of the civil war, climbers were flooding the party. Lenin proposed:

“…I should advise the most rigorous admission to the party: a three-year period as candidate for workers (considering a worker one who has worked at least 10 years in the great industry as a simple salaried worker and has now been working for at least 2 or 3 years); for peasants and combatants of the Red Army, 4 years and for everybody else, 5 years.”10

When the danger of bureaucratisation of the USSR emerges, in his last writings he insists that:

“Inclusion of many workers to the CC will help workers to improve our administrative body… The workers who will become part of the CC should be mainly not those who have been acting for a long time in the Soviets… for they have been soaked in with certain traditions and prejudices that we wish to fight against.”11

What a difference between this party and the German party! The latter, held on to legal (parliamentary) intervention, with affiliates who did not have an everyday active participation in the life of the party and workers’ struggles. This “giant” party had, on the eve of the war, a million members, 90 daily papers and had reached 4 million votes in the elections to the parliament. It had magazines, schools, universities, 2.5 million workers were organised in trade unions led by social democrats. When the war broke out it split to pieces like crystal receiving the first bullet. But this routine in the form of organisation was so deep that this lax and rusty structure affected also the Spartaquists, whose leader was Rose Luxemburg, who in 1914 publicly split away from the reformists but did not split away, or took a long time to do so, with their forms of organisation. And that proved deadly for the German revolution. Rose Luxemburg failed to understand that the new epoch required a new type of party. Her organisation had to form itself in the middle of the war and in totally clandestine conditions, had no time to grow up: its members had no discipline and most militants, reacting in an ultra-leftist fashion to the opportunist capitulation of the social democrats, refused to take part in elections or trade unions. Later on Lenin reflected that the main error of German communists was that they did not split away from the social democrats early enough, even before the war.

In 1921 he was to say:

“it is necessary to expose in full details what is it that does not exist in most of the legal parties in the West. There is no everyday work (revolutionary work) done by each and every one member of the party.”12

Nowadays, there is a great discussion in the workers’ movement about the characteristics and the structure of a revolutionary party. Most people point blank refuse to have “Leninist” Democratic Centralism which is regarded as antidemocratic and the form of “affiliated” members, a lax form that admits “ample democracy” for the grassroots, is regarded as preferable.

The discussion on centralisation or non-centralisation of a revolutionary party depends on the purpose it is being built for.

If it is for the seizure of power and to install the dictatorship of the proletariat and overcome the resistance of imperialism by force, the organisation of the party will necessarily have to be centralised, where the 100% of the militants are active and committed militants of workers’ cause. History has proved that without such a type of party victory is always in jeopardy.

On the other hand, if we want to have a party centred hinging round parliamentary activity, elections, a trade union activity now and again (strictly legal) so as to achieve more votes and reach power through elections, there is no need for any democratic centralism. The structure of social democratic parties is good enough for that.

But it is deceitful to tell simple people who do not understand politics that the structure of “affiliates” is more democratic: this is simply a lie! In this type of parties, it is the opportunist leadership who decide everything, and more often than not they are members of parliament, governors, presidents, trade union bureaucrats and the affiliates are simply informed via TV about the guideline of the party, just the way it keeps on happening in Brazilian PT: it turned neoliberal without consulting the hundreds of thousand of affiliated workers.

On the contrary, the Leninist structure of democratic centralism, with the active militants, who participate in the everyday struggle of the workers and party life, discuss everything freely inside the party with the most absolute democracy and then, in a centralised way, everybody, from the freshest to the oldest, have to defend the guideline voted by majority.

This is the only way in which workers can impede that their leader be corrupted by the bourgeoisie.

“And if the workers’ party is really revolutionary, if it is really workers’ (that is to say: linked to the masses, to most workers, to the grassroots of the proletariat and not only to the upper crust sector), if it is really a party, that is: if it is the organisation of the revolutionary advance guard, strong and consistent, capable of doing the revolutionary task among the masses by any possible means, then there is no doubt that this party will be able to hold its members of parliament back…” 13

“The more outstanding the scabs are (meaning Kamenev and Zinoviev) the more compulsory it is to punish them at once with expulsion. The only way to heal a workers’ party is to purge a dozen pusillanimous petty intellectuals, to huddle together the revolutionary rank and file, march together with revolutionary workers.” 14

By means of thousands of negative examples, history has proved the absolute necessity of a Leninist party and today the loss of many revolutions happens just because proletariat does not have a tool of this type and is trapped by the demagogic socialist and “democratic” leaders.

The United Secretariat of the IV International has long forsaken the democratic centralist structure of the organisation of their parties and of the International. But now they take another step forward and make a call to unite all the anticapitalist left, a call that has been passed at the XV Congress of the LCR (France) to:

“… build a new political force, ample and pluralist, radically anticapitalist and resolutely democratic. This grouping in a united party is necessary and urgent to act together along the major guidelines that may, in our opinion, be summed up in a few points: opposition to imperialism, to the war, to the capitalist globalisation… the perspective of a breach with capitalism.”15

This resolution is a “jewel” of opportunism in every field. It would be necessary to write an entire book to expose the venom it contains.

To begin with the expression “opposition to imperialism”. “Opposition” is a parliamentary term. Anybody, down to the blind man in the doorway of a church is “opposition to imperialism”. “Opposition to the war”, yes, of course we are all against the war and the imperialist invasion of Iraq. But are we for the anticolonial war that the Iraqi resistance is carrying out now, and even if necessary, for sending them weapons?

Let us go on to the “perspective” of breach with the capitalism. This just does not commit anybody to anything and left for the future it is something that even Rosseto (Minister of Land Reform in Lula administration) might sign. And the break away from capitalism is to replace it with…. what? That is not said. In this way, anyone can fit into the party, any anti-neoliberal democrat, like the ones who head the World Social Forum and claim that “another world is possible” even in the imperialist system or claim for “unlimited” democracy – and this is something everybody likes – especially imperialism and their companies that exploit and govern the world in an “unlimited way”.

To enter the kingdom of democracy it is not necessary to have a disciplined party of determined and toughened proletarians, ready to die for their class; all you need for that is “to be ample and pluralist”. That is so, because obviously what is needed here is not a party to lead an insurrection and a revolution but to form “potential socialist ministers” for the parliament who would dedicate themselves to diminish the poverty of the “excluded” by means of “compensatory measures” and to guarantee a “law” that would demand from the capital that it should share out its profit and to yell from the parliamentary tribunal against capitalism. What is the use of a centralised party, organised and educated for the seizure of power if it is all about civilised “opposition” to her majesty the bourgeoisie? It is far more convenient to make an “ample and plural” party with members of parliament, consultants, trade union leaders, where liberty would prevail so far that it would even be possible to become a minister in a capitalist government!

Whether to be part of an “anticapitalist” party or not is not a point of principles. Very often revolutionaries are compelled to be there in order to fight reformists who are there. But USec defends the dissolution of their organisations in such parties making the frontiers between revolutionaries and reformists blurred.

Be that as it may, what matters is not what is said but what is done, for words are often gone with the wind and what stays are the bourgeois laws defending the large Brazilian estates applied against the poor of the countryside by a “Trotskyist” minister (in reference to minister Rosseto, member of the USec). It is a disgrace for the IV International. Those who accept such treason are accomplices in the blemishing of the banner of the IV International, of Leninism and revolutionary Marxism.

Notes:

1 Lenin, C.W. tome 38, page 158

2 Lenin, C.W. tome 7, page 59

3 Lenin, C.W. tome 26, page 30

4 Lenin, C.W. tome 4 page 396

5 Lenin, Lef-wing communism, an infantile disorder

6 Lenin, C.W. tome 2, page 486

7 Lenin, Lef-wing communism, an infantile disorder

8 Lenin, Lef-wing communism, an infantile disorder

9 Lenin, C.W. tome 45, page 7

10 Lenin, C.W. tome 45, page 363

11 Lenin, C.W. tome 44, page 14

12 Lenin, C.W. tome 39, page 173

13 Lenin, C.W. tome 34, page 439

14 Lenin, C.W. tome 34, page 439

15 Rouge, 21/11/2003

Understanding 1947 part 2

b)Were the events of 1947 and the year immediately preceding it ‘peaceful’? In that context was the independence struggle ‘peaceful’?

 

This could well be the most superfluous and most peripheral of all the questions surrounding 1947. And yet it is one of the most aggressively expressed of all. Human history in general is full of dramatic violence, political history in particular. When conflicts involve relations of power and wealth (ie who produces what and for who?) between people, struggle is never peaceful. When those fighting over the power and wealth are whole countries or whole social classes, wars break out. Here there is no question of peace in any regard. To understand conflicts about power and wealth we need to know the forces involved in the war and the methods used.

 

‘Peaceful’ methods relate to ‘violent’ methods in the same way as sparring in the boxing ring relates to throwing and landing punches. The aim is always to reduce an opponent to submission, and no one is under any illusions about this – in the boxing ring. In politics, however, lying about methods is part of the war, and if submission can be exacted by blackmail or threats without direct violence, and this approach can be successfully passed off as agreement and cooperation, the winners find themselves in a stronger position. “My peaceful negotiation — your violent aggression” has always been a hit number in media supporting any combatant. And such distortions are the stock in trade of diplomacy and domestic wheeling and dealing.

 

And in the case of India the violence and the propaganda have been proportionate to the size of the power and wealth at stake. The wealth produced by hundreds of millions of people is vast, as is the power it can fuel. Continental, in fact. No wonder European powers fought bitterly to control it and legitimize their seizure of it. And once England had seized it, no wonder it fought just as bitterly to keep it in its grasp. And lied as blatantly about the purpose and character of its rule. And no wonder the class interests that came to lead the revolt against the British made sure that the same lies were perpetuated during and after the colonial conflict. Only instead of God and the Queen, the lies were erected around Gandhi and Nehru. Instead of British financial and industrial capital, Indian landed capital came to hold the fort and repelled all competitors, only letting Indian industry and finance in on the game as they grew stronger. The hundreds of millions of Indians working daily to produce the wealth and thus the power of India were locked outside the fort, subject to harsh military control and forced to hand over their work to their rulers with nothing to show for it except a loin-cloth and an overcrowded village hut. The propaganda of the winning side, the Congress, showed Gandhi in the loin-cloth and hut. In reality Gandhi’s side was sitting in a golden banqueting hall stuffing itself with delicacies and surrounding itself with luxury.

 

So, ‘peace’ has little to do with the content of any struggle, let alone a revolutionary one involving historical socio-economic transformation. And it follows from this that simply being violent has nothing to do with revolution or social change. However, people with a clear understanding of history and politics are far less inclined to use passive conciliatory tactics (lyingly labelled ‘peaceful’ by ruling class propaganda) in the field of struggle. Revolutionaries use appropriate methods of struggle in exactly the same sober, considered way the leaders and general staffs of the forces opposed to them do, given that the foremost objective of a revolutionary is the destruction of the existing outworn mode of production (imperialist capitalism) and initiating the transformation to the mode of production that will supersede it (socialism). This is achieved by the conquest of state power, overthrowing the political leadership of the ruling classes and replacing it with the political rule of the revolutionary classes. Doing this is clearly impossible without the exertion of force by the revolutionary class against the ruling class. At least as crucial, if not even more important than the actual application of violence, is the permanent mobilization of class forces with the declared aim of taking power. In other words, the demonstrated capacity of the working class and the peasantry to back up its demands with action. The question of violence is reduced to one of empirical observation once force erupts in the case of violent aggression or repression by the ruling class, using its jealously guarded monopoly of military violence, which in turn gives rise to actions of defence and counter-attack by the oppressed class and its allies.

 

Now that we have a clearer view of the character of the change brought about by Independence and the character of revolutionary change as such, we can more fully understand the nature of the struggle for Indian independence and see how far the ‘peaceful’ epithet of the independence struggle is justified. In other words, we are in a position to see through the smoke screens and mystifications of the Gandhi myth.

 

 

The historical background

 

Contrary to the propaganda promoted by the Indian state, the independence struggle was neither peaceful nor gradual, and it was most definitely not isolated from world events. It was a long-lasting process, beginning in many ways with the sepoy rebellion of 1857. Marx noted that in the hundred years of the rule of the East India company, India was opened up to the full force of world capitalism. A brutal and far reaching process of primitive capitalist accumulation took place which resulted in the wholesale economic destruction of India’s pre-capitalist industries. The destruction of Bengal’s textile industry is just one example. Though there was an undisputed drainage of wealth from India to Britain, this period also saw the beginnings of a capitalist class and capitalist society in India, as well as the stirrings of a consciousness which was decidedly post feudal. The destruction of India’s indigenous economy and the aggressive imposition of an unequal and exploitative capitalist rule created the conditions for the rebellion of 1857, which was far more than just a ‘sepoy mutiny’.

 

Every stage of the mutiny was violent. British families were attacked, British soldiers were killed. Political and administrative representatives of the British were targeted and the economic interests of the East India Company were in jeopardy. Britain clearly risked losing its holdings in India, and would certainly have done so if it wasn’t for certain fatal weaknesses in the rebellion of 1857. Chief of these was the reactionary leadership given by the remnants of India’s pre-capitalist political elite, the rajahs of the vassal princely states of India and the last emperor of the decrepit Mughal empire, also a vassal of the English. The underdeveloped consciousness of the sepoys themselves gave free rein to the reactionary leadership which completely failed to harness or develop the budding revolutionary process in 1857. Religion was a culprit in this, too, of course, as it reinforced the reactionary feudal leadership emerging from the disenfranchised section of the pre-capitalist elite. Many have naturally but quite mistakenly equated the movement with its leadership, a malaise all too common in modern Indian thought that leads to entirely erroneous conclusions as to its character.

 

The late 19th century context

 

The aftermath of the rebellion saw the strengthening of British rule over the subcontinent and the emergence of a stronger Indian capitalist class from the merchants and early industrialists. In particular, the textile and ship-building industries saw dramatic growth driven by a slew of infrastructural investments made by the British to secure British dominance in the subcontinent. The rebellion also gave rise to a new enlightened political movement led by an emerging Indian intelligentsia influenced strongly by developments in Europe and America. A major trend which developed almost instantly after 1857 was social reform. Here too bourgeois liberal European and American ideas found popularity as they gave the pioneers of social reform a theoretical base from which to attack the pre-capitalist social evils prevalent in India.

 

The main goals were to break the stranglehold of the priestly castes on social thought in India and to destroy caste-based divisions, but modernization of education and women’s liberation were important as well. This social reform movement was not violent in any way but it did inspire armed insurgent movements later. The indigo rebellion provides another interesting example of political movements around this period. A political link developed between the rising urban bourgeoisie in Calcutta and the mobilizations of the peasantry in Bengal against the economic depradations of the indigo cultivators which led to the success of the rebellion. The rebellion was violent and took place just two years after the 1857 mutiny.

 

While bourgeois liberalism gave the theoretical tools, French anarchism influenced methods of protest and agitation, particularly among the more radical bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leadership. Anarchism’s influence was most overt in the methods of mobilization and terrorism used by the Bengali nationalists before and during the Swadeshi movement. The tradition of bomb-making for instance was copied from the French anarchists. Elsewhere, Vasudev Balwant Phadke adopted armed tactics to oppose British imperialism, though his ideology was rooted in Maharashtra. What was common to these trends of ‘revolutionary violence’ in both Bengal and Maharashtra, was the agenda of national liberation from the yoke of the British and the need for social change with the abolition of casteism as a major bourgeois-democratic goal. These trends show that with the development of capitalist rule over India, the ideas of capitalist Europe penetrated the intelligentsia of India, and none of these ideas had non-violence as a core principle. This access of terrorist violence was of course only a reaction to the structural and political violence inflicted by the British Imperialists on the people of the subcontinent.

 

Besides these radical and ‘violent’ sections of the bourgeoisie, there was a conciliatory tendency as well. They were not necessarily pacifist per se, but believed in taking a pacifist approach towards the British. This took the form of the tactics of prayer and petition which were the hallmark of the moderates of the Congress party (led by founding Brahmin members like Surendranath Bannerjee and Mahadeo Govinda Ranade). This section of the bourgeoisie did not believe in conflict with the British imperialists, seeking only to increase their stake as loyal subordinates of the empire in India. There were ample rewards for such ‘loyalty’ in the form of political favours (like knighthood) and commercial opportunities(e.g. support to the Tatas). The new Indian bourgeoisie was being crafted from among these lick-spittle servants of the Raj, and from them the future rulers of the Indian republic would spring.

 

The conflict between radicals and moderates over the methods and aims of the independence struggle existed from the start of the Congress party, but each leap in mobilization saw the fissure deepen. Interestingly, it only grew deeper with the strengthening of the workers movement across the world and reached a peak with the emergence of the communist movement in Europe and Asia. As a result the radical section became even more radicalized and increasingly so with the absorption of radicalized petty bourgeois elements into the Congress party. The bourgeoisie was faced with the constant challenge of winning over the classes of the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie to its programme, which forced it to keep up with the times. What was common however, between both the radical and moderate sections of the Congress party and within the larger spectrum of Indian bourgeois politics, was the resort to methods of petition and propaganda, the question of violence or non-violence was considered immaterial question in this regard. The radicals held more consistently to the bourgeois-democratic agenda than the moderates, but neither embraced complete independence as a goal till they were given the proverbial kick up the backside by revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh.

 

The early 20th century context

 

No representatives of the Indian bourgeoisie, whether ‘revolutionary’ or mainstream, had succeeded in reaching beyond their immediate class and caste boundaries to win over the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie. At the same time, the British too were beginning to realize that the political movement created by a tiny ‘enlightened’ middle class wasn’t much use as a safety valve for the larger populace. With the threat of world revolution radiating from the Soviet Union, it became vital for the British to utilize the Congress party to absorb discontent on a massive scale. And lo! We witness the rise of Gandhi and his grand entry into Indian politics as a leader of the Congress Party. It is no coincidence that Gandhi and his ‘non-violence’ based mass mobilizations came on the scene at the same time that the Indian Communist party was founded in the Soviet Union. The emergence of Gandhi was a crowning achievement of the politics of the moderates, namely conciliation with British imperialism, their surface hostility to civil disobedience notwithstanding.

 

Gandhi was able to pacify the populace to some extent, and more importantly he was able to neutralize the ‘troublesome’ middle class intelligentsia who advocated tactics of individual terrorism and insurgency. Nevertheless, even Gandhi’s allegedly ‘peaceful’ mass methods exploded into violence as in the Chauri Chaura incident during his non-cooperation movement. But not even within his own movement could Gandhi fully douse the raging fire of revolution in the hearts of the Indian poor. In the 1930s there was a second round of armed insurgency against British rule, including the Chittagong uprising (modelled on the Irish Easter uprising of 1916 ). A significantly new characteristic of the uprising was its leadership and ideology. The movement was inspired by socialist ideals and followed left-wing leadership. It failed, however, due to the absence of mass mobilization. Tactics of individual terror and isolated insurgency have time and again led to failure in Indian history.

 

The failure to develop a strong armed movement against British rule, and the conciliatory attitude of the new moderates of the Congress led left petty-bourgeois radicals like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose to break new ground in Indian politics and build an army of liberation beyond the reach of the British imperialists, despite their roots in the Congress movement. Inspiration from the massive revolutionary anti-imperialist mobilization in China and the anti-capitalist, anti-landlord socio-economic model of the Soviet Union influenced the development of the Indian National Army (INA) movement under Subhash Chandra Bose. He was made to pay dearly for his radical views, however, which tended naturally towards socialist revolution in India and Asia, first by expulsion from the Congress party, and ultimately by betrayal at the hands of the Congress leaders Nehru, Gandhi and Patel.

 

The emergence of the Indian working class

 

The emergent communist movement in India was far from the work of Stalinists alone, and by 1935 a combative Bolshevik-Leninist current emerged as well, following the development of the international Left Opposition and the collapse of the Third International. Of course, the Indian bourgeoisie was also responsible for this new movement, as it had almost exhausted its progressive capabilities, and as it grew stronger and more dominant it became less and less interested in or capable of satisfying the overarching needs of the Indian populace. Keeping pace with the rise of the bourgeoisie was the emergence of a strong and organized proletariat in India. The social impact of this change was profound. For the first time in Indian history, there was active intervention by the working class in the political affairs of modern India, which had hitherto been dominated by the big bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeois middle classes. Since the former were more and more thoroughly integrated with British finance capital and the latter were too fragmented and historically hamstrung, they could not lead the peasantry towards consummating the bourgeois revolution. And so, by the logic of history, the tasks of this democratic revolution fell chiefly on the shoulders of the proletariat to fulfil as part of its socialist revolution. The permanent revolution in India was thus being fostered by its own imperialist enemies and their national agents. And as a concrete expression of this the BLPI was formed.

 

At the same time, the petty bourgeoisie grew more radicalized. Having experimented with liberalism and nationalism, this constricted section of Indian society (which became even worse off after the great depression of the 1930s) turned hard to the left and adopted socialist ideas. This was accompanied by a split between the progressive left-wing petty-bourgeoisie and the reactionary right-wing petty bourgeoisie who sought to create a violent ultra-right movement in India along the lines of Italian fascism. Surya Sen, the leader of the Chittagong uprising of 1930, and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose represented the progressive wing of the petty-bourgeoisie in India, while Golwalkar and Jinnah represented petty-bourgeois reaction.

 

The Quit India movement mobilized the most progressive sections of the petty-bourgeoisie against Britain at a time of world war, and shook the balance of power in the subcontinent. It saw the overthrow of British rule in parts of the country and imposed self-rule. Satara and Tamluk jatiyo sarkars are the most notable examples of parallel governments which threw off the British yoke. The uprising was in every way violent and the British response to it was completely ruthless. The open and violent character of the uprising, however, was ignited by the arrest of the main leadership of the Congress party including Gandhi, removing the only effective safety valve for swelling popular rage. At around the same time, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose formed his Indian National Army with soldiers who defected from the British Indian army and plantation workers in south-east Asia who volunteered for the INA. This force of workers and peasants marched to the Indian frontier through Burma, assisted by the Japanese Imperial army and navy. Strategic imperatives forced Britain to crush the uprising and resurrect the Congress party and Gandhi, as this was the only way it could reinforce its decaying rule over India, in which the genocidal Bengal famine was symptomatic. But the flame of 1942 refused to die, and a much more powerful movement would emerge immediately after the war in the naval mutiny and uprising of 1946.

 

These revolutionary developments in India, however, jeopardized the existence of the Indian bourgeoisie as a class. Since India was a ‘significant’ colony of the empire, i.e. because the mother country was so desperately dependent on it, it was to some extent in a position to stake its own claim within the framework of British imperialism, and the Indian bourgeoisie sought to take the fullest advantage of this. As such India acted more like a sub-metropolis than a pure colony in its relations with British capital, especially when it was used to enslave other colonies of the empire as a colonial gendarme. The Indian bourgeoisie and in particular the big bourgeoisie was ready to content itself with becoming a major if still subordinate partner in British imperialism, in this the Indian bourgeoisie found itself allied yet antagonistic to the British bourgeois. But such a plan would fail completely if the revolutionary forces in India fought for and achieved their historically just objectives of national, social and economic revolution. The events of 1942 and its later consequences taught the British the importance of the Indian bourgeoisie in ruling India, not just as a colony or dominion, but as a capitalist state as such. They became bitterly aware that to preserve at least a semblance of British presence in South Asia they would be compelled to make massive concessions to this class.

 

By 1946, the conflicts between a dirigiste big bourgeoisie hungry for state power and control, and the radical forces of Marxist revolutionaries, and left petty-bourgeois radicals like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose came out into the open. The naval mutiny and its attendant rural uprisings and general strike revealed very clearly where the ‘non-violent’ conciliatory bourgeois forces led by Gandhi and Nehru stood in relation to the Indian revolution. They hated it. They fully supported and actively connived with the British to destroy the uprising, persuading the mutineers of the Royal Indian Navy to lay down their arms before the British troops only to be massacred by their cannons.

 

But crushing the mutiny itself would not be enough. Having seen the power of the class in action, the Indian bourgeoisie and its British benefactors were constrained to hatch a much more violent and much more devastating plan to enable a continued imperialist presence in South Asia and ensure that the bourgeoisie would remain in power in a capitalist state. The Indian bourgeoisie had by now ambitions which went beyond cutting a niche for itself within the framework of the British empire, it demanded a sphere of its own. For its part the British promised the big Indian bourgeoisie the lion’s share of its empire in India, while placating the smaller Muslim section of the Indian bourgeoisie with a quarter of whatever remained. Partition was supported by the British and Indian bourgeoisies to cripple and break the revolutionary potential of the entire subcontinental working class and peasantry. This was necessary for the Indian bourgeoisie to come to power and stay there unchallenged in South Asia. Additionally, derailing the Indian revolution helped guarantee and prolong the deformity of the Chinese revolution and preserved South Asia as a counter-revolutionary bulwark against an Asian continent undergoing revolutionary transformations from Russia to Indo-China.

 

Conclusions :

 

Thus the Indian bourgeoisie came to power on the blood-soaked backs of the working class and peasantry. This gory rise to power could only be passed off most shamefully as being ‘peaceful’ because arms were turned inward among the ranks of the oppressed rather than out against the oppressors. The uprising of 1946 was echoed by the partition riots of the same year. Unsurprisingly, Congress party workers were enthusiastic participants in the bloodshed which took place in that year. The leaders of the Muslim League were more than eager to become a junior partner in this plot to destroy the Indian revolution, since they would get its own country to rule and could thus aspire to sovereign power like their bigger counterparts in the Congress party.

 

Upon usurping power in this way, the Indian bourgeoisie led by the Congress party did their utmost to steal all the credit for the entire freedom movement. In this way they canonized ‘non-violence’ as the weapon which supposedly brought down the British empire from Palestine to Malacca. Nothing could be further from the truth!

 

‘Non-violence’ in Indian history is just a tool in the hands of the British Imperialists to pacify the Indian masses and control them, from the earliest moderates right down to the conciliators under Gandhi and Nehru.

 

Our conclusion is that the independence movement as a whole was not peaceful, and nor were the culminating events of 1946-47 in any way peaceful !

 

It is true that the violence which erupted during the partition was not aimed against the British, but against the working class and peasantry, with the undeclared aim of destroying the Indian revolution. But this only masks the question of power, and leaves unanswered the critical question of who came to power and how. In 1947, the Indian bourgeoisie in collaboration with British Imperialism, broke the backs of the Indian workers and peasants, and usurped power from their erstwhile British masters. This was done after using the force of the peasantry as a battering ram against the British to demand concessions for themselves. In this the Indian bourgeois found itself antagonistic but still allied with the indian people. The British were sufficiently weakened to concede a huge portion of their empire in India to the rising Indian bourgeoisie and its preferred political representatives in the Congress party. But not before handing over a sizeable portion of the subcontinent to the smaller Muslim League bourgeoisie.

 

Later on the Indian peasantry and workers won some concessions, but the tasks of the social revolution in India were thrown back by decades as the bourgeoisie consolidated its rule with the connivance of British and world imperialism. India under the Congress, would later on emerge in its own right as a powerful imperialist force in Asia and more recently in Africa, and continue and extend the role it mastered in 1947 as a major agent of democratic reaction on the world stage. The BJP, an offshoot of the Congress, brought no change but merely continued this reactionary agenda in the 5 years that it was in power. 

Contradictions of the Libyan revolution and parallels with Bangladesh 1971


Introduction:

The events in Libya today have posed to the Bolshevik Leninist Left have posed a most complex set of questions. The uprising inLibya, coupled with its unique position in the African continent and the Arab world, and the fact of a civil war breaking out only exacerbate the intensity of the situation. One of the defining features of any sound Bolshevik Leninist analysis is that it bases itself on the very fundamentals of Marxism never deviating from the principled positions which it enshrines. Part of this is harboring a historical perspective of struggle based on an analysis of class conflict. Understanding the class forces inLibyaand viewing the present civil war and the imperialist intervention from this viewpoint would be indispensable. So far the left has been conspicuous by the absence of these perspectives in understanding the situation inLibya. One of the angles hitherto explored has been to seek out comparable historical parallels. Whilst still missing from an analysis focusing on the national contradictions of Libya itself, this may still serve to sharpen a class understanding from an international and historic perspective.

Historicalparallels: –

Before continuing with which historic parallels are being compared to the Libyan situation let’s briefly describe the situation inLibyaas it stands. The uprising inLibyabegan in the early part of the year along with the protests and uprisings inEgypt,Tunisia,SyriaandAlgeria. It was part of a pan Arabic movement spanning two continents with its aftershocks being felt in the Balkans right at the heart of Europe (there were widespread protests in Albania shortly after the Tunisian uprising).Egypt and Tunisia saw the fall of the autocracies in power and opened up a new phase of the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. The Libyan regime was by far the most difficult to overcome and remains so till date. The Libyan struggle began with urban uprisings concentrated mostly in the Eastern part of the country which challenged the rule of the Gaddafi regime. The Arab revolution was accelerated with the events in Egypt which reached a climax with the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. Libya was not going to be alienated from these and consequently the struggle in Libya intensified, with the intensification of the “peaceful” protests in the western urban centers culminating in the present civil war situation after Gaddafi’s crackdown. Throughout the period of struggle till date what was most evident was the absence of revolutionary leadership which could develop a strong anti-imperialist perspective and consistently struggle for a revolutionaryLibya. Not only that but there was hardly the presence of any non-revolutionary progressive forces either which was present in Egypt and is now emerging as the decisive leading force in the revolution in Egypt today.  These adverse factors coupled with the fact of a civil war situation and a region wide revolutionary wave, meant that the deficit in leadership would only be exacerbated. These adverse factors have resulted in the mantle of leadership being donned by defecting sectors of Gaddafi’s regime. These are sections of the Libyan bourgeois who have quite obviously fallen out of  favor with Gaddafi and are overtly keen on developing closer relationship with world imperialism. It should be noted that amongst the leaders of the TNC (the Transitional National Council set up as a parallel rebel held government inLibya) is Gaddafi’s eldest sons who was the pioneer ofLibya’s pro-imperialist reforms. Thus, what began as a popular revolt against the regime became hijacked by the reactionary forces of a section of the Libyan bourgeoisie organized in the TNC and actively backed by imperialism from Europe and theUSA. Whilst the participation of the imperialists at the initial stages were peripheral strictly speaking, it soon changed to direct and active intervention beginning with the entry of British special forces on Libyan soil with the objective of “aiding” the rebels. Events soon spilled over to what became an inter-imperialist competition over Libya with China, India, Russia and Brazil voting against the UN resolution on the no-fly zone and the NATO ‘humanitarian’ intervention. Within Libya the leadership of the TNC only kept on showing its reactionary character which by now was openly welcoming the imperialist intervention. This was done in stark contradiction to the wishes of the people ofLibyathemselves who were very clear on maintaining their independence from imperialism. (This was evident from banners being raised inTripoliand other liberated cities). Events thereafter have only seen the intensification of the imperialist backed offensive on Libya and progressively greater participation of the NATO forces as well as that of theUSA. As of now it seems from reports that the ‘rebels’ backed now by the NATO are winning the civil war against Gaddafi with cities after cities falling to rebel forces. In addition to that an interesting pattern is emerging with the imperial forces wanting greater control over the cities which fall to rebel hands. The actions of the NATO in Misrata point to this direction. Thus, we see a progressive change in the situation in Libya beginning from the months of urban uprisings, its subsequent crackdown by the regime forces, the recourse of the rebellion to arms, the subsequent constrictions faced by the rebel forces leading to capitulation by their bourgeois leadership, the eventual entry of western imperialist forces (complemented by the near simultaneous exit of sub-imperial powers from the scene), and ending in the present malaise where decisive power is under threat of falling completely into imperialist hands.

In short the course of the Libyan revolution hitherto is summarized by the chain of events aforementioned. Let’s now, compare it with the parallels that being dealt with as of now. Most of us in the Bolshevik Leninist left would immediately liken the task of constructing a defeatist position in re imperialism as well as Gaddafi going by Lenin’s tactics in relation to Kerensky. Indeed this was the first parallel that has been weighed in against the realities ofLibya. But how far is this applicable? Let’s consider the following:

a) The defense of the Kerensky regime by the Bolsheviks in Russia was done considering the fact of a successful democratic revolution overturning the Czarist regime. Should Kornilov have been allowed to win against the government; the gains of the democratic revolution would have been undone, thereby destroying the possibility of a further advance towards a socialist revolution. To use this parallel to defend Gaddafi against the imperialist attack I feel is preposterous. Firstly, unlike Russia in February, the Libyan proletariat has yet to see the success of a revolution to even that of Egyptian levels. Secondly, the prime forces of reaction inLibya’s case are those of NATO and the EU imperialists which are external and not internal as was the case with Kornilov in Russia which represented a national threat emerging from within Russia.

b) The defense of Kerensky was objectively speaking a military defense of the democratic bourgeois regime which was formed from the February revolution. It was never an unconditional defense of the regime per se . In Libyawe see a nation threatened by imperialist invasion and imperialist occupation which demands revolutionaries to unconditionally defend the independent non-imperialist regime. Unconditional defense but never should it be uncritical. On the contrary we are duty bound to be critical in our defense of national struggles especially in situations like Libyawhere we are faced with a counter revolutionary force in the leadership of the defense of the nation-state, in Libyanamely that of Gaddafi and his forces. There are going to be obvious differences between the military defense of Kerensky and the much wider anti-imperialist defencism applying to a semi colonial nation resisting imperialism. Here a more fitting parallel that can be drawn is with that of Trotsky’s defense of Haille Selassie against that of Italian Imperialism (Not Fascism. The distinction has value here but that maybe highlighted in a different context).

As discussed, the parallel between the Libyan situation and that of Ethiopiain the 1930s still has some relevance. It holds relevance to the extent that Ethiopiawas a country in the periphery of capitalism resisting an imperialist invasion. Haille Selassie was the king of Ethiopiaruling by ‘divine sanction’. In every manner of speaking the rule was reactionary in nature. Despite that Trotsky upheld the commitment towards the defense of oppressed nations in the face of an imperialist threat which is characteristic of Bolshevik political praxis. Most in defense of Gaddafi in Libyatoday in the Bolshevik Leninist left would swear by this example, defending the national sovereignty of semi colonial nations against an imperialist offensive. However, there are many hidden dangers of taking up this precedent without scrutiny of the objective realities facing us in any particular situation. In Libya’s case the first question arises in the comparison with Haille Selassie. To what extent can we consider Gaddafi, the harbinger of “Islamic socialism” and the Libya’s 2nd anti-imperialist revolution (against the proxy monarchy of 1961) comparable to Haille Selassie, the theocratic ruler ofEthiopia? Both led the struggle to resist imperialist aggression, but that is where the similarities end. The second and more pressing question which arises here centers on the fact that the imperialists inLibya aren’t in the actual process of occupation ofLibya unlike what the Italians were engaged with inEthiopia in 1935. When there is indeed no actual occupation of Libyan land, no direct threat from the imperialists themselves, where we indeed see the imperialists functioning as an ancillary to the much more immediately visible force of the rebel trans national council, how can we draw the same tactics of defencism which apply to the situation of direct imperialist aggression (Ethiopia) to that of indirect imperialist intervention (Libya)? What is important for us to consider in both cases, is how the masses in both situations would relate to the respective situations. We can’t put the same set of demands and transitional slogans in both cases. Even more complex is the fact of the nature of the regime of Gaddafi inLibya which must be taken into consideration. When considering all these factors it becomes quite clearly evident that comparisons withEthiopia and defending Haille Selassie become impressionistic at best and treacherously misleading at worst. On this point we may move to right off a comparison between Libya and China on similar grounds, since yet again we are dealing with regimes which are of a different nature and a situation with several fundamentally different dynamics, not to mention the active presence of Stalinism as a political force with mass support. No such force exists inLibya today in the same degree of power. There is however, a lot of international support for Gaddafi from the Castroist camp and the subjective element of Chinese Stalinism/Maoism might as well be tacitly present from China’s end, but notwithstanding this the active role of Stalinism in determining the course of Libyan events presently is marginal to say the least.

Another comparison which was both historically and geographically closer to that ofLibyawas put forward in the example ofIran. However, there are hardly any immediately noticeable comparisons one can draw from that apart from hypothetical situations which involve a similar imperialist intervention in Iran. But in the absence of such a situation actually happening or have happened it is indeed difficult to draw a proper comparison. Nevertheless the general viewpoint of defencism applying to a nation in the periphery of Capitalism like Iran in the face of an imperialist intervention would still hold.

The Bangladesh parallel: –

One of the least explored parallels in the ongoing discussions onLibyais that of the Bangladesh Liberation war of 1971, this despite the striking similarity of events in the two. In view of how little is known about this formative event in the national and political history of billion-strong working class, peasantry and rural poor of South Asia, it’s worth examining in some detail.

The Bangladesh Liberation war was the bloodiest and most deep-reaching chapter in the post-independence history of the Indian sub-continent, and by far the largest war ever fought in the 20th century inIndia. Simultaneously, it was a tragic betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of the masses of Bengal. A betrayal and defeat imposed upon a magnificent victory. The events preceding the war itself were no less dramatic.

The present nation-state of Bangladesh was preceded by the province of East Pakistanwhich was the province of East Bengal since the first partition of Bengal in 1905. Abloody war of independence began in 1971 which led to the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan.  However, the events of 1971 in East Bengalshould more correctly be viewed as a culmination of the democratic struggles which preceded it in the decades of the 50s and 60s. The first big mass mobilizations occurred in 1954 around the compulsory introduction of Urdu as the state language in Pakistan, both in its eastern and western wing. The Bengali masses, who were the majority of what was called East Pakistan took to this move by the Pakistani state bitterly, primarily because the language of the majority of the people in the province was Bengali and few knew or understood Urdu which is primarily spoken in Punjab and other western provinces of Pakistan. It must be noted that the same period saw the emergence of the first military dictatorship in Pakistan in 1958, partly as a reaction to the defeats incurred by the Pakistan army in its war with India over Kashmir. The bourgeoisie of Pakistan felt threatened by a decidedly superior military to its east, and quite naturally took to the support and shelter of the US and UK as a counter to India. At the same time the threat of the working class and peasantry began to emerge from the struggle going on in the East. The forces of Western imperialism supported the regime and its clampdown on the democratic struggles. The launching of the language movement in East Pakistan became the forerunner to the later democratic struggles which would arise inPakistanconcluding in the massive struggles in the late 60s. This struggle succeeded and opened up a whole new chapter of class struggle in Bengal and the sub-continent.

At the same time that East Bengal arose in revolt against the Pakistani state, the peasantry inWest Bengal arose in struggle demanding land reforms. Both struggles were brutally crushed down by the state machinery in both countries. In the coming decades the political interactions between the avante garde radicalized petty bourgeois of West Bengal in Calcutta would come more and more in contact with a new generation of revolutionists in East Pakistan based from Dhaka. The Naxalite movement which began with the Naxalbari insurrection in1964 inWest Bengal gave a new impetus to peasant struggles all over the sub-continent and inspired similar insurrectionary movements in East Bengal. By this time the whole of the sub-continent was undergoing a wave of class struggles and in particular heightened militancy from the working class. The stunning victories of the anti-US Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968 started another wave of class struggles world over, a wave which reached the borders of the sub-continent and in particular Pakistan. By this time the relation between the eastern and western provinces of Pakistan had soured beyond repair. The calamity caused by the Bhola Cyclone of 1969 and the apathetic reaction of the Pakistani state to the sufferings of the masses there was the last straw. In addition to this an emergent Communist movement was seen throughout Pakistan and the sub-continent which posed a dire threat to the bourgeoisie of India and Pakistan.

The two most popular parties in East Pakistan were the Communist Party led by Moni Singh and the National Awami Party led by the left wing populist leader Maulana Bhasani. At the time of the national elections inPakistanthe majority of the population and the largest component of the parliament was the province of East Pakistan. Notwithstanding this, the Pakistani state decided to deliberately crush the aspirations of the masses of the province and continue to disenfranchise them. The conflict between the representatives of East andWest Pakistanbecame evident in western leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s opposition to the candidature of Sheik Mujibur Rahman in the east. For the bourgeoisie in Pakistan, the province of East Pakistanwas nothing more than an exploitable reserve for raw material. One of the chief money-spinners to emerge in Pakistan was the textile and jute industry which was based on the resources available in East Pakistan. The factories however were located mostly inWest Pakistan. The experiences of the democratic struggles of the past in addition to the economic realities of East Pakistanwould culminate in 1971 leading to its independence.

The national elections ofPakistantook place in 1969 and the two most popular parties i.e. the Communist party and the NAP of Bhasani decided to boycott polls. This opened the way for the Awami League party of Mujibur Rahman. Once the counting began, it became evident that the Awami League would win the majority of seats in the assembly. Using the usual undemocratic method of a bourgeois democracy in crisis, the Pakistani establishment reacted to this electoral victory by declaring a state of emergency and making way for a military dictatorship under General Yahya Khan. In addition the defeats thePakistanarmy suffered at the hands of the Indian army and mounting military expenditures pushedPakistanto the brink of a socio-economic crisis. Almost immediately after the military coup, the state made a bloody retaliatory clampdown on the people of East Pakistan. Operation Searchlight was carried out to ‘restore order’ by attacking the ‘anti-national forces’ operating out of Dhaka, the most important city in East Pakistan. It is estimated that 5,000-35,000 people either died or disappeared during the course of the operation, which was specifically targeted the most advanced elements of East Pakistani society. The mass persecution of rebellious forces in East Pakistan spread into the countryside. This instigated an armed revolt from the masses.

The first forces to respond were the Maoist rebels in the countryside.  Siraj Shikder was the Maoist leader inEast Pakistan. The course of the national liberation struggle simultaneously saw a split in the Maoist movement in the sub-continent as the People’s Republic of China sided with the Pakistani state as part of their strategy to containIndia. Nevertheless, the Maoist forces in East Pakistan remained focused on the goal of national liberation of Bangladesh, and continued to resist the assault of the Pakistani army inEast Pakistan. By the middle of 1971 the rebel army had made it almost impossible for the Pakistani establishment to continue any semblance of authority. The leadership of the Awami League fled into India and set up a parallel government with the active backing of the Indian state. The Communist Party of India gave support to the rebels in East Pakistan as well as aid in handling the massive flow of war refugees who were fleeing into the Indian state ofWest Bengal. Whilst India was initially reluctant to intervene directly in the war, the continuous flow of refugees burdened the state ofWest Bengal. This situation in juxtaposition to the ever-growing instability in eastern India influenced the subsequent decision of the Indian state to intervene militarily in the conflict in East Pakistan. By the middle of 1971 Indiawas actively aiding and fuelling the rebellion inEast Pakistan, and helped in the creation of the Mukti Bahini which became the main military machinery of the rebels.

The military intervention of Indiain the conflict was a logical culmination of events. This was an early instance of the modern pretext of “humanitarian intervention” to cover aggressive expansionism. All-out military intervention took place only at the fag end of the war in December 3rd 1971. This was a final blow to the teetering Pakistani army and led to the surrender of 91,000 Pakistani soldiers, which was the largest surrender of any force since the 2nd world war. Dhaka was placed under the command of the Indian military for a time and the nascent armed forces ofBangladesh became an arm of the Indian state. Whilst the losses to the Indian armed forces were light compared to the Pakistani side and the Bengali militia army, the Pakistani crackdown had resulted in the deaths of up to 3 million Bengali civilians. The military intervention ofIndia achieved several goals at one strike. On the one hand, it was a massive display of Indian military power on a regional level – “shock and awe” – whilst on the other;  it created a proxy regime of the Indian state on its eastern frontier. The victory of the rebels over Pakistan and the independence of Bangladesh opened a vital corridor for India to penetrate into South East Asia, and consolidate its hold over north easternIndia. It enhanced India’s prestige on an international level and concretized the emerging alliance with the Soviet Union. For the people of Bangladesh, it meant the super-imposition of the Indian bourgeoisie’s own puppet government in complete conflict with the socialistic aspirations of the people ofBangladesh. The victory of liberation soon turned sour as the new government headed by Mujib turned into a one party state giving the Awami League an authoritarian control of the country.

It was however deemed a National government and was joined by the Communist Party and the National Awami Party. The Communist party’s cadre was continually persecuted by the new regime which also unleashed a wave of repression against leftist forces inBangladesh. The highlight of this dark period was the killing of 4 activists who supportedVietnamin police fire and the killing of the Maoist leader Siraj Shikder. To add to the woes of the nascent government, a crippling famine took place inBangladeshwhich led to a million deaths. The famine was the last straw and led to the collapse of the Mujib government and subsequently to his assassination by a section of the Bangladesh Army. A military coup led by general Zia ul Haq followed a failed attempt by the left wing military leader lieutenant Abu Taher and his party the Jatiya Samajtantrik Party to capture power. The events following 1971 sealed the fate of the country and destroyed the socialist struggle which was emerging from the democratic struggles there. Tendencies towards a socialist revolution had already begun to show during the course of events in the run up to all-out war in 1971 with organs of dual power emerging in East Pakistan and Karachi in 1969. After the famine of 1974 another wave of mass upheavals rocked Bangladesh culminating in a general strike in 1975 thanks in good part to the activities of Siraj Shikder in the countryside. He was assassinated soon after the failed uprising of 1975. The dictatorship of General Zia Ul Haq followed this, and thereafter another military dictatorship by General Ershad.

Some conclusions:

From the above overview of the events of the Bangladesh liberation struggle we may draw some conclusions regarding the present struggle in Libya.

1) The national liberation of Bangladesh began as a just democratic struggle which tended towards a socialist revolution. Following the foreign intervention (byIndia) a comprador bourgeoisie was allowed to hijack the entire process and ultimately undermine and destroy the struggle for a revolutionaryBangladesh. In Libya at present, such a process of imperialist sponsored hijacking is underway which threatens to derail the revolutions not only inLibyaitself but in North Africa andWest Asia.

2)  The Bangladesh liberation war saw a wide split in the left globally along the lines drawn between Maoism and Soviet-based Stalinism. But with this question was clubbed the question of defencism and defeat. Though the aspects of defeatism and defencism were more peripheral in relation to the question of national liberation, it is most definitely emerging as a central question in case of the present Libyan struggle. Libya like Pakistanis a highly stratified society composed of various tribal factions with dramatically varying degrees of loyalty to the Gaddafi regime. While the geographic difficulties aren’t as overarching for Libya as they were for Pakistan(whose eastern and western provinces were separated by over2000 milesofIndian Territory), the stratification of Libyan society would necessarily prove problematic. As of now the most problematic question before the left is in relation to calling for the defense or the defeat of Gaddafi. To be fair, Gaddafi and the old Libyan state cannot be compared to that of Pakistan. Among other things, the Libyan state in its present form emerged from struggles against imperialist oppression, whilst Pakistan itself was a product of imperialism and for much of its life has been a carrier of imperialism regionally and beyond. Deciding whether to call for the defeat of Pakistan in its war against the justified national liberation struggle of the Bengali people would not have been a very difficult question in that context, notwithstanding the direct intervention of India. However, when it comes to the defense of Libya against imperialist attacks by the EU and NATO, a whole historical question is brought to the fore which of necessity must include the past struggles of Libya against imperialism in which Gaddafi played a role of critical importance. From this would emerge a fairer more balanced characterization of the present struggle. The defense of the independent state of Libya against the forces of imperialism as such cannot, in my opinion be extended to the defense of the regime headed by Colonel Gaddafi. If that were so, why not defend Pakistan to the point of opposing the national liberation of Bangladesh?

3) It is a fact that during the 1971 war India also used military force against the western wing of Pakistan. Recently exposed documents reveal that Indira Gandhi had detailed plans for the complete annexation of Pakistan and held back only after the warnings of the Soviet premier who was under pressure from US president Nixon! To draw a parallel between this situation and that of Libya, we would stand opposed to the Indian aggression againstPakistanin the west which was directed towards securing Indian ambitions of imperialism. We would also stand against the Indian intervention in the eastern flank of Pakistan and oppose the treaties between India and the new regime inBangladeshwhich sought to subjectBangladeshto Indian interests. Similarly, in Libya we stand against the imperialist intervention of the EU and NATO. We are steadfastly opposed to this attempt to hijack and derail the struggles of the Arab peoples. But that should not stop us from identifying these struggles from a historical point of view as a democratic struggle against Gaddafi’s authoritarian regime. The regime has by now clearly lost all its progressive features. The struggle as it stands in Libya is inextricably linked with the processes which emerged inEgyptmonths earlier which tend towards a socialist revolution. To deny the validity of the present democratic struggle in Libya is to deny its potential evolution into a socialist struggle. As of now the two greatest enemies of the revolution inLibyaare the imperialist camp and its proxy Trans National Council. But this does not change the chief content of the struggle against the Gaddafi regime. Just as the chief content of the struggle in East Pakistan was for the liberation of Bangladesh.

Should we revolutionaries dissociate ourselves from the fundamental content of a struggle our chances of securing the leadership of the masses would be zilch! The course of the struggle of the Libyan masses determines our position in the revolutionary struggle, which is nothing less than a struggle with the forces of the compradors of the TNC and the petty bourgeois leadership of Gaddafi for the leadership of the Libyan masses. Our struggle inLibyalike everywhere else is the struggle for revolutionary leadership. And by virtue of historic necessity, it forces us to align ourselves with the struggle to overthrow the Gaddafi regime which has been and remains the overarching goal of the ongoing Libyan revolution. In Bangladesh the struggle for liberation was achieved in success despite the fact of the Indian intervention, and despite the fact of the subservience of the bourgeois forces toIndia. The realization of an independent Bengali nation overthrowing the oppression of the Pakistani state was great progressive achievement of the people which would have naturally transcended further, but was held back. The same forces which led the liberation struggle ultimately ended up betraying it. The same would be expected from the forces which now lead the TNC  in Libya and would behave no differently. The Libyan masses however, are not so easy to tame, more so owing to the fragmented nature of Libyan society and inter-tribal rivalries. The Libyan masses must brace themselves now for a new round of struggles once; Gaddafi is defeated, to the new imperialist proxies which lead the Trans National Council.