Workers Hammer No. 196
Down with UN intervention! Israel out now!
US/Britain out of Iraq, Afghanistan! Hands off Iran!
For a socialist federation of the Near East!
The following article is adapted from Workers Vanguard no 875, 1 September.
For over a month, Lebanon was a place of carnage, destruction and horror inflicted by relentless Israeli bombardment backed up by some 30,000 invading troops, all with the full support of US and British imperialism. Over 1000 men, women and children were slaughtered, nearly a quarter of the population was displaced, and the infrastructure of the country was devastated. The Zionist regime of Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz declared that their intent was the annihilation of Hezbollah. But Hezbollah not only survived the onslaught, it inflicted significant casualties on the Israeli military as well as damage to tanks and other vehicles. Israels setback in Lebanon has touched off a crisis for the Olmert regime, while Hezbollah is now idolised by much of the regions Arab population.
The failure of Israels campaign in Lebanon is really what is behind the United Nations-sponsored ceasefire agreement, which Israel has repeatedly violated. Having opposed a ceasefire for weeks, the Bush administration suddenly switched track when it became clear that Israel was running into trouble in pursuing its military objectives. The crux of the agreement is a plan to deploy some 15,000 UN troops in southern Lebanon, although no foreign power was exactly jumping to place its forces between Hezbollah and Israel and get caught in a potential quagmire. But after initially offering only 200 troops, the French imperialists, Lebanons former colonial overlords, have now committed 2000 troops and the Italians up to 3000.
The purpose of this imperialist UN force is to try to accomplish what the Israeli military could not — the neutralisation of Hezbollah and its fighters. It is a set-up for more repression against the peoples of Lebanon. It was US, French and Italian peacekeepers in Lebanon who disarmed Palestine Liberation Organisation fighters in 1982, laying the basis for the massacre of some 2000 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps at the hands of fascistic Christian forces organised by the Israeli military. At protests in London and elsewhere, our comrades carried signs reading: Remember Sabra and Shatila — No reliance on the UN! In the recent conflict, we called for the military defence of Hezbollah while maintaining our political opposition to that reactionary Islamic fundamentalist outfit. Today, we demand the full and immediate withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Lebanon and say: UN troops out of Lebanon now!
Unlike Israels invasion of Lebanon in 1982, which touched off massive protests in the Zionist garrison state, there was widespread popular support for the recent campaign. Nonetheless, there were courageous protests against the assault on Lebanon, including a demonstration of 5000 in Tel Aviv on 22 July. Notably, 150 demonstrated against the war on 25 July in Haifa, a city that had been hit by Hezbollah missiles and where eight maintenance workers at a train depot died in a single barrage. The US and British press has given wide coverage to Hezbollahs rocket attacks, which have hit innocent civilians, while grossly playing down the infinitely greater terrorism carried out by Israeli forces in Lebanon.
By standing up to the Israeli assault, Hezbollah has won widespread support among the Arab masses, including among Sunni Muslims. Even the Sunni-dominated regimes of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which initially denounced Hezbollah for provoking Israel, have backtracked in the face of growing popular support for Hezbollah. Gratifying though it may have been to see Hezbollah hold out against the Israeli war machine, there must be no illusions that Hezbollah is anything other than a reactionary fundamentalist movement. Hezbollah represents a deadly danger, especially for women, secular Muslims and Christians.
As they carried out their slaughter in Lebanon, the Zionist rulers continued their campaign of repression and murder in the Occupied Territories. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed since late June, when militants seized an Israeli soldier. Dozens of Palestinian legislative and government officials from Hamas remain in Israeli prisons, while several imperialist powers, as well as Israel, have continued their embargo of the Palestinians as punishment for the election of a Hamas government in January. Defend the Palestinian people! Down with the embargo! All Israeli troops and settlers out of the Occupied Territories — Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights!
The International Communist League has intervened in protests against Israels offensive in cities in Europe, the US, Canada and Australia, putting forward our perspective for proletarian internationalist defence of the Palestinians and the peoples of Lebanon and for a socialist federation of the Near East. Our comrades underlined our opposition to any imperialist military force being sent into Lebanon, whether under the banner of NATO, the UN or some other multinational force. The true enemy of the working people, minorities and the oppressed in Britain is the British capitalist class; our perspective is for socialist revolution to overthrow their class rule. In contrast, pseudo-Marxist groups issued grovelling appeals to the imperialists — either their own governments or the UN — to intervene into Lebanon or to pressure Washington to pressure Tel Aviv into a ceasefire. And now theyre getting the ceasefire they called for, in the form of the biggest peacekeeping force in the EUs history.
In Britain, Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), signed a letter circulated by the StWC. Addressed to Tony Blair — butcher of Iraq — it declares: We are dismayed that the British government, almost alone in the world, is not calling for a ceasefire while complaining of the British governments total subservience to the foreign policy of the US administration and the fact that: our country is being humiliated
. We therefore call on the government to change its position and join the vast majority of the worlds states, the UN secretary-general and the Archbishop of Canterbury in calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.... Then, shortly after the UNbrokered ceasefire went into effect, the StWC cancelled a 19 August London demonstration. For the StWC there was nothing left to protest, even as the imperialists were gathering forces to occupy Lebanon!
The sanctimonious SWP-sponsored letter to Blair echoed the bleating of dissenting voices in Blairs cabinet and in the Foreign Office — among whom is Jack Straw, former foreign secretary who oversaw the invasion of Iraq — that British imperialism is losing influence among its former colonies such as Egypt by being too closely identified with the US and Israel. The expressed dismay of the SWP reformists stems from their programme which is to pressure British imperialism to act as a benign, democratic influence in the region. This flies in the face of all known history of British imperialism, not to mention its contemporary role. The present bloody mess in the Near East is the legacy of the carnage, savagery and divide-and-rule machinations of British imperialism when it was the dominant world power, a role later taken over by American imperialism. With the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Britain opened the door for the creation of the state of Israel which was carved out by forcibly driving the Palestinian people off their lands. The state of Iraq is an artificial creation of British imperialism following a period as colonial occupiers at the end of World War I, during which time they shelled Arabs and used aerial bombardment for the first time in history against the Kurds, to brutally suppress revolts against the occupation. Today the British Army in Northern Ireland, butchers of innocent civilians on Bloody Sunday in 1972, back the sectarian Orange state and the anti-Catholic Loyalist paramilitaries, about which the StWC is silent. The SWPs reformist appeals to the British capitalist rulers only serve to bind the working class more closely to its own bourgeoisie, the class enemy. This is counterposed to our demand for class independence of the working class, which is a precondition for a genuine socialist opposition to imperialism.
Imperialist hands off Iran!
The US seeks to build its new Middle East by stamping out any regime that does not bow to its dictates, and by fully backing Israels assaults against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Occupied Territories. Decrepit British imperialism, which is unable to afford a military that can police its own investments around the world, is the most slavish and loyal supporter of US militarism abroad. The US and Britain are embroiled in bloody occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq while openly targeting Iran and Syria for regime change. In Iraq, the bloody US/British occupation is resulting in the deaths of thousands each month, mainly now through sectarian violence. Meanwhile, US/NATO forces continue to pound the peoples of Afghanistan, where the imperialist occupation has meant continued brutal oppression of women and tribal warfare.
With the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92, the US imperialists proclaimed a New World Order, and in 2001 declared an unlimited global war on terror as a pretext for unbridled imperialist depredation and attacks on the population at home. Washington has openly declared several countries, including the Chinese and North Korean deformed workers states, to be on its nuclear first strike list.
Syria and Iran, both of which support Hezbollah, have been repeatedly threatened by the US and allied imperialists. A 21 August New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh stated that the US and Israel had made preparations for an attack on Hezbollah well before the group abducted two Israeli soldiers on 12 July. Hersh quoted a Middle East expert who said, The White House was more focused on stripping Hezbollah of its missiles, because, if there was to be a military option against Irans nuclear facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hezbollah could use in a potential retaliation at Israel.
In the event of an attack on Iran or Syria by the US — or by Israel acting as a proxy for the US — we would stand for the military defence of those countries without giving an iota of political support to the Baathist dictatorship in Damascus or the Persian-chauvinist Shiite clerical regime in Tehran. The US, Britain, France and Germany are pushing for crippling UN sanctions against Iran after it ignored a 31 August deadline to give up its nuclear programme. However, it is far from guaranteed that Russia and China would vote in the UN Security Council to impose sanctions.
On 26 August, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that the country was opening a new heavy water plant, which is used to create nuclear fuel. The Iranian regime says that its development of nuclear technology is entirely for energy purposes. Regardless, what is clear is that in the face of imperialist belligerence and threats, Iran needs nuclear weapons and effective delivery systems to defend itself and deter attack. Additionally, as part of our unconditional military defence of the North Korean deformed workers state, we support that countrys development and testing of nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
For new October Revolutions!
It is the ABC of Marxism to fight for the complete political independence of the proletariat from any and all non-proletarian forces and social classes, which certainly includes the anti-woman, anti-Semitic Hezbollah. We stood for the military defence of Hezbollah because an Israeli victory would have deepened the oppression of the Lebanese masses, strengthened the Zionists whip hand against the Palestinians and furthered US designs in the region.
Building on the popularity it acquired by standing up to the Israeli military onslaught, Hezbollah is today taking the lead in rebuilding southern Lebanon and in providing relief. But Hezbollahs increasing authority represents a dire threat to women, Christians, the Druze, Sunnis and also Shiites deemed by Hezbollah to be non-believers. Far from an expression of anti-imperialism, the rise of Islamic mass movements reflects despair in the face of brutal oppression. Their increased popularity is the reactionary product of the political bankruptcy of nationalism, the absence of a communist alternative, and of the historic betrayals by the Stalinist parties that tailed and capitulated to them. In the 1950s, Communist parties in Iran and Iraq attracted mass support based on their association with the 1917 October Revolution, which overturned capitalist rule in Russia. But the Stalinists betrayed the aspirations of their supporters, derailing potentially revolutionary situations by supporting bourgeois nationalists like Nasser in Egypt, Mossadeq in Iran, and Qassim in Iraq (see Near East, 1950s — Permanent Revolution vs. Bourgeois Nationalism, Workers Vanguard nos 740 and 741, 25 August and 8 September 2000). Throughout the Cold War, the US and British imperialists manipulated and cynically reinforced religious fundamentalism as an organised force against Communism, most clearly expressed in the billions funnelled to arm and train mujahedin reactionaries fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
The Respect coalition, which repudiates the struggle for socialist revolution in Britain and elsewhere, can only offer capitalist solutions, which proves their utter political bankruptcy. George Galloway, the Respect MP, laid out such a scenario in the Guardian (31 August):
A comprehensive settlement now would of course look much like it has for decades: Israeli withdrawal from land occupied in 1967; respect for the legal rights of Palestinian refugees to return; the emergence of a real Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital — a contiguous state with an Arab border, with no Zionist settlements and military roads, and with internationally guaranteed Palestinian control over its land, air, sea and water. In exchange there would be Arab recognition, normalisation and, in time, acceptance of Israel into the Middle East as something other than a settler garrison of the imperial west.
Such solutions are illusory under capitalism and necessarily at the expense of the oppressed. The desperate situation the Palestinians face today flows from the 1993 Oslo peace accords brokered by US Democratic president Bill Clinton between Israel and Yasir Arafats Palestine Liberation Organization. The PLO agreed to police the Occupied Territories on behalf of the Zionist rulers in exchange for Palestinian autonomy. In the years since, the Palestinians have been partitioned into ghettos towards which exit and entry is controlled by Israeli troops. The entire West Bank is dotted by military outposts, criss-crossed by the bypass roads that are off limits to Palestinians. The 600-mile-long wall completes the segregation of the Palestinian West Bank population. In 2005, when Israeli settlers were pulled out of Gaza, Olmert suggested that without Israeli settlers, the army could strike even harder.
Even were the Palestinians able to achieve a statelet on the territories of the West Bank and Gaza — economically unviable and under Israeli suzerainty — this would hardly be a realisation of Palestinian self-determination. And as Israel/Palestine, the Balkans and Northern Ireland have demonstrated repeatedly, under capitalism the only possible outcome to geographically interpenetrated peoples who claim the same land is one nation on top with the others either exterminated, expelled, subjugated or some combination thereof.
What is needed in the Near East is the forging of revolutionary internationalist workers parties through irreconcilable struggle against bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalism and religious fundamentalism. It is capitalist rule, which fuels national, ethnic and religious divisions, that has driven the constant bloodshed in the region. There will be no equitable resolution to the conflicting claims of the peoples of the Near East until bourgeois rule is overthrown and imperialist subjugation ended. This is particularly the case for Israel/Palestine, a case of two interpenetrated peoples who lay claim to the same piece of land. Assuring the right of self-determination for both the Palestinian and Hebrew-speaking peoples requires shattering the Zionist garrison state from within through Arab/Hebrew workers revolution and the overthrow of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the bloody Baathist bonapartist regime in Syria and the capitalist regime in Lebanon, establishing a socialist federation of the Near East.
We reprint below a 4 August leaflet distributed by the Spartacist League/Britain.
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With Israeli troops poised to invade southern Lebanon, relentless Zionist bombardment is turning large areas of the country into a pile of rubble and twisted metal. At least 350 civilians have been slaughtered, the countrys infrastructure is in ruins, and Beirut is once again being devastated. Out of a population of less than four million, some 500,000 have been displaced. Meanwhile, the bloody Zionist rulers continue their murderous rampage against Palestinians in Gaza, pounding the densely populated strip, murdering dozens. The master-race mentality of the Zionist rulers dictates that for every Israeli killed, whether soldier or civilian, a score of Arabs must die. Behind Israels latest harvest of blood stand the US and British imperialists, who have given Israel a green light while continuing to enforce their own savage occupation of Iraq and beating the war drums against Syria and Iran. This alone should underscore the futility of appealing to the same imperialists or the United Nations to come to the aid of Lebanon or the Palestinians. The myriad peoples of the Near East will not know peace, prosperity or justice until bourgeois rule in the region is overthrown through a series of socialist revolutions.
Israeli Lieutenant General Dan Halutz has ominously stated that Israel would turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years, a threat of total devastation recalling the 1975-90 civil war. Israel has called up thousands of reservists, having already made several incursions into southern Lebanon where they faced fierce fighting by Hezbollah forces. It is notable that amid the chauvinist frenzy whipped up by Israels rulers, some 2000 people demonstrated in Tel Aviv on 16 July against the assault on Lebanon. As Trotskyists, we in the Spartacist League militarily defend Hezbollah against the Israeli military machine in this conflict, while maintaining our political opposition to this reactionary fundamentalist outfit. Israel out of Lebanon, Gaza and all the Occupied Territories! Defend the Palestinian people! Down with US aid to Israel!
Israels latest offensive comes in the context of the murderous British and US occupation of Iraq. American and British imperialist barbarism, which includes the torture chambers of Abu Ghraib and mass murders such as in Haditha, has also stoked and unleashed an orgy of ethnic and religious bloodletting there. A recent UN report on Iraq stated that in the month of June alone some 3000 civilians had been slaughtered — 100 per day. In the first half of this year, on average, nearly 80 civilians were killed each day. Now Blair and Bush are ratcheting up their sabre rattling against Syria and Iran, claiming they are the real powers behind Hezbollah.
In the event of an attack on Iran or Syria, whether by the US or by Israel acting as its proxy, it is the duty of the proletariat in the US, Britain and around the world to stand for the military defence of Iran and Syria, without giving political support to either the Baathist dictatorship in Damascus or the reactionary mullah regime in Tehran. In the face of imperialist nuclear blackmail, we say that Iran needs nuclear weapons and adequate delivery systems to defend itself and to deter an imperialist attack. Additionally, as part of our unconditional military defence of the North Korean deformed workers state, we support that countrys development and testing of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Hands off Syria and Iran! No UN sanctions against North Korea! Britain/US out of Iraq, Afghanistan, the Near East and Central Asia!
While the Beirut government, which came to power last year with Washingtons support, appeals to the Bush administration to rein in Israel, the capitalist Democratic and Republican parties pledge their solidarity with the murderous Israeli rulers. For their part, the European imperialist powers and the United Nations debate whether or not Israels onslaught is excessive or disproportionate, and several bourgeois Arab leaders have condemned Hezbollah for adventurism after it seized two Israeli soldiers. In the face of Israels savage offensive, there are increasing calls for a UN peacekeeping presence in southern Lebanon. An undated Web statement by the US-based liberal antiwar outfit United for Peace and Justice demands a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire and an end to US blocking of UN action. Beware illusions in the UN, an imperialist den of thieves and their victims.
From the Korean War to the starvation sanctions against Saddam Husseins Iraq, the UN has acted as a tool of imperialist depredation around the world. It was the UN that disarmed Palestinian fighters during Lebanons bloody civil war, setting up the 1982 massacre of some 2000 civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Christian rightist forces directed by Israeli troops under the leadership of the now-comatose butcher Ariel Sharon. No to UN intervention!
Israel and the US state that their aim is to disarm and crush Hezbollah. This can in the end be accomplished only by the annihilation of southern Lebanons plebeian Shiite population, one of the larger of the numerous mutually hostile communities in the country. Far from being a nation, Lebanon is an artificial statelet carved out of Syria by the French imperialists following World War I. The civil war that ravaged Lebanon and killed over 150,000 people represented the bloodiest expression of the intercommunal strife that has always plagued the country.
The reformist SWP prettifies the Islamic reactionaries of Hezbollah as an anti-imperialist resistance movement, declaring that Hezbollah drove Israel out of Lebanon in 2000 and ever since has kept up a stance of uncompromising opposition to imperialism (Socialist Worker, 5 August). Far from an opposition to imperialism, during the period of the Cold War against the Soviet Union, US imperialism (and Israel vis-à-vis Hamas) fostered the growth of Islamic reaction as a counterweight to Communism and secular nationalism. This was most clearly expressed in the billions funnelled by the US to the bloodthirsty mujahedin butchers fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s. While the SWP openly sided with the US and British imperialists against the Soviet Union, we said: Hail Red Army in Afghanistan! and called to extend the gains of the 1917 October Revolution to the Afghan peoples. It is an indictment of the political bankruptcy of Arab nationalism and a sign of the reactionary political climate ushered in by the 1991-92 capitalist counterrevolution in the USSR that millions of Arabs today perceive the Islamic fundamentalists to be the best fighters against imperialism and Zionism.
Capitalist rule, which fuels national, ethnic and religious divisions, has driven the constant bloodshed that defines the Near East. As one after another peace plan heralds further massacre and immiseration of Palestinians, as every proclamation of democracy covers for bloody imperialist occupation and internecine bloodletting, it could not be clearer that there will be no equitable resolution to the conflicting claims of the peoples of the region until bourgeois rule is overthrown and imperialist subjugation ended. This is particularly the case in assuring the right of national self-determination for both the Palestinian Arab and the Hebrewspeaking peoples.
The fight for workers rule in the Near East crucially includes shattering the Zionist garrison state from within through Arab/Hebrew workers revolution. Key to this perspective is the forging of Marxist workers parties throughout the Near East to unite the proletariat — Arab, Persian, Kurdish and Hebrew, Sunni and Shiite, Muslim and Christian — in struggle against imperialism and against the Zionists, mullahs, sheikhs and all the other capitalist rulers. Such parties, sections of a reforged Trotskyist Fourth International, are essential to break the proletariat from fundamentalism and from all forms of nationalism in the struggle for a socialist federation of the Near East.
The conquest of power by the proletariat in the Near East does not complete the socialist revolution, but only opens it by changing the direction of social development. But that social development can only be consolidated through the international extension of the revolution, particularly to the advanced, industrialised imperialist centres. Defence of those subjugated by the imperialists around the globe demands the pursuit of class struggle in the US, Britain and other imperialist centres, pointing towards a proletarian struggle for power. The Spartacist League/US, section of the International Communist League, is committed to the fight to forge a revolutionary workers party to lead the multiracial proletariat in the struggle to sweep away US imperialism through socialist revolution. The Spartacist League/Britain is dedicated to building a revolutionary workers party whose task is to lead the multiethnic proletariat here in a socialist revolution that will sweep away British imperialism.