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Utsa Patnaik: On Measuring “Famine” Deaths: Different Criteria for Socialism and Capitalism?

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By Utsa Patnaik

Many developing countries which have a high proportion of poor in their population, are typically characterised by a high death rate as well as a high birth rate, with the birth rate exceeding the death rate. The rate of natural increase is given by the difference between the birth rate and the death rate. The actual increase of population is obtained by subtracting from this the net out-migration from the country, if any. In the course of development as health services reach a larger segment of the population, education levels improve and per head real incomes rise, it is expected that not only will the death rate come down but so will the birth rate. The aim is to obtain an even faster decline in the birth rate than in the death rate, if the rate of natural increase is to come down from initial high levels. China however although starting from a worse situation had lowered both the death rate and the birth rate much faster. 

In a class-divided society, average figures do not give a true picture of how bad the situation is for the most deprived, who owing to endemic lack of adequate nourishment are also more vulnerable to sickness or morbidity. We know that endemic poverty, under-nutrition and lack of access to affordable medical services get reflected in a much higher death rate than the average, for the poor segment of the population. By the same logic, a given decline in the average death rate over time in the overall population, while in itself desirable, may well be very unequally distributed, with a very large decline in the already lower- than- average death rate among the top income groups in urban areas as their access to health services improves further, and a very small or non-existent decline in death rate say among the poorest in rural areas with initial high levels of deaths. A decline in the average death rate may be quite compatible even with a rise in the death rate for some segments of the population. 

The difference between endemic high death rate among the (mainly rural ) poor , and what is identified by most academics as ” famine deaths”, seems to be the fact that the first involves the poor dying at a rate higher than the average for the population, but slowly, unobtrusively and over a longer period of time owing to being chronically under-nourished and therefore being subject to higher morbidity; this higher than average death rate being considered nothing ‘out of the way’ given the existing distribution of incomes. 

The second, which is considered not normal or usual and is termed “famine deaths”, involves a sudden rise in nutrition-deprivation and hence sudden rise in morbidity and death rate, usually among segments of the very same group which is poor as a ‘normal’ state of affairs. In short, a sudden upward deviation from the prevalent death rate is thought of as “famine death”. The cause of a sudden and unpredicted rise may be various – a sudden decline in output, or a sudden rise in the price of the basic food staple. The second cause is not necessarily predicated on the first; a sudden rise in food price may take place , not because output is less than usual, but because government follows policies of suddenly increased expenditures, which rapidly expand incomes in the hands of one segment of the population and hence their demand for food, while leaving untouched the purchasing power of another segment of the population, as happened during the 1943 Bengal famine when deficit-financed defence -related expenditures were suddenly raised. 

While China has performed much better than India, it is widely believed that China had a more severe famine than India ever had, during the “Great Leap” period in which millions died; the figure of 27 to 30 million famine deaths is frequently quoted. The main source of this figure in India is Amartya Sen’s writings and speeches which are more widely known and reported than are the basic sources, the work of Western scholars, which he uses. The argument made by him is that the absence of press freedom in China explains the fact that the world did not have any inkling that such a massive famine had taken place at the time. Similarly, Peter Nolan and others have argued that a massive famine took place during the collectivisation drive in the Soviet Union in the thirties. 

In general, the thrust of the argument is that collectivisation produces famine and the absence of a ‘free’ press as in capitalist countries, prevents anyone outside these countries knowing about it until much later- when Western liberal scholars painstakingly uncover the facts through their research. Since collective ownership and production is the very essence of socialist production relations, this appears to constitute a damning indictment of socialism. The picture is complicated by the fact that in China itself, some of those, earlier termed the ‘capitalist roaders , who were always opposed to egalitarian principles of distribution and wanted to dismantle the rural communes (which were indeed dismantled from 1980 onwards), seized upon the alleged massive “famine ” as one argument for an ex post justification for doing so, regardless of the fact that they themselves despite their active involvement in political life were apparently quite ignorant at that time that such a massive famine with 27 to 30 million deaths, had taken place in their own country. 

It would be instructive to look at how exactly this estimate of massive “famine deaths ” has been arrived at by the ever busy Western liberal scholars, which estimates have then been assiduously spread by them and by others to discredit socialism and praise the bourgeois press (thereby, incidentally, ensuring a very good press for themselves). 

In China in 1959-61 there was indeed a large shortfall in agricultural output, as much as 15 percent from normal in 1959 and 25 percent from normal in the next two years and this decline did in fact coincide with the “Great Leap” when the transition from advanced co-operatives to the peoples’ communes took place. At that time a number of reasons including drought in parts of the country, floods in others and attacks of pests were put forward for the output fall. No-one, including the foreign diplomatic corps stationed there, or the ideological critics of collectivisation within the Party, at that time suggested there was massive famine. In India too the sixties were difficult years and output shortfall owing to drought in 1964-5 was severe, although less so than in China and was combined with rapid inflation which eroded real wages and raised poverty levels to nearly 60 percent according to the available World Bank estimates. 

To associate China’s economic difficulties with communes formation would be rather like associating Indonesia’s 1997-8 economic crisis and collapse with the widespread forest fires which took place at that time. In short empirical coincidence is not a causal explanation. The same commune system ensured a massive rise in employment, in food security and health security for the rural population in the next two decades. It was not communes which created economic difficulties; rather, it can be argued that without the newly-formed commune’s egalitarian distribution, the exogenous output decline might have had a far more severe impact in and made recovery much slower than it was in fact. 

When we look at the estimates of death rate and birth rate for China made by US scholars during the years 1959 to 1961, we find that the death rate rose sharply in a single year, 1960, by as much as 10.8 per thousand compared to 1959. But because China in the single preceding decade of building socialism, had reduced its death rate at a much faster rate (from 29 to 12 comparing 1949 and 1958) than India had, this sharp rise to 25. 4 in 1960 in China still meant that this “famine” death rate was virtually the same as the prevalent death rate in India which was 24.6 per thousand in 1960, only 0.8 lower. This latter rate being considered quite “normal” for India, has not attracted the slightest criticism. Further, in both the preceding and the suceeding year India’s crude death rate was 8 to 10 per thousand higher than in China. Of course, each economy has to be judged in relation to its own internal performance; and no doubt the rise in the death rate during the worst years of output shortfall is a bad blot for China on its otherwise very impressive record of rapid decline and good food security. But is it correct to say that “famine deaths” totalled as much as 30 million; and is it correct to imply that absence of press freedom meant that China’s then leaders, despite knowing about such massive deaths, were so cynical and depraved that they could mislead the world successfully? 

In a recent article, published in a Bengali-language journal, Badruddin Umar has provided a powerful explicit critique of the widely accepted argument put forward by Sen on large famine deaths (and hence also a critique of others like Nolan). Umar argues that it is inconceivable that such a large number of “famine deaths” should have been wilfully suppressed by a state in China which had demonstrated its commitment to peoples’ welfare by undertaking measures to reach basic food security and health services to the poor, and which had achieved a much faster reduction in infant mortality and the death rate in the very first decade of independence than had India. We propose here to try to provide an explanation which includes a more realistic estimate of mortality, and also of why no-one including the Westerners in China, even noticed that mortality was higher during these years. 

Most people will accept that in order to qualify to “die” in a famine, and become a famine-death victim, it is necessary to be born in the first place. But about 18million of the estimated 30 million “dead’ in China’s famine, were not born at all ! Most of those non-experts, journalists and others who accept and propagate the ‘massive famine deaths’ in China argument put forward by the academic sophists, do not themselves realise that people who were never born at all, and indeed never conceived at all, are being included to arrive at the 27 to 30 million estimate of “famine deaths” in China. The measurement techniques are designed to mislead, to talk about the “death” of people who were never born. How is this absurd procedure possible? It has come about because not only the rise in the death rate, but also the accompanying sharp fall in the birth rate is being taken into account when estimating “famine deaths”. The birth rate in China declined and fell to a low of 18 per thousand in 1961 compared to 29.2 in 1958. (After 1961 it rose faster than it had fallen, to reach a peak of 46 by 1964). 

The rise in the death rate during 1959-61 compared to the bench-mark year 1958 implies that there was indeed a total excess mortality of 10.5 million persons over the three-year period 1959-61 in China, excess in the sense that if the death rate had remained the same, then the population would have been larger by that many more people. This is the correct estimate of excess deaths, but this order of “famine deaths” is not quite spectacular enough for the liberal scholars. Therefore, the decline in the birth rate which was very steep during these three years, is taken into account and the children who would have been born if the decline in birth rate had not taken place, are added on by them to the estimate, to arrive at a three times higher estimate which is then called the “missing millions” and identified with “famine deaths”. The fact that at least 18 million of the alleged famine victims were never conceived or born, is a minor point for those who want to talk tendentiously about massive “famine deaths” totalling 30 million in China and thereby discredit collectivisation. 

That periods of food shortage do lead to decline in fertility is a fairly well established proposition. Periods of mass mobilisation of males, for military service for example, also get reflected in a decline in the birth rate. There was no military conscription at this date in peacetime China, but there was massive mobilisation of both male and female workers for a stupendous construction effort during this period of early commune formation. The established peasant family living and work patterns were radically re-organised with the formation of the communes: 

* large bands of and men and women set out in teams and brigades for constructing water management systems, cleaning up the environment and eradicating disease-carrying organisms, afforesting hills, terracing and bunding and so on. 

* They spent weeks on the work-sites, and there were communal kitchens and creches to look after children in these years. It is not surprising if this disruption of normal family life in the interests of construction, also contributed greatly to the observed decline in the birth rate as birth decisions were postponed. 

* With stabilisation of the new system, dismantling of communal kitchens and reversion to family life the birth rate again surged to unprecedented heights, peaking at 37.9 in 1964. 

As regards the genuine excess mortality during China’s difficult years, while shortage and difficulties were very real and visible, famine was near invisible to all including the Westerners at that time in China, because China by then was an egalitarian society, not a class society. The undoubtedly severe food shortage was not concentrated in a sharp drop in consumption by the members of a particular deprived class like poor peasants who then died in the sight of all , while others had more than enough to eat, as typically happens with famine in class societies. Food shortage while it was severe, was spread out over the rural consuming population much more evenly and therefore must have led mostly to higher rates, but not immediately or obviously visible higher rates of mortality in the particularly vulnerable segments in an otherwise equal society – parturient mothers, infants and the very old. It is a mistake to think that all real trends are visible to the individuals at the time. 

Thus even though we ourselves in this country have lived through the period when the infant mortality has fallen greatly, it is a matter we are convinced of not from our direct experience of it, but after the numbers have been counted and presented to us. China’s leaders were not guilty of wilful suppression of knowledge of the higher mortality; the knowledge itself was built up much later than the events, and the correct estimate as we have seen is just over one-third of the wrong and sensationalised estimates which are still being circulated. 

On a visit to China in the eighties, at the time the inflated “famine deaths” were being talked about in the West, this author mentioned these estimates and asked some very senior Chinese economists about their own experience of this period. They were extremely surprised and said that while there were cases of more deficiency diseases than usual they were not aware of widespread famine deaths. 

It should be noted that those sophists who designed the above mentioned unique measure of “famine deaths” are very reluctant to apply it to non-socialist countries and have never done so. Their method if impartially and honestly applied would produce more than one episode of large “famine deaths” – on their own definition – in the West European countries, which saw not only a rise in civilian mortality but also a decline in the birth rate during the time of wartime shortages. Even the accurate definition in terms of rise in the death rate, is never applied by them to talk about famine in countries which are not socialist. 

Thus in Russia comparing 1994 with 1990 from the data given by an US academic, we find that the death rate rose from 48.8 to 84.1 per thousand able-bodied persons, as that country plunged into “shock therapy” to usher in a capitalist paradise, and succeeded in halving its national income. No one can say that the press is under censorship in Russia today or that the estimates are not known. But not one of those eminent economists who have deafened us with their estimates of “famine deaths ” during Soviet or Chinese collectivisation, have bothered to apply the same method to current Russian or East European data, nor will they ever do so; for their interest lies not in objectivity, but in a sophisticated vilification of socialism. 

(Courtesy: People’s Democracy, September 26, 1999)

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ICMLPO (Unity & Struggle): The International Situation and the Tasks of the Proletarian Revolutionaries

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The imperialist capitalist world is trapped in its irresolvable contradictions

The significant development of the productive forces, the gigantic capitalist accumulation and concentration, is unfolding in the midst of the anarchy of production and the realization of commodities; it is marked by the desire for profit of the owners of private property; it is determined by the uneven development; it is marked by competition which is expressed primarily at the level of the imperialist monopolies and countries, leading to an intense and sharp contention in all areas, economic, financial, commercial, political, diplomatic and military.

The expansion of capitalism and imperialism cannot escape the economic crises that occur at increasingly shorter terms and with greater depth. One cannot hide the general decline of the economy. Although there will be new levels of development of the productive forces, the capitalist-imperialist system remains trapped in the general crisis, it is manifested in the wars of aggression and genocide, it is built on the super-exploitation of thousands of millions of workers in all countries on earth, it is responsible for the poverty of thousands of millions of human beings. It has nothing new to offer to the workers and peoples. It is a rotten system, a system in decline.

A new economic crisis is looming

The economic crisis of 2008, which began in the US and had an impact on the vast majority of countries and was identified as the most serious since the Great Depression of 1929, caused massive destruction of the productive forces, the unemployment of more than 10 million workers, the lowering of wages, the raising of the retirement age and the cuts to pensions, as well as the use of public funds to favor the large industrial enterprises and banks by the States, which had in turn to resort to a new and aggressive indebtedness. It was an economic crisis that arose in the heart of the capitalist world, in the US, and which spread throughout the world. It was a result of the very nature of the capitalist system, it affected the big monopolies, but its most dramatic effects were thrown onto the shoulders of the working classes, the peoples and youth and on the dependent countries.

The economy of the US, of the countries of Western Europe, of some of the dependent countries in Asia and Africa that were affected by the crisis of 2008 are in the process of recovering, but in an embryonic, limited, slow and above all partial manner, since unemployment is still very high in almost all countries. The level of global production has reached the dimensions of before the crisis, in good part due to the growth of the emerging economies.

The pressure of the high external debt is one of the most serious consequences of the crisis of 2008 and could become one of the triggers of a new economic crisis. According to the data of the World Bank, the US debt exceeds 110% of its GDP, which was $16 billion in 2013. England has a debt 5 times greater than its GDP. In France the external debt is more than twice the GDP. In Germany, the external debt is almost twice the GDP. Although the debt of the dependent countries has not reached the dimensions of the 1970s, it is steadily growing. In fact, only China has recorded a GDP that is significantly greater than its external debt.

The ability of the countries to pay this debt is seriously threatened. The US had to resort to a political measure, to raise the limit of its borrowing capacity by a decision of Congress. Argentina has just been declared in default by the holders of its debt. The initial recovery of the economies of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Hungary relies on the injection of large sums of capital from banks at high interest rates and shorter terms, on a new and higher debt that makes them very vulnerable. Italy’s economy has been in the red.

Since 2012, the slowing of the growth of the Chinese economy has been clear, as well as the difficulties of India and the decline of the economies of Turkey and South Africa.

In Latin America we are experience a slowdown in economic growth. Brazil has been declared in technical recession, while in the first quarter of this year 2014 Argentina had a growth of 0.9%

How is this new economic crisis expressed? Where will the financial bubble burst? Will regional crises occur? Will there be a crisis of major proportions as in 2008? These are various questions that cannot yet be answered completely.

The ills of the capitalist world continue to punish the workers and peoples. According to the International Labor Organization, absolute unemployment affects more than 202 million people; unemployment is noticeably most evident in Spain and Greece where it exceeds 25%, and for the youth, including university graduates, the rates exceed 50%. South Africa has an unemployment rate above 26%.

The poverty rates for 2013 show that there are 1,000 million people subsisting on less than $1 per day; 2,800 million people had incomes below $2 a day; 448 million children were underweight, while 30,000 children under one year die every day from diseases that can be cured.

In various countries in every continent the emergence and development of fascism has become evident as an expression of the interests of the arms manufacturers, of the ultra-reactionary sectors of the ruling classes, as a manifestation of racist and xenophobic groups who lash out against immigrants, the national minorities, against the workers, the trade unionists and revolutionaries. In some countries these fascist manifestations are expressed in the electoral political struggle and they achieve significant results that make them a threat to democracy and freedom. Fascism is a reactionary, anti-communist, anti-people and anti-democratic policy of a section of the bourgeoisie; in some cases it is expressed in the repressive practices of reactionary governments. For the proletarian revolutionaries, the unmasking, denunciation and fight against the expressions of fascism are the inescapable responsibility in the process of organizing the revolutionary struggle for socialism.

An unprecedented wave of migration has struck the world today; millions of workers from the dependent countries, particularly from the poorest due to the imperialist plunder, are seeking to reach the developed capitalist countries by any means; they are seeking jobs and opportunities, they had to face incredible obstacles, long treks, unsafe boats with which they defy the fury of nature, they go through sewers and turbulent rivers, trying to climb the walls put in place to prevent their arrival. Those who manage to arrive at the country of their destination are subjected to discrimination, low wages, the worst living conditions, as well as being victims of the reactionary policies, of racial hatred and xenophobia.

The inter-imperialist contention is intensifying

The US remains the largest international economic power, the main military power. It possesses the leading technology in important areas of the economy, mainly in the production of shale oil that is permitting a significant reduction in energy costs. Despite these circumstances the US is losing the hegemony that it held in the economic, political and military spheres, it now faces greater competition from the other imperialist monopolies and countries. Its traditional allies, England and other countries of the European Union, at the same time as in certain circumstances they agree on common actions, they are refusing to endorse some of the warmongering actions such as the decision to bomb Syria and they are openly contending for their interests, especially in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, also penetrating Latin America. Within the European Union itself the actions of Germany to dominate that bloc are visible, as are the policies of France and England to contend for those positions. Further, the strengthening of Russia’s economy and particularly its great military might make it a stronger power with a significant nuclear arsenal, which seeks to participate for its own interests in a new redivision of the world. The economic growth of China, its position as the second largest economy in the world, make it an economic, financial and commercial rival which is affecting all countries and continents, with the decline of US power and that of the other imperialist countries; it is part of the club of nuclear powers and has the largest army on earth. India is developing its growth to a great degree and is taking part in the redivision, even though much of its economy represents direct investments by the international monopolies. In addition, new countries are emerging in the international arena in the economic field, such as Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia and Mexico, seeking to take part in the club of the powerful.

Clearly the unipolar world does not exist; the participation of various economic powers, of old and new imperialist countries has been developing since the end of the last century. They all are taking part in a world divided among the old imperialist countries, they are demanding their place in the new international situation, they are ready to contend for this position.

The rapacious and warlike nature of the imperialist countries is clearly seen in the military intervention, bombardments, invasions and deployment of occupation troops where their interests are threatened. The US and its allies continue to occupy Afghanistan, they are present in Iraq even though they have officially withdrawn, they carry out military actions in Pakistan, they maintain troops in Haiti, they intervene to support reaction and the oligarchies in Venezuela and they continue the economic blockade against Cuba. France invades Mali; it intervenes in Ivory Coast and the Central African Republic. Russia is forcefully annexing several republics and regions that were in the territory of the former USSR.

In 2014, Israel supported by the US and the Europeans carried out a brutal military aggression against Palestine, it unleashed intense air bombardments and repeated barrages of missiles, a military offensive with tanks and troops on the Gaza Strip, killing more than 2,000 civilians, children and the elderly. Presently there is a truce and some agreements that validate Palestinian demands to a certain extent; but they are not a definitive solution for the sovereign and popular future of the Palestinian people. The Israeli Zionists, despite having been unmasked and condemned by the whole world as genocidal terrorists, have not given up their desire to eliminate Palestine as a State and depopulate its territories in order to occupy them.

The inter-imperialist contradictions cause the assertion of the former economic blocs, NAFTA composed of the US, Canada and Mexico, the FTA between the US and the European Union, the European Union, Mercosur, the Asia Pacific bloc and the strengthening of the new groupings such as BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Pacific Alliance.

We are experiencing an intense contention for the markets of the imperialist countries themselves as well as for the dependent states of Asia, Africa and Latin America. China is particularly aggressive in placing its commodities in all countries; it is currently the economy with the third greatest direct investments in other countries.

Another area of inter-imperialist contention is seen in the race for mining and oil concessions, to buy large tracts of agricultural land by the transnational companies and the States themselves. The development of the productive forces, the progress of science and technology demand large quantities of raw materials, sources of energy and food that must be found mainly in the dependent countries.

The economic, financial and commercial confrontation rests on the policy of military deterrence and, going beyond threats, we are witnessing localized armed clashes to seize and/or maintain control of countries rich in oil and other natural resources, as well as to seize strategic spaces for the control of regions and/or to threaten, intimidate and blackmail the rival imperialist powers, countries labeled as “terrorists” or which “support terrorism.”

The alleged fight against terrorism has become the “reason,” the pretext for the imperialist countries and the reactionary governments to justify police policies of control of their own populations and those of other countries, to discriminate and repress immigrant groups of Arabs and those from other countries whom they classify as terrorists or “financiers of terrorists,” as revolutionaries and as social fighters.

There are various localized military conflicts in which the various imperialist countries intervene directly for their own interests.

In Syria a reactionary civil war is continuing to develop between the most reactionary forces supported by the US and Western European imperialists, the Arab governments that seek to establish a puppet regime that can continue the encirclement of Iran; and, on the other hand, the government of Al Assad that is the continuation of an anti-popular regime established several decades ago that currently receives military support from Russia.

The policies of imperialist intervention towards the Middle East are provoking religious-confessional conflicts. One part of this situation is the aggression of the armed groups of Al Qaeda-Radical Islamists, especially the Islamic State, which is increasing. These groups aim at different nationalities and religions in the region, mainly Kurds, Yazidis, the Christian minority and Alawis.

In these circumstances there is a battle and polarization between the imperialists and reactionaries in the region on one hand, and the power and actions of the Kurds on the other hand. The Kurdish nation is one of the oldest in the Middle East, it is divided up among four countries and in the midst of the confrontation it has progressed towards cementing its identity, to place itself as the alternative of self-determination despite the pressure of the imperialists and their reactionary allies.

The outrage that is developing in all parts of the world against the siege of Kobane* by the Islamic State is being expressed in high levels of solidarity that encourage the struggle of the Kurds and has forced the US, other imperialist countries and various Arab states to create a Coalition against the Islamic State.

* Kobane is a small town located in one of the Democratic Cantons of Rojava in Syrian Kurdistan.

The resistance of the democratic cantons of the Kurds against the brutality of the Islamic State and the reactionary forces of the region that support it is encouraging the hope and pointing the way for the struggle of all the oppressed peoples of the Middle East.

Ukraine is a scene of heavy fighting between government troops under fascist leadership, supported unconditionally by the US and the European Union; and “pro-Russian” sectors of the population that are seeking annexation to Russia, as did the inhabitants of the Crimea. The democratic, patriotic and advanced sectors that are resisting fascism and stand for independence, freedom, democracy and socialism are fighting in very hard and uneven conditions. The soldiers and civilians who are facing each other in combat are Ukrainians but they are mainly led by the expansionist interests of the Western imperialists on the one hand and the geopolitical interests of Russia on the other. That confrontation has led to the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia and the defiant response of the Putin government. This is an open contention to show the world who is who: the Western military force or the military power of Russia.

The arms race is being dangerously revived

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, military spending has returned to the levels of the Cold War. Data from 2013 show that world spending for military objectives has risen to $3.3 million per minute, $198 million per hour, almost $4,800 million per day.

The US occupies the first place by far with an annual spending of $640,000 million, followed by China with $188,000 million, Russia with $88,000 million, and then Saudi Arabia, France, Britain, Germany and Japan. Note that both Germany and Japan are venturing dangerously into the arms race and have begun sending their troops abroad. Israel and Zionism are the enclave and spearhead of US imperialism to attack Palestine and threaten other nationalist governments in the region; it has one of the largest and best equipped armies in the world.

In general, all countries have joined the arms race, fueling the war industry that is in the hands of the transnational corporations and large state enterprises.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons, the large number of imperialist military bases spread throughout the world, the process of renewal of military arsenals, go beyond the deterrent policy practiced by the great powers. They are preparations for an eventual general conflagration for a new redivision of the world.

Russia and China are seeking to create an imperialist bloc

The expansion of the Chinese economy to all continents, the supply of heavy and light industrial products at competitive prices is flooding the markets of the great majority of countries, including the imperialist and developed capitalist states. The direct investment of Chinese capital for oil exploration, mining, the construction of large public works are in first place in the dependent countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The aggressive diplomatic policy and the creation of commercial, economic and military blocs make China the second largest economy, an economic great power and an important military power.

Russia has regained significant levels of its economy and continues to develop its military capacity, today taking second place as a military power. It is rebuilding its geopolitical spheres, yoking several of the former countries of the ex-USSR to its designs. Despite its present difficulties, caused by the fall in oil prices, it has proclaimed its decision to participate in the management of the destinies of the world.

It can be seen that there are significant levels of commercial, economic and military cooperation between China and Russia, who are working together on various commercial and military initiatives. However, it is also clear that there are serious contradictions to be resolved for the eventual formation of an imperialist military bloc.

The BRICS, a new pole in the international economic and commercial confrontation

The coming together of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa to form BRICS began several years ago; it has 3,000 million people who make up 40% of the world’s population, produce 20% of the world’s GDP and in 2014 represent 18% of the world economy.

The BRICS’ summit held in Brazil in 2014, relaunched the international initiative, becoming an economic, financial and commercial bloc to have its own voice in the international arena. It established the BRICS Development Bank and a reserve currency for international transactions in order to compete with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It is seeking to integrate the dependent countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America into its orbit.

In the reformist views that exist in all countries, BRICS is an anti-imperialist bloc that should be supported and on which the peoples and the “progressive governments” should rely. They start from the assumption that Russia and China are a bloc that will hold back the US, that they will side with the interests of peoples, as they supposedly did in Syria; they assume that Brazil has a progressive government and represents the interests of the people of Brazil and Latin America. These ideas are spread among the masses and cause confusion, which it is up to us proletarian revolutionaries to clear up. Moreover, there is no shortage of gullible people who preach that BRICS is a counterweight to the hegemony of the US and its allies that could create a deterrent force internationally.

BRICS is a new economic and commercial bloc, a group of great powers, whose main objectives are to strengthen itself at the expense of the looting of the dependent countries and of the export of capital. On the other hand, as the events unfolding in Ukraine show, BRICS has major fissures and contradictions within it. Russia has not received the full backing that it demands in its contention with the US and the European Union. China, at the same time as it contends with the US and the imperialist countries of the European Union, reaches economic and trade agreements with them. Among China, India and Russia, at the same time as they sign agreements, have important economic and geopolitical contradictions.

Various cultural and religious conflicts are exacerbated

In the Middle East for several decades, religious groups and sects are emerging that wave the banner of Islam in opposition to the Western and Christian world, that define their differences among various Muslim sects by means of a “holy war.” These groups are supported and financed by economic groups in the Arab countries and by certain governments. Al Qaeda, which was initiated, trained and financed by the CIA, played a dirty role in torpedoing the progressive national struggle of the Arab peoples and imposing terror. Presently the Islamic State, which was initially part of Al Qaeda, is militarily occupying much of Syria and Iraq and has proclaimed a Caliphate; it is powerfully armed and challenges other Islamic beliefs and other religions from Sunni positions, committing all kinds of crimes and atrocities. The actions of the Islamic State are serving as a pretext for a new intervention by the US-led imperialist coalition that involves certain Arab states that propose to eliminate it with the scorched earth policy, bombing Iraq and Syria. In Africa the organization Boko Haram is proclaiming Islamic fundamentalism, it is active in Nigeria, proclaiming the formation of a Muslim State and killing civilians and kidnapping hundreds of girls.

In sub-Saharan Africa ethnic and religious conflicts are breaking out between ethnic and religious groups, using weapons provided by the imperialist countries; many of these conflicts are fueled by the inter-imperialist contention over natural resources, oil and coltan.

The ethnic, cultural and religious feelings that serve as instruments for the formation of groups of fanatics are fueled by the imperialist countries and the ruling classes to divert the struggle of the peoples for national and social liberation.

The struggle of the working class and peoples

In no country on earth is there social peace; everywhere the working class confronts the exploitation and oppression of the capitalists for their interests.

Those expressions of dissatisfaction by the working class are developing unevenly, they pass through the stages of the debate over the defense of their interests and how to win them, from the sit-down strikes, company strikes and the general strike, from street demonstrations, the formation of initiatives of coordination and of trade union struggle, for the building of political platforms and the participation in the electoral struggle.

This year, the event of major importance was led by the workers, peoples and youth of Burkina Faso who, through massive and heroic demonstrations, overthrew the dictatorship of Campaore, who had established a repressive, reactionary and pro-imperialist regime for more than thirty years. In this process, the Revolutionary Communist Party of Upper Volta, our fraternal party of the ICMLPO, has played an outstanding role in the organization and development of the struggle to come from behind and reached its climax and victory in late October. The local ruling classes, the French and Yankee imperialists and the armed forces at their service acted to divert the course of the struggle towards the recomposition of imperialist domination and of local domination through elections and the renovation of the institutions. The workers, peoples, youth and proletarian revolutionaries are persisting in the decision to continue fighting for the final objectives of emancipation and are joining in the new ideological and political battles with renewed energy.

In Mexico large demonstrations of the youth, workers and the population have been held rejecting the brutal action of the official repressive forces, the armed forces and the police, of paramilitary groups in the murder of several youths and the disappearance of 43 students from the school for teachers. These struggles are putting pressure on the bourgeois institutions; they are becoming political expressions that demand the resignation of the government. In these days our fraternal party, the Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist) is valiantly fulfilling its responsibilities, it is present together with the masses in the battles being waged. The brutalities of the reactionary regime of Mexico are receiving the condemnation of the workers and peoples of the world and of democratic public opinion; the popular movement is receiving the encouragement and solidarity of the social fighters and revolutionaries.

Tunisia has been reviving the ideals of the Arab Spring, of the struggle for freedom, democracy and social change. The workers, people and youth are developing new struggles to put into effect the gains of the popular uprising; they are fighting under all circumstances and using all forms of struggle; they are advancing in building the unity of the workers, peoples and youth, of the dissatisfied ones, of those who want change, in the Popular Front. In the last legislative elections the Popular Front achieved important results; it elected 15 deputies and in the presidential elections comrade Hamma Hamammi won third place among 27 candidates through hard struggle. In Tunisia the struggle for social and national liberation are still being raised; we communists have one of the boldest detachments.

The large demonstrations of workers in Spain, Greece, Italy and other European countries continue to show an important revival and an anti-capitalist orientation of the workers’ movement. In South Africa strikes by miners took place over several months. In China the strikes of the workers are numerous and combative.

The working classes and peoples are fighting for civil liberties and democracy, they are actively taking part in the political struggle, they are channeling popular opposition to the reactionary and sellout governments. The youth, particularly the secondary and university students, are taking part in the fighting in defense of public education, in opposition to the anti-popular measures of the governments of the bourgeoisie; they form a tributary to the struggle against imperialism, in defense of national sovereignty.

Reformism is no real alternative for social and national liberation.

A sector of the capitalist class, including some liberal bourgeois governments, social-democracy, the revisionists and opportunists continue to develop the politics of class conciliation, proposals for agreements among the workers, employers and governments to address the crisis, for the country’s growth, for social welfare.

These policies and practices have caused serious damage to the trade-union organization and the workers’ movement, it has allowed them to prop up the labor aristocracy, to promote the trade union bureaucracy that ties the hands of the unions, demobilizes the workers and diverts them from their class objectives.

In opposition to the leadership of the large unions, important sectors of the workers are seeking alternatives, they are forming coordinating collectives to fight for their rights, they are promoting union democracy and, in some countries they are forcing the bureaucracy to call strikes and demonstrations. Within the working class a sense of unity and struggle is being strengthened to oppose exploitation and oppression, to fight for their rights and new gains.

The struggles against the reactionary and neoliberal regimes in various countries and continents that have unfolded in the recent past have done away with several of these governments and have established through elections some governments that called themselves “progressive.”

Soon, these supposed alternative governments showed their class nature; they were expressions of another sector of the ruling classes, they used some reformist measures and especially welfare practices to deceive the working masses, to form a social base of political support, to promote ideological confusion that allowed them to fulfill the purpose of preserving the system of private property.

These various expressions of reformism that occurred in various countries and continents, mainly in Latin America, are becoming worn out; they were not able to confront the great problems of society or to meet the basic demands of the working masses; they are especially melting under the consciousness of the working class and peoples.

The proponents of reformism as a means of overcoming inequities are propagating the idea that putting an end to these processes will send us back to the past, to the rule of the old parties. That is a false premise that ignores the objective fact that those governments and programs represent the same old capitalism, a capitalism that actually does not remain static, that is always developing, always to the benefit of the propertied classes.

In Venezuela a particular process is unfolding: The economic and social measures of the government of Hugo Chavez were always significant in favor of the popular sectors; its patriotic and anti-US imperialist positions were consistent; it was the only government that relied on the mobilization of the masses. After the passing of Chavez, his successor is facing an aggressive campaign of destabilization and street fighting promoted by reaction with the direct support of the US. These actions are based on the social dissatisfaction due to the scarcity of food and other basic necessities, an inflation rate of over 60%, successive currency devaluations, the insecurity caused by an increase in crime. In Venezuela a tough battle is being waged between the left and right, between the patriots and sellouts, between revolutionary positions and reaction. Obviously, in Venezuela, there has not been a revolution despite the proclamations of the supporters of Chavez, nor is socialism being built. But there is a patriotic, democratic and revolutionary process that is confronting a fierce onslaught from reaction. The situation is proving that reformism, despite having assumed radical positions, is not the road to the revolution. It is not possible to predict the outcome of this confrontation in the short term. In any case the workers, people and youth of Venezuela are learning to fight in the midst high levels of struggles; they are developing an understanding of their role in the process of social transformation. The revolutionary party of the proletariat, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Venezuela, has before it great challenges and responsibilities.

The thesis that there are warmongering and aggressive imperialist countries and progressive imperialist countries that help the peoples and can be relied on for the national liberation process is false. With these ideas the “progressive governments” hide the links to a new dependence.

The class struggle continues to be the motive force of history

The constant development of the means of production caused by the extraordinary development of science and technology and the incorporation of millions of human beings to industrial production is generating huge profits and a more pronounced concentration of wealth in the coffers of the great international monopolies and the imperialist countries. Despite new inventions and discoveries, information technology, cybernetics, automation and robotics, the size of this accumulation is primarily a result of the labor power of millions of men and women who work in the factories established in every country of the earth.

The expansion of capital and the accumulation and concentration of wealth are the result, in the first place, of the appropriation of surplus value by the capitalist class. Without the existence and labor of the working class there would not be any wealth, the world of capital would not be possible.

The working class today is at the center of the epoch; it is the creator of wealth, the basic force of society not only because of its role in production but also because of its numbers. As never before, billions of workers form part of the working class, industrial production energizes economic development.

The increasing socialization of production and the concentration of wealth are the pillars of the capitalist-imperialist system; two fundamental classes of the epoch confront each other, the workers and the capitalists, who have built up a world of exploitation and oppression for millions of human beings in the interest of a handful of bosses, a circumstance of social shame and inequality, a society in decay, a world that is irretrievably heading to extinction, a situation that will be negated by the advent of a new world, the world of the workers, socialism.

We Marxist-Leninist communists will fulfill our responsibilities

The responsibility of the communists to support the revolutionary new as opposed to the reactionary old, to promote the advanced positions, to fight for the immediate needs of the workers, demands the continuation of the struggle to unmask the revisionist and opportunist positions within the workers and popular movement.

We Marxist-Leninists are standard bearers of the unity of the working class in each country and on an international scale; we are working for the building of a great front that would include the workers of the city and the countryside, the working class and the peasantry, the oppressed peoples and nations, the peoples and nationalities who are oppressed and discriminated against within the capitalist states; that includes the working youth, students and intellectuals.

For us it is vital to perfect our policies and activities to win over for the economic and political struggle, important sectors of the youth who are suffering from the impact of imperialist plunder and capitalist exploitation. The awareness and potential of youth is in contention: one or another faction of the ruling classes is taking advantage of this, either anarchist positions will seduce them or we communists will win them over to involve them in the process of social and national liberation, in the struggle for emancipation.

We Marxist-Leninist communists have been fulfilling our responsibilities in our countries. We are in the front ranks of the fights of the working class and youth, we represent the interests of the proletariat and we must strive to give them direction and guidance, to convert them in the stages of the process of the accumulation of revolutionary forces. The duty of the proletarian revolutionaries to fight against imperialism and the bourgeoisie, for the revolution and socialism, imposes on us the responsibility to deal with the various situations in which the revolutionary struggle unfolds, to fight against fascism and repression, against demagogy and reformism, to involve ourselves actively in the problems of society from the positions of the working class, to seek the formation of the popular fronts, to participate actively in the day-to-day situation without losing sight of the strategic objective of the struggle for power.

ICMLPO, Turkey, November 2014

Source

Enver Hoxha on Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic “Socialism”

256

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the Alliance issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”

January 1980

THE EVENTS WHICH ARE TAKING PLACE IN THE MOSLEM COUNTRIES MUST BE SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF DIALECTICAL AND HISTORICAL MATERIALISM

The international situation is very tense at present. In many regions of the world and mainly in the large zone of the oil-producing countries, especially those of Asia, the struggle between the two imperialist superpowers, the United States of America and the Soviet Union, not excluding imperialist China and the other capitalist powers, over the division and re-division of markets and spheres of influence, as they try to elbow one another out, has reached new, major proportions just as our Party correctly predicted long ago. Their pressures and plots are accompanied with diplomatic efforts and a propaganda clamour about “agreements and compromises” allegedly to preserve the peace and the balance of power. In fact, as recent events have shown, we see that agreements and compromises are still the basic principle of their policy towards each other regardless of their very acute rivalry. One day,however, the rivalry between them may reach such a point that they can no longer overcome it and settle matters except through military confrontation. The consequences of such a confrontation will descend upon the peoples, just as has occurred in previous imperialist wars.

The most recent result of this rivalry is the military aggression of the Soviet social-imperialists against Afghanistan, the occupation of that country through armed force by one of the imperialist superpowers. The fact is that what is now being done openly by the Soviets through their armed forces against the sovereignty of the Afghan people had long been prepared by the Soviet social-imperialist chauvinist politicians and military leaders and their Afghan agents. In order to arrive at the present situation, both the former and the latter exploited the overthrow, first of King Mohammed Zahir Shah in 1973 and, later, of Prince Daoud in 1978. They also exploited for their evil aims the desire of the Afghan people for social liberation from the oppression they suffered under the absolute monarchy and its foreign friends, first of all, the Soviets, who financed the monarchy and kept it in power. So, irrespective of the “alliance” which they had with the king of Afghanistan, the Soviet social-imperialists worked and acted for his overthrow. In order to disguise their imperialist aims, at first they brought their men, allegedly with more progressive sentiments, to power. Later, these, too, were changed one after the other, through actions in which blood was shed, by means of putsches and tanks, and Noor Mohammed Taraki and Hafizullah Amin were sent to the slaughter.

Nevertheless, no foreign occupier, however powerful and heavily armed, can keep the people, against whom aggression has been committed, subdued for ever. In every country which is invaded the people, apart from anti-national and anti-popular cliques of agents, receive the foreign aggressors with hatred and resistance, sporadic at first and later with more organized revolts which gradually turn into popular uprisings and liberation wars. We are seeing the proof of this in Afghanistan, where the people have risen and are fighting fiercely in the cities, villages and mountains against the Soviet army of occupation. This war of the Afghan people enjoys the support and sympathy of freedom-loving peoples and revolutionary forces throughout the world. Our people, too, support it with all their might. The war of the Afghan people against the Soviet social-imperialists is a just war, and therefore it will triumph.

The current war of the Afghan people against the Soviet military aggression and the anti-feudal, anti-imperialist, anti-American uprising of the Iranian people must make us reflect somewhat more profoundly, from the political, theoretical and ideological aspects, about another major problem which, in the existing situation of complicated developments in the world, is becoming ever more prominent: the popular uprisings of “Islamic inspiration,” as the bourgeoisie and the revisionists like to describe these movements, simply because the Moslem peoples of the Arab and other countries have placed themselves in the vanguard of the liberation movement. This is a fact, an objective reality. There are insurrectionary movements in those countries. If we were to examine and judge these movements and uprisings of Moslem peoples in an over-simplified and very superficial way as movements simply of an Islamic character, without probing deeply into the true reasons which impel the broad masses of the peoples to advance, we could fall in the positions of the revisionists and imperialists, whose assessments of these movements are denigrating and conceal ambitions to enslave the peoples.

We Marxist-Leninists always understand clearly that religion is opium for the people. In no instance do we alter our view on this and we must not fall into the errors of “religious socialism,” etc. The Moslem religion is no different in this regard. Nevertheless, we see that at present the broad masses of the Moslem peoples in the Arab and other countries have risen or are rising in struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism for their national and social liberation. These peoples, who were deliberately left in ignorance in the past and remain backward in their world outlook to this day, are now becoming aware of the great oppression and savage exploitation which were imposed on them by the old colonizers and which the new colonizers and the internal feudal-bourgeois capitalist cliques continue to impose on them. They are coming to understand the political-economic reasons for their oppression and, irrespective that they are Moslems and have been left in backwardness, they are displaying great vitality and making an important contribution to the anti-imperialist bourgeois-democratic revolution which opens the way to the proletarian revolution. Those who have adopted and exploited the Moslem religion to exert social oppression over these peoples and to exploit them in the most ferocious ways are the anti-popular oppressive regimes and the reactionary clergy. They have protected and continue to protect their blood-thirsty power through the weapons and support which they have received from abroad, that is, from the imperialist powers, the neo-colonialist robbers, as well as through inciting and developing religious fanaticism. Thus, the development of events is more and more confirming the Marxist-Leninist thesis that the internal enemies collaborate closely with the external enemies to suppress their own peoples and that they use religion as a weapon to oppress the peoples and keep them in darkness.

The events taking place before our eyes show that the Moslem Arab peoples are fighters. Their anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal struggles and uprisings are accompanied with and result in armed clashes. These struggles and uprisings have their source in the savage oppression which is imposed on these peoples and in their freedom-loving and progressive sentiments. If you are not progressive and freedom-loving you cannot rise in struggle for freedom and national independence against the twofold internal and external oppression.

Another social cause and powerful impulse to anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal uprisings is the grave economic situation of these peoples, the burden of hunger and suffering under which they live. Hence, we cannot fail to take into account their political awakening and. to some extent, also their social awakening.

Looking at the whole struggle of the peoples of Moslem belief, we notice that there are marked differences in its level of development: there are periods when it mounts, but also periods of decline or stagnation, the latter caused by various factors and especially, by the pseudo-progressive bourgeoisie which places itself at the head of these peoples.

In Morocco, for example, there has been some movement, but the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist movement of the people of that country is not at the same height as that of other countries. On the contrary, the monarchy and feudalism dominate the Moroccan people, through violence and liberal pseudo-reforms, as well as by exploiting their religious sentiments.

In Algeria the people waged the national liberation war against the French colonialists and, although it was not led by a Marxist-Leninist party but by the national bourgeoisie, the war for national liberation ended with the withdrawal of the foreign occupiers, but it was carried no further…

In Tunisia the people seem to be asleep and very apathetic, are showing little sign of awakening, but they are not all that backward. Recently there was talk about a trade-union movement there and the general secretary of the trade-unions was arrested, but nothing more happened.

In 1952 there was a revolt in Egypt, too. The monarchy was overthrown without bloodshed. King Farouk was expelled from Egypt by a group of officers. Those who removed him from the throne accompanied him to Alexandria, gave him money, put him on board a ship and helped him to get away and save his neck. In other words, they told the monarch he had better leave of his own accord and save his skin, because he could no longer stay in the country, he no longer had any basis there. Thus, the group of officers, headed by Nasser, Naguib and Sadat, carried out what you might call a bloodless military coup against an utterly degenerate monarchy and seized power. What was this group of Egyptian officers that carried out the putsch and what did they represent? These officers were of the bourgeoisie, its representatives, they were anti-British, but amongst them there were also pro-Hitlerites. As I have mentioned, Anwar el-Sadat himself declares he collaborated with the “Desert wolf,” the Nazi field-marshal Rommel. 

This event, that is, the removal of Farouk from the throne, was exaggerated to the point of being called a “revolution.” However, the Egyptian people, the working masses of that country, gained nothing from this whole affair. Virtually no reform to the benefit of the people was carried out. The so-called agrarian reform ended up in favour of the feudals and wealthy landowners. Under the disguise of the unity of Arab peoples the newcomers to power tried to bring about the “unification” of Egypt with Syria. However, every effort in this direction was in vain because in Syria, too, at this time the capitalist bourgeoisie in the leadership of the state had simply changed their horses and their patron. The imperialist Soviet Union had replaced France. It sabotaged this baseless «unification» and established itself firmly in that country.

As is known, in 1969 there was a revolt in Libya, too; the dynasty of King Idris was overthrown and a group of young officers, headed by Qaddafi who poses as anti-imperialist, came to power. We can describe this revolt, this movement, as progressive at first, but later it lost its impact and at the moment it has fallen into stagnation. Qaddafi who came to power and claims to be the head of Islam, exploited the Moslem religion to present Libya as a “progressive” country and even called it “socialist,” but in reality the great oil wealth of the country is being exploited for very dubious adventurous and sinister aims. Of course, for purposes of demagogy and because the income from the sale of oil is truly colossal, some changes have been made in the life of the people in the cities, while the poverty-stricken nomads of the desert remain a grave social problem. As we know, Qaddafi was a disciple of Nasser’s in politics, ideology and religious belief, as well as in his aims. 

A somewhat more advanced and more revolutionary uprising against the monarchy took place in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, in 1958. It ended with the killing of King Faisal and his prime minister, Nuri Said. The “communists” took power there together with General Kassem, a representative of the liberal officers. Only five years later, however, in 1963, there was a coup d’état and Kassem was executed. He was replaced by another officer, Colonel Aref. In 1968 General Al-Bakr came to the head of the state and the “Baath” Party, a party of the reactionary feudal and compradore bourgeoisie, returned to power.

The events which are occurring in Iran and Afghanistan are a positive example for the peoples of neighbouring states, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the Emirates of the Persian Gulf, Syria, Egypt and many others, but they also constitute a great danger to the ruling cliques of some countries in this region. Hence, the whole Arab world is in ferment, in evolution. 

The echo of this anti-feudal, anti-imperialist uprising of the Iranian people which is shaking the economic foundations of imperialism and its ambitions for world hegemony extends as far as Indonesia, but there the movement is weaker than in the countries of Central Asia, the Near and Middle East or even North Africa, where the Islamic religion is more compact and the assets are greater. In those regions, for instance in Iran, there is a progressive awakening of the masses, which for the moment is led generally by religious elements who know how to exploit the sentiments of these peoples for freedom and against oppressive imperialism, the monarchist leaders and rapacious feudal cliques of robbers and murderers, etc., etc. Therefore, we must make a Marxist-Leninist analysis of this situation. We cannot accept the tales that the bourgeois revisionist propaganda, American imperialism and world capitalism are spreading that Ayatollah Khomeini or this one or that in Iran are people who do not understand politics or are just as backward as Imam Ali, Imam Hassan and Imam Hussein were. This is not true. On the contrary, the facts show that people like Khomeini know how to make proper use of the existing movement of these peoples, which, in essence and in fact, is a progressive bourgeois-democratic and anti-imperialist movement.

Employing various ways and means, the different imperialists and social-imperialists are trying to present themselves as supporters of these movements and win them over for their own aims. At present, however, these movements are in their disfavour, are against them. So true is this that the Soviet social-imperialists were obliged to send their tank regiments and tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers into Afghanistan, in other words, to commit an open fascist aggression against an independent country, in order to place and keep in power their local puppets who were incapable of retaining power without the aid of the bayonets and tanks of the Soviet army, the armed forces of the Soviet Union.

Obviously, this event, this Soviet armed occupation of Afghanistan, was bound to have repercussions and cause concern in international public opinion, to arouse great anger and indignation among the freedom-loving peoples and progressive forces and, from the strategic standpoint, to provoke the anger of their rivals for hegemony, especially of the United States of America. In fact we see that these days the American president, Carter, seems to want to make a move, apparently to create difficulties for the Soviet Union and to strengthen his own positions which are growing steadily weaker, wants to take measures to prevent a possible Soviet invasion of Pakistan, or rather, to stop the Soviet social-imperialists from exploiting the anti-imperialist revolutionary sentiments of the Moslem people of Pakistan for their own ends.

The Pakistani people nurture sympathy for the anti-imperialist movement of their Iranian neighbours, and what is occurring in Iran could occur there, too. Precisely to forestall this eventuality, the United States of America, through President Carter, has proposed to the Pakistani government to dispatch 50,000 soldiers to Pakistan and to increase the supplies of arms, allegedly to cope with the Soviet danger. The United States of America sent its Secretary of Defence to China to concretize and activate the Sino-American alliance. During this visit both sides expressed their concern over the extension of the Soviet social-imperialist expansion in this region and, in connection with this, their determination to defend their own and each other’s imperialist interests. The United States of America promised China the most sophisticated modern armaments.

Is there really a Soviet threat to Pakistan? Yes, there is. However, in Pakistan the anger against Zia-ul-Haq, accompanied by sympathy for Khomeini, might erupt even without the intervention of the Soviets. In order to escape the Soviet pressure and the uprising of the Pakistani people, Zia-ul-Haq himself might link up with the Soviets and thus enable them to justify their intervention in Pakistan. That is why the United States of America is revising its military agreements with Pakistan.

For his part, Carter is trying to preserve the balance, because an intervention of the Soviet Union in Pakistan constitutes a threat to American imperialism in that region of the world. Carter must have influence in Pakistan, also, because that country has a “defence treaty” with the United States of America. Apart from this, in the new situation which has been created in these times in Central Asia, Carter also sees other dangers, such as the return to power of Indira Gandhi who is pursuing her pro-Soviet policy. If the Soviets are able to strengthen their position in India, which is in conflict with Pakistan, the latter country might be more vulnerable from the Soviet side, in other words, the penetration of Soviet influence there would be made easier and would increase. That is why the American imperialists want to forestall the eventuality of a military intervention or the build-up of the Soviet influence in Pakistan. On the other hand, the United States of America is very concerned about the possibility of Soviet pressure on Iran under the pretext of aid against the threats made to that country by American imperialism.

It is clear that the peoples of this region are Moslems and when we say this we have in mind the fact that the majority of them are believers, but their belief is relative and does not predominate over politics. There are also progressive people there who believe in and respect the Koran and religion more as a custom and tradition. When we speak about the overwhelming majority, we have in mind that part of the people to whom the Moslem religion has been presented as a liberal progressive religion which serves the interests of the people and to whom everything preached in its name “is for the good of the people,” because “to wash, to pray and to fast is for the benefit of the health, the physical strengthening and spiritual satisfaction of man,” etc., etc. In other words, people are told that the rites of this religion are “useful” not only for this life but also for the “next life,” after death. This is preached openly. However, the poverty and oppression, schooling and a certain political development have shaken the foundations of this belief.

In general, from all these events and developments, we see that the imperialists and the social-imperialists are in difficulties in these regions of the world. It is understandable that their puppets, likewise, are in difficulties. Both for the former and for the latter it is the progressive, anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal revolutionary movement of the popular masses of the Moslem Arab peoples, whether Shia or Sunni, that is the cause of these great difficulties. The whole situation in this region is positive, good, and indicates a revolutionary situation and a major movement of these peoples. At the same time, though, we see efforts made by the enemies of these peoples to restrain this movement or to alter its direction and intensity.

Hence, we must regard these situations, these movements and uprisings of these peoples as revolutionary social movements, irrespective that at first sight they have a religious character or that believers or non-believers take part in them, because they are fighting against foreign imperialism and neo-colonialism or the local monarchies and oppressive feudalism. History gives us many positive examples in this direction when broad revolutionary movements of the popular masses have had a religious character outwardly. Among them we can list the Babist movements in Iran 1848-1851; the Wahabi movement in India which preceded the great popular uprising against the British colonizers in the years 1857-1859; the peasant movements at the time of the Reformation in the 16th century which swept most of the countries of Europe and especially Germany. The Reformation itself, although dressed in a religious cloak, represented a broad socio-political movement against the feudal system and the Catholic Church which defended that system. 

When the vital interests, the freedom and independence of a people are violated, they rise in struggle against any aggressor, even though that aggressor may be of the same religion. This is what occurred, for example, in North Yemen in 1962 when Nasser sent the Egyptian army allegedly to aid that country. Later he was compelled to remove the troops he had sent to Yemen, because a stern conflict began between the people of that country and the Egyptian army, irrespective that both sides professed the one religion.

In South Yemen, with a population of Moslem believers, there was a popular revolutionary movement against British imperialism which owned the port of Aden. Britain would never have left the port of Aden voluntarily, because it constitutes a very important strategic key to the Indian Ocean and the entrance to the Red Sea, but it was the anti-imperialist struggle of the people of Yemen that compelled it to clear out, because remaining there became impossible. After this, in 1970 a “popular democratic” regime which gradually came under the influence of the Soviet social-imperialists, was formed in South Yemen. The revolutionary movement against Soviet social-imperialism is bound to flare up there, if not today certainly in the near future.

Throughout the Principality of Oman there is an anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist revolutionary movement which is also opposed to the ruling Sultan. A similar situation will develop in Ethiopia, Somalia, the countries of the Persian Gulf, etc.

The peoples of the countries of this region are all religious, believe in the Koran and Mohammed, and link the question of the struggle against imperialist oppression with their religion. This is a reality. Obviously, however, we cannot come to the conclusion that it is religion which is causing these revolts and this revolutionary awakening. By no means. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that these peoples believe in the Moslem religion and, at the same time, are fighting heroically for their national and social liberation against imperialism of every hue.

Before Liberation there were people who professed the Moslem religion in Albania, but there was no fanaticism. In the Arab or Moslem countries of Central Asia, too, the classical fanaticism of the past cannot exist, especially today. Such fanaticism can exist neither among the Moslems nor among the Catholics, the Calvinists and other schisms of Christianity. We must not forget the epoch in which we are living. We cannot fail to bear in mind the great development of science today, the growth and strengthening of the revolutionary proletariat and the spread of the ideas of Marxism-Leninism. Today the reactionary religious leaders, lackeys of the feudal order and oppressive monarchies linked with them, who want to keep the people in ignorance and bondage and to combat their liberation movements, incite fanaticism in its classical sense in those countries.

In regard to Khomeini, he is a religious leader, a dedicated believer and an idealist philosopher. He may even be a fanatic, but we see that, at the same time, he is in accord and united with the revolutionary spirit of the Iranian people. Khomeini has taken the side of the opponents of the monarchy. The imperialist bourgeoisie, the supporters of the Pahlavi monarchy and other reactionary forces in the world say that he wants to become a monarch himself. Let them say this, but the fact is that the anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-feudal liberation movement in Iran is in the ascendancy and Khomeini still maintains a good stand in regard to this movement.

What is occurring in Iran might occur also in Pakistan or in the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, it may spark off a revolutionary situation in some other neighbouring country and even in the Soviet Union itself, because social-imperialism and revisionism carry national oppression everywhere and, as a consequence, arouse the national liberation sentiments of the peoples. Socialism and the Marxist-Leninist theory alone provide a just solution to the national question. Today the national rights of nations and peoples have been violated and trampled underfoot in the Soviet Union and wherever American imperialism and international capitalism rule. There is great oppression there, logically, therefore, there will certainly be movement.

We must examine and analyse the present events in Iran as they take place and draw conclusions from them on the basis of the teachings of our Marxist-Leninist theory. In the vanguard of the active forces in the uprising against imperialism and the monarchy in that country, are the religious zealots, the student youth, the workers and intellectuals. So, neither the proletariat nor a genuine Marxist-Leninist party is in the leadership of the movement. On this question we must also bear in mind the fact that we do not really know the strength and the basis of the different political currents in that movement. We know from experience that in our country, too, the working class was not developed, nevertheless, since the objective and subjective factors existed in the conditions of the occupation and the National Liberation War, the Party led the people to victory by basing itself on Marxism-Leninism, which means it put the working class and its vanguard, in other words itself, in the leadership. This is not the case in Iran. In that country there is a Marxist-Leninist party, the Workers and Peasants’ Communist Party of Iran, a young party which, has just been formed, but it is still small, untempered, not linked with the working class and the masses, etc., while the revisionist “Tudeh” Party has existed legally and illegally, is now legal again, but is a tool of the Soviet Union. Hiding behind Marxist-Leninist slogans, this party is sabotaging the anti-imperialist revolutionary struggle of the Iranian people and trying to bring Iran into the sphere of influence and under the thraldom of the Soviet Union. That is why the Moslem people of Iran, who have risen in revolution, are not acquainted with Marxism-Leninism either as a theory or a revolutionary practice. The students who are studying at Iran’s Moslem universities with great traditions and of the Shia Moslem sect, are both believers and non-believers in religion. In regard to the secular progressive elements there are those who believe in and are fighting for a liberal bourgeois-democratic state, those who believe in a “progressive” capitalist but anti-communist society, and those who still think that the Soviet Union is a socialist country which represents and applies Leninism. This is one of the reasons that genuine Marxism-Leninism has still not won acceptance in Iran, therefore the people there are fighting for liberation from the yoke of American imperialism and from Soviet influence, but under the banner of Islam. This means that the Shia Moslem clergy are in the leadership, in the vanguard of the uprising, but we have no illusions and know that they are for a bourgeois capitalist regime with religious predominance, hence, a theocratic regime. As to what course the movement against American imperialism and the barbarous compradore monarchy of the Pahlavis will take in the future, this depends mainly on the seething internal forces.

What general definition can be made of these forces?

In the present world situation and at the existing stage of the movement of the peoples for their national and social liberation, the popular revolution in Iran represents a new stage. Regardless of what others do or say, we must document this stage more carefully and make a critical Marxist-Leninist analysis of it.

Iran is a country very rich in oil, hence, has a working class comprised of oil workers and other industrial workers, but also has artisans. Of Iran’s 33 million inhabitants about 17 million are in the countryside and work the land. They are poverty-stricken, oppressed and exploited to the limit by the mullahs, the religious institutions, the big-landed bourgeoisie in the service of the Pahlavis, by the wealthy mercantile and money-lending bourgeoisie linked with the monarchy. Of the total population of Iran 99 per cent are of the Moslem religion and the majority of the Shia sect.

The Pahlavi regime was one of the most barbarous, the most bloodthirsty, the most exploiting, the most corrupt of the modern world. It employed bloodshed and terror to suppress any progressive movement, any even mildly liberal demonstration, any protest or strike of workers or students, and any attempt to develop a small-scale, auxiliary subsistance economy. The savage dictatorship of the Pahlavis was based on the big feudal landowners, the wealthy property-owners that the regime created, the reactionary army and the officer caste which ran it, and on SAVAK , the secret police, which the Shah himself described as “a state within a state.” The Pahlavis ruled by means of terror, robbed the people, enriched themselves in scandalous ways, were the personification of moral and political degeneration, were partners with and sold out to British and American and other imperialisms. The Pahlavis had become the most heavily armed gendarmes of the Persian Gulf under the orders of the CIA.

Iran was oppressed, but the people were seething with revolt, although wholesale executions were carried out every day. The ayatollahs who were discontented with the regime began to move. In 1951, Mossadeq, a representative of the bourgeoisie, supported by the mullahs opposed to the Shah, and by the “Tudeh” Party, seized power. In 1953 the Shah was driven out, but his overthrow and departure were not final, because the CIA organized a putsch, overthrew Mossadeq, brought the Shah back to Iran and restored him to the throne. Thus, Iran became the property of the Americans and the Shah and its oil became their powerful weapon. 

It is characteristic of the revolt of the Iranian people that, despite the great terror, it was not quelled, but continued spasmodically, in different forms and in different intensities. This revolutionary process steadily built up in quality and overcame the stage of fear of suppression

Despite the great terror, in 1977 the opposition to the Shah began to be displayed more forcibly, became more open and active. If we follow these trends opposed to the Shah and his regime separately we shall see that they are to some extent autonomous, but have a common strategy. Thus, we see the opposition of Mossadeq’s supporters, the resistance of the religious forces, the actions and demonstrations of the students, the stands of intellectuals, officials, writers, poets and artists against the regime expressed at rallies, in the universities and in other public places, etc., and together with all these currents we also see the self-defence and resistance of the working class and the whole oppressed and exploited people. SAVAK attacked mercilessly, but the suppression and executions only added to the anger of the masses. This resistance turned into a permanent activity. 

In the same period we see the re-awakening of the political opposition of Mossadeq’s supporters in the National Front. One of the elements of this current was Shapour Bakhtiar, who became prime minister on the eve of the overthrow of Shah Pahlavi. This was the last shot of the Shah and the American imperialists against the Iranian anti-imperialist revolution and Khomeini.

In the course of the development of this political opposition, the “Movement for the Liberation of Iran,” the “Iran Party,” and the “Socialist League of the National Movement of Iran,” broke away. The “Movement for the Liberation of Iran,” which was headed by Bazargan, who became prime minister after the departure of the Shah, was closer to Khomeini and the other imams.

We must always bear in mind that neither this political opposition, nor the religious opposition to the Pahlavis was united. Some of those who comprised this opposition were against the so-called agrarian reform, against the right of women to vote, etc. This section, which comprised conservative clergy, was steadily losing its influence amongst the masses, who were moving closer to that part of the clergy who openly fought the dictatorship of the Shah on the basis of the Shia principles of the Moslem religion. One of these was Ayatollah Khomeini, who was imprisoned, tortured, imprisoned again, and sent into exile and his son murdered. This enhanced the influence of the imam among the people, in the “Bazaar” (the main market centre of Tehran), hence, amongst the merchants, and also amongst the workers. In the rising tide of agitation and the great demonstrations against the Shah, the masses demanded the return of the Imam to the homeland. The death of his son and of a political personality, Ali Shariat, in mysterious circumstances led to the emergence of the religious elements in the forefront of the clashes and the whole people united with them, especially in Tabriz on February 18-19, 1977, as well as in Tehran, Qum and other Iranian cities. Al l this testifies to the fighting spirit of the people of Iran. As a result the Pahlavi monarchy was quite incapable of resisting the repeated waves of the onslaught of the insurgent people. 

Hence, in this climate of progressive insurgency against feudalism, the monarchy and imperialism, the Marxist-Leninists must analyse the various political trends, the orientations of these trends, the alliances and contradictions between them inside Iran and with the capitalist-revisionist world outside that country.

At present we see an active and militant unity of the uprising against American imperialism and the Shah and, to some extent, also against Soviet social-imperialism, and, at the same time, we also see increased vigilance and opposition towards all other capitalist states, though not so open and active as against the Americans. This situation will certainly undergo evolution. We see that the universities in Iran have become centres of fiery manifestations with both political and religious tendencies, and likewise see that the religious opposition and the political opposition are uniting. Thus, despite the contradictions which exist between them, it seems that the supporters of Mossadeq and those of Khomeini are moving closer together. In Tabriz, which has an important working class, apart from the oil workers, we can say that this unity has been brought about. Similar things are taking place at Abadan and the other regions where there are oil-fields and refineries. 

The Iranian Marxist-Leninists must, in particular, submit the strength and orientations of the working class to a Marxist-Leninist analysis and then their party must base its activity on this analysis, go among the working class, educate it and clarify it politically and ideologically, while tempering itself together with the working class in this revolutionary class struggle which, far from being ended, has only begun and will certainly assume diverse aspects. The revolutionary activity of the working class and the Marxist-Leninist ideology alone must become the factor deciding the correct directions which this anti-imperialist revolution must take. Certainly, in the present situation in Iran much can and must be gained from the revolutionary force of the Iranian working class, by the progressive elements, and especially by the students and the poor and middle peasantry. 

The Marxist-Leninists will be committing a mistake if they do not understand the situation created and do not utilize it in the right way, if they come out as anti-religious fighters and thus damage their anti-imperialist and anti-feudal unity with the followers of Ayatollah Khomeini and the followers of Mossadeq’s, Bazargan’s or others’ anti-imperialist bourgeois-democratic parties and movements.

Although anti-religious in their principles, the Iranian Marxist-Leninists must not for the moment wage a struggle against the religious beliefs of the people who have risen in revolt against oppression and are waging a just struggle politically, but are still unformed ideologically and will have to go through a great school in which they will learn. The Marxist-Leninists must teach the people to assess the events that are taking place in the light of dialectical and historical materialism. However, our world outlook cannot be assimilated easily in isolation from the revolutionary drive of the masses or from the anti-imperialist trends that are trying to remain in the leadership and to manoeuvre to prevent the bourgeois-democratic reforms of the revolution. The Iranian Marxist-Leninists and working class must play a major role in those revolutionary movements, having a clear understanding of the moments they are going through; they must not let the revolution die down. The working class and its true Marxist-Leninist vanguard should have no illusions about the “deep-going” bourgeois-democratic measures and reforms which the Shia clergy or the anti-Shah elements of the old and new national bourgeoisie might carry out. Certainly, if the working class, the poor peasantry and the progressive students, whether believers or non-believers, allow the impetus of the revolution to ebb away, which means that they do not proceed with determination and maturity towards alliances and activities conducive to successive political and socio-economic reforms, then the revolution will stop halfway, the masses will be disillusioned and the exploitation of them will continue in other forms by pseudo-democratic people linked in new alliances with the different imperialists. 

These special new revolutionary situations which are developing among the peoples of Islamic religious beliefs must be studied, conclusions must be drawn from them and new forms of struggle, action and alliances must be found. These revolutionary situations are much more advanced than those in Europe and Asia and, to some degree, even Latin America, where the revolutionary movements have assumed a petrified form, linked with and led by reformist and counter-revolutionary social-democracy and modern revisionism.

For instance, we do not see such revolts of a marked revolutionary political spirit occur in Europe where there is a big and powerful proletariat. For what reasons? For all those reasons which are known and have to do with the grave counter-revolutionary influence and sabotage of social-democracy and modern revisionism. The question is not that there is no exploitation on our continent, and therefore there are no movements. No, here, too, there is exploitation and there are movements, but they are of another nature. They are not “very deep-going, Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movements” which are waiting “for the situation to ripen,” etc., as the social-democrats, revisionists and other lackeys of the capitalist bourgeoisie describe them. No, the capitalist bourgeoisie itself and its lackeys do not permit such situations to ripen, do not permit such occurrences as are going on at present in the Arab-Moslem countries, where the revolutionary masses rise in struggle and create difficult situations for imperialism, feudalism and the cosmopolitan capitalist bourgeoisie.

Some claim that the Arab peoples and the peoples of the other Moslem countries are moving, because they are “poor!” Indeed, they are poor. But those who say this must admit that they themselves have become bourgeois and that is why they do not rise against oppression and exploitation, while the truth is that capitalism barbarously oppresses and exploits the peoples everywhere, without exception.

It is claimed, also, that in the countries of Islamic religion, the “masses are backward,” therefore, they are easily set in motion. This means that those who support this reasoning have degenerated and are not for revolution, because at a time when capitalism is in decay, honest people must be revolutionary and rise in struggle against capitalism, aiming the weapons they posses against it. Here, in Europe, however, we do not see such a thing. On the contrary, we see the “theory” of adaptation to the existing situation being preached.

Political debates are organized all over the capitalist countries. It has become fashionable for the social-democrats, the Christian-democrats, the revisionists and all sorts of other people in these countries to talk about “revolution” and allegedly revolutionary actions, and each of them tries in his own way to confuse and mislead the working masses with these slogans. The “leftists” scream for “revolutionary measures,” but immediately set the limits, “explaining” that “revolutionary measures must not be undertaken everywhere and in all fields,” but that only “certain changes must be made,” that is, a few crumbs must be thrown to the masses, who are demanding radical revolutionary changes, in order to deceive them and to hinder and sabotage the revolutionary drive of the masses.

We must analyse these situations and phenomena in theoretical articles or in other forms and with other means of our propaganda on the Marxist-Leninist course, with the aim of explaining the essence of the revolt and uprisings of peoples against imperialism, neo-colonialism and local rulers, of explaining the question of the survival of old religious traditions, etc. This does not rule out our support for liberation movements, because such movements occurred even before the time of Marx, as mentioned above. To wait until religion is first eliminated and carry out the revolution only after this, is not in favour of the revolution or the peoples. 

In the situation today, the people who have risen in revolt and believe in religion are no longer at the stage of consciousness of Spartacus, who rose against the Roman Empire, against the slave-owners, but they are seething with revolt against the barbarous oppression and exploitation and policy of imperialism and social-imperialism. The slaves’ revolt led by Spartacus, as Marx and Engels explain, was progressive, as were the beginnings of Christianity.

In these very important situations we see that the other peoples of Africa have risen, too, but not with the force and revolutionary drive of the Arab peoples, the Iranians, etc. This is another problem which must be examined in order to find the reasons why they, too, do not rise and why they are not inspired to the same level as the peoples that I mentioned. It is true that the African peoples are oppressed, too, indeed, much more oppressed than the Arab peoples, the Iranians and others. Likewise, Marxism has still not spread to the proper extent in Africa, and then there is also the influence of religion, although not on the same scale as in the Moslem countries. Work must be done in Africa to disseminate the Marxist-Leninist theory more extensively and deeply. That is even more virgin terrain, with oppressed peoples, amongst whom the sense of religion is still in an infantile stage. There are peoples in Africa who still believe in the heavenly powers of the sun, the moon, magic, etc., they have pagan beliefs which have not crystallized into an ideology and a concrete theology such as the Moslem religion, let alone the Christian or Buddhist religions and their sects. Although there is savage oppression and exploitation in Africa, the movement in this region of the world is developing more slowly. This is because the level of social development in Africa is lower. 

If we take these questions and examine them in unity, we shall see that at the present stage of development, Islam as a whole is playing an active role in the anti-imperialist liberation struggles of the Moslem peoples, while in the European countries and some other countries where the Catholic religion operates, preaching the submissive Christian philosophy of “turn the other cheek,” its leaders take a reactionary stand and try to hinder the movement, therevolt, the uprising of the masses for national and social liberation. Of course, in those countries the oppressive power of the bourgeoisie and capitalism, social-democracy and modern revisionism is greater, but the Catholic religion, too, serves to suppress the revolutionary spirit of the masses in order to keep the situation in stagnation.

From the stand-point of economic development the Moslem peoples have been held back; as a consequence of colonialist occupation and colonialist and neo-colonialist exploitation in past decades the Moslem religion in those countries was suppressed by the Catholic or Protestant religions which were represented by the foreign invaders, a thing which has not passed without consequences and without resistance, and herein we might find a political and ideological-religious reason for the anti-imperialist revolution of the Moslem peoples.

The question presents itself that we should look at the present stage of development of the Moslem religion as compared with past centuries. The development of human society has exerted an influence that has made the Moslem religious belief less and less functional. That is, it has been infiltrated by a certain liberalism which is apparent in the fact that, while the Moslem believer truly believes in the Islamic religion, today he is no longer like the believer of the Middle Ages or the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Today the veiled women in the Moslem countries have those same feelings which our veiled women had before Liberation, as for example in Kavaja [town in central Albania – E.S.] although, of course, not completely those of women as progressive as ours were. Nevertheless, the feelings of revolt exist deep in their hearts, and are expressed to the extent that public opinion permits. Today the Iranian women are involved in the broad movement of the Iranian people against the Shah and imperialism.

Hence, we see that religious oppression exists in the countries with Moslem populations, too, but the religion itself has undergone a certain evolution, especially in its outward manifestations. Let me make this quite clear, religion has not disappeared in those countries, but a time has come in which the spirit of revolt, on the one hand, and the liberalization of the religion, on the other, are impelling people who believe in the Islamic dogmas to rise against those who call themselves religious and want to exercise the former norms of the religion in order to suppress the peoples and keep them in poverty. Their struggle against imperialists, whom they continue to call infidels, that is, their enemies, enemies of their religion, is linked precisely with this. These peoples understand that the foreign occupiers are people of Catholic or Protestant beliefs who want to oppress both countries and religions. The westerners call this religious antagonism, which also contains the class antagonism against foreign occupiers, simply a religious struggle, or apply other incorrect denigrating epithets to it. This is how they are treating the liberation struggles of the Moslem peoples of Arab and non-Arab countries in Asia and Africa today and even the liberation struggle of the Irish people, most of whom are Catholics, against the British occupiers who are Protestants. At the same time, we see incorrect manifestations also among the Moslem peoples who have risen in revolt. They, too, say: “The Giaours, unscrupulous people who are against our religion, are oppressing us,” etc. In this way they link the question of national liberation with the religious question, that is, they see the social and economic oppression which is imposed on them by imperialism as religious oppression. In the future the other Moslem peoples will certainly reach that stage of development which the people of Algeria, Syria and some other countries have reached on these matters. 

These struggles lead not only to increased sympathy for the peoples who rise in revolt, but also to unity with them, because they are all Moslems. If a people rise against imperialism and the reactionary chiefs ruling their country, who use religion as a means of oppression, this uprising destroys the sense of religion even among those who believe in it at the moment. When a people rise in insurrection against oppression, then the revolutionary sentiment is extended and deepened and people reach the stage which makes them think somewhat more clearly about the question of religion. Until yesterday the poor peasant in Iran said only “inshallah!” and comforted himself with this, but now he understands that nothing can be gained through “inshallah!” In the past all these peoples said, “Thus it has been decreed,” but now the masses of believers have risen united and come out in the streets, arms in hand, to demand their rights and freedom. And certainly, when they demand to take the land, the peasants in those countries will undoubtedly have to do battle for the great possessions of the religious institutions, that is, with the clergy. That is why the sinister forces of reaction are making such a great fuss about the fanatical aspect, about the question of putting the women back under the veil, etc., etc., because they are trying to discredit the Iranian revolution, because imperialism and world capitalism have a colossal support in religion. This is how matters stand with the Vatican, too, with the policy of that great centre of the most reactionary world obscurantism, with the mentality and outlook of Catholics. But the revolution disperses the religious fog. This will certainly occur with the Arab peoples, with the other Moslem peoples, who are rising in insurrection, and with the peoples of other faiths, that is, there will be progress towards the disappearance, the elimination of religious beliefs and the religious leadership. This is a major problem.

Here we are talking about whole peoples who are rising in revolt in the Moslem countries, whether Arab or otherwise. There are no such movements in Europe. On this continent social-democratic reformist parties and forces operate. The number of Marxist-Leninist parties here is still small, while there are big revisionist parties, which operate contrary to people’s interests and sentiments, have lost credibility among the masses, and support capitalism, imperialism and social-imperialism. The Moslem peoples of the Arab and non-Arab countries trust neither the American imperialists nor the Soviet social-imperialists, because they represent great powers which are struggling to oppress and plunder the Moslem peoples; also, as Moslems they put no trust in the religious beliefs of those powers.

As a result, the uprising which is developing in Iran and Afghanistan is bound to have consequences throughout the Moslem world. Hence, if the Marxist-Leninist groups, our comrades in these and other countries of this region properly understand the problems emerging from the events in Iran, Afghanistan and other Moslem countries, then all the possibilities exist for them to do much work. However, they must work cautiously there. In those countries religion cannot be eliminated with directives, extremist slogans or erroneous analyses. In order to find the truth we must analyse the activity of those forces in the actual circumstances, because many things, true and false, are being said about them, as is occurring with Ayatollah Khomeini, too. True, he is religious, but regardless of this, analysis must be made of his anti-imperialist attitudes and actions, which, willy-nilly, bring grist to the mill of the revolution. 

This whole development of events is very interesting. Here the question of religion is entangled with political issues, in the sympathy and solidarity between peoples. What I mean is that if the leadership of a certain country were to rise against the revolt of the Iranian people, then it would lose its political positions within the country and the people would rise in opposition, accuse the government of links with the United States of America, with the “giaours,” because they are against Islam. This is because these peoples see Islam as progressive, while the United States represents that force which oppresses them, not only from the social aspect but also from the spiritual aspect. That is why we see that none of these countries is coming out openly to condemn the events in Iran.

Another obstacle which reaction is using to sabotage the revolution of the Iranian people is that of inciting feuds and raising the question of national minorities. Reaction is inciting the national sentiments in Azerbaijan, inciting the Kurds, etc., etc., in order to weaken this great anti-imperialist and “pro-Moslem” uprising of the Iranian people. The incitement of national sentiments has been and is a weapon in the hands of imperialism and social-imperialism and all reaction to sabotage the anti-imperialist and national liberation wars. Therefore, the thesis of our Party that the question of settling the problems of national minorities is not a major problem at present, is correct. Now the Kurds, the Tadjiks, the Azerbaijanis and others ought to rise in struggle against imperialism and its lackeys and, if possible, rise according to the teachings and inspiration of Marxism-Leninism. The Kurds, the Tadjiks and the Azerbaijanis who live in the Soviet Union and are oppressed and enslaved today, must rise, first of all, against Russian social-imperialism.

In broad outline this is how the situation in these regions presents itself and these are some of the problems which emerge. The events will certainly develop further. Our task is to analyse these situations and events which are taking place in the Moslem world, using the Marxist-Leninist theory as the basis, and to define our stands so that they assist a correct understanding of these events, and thus, make our contribution to the successful development of the people’s revolutionary movement.

Enver Hoxha, “Reflections on the Middle East,” Tirana; 1984; pp. 355-392

On the deaths in Stalin’s USSR

joseph-stalin-1949

In the West, when Stalin’s name is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is the “millions of deaths” under his “ruthless regime”. For decades, fascist and capitalist propagandists alike perpetuated this vision of Stalin as a monster, employing the best World War 2 and Cold War propagandists to slander Stalin’s role as a statesman. What is the truth behind this claims? I hope to shed some light on the matter.

As has been now resolved, the varying numbers of deaths under the Stalin administration are a product of propaganda, and have hence been wildly exaggerated. The evidence found in Russian archives, opened up by the capitalist roader Yeltsin, put the total number of death sentences from 1923 to 1953, the post-Lenin Soviet Union, between 775,866 and 786,098a. To this we must add up the 40,000 who may have been executed without trial and unofficiallyb. If we add up the numbers, what we get achieve is 800,000 executions in a period of 36 years, less than the lives claimed by the dictatorship of the CIA-backed anti-communist Suharto in Indonesia in a time span of 2 years. This is not to say the deaths are to be condoned, but it raises an important question: if less lives have been claimed by the Soviet Union under Stalin than Suharto’s Indonesia, why is Stalin demonized to that extent when Suharto is rarely even known among pro-capitalists?

We shall answer this question in a future post about cultural hegemony, let’s now continue with our examination of Soviet deaths. Because the figure of 800,000 executions includes those persons sentenced to death but had, for instance, their sentences reduceda, this too may be an overestimation. In fact, in a research by Vinton, evidence has been provided indicating that the number of executions was significantly below the number of civilian prisoners sentenced to death in the USSR, with only 7,305 executions in a sample of 11,000 prisoners authorized to be executed in 1940 (or around 60%)c. In addition, 681,692 of the 780,000 or so death sentences were issued during the Great Purge (1937-1938 period)a.

Initially, the NKVD, under Yezhov’s orders, set a cap of 186,500 imprisonments and 72,950 death penalties for a 1937 special operation to combat the threat of foreign and internal subversion. The operation was decided upon after the discovery of Bonapartist plots against the government, led by Tukhacevsky, whose links with opportunist factions within the Party caused total panic. The NKVD’s orders had to be carried out by troikas, 3-men tribunalsa. As the troikas passed sentences before the accused had even been arrested, local authorities requested increases in their own quotas, and there was an official request in 1938 for a doubling of the amount of prisoner transport that had been initially requisitioned to carry out the original campaign quotas of the tribunalsd.

However, even if there had been twice as many actual executions as originally planned, which I would doubt, the number would still be less than 150,000. Many, in fact, may have had their death sentence refused or revoked by authorities before arrest or execution could take place, especially since Stalin, Molotov and Beria later realized that excesses had been committed in the 1937-38 period (the Great Purge), had a number of convictions overturned, and had many of the responsible local leaders punishede. Soviet records indicate only about 300,000 actual arrests for anti-Soviet activities or political crimes during this 1937-1938 interval. With a ratio of 1 execution for every 3 arrests as originally specified by the NKVD, that would imply about 100,000 executions. Since some of the people sentenced to death may have already been in confinement, and since there is some evidence of a 50,000 increase in the total number of deaths in labor camps over the 1937-38 interval that was probably caused by such executions, the total number executed by the troika campaign would probably be around 150,000a. There were also 30,514 death sentences passed by military courts and 4,387 by regular courts during the 1937-38 period, but, even if all these death sentences were carried out, the total number remains under 200,000. Such a low number seems especially likely given the fact that aggregate death rates from all causes throughout the Soviet Union were actually lower in 1937-38 than in prior yearsf, possibly a result of universal health care, vaccination and an improvement in living standards.

Assuming the remaining 100,000 or so death sentences passed in the other years of Stalin’s administration (1923-1936 and 1939-53) resulted in a 60% execution rate, as per the Vinton sample, the total number executed by the Soviet Union during the period would be about 250,000. Even with the thousands executed between 1917 and 1921, it is plausible that the number of unarmed civilians killed between 1917-1953 amounted to considerably less than a quarter million given that thousands of these victims may have been Soviet soldiers, given that many may have been armed bandits and guerrillas, and given that at least 14,000 of the actual executions were of foreign prisoners of warc.

A USA former attache to the Soviet Union, George Kennan, has stated that the number executed was really only in the tens of thousandsg, and so it is very likely that the true number of people killed by the Soviet Union over its entire history (including the thousands killed in Afghanistan) is too small for the country to make it even in the top ten in mass murders (unlike the United States of America, but that’s for another day). There were no doubt many innocent victims during the 1937-38 Stalin purge, but it should also be mentioned that there is substantial evidence from the Soviet archives of Soviet citizens advocating treasonable offenses such as the violent overthrow of the Soviet government or foreign invasion of the Soviet Unioni. In addition, the Soviet Union felt itself so threatened by subversion and imminent military invasions by Japan and Germany (which occurred in full force in 1938 and 1941, respectively) that it perceived a need to undertake a nationwide campaign to eliminate potential internal enemies. Moreover, these external threats were further fueled by the fact that the Russian nobility and czarists (over a million of whom had emigrated after the communist revolution in 1917) had given financial aid to the German Nazis in the 1930s for the purpose of using them (once they had successfully taken power in Germany) to help them overthrow the Soviet governmentj. Forged documents and misinformation spread by Nazi Germany to incriminate innocent and patriotic Soviets also contributed to Soviet paranoiak. It must also be remembered that Soviet fear of foreign-sponsored subversion in the 1930s existed within the context of guerrilla warfare fought against the Soviet Union by some of the same groups of people who had fought with the foreign invaders against the Soviet Union in the 1918-22 Foreign Interventionist Civil War. While the 1937-38 purges were very repressive and tragic by almost any measure, they may have helped prevent the fascists from inciting a successful rebellion or coup in the Soviet Union. Such a threat was a very real one given that the German Nazis did succeed in using political intrigues, threats, economic pressure, and offers of territorial gains to bring other Eastern European countries into their orbit, including Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, as well as Yugoslavia for a short period of timeh, given that the Soviet Union had been subjected to a brutal 1918-22 civil war which was launched by rebels who were supported by over a million foreign invading troops from over a dozen capitalist countries, given that there was a large amount of sabotage committed by Soviet citizens in the 1930s, and given that there were a significant number of Soviet dissidents who were in favor of overthrowing the Soviet government even if it required an invasion by Germany or some other foreign poweri. In addition, many people may have worked independently to sabotage the Soviet Union in the hope that they would thereby contribute to a foreign overthrow of the Soviet Union, especially since Nazi Germany did make extensive efforts to incite uprisings, cause subversive actions, and create ethnic conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Despite the Soviet Union’s success in defeating the subsequent invasions by fascist Japan (in 1938) and Germany (1941-44), the danger posed by the Nazi spies and saboteurs in Eastern Europe is illustrated by the fact that the CIA considered them so effective that it adopted virtually the entire Nazi network into its own system of terrorism in Eastern Europe after World War IIl.

Evidence from the Soviet archives indicates that the officials responsible for the political repression of the 1930s sincerely felt the victims were guilty of some crime such as sabotage, spying, or treason, and many of the executions of the Great Purge were reported in the local Soviet press at the time. Even when there was proven to be no direct connection between the accused and the fascist foreign powers, there was often a strong belief that the suspects were foreign sympathizers who were working on their own (without formal direction) to contribute to the overthrow of the Soviet Union. It should also be noted that much of the 1937-38 repression, often called the Great Purge, was actually directed against the widespread banditry and criminal activity (such as theft, smuggling, misuse of public office for personal gain, and swindles) that was occurring in the Soviet Union at the timem. In addition to the executions, there were also many imprisoned, and hundreds of thousands of people were expelled from the Communist Party during the Great Purge for being incompetent, corrupt, and/or excessively bureaucratic, with such targeting of inept or dishonest Soviet bureaucrats being fairly popular among the average Soviet citizensi. Like the myths of millions of executions, the fairy tales that Stalin had tens of millions of people arrested and permanently thrown into prison or labor camps to die in the 1930-53 interval are untrue. In particular, the Soviet archives indicate that the number of people in Soviet prisons, gulags, and labor camps in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s averaged about 2 million, of whom 20-40% were released each yeara. This average, which includes desperate World War II years, is similar to the number imprisoned in the USA in the 1990s and is only slightly higher as a percentage of the population. It should also be noted that the annual death rate for the Soviet interned population was about 4%, which incorporates the effect of prisoner executionsa. Excluding the desperate World War II years, the death rate in the Soviet prisons, gulags, and labor camps was only 2.5%a, which is below that of the average citizen in Russia under the tsar in peacetime in 1913f. This finding is not very surprising, given that about 1/3 of the confined people were not even required to workn, and given that the maximum work week was 84 hours in even the harshest Soviet labor camps during the most desperate wartime yearso. The latter maximum (and unusual) work week actually compares favorably to the 100-hour work weeks that existed even for “free” 6-year old children during peacetime in the Gilded era and industrial revolutionp(shoutout to libertarians), although it may seem high compared to the 7-hour day worked by the typical Soviet citizen under Stalini.

In addition, it should also be mentioned that most of the arrests under Stalin were motivated by an attempt to stamp out crimes such as banditry, theft, misuse of public office for personal gain, smuggling, and swindles, with less than 10% of the arrests during Stalin’s rule being for political reasons or secret police mattersa. The Soviet archives reveal a great deal more political dissent permitted in Stalin’s Soviet Union (including a widespread amount of criticism of individual government policies and local leaders) than is normally perceived in the Westi. Given that the regular police, the political or secret police, prison guards, some national guard troops, and fire fighters (who were in the same ministry as the police) comprised scarcely 0.2% of the Soviet population under Staline, severe repression would have been impossible even if the Soviet Union had wanted to exercise it. In comparison, the USA today has many times more police as a percentage of the population (about 1%), not to mention prison guards, national guard troops, and fire fighters included in the numbers used to compute the far smaller 0.2% ratio for the Soviet Union. In any event, it is possible that the communist countries of Eastern Europe would have become politically less repressive and more democratic (especially over time), if there hadn’t been overt and covert efforts by capitalist powers to overthrow their governments, including subversion conducted in the USSR as late as the 1980s that the USA government admitted to in the 1990s. These efforts at violent subversion were initially carried out mostly by the British (before World War II) and then later more so by the USA through the CIA, which did succeed violently overthrowing a very democratic communist government in Chile in 1973. If the communists had truly been as evil and dictatorial as they are portrayed to be in the capitalist press, the peaceful revolution of 1989 in Eastern Europe (with virtually no related deaths except in Romania) could never have occurred.

Sources:

a: Getty, Ritterspom, and Zemskov, “Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-War Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence”

http://sovietinfo.tripod.com/GTY-Penal_System.pdf

b: Hellmut Andics, “Rule of Terror”

c: Louisa Vinton, “The Katyn Documents: Politics and History.”

d: Amy Knight, “Beria, Stalin’s First Lieutenant”

http://www.ucis.pitt.edu/nceeer/1993-804-08-Knight.pdf

e: Robert Thurston, “Life and Terror in Stalin s Russia”

f: Stephen Wheatcroft, “More Light on the Scale of Repression and Excess Mortality in the Soviet Union in the 1930s”

http://ebooks.cambridge.org/chapter.jsf?bid=CBO9780511626012&cid=CBO9780511626012A025

g: J. W. Smith, “Economic Democracy: The Political Struggle of the 21st Century”

http://www.abebooks.co.uk/9780765604682/Economic-Democracy-Political-Struggle-21st-076560468X/plp

h: Marshall Miller, “Bulgaria during the Second World War”

i: Sarah Davies, “Popular Opinion in Stalin’s Russia”

http://books.google.com/books/about/Popular_Opinion_in_Stalin_s_Russia.html?id=yTGgOwH_mwgC&redir_esc=y

j: Leslie Feinberg, “The Class Character of German Fascism”

<a href=”http://www.workers.org/ww/1999/fascism0304.php

k: Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky “KGB: The Inside Story”

l: Von Schnitzler, “Der Rote Kana”

m: John Arch Getty, “Origins of the Great Purges”

http://books.google.com/books/about/Origins_of_the_Great_Purges.html?id=R5zx54LB-A4C&redir_esc=y

n: Edwin Bacon, “The Gulag at War: Stalin’s Forced Labour System in the Light of the Archives”

o: R. J. Rummel, “Lethal Politics”

p: Marx and Engels, “Das Kapital”

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/index.htm

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1885-c2/index.htm

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/index.htm

q: Numbers taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_the_Soviet_Union, which in turn cites Andreev et al, “Naselenie Sovetskogo Soiuza, 1922-1991″

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The killing of US ambassador to Libya: who is to blame?

Washington sticks to the stupid policy of using Islamic fundamentalists for its own self-serving agenda. The Islamists who stormed the US embassy in Cairo carried Bin Laden portraits.

The founder of the Al Qaeda terrorist network began his murky career in Afghanistan, where he worked as a CIA agent fighting against the country’s legitimate government and Soviet forces deployed there.

America’s image suffered a major blow following the killing of US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens in an attack against the American consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday. Throughout time, killing an ambassador has been regarded as a grave insult to the state he represented and has served as a pretext for many wars.

This time, however, there is no one to go into battle against. Ambassador Stevens was killed by those who came to power with American help not long ago. “I keep asking myself,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, in confusion, “how could this have happened in a country that the US helped to liberate?” Apart from asking questions, Washington is sending warships to Libya and neighboring countries and is hastily moving SEAL forces to protect US consulates in troubled countries.

However, US marines will hardly be able to do anything about what can well be described as an unprecedented anti-American uprising which has swept all countries of the Middle East and North Africa and had spread to India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, countries of Central Europe, and even faraway Australia.

The shallow and poorly made film denigrating prophet Muhammad became but a tiny spark triggering an explosion of a devastating force. It’s clear to any sober-minded individual that the “masterpiece” which was definitely watched by no more than a handful of Internet surfers couldn’t have set off millions of people in countries scattered all over the world.

The current unrest is the result of years-long discontent over the US doggedness in forcing American values on the rest of the world. On top of that, Washington sticks to the stupid policy of using Islamic fundamentalists for its own self-serving agenda. The Islamists who stormed the US embassy in Cairo carried Bin Laden portraits.

The founder of the Al Qaeda terrorist network began his murky career in Afghanistan, where he worked as a CIA agent fighting against the country’s legitimate government and Soviet forces deployed there. Given that the US continued to adhere to this tactic in subsequent years, the current lamenting over the unthankful Libyans in connection with the killing of Ambassador Stevens, who participated in person in the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi and was linked to Islamists, is either hypocrisy, or political short-sightedness.

I once asked 16th World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov how many moves ahead he saw in chess and he answered that depending on the circumstances he calculated two or three, or sometimes six or seven moves ahead. It looks like the unfortunate “grandmasters” from Washington never see more than one move ahead. After invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein, the Bush-Cheney team stopped planning any further. As a result, the country has plunged into chaos and has become a terrorism hub and Al Qaeda base, thus being on the brink of falling apart.

Current developments in Europe, which was a US stronghold until now, have thrown Washington into outright confusion. The same is true regarding countries that have seen the Arab Spring, which hopefully, will not grow into an ‘Arab Winter’.

Intrigue-prone Republican candidate Mitt Romney is trying to cash in on the current state of affairs by lashing out at Barack Obama with accusations. Even though the current mess was started by the Bush-Cheney administration, the incumbent leadership will have to sort it out, no matter who comes to power in January next year.

And it will be years before this mess is sorted out eventually.

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On the Day of American Independence

Today is the 4th of July, a holiday celebrated all over the nation as the date of American Independence from the British crown. I was considering burning an American flag to protest US foreign policy, imperial aggression, indigenous holocaust, sponsorship of terrorism, slavery and discrimination of minorities, etc., and promptly began wondering if flag-burning on public property is considered to be a fire hazard. Today is a holiday that is spent trying to spread patriotic feelings among our people, and thus in effect to try and goad them into flag-waving, chauvinism, jingoism and xenophobia. Patriotism, the way the imperialists see it, means love for their government and love for their class of oppressors. It means love for the police, the prison complex, the courts, the army and the ruling class dictatorship. It means love for the exploitive system of capitalism and the settler-fascists that have run it from the start.

On this celebrated day of the creation of the American state, it is time to take a look back at our long, star-crossed history, and it is time to present a challenge to ourselves—what has American really been about all this time? As Frederick Douglass famously said about this particular holiday in 1852:

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

He continues,

“Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”

There are those who might say that Douglass’s words no longer ring true because of the Obama presidency, and then there are those who know that a change in the ruler’s skin color does not abolish racism and oppression overnight. In addition, Major General Smedley Butler from the US Marines speaks about what real role the US military has been playing over the years:

“I spent 33 years and 4 months in active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force – the Marine Corps… And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect money in. I helped in the raping of a half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street… I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped get Honduras “right” for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.”

These revelations are by no means new, since they have been given by many anti-imperialist and anti-colonialists since the beginning of the domination of American imperialism, which started after World War II and strengthened itself through the selling-out of the Soviet Union during the Cold War and the collapse of socialist Albania.

To give a more detailed or complete account of American foreign policy, which has always been driven by nothing more and nothing less than the capitalist system’s desire for global hegemony under American leadership, would take many pages and several lifetimes of research into the history of the modern-day Roman Empire. But this 4th of July, and keeping with our challenge to ourselves, a few examples taken from the recent history of the United States alone should serve to give an idea of what this class dictatorship has really been about since the beginnings of its foundation.


A History Lesson

In 1945, the US invades the Korean peninsula and declares a “temporary” partition of Korea. America installs an illegitimate American-friendly regime in the South, backed by a force of 50,000 troops. After 2,617 troop incursions in the Northern Pro-Soviet half, sometimes with as many as a few thousand troops, a war ensues when North Korea finally invades South Korea in response. A three-year war takes place and millions are killed. Thousands of American troops remain in South Korea to this day.

In 1966, a US-backed coup ousted President Sukarno of Indonesia and replaced him with the fascist butcher Suharto. Over a million people were hunted down and killed, including thousands of popular leftist leaders, whose names were given to the military by the American Embassy. Suharto would go on to rule Indonesia with an iron fist for decades. Newly-liberated East Timor was then invaded by Suharto’s Indonesia the day after President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (both butchers of the Vietnam War) gave them permission. By 1989, over one-third of East Timor’s 700,000 people had been killed. Indonesia had US backing, including armaments, throughout its 24-year occupation.

In 1967, a US-backed military coup took place to prevent Greek politician George Papandreou being elected Prime Minister. The colonels declared martial law, implemented torture, beatings, arrests, leaving 8,000 dead in the first month. The coup leaders were fiercely anti-communist and pro-American, working closely with the CIA. The colonels held power until 1974.

In 1970, Marxist reformist Salvador Allende was elected as President of Chile. He nationalized the giant US companies. Soon, the right-wing, backed by the CIA and US foreign policy, engineered a 1973 coup lead by the infamous General Augusto Pinochet. Allende was overthrown and replaced by a fascist military dictatorship that used mass executions and torture. Thousands were murdered and disappeared. Chile became an economic experiment that led to economic growth for the richest while leaving many homeless and greatly decreasing economic equality.

In 1978 in Nicaragua, the popular and progressive Sandinista movement overthrows the US-backed dictator Anastasio Samoza. The US then launches a military occupation in order to prevent “another Cuba.” A program of terrorism and economic sabotage is begun, which leads to the US support of the infamous Contra death squads. The Contras prove to be one of the most brutal fighting forces Latin America has ever seen, infamous for burning down schools, churches and hospitals as well as using mass murder, rape and torture. The Contras massacre whole villages though to be sympathetic to the Sandinistas. Over 60,000 die. President Reagan labels them as “freedom fighters.”

Summation

From these examples alone—Korea, Indonesia, East Timor, Greece, Chile and Nicaragua, which are merely the most prominent of many dozens more ready-made examples including the Vietnam War—we can see that United States foreign policy has never been driven by a devotion to any kind of morality, nor by any kind of longing for freedom or democracy. From the start, the United States has been driven by the necessity to make the world safe for investment by capitalism, to enrich US armaments who contribute generously to Congress members, to prevent the development of any society which becomes an example of an independent alternative to the capitalist model and to extend its political and economic control over as much of the globe as possible.

Everyone alive today remembers the media immediately after the events of 9/11. “Why Do They Hate Us So Much?” the newspapers asked. Gee, I don’t know. Perhaps dropping bombs really pisses some “less civilized” people off. This is a simple list of the nations bombed since World War II:

China 1945-46, Korea 1950-53, China 1950-53, Guatemala 1954, Indonesia 1958, Cuba 1959-60, Guatemala 1960, Congo 1964, Peru 1965, Laos 1965-73, Vietnam 1961-73. Cambodia 1969-70, Guatemala 1967-69, Grenada 1983, Libya 1986, El Salvador 1980s, Nicaragua 1980s, Panama 1989, Iraq 1991-2002, Sudan 1998, Afghanistan 1998, Yugoslavia 1999, Afghanistan 2001 and Iraq 2003 (1).

It is worth noting that violence and exploitation are also not limited to outside the US borders, either. Of all western nations, the US has the greatest income inequality. 40% of the wealth is controlled by 1% of the population. The US has the greatest discrepancy in the world between the wealthy and the poor when it comes to health care, and also when it comes to life expectancy.

Finally, the Land of the Free has the highest number of its population in prison than any other state in the world (2). And all this is without mentioning the minute details of the oppressive structure of the class society as it exists for us every day. These sorts of atrocities will continue until this capitalist system is done away with through struggle and revolution in the US.

On the day of American Independence, among all other days, this is a fact for all of us to remember.

Sources

(1) Taken from Australian Options Quarterly No. 31, Summer 2002.

(2) From Scientific American, Dec. 2005

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