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.

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STATEMENT ON DELHI’S SOLIDARITY DEMONSTRATION WITH FERGUSON/NYC AT THE US EMBASSY

The following statement was issued by a solidarity campaign by students in Delhi with the protestors at Fergusson, USA as written by Vincent Kelley [ link – https://www.facebook.com/vincentkelley/posts/865867286797286] . We applaud them for holding a solidarity rally in front of the US embassy at New Delhi.

After robust support from students and organizations within Jawaharlal Nehru University for the protest march on the 29th November in solidarity with the Ferguson uprisings, we, along with JNUSU, called for a demonstration today at the US embassy. From the very outset, it was evident where the allegiances of the police lay. They stopped us three times despite us having informed them of our protest beforehand; first, at R K Puram, Sector 6, where they had us wait forty-five minutes to “speak to the authorities” from the police station near the embassy. After much heated negotiation and an all-out show of outrage by protestors, they relented and said that we could proceed to a school (of all the places) half a kilometer away from the embassy, provided we agree to be escorted by them. This was when their escort vehicle tried to misdirect our bus away from the embassy to Jantar Mantar, which is a “safe spot” to dump all protests in, away from the ivory-towers of power and privilege.
We stopped on the Ring Road before Africa Avenue and blocked traffic on that side for about ten minutes, after whch the police once again conceded ground and allowed us passage towards the embassy. Soon after, we reached a bigger contingent of the police at the Chanakyapuri bridge near Leela Hotel, which tried its best to dissuade us once again from moving towards the embassy. This time they threatened us with detention, while a truck bearing a water-canon was already lurking behind our bus. After more negotiations, and consistent pressure-building by slogans, we pushed forward our final ride to Carmel Convent School near the embassy.
The police were ready in their riot-gear, brandishing lathis, and the water-canon was still behind us. Upon reaching, they barricaded the road before the school that led to the embassy. We continued chanting there, and all of us had a sit-in, as the police hovered in anticipation. American as well as Indian students spoke on the rampant militarization and white-supremacy in the US, as well as revitalized casteism and racism in the Indian context, which are connected and fed by the same neoliberal enterprise between the ruling classes of both countries.
As the US hegemony crumbles, the forceful arm of the USA operates – not just domestically in incidents such as Ferguson – but also through the police of its allied states in an effort to retain the semblance of authority. The last time we saw this was during the Indian state’s shameless silence – even ideological connivance – in Israel’s offensive on Gaza earlier this year.
We salute the resilience of those who came out and the spirit of international solidarity which we find ourselves enriched from. We will strive to forge ever greater unity in our global struggle for collective liberation.
Inquilaab Zindabaad!! We are unstoppable!! Another world is possible!!

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

PSTU statement on the revolt in Brazil

[Here we are reposting the statement from the PSTU, the Brazilian section of the International Worker’s League – Fourth International. The revolt in Brazil is one of the most significant events to occur in Latin America in recent times and represents a re-emergence of radicalization in Brazilian society after a prolonged period of consolidation of bourgeois power. The revolts also present an interesting continuum of popular national upheavals. In this it stands together with the uprising in India against corruption and rape, the uprising in Turkey against the Erdogan government and to an extent bears resemblence to the Egyptian uprising in terms of the class composition of the protests. The role and importance of a direct intervention in the movement under a revolutionary leadership has been recognized by the PSTU and is reflected in this statement, which gives it a special importance. We welcome the encouraging developments in Brazil and give our fullest support to the struggle of the Brazilian people against their capitalist enemies.]

State and municipal governments recoil on the increase of fares

The demonstrations against the increase of fares on public transport (trains, underground and buses) that broke out several days ago and spread all across the country (Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, many state capitals and important inland cities have just obtained the first important triumph: state and municipal governments have reversed and annulled the recent increase. Having participated actively in this process, in which hundreds of thousands of people walked out into the streets, the PSTU and the IWL greeted this first triumph joyfully.

Neither is this the only triumph. In an event unprecedented in these last years, Brazilian Congress will hold special sessions during this winter recess to deal with an agenda proposed in an impassioned speech delivered by Chairman Renan Calheiros (of the PMDB, a right party, allied with the PT in the government. To begin with, an overwhelming majority rejected the PEC 37[1] proposed by the government, one of the strongest demands of the demonstrators; a sample of the power of demonstrations and the policy of granting concessions to try and hush them up.

Demonstration began and swelled in a seemingly unforeseeable manner in a country seemed so “calm” and, to judge by appearances, out of the world process of mobilization and struggle. What we have witnessed was a great process of mobilisation, so far essentially of youth and popular sectors. This is a new generation that joins the struggle and begins writing their part of history. Polls show that for over 75% of the demonstrators this was their first experience; 94% of them did not belong to any political party. At present the demonstrations seem to be spreading to the poorer and more peripheral neighbourhoods of the great cities.

Evidently, something has changed in Brazil, after nearly two decades of “peace and quiet”. This is not only due to the massive character of de demonstrations, but also because they defeated the “sacred entente” between the governments, parties and the bourgeois and forced them to recoil. It will not be until within the forthcoming months that we shall be able to assess just how deep this change is and what its impact will be in the future. Especially there is the question regarding whether the organised working class will join the process fully or not. The greatest depletion and political cost had to be so far borne by the governors (such as the Geraldo Alckmin of the PSDB (nation-wide right opposition) and the mayors such as Fernando Haddad of the PT (Workers’ Party) in the Sao Paulo city who applied the increase and ordered the repression. But the Dilma Rousseff of the PT administration was booed at the opening night of the Confederation (football) Cup. So far she seemed to be just as “armoured” as her predecessor Lula was against the effects of economic crisis, inflation or constant corruption scandals. Today, the first “holes” appear in this “armour”. Also the first clear symptoms of splits in the bourgeoisie in the bourgeois milieu regarding the manner to cope with this ascent even if all the bourgeois sectors – as we have seen – consider granting concessions as a starting point.

From the criminalisation of the protest to withdrawal and cries for “peace”

Initially, the different governments and the bourgeois press chose the policy of attacking the movement in order to justify the very tough police repression. They called the demonstrators “vandals” and demanded “severe treatment” for them. This was what the powerful Globo TV Network did or the newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo who editorialised, “It is time we said enough” to demonstrators.

However, as crowds kept moving and spreading, it became evident that they had the support of most of the population, so authorities had to change their position. The live broadcasting of the demonstrations and the evidence that it was the military police (depending on the state administrations) that were causing violence (including mugging journalists) turned against the authorities and increased popular support for the protesters.

There even have been some journalists, such as Jose Luis Datena, right-wing host of a popular TV programme who switched from launching quizzes against demonstrators to openly giving them his support when the ample margin of popular support for their demands could no longer be concealed.

In the same way, the governments coming from different political parties switched from the repressive course of action to bewilderment and to summons for “dialogue” and finally to recoiling from the increase of fares. Even the very Dilma administration, who swung away from a statement issued by her Minister of Justice to the effect that Federal Government would make all efforts to make sure that state administrations could control the situation (i.e.: send repressive forces the way she did in Mina Gerais) and concluded by saying that she was “all for democratic demonstrations and would hear their demands”. (Sic)

Travelling is expensive and rough

It was the increase of fares for public transport what triggered off the whole process in the entire country. The increase was very small really (20 cents of real or 9 cents of a dollar). But this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Public transport in Brazil is among the most expensive ones in the world. Even before the latest increase the price of a trip in Sao Paulo by bus or by underground is $1.40 (a combined trip costs 2.11). This represents a total monthly expenditure of about $100 dollars (more than 40% of a minimum wage and between 15 and 20% of the income of those who collect twice or three times as much, which is the case of most of the population of the country. Of course if there is nobody else to spend the same amount. On the other hand, the price of ticket has been increasing far above the rate of inflation. That is why, according to Institute of Research of Applied Economy, there are 37 million people who cannot afford to pay for a trip in public transport and are forced to cover long distance on foot or to ride their bicycles.

But the quality of travelling is getting worse and worse because urbanisation and the growth of the great cities have not been paralleled by equal investment in transport that would satisfy the demand. Public transport comes hand-in-hand with precariousness and rising prices of all the remaining public services. Trains and buses are overcrowded, and accidents are frequent and are part of a tough routine that is repeated twice a day. The extreme slowness of traffic in towns and cities more and more full of cars as an outcome of the impulse given to car production in detriment of development of the much cheaper and much more efficient railways and subways.

“Zero fare” is possible

The metro and the commuter trains in Sao Paulo belong to the State- Buses are under concession to private companies and represent a huge source of income highly coveted by sectors in alliance with the public power.

This profitable business produces an important daily income of ready cash. Buses transport an average of 42 million passengers and collect $180 a month (data from April 2013) for tickets. Apart from that, in 2913 the municipality will pay grants for nearly $600 million a year. Apart from these direct subsidies, the companies also enjoy benefits recently announced by the Federal Government such as tax and social contribution exemptions.

Mayor Haddad estimated that free public transport in the city (“Zero fare”) would cost require just over $2 700 million a year in financing. This figure, according to the spokespeople of Free Pass Movement (MPL) coincides with the increase of the takings estimated by the municipality for this year.

In 1990, a project presented by the very same PT presented by Luiza Erundina who was mayor at that time established “zero fare”. This proposal simply represented to cover the costs of transport by progressive increase of taxes: the richest should pay for this service. The project was filed in the Municipal Chamber and the PT never spoke about that again.

Far from being Utopian, “Fare zero” is totally possible if transport is treated as what it really is: a right of the people and an obligation of the State that cannot be left in the hands of a few entrepreneurs. That is why the PSTU defends the stratification of public transport and free tickets; if this proposal were carried out it would spell great improvement in the level of life of millions of people.

“It is not for the 20 cents alone”

The main demand referred to the annulment of the increase of fares but the demonstrations reflected a much deeper process: “It is not for the 20 cents alone” many posters claimed. A great boiler of popular dissatisfaction exploded against the dismal situation of public health service and education as well as repudiation of the deep corruption of the political system and its representatives.

The great amount of money spent on football stadiums and the organisation of the football (soccer) World Cup in 2014 that the PT administration and the other political parties intended to capitalize politically by showing off a “First World Brazil” in the midst of an orgy of corruption and profit for entrepreneurs friends of the government (like Eike Batista) and even the “privatisation” of the administration of these stadiums built with public money. This lavishness collided against a reality of everyday life of most Brazilians. In a country that loves football, the World Cup was repudiated in and out of the stadiums during the Confederations Cup, a rehearsal of the forthcoming World Cup that popular humour has already re-baptised as the “Cup of the Demonstrations”.

Questioning the banners and raid of right bands

During the demonstrations there was a strong questioning by a sector of the participants against the participation of left parties and other organisation, such as trade unions and the presence of their flags.

Because of the importance of the issue, it is necessary to stop and talk it over. The “apartidism” of many of the participants expresses a very positive aspect: the split with the old parties of the system (the bourgeois and the reformists) responsible for the current situation. Together with this split there is an element of confusion when PT, currently the ruling party, is identified with the “red flags” and the left as a whole failing to tell the difference between those who are fighting against the government and those who are part of it.

Riding on the crest of this feeling, during the demonstrations on Thursday 20th of June, organised groups of neo-Nazis attacked columns of the left, especially those of PSTU in several cities causing clashes that caused several people to be wounded. There was nothing spontaneous about these aggressions: they were boosted by such characters as the retired military man and member of Parliament of the extreme right, Jair Bolsonaro and divers media and sites that called to “defend the non-partisan character” of the demonstrations (and to evict the left organisations) and that the Brazilian flag was to be “the only one present”.

The neo-Nazis and the bourgeois sectors that boost them tried to gain support from this “non-partisan” feeling to carry out aggressions clearly organised and intended to divide the struggle and try and prevent the PSTU (the party left to PT and with the best location for this purpose) from disputing the leadership of this movement and of the ascent that was just budding and in this way give an answer “on the positive” to the crisis of the great parties of the system. This is so, because many of the demands posed by the protesters are part of the programme that this party has been posing for years e.g.: 10% of the GDP is to go for education or free transport. We ought to mention that a few days before a free TV programme of the party exposed that “There is money for the Cup but none for health and education” and this has been one of the central demands of the entire movement.

Coming back to this attempt by the extreme right, if we are to defeat the neo-Nazis we must respond with the strongest unity in the media and in the streets and not only of the left organisations but also of all the honest fighters of the process even if they are “apartisan”. That is why the statements issued by several spokespeople of the MPL (Free Pass Movement) vindicating the participation of left organisations and especially of the PSTU as very positive.

The right and the bounden duty to be there

But apart from that it is necessary to make headway in the dialogue with those who do not agree with the aggressions but who still do believe that left-wingers’ flags (and the left organisations in general) harm or are detrimental for the type of process that they regard as ideal. We understand and we share their repudiation of the parties of the system. We also understand their repudiation of PT and their role as the main party of the system in this last decade. But it is necessary to differentiate the fake red flags from the real ones, those who are fighting arm-in-arm with the demonstrators.

In the first place, the presence of the PSTU flags can mean anything but opportunism. These flags have been with every progressive struggle in the entire country in these last decades, whether against the dictatorship or elected administrations. The PSTU has never been part of a government that implemented bourgeois plans; we have always been clear and steady opposition to them, even if they claimed to be “left”. Furthermore the general demands of these demonstrations coincide with proposed items of our programme launched long before the demonstrations began, and are i.e.: cut down the price of bus, trains and metro fares, 10% of GDP for education or when we expose the character of the World Cup. From this point of view, the banners have a right and an obligation of being there. And that is where we have been right from the very beginning of the demonstrations, even before they became massive.

Secondly, saying “no to parties” everything gets mixed up: the parties against whom we are fighting (like PT or PSDB) and those are support or boost these struggles. The demonstrators as well as people in general must know which parties are on this side in the struggle and which are on the opposite side.

Thirdly, the proposal of “no to the parties” is anti-democratic: everybody ought to have the right how they will participate in the demonstrations: individually, as part of a non-partisan collective or integrated to a party, etc. Nobody can make anybody else to join a party or be part his or her column. But at the same time nobody can refuse anyone else the right to be organised or make him or her abstain from doing so.

And last, let us say that it is divisionism and goes against the very process of mobilisation. This became very clear when the neo-Nazis, concealed behind their costume of “nationalists” and camouflaged with Brazilian flag, attacked PSTU yelling precisely, “no to parties”. This evidenced that, when all is said and done, this a-partisan ideology serves the interests of the bourgeoisie and the establishment.

It is clear that this debate will not be solved soon: the diverse positions respond to deep and varied experiences. What we do propose to all those honest a-partisan activists is to open a dialogue and a debate on the best ways of organising the struggles knowing for sure that we are together fighting in the same trench against the injustice of capitalism and against the governments that maintain these injustices.

How to keep on fighting

As we have already mentioned above, the programme that began to take shape during this process is much more ample than the mere annulment of the 20-cent increase of fares. How to find a solution to the precarious situation of public health service and education? How to cope with the problem of inflation and food shortage? How can we fight against privatisation of e.g.: airports or football stadiums that will only aggravate the situation in benefit of the same ever-privileged entrepreneurs and bankers? How do we contend with criminalisation of struggles and social movements or against the aggressions of the extreme right?

To begin with, for this purpose we need to formulate a common programme of demands and boost the massive entrance of the working class with its methods of struggle and organisation. Consequently, among these demands we must incorporate those that are most felt by workers and by the impoverished toiling masses so that the movement can broaden its bases and increase its fighting capacity. Ze Maria de Almeida, Chairman of the PSTU, expressed it in a recent article,

To begin with, it is necessary for all the organisations of the working class to undertake this challenge and this task. The CSP-Conlutas is participating in this process and is trying to mobilise its grassroots in this direction- The great trade union centrals should really summon for a general strike right now. At this moment what we all need is that everybody should join the struggle. No working class organisation can propose anything less than that.

With this in mind, CSP-Conlutas has launched a proposal of holding a nation-wide day of united struggle for next Thursday, 27th June. The agreement of CSP-Conlutas with Forca Sindical and other centrals to call for a day of paralysation for next 11th July is also very important.

While we are boosting the concrete struggle and participating in it and knowing that triumphs can be achieved we must say that all these unjustness and curses that affect Brazilian toiling masses are the outcome of a country plundered by imperialism associated with great national tycoons in a semi-colonial manner and to the administrations of the establishment whether right wingers or the fake left. That is why any radical solution of our problems needs a socialist revolution precisely to change this semi-colonial structure. In this process, it is essential to build tools of organisation for proletarian struggle and of the toiling masses in general. We also need a revolutionary party determined to be consistent and conscious leader of the process. The PSTU is the most advanced project of that leadership. As we have already said, things have changed in Brazil. Now the central task is to prepare proletarian and responses, mass organisations and the party to fight for this revolution and so make the PSTU chant come true: “neither right nor PT, I want to see workers in power”.

On the other hand, IWL-FI has made a commitment to boost international solidarity and that is why, our organisations in other countries are actively participating in all the demonstrations in solidarity that have already taken place and those that are now taking place or about to take place.

Long live the struggle of Brazilian people!

IS of the IWL

Sao Paulo, 25th June, 2013

[1]PEC 37 (proposal of Constitutional amendment) disallowed the so-called Public Ministry (a kind of official independent prosecution) from investigating cases of corruption and passed this capacity to military and civilian police. This was regarded as an attempt to cushion these investigations.

International appeal from PSTU

TO THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS AND ACTIVISTS: 

Protest and express your support for the struggle of youth and workers Brazilian

As you are surely following in the news, the struggle of youth and workers against the increasing of the bus fare and police repression has taken over São Paulo and other major cities in Brazil. 

The support of the population to the demonstrations is huge, and the number of protesters is increasing day after day, fueled by the indignation provoked by the criminal activities of the police forces, commanded by the governor Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB), who has already injured hundreds (bombed with tear gas and shot by rubber bullets) and detained a huge number of protesters (under illegal and pathetic “accusations” as, for instance, carrying vinegar – used as protection against the tear gas). 

The shocking images of repression moved the population, had international repercussions and recalled the dark days of military dictatorship. Again, Alckmin, led a bloody action against the people, as he and his Militar Police did in the massacre of the residents of Pinheirinho, in São José dos Campos (SP). The same thing that they do, every day, with the numerous of killings (a truly genocide) of young black people in the suburbs.

Because of that, today, the 17th of July, the city of S. Paulo is going to be taken by what will surely be one the biggest demonstrations in our recent history. Now, more than ever, it’s time to take the streets by the repeal of the increase of the passage and against repression!

We, from the the Socialist Workers’ Party – United (PSTU) are proud to be part of the demonstrations, side by side with an increasing number of social, popular and youth organizations, and we are calling all the international organizations and activists to express the support to this struggle, through motions, messages and the organization of protests all over the world, as it has already happened in around 30 cities worldwide. 

Immediate withdrawal of the increase in tickets! Punishment for those who ordered the repression! Demilitarization of PM! No more massacres

Meanwhile, Fernando Haddad, the major of S. Paulo, who belongs to PT, the same party of President Dilma, insists on keeping the absurd rate of R $ 3.20 for the bus fare. 

During his electoral campaign, Haddad used the chaos of public transport in SP to win the votes of workers and youth. He promised a lot of things, but, so far, the only thing he really did was to increase the bus fare to further the profits of entrepreneurs. And, to make matters worse, Haddad has been supporting the repression of the military police. 

After the negative impact of police action, on the 13th, Haddad said he was against “the possible excesses of the police”, but at no time he condemned the police action or stand in favor of dismissal of the commander responsible for PM repression. But not only that. Haddad has increased bus fare against the will of the people! Haddad (PT) teamed up with Paulo Maluf (PP), a well known corrupt and active supporter of the dictatorship, to win the city major hall and ally himself the corrupt big business and against workers and youth. We can not trust this government.

The annulment of the increased passage does not end the struggle for public transport, access and quality! In São Paulo (SP), the population coexists with the daily chaos: crowded bus, stopped traffic and highly expensive fares! Haddad does not say the truth for the people. If the transportation fare accompanied inflation over the past ten years, the ticket price should be R$ 2.10, and not R$ 3,20. Haddad delivers R$ 6 billion a year in subsidies to large transport companies. Not by case, the same ones who financed his election campaign. 

If we had the investment of 2% of the national GDP in public transportation, we could nationalize the system, ensuring services with quality and for free for the need people. Because of that, PSTU defends: Nationalization, now! Against the privatization of the subway! Free pass for students and unemployed, now!

Broadening and unifying struggles to defeat inflation, the decrease of wages, the privatizations and repression!

The struggle of youth and workers of São Paulo was the trigger for protests that are shaking dozens of cities across the country. Hundreds of acts are scheduled for the next days! It is time to unify the struggles, especially at that moment when the demonstrations (including those ones against the amazingly high and scandalous corrupt expenditures with the World Cup) are facing fierce repression of the Federal and the State police! 

Because of that, the PSTU also advocates unification of struggles in a national day against rising transport and repression!

In the streets, the people are demonstrating that nobody is up to tolerate the indifference to education and public health, which are abandoned, as the government invests billions on overpriced stadiums for the World Cup. Inflation erodes wages and high food prices take food from the table of the worker. Therefore, we require that Dilma Rousseff (PT) to freeze food prices and tariffs!

There is no doubt, as the protesters remind proudly in their chants and political slogans yelled on the streets, that this movement, besides moved by its specific demands, echoes the mobilizations of the youth and workers all over the world, in an increasing number of streets and squares: from Puerta del Sol, in the Spanish State, to Tahir, in Egypt; from Taskim, in Turkey, to Syntagma, in Greece. 

Exactly because of that, more than ever, it’s time to International Solidarity. It’s time to raise our voices, all over the world to remind governments, bankers and bosses that the youth and the workers will not accept to pay for the crisis created by their endless greed. 

Protest in the way you can! Support and join the struggle of the Brazilian youth and workers. 

Socialist Workers’ Party – United
Partido Socialista dos Trabalhadores Unificado (Brasil)
17th of July, 2013.

Appeal for solidarity for the garment workers of bangladesh !

The workers of Bangladesh need our solidarity !

On the 26th of April Bangladesh was shaken by the worst industrial disaster in the history of the country. The collapse of the Rana plaza structures have left up to 350 dead and nearly a thousand injured many of whom are still trapped in debris ! This disaster and the one at Tazreen garments preceding it have exposed the exploitative nature of the garments industry as well as the vested political interests behind this exploitation.

But the workers are not silent ! They refuse to be victims of this exploitation any longer and have gone on the warpath with a general strike action demanding better working conditions and decent wages. The present strike is of historic importance in the history of the worker’s struggle in Bangladesh and has succeeded in mobilizing most of the 3 million workers employed in the 5000 sweatshops which dominate this industry.

At this critical juncture it is indispensable that we throw our fullest support to the workers in their time of struggle. The workers of India, the US, the UK and France especially must extend their solidarity to the exploited workers of Bangladesh.

Capitalists anywhere are the enemies of workers everywhere !

The big capitalist MNCs who lord over major economies of the world are the protectors and beneficiaries of the sweatshop industry which is so prevalent in Bangladesh. India’s capitalists have played a leading role in the upkeep of the political interests which protect the garment bosses, while the capitalists of the USA and Europe, in particular big retail chains like Wal mart who source their material from these ‘third world’ sweatshops, are a vital economic linkage contributing to the exploitation of the workers there.

All of these big moneyed interests are looking out for each other to ensure the sustenance of this system. To this alliance, the working class must counter pose it’s own ! One which is forged on solidarity in class struggle against the capitalist looters ! For this we must work towards constructing a joint action in coordination with the garment workers in Bangladesh.

Tactics of support :

As our first tactics we should address the immediate relief for the workers and their families who are victims of this building collapse. We may start with a petition against the bangladeshi government demanding action be taken against those responsible for this building collapse and give compensation to the families who have been aggrieved.

In terms of international solidarity workers in the US and UK who stand at the consumption end of the chain, can begin enquiries commission in their own companies to ensure that there is no profit from sweatshop labor and a call by trade unions condemning cheap labor exploitation in Bangladesh.

The workers in India hold a key strategic position in this respect, where their own capitalist rulers are actively engaged in harboring the political regime *( through huge loans regular political and military protection) and which encourages this vicious exploitation through sweatshop labor. An example for us to follow has been set by the protests around Marikana massacre in Africa where a committee for solidarity was set up by labor activists and other democratic activists.

United we fight ! Divided we fail !