Category Archives: Arab & Mid-East Liberation

May Day Statement of the Party of Labour Iran (Toufan)

Hail May 1st, The International Workers’ Day !

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May Day Statement of the Party of Labour Iran (Toufan)

May 1, the day of unity and solidarity of the working class all over the world, is upon us at a time when the Western imperialists headed by the U.S. imperialism, with the adoption of policy of invasion, of violation of the Charter of the United Nations and even without the consent of the United Nations Security Council, and against the will of overwhelming majority of the countries of the world, have created a new world order reminiscent of the old colonial times. The U.S. imperialism, the number one enemy of the mankind and the biggest state terrorism in the world, neither recognizes the right to self-determination nor accepts independence nor respect the territorial integrity of nations. The imperialists do not recognize any international agreement that opposes or restricts their interests. They occupy or violate the airspace of countries and act like criminal bandits and kill civilians, without being held accountable. The U.S. imperialists want to impose the decisions of their Congress, that is, their legal system, on all countries of the world. They have brought all foreign exchanges and payment services under their control in order to bully nations. Among others, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Syria, Libya, Palestine and Yemen are the victims of this inhuman policy. The renewed bombardment of Syria that is ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump is a serious warning signal for endangering the world peace and for the possible beginning of a bloody world war.

In Iran, the capitalist regime of the Islamic Republic continues to oppress the working class. The workers’ just demands for the formation of independent trade unions, for work, bread and freedom, for job security, against privatization, and against mass dismissals are met with arrest, imprisonment and torture. Though the social expert groups estimate the minimum living cost of a 3.5-member family to be near two million and 489 thousand Tuman per month (about $750) , the ” High Council of Labour” has set the minimum wage of 930 thousand Tuman ( $270)! This is a further step in the implementation of neoliberal policies, to meet the demands of the International Monetary Fund, to provide cheap labor and to increase the rate of capitalist profit. According to the statements made by the official press, more than 80% of Iranian workers now live under the poverty line.

The implementation of the bill of “Target Subsidiaries”, has worsened the living condition of the working class. Only the united struggle of the workers and labourers under the leadership of their working class party can emancipate the people from the yoke of capitalist slavery.

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The Party of Labour of Iran is boycotting the Presidential elections in Iran. There is no legitimacy in the criminal regime of the Islamic Republic for which the Iranian officials are trying to display through elections.

We celebrate May 1st this year with the knowledge that the Great October Socialist Revolution took place 100 years ago, the first revolution which established the dictatorship of the proletariat and the real democracy for workers and toilers, and opened a new horizon to mankind. The revolution was realized under the red flag of Lenin. The Bolshevik Party under Lenin’s leadership, and later under the leadership of Stalin, had defended the achievements of the October Revolution.

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For liberation from destructive bloody wars, for elimination of the nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, for the realization of genuine human rights, liberation from exploitation, poverty, unemployment and economic misery, there is no other path but the path of socialist revolution under the leadership of the working class.

Long live proletarian internationalism!

Down with the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran!

Long live socialism!

May 1, 2017

The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan)

www.toufan.org

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Withdraw from Syria for the War to End!

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The shelling of Jarablus targeting ISIS, following the attack on a Kurdish wedding in Gaziantep that took 54 lives, show that the government have not learnt anything from the outcomes of its policy on Syria. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş had stated “What Turkey is suffering today is a result of the policy on Syria”. However, this did not lead to his government giving up its role in fueling the fighting in Syria.

Since the beginning, the government has just said “West of the Euphrates is our red line”, “A Kurdish formation in Northern Syria cannot be allowed”, “A buffer zone should be created at the border” and tried all it can to redraw the Syrian map to suit its own interests; this foreign policy have hit the wall on every occasion, but the Turkish government has not taken a step back from its position regarding Syria.

Nevertheless, the plans drawn up in Ankara have not been realized; Democratic Syrian Forces have passed the red lines, Manjib was taken and the Jarablus corridor besieged. US delegation visits to Turkey in the last two days, the visit of Barzani, the anticipated visit of Putin, the attempted coup, the return of Gülen, the wedding massacre, the Zarrab case; these are indicators of the cards laid on the table for negotiations and to the multi-fronted dirty diplomacy carried out to achieve its aims in Syria.

Regardless, the strategy produced outside Syrian borders will not succeed. The government representatives will continue making the same mistakes while stating “we made a mistake”. What we see today is nothing but a different version of the same policy.

The Syria policy of the AKP government brought nothing but misery and death to the peoples of the region. The support provided to armed Jihadi forces brought the conditions of war to within our borders. The result of the government’s Kurdish-phobia has been chaos within the Syrian borders and devastation at home.

Turkey should keep its hands off Syria, stop supporting armed gangs and avoid agreements with imperialist powers, which will continue the bloodbath in the region. Turkey’s insistence to control parts of Syria, interfere with regional maps and the attempted demographic planning mean continued devastation for both Turkish and Syrian populations.

The only way to fight these policies of war is the people and workers uniting for peace and democracy. This need has been harshly demonstrated as the International Day of Peace on 21 September approaches.

Policies of war must be abandoned, attacks on Syrian lands must cease; borders must be closed to armed reactive forces, imperialists must stop interfering in the region!

This is the way to avoid a mistake in Syria and to protect our country from the results of such a mistake.

Selma Gürkan
President

Source

EMEP’s 7th Congress calls on all forces of labour, peace and democracy

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Our 7th General Conference met at a time of critical internal and external political situation. The struggle for supremacy among imperialists led to fierce conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine; this struggle is sharpening with the use of all economic, financial and military means and leading to new imperialist fronts.

The new Ottomanforeign policy of the AKP government and capital, to become a regional power and expand, hit a wall in the face of uncertainty in international relations.

Close relations with religious jihadi terror organisations like Al Qaida and Al Nusra, in an attempt to quickly overthrow the Assad Regime in Syria, are becoming stumbling blocks for the AKP government and Turkish establishment. With their barbarian attacks in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has provided justificationfor the US and other Western powers intervention in the region; they have been borne out of and strengthened in this quagmire of religious terrorism supported also by Turkey. It is impossible to achieve a solution to the benefit of peoples of the Middle East without an end to imperialist interventions and a determined stance against these interventions. On the other hand, secularism has gained an enormous importance for achieving a solution to benefit peoples in the face reactionary religious assertions.

While our party is opposing imperialist attacks and the wars in the Middle East and all over the world, caused by their intervention, we also fully support peoples and nations in their justified fight and wars for national sovereignty and freedom. From this perspective the 7th EMEP Conference condemned all attempts that target the status gained by the Kurdish people in Rojova; and declared that it will continue to stand with the people of Kobani in their fight against ISIS.

The attempts of the AKP government and the forces that support it to achieve one man, one partygovernance is deepening polarisation and opening the door to new conflicts within Turkey. Even the smallest opposition is branded as an attempted coupby the AKP government and its supporters and this is used as justification to bring in reactionary laws, laying the foundation stones of the regime they want to create. AKPs primary aim in the June 2015 election is to achieve a majority big enough to change the Constitution. AKPs show of determination in continuing the resolution periodon the Kurdish issue, the creation of the new Alevite Working Group and the reorganisation of social life and education in a religious framework are all steps in this direction. In reality, to get through the election unscathed, AKP needs the Kurdish and Alevite support and is attempting to woo them.

The defence of a modern way of life; the struggle to free education from religious intervention and replacing it with a scientific, democratic base; and in this perspective the struggle for secularism; these are extremely important but they are only a component of the struggle. The other is the necessary struggle against AKPs unashamed slavery to capital, the corruption and anti-labour policies that increase poverty.

Turkey is second in income inequality among the 34 OECD countries. 12 million people live on the hunger threshold according to TÜİKs family survey. The number of people with an income of less than 130TL is 1 million 640 thousand. According to the Families and Social Policies Department data, 30.5 million people (39.8% of population) are on an income of less than 270TL a week and classified as dependent citizens. While there is 5 million people in unregistered work, the rate of unionisation has gone down to 6%. On number of lethal workplace accidents, Turkey is in the lead in Europe and is third worldwide.

This shows the level of brutal capitalist exploitation in the country. The working class struggles against disorganisation, subcontracting, flexible working, low wages, deaths at work and worsening working conditions through actions such as strikes and occupations of work places. Unfortunately, even before the employers and the government, it is the union officials that stand in the way of these actions. Hence it is not a surprise that, while workers are ready to face anything to organise and unionise, union bureaucracy is going through its most discredited standingin history. Our party is wholly in the service of the workers in their struggle against capitalist exploitation and the oppression.

Our country is one of the most affected by the migration caused by the huge immigration caused by the conflicts in the Middle East. In the face of classical capital attempts to divide and rule; the demands for housing, work and the right to organise of migrant workers (equal pay of equal work) is a necessity of internationalism and the only correct stance serving the benefits of our workers.

The irreversible plundering of all farmlands, forests and rivers to build HES, RES and nuclear reactors continue in a rage fuelled by capitalist profit. The latest of these is the butchery of 6 thousand olive trees in the village of Yırca in SOMA. The issue of the environment, while becoming a leading field of struggle against capitalism, has also become a factor that encourages villagers to be a part of the struggle for democracy and freedoms.

Deepening gender inequality and reaction that ‘naturalisesinequality turns womens lives into hell. women are today more traditionalist, favouring patriarchal dominance; and are subjected to conservative oppression, fatalism and reaction summarised by fıtrat’. The attitude of the government is increasing the violent aggression against and the exploitation of womens labour and poverty. Womens struggle for real equality and peace are increased in this period of wars, inequality and deepening conditions of exploitation.

Turkish youth have come to the fore with their militancy, bravery and mass demonstrations, especially during the June Resistance and struggles that followed. Our 7th Congress, in drawing attention to our responsibility in enhancing the youth work within the party, stressed the vital importance of understanding among the youth of the scientific worldview of the working class.

The problems faced by the forces of labour, democracy and peace makes united struggle a necessity. Our Party has approached the issue of alliance on the basis of class and tries to unite the widest bases possible against imperialism and collaborative reaction. It has taken its place in (People’s Democratic Congress (HDK – a front of forces of labour, democracy and peace) with this understanding. At this stage, we need a union of democratic forces that will encompass even the HDK. Our Party will continue to fulfil its duties within HDK, while continuing its efforts to establish a wider front of struggle for democratic powers.

EMEP‘s 7th Congress calls on all forces of labour, peace and democracy to contribute to organising the United Democratic Front, in order to achieve the resolution of the Kurdish issue on a basis of equal rights, the end of discrimination on the basis of beliefs, real secularism, the removal of the barriers to political-unionised organisation, unhindered freedoms of speech, press and organisation, etc.

Labour Party (EMEP)
DECEMBER 2014

Source

ICMLPO: Support the resistance in Kobane, support the liberation struggle of the peoples

MLKP fighters in the Kobane resistance

MLKP fighters in the Kobane resistance

Resolution adopted at the plenary session of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations

The sharpening of the Syrian conflict, driven by the reactionary forces in the region, particularly Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, under the supervision and coordination of the United States and French imperialists, is part of the political strategy to redesign the Middle East.

Turkey not only wants to lead Sunni Islam, reviving its neo-Ottoman dreams, but to prevent the self-determination of the Kurds in Rojava (the part of Kurdistan in Syria), because they play an important role as a reference for the Kurds in Turkey on their way to achieving national self-determination.

However, given the exclusiveness with which the US has acted in its interventionist policy, the opposition that it put together (the Coalition of Opposition and Revolutionary Forces of Syria and its armed wing the Free Syrian Army) has lost its influence and has left it to the radical Islamist gangs such as Al Qaeda.

The sharpening of inter-imperialist contradictions surrounding the conflict in Syria have created favorable conditions for the struggle of the Kurdish people, who have always been under the combined pressure of regional reactionary groups and the imperialists to prevent their self-determination and their developing autonomous governments in Rojava .

The Turkish Government perceives as a threat the existence of the administrations built by the Kurds in Rojava under the leadership of the Democratic Union Party, PYD, in collaboration with other peoples and religious groups. It also considers it difficult to impose its plan based on negotiations with Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK. Therefore it has supported in all forms the Islamic State and Al Nusra (Front for the Victory of the People of Greater Syria). The great resistance of the Kurdish people and the solidarity all over the world gave Kobane an important significance for all oppressed peoples. The resistance in Kobane is growing and developing the hope of all oppressed peoples for a secular democratic future under the threat of the brutality of the Islamic State and religious fanaticism used by the reactionaries in that region and the imperialists.

We, the members of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO) support the liberation struggle of oppressed peoples and the resistance in Kobane. We oppose the imperialist interventionist policies in the Middle East and other regions of the world.

To defend the struggle for self-determination of the Kurdish people, the Palestinian people and all the oppressed peoples is the task of the working class and all peoples of the world.

Turkey, November 2014

Source

The Mysticism of the Baath Party Ideology

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

From: “Our View Of Arab History”; A speech given in 1955 in Aleppo, by Elyas Farah for the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party.

Contained in: “Arab Revolutionary Thought in the Face of Current Challenges”; Madrid 1978; pp.281-303.

“The socialist principles of the ancient Arabs, which was called “Moslem socialism,” was composed of “sadaqa” (alms-giving), “zakit” (tithing) and “al-ihsAn” (charity). The objective of Arab socialists today is the total suppression of misery and the exploitation of Man by Man, in such a way that, throughout the width and breadth of the Arab homeland, there is not a single man who needs to be given alms, no one who awakens pity, compassion, commiseration or forbearance. What Arab socialist are aspiring to today is a fair distribution of wealth, the establishment of a vital minimum revenue for every citizen, the nationalization of public services and important means of production, and the guarantee of equality of opportunity for all citizens, without distinction.

Is not this idea of socialism, for which the Arab Socialist Bath Party has militated for a long time, although of the 20th Century, in conformity with the Prophet’s attitude concerning life, the spirit of Islam and Divine Will?

Modern societies turn today to more and more radical solutions to their problems. In their first enthusiasm, the ancient Arabs gave proof of a socialist attitude, ever questing for new schemas and systems as close as possible to the socialist ideal. They disdained everything connected with pure formalism, everything rigid and congealed, or which might endanger in one way or another, evolution towards this ideal.

To resume the differences between our attitude with regard to the past and that of reactionaries, we may state that ours is a scientific and creative one, attached to all that is fundamental and substantial and open to the future. Theirs, on the other hand, is only preoccupied with superficial and secondary matters, and sacrifices both the present and the future (with all their potentialities) to the past. Our attitude is deeply rooted in our authentic history. We preserve its essence and we retain its spirit -the same spirit which, in olden times, impelled revolution and the renewal of existence. It is this same spirit which impels them today on the road to progress.

The attitude of the “Chou’oubiyyine” (anti-Arabs)

As for the anti-Arabs and internationalists (Stalinists), they claim to be the only detainers of scientific, progressive thought, but they wish to sever us totally from our past. In fact, their attitude is an emotional and unreflective reaction to the fanatical, sectarian attitude of conservatives.

Reactionaries want a past, devoid of a present and a future, while pseudo-progressive elements want a future without a past. To those who oppose nationalism and claim that any nationalist ideology is fundamentally reactionary, we ask the following question; “What is progressiveness?” Is it the undoing of all temporal and spatial links? Is it not absurd and contradictory to wish to undo such links, when Man cannot live other than in a clearly-defined temporal and spatial framework? Does being progressive imply that one recognizes no national past? Does it imply the severing of oneself from national reality? Anti-nationalists behave like cosmopolitans who maintain no living contact either with their nation or with their history. The “universalistic and anti-nationalistic” attitude of pseudo-progressive elements proves that they flee in advance of the human realities of the Arab Nation. They neglect the national problem, which is, irrefutably, the key to genuine internationalism. Their progressive attitude is simply a denial and a escape; it is vitiated from the start. Their humanitarianism is bodiless, poverty -stricken, sterile. They remind us of a phrase of Goethe, the famous German philosopher which comes to memory in this connection: “I hear a great deal about humanity, but I see only men”. We can tell them that the peculiar genius of a nation resides in the links it sustains with its past, its present and its future, and that the message which it hears for humanity can only be safeguarded in the same measure that these links are safeguarded. If we sever the past from the present and the future, we take the risk of suffocating our genius and alienating the identity of the nation; we risk deviation, if we lose sight of the principles which can keep us from downfall, from reversals, from unsurmountable contradictions and alienation.

Kant, in his time, called for universal peace, though his own country, Germany, was divided up into innumerable, tiny states. Filled with despair, the Germans lacked confidence in the future. Kant’s appeal for world peace was, in fact, only submission to the fact of -Balkanization- and concealed an entreaty to colonialists. His action, in the last analysis, intoxicated the German nation and diverted it from its primary objectives, freedom and unity. When German national anthems began to awaken vibrations in German hearts, and arouse their national conscience, when revolt began to grumble and hope and confidence in the future filled the hearts of youth, Fichte, in his “Letters to the German Nation”, launched his famous appeal for struggle for the Unification of Germany. In this way, he placed his finger on the knot of the problem. He understood that the path to world peace and the key to any solution of a human nature in Germany required the preliminary resolution of German national problems -to remedy its state of weakness, save it from disunion and withdraw it from foreign domination.

Fichte was a nationalist; he was even the leading philosopher of nationalism. This made him more humanistic than Kant, for he shared in the Nation’s salvation, rather than in its intoxication.

Any man who is unconscious of his historic roots, and devoid of the feeling that he belongs to a human community (composed of many million people, ‘all of whom make up the succeeding generations of the community) and who lacks a feeling of responsibility for the safe-guarding and the perpetuation of a certain heritage, can only be poor in spirit, and his life will be of mediocre and insignificant quality. Nameless, colourless, with no distinctive sign, such a man would resemble rather an object or a number than a human being.

Among those who have denied their appurtenance to the Arab Nation, there are those who, to fill the gap, adopt a foreign culture. To them, we may say that any culture, and form of logic, any theory transposed to our land, without enabling us to draw from it something useful for our cause, naturally adaptable to our existence and our deepest aspirations, anything imported and liable to assimilate and despersonalize us and place our destinies in the hands of others, is, as all other unfounded, artificial solutions, inapplicable to our reality and incapable of finding in us an echo.

Arab nationalism, as expressed in the struggle for unity and the Nation’s freedom, and for the establishment of socialism, is the deepest, most positive and most vibrant aspect of our existence. It is this which gives meaning to our lives. If we are unable to protect it, we shall lose our personality, our very own genius and we shall end up totally dehumanized.

Our national cause is the starting-point of all genuine existence. If this ceases to be the case, deviations will be inevitable for us, and our culture, by becoming foreign to our reality and bearing the stamp of individualism, will become simply a mirror reflecting ideas coming from abroad.

Internationalists (Stalinists) live among us in body only; their souls are elsewhere. They approach our problems with criteria of foreign origin and a spirit which has no relation to our own reality. They have become deeply alienated by exchanging their own feeling, ideas, and souls for feelings, ideas and souls borrowed from elsewhere. Losing sight of the fundamental principles of intellectual activity and action, they have seriously gone astray and, when they find themselves unable to recover their own identity, they saddle themselves with a borrowed personality of an artificial nature.

We can only profit from theories, ideas and experience to which we can adhere, without abandoning our personality. Even if such ideas are the fruit of other nations’ efforts, they can act as a stimulant for us; they can help us to understand our problems, to defend our cause and to transform the reality in which we find ourselves. Only loans that we can control and use knowingly, are capable of adaptation to our national history and of assisting us in our march towards progress. Those who approach the problem of nationalism from the point of view, both exclusive and totalitarian at one and the same time, who look on this phenomenon as part of an inseparable whole – the human cause, in general – are making a big mistake. They consider nationalistic ideology as an obstacle to the progress of humanity, as a danger, liable to play havoc with nations, and even as a fundamentally antihuman phenomenon, and pass judgements on it, coloured by their ideas concerning nationalistic experience in Europe. Such experiences, however, were from the very beginning, made on a basis of grave error and dangerous prejudice. They can, therefore, in no event serve as a criterion or as a point of reference.

When soundly experienced, nationalism is the natural source of and the principle of all permeability to true internationalism. The Arabs know that nationalism is their safest guarantee for human feelings and for the development of a truly universal culture in their society.

Their national awareness maintains them at the level of their message and their responsibilities towards the international community. Arabism is the pivot and the source of all authentic existence. Without it, danger becomes imminent, alienation and intellectual confusion inevitable. It is the gate through which we gain access to the stream of human civilizations. Internationalism which does not start from this point, is severed from our national cause, and has no connection with a historic message, remains superficial, abstract and without impact.

Those who hark back to the tragedy of – National Socialism – in Europe to prove that any form of socialist nationalism is condemnable, and also that Stalinist internationalism is alone valid for humanity as a whole, base themselves on doubtful ideas and criteria of no logical value. When they pronounce “judgements without appeal” of this sort, against all forms of nationalism, they are inveighing against the racist and aggressive ideas which developed in Europe in very specific circumstances, marked by a certain degree of intellectual and moral decadence. Evil was inherent neither in nationalism nor in socialism – two genuine human principles – but in the fanaticism of those who spoke in the name of sacred values, and equally in the reactionary attitudes adopted by European socialist and nationalist parties. The fact that some nationalist movements veered towards chauvinism, racism and fanaticism, in no way proves this to be a general rule, to be applied obligatorily to any movement arising out of nationalist ideology. In the same way, the fact that some European socialist parties chose the parliamentary method, does not mean that this is the only way open to socialist parties in the world or that it is the safest, the most rational and the most natural. The experience of the East, as in the West, are equally for us sources from which we can draw innumerable lessons to guide us in the struggle we are making with our people, building on a new vision of life.

The present, the future and ourselves

We have discussed the attitude adopted by reactionaries with regard to our national past, but what about the present? Reactionaries believe our present condition to be decadent and vitiated, but they are in no way convinced, when they speak in this way, that such conditions should be reviewed and transformed according to scientific plans of modern conception. They think, on the contrary that decadence fell upon us because we deviated from the formulae of the past, which gave birth to an illustrious Arab civilization. According to them, we ought to reintegrate these formulae in their entirety, in order to rectify the situation. They propose no other alternatives, in their certainty that structures of the past are eternally valid. They do not stop with the present. Their attitude holds also for the future. In accordance with reactionary beliefs, those who try to divert the Arabs from the formulae applied at the time of the splendour of Arab-Moslem civilization, are the basic element in our Nation’s alienation and bewilderment. In the last analysis, they want our present and our future to be enclosed in a veritable straight-jacket made up of the structures and formulae of the past.

Stalinist internationalists and anti-Arabs also consider our present to be unsatisfactory; but they do not believe that a solution can be found within and be thoroughly adapted to our personality. In their eyes, the degradation of our present situation is due to the fact that we have not succeeded in getting rid of all the factors which make up our identity and distinguish us from other nations. They aspire to a future completely foreign to us, a made-to measure future but of a borrowed mould, a future in which we should be totally dependent on those who created for us an identity which does no belong to us. Reactionaries and anti-Arabs share the same attitude, which is a grave menace to Arabism. They are foreign to our truth and do their best to alienate us from it. Reactionaries look on Arab society as if it were still in childhood, as if the events and experience of our lives had altered nothing! They have a totally erroneous idea of social life. It is as if, for them, the earth had never turned since ancient times with its high degree of Arab civilization. Do they not resemble in this an adult trying to wear the clothes he wore as a child? If we followed their ideas, should we not be childish in our intellectual formulation, in our feelings and behaviour? Their ideas are, evidently, against Nature, for no child can remain a child forever… except in death.  The logical end of reactionary thought is simply the suppression of the present and the closing of the gate to the future. For them, nothing is to be expected from the future. All we have to do is to ruminate on our past and allow it to consume itself in our hearts,  destroying with it our present and our future, smothering our aspirations and…  our foresight. The past, in the view of reactionaries, resembles a grave in which to bury all creative spirit, all talents and all freedom.

Stalinist internationalists and anti-Arabs have an abstract, “quantitative” view of our society, as they have of all others. Their approach kills both the qualities and the genius peculiar to each nation. They have a vision always the same – of people, nations and human societies. Which deprives each one of its “raison d’etre” and that which is its essence. Their form of internationalism always ends by becoming “cosmopolitanism.”

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Three Tactics of the Nationalists in the Middle East

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

Originally written 1992

Since the end of World War II (WW II), the contradiction between the working classes and the developing capitalist class of the Middle Eastern nations was linked to a second contradiction – that between the different imperialists and the indigenous developing capitalists.  On top of these, there were contradictions between the imperialists themselves, reflecting the decline of British imperialism, and the rise of USA imperialism. After World War II explicit deals took place between the British and US, regarding future developments in the Middle East:

“In response to Winston Churchill’s questions about America’s interests in Iranian oil, Franklin Roosevelt wrote in March 1943 that:

‘I am having the oil studied by the Department of State and my oil experts, but please do accept my assurances that I am not making sheeps’ eyes at your oil fields in Iraq or Iran.’

Churchill responded:

‘Thank you very much for your assurances about no sheeps’ eyes at our oil fields in Iran and Iraq. Let me reciprocate by giving you the fullest assurances that we have not thought of trying to horn in upon your interests or property in Saudi Arabia.'”

James A. Bill “The Eagle and the Lion-The Tragedy of Iranian-American Relations”; New York , 1988. p.29

Unfortunately, with a small working class, the national bourgeoisies largely had no opposition to its leadership over a struggling peasantry. But the national bourgeoisie was also weak, because as the power of imperialism grew, the objective role for the national bourgeoisie was steadily getting smaller. Furthermore the previous history of Oriental Despotism of the Ottomans, had ensured a very weak development of the industrial forces necessary for nation development. Finally the many divisions between factions in the area were skilfully exploited by the imperialists to effectively divide and rule.

ANTI-COLONIAL STRUGGLES IN COLONIAL COUNTRIES

Imperialism used local indigenous rulers and leading individuals as their surrogates. These indigenous agents were usually buyers and traders whose livelihood depended upon the Imperialists. Often landed feudal gentry were also allied to imperialism. They were termed COMPRADOR BOURGEOISIE.

Inevitably some indigenous capitalists wished to displace imperialism, so that they can then retain all the colony’s profits for itself. They were termed NATIONAL BOURGEOISIE. Because they were usually very weak, they tried to enlist the masses ie. working classes and peasantry. The weak and nascent national bourgeoisie of the Middle East struggled at first, in the main against British and French; then in the main against USA imperialism.

The line of Communists in the National Liberation movement dervies from the positions of Lenin at the Second Congress of the Comintern in 1921. Lenin thought that in the first stage of the revolution, the bourgeois democrats had a useful role to play:

“All the Communist parties must assist the bourgeois democratic liberation movement in these (ie colonial type countries-ed).. The Communist International (CI) must enter into a temporary alliance with bourgeois democracy in colonial and backward countries.”

V.I.Lenin: Preliminary Draft of Theses on National and Colonial Questions, 2nd Congress CI  in “Selected Works”, Volume 10, London, 1946; p. 236-7.

But Lenin and Stalin pointed out, that these national bourgeoisie, flinch from the final steps, as the unleashing of mass movements arouses socialist movements. Therefore, class coalitions of national bourgeoisie with working class organizations can only be temporary. They are also prone to sabotage by the national bourgeoisie. The working class organisations must remain independent, even in a United Front. It is imperative to find and ally only with and for long as, the sections of the bourgeoisie are genuinely in struggle with imperialism:

“I would like to particularly emphasise the question of the bourgeois democratic movements in backward countries. It was this question that gave rise to some disagreement. We argued about whether it would be correct, in principle and in theory, to declare that the CI and the CP’s should support the bourgeois-democratic movement in backward countries. As a result of this discussion we unanimously decided to speak of the nationalist-revolutionary movements instead of the ‘bourgeois-democratic’ movement. There is not the slightest doubt that every nationalist movement can only be a bourgeois-democratic movement.. But it was agreed that if we speak about the bourgeois-democratic movement all distinction between reformist and revolutionary movements will be obliterated; whereas in recent times this distinction has been fully and clearly revealed in the backward and colonial countries, of the imperialist bourgeois is trying with all its might to implant the reformist movement also among the oppressed nations.. In the Commission this was proved irrefutably, and we came to the conclusion that the only correct thing to do was to take this distinction into consideration and nearly everywhere to substitute the term “nationalist-revolutionary” for the term “bourgeois-democratic”. The meaning of this change is that we communists should, and will, support bourgeois liberation movements only when these movement do not hinder us in training and organising the peasants and the broad masses of the exploited in a revolutionary spirit.. The above mentioned distinction has now been drawn in all the theses, and I think that, thanks to this, our point of view has been formulated much more precisely.”

Lenin. Report Of Commission on the National and Colonial Questions, Ibid, p 241.

This Leninist line was further developed by Stalin, who in 1925, distinguished “at least three categories of colonial and dependent countries”:

Firstly countries like Morocco who have little or no proletariat, and are industrially quite undeveloped. Secondly countries like China and Egypt which are under-developed industries and have a relatively small proletariat. Thirdly countries like India.. capitalistically more or less developed and have a more or less numerous national proletariat. Clearly all these countries cannot possibly be put on a par with one another.”

J.V.Stalin; “Works” Volume 7: “Political Tasks of the University of the People’s of the East.  Speech Delivered at a meeting of Students of the Communist University of the Toilers of the East”, May 18th, 1925. pp. 148.

In each country the conditions were different and had to be concretely studied before deciding the exact tactic:

“In countries like Egypt and China, where the national bourgeoisie has already split up into a revolutionary party and a compromising party, but where the compromising section of the bourgeoises is not yet able to join up with imperialism, the Communists can no longer set themselves the aim of forming a united national front against imperialism. In such countries the Communists must pass from the policy of a united national front to the policy of a revolutionary bloc of the workers and the petty bourgeoisie. In such countries that bloc can assume the form of a single party, a workers and peasants’ party, provided, however, that this distinctive party actually represents a bloc of two forces – the Communist Party and the party of the revolutionary petty bourgeois. The tasks of this bloc are to expose the half-heartedness and inconsistency of the national bourgeoisie and to wage a determined struggle against imperialism. Such a dual party is necessary and expedient provided it does not bind the Communist Party hand and foot, provided it does not restrict the freedom of the Communist Party to conduct agitation and propaganda work, provided it does not hinder the rallying of the proletarians around and provided it facilitates the actual leadership of the revolutionary movement by the Communist party. Such a dual party is unnecessary and inexpedient if to does not conform to all these conditions for it can only lead to the Communist elements becoming dissolved in the ranks of the bourgeoisie to the Communist Party losing the proletarian army.”

J.V.Stalin Works Vol 7; “Tasks of University of People’s of East”, Ibid; pp. 149-150

If a large working class presence was felt, this strengthened the revolutionary prospects. When this happened, the most uncertain and vacillating elements of the bourgeoisie tended to desert the revolution, and form a bloc with imperialism:

“The situation is somewhat different in countries like India. The fundamental and new feature of the conditions of life in countries like India is not only that the national bourgeoisie has split up into a revolutionary part and a compromising part, but primarily that the compromising section of the bourgeoisie has already managed, in the main, to strike a deal with imperialism, Fearing revolution more than it fears imperialism, and concerned with more about its money bags than about the interests of its own country, this section of the bourgeoisie is going over entirely to the camp of the irreconcilable enemies of the revolution, it is forming a bloc with imperialism against the workers and peasants of its own country.”

J.V.Stalin Works Vol 7; “Tasks of University of People’s of East”, Ibid; pp. 150.

Such blocs between vacillating “national bourgeoise” and imperialisms, should be smashed:

“The victory of the revolution cannot be achieved unless this bloc is smashed, but in order to smash this bloc, fire must be concentrated on the compromising national bourgeoisie, its treachery exposed, the toiling masses freed from its influence, and the conditions necessary for the hegemony of the proletariat systematically prepared. In other words, in colonies like India it is a matter of preparing the proletariat for the role of leader of the liberation movement, step by step dislodging the bourgeoisie and its mouthpieces from this honourable post. The task is to create an anti-imperialist bloc and to ensure the hegemony of the proletariat in this bloc. This bloc can assume although it need not always necessarily do so, the form of a single Workers and Peasants Party, formally bound by a single platform. In such centuries the independence of the Communist Party must be, the chief slogan of the advanced communist elements, for the hegemony of the proletariat can be prepared and brought about by the Communist party. But the communist party can and must enter into an open bloc with the revolutionary part of the bourgeoisie in order, after isolating the compromising national bourgeoisie, to lead the vast masses of the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie in the struggle against imperialism.”

J.V.Stalin Works Vol 7; “Tasks of University of People’s of East”, Ibid; pp. 150-151.

But despite these warnings, organisations took part in un-principled coalitions, and led the working classes into massacres. The failure of the working class to organise along correct lines ensured that the many anti-imperialist struggles in the Middle East, never achieved the socialist – or even to the national democratic revolution.

After World War II imperialism was even stronger, and even more rapacious. This was as its markets were threatened by the Socialist USSR leading some European countries towards socialist development. Responding to imperialisms’ demands, the weak national bourgeoisie of the Middle East attempted to overcome their weaknesses by several tactics that would avoid harnessing the revolutionary masses. All these tactics would prove unsuccessful. These are detailed below; and culminated in a movement of cartelisation for oil selling – Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

THE WEAK NATIONAL BOURGEOISIE OF THE MIDDLE EAST TO SEEK TACTICS TO FIGHT IMPERIALISM

Tactic Number One: Wahda and Nasserism, Pan-Arabism; A Political Combination of Weak National Bourgeoisie

Given the bourgeois fear of rousing the working class movement too far, only a vacillating movement against imperialism was possible. Ultimately the national bourgeoisie always capitulated in the face of social revolution. This allowed the imperialist powers to retard the development of the states concerned. Coupled with this was the power of monopoly interests, of the imperialist companies. So that even in favourable situations, where these states led by national bourgeoisie could nationalise the major resource in the area (oil) the imperialist consortiums were able to dictate their demands.

Despite these failures, the nascent bourgeoisie of the area continued to harbour resentment against imperialism. To compensate for their unwillingness to fully enrol the working classes, they attempted to unite across “national” borders. This entailed a mystical PAN-ARABISM which preceded NASSERISM. For example the formation of the BA’TH PARTY in Syria took place in 1947, led by Michel ‘Aflaq, Salh al-Din Bitar and also Wahib al-Ghanim.

BA’TH means “re-birth” and took the notion as central, to mean the renaissance of the Arab movement. But it was Gamel Abdul Nasser who most effectively utilised this idea of pan-Arabism. Starting in the context of a nationalist movement in Egypt alone, Nasser struck a renewed hope for liberation from imperialism throughout large sections of the Middle East, using instead of Ba’th – the notion of Wahda, to mean ultimately the same.

The Nasserite movement aimed at WAHDA (Arabic for union). It was to be a renewal of Arabic “culture,” under a twentieth century guise of nationalism.

As a strategy of the national bourgeoisie in the Middle East, it aimed to contain the mass movement, it emphasised notions of an Arab peoples, denying any class content.

Revisionism in the parties of the area had effectively deprived the working class of capable leadership. Nasserism was only able to consolidate itself because the Egyptian Workers Party, the Communist Party, was itself under the influence of the now Soviet-revisionist leaders.

Wahda called for unity of several different struggling national bourgeoisie against imperialism. It hoped to be able to avoid the social revolution, by using nationalistic demagogic slogans. Effectively a class coalition was to be created, of all the national bourgeoisies, and the working classes of the different countries, led by the national bourgeoisie.

That way it was to be hoped apparently, that the singly weak national bourgeoisie, together, would be strong enough to fight imperialism, and yet still be able to contain the social revolution.

But ultimately Pan-Arabism failed, as there was a single dominant national bourgeoisie, which itself tried to create “comprador” relations with the other weaker national bourgeoisie. This dominant national bourgeoisie was Egyptian and it was led by Nasser. It was successful for a time, as evidenced by the short lived creation of the UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC– consisting of Egypt and Syria. However the dominant Egyptian bourgeoisie, could not suppress the Syrian national bourgeoisie of the coalition. The experiment thus failed.

Tactic Number Two: Playing on Contradictions Between Imperialists

The imperialists had long squabbled amongst themselves as to how to divide up the Middle East. French and British supremacy in the Middle East was surreptiously attacked by USA imperialism. After the death of Stalin the hegemony of revisionism in the USSR was rapidly completed. With the overthrow of socialism in the Soviet Union, the relations between the Soviet Union and dependent nations became imperialist. This was exemplified by the relations within the Warsaw Pact nations. In the semi-colonial and colonial nations, the USSR attempted to act as a brake on Western imperialism. This resulted in a struggle between US and Soviet social imperialism for control of these areas, including the Middle East.

In this context, the various timorous struggling national bourgeoisie would frequently switch “temporary masters.” Being interested in control of “their own” profit, the national bourgeoisie were  viewed as unreliable by the imperial super-powers. But they were used as pawns by the super powers to control the area. This allowed the national bourgeoisie some limited bargaining power. Ultimately, his strategy also failed to effect the national revolution.

American policy recognised the strength of the anti-colonial movements. Their plan was to disrupt the movement by using the compradors. To further blunt the movement they used the veneer of neutrality offered by the UNITED NATIONS. John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State, said just prior to the Suez War :

“The USA cannot be expected to identify itself 100% either with the Colonial powers or the powers uniquely concerned with the problem of getting independence as rapidly and as fully as possible.. any areas encroaching in some form or another on the problem of so called colonialism find the US playing a somewhat independent role (Ed – of UK and France). The shift from colonialism to independence will be going on for another 50 years, and I believe that the task of the United Nations is to try to see that this process moves forward in a constructive, evolutionary way, and does not come to a halt or go forward through violent revolutionary processes which would be destructive of much good.”

Cited Carlton. “Antony Eden”. London 1981. p.426

After the SUEZ WAR, the USA and the USSR all contended in the area. Each super power developed its’ primary sphere of influence. But since neither power was able to totally control the area, they were for long periods content for an armed stalemate.

The major states in the area that were spheres of influence for the Soviet Union were Iraq, Syria, Egypt (until Nasser’s death), Yemen and Libya.

These countries often adopted a mask of “socialism”.

The main countries that supported the USA were Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and under Sadat – Egypt.

Examples of a national bourgeoisie that attempted the game of playing one imperialist off against another include Egypt under Nasser, Iraq under Hussein and Syria under Assad.

Due to the serious demise of the fortunes of the Soviet imperialists in the late 1980’s, the USA was able to exert a far more dominant role than previously, and for the first time saw an opportunity to be unopposed. It tested the waters for an exertion of its’ direct military presence in the Arab world by bombing Libya.

EGYPT, AND THE “FREE OFFICERS MOVEMENT”

The case of Egypt illustrates how a balancing act, was able to win a short term gain, for the nationalist bourgeoisie. But ultimately the short term gains could not be maintained. In Egypt the nationalist faction was represented by the Free Officer Movement, to which Nasser belonged. This movement, was supported initially by the USA, as a weapon to be used against the British superpower.

“The Free Officer movement originated within the regular army; its leaders were then preparing to oust the appointed military chiefs, seize all the command posts and present their program for national renovation to the entire army. They also tried to make sure that should they be successful, the US ambassador would not be hostile and would exert pressure on the British ambassador.”

Mahmoud Hussein . “Class Conflict in Egypt 1945-1970”. London , 1977. p.85-6 .

“The US hoped to capitalize on the situation to become the new protector of Egypt and force it to accept a military alliance which would officially recognize the need for national sovereignty.”

M.Hussein , Ibid. p.96.

“According to Miles Copeland, an American CIA official posted in the Middle East in the 1950’s – the CIA knew as early as March 1952 that a ‘secret military society’ was plotting a coup. ‘ Before the coup the CIA’s Cairo station, headed by Kermit Roosevelt, had three meetings with some of the officers of the group. ” the large area of agreement reached by Roosevelt and this (Egyptian ) officer, speaking for Nasser himself, is noteworthy,” writes Copeland.”

Dilip Hiro “Inside the Middle East” London. 1982. p. 297.

The aims of the Free Officer movement were to modernise and develop, and to get rid of the British military occupation of Egypt. Of course, even the first goal was unacceptable to either the British, or to those who immediately took their place, the USA imperialists. But for their own short term goals – to get rid of the British – the USA did help the Free Officers, by forcing the British to evacuate their 70,000 strong troops. However, in partial appeasement of the British, Eisenhower ensured a clause in the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement that entitled Britain to reoccupy the Suez zone with “Egypt’s agreement” in the case of an attack on Egypt by any outside power.”   (Hiro Ibid p.298.)

Nasser tried to exploit the tensions between the British and the Americans, and at the same time get maximal financial aid. Nasser from then on used both the US and UK imperialists for financing. But to retain his independence and to get the “best deal”, Nasser then also asked for financing from the revisionist USSR. Even the provision of USSR made arms via Czechoslovakia, did not however deter the West:

“Not wishing to alienate the charismatic leader of Egypt, a most strategic country in the region, Washington and London continued discussions with Cairo on financing the Aswan Dam- with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (known as the World Bank) offering credits for $ 200 million and America and Britain together another $70 million in hard currencies- matching $900 million to be provided by Egypt in local services and goods. An agreement was signed in February.”

Hiro Ibid p.298.

However, the Western imperialists certainly feared that Egypt was becoming drawn into the USSR sphere of influence. This was a more urgent fear for the weaker British, than it was for the USA. So the British exerted a considerable pressure on the USA, to tangibly support an anti-Russian policy. This pressure came from Antony Eden, then the Conservative Prime Minister of Britain. Winston Aldrich, the US ambassador to London said:

“Eden.. asked me to see him on a matter of the greatest importance and urgency. Eden told me that the emergency has arisen in connection with the Egyptian proposal, namely that the Russians had offered to finance the dam. Eden feared that this would give the Egyptians a dangerous foothold in an area vital to the interests of Great Britain. He asked me to take up at once with Washington the question of whether the US would underwrite the obligations which Great Britain would assume in making such a guarantee (of financing the dam).”

Cited David Carlton “Antony Eden” London 1981 p.391.

Eisenhower was more shrewd, and being the more dominant of the imperialists, was in less need of hasty action. His diary showed that he had already recognised that this was a doomed policy. He had concluded that Egypt was moving away from the likely control of the USA, and that the Saudis should be firmly lassoed into the USA sphere:

“We have reached the point where it looks as if Egypt, under Nasser is going to make no move.. the Arabs (ie Egypt – Ed) absorbing major consignments of arms from the Soviets are daily growing more arrogant and disregarding the interests of Western Europe and the US.. It would appear that our efforts should be directed towards separating the Saudi Arabians from the Egyptians and concentrating, for the moment..in making the former see that their best interests lie with us, and not with the Egyptians and with the Russians..”

D. Eisenhower , Diary , Cited by David Carlton Ibid p. 404.

Of course each of the imperialists were fully aware that they were being “two-timed.”

Nasser was forced to keep trying to find yet another “imperialist” or social-imperialist dancer, to help him fend off the last ardent suitor.

Nasser finally overstepped the lines, by recognising the People’s Republic of China in May. By the 20 th July, both the USA and the British rescinded their offers of financial aid. This prompted Nasser to attempt a retaliation, by nationalising the Suez Canal (Hiro Ibid. p.64). Naturally this provoked a loud uproar from the French owners (Universal Suez Maritime Canal Company), and at the same time, the British and Israelis.

These powers had already been planning an attack upon Gaza aiming at taking the Suez Canal. But for their own interests, these moves were not supported by the USA, who according to Eden himself were verbally offering him merely:

“Moral support and sympathy”, and “did not want to know the details of the Anglo-French plans.”

Cited Carlton , Ibid . p. 412.

However, attempting to assert Britain’s “rights” or self-interest, Eden  deliberately misled the USA about Britain’s aggressive intentions. Eisenhower had expressly warned Eden against war, writing to Eden that:

“The use of military force against Egypt under present circumstances might have consequences even more serious than causing the Arabs to support Nasser. It might cause a serious misunderstanding between our two countries.. the most significant public opinion is that..the United Nations was formed to prevent this very thing.. I assure you that we are not blind to the fact that eventually there may be no escape for the use of force.”

Carlton Ibid. p.419-20.

But in spite of this warning from the USA, the war was launched. But the revisionist USSR, correctly strongly condemned the war of aggression launched by Britain, France and Israel. In order to finally seize the Middle East away from British imperialism, the USA at the United Nations, also strongly condemned the invasion and called for a cease fire. Behind closed doors, the USA prompted a currency speculation against sterling, by the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank selling, and also refused to give either IMF or direct USA financial aid, to the United Kingdom. Further, and finally, the USSR threatened to enter the war:

“We are fully determined to use force to crush the aggressors and to restore peace in the Middle East.”

V.Trukhanovsky. ” Antony Eden ”  Moscow, 1974; p.332.

These moves combined to ensure the withdrawal of the 3 nation intervention. This fiasco for British and French imperialism, signalled their final retreat from the Middle East, as imperialist forces independent of the USA. America then was able to fill what Eisenhower described as a “vacuum” in the Middle East.

Eisenhower’s Doctrine promised to aid any Middle Eastern state seeking protection against:

“Overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by international communism.”

Cited Hiro p.299

This blocked any moves to a regional Wahda, or Unity attempts. Yet, it was sufficiently elastic to interpretation to be acceptable, whilst still detering Egypt in particular. The Eisenhower Doctrine:

“Was applied 3 times: to solve the internal crisis of Jordan in April 1957, to pressure the nationalists – leftist regime of Syria.. and to provide troops to Lebanon in July 1958..In the case of Jordan and Lebanon, the American move was made to check the rise of the Nasserite forces there.”

Hiro, Ibid  p. 299.

Therefore, despite the early hopes of the Nasser forces in Egypt, they were checked. Egypt now became compradors for the USSR. The USA imperialists, who having just expelled the USA and France, did not have the necessary energy at that moment to expel Russia also. The economic relations between Egypt and Russia, were thereafter classic imperialist relations, raw goods given by Egypt, cotton – in return for finished goods, for military and economic aid. This dictated a colonial type relationship with the USSR (Hussein. Ibid. p.286).

But to counter the threat of “excess” USSR influence, the USA unleashed war. The USA moved vigorously, through their client states in the area, wishing also to check those various national bourgeoisie. As part of this policy, the USA heavily endorsed the Israelis, as their lynch pin in the area. The revisionist USSR, sought to maximise its own “area of influence”, and acted as a countervail in the cases of Syria and Egypt. But Israel was heavily armed by the USA and Britain.

In response, Egypt and Syria, signed a joint defence treaty fearing Israeli attack.

They were quite right to fear this.

When King Hussein of Jordan joined the Egyptian-Syrian Defence Pact on 30 May, Dean Rusk then American Secretary of State clearly signalled war:

“I don’t think it’s our business to restrain anybody.”

(Cited Hiro p.301).

The USA knew what was to be the likely outcome of such a war.

As President Johnson put it to an aide:

“Israel is going to hit them (the Arabs)..” Whilst (he was ) publicly responding positively to a Soviet appeal the next day for restraint.”

Cited by Hiro p.300.

The Israelis following the USA plan, launched a pre-emptive strike on the eve of a peace mission by the Egyptian Vice-President Zakaria Mohieddin. Nasser’s forces were effectively crushed.

This sealed the future role as to who would be the key agent of the USA in the area – Israel.

TACTIC NUMBER THREE: ECONOMIC COMBINATION. OPEC- A WEAK BOURGEOISIE ATTEMPTS TO FIGHT BACK

The creation of OPEC in 1960 was another attempt by the weak indecisive national bourgeois to find a “Third Way”. One that did not rely on the active involvement of the masses, nor one of total capitulation to the imperialists. OPEC attempted to bargain, or to horse trade; by forming a combination, or a cartel.

This was designed to deal with the cartel of the major Oil companies- the Seven Sisters. These had simply to refuse to buy oil from any producer country that challenged the price offered. The price “posted” was agreed to by the Seven Sisters. Even nationalisation could not help if the producer country could not market the oil. This tactic was used viciously against Iran.

The oil producing nations varied in the intensity with which they fought the Seven Sisters and the imperialist nations. In 1960 one of the weakest was Iran, ruled by the Shah Pahvlavi whose compliance to the USA was assured following CIA intervention in 1951. This had been necessary to prevent the nationalist Muhammed Mussadiq effecting nationalisation of Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AICO) later the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Musaddiq believed that:

“The Iranian must administer his own house.”

Cited J.A.Bill ” The Eagle and the Lion”; Ibid; New York 1988 p.56.

But in fact, Mussadiq clearly was not a fully committed nationalist. The mass movement was compelling him to go further than he perhaps would have otherwise. As John Foster Dulles said in February 1953:

“Musaddiq could not afford to reach any agreement with the British lest it cost him his political life.”

J.A.Bill, Ibid p. 78

When he became Prime Minister of the Majlis (the Iranian Parliament) in April 1951, he inherited a Bill that nationalised AICO. Refusing to rescind it, he was held to ransom by AICO which refused to allow Iran to sell its oil on the international market:

“This boycott was effective. Iran’s oil export income dropped from more than $400 million in 1950 to less than $2 million in the 2 year period from July 1951 to August 1953..Musaddiq faced a deteriorating economic and political situation in 1953..and was forced to rely on the radical left and the communist ( revisionist -ed) Tudeh party.. On May 28th Musaddiq wrote to President Eisenhower requesting economic aid..the answer was negative.”

J.A.Bill Ibid; p.66-7.

The British then persuaded the USA to participate in a putsch, termed Operation Boot by the British and Ajax by the US. The Chief British operative, Major C.M.Woodhouse was conscious of difficulties in getting the US to take part:

“Not wishing to be accused of trying to use the Americans to pull British chestnuts out of the fire, I decided to emphasis the Communist threat to Iran rather than to need to recover control of the oil industry. I argued that even if a settlement of the oil dispute could be negotiated with Musaddiq, which was doubtful, he was still incapable of resisting a coup by the Tudeh party, if it were backed by Soviet support. Therefore he must be removed.”

J.A.Bill, Cited, Ibid. p.86

Fully involved in the putsch was General Norman Schwarzkopf, former US adviser to the Iranian Gendarmerie (J.A.Bill. Ibid, p.90). He was the father of the US General – “Storming Norman” – in the 1991 USA Gulf War of aggression (See Alliance 2).

The coup resulted in the Shah of Iran being bought back to Iran. He understood who had placed him on the Peacock Throne, and remained indebted to US imperialism. Musaddiq was treated with relative leniency – he was not killed, but after 3 years in jail, was allowed to return to his home village Ahmadabad under house arrest (J.A.Bill Ibid p.101).

This episode influenced tactics in the Middle East for some years. The national bourgeoisie had been warned that nationalisation was not adequate to ensure marketing of the oil from the producer nations without the cooperation of the Seven Sisters. An alternative strategy was needed.

The CARTEL STRATEGY was first proposed by the national bourgeoisie of VENEZUELA, after the successful military led coup of 1948. This coup was precipitated 12 days following an act which imposed 50-50 split of the profits from oil, between Venezuela and the oil companies. After the coup, the new dictatorship, naturally, favoured the interests of the US imperialists, and it now dispensed new major oil concessions to the Oil companies.

Despite this failure, the 50-50 rule became a standard, in any dealings with oil-exporting nations. For instance Aramco (Arabian American Oil Company ) used this formula in Saudi Arabia in 1950  (J.A.Bill, op cit, p. 61). However even this partial retreat, still left considerable super-profits for the Seven Sisters.

The national bourgeoisie of Venezuela recognised, that a key factor in their defeat during prolonged negotiations with the companies, had been the erosion of Venezuela’s selling power by Middle East countries that could produce oil. Oil companies, when they were faced with demands for a fairer distribution of profit, simply expanded production from the Middle East. The leader of the “horse trading” strategy, Perez Alfonzo had:

“Only envisaged an ‘extent ‘ an ‘arrangement’ between a few producing countries to establish, links of solidarity between them, reduce the oil companies capacity for manoeuvring and prevent them from playing one country off against another.”

Statement in Petroleum Weekly, New York May 1 1959 p.19. Cited by Pierre Terzian; “OPEC : the inside story.” London 1985.

The national bourgeoisie of Venezuela returned to power in 1959 and again took up the cause of combination. Now they had significant support in the Middle East, from the Director of the Permanent Oil Bureau, Mohammed Salman of Iraq. The Permanent Oil Bureau had been set up by the Arab League in 1953. A secret agreement known as the Maadi Pact was concluded at the first Oil Arab Congress in Cairo on 16th April 1959. The reaction to the open Congress session, was frankly sceptical by the oil business:

“Venezuelan delegates arrived with high hopes of lining up Middle East producing states in a front to limit production and prevent further decline in prices, but were finally resigned to the fact that Arabs were more interested in other problems now and that all Venezuelans were supposed to do was to observe.”

Platts Oilgram News, New York; Cited by P.Terzian, Ibid, p.25.

However the secret Maadi Agreement between the UAR, Iraq, Venezuela, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia included the following:

“Agreement was reached … on:

1. Improvement of the oil producing countries participation on a reasonable and equitable basis. The consensus of opinion was that said government should tend to at least a 60-40 formula to be on a par with the recent Venezuelan attitude..and with other countries ..the price structure should be..maintained..any change in prices should be discussed with precedent in time and be approved by all parties concerned.

2. Convenience of arriving at an integration of the oil industry..to ensure stable markets to the producer countries avoiding transfers of gains from one phase of the operations to another, affecting the oil revenue of the governments.

4. Establishment of National Oil Companies that would operate side by side with the existing private companies.”

P.Teerzian. Ibid , p.27-8.

The most energetic of the group, Perez Alfonso, also arranged that the USSR would support the OPEC move. This was important because the Oil companies were constantly citing:

“The USSR’s tariff policy as a pretext to justify their own decision to cut prices.”

P.Terzian, Ibid, p.34.

After initial disbelief, the major oil companies, led by Shell, tested the OPEC resistance, by announcing cuts in the posted prices of oil that they were prepared to pay. The vigorous resistance they met, along with announcements of a meeting of producer nations at Baghdad in September, 1960, induced them to withdraw their price cuts. The Financial Times concluded:

“In effect Shell is.. paying a premium to the Governments of the producing states. What the countries particularly objected to was the fact that they were not consulted.”

Cited, Terzian. Ibid. p.53.

However efforts to involve the Middle East nations in effective combative combination were doomed to failure. This was evident, since combination had to involve both:

Countries that were ruled by comprador bourgeoisie ( eg Saudi Arabia and Iran );

as well as the countries that were ruled by national bourgeoisie (eg Iraq).

The Baghdad Meeting in September 10th 1960 started off very tensely. The Venezuelan nationalists were in the midst of fending off a coup at home. Even more dramatic was the fact that the Iraqi nationalists President Kassem was also besieged by a coup. He arrived for an honourary dinner wearing two revolvers in his belt! But tension rose even further, as it was clear that Iran was going to block any agreements, that would go further than the agreement already reached at Maadi. The Iranian representative Fuad Ruhani said he had been given:

“Very precise instructions from my Government.”

Terzani , Ibid. p.41.

Suddenly on 14th September the Shah sent new instructions to the Iranian team. This agreed to the creation of a permanent organisation. Moreover, the Shah even had a name for it – The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC ).

But this about face indicated a new tack on the part of the Oil Companies.

They now accepted the inevitability of the cartel, but they emasculated it from within.

OPEC was therefore hijacked.

As Perez Alfonso found when he met the directors of the Seven Sisters :

“My impression is that the main companies recognise that the Baghdad Agreement was necessary, or at least inevitable.”

Ibid p.44.

Theoretically the OPEC countries were in a very strong position controlling 82 % of world crude exports. But The Times could accurately see the situation :

“The strength of these producing countries is not as great as might appear.. (There are) two reasons.. the surplus of supply over demand in the world oil market and the divergent interests of the 5 countries concerned, some of who wanted to increase production whilst other sought a reduction.”

The Times 15 September, 1960. Cited by Terzian p.44.

  • Of course, in addition the oil imperialist companies and their nations had the marketing and distribution monopoly.
  • Also they began to exploit other sources of oil.
  • The comprador states were key to the strategy of the oil companies.
  • Saudi Arabia was and is a reactionary state with strong elements of Muslim feudalism.
  • It is a key state representing USA interests in the Middle East.
  • As the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural resources commented:

“The US, by virtue of its commercial oil interests ‘ long standing monopoly over the disposition of Saudi crude, now reinforced by the 1974 conclusion of a “special relationship” embracing economic and military agreements, is very widely regarded amongst its allies and by Arab and Iranians as having secured preferential and near- exclusive access to Saudi oil. Given the extraordinary importance of Saudi oil production to the world generally, the US relationship is considered key to supply security.”

US Senate : ” Access to oil – the USA relationships with Saudi Arabia and Iran.” Washington DC US Government Printing office , Publication No. 95-70. 1977 (p.xi). Cited by Petter Nore and Terisa Turner in : Oil and the class struggle “. London 1980

At critical times the Saudis have refused to allow the OPEC to raise prices in accordance with the demands of the more nationalistic of the OPEC countries such as Iraq and Libya. Saudi Crown Prince Fadh has pretentiously revealed his unwillingness to be an effective member of the cartel:

“My country which possesses the largest oil reserves in the world will not be the cause of a weakening in the capacity of humanity to live in stability and prosperity. In view of this lofty aim, commercial considerations cease to exist and consequently the methods which are used to increase or lower prices will likewise disappear.”

Frankfurter Rundschau. 1 April 1975. Cited by Mohssen Massarrat. The Energy Crisis p.67. in ” Oil and the class struggle” Ed. P.Nore and T.Turner. London, 1981

It is not surprising that:

“Saudi foreign policy consists largely of support for Washington in the Middle East.”

Sunday Times, 5th August 1990. p.12.

Nor is it surprising that given the membership of nations like Saudi Arabia in OPEC, that OPEC would not reflect the interests of the oil producing national bourgeoisie.

As Henry Kissinger commented:

“OPEC was not perceived as a serious cartel.”

Jack Anderson and James Boyd. ” Fiasco. The real story behind the disastrous worldwide energy crisis- Richard Nixon’s “Oilgate”;1983; Toronto;  p.163.

In fact as, the manufactured oil crisis of the 1970’s shows, OPEC was transformed into an agency that performed objectively in the interests of the USA imperialists.

THE PSEUDO OIL “CRISIS” OF THE 1970’s

It is widely believed that it was the pressure of the OPEC countries that led to a dramatic price rise and so called ” oil crisis ‘in the 1970’s. Certainly determined nationalist countries like Libya and Algeria increased the pressure inside OPEC for a price rise.

Though the oil exporting countries had their interest in a price rise, their effectiveness as a cartel has already been shown to be limited, due to the inclusion of “weak” member state such a Saudi Arabia. In reality, the manipulation of oil prices has followed the various requirements of the Seven Sisters, the minor oil companies and the USA monopoly capitalists.

“For the oil companies an increase in the general price of oil was also of great importance, not least because they had seen their distributional share steadily diminish over time..as a result of higher level of taxation by the oil-exporting countries..which was difficult to pass on to the consumer in a situation characterised by a global excess supply.”

Petter Nore and Terisa Turner, Editors;.”Oil and the class struggle”; London 1980, p.72.

The problems of the Major Seven Sisters, were compounded by the competition they now faced:

“Due to a three fold challenge.. the rise of the independents following the US import quota system in 1958; the emergence of important state oil companies in Europe like Italy’s E.N.I. which tried to outbid the concessions offered by the majors; and the increase in Soviet oil exports to the West.. resulting in a drop in the profit per barrel for the Majors. The reduction was only partly overcome by a sharp increase in total production. Profit rates for US direct foreign investment in the petroleum industry dropped from a 30 % return in 1955 to 14.7 % in 1963 and an all time low of 11.1 % in 1969.”

Nore; p.72 Ibid.

Added to this was the high cost of extraction from areas such as Alaska and the North Sea. This posed a problem for the major Oil companies. The oil crisis was “manufactured”, to raise the available oil profits, up to a point where it would become economically viable to begin extraction from the oil shales of the USA. This entailed the profit interests of both the major oil companies and their smaller rivals who were not in the cartel known as the Seven Sisters.

At this time despite the apparent oil shortage, the oil companies had stocked up supplies, in many tankers that lay outside New Jersey in the midst of the so called shortage as prices were driven up by the companies.

This tactic was portrayed as the work of the OPEC cartel.

But the general line was clearly supported by the oil companies :

“Though the oil companies created the appearances of fighting OPEC tooth and nail..they recognised that their best hopes of future profitability..depended upon successful cooperation..thus OPEC/oil companies cooperation became a fact of life..with the positive encouragement of the USA.”

P.R.Odell. “Oil and World power” London , 1980. p. 215.

But the USA Government representing the combined monopoly capital had its’ own reasons for seeing a price rise:

“From 1970 onwards the US clearly pressed for an increase in the general price of crude oil.”

Nore, Ibid, p.73.

THE USA INTERESTS IN THE RAISING THE PRICE OF OIL REVOLVED AROUND THREE MAIN ISSUES

Firstly, both the leading sections of American capital had major profit interests tied up in raising the price of oil. The big Northern Yankee financiers were involved with the oil Major Seven Sisters companies. The Cowboys who represented newer capital reliant on oil and arms, formed the smaller independent oil companies.

Secondly, the USA wanted to ensure a renewed attempt at peace – on their terms of an acceptable status quo to them – in the Middle East:

“The USA.. sought to provide stability..as basis for a renewed effort to find a political solution to the Middle East conflict, and argued that higher revenues and a greater degree of economic certainty for the Arab oil-producing nations would, make it easier for them, to accept a compromise in the their dispute with Israel.”

Odell , Ibid , p. 215.

But Thirdly this manoeuvre was also aimed at the competitors of American imperialism as recognised by the Economist:

“The Economist 7th July, 1973; under the title ” The Phoney oil crisis “voiced the suspicion that the US had capitulated only to readily to the OPEC demands for an increase in oil prices because such an increase would slow down the Japanese economy. Japanese exports were out-competing American demands at the time and its economy was more vulnerable to rises in the price of oil than any other nation.”

Cited by Petter Nore p.86; ” Oil and the Class struggle .” London, 1980.

As Odell points out:

“The USA was fed up with a situation in which the rest of the industrialised world had access to cheap energy. It deliberately initiated a foreign policy which aimed at getting oil – producing nations’ revenues moving strongly up by talking incessantly to the producers about their low oil prices and by showing them the favourable impact of much higher prices. It was of course assured..that these cost increases, plus further increases designed to ensure higher profit levels for the companies, were passed on to the European and Japanese energy consumers, so eliminating their energy cost advantage over their competitors in the USA..the actual timing..coincided with unusual circumstances..namely a strong demand for most oil products in most markets in a period of general economic advance, a shortage of oil refinery capacity in Europe and Japan and a temporary scarcity of tankers.”

Odell p. 215-216.

GERMAN INDUSTRY HAD ALREADY CAUSED PROBLEMS FOR THE MAJOR COMPANIES BY FLIRTING WITH THE RUSSIANS. USA GOVERNMENT PRESSURE HAD BEEN REQUIRED TO PREVENT FURTHER EROSION OF THE EUROPEAN MARKETS:

“In 1969 only the intervention of the Federal West German Government under severe pressure from the USA, thwarted an agreement between the Soviet Union and the Bavarian state government. Had this agreement gone through, the Soviet Union would have been in a very strong position to put in branch pipelines to the other countries..of Western Europe.. Soviet oil exports to Western Europe.. steadily increased form only 3 million ton in 1955 to over 40 million ton in 1969.. Under 1978 conditions the amount of oil in Western Europe is supply rather than demand constrained.”

Odell, Ibid; p.58-60.

In this context, in 1991, it was of significant aid to the USA imperialists that the USSR was then, unable to exploit its’ oil reserves, owing to the enormous dislocation in the state:

“Production from Siberian oil fields is dropping so rapidly that the Soviet Union, the world’s largest petroleum producer may begin to import expensive world price crude within 2 years Kremlin officials say..”We are talking catastrophic failure here ” one Western diplomatic observer said.. oil exports have been the Soviet Unions’ primary source of hard currency income, and the only bright spot..in trade,..the troubles appear to be related to a decaying infrastructure, including an inefficient distribution system vulnerable to sabotage. Production from the giant Tyumen oil filed of Western Siberia, which supplies about half of the country’s oil for export has dropped 10% since 1988, Pravda said ..former allies in Central and Eastern Europe are being hit the hardest with cuts of 30-50 %. The cuts, coupled with the significantly higher prices Moscow began charging Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia on January 1st are hobbling economic reforms in these countries.”

Jeff Sallot; In “Globe and Mail”; Toronto; Business Report; Feb 12th 1991.

The USA Senate recognised the oil demand in Europe and Japan as a vital issue for the general policy to be followed by the USA in the Middle East:

“One can argue that while the oil benefit is nowhere near so great to the US as it is to the European and Japanese importers, for which it is vital, the US relationship with Iran and Saudi Arabia serves the collective security interests of its allies in helping assure a continuous and adequate flow of oil.. But.. will the US government come to affect the destination of these 7 million barrels per day, exercising its influence through the Americans oil companies? Or will the companies be able to continue to supply, unhampered by considerations other than the meeting of their contractual commitments?”

US Senate Cited by P.Noore and T. Turner, Ibid p. 9.

THIS OIL SAGA WILL BE BROUGHT UP TO DATE SHORTLY

The Syrian National Revolution – The Role of Khaled Bakdash or “Bagdash”

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

December 2002; based on an article of 1996

Contents:
Introduction – Pan-Arabism in the Middle East
(i) Syria – The place, peoples and religion
(ii) Early History of Syria to the Ottoman Empire
(iii) The End of the Ottoman Empire and the French Colonial Yoke
(iv) The Post-Independence Economy
(v) What Were The Class Forces of Syria?
(vi) The Ba’th Party and the Ba’th Arab Socialist Party
(vii) The Egyptian Modification of Ba’th Ideology – Nasserism
(viii) The Syrian Communist Party
(ix) The Syrian CP, the Ba’th and the United Arab Republic
(x) The Syrian CP and the Khruschevite Revisionists

Introduction – Pan-Arabism in the Middle East

As Comrade Bland pointed out in his analysis of Sultan-Galiyev, the dubious attractions of “Muslim Nationalism,” were a pit-fall for communists in Muslim dominated countries. Bakdash – from his initial revolutionary phase to his later revisionist phases, was closely involved with the question of the relationship between bourgeois nationalism in the Middle East, and communism.

The English historian Patrick Seale writes:

“The prophet of Syrian (In fact “greater Syrian” ) nationalism was Antun Sa’ada… His bitterest opponent was the Communist leader Khalid Bakdash, an eloquent Kurd who had steered the chequered fortunes of the Syrian party since 1930.”

Seale, Patrick, “Asad. The Struggle For the Middle East”; London; 1988; p.26.

However, Marxist-Leninists examining Bakdash’s views, would have to concede that he was the engineer of the revisionist disembowelment of the most advanced Arab communist party.

Sa’da was the founder of the Syrian National Party, and represented the regional Syrian based bourgeoisie who wanted an undivided Greater Syria, rather than the more ambitious Pan-Arabists.

“Pan-Arabism” swept the Middle East, partly in response to the rising Zionist tide. As early as June 1913, the First Arab Congress was held in Paris (Walter Laquer “A History of Zionism”; New York; 1972; p.224). Later at the Pan Arab Congress of Jerusalem December, 1931, held simultaneously with the General Islamic Congress, an ‘Arab Covenant‘ was proclaimed. Hourani uses this as a “standard definition of the aims of the nationalists”:

“(i) The Arab lands are a complete and indivisible whole, and the divisions of whatever nature to which they have been subjected are not approved or recognized by the Arab nation.
(ii) All efforts in every Arab country are to be directed towards the single goal of their complete independence, in their entirety and unified ; and every idea which aims at limitation to work for local and regional politics must be fought against.
(iii) Since colonization is, in all its forms and manifestations, wholly incompatible with the dignity and highest aims of the Arab nation, the Arab nation rejects it and will combat it with all its forces.”

Hourani A.K. “Syria and Lebanon. A Political Essay”; London 1968; p. 114.

The main tenets of this proclamation were to live on, in the form of the Ba’th Party, and in Nasserism and the Wahd movement. An increasingly urgent problem played a role in side-tracking the main goal of Arab liberation. This was the Zionist presence in Palestine. In September, 1937, the Pan-Arab Congress of Bludan in Syria, organized by the Syrian Committee for the Defence of Palestine, which passed:

“a number of resolutions in regard to the solution of the Palestinian problem and stated that the adoption of the policy embodied in these resolutions would be regarded as a condition of friendly relations between the Arab peoples and the British Empire”

Hourani Ibid; p.114-5.

However the establishment of the state of Israel continued a destruction of bourgeois nationalist dreams. It became increasingly likely that only lesser goals would be achieved. This article examines the narrowing focus of Arab nationalism, as it played out in Syria.

Following the enforced departure of France as an overt occupying imperialist presence in 1946, the French adopted a pattern of disguised neo-colonial relations. France took over Syria at a time when the British dominance over the Middle East was adequate to push France into a subordinate imperialist position, while Britain waited to see how it would fight off the USA interests in the area.

(i) Syria – The place, peoples and religion

The ancient idea of a ‘bilad al-Sham’ – The “Lands of Damascus”, was built on the premise  that there was a distinct Syrian entity. The so-called “Natural Syria” was vast – extending from Taurus mountains in the North, to the Western Mediterranean shores, the Eastern Euphrates, and the Arabian Southern deserts. As such, it was frequently divided up during the centuries.

Later, Syria was known under the French Mandate rule, as both Syria and Lebanon being part of one administrative area (with Latakia and Jebel Druze) from 1925 to 1936. Syria as a term, refers to the Syrian Republic formed in 1936, from Syria, Jebel Druze and Laakia (also known as the State of the Alawis).

Syria ranks fourth in population in the 15 countries usually considered to be a part of the “Middle East” extending between Libya and Afghanistan (excluding these two countries); eighth in gross domestic product, fourth in size of military force, and sixth in rate of growth of GDP. (Ramet, Pedro “The Soviet-Syrian Relationship Since 1955- A Troubled Alliance”; Boulder USA; 1990; p. 6).

The population is largely of the Muslim religious faith, and Arab speakers formed 85% of the population in 1946.  Although a Christian Maronite minority (taking its name from a 5th Century Syrian hermit) was always significant in number, as were other minorities. The population by the time of the French Mandate 1920-1946 was made up of:

Sunnis (60% of the total population); ‘Alawis 11.5%; Druze 3.0 %; Ismaílis 1.5%; Christians 9.9%; Non-Arabs (Kurds 8.5%; Armenians 4.2%; plus small numbers of Circassians and Jews etc; (See Malik Mufti: “Sovereign Creations- Pan-Arabism & Political Order in Syria & Iraq”; Cornell; 1966; p.45).

When Mohammed died (632 BC), as the head – supposedly appointed by God – of both temporal and religious parts of the Muslim world, a crisis of leadership was precipitated. This engulfed all the expansionist desert Arabs who had embraced Islam. They solved it be appointing a temporal and religious head of the Muslim world, as a “deputy” – the Caliph, or Khalif:

“Islam as an expansionist ideology began during the lifetime of Mohamed, who made several unimportant expeditions outside the desert of the Arabian peninsula, The real expansion and invasions were to come after the death of Mohammed from the caliphs, or his “representatives”, the heads of or leaders of Moslem communities.”

“Hoxha Enver, “The Glorious past of Peoples Cannot be Ignored”; Written 1983; In “Reflections On the Middle East”; Tirana 1984; Toronto N.D.; p. 469.

“The death of Mohammed … (led to).. a constitutional crisis… The crisis was met by the resolute action of three men: Abu Bakr, Úmar, and Abu Ubaida who by a kind of coup d’état imposed Abu Bakr on the community as the sole successor of the prophet… with the title of Khalifa or “Deputy,” and his election marks the inauguration of the great historic institution of the Caliphate”

Lewis Bernard, “The Arabs in History”; New York 1966; p. 50-1.

Sunni are adherents of the sunnah (practice) of Mohammed alone whose sayings (hadith) form the Holy Words. They are the largest grouping of Muslims, and are themselves divided into sects. The most important of these is the Wahhabi sect largely based in Central Arabia, and headed by the Ibn-Saud dynasty of what is now Saudi Arabia. The Wahabis are named after a jurist of the area of Najd, called Ábd al-Wahhab (1703-1791). During the period of Ottoman expansion, he founded a sect that:

“Was based on a rigid anti-mystical Puritanism. In the name of a pure primitive Islam of the first entry he denounced all subsequent accretions of belief and ritual as superstitious innovation,” alien to pure Islam. … The conversion to the Wahhabi doctrine of the Najdi emir Muhammed ibn Su-ud gave the sect a military and political focus.. spreading by conquest over most of central Arabia wresting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina from the Sharifs who ruled them in the Ottoman name… (till-Ed) 1918, when an invading Turco-Egyptian army sent by Muhammad Ali the pasha of Egypt broke the power of the Wahhabi Empire and confined them to its native Najd”

Lewis Bernard, “The Arabs in History”; New York 1966; p. 161.

The ‘Alawis [meaning followers of ‘Ali] are members of the Shi’i  (Or Shi’ia) Muslim sect; as indeed are the Druzes (originating from Egypt) and the Isma’ilis. The Shi’ia trace their roots to the 8th century, when ‘Ali the Prophet Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law – was – as the claim goes –  robbed of his inheritance by the first three Caliphs. The Shi’ites also claim that ‘Ali was granted a divine essence, making them ‘infidels’ to the Sunni Muslim orthodoxy. The materialist reality underlying the Shiía sect was a factional grouping based on the claims of Ali to the Caliphate.

In present day Syria, the Alawi are concentrated in the mountainous areas. Previously, they tended to be dominated by the Sunni or the Christian-Maronites.

The various divisions of sects played a role in preventing a united ‘national’ identity. Colonising powers used the minorities in a divide and rule strategy. The Sunnis were closely linked to the Turkish rulers of the Ottoman Empire, and oppressed the ‘Alawis and the other minorities. The French reversed the preferences:

“In Turkish times the Sunni Muslim had been the privileged community, growing rich on ‘Alawi labour….(who) could be expected to be ground down by the Sunni or Christian merchant, money-lender or landowner….But….in the early 1920’s the French gave the ‘Alawi privileges….”

Seale P: “Asad – The Struggle for the Middle East”; Ibid; p.17.

“France tried to pit all of Syria’s minority communities against the Sunni Arabs, who constituted the core of its traditional political elites;”

Malik Mufti; “Sovereign Creations- Pan-Arabism & Political Order in Syria & Iraq”; Cornell; 1966; p. 45.

(ii) Early History of Syria – To the Ottoman Empire

Being at the intersection of the Mediterranean and India and the Far East – Syria was always subject to international influences and trade. Its peoples were initially Arabs from the South, who brought with them Semitic influence – but they then intermingled with invaders from central Asia and Anatolia (Hourani A.H.: “Syria & Lebanon- A Political Essay”; London 1968; pp.11-13).

Historic Syria was dominated first by the Semitic tribes such as the Phoenicians. Later waves of invaders included the Egyptians, Assyrians, the Hittites, Persians, under Alexander the Great – the Greeks and later by the First Century BC – the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire introduced Christianity. But Christianity gave way to Islam in Syria, during the course of the Persian-Roman wars in the 3rd Century AD.

Although the Byzantine Empire tried to hold onto Syrian territories, by 633 the Arabs from the Egyptian peninsula took it by war. A Moslem Government was established. It became a central part of the Moslem empire, under the Umayyad Caliphate of Mu’awiya in 661. Till the 8th century, the Caliphate territories extended from Spain to Morocco to Central Asia. As the Abbassi Dynasty took control of Syria, its fortunes waned under the pressure of repeated wars with the Byzantine Empire.

Ultimately this allowed the Mameluke Sultans of Egypt – led initially by Baibars to dominate Syria. By 1516, Syria was ruled as a single unit by Egypt, from the seat of Damascus. This was the first modern time that this had occurred since the rule of the Umayyad caliphs 1200 years earlier. However the Ottoman Turks easily displaced the waning Egyptian Mamelukes in 1516, and the Osmani Sultans became the Caliphs.

Upon the end of Egyptian rule, bilad al-Sham (Syria) reverted to the Ottoman Empire, and became sub-divided into provinces. These were not ‘national divisions’; or even ‘natural division’ but administrative divisions facilitating rule over the provinces. As the Ottoman Empire was challenged by Ibrahim Pasha (son of Muhammed Ali a vassal to the Ottoman Sultan) of Egypt, a modernisation began in Syria. A central government was formed with a measure of modern progress such as education. But Ibrahim Pasha then attempted to invade Constantinople in 1839, and the Great Powers intervened. They ‘propped up the Sick Man of Europe’ – the Sultanate of Constantinople.

The Ottoman Empire was an Oriental Despotic form of state; broadly speaking it was the equivalent of feudalism in the West. Its characteristic was the almost complete absence of private property in land. As Marx characterised it:

“Bernier rightly considered the basis of all phenomena in the East – he refers to Turkey, Persia, and Hindustan – to be the absence of private property in land. This is the real key to the Oriental heaven”

Letter Marx to Engels; 2 June 1853; In Collected Works; Volume 39; Moscow; 1983; p.334 (See Appendix 1 to this article).

“The absence of landed property is indeed the key to the whole of the East. Therein lies its political and religious history. But how to explain the fact that oriental never reached the stage of landed property not even the feudal kind? This is I think largely due to the climate, combined with the nature of the lands more especially the great stretches of desert extending from the Sahara right across Arabia, Persia, India and Tartary to the highest of the Asiatic uplands. Here artificial irrigation is the first prerequisite for agriculture, and this is the responsibility either of the communes, the provinces or the central government. In the East, the government has always consisted of 3 departments only; Finance (pillage at home); War (pillage at home and abroad); and travaux (i.e. works –Ed) publics, provisions for reproduction”;

Letter Engels to Marx; 6 June 1853; In Collected Works; Volume 39; Moscow; 1983; p.339.

(iii) The End of the Ottoman Empire and French Colonial Yoke

By the end of the 19th Century, the break-up of the Ottoman Empire was eagerly expected by the imperialists. After several secret organizations had struggled for years, in 1908, some young reformers led by a small bourgeoisie forced a parliamentary system. In 1913 the Committee of Union and Progress, led by the army officer Enver Pasha, took power in the seat of the Ottoman Empire at Constantinople, finally un-seating the Sultanate.

The Sultanate of the Ottoman Empire, a dictatorship based on Oriental Despotism was forced into a democratic reform. At the opening phases of the First World War, Enver Pasha led Turkey into an alliance with Germany. This was sealed in the secret Treaty of Berlin July 28. By its provisions, the Ottoman Empire would observe strict neutrality and Germany would defend Ottoman territory in case of external threats.

Within a few months, Turkey’s secret dealings with Germany had been revealed. Following incidents where German cruisers evaded British ships to obtain safe berths in Turkish waters, Britain declared war on Turkey. As the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill initiated war actions against Turkey on November 1 1914 War was formally declared by Britain only on November 5th. Churchill noted that with the Ottoman Empire as an enemy, its territories were free to being divided up much easier.

As the war progressed, the Allied forces blundered into the defeat at Gallipoli. This invasion between 25 April 1915, to 17 November 1915, left half a million dead. British command had led an Allied force with a large Australian contingent, was defeated by the Turkish forces commanded by Mustapha Kemal – later to be known as Attaturk.

Naturally at the end of the First World War, the victorious super powers led then by the Allied powers, in particular Britain and France – took the opportunity to divide up the Ottoman territories. In 1914:

“At the end of a fevered expansionist movement that was rooted in the 1880’s, France had built the second largest colonial empire in the world, an empire of more than 10 million square kilometers, with nearly 50 million inhabitants.”

Thobie J, Meynier G, Coquery-Vidrovitch C, Ageron C-R: “Histoire de La France Coloniale 1914-1990”; 1990; p.7.

France had up to then, no significant colony in the Middle East. This did not deter its pretensions in the area, based on the rather tenuous, and distant history of the Crusades:

“During the Crusades, French knights won kingdoms and built castles in Syria….In 1914…there were still Frenchmen who regarded Syria as properly part of France. France maintained close contacts with one of the Christian communities along the Mount Lebanon coast of Syria, and French shipping, silk, and other interests eyed commercial possibilities….The moment that the Ottoman Empire entered the war, French officials in the Middle East therefore formulated plans to annex Turkey’s Syrian provinces. Frances’ Minster in Cairo and Consul General in Beirut immediately joined in urging their government to invade the Lebanese coast”

Fromkin, David: “A Peace to End All Peace. The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East”; New York; 1989; p. 94.

Meanwhile, in Britain manoeuvring had also begun. The De Bunsen Committee was appointed by Prime Minister Asquith to advise on polices post-war in the Middle East; the proceedings were dominated by Sir Mark Sykes a Tory MP. It reported five autonomous provinces should be created in the decentralised Ottoman Empire: Syria, Palestine, Armenia, Anatolia and Jazirah-Iraq.

During the war, Lord Kitchener Minister of War in the British Cabinet, proposed a pact to the Sherif of Mecca – Hussein. Kitchener’s plan was to make the Sherif Caliph, thereby displacing both religious and temporal power away from Constantinople to Mecca – Arabia proper. This would appeal to the majority of the Ottoman Empire who were Arabs, yet ruled by the 40% of Turkish speakers – by the Ottoman Empire. In return Hussein was to assist with the overthrow of Turkish rule:

“Kitchener’s telegram … sent by Grey at the Foreign Office, told the British Agency (in Cairo-Ed) that Storr should reply to Abdullah Hussein that (son of Sherif Hussein of Mecca-Ed):

” If the Arab nation should assist England in this war that has been forced upon us by Turkey, England will guarantee that no internal intervention take place in Arabia, and will give the Arabs every assistance again foreign aggression”…. In other words if the Arabian leaders freed their peninsula from the Sultan and declared their independence, Britain would help to protect them against any invasion from abroad.”

Fromkin Ibid; p. 102-3.

This promisory note was to lead to serious future conflicts. Apart from anything else, British calculations that the Mecca Sharif Hussein dynasty (the Hashemites) would be given the allegiance of all Arabs was mistaken. It ignored the ambition of the Wahabi sect led by the Sunni Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud, based in Central Arabia.

Nonetheless, the illusions of Britain’s backing took hold of Sharif Hussein somewhat. An illustration of this was in the demands he made, in what came to be known as the Damascus Protocol. This demanded an independent Arab kingdom under his rule. This was presented by Hussein to the British command at Cairo in summer 1915. The British High Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon – was pressurised by Kitchener to write accepting the demands of Hussein (See Fromkin Ibid; p. 178). This led to the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence. In these McMahon used duplicitous wording, to the effect that Hussein should understand a British commitment towards Palestine. The British imperialist had understood that they would have to:

“pay a price… to obtain France’s consent to the making of promises to Hussein”

Fromkin Ibid; p. 182.

Accordingly McMahon forced Hussein to relinquish claim to Syria, Lebanon, Basra and Baghdad, leaving only Arabia. This would mean negotiation with other contenders such as Ibn Suad (See Fromkin; Ibid; p.183).  Hussein explicitly rejected this “offer” – stating that:

“Any concession designed to give France or any other Power possession of a single square foot of territory in those parts is quite out of the question”

Fromkin, Ibid; p. 185.

In reality he had little other choice, as the Ottoman Empire Young Turks were about to depose him. The British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey gave the signal:

“Not to worry about the offers being made by Cairo as “the whole thing was a castle in the air which would never materialise”

Cited Fromkin Ibid; p. 185.

Hussein then insisted that there could be no Arab uprising against the Ottomans without an Allied landing on the Syrian coast. This spurred an imperialist presence in the Middle East.

This frames the  talks between imperialist France and Britain. France, represented by the son of an African French colonist – Francois Georges Picot and Britain – represented by Tory M.P. Sir Mark Sykes. These two simply secretly divided Syria up, under the secret provisions of theSykes-Picot Agreement of February 1916. Partition kept the Allies united. Palestine was to be “placed under an international regime”- to be determined after “consultation” with all parties involved – including (sic) other interested allies such as Russia and Italy!

Such negotiations between “Allies” were un-trustworthy. In the meantime a secret French-Russian pact between the French Prime Minister Aristide Briand, and the Russian foreign ministry, it was “decided” that the post-war administration of Palestine was to be French controlled.

Hussein tried for as long as possible to temporise, but when the Ottoman Young Turks discovered his plots, they mobilised. To circumvent this, Hussein “declared” war, leading to the pathetic Arab Uprising in June 1916. It did not ignite any reaction, and the Arab tribes largely ignored the call. Simmering continued. However, in 1920, the Battle

Thus ensued the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The United Nations “awarded” the French the Mandate over Syrian and Lebanon. France ‘took’ the North , which became the republics of Syria and Lebanon. Meanwhile in the South, Britain seized Palestine and Transjordan. This,  occurred despite the fact that the population itself, had made clear its own desire for independence:

“The inhabitants of the whole region made it clear that they wanted natural Syria to be independent and undivided: In July 1919 an elected body calling itself the Syrian National Congress repudiated the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration and demanded sovereignty status for a united Syria-Palestine.”

Seale; Ibid; p. 15.

In the interim, an Arab administration led by Amir Faysal established itself in Damascus. The contradictions between the European waning imperialisms of France and Britain were set against the rising imperialism of the USA. Even the USA led King-Crane Commission visited the area and confirmed the popular view. But the USA was as yet unable to effectively challenge the hegemony of the USA in the area. Thus in 1920, the European powers were given Mandates over the new states carved out of the former Ottoman provinces. Although Faysal fought against this both politically and then in armed struggle, the troops of French General Geraud entered Damascus in 1920. At the Battle of Maisaloun, they decisively defeated Faisal.

The French dismissed Faysal and set up a classic colonial state. Their Mandate, made the French Government the ‘intermediate’ between its High Commissioner and the League of Nations. On the principle of divide and rule, they quickly proceeded to create new states, and to foster the remaining divisions between people of the former bilad al-Sham.

They created out of Syria a newly detached State of Greater Lebanon; by detaching Tyre, Sidon, Beirut and Tripoli, the Baqa’ Valley and the Sh’i region of North Palestine. These were attached to Mount Lebanon – the fief of Maronite compradors of France.

Then in 1921, France yielded to Turkey, large parts of Aleppo, and Alexandretta-Antioch.

A further administrative manoeuvre divided Syria into four parts: These were the mini-states of Damascus, Aleppo, and the “independent” Alawi mountains and the Druze mountains.

Finally the Northern part of Syria was colonized and further division fostered by encouraging settling by Christians and Kurds. Of course the purpose of all this sub-division of Syria was to ‘ensure’ French hegemony:

“The French fully understood that Syrian nationalist sentiment would be opposed to their rule. This in effect meant the that the Sunnis were their principal antagonists and they thus proceeded to capitalise on the .. Christians, their oldest friends, by creating a new state that stripped Tyre, Sidon, Tripoli, the Baaka valley & Beirut itself from Syria and added them to the Ottoman sanjak (administrative district) of Mount Lebanon the very backbone of Maronite Christianity. Syria was cut off from its finest ports and Damascus … was weakened at the expense of Beirut and the new Christian dominated regime”:

Fisk R; “Pity the Nation – The Abduction of Lebanon”; London 1990; p. 62.

Political parties were only allowed a legal existence in January 1925. At that time, the Peoples Party launched armed struggle. This party had been the first that the French had legalised  ( Ismael T & Ismael J: The Communist Movement in Syria & Lebanon, Gainsville; 1998 p. 12). Within 2 years it was crushed. But, the French remained aware of the depth of feeling, and allowed a national assembly to convene in 1928. But it was soon dissolved, in 1930, by the French. Large popular protests erupted by 1936. This compelled the French Government, under the leadership of the Popular Front Government to enter negotiations with the Syrian nationalists. The Franco-Syrian Treaty of September 1936, called for a Syrian [neo-colonial] ‘independence’ in return for French privilege in trading and military status. The National Bloc was elected to power, but the Second World War supervened. The French suspended the 1930 Constitution by the imposition of martial law (Dilip Hiro: “Inside The Middle East”, London; 1982; p. 42).

“was not a unitary party so much as a working alliance of individuals and groups. It including leading members of important land-owning families… like Hashim al-Atasi, the President… individuals…”

Hourani A.H. “Syria and Lebanon. A Political Essay”; 1968; Beirut; p.191.

In 1943, the British pushed Vichy France, to hold elections in Syria. The National bloc was again elected. Syria declared war on Germany in February 1945, thereby winning a seat at the Founding Conference of the United Nations. France was clearly a faltering imperialist nation. Britain, at that time was still struggling hard to keep the upper hand, against a new insurgent USA imperialism. However, it still had could browbeat the French out of Syria. Britain had foreseen that unless the Syrians were allowed a nominal ‘independence’, the whole Middle East was threatened from the perspective of imperialism.

It was only in April 1946, that the French left Syria as an occupying colonial military power. As the History of Colonial France puts it:

“The Syrian Affair had ushered in decolonisation at the worst possible time for France. It was under the very powerful menace of the British, and suffering from the injuries inflicted by the Arab League, these forced it to abandon its mandate without contradiction.”

Thobie J, Meynier G, Coquery-Vidrovitch C, Ageron C-R: “Histoire de La France Coloniale 1914-1990”; 1990; p.360 (Tr Kumar H).

The Syrian Parliament of the 1943 elections, was deposed by a military coup led by Husni al-Za’im  in March 1949. This was assisted by the debacle of the first Arab-Israali war of 1948 and the defeat of the Syrian army. It was only in 1954, that his successor (Colonel Adib al-Shisakli) was overthrown by a further military coup.

This was precipitated by the United Front meeting at Homs in July 1953, where the National Party, the People’s Party, the Arab-Socialist party, the Ba’th party and the Communist party signed a National Pact to overthrow the Shishakli dictatorship.

At this time, parliamentary democracy was restored. The ensuing poll in September 1954 was the first in the Middle East with full women’s suffrage, and was generally free.

Syria by the time of the French withdrawal in 1946 had been whittled down to 185,190 square kilometers from 300,000 square kilometers in Ottoman times. (See Seale; Ibid; pp14-16). Open colonialism was to be replaced by a neo-colonialism.

(iv) The Post-Independence Economy

The class character of Syria after the war, was that of a neo-colony dominated by French and British interests, with  major feudal remnants. The economy was largely based on peasant based, raw material production, with oppression from the landowners.

The French had developed a comprador base. Since industry was weak in the area, both from previous Oriental Despotism, and the depredations of  Ottoman oppression followed by European imperialism, the representatives of the national bourgeoisie were initially weak.

The French had created a large comprador class by fostering various sections of the ‘Alawis (eg. The Kinj Brothers; the Abbas family); and in Mount Lebanon from 1860 onwards the Maronite Christians; and other landowners throughout the former bilad al-Sham.

Previously, a collective type of farming , known as musha’ had enabled the peasantry to each gain a subsistence living. The plots were periodically re-distributed in order that each family would have turns on the better plots. But following the previous example by the Ottomans from the 1858 Ottoman Land Code, the French drew up a land register. This meant that local notables and tribal shayks were enabled to seize property by legal title.

Under this pillage, comprador owned latifundia were built up. Monied merchants and moneylenders in the cities also became Latifundists. In the process the peasantry was of course expropriated and impoverished to the status of being share-croppers. This meant that they obtained between 25-75% of the crop they worked, depending upon how much they provided in money for seed, and water.

Since as Seale puts it, Syria was a “predominantly agricultural country”, the solution of the misery of the peasant was a major goal for the country’s development. This required a national democratic revolution. The extent of the poor development of industry, and the misery of the people can be seen from the following statistics:

“Syria was a predominantly agricultural country, its backbone being two million peasants out of a then population of about 3.5 million, inhabiting some 5,500 villages built mostly of mud and mostly lacking piped water sewerage electricity tarred roads or any other amenity of modern life… The population was ravaged by disease… In 1951-3, 36% of registered deaths occurred among children under five. National income per head was a mere 440 Syrian lire (US$157), although socials disparities were such that most Syrians earned even less. Outside the two main cities of Damascus and Aleppo electricity was rare, serving fewer than three-quarters of a million people in the whole country. There were only some 13,000 motor vehicles a single port Latakia, and three small railways all Ottoman built and of different gauge.”

Seale; Ibid; p. 44.

By the Second World War and immediately after, a small industrialist class, and its corollary a working class had arisen in cotton and rayon cloth, soap, cement, glass, and matches; and some industrial penetration into the countryside latifundia had also occurred. (Seale Ibid; p. 46).

The French had created several divisions in the area, or had deliberately stoked up older, historic division – these were at the minimum the following:

Divisions of land into arbitrary areas with peasant expropriations; and

Divisions of territory between potentially hostile ‘religious’ divisions (Sunni versus Shi’i Muslim  sects – of the latter being Druzes, ‘Alawis, and Isma’ilis).

But, the class divisions overlay – but sometimes depended upon the above divisions.

(v) What Were The Class Forces of Syria?

These can be characterized with respect to their relations to the ownership of the means of production; and to their relations to the democratic revolution and a subsequent second socialist stage:

1. Those Forces Interested in the Social Revolution
i) The predominant class was the peasant class, the majority of whom were actually share- croppers;
Initially they were led by the Arab Socialist Party (ASP) of Akram al-Hawrani, formed in 1950.
ii) A small working class based mainly in Damascus and Aleppo;
These were initially led and represented by the Communist Party Syria and Lebanon (founded October 1924, admitted Comintern 1928), who ultimately, also gained the leadership of the peasantry. After Syrian territory was divided into Syria and Lebanon, the two parties formed separate organisations in 1930, leaving in Syria the Syrian Communist Party (SCP).

2. The Class Forces Implacably opposed to any phase of National or Social Revolution:
i) The feudal-type latifundia land owners; who were comprador bourgeoisie;
these were led and represented by the French imperialists;
and then later by the so-called pro-“Pan-Syrian” nationalists; Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP – or Parti Populaire Syrien) established by Antun Sa’ada. The Pan-Syrians only wished that the territory of Syria and Lebanon not be divided, and allowed a diversion to offer against the Pan-Arabists. They had established a management hold over the tobacco growers of the mountains, and had a monopoly with the French ‘regie de tabacs’. They were known to be pro-West and anti-communist (See Seale Ibid; p. 49-50).

3. Forces interested in  “national democratic” revolution – but wished to abort the second stage, the socialist revolution.
The petit bourgeoisie, and the peasantry, and at a later stage the small but potentially important national industrialist capitalist class, was represented by the Ba’th Party at first and then by the Arab Socialist Ba’th Party (ASBP).

The industrialists were as always frightened of the arousal of the workers and peasantry. They were at best then ‘vacillating’ allies of the national democratic revolution.

(vi) The Ba’ath Party and the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party

Welding Arab nationalism into a  movement that could make strides against imperialism in reality needs Marxism-Leninism. But nationalists who shied away from revolution, tried to find a different solution. They tried to ignite Arab pride. This involved a mystical Pan-Arabism.

The formation of the Ba’th Party (or Baath) in Syria took place in 1947, led by Michel ‘Aflaq, Salh al-Din Bitar and Wahib al-Ghanim. The concept originated in Syrian intellectuals who upon return to Syria from the Sorbonne in Paris, were dismayed to find themselves treated as ‘colonials’:

“The party was…founded…by two rival schoolmasters, the ‘Alawi from Antioch, Zaki al-Arsuzi, and the Damascene Christian, Michel ‘Aflaq…Zaki al-Arsuzi was a Syrian intellectual from a modest background who in the late 1920s, won a place at the Sorbonne from which he emerged four years later with a philosophy degree and a boundless enthusiasm for French poetry, painting and civilization … Arsuzi … gathered a circle of young followers to whom he explained that the ‘renaissance’ of the Arabs – that is what the word ‘ba’th’ means – was in their grasp.. (but-ed) he came to suffer from delusions” …. In Hama Akram al-Hawrani led a youth movement and …. a lawyer, jalal at-Sayyid, started a boys’ club with a strong nationalist flavour which was to be the first Ba’th party branch in eastern Syria. But of all these youth groups, the most significant for the future was that of Michel ‘Aflaq and Salah al-Din Bitar who, like Arsuzi graduates of the Sorbonne, on their return home to Damascus in 1934 became teachers ….By 1940 ‘Aflaq and Bitar had set up their own study circle … At the start they called their group the Movement of Arab Revival (barakat al-ibya’al-arabi)”

Seale P; Ibid; p. 27 -28

These intellectuals repudiated Marxism, and were explicitly anti-communist. Although the Ba’th movement built on prior sentiments of Syrian nationalism, these had been close to a religious interpretation dominated by the Sunni sect. This alienated other parts of the Muslim Arabs, who consequently did not join in with the national movement:

“In the past, the Arab nationalist movement had always been interwoven with a kind of Sunni Islamism. And the Sunni Arabs, who usually played first fiddle in this movement, assigned in  their Arabism such an important and central role to (Sunni) Islam that heterodox Muslims, let alone Christians, were allotted a secondary place: ‘timid subordinates’ tolerate by (Sunni Arab) ‘superiors.’ In fact, many Sunni Arab nationalists tended to regard members of the Arabic speaking religious minorities as ‘imperfect Arabs’ because they were heterodox Muslims or not Muslims at all. Equally, the religious minorities tended to suspect Arab nationalism as a disguise for unrestrained Sunni ascendancy, similar to the situation that pertained during the Ottoman Empire, the only difference being that Arab rather than Turkish Sunnis now held power.”

Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; p. 17.

The Ba’th ideology was supposed to be secular and it based itself on all Arabs irrespective of sect of Islam, or even of Islam itself. Ba’th means “re-birth” and took the notion as central, to mean the renaissance of the Arab movement, also holding out a promise of “socialism” to “all Arabs“:

“Ba’th ideology had a quite different basis. The Ba’th wanted a united secular Arab society with a socialist system, i.e. a society in which all Arabs would be equal, irrespective of their religion. This did not imply that Islam was of secondary importance to Ba’thist Arabism. In the Ba’thist view Islam constituted an essential and inseparable part of Arab national culture. Other than the Sunni variants of Arabism, however, the Ba’th considered Islam to be not so much an Arab national religion as an important Arab national cultural heritage, to which all Arabs, whether Muslim or Christian, were equal heirs apparent. In the opinion of Michel ‘Aflaq, the Ba’th Party’s ideologist, Christian Arabs therefore need feel in no way hindered from being Arab nationalists:

“When their nationalism awakens in them completely and they regain their original nature, the Christian Arabs will realise that Islam is their national culture with which they should satiate themselves, in order that they may understand and love it and covet it as the most precious thing in their Arabism.’

Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; p. 17.

However, they slipped frequently into defense of the religious aspects – of Islam, stressing the social and progressive aspects, as preached by its religious leaders. To get the full flavour of mystic philosophy of Ba’th philosophy, a portion of their words are in Appendix Two , which contains a short extract from a 1955 speech by a leader Elyas Farah.

An appeal to the entire Arab peoples should have instantly appealed to the nascent bourgeoisie. But its more immediate appeal was to the petit-bourgeois intellectuals, and only to a limited extent to the peasant masses. Intellectuals who were already breaking away from tribal and narrowing holds, saw its potential:

“It was thus only natural that the Ba’th ideology appealed strongly to Arabic-speaking religious minority members, who may have hoped that the Ba’th would help them to free themselves of their minority status and the narrow social frame of their sectarian, regional and tribal ties.’

Finally, the minority members must have been attracted by the idea that the traditional Sunni-urban domination of Syrian political life might be broken by the establishment of a secular socialist political system as envisaged by the Ba’th, in which there would be no political and socio-economic discrimination against non-Sunnis or, more particularly, against members of heterodox Islamic communities.

After the take-over of Hafiz al-Asad in 1970, membership of the struggle for party apparatus was opened to all Syrians, including non-Arabs such as (Arabised) Kurds, Circassians and Armenians.” The number of non-Arabs in an Arab nationalist party like the Ba’th was bound to remain small, however. “

Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; p. 17-8.

The Pan-Arabic vision, was illustrated by the Constitution of the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party, which officially states:

“The Arab nation constitutes a cultural unity. Any differences existing among its sons are accidental and unimportant. They will disappear with the awakening of the Arab consciousness … The national bond will be the only bond existing in the Arab state. It ensures harmony among the citizens by melting them in the crucible of a single nation, and combats all other forms of factional solidarity such as religious, sectarian, tribal, racial and regional factionalism.”

Bashir al-Da’uq ed; Nidal al-Ba’th; Volume 1; Beirut 1970; pp172-6; Cited by:
Van Dam Nicholas: “The Struggle for power in Syria. Politics & Society Under Asad & the Ba’th party”; London 1997; ; p. 15.

Michel Aflaq and Zaki Arsouzi, in 1943, at first formed the Arab Ba’th Party, in secret out of two small groups. But the legal establishment of the party: had to wait till the French military left in 1946 (Dilip Hiro; ” Inside The Middle East”; London 1982; p. 130).

From its formal beginning in 1947, the Ba’th Party intended to cover all countries where Arabs were predominant. It was not restricted to Syria. Its’ programme called for land reform and nationalisation of major parts of the economy, and a constitutional democracy:

“At its first pan-Arab congress in Damascus in April 1947, delegates from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Morocco adopted a constitution and a programme. The party’s basic principles were described as: the unity and freedom of the Arab nation within its homeland; and a belief in the ‘special mission of the Arab nation’, the mission being to end colonialism and promote humanitarianism. To accomplish it the party had to be ‘nationalist, populist, socialist and revolutionary’. While the party rejected the concept of class conflict, it favoured land reform; public ownership of natural resources, transport, and large-scale industry and financial institutions; trade unions of workers and peasants; the cooption of workers into management, and acceptance of ‘non-exploitative private ownership and inheritance’.” It stood for a representative and constitutional form of government, and for freedom of speech and association, within the bounds of Arab nationalism.”

Dilip Hiro; ” Inside The Middle East”; London 1982; p. 130.

The main social base for the Ba’th was not initially the larger sections of the bourgeoisie. They were not yet convinced that the Ba’th would serve their interests. Later, these were to follow the lead of  President Nasser of Egypt:

“In Syria the party drew its initial support either from the urban Sunni (Muslim) and Orthodox (Christian) petty bourgeoisie, or the rural notables, particularly those in the Alawi and Druze areas of Latakia.

‘The party’s social base remained the petit bourgeoisie of the cities, and in the countryside middle landlords with local social prestige,’ notes Tabitha Petran. ‘However, the Baath did not develop much in the cities. Most of the Sunni petit bourgeoisie, even in Damascus, was influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood and later also by President Nasser. But the Ba’th won a following among students and military cadets: future intellectuals and army officers.”

Dilip Hiro; ” Inside The Middle East”; London 1982; p. 130.

A related party was the Arab Socialist Party. This party had a mass peasant base, which was to become vital to the Ba’th:

“The other party to draw support from the military cadets was the Arab Socialist Party, founded in January 1950 by Akram Hourani, a lawyer from Hama. .. At his suggestion the Syrian government had instituted the egalitarian policy of disregarding the social background of the applicants to the only military academy at Horns. Since a military career was the only way a son of a poor or middle peasant could raise his social status, the Horns academy attracted many applicants from this section of society. Given the ASP’s commitment to ending feudalism and distributing government land to the landless, and its leadership of peasant agitations, it was not surprising that it enjoyed considerable following among young cadets and officers.”

Hiro; Ibid; p. 131.

Soon the ASP and the Ba’th Party came together, forming the Arab Socialist Ba’th party (ASBP) in 1953. Its’ leaders, who later forced into exile, were Michel ‘Aflaq, Salh al-Din Bitar, and Akram al-Hawrani.

As discussed they represented the “middle ground” elements consisted of representatives of the petit bourgeoisie who having become educated, were cognizant of the need for progressive modern change. But most of these elements (white-collar urban workers school-teachers, government employees, large sections of the army and the air force etc;) were not of communist mentality. The Ba’th Socialist Party now restated the Ba’th’s founding aims:

“Drawn together by their opposition to the dictatorial regime of Colonel Adib Shishkali, the leaders of the Baath and the ASP decided in September 1953 to form the Arab Baath Socialist Party: this was formally done six months later. The new party re-stressed the Baath’s central slogan: ‘Freedom, unity, socialism’.” 

Hiro, Ibid p.131.

What did “socialism” mean for the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party? It was a very vague and imprecise ideology:

“Socialism, which comes last in the Baath trinity, is less a set of socio-economic principles than a rather vague means of national moral improvement. . . . All they [Ba’thist leaders] said was that socialism was a means of abolishing poverty, ignorance, and disease, and achieving progress towards an advanced industrial society capable of dealing on equal terms with other nations.”

Hiro Ibid; p.131.

The ASP’s peasant base gave the new party a mass following:

“The infusion of the ASP’s predominantly peasant following into the new party gave it the militant mass base that the old urban-based party had lacked. Winning sixteen parliamentary seats in Hama, the ASP’s stronghold, in the general election of September, strengthened the hands of the leftists in the party, and softened its anti-Communist stance, associated with the founders of the pre-merger Arab Ba’th Party.” 

Hiro Ibid; p.131.

(vii) The Egyptian Modification of Ba’th Ideology – Nasserism

Nasserism was  a specific form of Pan-Arabism, led by Gamel Abdul Nasser. Starting in the context of a nationalist movement in Egypt alone, Nasser struck a renewed hope for liberation from imperialism throughout large sections of the Middle East, using instead of Ba’th – the notion of Wahda, to mean ultimately the same. Wahda (Arabic for union) was to be a renewal of Arabic “culture,” under a twentieth century guise of nationalism.

As a strategy of the national bourgeoisie in the Middle East, both these ideologies aimed to contain the mass movement, emphasising the notions of an Arab peoples, denying any class content.

Revisionism in the parties of the entire Middle East had deprived the working class of capable leadership. Nasserism was only able to consolidate itself because the Egyptian Workers Party, the Communist Party, was itself under the influence of the now Soviet-revisionist leaders.

Wahda called for unity of several different struggling national bourgeoisies against imperialism. It hoped to be able to avoid the social revolution, by using nationalistic demagogic slogans. Effectively a class coalition was to be created, of all the national bourgeoisies, and the working classes of the different countries, led by the national bourgeoisie.

That way it was to be hoped, that the singly weak national bourgeoisie together would be strong enough to fight imperialism, and yet still be able to contain the social revolution.

Ultimately Pan-Arabism failed, as there was a single dominant national bourgeoisie, which itself tried to create “comprador” relations with the other weaker national bourgeoisie. This dominant national bourgeoisie was Egyptian and it was led by Nasser. It was successful for a time, as evidenced by the short lived creation of the UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC– consisting of Egypt and Syria. However the dominant Egyptian bourgeoisie, could not suppress the Syrian national bourgeoisie of the coalition. The experiment thus failed.

(viii) The Syrian Communist Party

The party was founded by Yusuf Ibrahim Yazbak, who used the paper al-Sahafi al-T’eh (The Wandering Journalist) to form a base; and Fouad al-Shamli, who after expulsion from Egypt, formed a base for the Lebanese Communist party. The two groups united to form the first Arab communist party:

“After two meetings were held in October 1924 at al-Hadath (a suburb of Beirut), a communist party in Syria and Lebanon was formed on 24 October 1924 by five Arabs (four workers and one intellectual): Yazbak, al-Shamali, Farid Toma, Ilyas Qashami, and Butros Hishimah. They selected Yazbak as secretary general and called the party the Lebanese People’s Party (LPP) as a public front for the communist party. The Supreme Committee of Syndi-cates constituted the main membership of the communist party and its front organization, the Lebanese People’s Party. This was the first organized and constituted communist party in the Arab world.”

Tareq Ismael and Jacqueline Ismael: “The Communist Movement in Syria And Lebanon”; Gainsville Florida, 1998; p. 8.

They contacted the Comintern in 1924, who sent them Joseph Berger of the Palestine Communist Party (PCP). This was only established in 1923, but it was a member of the Communist International (Degras J: Volume 2; p. 95). Berger was assigned the responsibility of “setting up the Lebanese CP”.  But problems rapidly surfaced as he insisted on a PCP hegemony:

“Almost since the very beginning there were signs of major disagreement between the representative of the Palestinian Communist Party, Joseph Berger, and the Lebanese communists in connection with the rejection by those present of the Palestinian guardianship of the Lebanese party. It was obvious that the Palestinian Communist Party wanted the Lebanese party to be a branch, whereas the Lebanese insisted on maintaining their independence. This occurred in spite of the coordination that was going on between members of the party and their counterparts in Palestine during the party’s first decade. The Communist Party of Palestine, which was then almost exclusively Jewish, was at that time the most ideologically mature, organizationally coherent, and genuine communist outpost in the Middle East. Its leaders believed the party to be “the only communist front in the Arab Orient” and considered it their duty “to pay attention to every question … in relation to the revolution … to look into matters relating to Syria, Egypt, and Islamic Congresses in Cairo, Mecca, and elsewhere.”” However, their aspirations were soon curtailed by the Secretariat for Oriental Affairs of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, which in December 1926 “censured” the Palestinian communists for their “ambitious demand to monopolize work in contiguous countries” and considered it to be a malady, harmful for the further expansion of communist influence in the region.”

Ismael and Ismael; Ibid; p. 8.

This attitude of the Palestine CP persisted, as seen in the 1929 Comintern discussion on the revolution in Arabistan. This forms Appendix 3 (See: Comintern on Arabistan).

The party put forward a short term programme including labour demands, and

“promotion of Lebanese industry agriculture and trade” and nationalisation; and control of religious endowments by public agencies”

(Ismaels Ibid; p. 10-11).

In 1925, an Armenian organisation (Spartacus League) initiated contacts, and they fused on May Day to form the Communist Party of Syria and Lebanon (CPSL). The first Central Committee also included a representative of the Palestine CP – Jacob Tepper (Heikal M; “The Sphinx and the Commissar”; New York; 1978; p. 41).

In 1926 however, the Oriental Secretariat Executive Committee of the Communist International, placed the party under the supervision of the Palestine CP, countermanding the prior Lebanese decision (Ismael and Ismael; Ibid; p.14). At the 6th Congress of the Communist International in September 1928, the CPSL took part.

During the French mandate, the Syrian CP (SCP) legally functioned, though suffered harassment such as the banning of its paper – al-Insaniya (Mankind – or Humanity).

At the time of partition of Greater Syria, the CPSL strongly objected. In 1930, it emerged from secrecy to become public (Ismaels Ibid; p.17). Its first full programme was published in 1931. 

The programme called for the national liberation of Syria and Lebanon and a democratic revolution to include land reform and abolition of feudalism.

Khalid Bakdash joined the party in 1930, recruited by al-Shamali. Promoted to the Central Committee in mid-1931, he was sponsored by Artin Madoyan. Within six months he had ensured al_Shamali’s expulsion – on:

“unsubstantiated and specious allegations that he had connections with the Security”

Ismaels Ibid; p.20.

Six months later, Bakdash became the party Secretary-general in early 1932, and went on to translate the Communist Manifesto in 1933 into Arabic. He was given further training in Moscow, and there, was made the permanent representative of Arab communist parties in 1934. Although the Comintern rejected the formation of a federation of Arab communist parties, on the grounds of security, the CPCL was accorded in effect the guardianship of the region.

The CPSL supported the French Popular Front government and hoped this would led to the independence of Syria.  During this time, the first legal organ of the Syrian CP was allowed – Sawt-al-Sha’b (People’s voice). However the SCP remained small, in the range of 200 members, rising to 2000 by 1939. In the mid-1930’s an internal purge was undertaken of those calling for collaboration with Arab Nationalists (Ramet, Pedro: “The Soviet Syrian Relationship Since 1955 – A Troubled Alliance”; Boulder; 1990; p.65.).

On the declaration of war on the USSR, the CPSL came to the aid of the Allied efforts against fascism. But during the war, significant steps towards downplaying the revolution were taken. In the elections of August 1943, the CPSL declared:

“We assure the national capitalist , the national factory owner, that we do no look with envy or malice on his national enterprise. On the contrary, we desire his progress and vigorous growth. All that we ask is the improvement of the conditions of the national worker. We assure the owner of land that we do not and shall not demand the confiscation of his property.. All that we ask is kindness towards the peasant and the alleviation of his misery”

Ismaels Ibid; p. 32.

While it is correct to fight for a national democratic revolution – such promises violate the meaning of a principled united front. Similarly, Bakdash was prepared to accept the leadership of the National Bloc. Bakdash went so far as to state that the CPSL was ‘a party of national liberation’:

“above all, and before ever consideration, a party of national liberation, a party of freedom and independence.”

Ismaels Ibid; p. 33.

And he traced the attraction to the USSR to a nationalist perspective:

“We approach this [issue of relation with the USSR] as patriots and as Arabs… not because the Soviet Union has a particular social system”

Ismaels Ibid; p. 33.

It can be concluded that already as early as 1945, Bakdash was a revisionist.

In 1943, Bakdash reversed the whole prior policy of the CPSL and assisted the goals of the French colonists and future neo-colonists by splitting the party into separate organisations for Syria and for Lebanon. This decision took place at the national Congress of 1943 held in Beirut. Its grounds were contradictory – arguing that firstly the “national movement in Lebanon was less developed than in Syria,” and that “democracy is more deeply rooted in Lebanon than in Syrian. where the feudal landlords still continue to rule” (Ismaels Ibid; p.35).

The relations with the French CP were one of close liaison – if not instruction. Since, in the post Independence year of 1947 – the new Syrian government again banned the CP – the two sections of Lebanon and Syria amalgamated again, until 1958.

Since its inception the Syrian CP had been anti-Zionist. However with the revisionist inspired support of the diplomatic corps of the USSR, the USSR vote at the United Nations for the creation of Israel, led the Syrian CP to reverse itself. (The revisionist manoeuvres underlying this are described in Alliance 30).

As a result of this the party rapidly lost public support (Ismaels Ibid; p.39). Bakdash refused to tolerate criticism of this within the party, which was purged. At the Central Committee meeting of 1951, he reasserted control. At this juncture, Bakdash re-discovered the injunction of Stalin to maintain a “complete freedom to carry out its political and organisational activity” within a United Front” (Ismaels Ibid; p.43). He also correctly reasserted that the strategic aim at that time, was the democratic national liberation. As a result of these steps, party support ws re-built.

In the 1954 general election, in Damascus Khalid Bakdash became the first Communist deputy to be elected, his margin was 11,000 votes. This indicated a popular respect for the Communist Party. (Mohamed Heikal “The Sphinx and the Commissar”; New York; 1978; p. 48).

This suggests that the Syrian CP was following correct strategy and tactics at this stage. Indeed Bakdash declared in 1955, in parliament, an unequivocally Marxist-Leninist viewpoint:

“We, the communists, always announced, and repeat today, that the center of our policy is to find meeting points, not disagreements, with all true nationalists…. Our program in this national democratic lib-eration stage that our country is now experiencing is crystal clear: to strengthen the foundations of independence and sovereignty … ; to participate in strengthening world peace; and to challenge imperialist conspiracies;… to spread democracy and strengthen it; to liberate our economy and work to improve it; to reform our agriculture; to raise the standard of living of workers, peasants and all toilers. After the achievement of national democratic liberation, we open the door to a higher stage of socialism … scientific socialism admits that the road of each nation toward socialism must be consistent with the character-istics of each nation and with its historic evolution, economic conditions and the other national specificities of the society … this is our program, and these are our grand aims. Show me where these conflict with the interests of Syria.”

(Ismaels Ibid; p.47).

At the same elections, the Arab Ba’th Party also won several seats. They were cooperating with the Syrian CP in the control of the streets (Hiro Ibid; p. 131).

The correct policy, was indeed to move from the first stage towards the second stage of the National democratic liberation struggle – for socialism. Yet one year after, after the USSR 1956 20th Party Congress, Bakdash again steered the party towards a more total emphasis on purely national goals rather than a conscious movement to the second stage.

(ix) The Syrian CP (SCP), the Ba’th and the United Arab Republic

By 1957, the Syrian party was one of the strongest in the Middle East. At the same time, the  alliance with the Ba’ath party, was stronger than it had ever been. The coalition between the SCP and the Ba’ath, proceeded to expel American diplomats, sign arms agreements with Moscow, and appoint a member of the Syrian CP (General Afif el-Bizri) as Chief of staff – all in August 1957 (Mohammed Heikal; “The Sphinx and the Commissar – The Rise and Fall of Soviet Influence in the Middle East”; New York; 1978; p.76-78).

This precipitated anti-Syrian moves by the USA imperialists – who arranged that an Iraqi and Turkish troop amassment took place on the borders with Syria. In September 1957, Kermit Roosevelt  of the CIA was sent to Egypt to warn Nasser not to proceed with an arms agreement with the USSR. Nasser pre-empted the USA by a public announcement of the impending arms. This transformed the Middle East from a pure “Western” preserve into a free-for-all.

When the Suez incident led to the subsequent humiliation of the British and French, the USA was using the episode as a further breach through which their imperialism would dominate. (This is discussed in more detail at: Three Tactics of the Nationalists in the Middle East).

This led to further USA attempts to destabilise Syria. A coup they sponsored had already failed in August (Hiro Ibid p.132).  Under pressure a polarisation took place, and it appeared that the Syrian CP was likely to gain further control of the leading positions in the coalition government with the Ba’thists. The Ba’thist leaders called for Nasser’s aid in fighting off the communists.

A situation analogous to the Shanghai massacre of the peasants and workers during the 1928 Chinese Revolution – was in the making. (See Notes on “Stalin & the 1928 Chinese Revolution” at Stalin & China). Stalin had repeatedly urged the CCP, through 1926 and early 1927 to break the bloc with the right KMT and move to a militant revolutionary struggle. The CCP did not heed this.

“The victory of the revolution cannot be achieved unless this bloc is smashed, but in order to smash this bloc, fire must be concentrated on the compromising national bourgeoisie, its treachery exposed, the toiling masses freed from its influence, and the conditions necessary of the hegemony of the proletariat systematically prepared. … the independence of the Communist Party must be, the chief slogan of the advanced communist elements, of the hegemony of the proletariat can be prepared and brought about by the Communist party. But the communist party can and must enter into an open bloc with the revolutionary part of the bourgeoisie in order, after isolating the compromising national bourgeoisie, to lead the vast masses of the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie in the struggle against imperialism.”

J.V.Stalin “Stalin’s Letters to Molotov”; Edited Lars T.Lih; Oleg V. Naumov; and Oleg V. Khlevniuk; Yale 1995; p.318-9.” at: Stalin & China

The situation of the Syrian Ba’th and the Syrian CP was very much the same. The Ba’th were preparing to renege. The Syrian CP was refusing to take the struggle forward, using the guise of preserving the united front. The Ba’th flew emissaries to Egypt offering Nasser an immediate military and political union of Syrian and Egypt. It was well understood that Nasser had brutally suppressed Egyptian communists. The Syrian army was strongly in support of this offer of the Ba’th leadership.

As the Syrian CP refused to go beyond their “national front,” they were dragged further backwards. Rather than oppose Nasser – the “hero” of Suez – they abandoned their prior insistence on a loose federal formula with Egypt. They now outdid the Ba’th, and insisted on a “total union” with Egypt (Ismaels; Ibid; p. 50). Belatedly they again changed tack, but it was now too late.

Nasser had seized the opportunity to accept the disastrous (For Syrian workers and peasants, and national bourgeoisie) formation of the United Arab Republic (UAR) in February 1958. This was the formal amalgamation of Syria and Egypt, and represented an expansionist phase of Egyptian national capital under Nasser. After the UAR was formed, the Arab Socialist Ba’th party was completely dissolved by its leaders on Nasser’s insistence. (Seale Ibid; p. 60). The Syrian CP refused to dissolve. Nasser was never a whole-hearted supporter of the USSR, as evidenced by his treatment of Egyptian communists.

The Egyptian suppression of both Ba’thists and communists proceeded apace. Syria’s rule was transferred to Nassers’ aide, Marshall ‘Amer (Seale Ibid; p. 59).

But when the Iraqi monarchist regime was toppled by the USSR supported military coup of General Abdul Karim Qasssem, the UAR relations became tense with Iraq. Iraq was now a client state of the USSR. Matters became worse for Syrian communists, whose Syrian CP supported Qassem. Qassem refused Nasser’s offer to join in the UAR.

But by 1961, the suppression of native Syrian capital had been so blatant, that the Syrian nationalists allied to the army,  launched a coup that separated the states of Egypt and Syria once mere. Strongly supported by Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and  Syrian businessmen. Another wing  of discontents were led by Hafiz al-Asad in a “Military Committee”. Because the Ba’th leading politicians had first asked for the Union with Egypt, and then reneged on it – they were discredited. The Military Committee members were jailed. This situation allowed the former comprador notables to take control of the state, led by Dr Ma’ruf al-Dawalibi, then Dr Bashir al-‘Azmah, and finally, Khalid al-‘Azm (Seale Ibid p. 72).

The Military Committee now united with the Ba’thists under Michel ‘Aflaq. In the coup of March 1963, the Military Committee took power in a complex coalition with both the Ba’thists and elements of ex-Nasserites. Asad was very much in the background at this stage. When the Nasserites were prompted by Egypt, they tried to seize power. In a pitched battle on 18 July 1963, the Ba’thist loyalists of the army won. In the ensuing years, Asad took control of the Ba’th Party. By 1966 the leading lights of the Ba’th were dealt with – Amin al-Fafiz was arrested; and Michel Aflaq & Salah al-Bitar were expelled (Seale Ibid p.102).

Bakdash had been previously expelled from Syria. When he was now allowed back to Syria in 1966, it was only under severe conditions:

“Khalid Bakdash the veteran leader of the Syrian Communist Party was allowed home after eight years of exile, while for the first time in Syrian History a Communist – Samih ‘Atiyya entered the government as Minister of Communications… Bakdash came home on stringent terms forbidden to hold meetings or make speeches.. “

Seale; Ibid; p. 108-109.

In fact, Bakdash had only been allowed back as a quid pro quo – the Khruschevites had demanded his return in lieu of payment for the construction of the Euphrates dam – only able to be constructed with the Khruschevite “aid.” The other two conditions included the Cabinet post named above to Atiyya – and the permission to publish a CP paper in Damascus. (Ramet Pedro: Ibid; p. 38).

The Syrian state was now fast becoming a client state of neo-USSR imperialism.

There were two primary vehicles for the USSR-  the Syrian CP – but now increasingly important – and over-taking the SCP was the Ba’th.

(x) The Syrian CP and the Khruschevite Revisionists

Over the very same period, counter-revolutionary events were taking place inside the USSR. Khrushchev was eliminating the Marxist-Leninists from any state positions. Shepilov, Molotov, Kaganovich, were all removed from any control in the party of the USSR by July 1957.

The positions of the Syrian Communist Party (SCP), were unlikely to recieve revolutionary clarification from the Khruschevites. In particular, a correct approach to the question of United Front in alliance with bourgeois democracy was jeopardised. We have detailed the switches and turns engineered by the revisionists following Stalin’s death, on this question (See Alliance 25: Khruschev Revisionism On The Colonial Question). Bakdash was to launch open polemics with the Khruschevite forces.

As Egypt was an important new semi-colony of the revisionist USSR, the Middle East merited special attention. R.A.Ulianovsky who specialised in national liberation struggles, was an aide to the revisionist Boris Ponomarev, himself an aide to Mikhail Suslov chief party ideologist. Ulianovsky was assigned a special role in the Middle East. Nasser and Ulianovsky came to an understanding over what would supposedly constitute the Arab Socialist Union.

The debate first opened in its new form at the 23rd Congress of the CPSU, in Moscow between 29 March and April 8 1966. Already Khrushchev had denounced Stalin at the 20th Party Congress (February 1956). The issue erupted as to how Communists interacted with bourgeois nationalists in the Middle East.

Bakdash took yet another turn, and now took a correct Marxist-Leninist line, against the Russian revisionists led by Ulianovsky.  We believe that it is likely that Bakdash was now becoming concerned that the USSR revisionists were favouring the Ba’th Party as their “vehicle of choice”. He therefore tacked back towards a more correct Marxist-Leninist viewpoint on the question.

Bakdash opened the subsequent printed debate in the Cominform monthly “Problems of Peace and Socialism”, called the “National Liberation Movement and the Communists” (December 1965). Here:

1) Bakdash asserted the independence in united fronts of the Communist parties: In his article he denied that:

“Even though the Soviet Union and other socialist countries pursued a policy of alliance with some of the newly free countries in Asia and Africa, this does not mean that the communist parties and the democratic forces generally must under all circumstances support their governments and renounce the fight for democratic freedoms.”

(Heikal Ibid; pp 157-161).

2) Bakdash asserted that the communists should hold the hegemony in the united front on behalf of the working class:

In fact Bakdash insisted that:

“No other social group, no class and no individual leader could take over the historic mission of the working class. Though he admitted that situations might arise in which another social group of individual leader was ‘carried to the fore on the tide of struggle against fascism, imperialism, feudalism and in some cases, also against the big bourgeoisie.'”

3) Bakdash asserted that bourgeois nationalists should be critically supported:

Bakdash stated that:

“They should be supported, ‘But we must be on our guard against attempts to justify such alliances by spurious theories repudiating the role of the working class.’ Bakdash insisted the proletariat must be the leaders of socialist transformation and the ‘future depends on the struggle between the classes and the outcome of this struggle.'”

4) Bakdash rejected any “populist” variants on Scientific socialism, such asArabic socialism”:

“He cast doubts on the argument that those who have come to Marxism partially, can be induced to accept it completely at some future stage- ‘there are those who say that the supporters of the so-called ‘Arab’; ‘African’; or ‘Islamic’ socialism will ultimately discover that the only real socialism is scientific socialism… Experience shows that this is not the case.”

5) Bakdash asserted that socialism required a centralized mass Communist party; that took power; and was not the same as the enactment of simple reforms:

He argued that reforms undertaken in state were NOT the same as establishing socialism, and that the latter is dependent upon the working class being the leaders of the revolution and of the government:

“He rejected the idea that the superstructure in a country always reflected the base: ‘On the contrary internal and domestic factors can cause sudden changes in the superstructure capable of influencing the base’; Referring to land reforms in countries like Algeria and The U.A.R., and Syria, he said that the machinery of state alone, with army and police, was not sufficient to deal with the problems involved:

‘What is needed is an influential authoritative revolutionary mass party enjoying the confidence of the people’… ‘At the same time there are no grounds for saying that the given country has taken the socialist way. To take this view would be tantamount to saying that the leading role in establishing socialism no longer belongs to the working class but has passed over to the nationalist groupings and the small bourgeoisie.'”

6) Finally he rejected the Egyptian variant of Liquidationism.

He openly criticized the Egyptian communist party for dissolving itself, in April 1965. This had been on the advice of the Khruschevites.

“Its members were advised to join the Arab Socialist Union – as individuals.”

(see Heikal Ibid; p. 140-1)

In return the USSR Revisionists, in their turn now chastised Bakdash.

As Heikal says, the official answer to Bakdash came in an article by R.A.Ulianovsky entitled: “Some problems of the Non-Capitalist Development of liberated Countries” – which appeared in the Soviet monthly magazine “Kommunist” for January 1966. Here Ulianovsky repudiated on behalf of Khruschevite revisionism – all these points. (Heikal Ibid; pp.158-161). There, Ulianovsky wrote:

“Life demands the creation of a left-wing bloc in wihhc the more conscious and better equipped Marxist-Leninist elements would play the role of friend and helper of the national democrats….If the Marxist-Leninists undertake this mission in a left-wing bloc they will help the progressives to avoid making mistakes and will thus exert a beneficial influence at critical moments of development”;

Cited heikal; Ibid; pp. 158-159.

Unfortunately, even now, to the best of our knowledge, Bakdash did not yet openly and fully repudiate Khruschevite revisionism.

Later on during the post 1967 Egyptian/Arab war with Israel, after the collusion of the Russians revisionists, with the USA and the state of Israel, in the  estruction of the Arab forces, (See Heikal, Ibid; pp 178-183) various attempts were made to enforce a so called “negotiated settlement.”

During this period, Bakdash was asked to comment upon the two rival plans being floated for this “negotiated settlement”. One emanated from Gromyko and the Russian revisionists; one came from the USA imperialists. His comment was revealing:

“After reading the Russian version…He was shown the American proposals. He could not help noticing the similarities, and admitted that there was no Arab Communist who could defend the Gromyko Plan – and no Arab nationalists who could defend it either. Bakdash’s explanation of what had happened was… That the Russians wanted to demonstrate to the Americans that it was the Arabs who were being negative… Bakdash confessed that he was disappointed at the other communist parties over Palestine. ‘We have to admit it,’ he said, ‘That there is a lot of Jewish influence in European Communist parties, and that if it had not been for Soviet influence the resolution on the Middle East at the Moscow Conference would have been weaker. Over Zionism the Rumanians showed themselves more royalist than the king- the Israeli communists were prepared to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people, but the Rumanians refused.'”

Heikal Ibid; p. 195-196.

By 1971 when the Russians formally left Egypt, Khaled Bakdash was again in Moscow, now able to argue that the policy of an un-principled support – to the point of jettisoning the independence of the Communist party – had been proven again to be wrong. But the revisionists had by now created huge damage already in the Middle East (Heikal; Ibid; p. 253).

The later career of Bakdash was however a renewed slide into revisionism.

In Conclusion

We believe that Bakdash tried to fight the Soviet revisionist distortions of the revolutionary line in colonial and semi-colonial countries, but ultimately, due to the disintegration of the world communist movement led by revisionism, Bakdash was unable to overcome the world propagation of the new revisionist line, pushed by Moscow. As Heikal puts it:

“There was a considerable contrast between the views of Khaled Bakdash and Ulianovsky – Khaled Bakdash wanted each local party to be an individual entity….whereas Ulianovsky was trying to keep them inside the national organizations.”

(Heikal; Ibid; p.160).

Overall Conclusion:

There can be no solution to the problems of Syria’s people until the formation of a new Marxist-Leninist party there.

The “solutions” of Pan-Arabism have been shown to be false.

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

Joint Communiqué of the Revolutionary Communist Party of the Ivory Coast and the Communist Party of Benin

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On 23 February 2014, a meeting was held in Cotonou between the PCRCI [Revolutionary Communist Party of the Ivory Coast] and the PCB [Communist Party of Benin] related to the events organised by the INIREF [International Institute of Research and Training]-Benin for the celebration of the International Day of the Mother Tongue and the peoples of Benin.

The two parties exchanged views on the international situation and the respective national situations and identified the tasks they imply.

I. On the international situation

1) The global capitalist crisis began in 2008 and its effects continue to worsen the living conditions of the proletariat and the peoples of the world. This leads them around the world to wage different forms of struggle for their liberation.

2) The arrival on the world stage of new so-called emerging powers, whose known core is made up of the BRICS group: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, increasing the inter-imperialist rivalries with the multiplication of local clashes concerning domination; this constitutes the elements of a world war by proxy.

The first counter-offensive by the classical imperialist powers to stop the rise of the “emerging” countries was launched against Libya. They succeeded in regaining control with this counter-offensive, directed against China and Russia, as well as against the African peoples. At the end of the war France would have won 35% of Libyan oil. The second counter-offensive was against Syria; they have bitten the dust faced with the determination of the Syrian people but also with the policy of Russia and China. It is the same with the evolution of the situation in Iran.

II. On the African continent

1) Africa is the focus of all world contradictions: an abundance of untapped wealth, crying misery of the majority of the population, greed of the imperialists, cultural domination, military aggression against the peoples, installation of military bases in some countries to serve as Advanced Operational Bases such as Ivory Coast and Djibouti. The fight is fierce between the old powers and the new so-called emerging powers. This rivalry is the basis of all the conflicts of which the African peoples are the victims.

2) To protect its neo-colonial “backyard,” French imperialism resorts to the policy of direct military occupation of its former colonies. The military infrastructure of imperialism (French and U.S. – Africom – etc.) aim at criss-crossing Africa with assault troops through their military bases in Djibouti, Chad, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Sahel, Gulf of Guinea, etc. So from now on, Abidjan will officially serve as a rear base to attack the peoples of the sub-region.

The latest military intervention to date is the one taking place in the Central African Republic. Any excuse is good to intervene in the African countries: “Hunting a despot who refused to recognise the election results” for the Ivory Coast; “To help the Libyan people in revolt against the dictator Gaddafi” for Libya; “To fight the jihadists and restore the territorial integrity” of Mali; “To restore security and order and stop the massacres” for the Central African Republic. The tactics of imperialism are the same: To set a fire to give a pretext to intervene to put it out. However, we now know that it is the French intervention in Central Africa that is exacerbating the ethno-religious relations in the country disarming the Seleka and covering up the crimes of so-called Christian militias.

The PCRCI and PCB declare that French imperialism and its military forces are the only ones responsible for the current massacres of Central African citizens, particularly those of the Muslim faith and therefore for the ongoing genocide in that country.

The PCRCI and PCB denounce and condemn the military aggressions of international imperialism and particularly French imperialism, which is hiding behind the UN forces and behaves like a pyromaniac fireman to maintain its African backyard.

They pay tribute to all Africans who fell victim to the bullets of the French interventionist aggressors, whether in Libya, Ivory Coast, Mali, Central Africa, etc. And they declare them heroes and martyrs of African patriotism.

3) The PCRCI and PCB welcome the victories of the fraternal people of Tunisia under the leadership of the Workers’ Party and the Popular Front of Tunisia for Democracy against Islamist obscurantism, and for a democratic constitution.

They also greet the fraternal people of Niger who fought bravely against the plundering of the mineral resources, particularly uranium, which is the object of the AREVA group and for the sovereignty over its natural resources.

III. The situation in Benin and the Ivory Coast is characterised by the unchallenged domination of French imperialism whose monopolies control large parts of the national economies (ports, banks, energy, etc.).

1) In Benin, Yayi Boni, having ransacked the economy and finances of the country, aims to restore a fascist dictatorship of another age. It is against this that all the people are rising up to oppose him and establish the power of the workers and peoples. The PCRCI firmly supports the ongoing struggles of the Benin workers and youths in the struggles for their total emancipation and wish them a successful result.

2) In the Ivory Coast, under the false pretext of development after the disaster of the war period, the Ouattara authorities are confiscating the state media, stifling freedom, trying to ban student organisations and put in their place puppet structures. The Communist Party of Benin supports the struggles of the Ivorian people and the Revolutionary Communist Party of the Ivory Coast in their struggle against French imperialism and against the anti-democratic regime of Ouattara to liberate the Ivory Coast from neo-colonial dependency.

3) The Revolutionary Communist Party of the Ivory Coast (PCRCI) thanks the Communist Party of Benin (PCB) and the INIREF-Benin for inviting it to the events for the commemoration of the International Day of the Mother Tongue and the celebration of the peoples of Benin.

The PCRCI and PCB send the proletariat, the peoples, the democrats and the youth the following call:

* NO TO MILITARY INTERVENTION AGAINST THE PEOPLES!
* NO TO FOREIGN MILITARY BASES OF AGGRESSION ON AFRICAN SOIL!
* IMPERIALISM OUT!

Cotonou, February 23, 2014

For the PCRCI: Yokore Gnagnon.
For the PCB: Philippe Noudjenoume

Source

Communist Party of the Workers of Tunisia (PCOT): Popular Front (Political Draft)

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From Unity & Struggle No. 25, Spring/Summer 2013

Tunisia

For decades our people have suffered under a anti-popular and anti-patriotic despotic police regime.

Politically, by the individual power and domination of the Destour Party, through its different forms (the Neo-Destour, Destourian Socialist Party, the Constitutional and Democratic Concentration), over all forms of political life, by the violation of freedoms and human rights.

Economically by mortgaging the economy and the country’s wealth for the benefit of the colonial powers and their allies, the local capitalists.

Socially by the marginalization of the popular strata, by poverty, unemployment and corruption. These evils reached their maximum under Ben Ali, particularly with the intervention of his family, his collaborators and the political and economic mafia in all structures of the State and society.

The Tunisian people, with their patriotic, revolutionary, democratic and social forces, have never ceased to struggle against the dictatorship and oppression since the establishment of the Desturian regime. The Tunisian people have had hundreds of martyrs, thousands of prisoners in heroic combat, of which the main ones are the poor peasants’ movement in the late 1960s; the movement of students and youths in February of 1972; the fight of trade unionists and workers, crowned by the general strike of January 26, 1978; the revolt in the mining region of 2008, and throughout this period other national struggles of solidarity with the Palestinian people, with Iraq, Lebanon and other Arab countries in their struggle against Zionist aggression and the imperialist powers.

These struggles led to the revolution of December 17, 2010 in Sisi Bouzid, which allowed the popular masses to overthrow Ben Ali on January 14, 2011. He was a symbol of despotism, of collaboration with imperialism and of corruption, at the cost of hundreds of martyrs and thousands of wounded in the various regions of the country. During this uprising, the people demanded the end of the despotic, exploiting regime and had sold out to foreign interests, and for its replacement by a regime of freedom, equality and dignity, which would ensure employment and social justice, objectives that they desired during all those years of struggle.

The people managed to topple Ben Ali, as well as his heirs, the two governments of Ghannouchi; they managed through popular struggles and in particular the “sit-ins” in the Kasbah I and II, to obtain results, specifically those concerning civil liberties, the dissolution of the RCD [Constitutional Democratic Union) and of the two chambers of deputies and advisors, the abolition of draconian laws (the law of parties, of associations, of the press, etc.) and the suspension of the constitution of 1959. They contributed to the demand for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution. However, most of the objectives of the revolution, particularly those relating to the economy, social and patriotic objectives, have not been achieved under the successive governments, including the current government resulting from the elections of October 23, 2011. This has led the people to continue the struggle for social and political change worthy of their ambitions.

From the elections of October 23, there has emerged a constituent assembly dominated by the troika under the direction of the Ennahdha movement. Approximately eight months after the coming to power of this alliance, it is clear that it is leading to a quick burial of the objectives of the revolution of our people and laying the groundwork for a return to a dependent, despotic and corrupt regime, under a religious mantle.

The unity of the Tunisian people is being threatened by contrived doctrinaire struggles, instigated by foreign forces through their local agents who hide behind religion. The freedoms won by the people – at the cost of their blood – are also threatened by the government and the criminal gangs, attributed to certain Salafist currents that act with impunity. The democratic reforms demanded by the revolution in the spheres of information, justice, administration and secondary institutions are being pushed into the background. These are spheres on which the dictatorship rested to repress the people and control society. The government is eluding its obligations to take care of the wounded of the revolution and to bring to justice the murderers as well as those guilty of oppression and corruption; it is trying to attract them as collaborators.

The Ennahdha movement, which dominates and controls the alliance in power, is working with the complicity of its partners in taking over the State institutions and imposing its dictates and establishing a new dictatorship that would liquidate the achievements of the revolution, as well as the historical achievements and the civilization of the Tunisian people in all areas: social, cultural and educational, and particularly those of women.

In the economic sphere, the government is following the politics of Ben Ali that has impoverished the people. The wealth of the country continues to be monopolized by local and foreign minorities. The government continues under the orders of the international financial institutions and continues with the unjust treaties and agreements. The privatization of wealth (mines, oil, etc.) continues, like that of the public institutions, to benefit foreign capital. Nor are they even protecting Tunisian lands ceded to western companies and those of the Persian Gulf, which heralds a new agrarian colonialism at the expense of the poor peasants and the agricultural workers. To all this must be added the government’s incompetence in managing daily affairs, the administrative chaos and bureaucratic hegemony, which threaten to plunge the country into a real cataclysm.

This disastrous politics has serious effects on the lives of the working and popular classes and strata, effects that grow day by day, with unemployment, regional inequality, deterioration of services (water and electricity shortages, accumulation of garbage throughout the country, deterioration of municipal and hygienic services, etc.). These phenomena are inherited from the old regime and were one of the causes of the people’s revolution, but the fact is that in reality they have increased with the present government, which has changed nothing in economic policy and is unable to take urgent measures to limit the adverse effects on the lives of citizens.

The government’s foreign policy continues to be subjected to international capitalist powers. It is clear that they are trying to integrate Tunisia into the Turkey-Persian Gulf Axis under the leadership of the U.S. The objective of this Axis is to liquidate the struggle of the Arab masses, liquidate their hopes for liberation, promote divisions in their ranks and sabotage their unity, in order to ensure U.S., Western and Zionist colonial rule over the region… Our country is going through a real crisis, which it can only get out of with the continuation of the struggle of the Tunisian people, a national, democratic, social, cultural and environmental struggle, to achieve the full realization of the objectives of the revolution and the establishment of the power of the people. This will be possible if an end is put to the disunity of the revolutionary, national, democratic and progressive forces, that of the parties as well as of the associations and organizations of the youth and independent personalities. A common alliance within the popular front represents an alternative for a genuine government that overcomes the false duality that tries to oppose “two poles.” These are actually united to maintain the same economic orientations achieved by the liberal media subjected to the foreign spheres, although one is covered with a “religious” mantle and the other with a “modernist” one. In this way they try to hide the contradiction between the forces that want to achieve the goals of the revolution, and those that are trying to auction it off.

This alternative is based on a political Charter that represents the common denominator in the political and national fields, based on the following principles and values of all the national and popular forces that are firm in the struggle for the realization of the objectives of the revolution for which they work. This Charter is based on the following principles and values:

1. The national and democratic question

Building a republican, civilian and democratic system to serve the people and that:

• Carries out a real independence for the country.

• Is based on the principle of the sovereignty of the people, with election to all institutions of power at the national, regional and local level, with the ability to control them, hold them accountable and even remove them.

• Separation of powers with the necessary balance.

• Ensure the independence of the judiciary according to internationally recognized criteria.

• Ensure the neutrality of the State toward the political parties and forces and their democratic management.

• Ensure civil and individual liberties, particularly freedom of thought, creation and expression, as well as of the press, information and its dissemination; freedom of organization, movement, protest, demonstration and strike, and ensure the material conditions for these.

• Full and effective equality between men and women in all areas, protection of women’s achievements; promotion and consolidation of the Personal Status Code and fight all forms of discrimination and physical and moral violence against women.

• Separation of religion and politics, guarantee freedom of conscience and worship and its practice, combat all forms of political manipulation of religion, of places of worship, of religious, educational and cultural institutions as well as labor and social institutions, and prohibit exploitation for sectarian or partisan ends.

• An independent and national foreign policy, on the basis of support for the national resistance in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon, as well as support for all movements of national liberation and social emancipation in the Arab homeland and the world; support for the Arab revolutions and the struggle against foreign intervention, criminalization of all forms of normalization of relations with the Zionist entity and racist movements; work for Arab unity based on the principles of freedom, equality, dignity, social democracy and justice .

2. The economic and social problem

To build a national, independent, balanced and consistent economy, which ensures the people’s sovereignty over the wealth of the country, ensures an efficient growth for all regions and rests on a just distribution to meet the people’s basic needs in the material and moral spheres, means the following:

• Revision of agreements detrimental to the interests of the country and its independence.

• Nationalization of strategic sectors and guarantee of their democratic and efficient management.

• Nationalization of confiscated businesses and provision of handing over businesses to foreign capital.

• Promotion of a domestic industry according to the country’s needs, its abilities and capacities.

• Cancellation of the debt based on a thorough study of the loans contracted by the overthrown dictatorship.

• Establishment of a fair and transparent tax system.

• Land reform for the benefit of the poor peasants and small farmers.

• Guarantee of the fundamental rights to dignified work, decent housing, of free, quality public education, and free health care.

• Guarantee of trade union freedom and the right to strike

• Guarantee of the right of all citizens and future generations to a healthy and balanced environment, favorable to health and without waste, struggle against pollution and concentrating efforts on renewable energy.

3. The problem of culture and education

The guarantee of the freedom of creation in all its forms, artistic, cultural, intellectual and scientific, as well as ensuring the adequate frameworks.

• Ensure academic freedom and the promotion of independent scientific research.

• Establishment of a democratic, popular and unified education system.

• Ensure the supremacy of the Arab language, its protection and promotion and ensure its teaching both in official and administrative areas, without opposing the learning of other languages.

• Work to maintain the roots of our people in their national identity formed through a historic process, continuously enriched and developed in a fruitful interrelationship of Arab-Islamic elements of civilization and of the progress of humanity; fight against attempts to erase their national and patriotic identity and against forms of cultural domination, fanaticism and intolerance.

• Disseminate the value of reason, progress, citizenship and human rights.

• Overcome individualism and promote social values and relations and those of solidarity among the people.

The signatories of this document believe that the main objective of the Front is to complete the revolutionary process and establish the power of the people through all possible forms of struggle, including elections. Thus they affirm their willingness to respond positively to the national and popular initiatives in line with the orientations and tasks of the Front.

Tunisia, September 2012

Source

Revisiting the Kashmir Issue

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Nirmalangshu Mukherji

In a just world order, rights of self-determination of people, including the right of independence, ought to be viewed as a basic and absolute value. As with most moral principles, however, the actual implementation of such demands raises difficult issues since they always arise in a historical context of an unjust distribution of rights. In other words, the demand for self-determination arises precisely because it has not been met so far, rendering the context in which the demand arises as an unjust one. We will briefly examine the right of self-determination of people in Kashmir from this perspective.

In that unjust context, dimensions of external control intervene with people’s rights for decades — sometimes, over centuries. These controls not only generate vested interests for the agencies of control, typically they curb people’s ability to voice their demand to the point that sections of people internalise the features of control and begin to demobilise on the issue of self-determination. As a result, people themselves get divided. The agencies of control are then able to use this fact to perpetuate their control in the name of people. The historical passage of time is a crucial aspect of the scenario just sketched. We will look briefly at Iraq to get a sense of the issue before we turn to Kashmir.

In Iraq, the imposition of (current) external control is recent, brutal, and clearly linked to the vested interests of US foreign policy around control over oil. The imperialist aggression stands fully exposed; thus, the people subjected to massive violence stand united in their opposition to US occupation. Reliable polls suggest that 1% of the Iraqi population welcome the US presence in Iraq while over 80% demand an immediate end to US occupation; the rest varying on when they want the occupying forces to withdraw. Even with the tiny minority who demand a phased withdrawal of US forces, it stands to reason that their apprehensions about the fallout of immediate withdrawal is directly linked to the chaotic state of Iraqi society caused by US aggression itself.

For the sake of argument, imagine a grim (and hopefully false) scenario in which the US, assisted by the client Iraqi regime, is able to perpetuate its crimes in Iraq for several more years. During this period, suppose some semblance of order and stability returns in the natural course: some oil money is used to restore the food and the health systems; water and electricity return to normal flow; people are able to engage in some trade inside and outside Iraq; tourists return; some institutions, including education institutions, begin to function; violence in the streets is reduced; the resistance is partly broken; US forces mostly stay in barracks close to oil installations; an increasing number of people begin to queue up in US-sponsored elections.

In this scenario, it is quite likely that the minority of the currently wavering population will increase several fold. Citing favourable polls, the US will then be in a position to claim that US presence is needed to bolster stability and (democratic) order in Iraq. Nevertheless, it is clear that nothing changes in so far as the absolute value of the people’s right to self-determination is concerned. Violent enforcement of external control for long periods of time to drive people to exasperation and apparent conformity is a tested strategy of occupying forces with superior gun power. For the same reason, it is of utmost importance that the current resistance in Iraq continues to grow under the common command of the people; this is also a tested method of rendering unsustainable the tested strategy of the occupying forces.

Two other features of current Iraq are relevant here. First, there is no doubt that Iraq is a divided society with at least three contending parties: the sunnis, the shias, and the Kurds. But the division between the people of Iraq cannot be an argument against self-determination. We may have opinions on the further dismemberment of Iraq or on unsustainable alliances between the parties. But it is for the people of Iraq to choose which course they wish to adopt. Second, when the right of self-determination is viewed as an absolute value, the character of resistance to imperialism is also of no concern. Once again it is for the Iraqi people to choose what they feel is the right form of resistance. Historically, the choice could well turn out to be a mistaken one; but then it is again up to the Iraqi people to correct the course.

To sum up, the right of self-determination cannot be withheld even if (a) some sections of the population do not desire it any more, typically out of duress, (b) the people in the relevant region are divided, and (c) the character of resistance to external rule is questionable. We recall that the British used each of these to postpone independence until the circumstances arising out of the second war and liberation of people around the globe forced the British to leave India.

In a recent article posted in Znet (‘Is independence a viable option for Jammu and Kashmir?’, 24 January, www.znet.org), Badri Raina, as the title suggests, has raised the issues the British raised for decades before they were compelled to withdraw from India. The interest of this piece is that the author belongs to the left, and Znet is a well-known platform for left-wing opinion. The arguments therefore are more refined than a mere imperial assertion of the following kind: Kashmir belongs to us because some raja signed some piece of paper. The net effect, however, remains the same.

Raina raises versions of each of (a) to (b) above as an opposition to ‘the formulation that militancy and violence could not justly be expected to be shut down till the right to ‘self-determination’ was granted’ (note that the expression ‘self-determination’ is used with quotes by Raina). He also raises versions of (c): ‘how long can the valley then resist the push to theocratise both state and polity in that ‘independent’ situation. Surely, both Kashmiris and the Indian state have big stakes in all this.’ But since Raina produced no facts to support this view, I will ignore this part of his essay.

The Polls

Raina’s first argument, a version of (a), concerns a poll conducted by the MORI International organisation that ‘covered all regions, urban and rural, of the three provinces of the Jammu & Kashmir State.’ Although Raina thinks of the MORI Foundation as ‘a reputed agency by all accounts’, he does not mention that the foundation is US-based. Raina also cites another poll subsequently conducted by Synovate India which covered just the valley.

In what follows, I will focus on the MORI poll since, as Raina observed, it covered ‘all regions.’ Further, the focus on MORI is justified because Raina begins this part of his essay with the condition that ‘whatever resolutions are debated or found  must pertain to the entire state of Jammu & Kashmir rather than  merely any discrete part.’ I return to the implications of imposing this condition on any ‘debate’ later. For now, obeying Raina’s condition, it is obvious that the findings of the MORI poll are directly relevant. Also, I will take the validity of the findings for granted.

The part of MORI results which has drawn world-wide attention, and flagged repeatedly by Raina, suggests that 61 per cent feel that they would be better off politically and economically as Indian citizens, and only 6 per cent feel that they would be so as Pakistani citizens. Raina comments: ‘by no stretch of the imagination then can it be argued that the overwhelming sentiment in the state of Jammu & Kashmir is for  “sovereign, secular, independence.”  ‘However much as these findings might shock some knowledgeable peddlers of the “Kashmir Question,”’ Raina continues, ‘those are the facts.’

Praful Bidwai (‘Wanted: policy, not hubris’, Frontline, July 6, 2002) points out two related problems with the results. First, ‘the overwhelming majority of those who would prefer to be Indian citizens belong to Jammu and Ladakh, not to the Valley. The “don’t know” answers to the question are concentrated in Srinagar.’ To elaborate, whereas 99 per cent of respondents in Jammu and 100 per cent in Leh felt they would be better off as Indian citizens, 78 per cent of those in Srinagar said they did not know while 9 per cent felt they would be better off as Indian citizens and 13 per cent as Pakistani citizens.’ Bidwai explains: ‘the 78 per cent “don’t knows” clearly include a large number who subscribe to azadi or that version of it which equals autonomy or independence from India, but who reject merger with Pakistan. Given that the core Kashmir problem is about the Valley, this is a sobering thought.’

Second, Bidwai observes that ‘the critical issue within Jammu and Kashmir is not just “free and fair” elections, but inclusive and free elections.’ In other words, ‘fairness in determining the popular will can mean very little unless the electoral process involves the broadly representative spectrum of political opinion in the State.’ As a matter of fact, several currents of opinion have just not been allowed to function in Jammu and Kashmir for decades. This fact, combined with decades of violence resulting in nearly a hundred thousand civilian casualties, untold economic misery, and the general alienation of people from articulated political process, explain the staggering figure of ‘don’t knows’, which, as Bidwai pointed out, is crucial for understanding the situation in Kashmir.

Raina is entirely silent about this part of the MORI findings. As noted, his strategy is to build up on the fact that these findings are restricted to the valley, hence they are irrelevant in view of the ‘all regions’ condition imposed by him. Further, the ‘don’t knows’ don’t count since, according to him, ‘unarticulated private predilections of any group of people in any part of the state  cannot be authorized agenda as the problem is addressed.’ In other words, first we are advised to overlook the historical conditions which have led to ‘unarticulated’ opinion in vast sections of the people; then we are advised to ignore the opinion since it is ‘unarticulated.’

Raina has another strategy to defray this ‘sobering’ aspect of MORI findings: for the valley, instead of depending on the MORI poll, he shifts to the Synovate poll taken three tears later in 2005, despite his ‘all regions’ condition, and juxtaposes these results with that of the (inconvenient) MORI poll. According to the later poll, 36.2% Kashmiris in the Valley and Rajouri (equally muslim dominated) prefer the India option. This enabled Raina to conclude from articulated opinion that ‘by no stretch of the imagination then can it be argued that the overwhelming sentiment in the state of Jammu & Kashmir is for  “sovereign, secular, independence.”’ Setting aside the algebraic issue of whether the remaining 63.8% represent ‘overwhelming sentiment’, recall the historical feature of (a) that, as time flows and the prospects of attaining basic rights recede, people are likely to resign to less desirable options in the absence of organised democratic struggle.

The period between 2002 and 2005 – the post 9/11 world – has seen a setback to people’s democratic struggles in these parts of the world. Specifically, the turn around in Pakistan’s Kashmir policy under US pressure, the continuing violence and economic misery, the sectarian character of the jehadi groups, and the opportunism of Hurriyat and other political parties, on the one hand, and the limited restoration of the electoral process and opening up of some economic activity, on the other, could have led to an increase in the resigned opinion. In other words, there is no evidence that the crucial democratic test of ‘fairness in determining the popular will’, advocated by Bidwai, has been met. By adopting the synchronic perspective, Raina has failed to appreciate the historical condition of people under duress.

Division of people?

Turning to (b) above, let us examine the validity of Raina’s ‘all regions’ condition. As noted, Raina has a two-pronged argument: (A) people in the valley do not have the ‘overwhelming sentiment’ against India; (B) taking all regions into consideration, the ‘overwhelming sentiment’ is for India. Combining the effects of (A) and (B), Raina’s ill-concealed message is that, even if (A) is false, (B) takes precedence. In other words, even if the people in the valley are overwhelmingly against India (and for independence), we should ignore their opinion since people in the region as a whole want to remain in India. Raina puts the message rhetorically as follows: ‘how is the desire for “independence” of half the valley’s population to be squared with the overwhelming opinion in the valley?’ The additional argument that (A) could well be true just bolsters Raina’s strategy. We saw that (A) is not likely to be true. This leaves the entire burden of Raina’s argument on (B) alone – the ‘all regions’ condition.

Since the ‘all regions’ condition looks like a classic, pre-emptive, statist move to defray any demand for secession, the leftist Raina needs to find ‘democratic’ arguments in support of the condition. Along with much rhetoric, he weaves in two facts: (1) “people in all regions are in general agreement that ‘the unique cultural identity of Jammu and Kashmir — Kashmiriyat — should be preserved in any long-term solution. Overall, 81% agree, including 76% in Srinagar’; (2)  An overwhelming 92% oppose the state of Kashmir being divided on the basis of religion or ethnicity.’ So the argument is that, since a vast majority of people wish to uphold ‘Kashmiriyat’ and are against the division of Kashmir on religious or ethnic grounds, the demand for independence by a section of the population ought to take the backseat. In fact, those who demand independence while upholding (1) and (2) – there must be some given the numbers – are plainly inconsistent, and hence, they can be ignored.

Notice first that the charge of inconsistency assumes that if the people in the valley wish to secede from the Indian state, they would be doing so on religious or ethnic grounds. Once we decide to look at people’s movements only through communal or sectarian lenses, we lose sight of the basic historical issue that vast sections of people may simply to wish to secede from a State. It is the Indian state the people in the valley are against, the state that is seen to have confiscated their own statehood first by fraudulent means by entering into an undemocratic pact with a raja, and then by half a century of accelerating repression. If religion were the issue, the valley would have preferred the Pakistan option which is overwhelmingly rejected by the people in the valley, as the MORI findings cited by Raina show.

In fact, the charge of inconsistency – if not downright sectarianism – applies to Raina himself. Having argued in favour of the view expressed in (B), Raina also argues strongly in favour of turning the current Line of Control into a state boundary since ‘Kashmiris that live in what is called the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir are not Kashmiri-speaking, barring a sprinkling, and even within the valley there never has been much love lost between the Kashmiri-speaking muslim Kashmiris and those that are non-Kashmiri-speaking Mirpuris or Punjabis! If anything, it is the Pandits who tend to be missed as blood brothers!  Wheels within wheels, you might say.’ Setting aside the issue of truth-content of these remarks, Raina is now clearly advocating a division of Kashmir on ethnic lines in contradiction to the stated position in (B).

I am not suggesting that there is no tension between the desire for unity of all Kashmir on the basis of Kashmiriyat and conflicting region-wise opinion on the issue of secession from India. But the difficult task of resolving this and other conflicts bestows on the people of Kashmir when they prepare to exercise their right of self-determination with freedom and dignity. When the conditions for exercising the will of the people occur, all parties have the right to approach the people with their opinion. But, ultimately, the people must give the verdict on how they wish the difficult issues to be resolved. The right of self-determination, in other words, is supreme and absolute.

It is interesting that Raina barely touches the fundamental issue of self-determination, and restricts his discussion only to what he considers to be hurdles in ‘granting’ independence to the people in the valley. Again, the message is ill-concealed. If independence is not admissible in the first place, people in the valley lose the right to exercise this option. Once they lose the right to exercise a specific option, the general right to exercise any option loses meaning. Hence, the people in the valley do not (really) have the right of self-determination. As a result Raina holds that ‘the right to secession,’ which was ‘at one time a part of the theoretical repertoire of the undivided Left in India’ needs to be revised by the division of the current left to which Raina belongs. In the revised picture, basic rights of the people are viewed by Raina as ‘nothing but another form of Idealism,’ ‘a thin ground’ for ‘granting secession’. So what was viewed as part of the basic theory of the ‘undivided left’ turns into a dispensible rhetoric for that strand of the left which views the stakes for the Indian state as higher than the people who inhabit that state.

Department of Philosophy, University of Delhi

Source

 

Labour Party (EMEP): Current Developments and the Kurdish Question

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April 2006

Introduction

Different Paths in the Kurdish Movement

The US invasion of Iraq has had, among other things, a profound effect on the Kurdish question itself. New alignments, new developments and dissociations are evident and three years after the invasion, there is a need to summarise new factors in this century-old ‘big game’.

Of course, one has to remember that the Kurdish people’s right to self-determination is, under all conditions, valid.

The US invasion created such conditions that, the Kurdish people who were under enormous state terrorism in all ‘parts’ of historical Kurdistan (historical Kurdistan is divided amongst  four states today; Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, and this makes the Kurdish question unique) started to think that the USA, after all, could be a force of ‘liberation’ for them. This thinking was fomented by the feudal Kurdish forces in Iraqi Kurdistan (Barzani and Talabani), while it created an upheaval in Turkish Kurdistan.

This upheaval is important in many ways. First, Turkish Kurdistan is advanced in comparison to other sections; capitalism has penetrated deeply into this area. Also, about 15 million Kurds live in this section; while the total number of Kurds in all sections is around 22 million.

Under these conditions, it is only natural that the first modern nationalist Kurdish movement, PKK (Kongra-Gel), has taken root in the Turkish section. This modern, socialism-inspired movement radically differs from feudal leaderships in other sections; in essence it does not rely on feudal relations, but dismantles them.

Ocalan’s Capture

The PKK, which is a force supported by millions of Kurds, is extremely cautious towards US imperialism; though its stance softens when it comes to Europe. This caution, together with the influence they command, resulted in a de facto situation in which the PKK is perceived by Washington as a ‘primary threat’ to US’ Kurdish policy. Thus, the leader of the movement, Abdullah Ocalan, was captured by the CIA and MOSSAD, and promptly given to the Turkish state. Ocalan is still a captive in Imrali, an island-jail in which he is the only prisoner.

The capture of Ocalan did not result in a weakening of the national liberation movement; rather, the movement changed policies and tactics. We can say that today, despite serious problems, the PKK movement still is the authority in Turkish Kurdistan; and also is actively struggling for influence in other parts; especially in Iranian Kurdistan.

The historical motive of all feudal Kurdish leaderships was ‘trying to find allies outside the region’ to gain the upper hand against Turks, Arabs and Persians in the region. This outside ally has been imperialist powers like Britain, France and the USA. Though the Kurds have always been deceived by the imperialists and left in the middle of hostile governments, they opted for cooperation with the US again in the Iraq war. Because of historical distrust, we can safely say that the Iraqi Kurds are extremely cautious while dealing with the Americans, and the feudal leadership has had to convince the people of ‘good American interests’. This distrust continues today. The PKK has refused this historical ‘tactic’. This movement, in essence, tried to help form a united Turkish-Kurdish front against the Turkish bourgeoisie. One of the founders of the PKK, Kemal Pir, is Turkish, by the way.

Feeding from this positive legacy, the captured leader of the PKK, Ocalan, has taken a very important stance vis-a-vis the American invasion. Ocalan has repeatedly said from prison that, an ‘independent Kurdistan’ under the wings of Americans will not be independent at all; rather, this would be a second Israel in the region, fomenting hatred amongst the peoples and in the end, bring great harm to Kurds. Though Ocalan has great authority, the ‘new player’ in the region, USA, is trying to use the Kurdish question in its own interests. Thus, while the Kurdistan government in Iraq strengthens, we see riots and revolts of Kurds against the reactionary Syrian and Iranian authorities. There have been major uprisings in both Syrian and Iranian Kurdistan over the last two years.

An Anti-PKK PKK ?

In Turkish Kurdistan, the ‘key’ to all Kurdistan, we see different developments. The US and its ally, the Turkish government, is actively trying to divide the PKK and create a ‘harmless’ PKK out of its ashes. The most important development in this sense was, Ocalan’s brother, Osman Ocalan. Osman Ocalan quit the PKK two years ago, declared that USA was a ‘democratic imperialist’ force and formed his own organisation under the wings of Barzani and the US army. This attempt to divide the PKK was thwarted, but new attempts may happen. Also, the forces of Barzani are undertaking serious political activity in Turkish Kurdistan, mainly through their own, young legal party, HAK-PAR.

Today, the dissociation in the Kurdish movement is also shaping in relation to the natural and definite dissociation of the Kurdish ‘upper classes’ and ‘lower classes’ from each other. It is evident that the pro-imperialist stances are related to the ‘upper classes, the Kurdish bourgeoisie and feudal forces, while criticism of these stances and attempts to create an alternative position are related to the ‘lower classes’, the Kurdish labourers.

US imperialism tries to use the Kurdish problem as a ‘wild card’ to tie Turkey further to its regional policies. But also, it tries to form a political dissociation among Kurds and create ‘its own’ Kurdish movement.

The European Union policies, in essence, are not different. These two main forces are exploiting the Kurdish problem in their rivalry over the Middle East. One side, with its ‘Greater Middle East Project’, is exploiting the issue actively. The other side uses ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ rhetoric to expand its influence among Kurds.

US policies are found to be ‘encouraging’ by the Kurdish reactionary circles and they are trying to create new opportunities for their class interests. After 1980 and during the rise of the PKK, the bourgeois-land owner-feudal lords have been ‘erased’ from the political processes; but now they are again on the rise, on the basis of an anti-PKK stance. This tendency , for the first time in many years, again puts itself openly in the political arena.

The dissociation in the Kurdish movement can be transformed to opportunity by the Turkish and Kurdish peoples. As practice shows, the identities of dissociaters (revolutionary, anti-imperialist or reactionary, pro-imperialist) are much more evident today. The exposition of this lackey politics will be a positive development for Kurds and also other peoples in the region.

Taylan Bilgiç

There is nowhere left to escape from the Kurdish problem! The policies of the last 80 years have collapsed. Nobody believes the nonsensical thesis and claims such as: ‘There are no Kurds; they are in fact mountain Turks. Kurdish is not a language; it is only a dialect of Turkish’. The glaze of the supposedly scientific works like the ‘Sun Language Theory’ (claiming all present languages are derived from Turkish) and the ‘Turkish History Thesis’ (claiming that Turks are the origin of all human races) developed after 1925 in order to rivet these assertions have worn off, they have broken down. The policies of creating one nation, Turkification, melting all the other peoples and cultures into one pot have been condemned and defeated by the realities of life. Now it has had to be accepted that there is such a language as Kurdish! Even if it is for show only and even if it is limited to a few minutes a week, there are state radio and television broadcasts in Kurdish, along with other forbidden languages such as Arabic, Circassian and the Zaza language. Kurds are loudly demanding the expansion of the Kurdish broadcast to private radios and television channels as well as the right to education in their mother tongue. In spite of the various pressures and prohibitions, Kurdish language courses have been opened in Batman, Urfa, Van, Diyarbakır (Kurdish provinces in the East and Southeast regions of the country) and lately in Istanbul. Kurds as a people are demanding that urgent steps be taken in terms of their rights to language, culture, identity and politics.

It is obvious that the reactionary denial policies of assimilation carried out through the use of violence cannot continue. Struggling and not cowering in fear despite all the pain, massacres and the great price paid both physically and morally, caused by the inhumane policies executed throughout the decades; the Kurdish people, resisting for their linguistic, cultural, political and identity rights, are insistent on their demands. The resistance waged by the Kurdish people in spite of all their suffering from cruelty, historical injustice and all the destructions, has united with the common struggle of the workers, labourers and intellectuals of all nationalities and peoples of Turkey to compel the forces in denial and pro-assimilation to retreat.

However, the ruling classes do not want to accept the Kurds as a people or recognise their linguistic, cultural, political and identity rights. The national demands of Kurds do not have the guarantee of laws as yet. The Kurdish question and the demand for the rights of the Kurdish people are still considered as ‘separatist’ and within the framework of ‘terror’ and are responded to with violence. The ruling classes try to say that the Kurdish question can solved by a few small improvements. They try to make it seem as though the Kurdish question has been solved by the campaign by ‘democratisation’ and by the legal regulations within the framework of the Copenhagen Criteria through the process of membership in the European Union, which have been put on paper but still not put into practise. The government wants to make a show by the release of the four Democratic Party (DEP) MPs who were arrested ten years ago and put into prison as a result of a raid on Parliament. It has tried to make it seem as if this was an important phase in the democratisation process, but it did not take long for the falsity of this show to become apparent and for the government to exhibit its genuine character. The former MPs became the targets of the government and the military because of the speeches they made in the demonstrations. Lawsuits were filed against them once again. The meeting planned for Diyarbakir for September 1, International Peace Day, was banned on completely pathetic grounds.

Furthermore, operations are continuing in the region. The people there are being targeted for attacks on the grounds that they are ‘assisting and abetting’ terrorists. The demands of the KONGRA-GEL (the successor to the PKK) for a cease-fire, the taking of democratic steps, providing the opportunity for the armed guerrillas to socialise in everyday life but with the necessary guarantees, are rejected on the pretext that; ‘No negotiations will be held with the terrorists’. Attacks are continuing and the people of the region are being mistreated. There is no end to the claims of torture, and arrests and imprisonments are not decreasing. New Kurdish political detainees and prisoners are daily added to those already in prison. Provocative operations are carried out in the Kurdish provinces such as Diyarbakir, Van and Tunceli and the mayors elected by the people, as in Diyarbakir, are being targeted for attack and being made victims of political lynching.

The thousands of villages that have been forcefully evacuated, the nature that has been destroyed and the tens of thousands of Kurdish peasants who have been mistreated as a result of the policies of violence carried out for years continue to struggle with great difficulties. No steps are being taken to compensate them for all the massacres experienced, the thousands of murders by ‘perpetrators unknown’ and all the violations in the fields of human rights and freedoms. Believing that steps taken in this direction will result in a ‘rise’ in the consciousness of the Kurdish people and that hence new demands will be immediately brought to the agenda, policies of violence are insisted on. The policy of denial is being continued by military precautions and the systematic use of violence. The demands of the sections wanting to return to their villages are not being met. The wronged villagers hesitate to return as they do not believe that they will be able to lead safe and secure lives in their villages.

It is still forbidden for political parties to broadcast in Kurdish, to publish and distribute leaflets and brochures in Kurdish and for the political party administrators to deliver speeches in Kurdish. Lawsuits are filed against political party administrators for having greeted the people in Kurdish in demonstrations and various activities and they are often penalised. Besides the other antidemocratic practices, obstructions and pressures, the representation of the Kurdish people in parliament is prevented by the 10% election quota. The system of ‘rural guardianship’ continues to be enforced along with the military operations and the piling of military forces in the region. Instead of recognizing the Kurds as a people in their own right, meeting their national, economic and political demands and carrying out the necessities for an equal and free environment; the ruling forces and the government think that by hoodwinking the people with a few Kurdish language courses, a few minutes of Kurdish broadcasting every week and a few other crumbs thrown here and there, it will be possible to convince the people that Turkey has become democratised and that the Kurdish question has disappeared. On the other hand, those who are not convinced will be made the targets of violence as ‘terrorists’ by these forces.

The ruling classes do not want to understand that unless the Kurdish labouring people do not freely determine their own destiny and take their place in the course of history as a free nation, the Kurdish question will continue to be a fundamental one and neither acts of violence nor an approach of ‘we crushed them and that is the end to them’ will solve the problem.

Imperialism, the Collaborator Government and the Kurdish Question

The Justice and Development (AKP) government currently in power cannot overlook the Kurdish issue. The AKP has talked about democratisation and entering the European Union (EU) as a fundamental policy and claims that it will be able to solve all Turkey’s deeply rooted problems since the day it came to power. This places it under a great burden in terms of the Kurdish question and the Kurdish people. Stating that: ‘If you act as if there is no Kurdish problem, then there won’t be such a problem’, the Prime Minister has had to swallow his words and come face to face with solving the problem ‘in some way or another’. However the government thinks that it will solve the problem with the attitude we have pointed out above. At this stage, claiming that ‘There is no Kurdish problem’ has ceased to have any worth or plausibility. Certainly nobody believes this any longer. In place of this approach, in the region where the Kurds predominate the AKP is trying to dish out a new kind of relation similar to the one the USA has entered into with the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (PDK) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (YNK) [in Iraq]. This plan, in which the members of parliament who are Kurdish, religious sectarian and owners of capital of the AKP will also take part, has been established in order to divide the KONGRA-GEL.

Now the government is being dragged behind the US. The pro-denial and pro-assimilation forces which are being dragged behind the plan of using of the Kurdish question as a ‘trump-card’, as a continuation of the Iraqi occupation, are becoming partners with the ‘reformed’ and reactionary forces and are establishing a Kurdish political party under the protection of the US. The plan, which aims at the division, neutralisation and liquidation of the KONGRA-GEL or at least its reduction to a marginal level; is to create a Kurdish movement following the same political line as Talabani-Barzani in Iraq. The AKP government is at quits with the plan of the USA.

Though it may seem as if the rulers of the EU, the USA and Turkey are proposing different solutions to the Kurdish question, their moves actually fit into one another. As in the attempt to divide and liquidate the KONGRA-GEL, it seems that there is, at least at present, an agreement on the orientation of the party to be established by Osman Ocalan (Abdullah Ocalan’s brother).

Dividing the democratic Kurdish movement over the KONGRA-GEL, a division shaped by US pressure, aims to strengthen the reactionary, nationalist, feudal Kurdish alternative. The imperialist centres are acting very rapidly in trying to have the feudal-bourgeois collaborator circles form a power which will then be gradually presented as the representatives of the Kurdish people,. It is evident that the reactionary forces of Turkey are totally mobilizing for this initiative to be effective. The weakening of KONGRA-GEL is being seen as the hegemony of the political line of Talabani-Barzani and Osman Ocalan in the region.

This division in KONGRA-GEL is different from the problems, separations or divisions experienced previously. Using the present conjuncture of forces in the region, the imperialists and the reactionary forces of Turkey have made a crucial move in seizing a collaborator section within the Kurdish movement, which has not acceded to cooperating with imperialism. With this move, the US has succeeded in maintaining, through Osman Ocalan’s PWD, a similar position in Turkey to what it had previously obtained in Iraqi Kurdistan through the PDK and YNK administrators. The US has now found a Kurdish representative in Turkey which it will be operating through. The US has taken advantage of the ideological weaknesses of KONGRA-GEL, its delay in taking a definite and clear stand towards the US intervention to the Middle East and its occupation of Iraq and its hesitant attitude toward imperialism. The US is using this as an opportunity to open a breach and is now widening it. 

The AKP has fastened itself to the helm of the US and is now aiming at reaching a solution to the Kurdish question within the framework of this plan. The inclination is to form a ‘Kurdish Platform’, a sort of Kurdish AKP in which Osman Ocalan and his supporters, the big landowners, the tribal chiefs, the representatives of Kurdish nationalist currents and even some of the AKP MPs will participate in some way or other. The EU is also playing this game. The EU is trying to manipulate the democratic longings of the people and the ‘interest’ demonstrated towards the EU and its policies by the Kurdish liberal bourgeois. In the future the EU hopes to increase its influence among the legal Kurdish politicians. 

The Imperialists and the reactionaries in Turkey want to solve the problem of ‘representation’ in relation to the Kurdish question by using the Kurdish Platform as the ‘representative’ of the Kurdish people. KONGRA-GEL is being eliminated from this process. The same tactic is being used against the Democratic Peoples’ Party (DEHAP), which is regarded as a supporter of the same political line. For these reasons, to evaluate this latest division within KONGRA-GEL over Osman Ocalan as being in the same category as previous divisions within the organization would be incomplete and even more importantly would be a major mistake.

In this sense, the DEHAP line is also at a crossroads. The interviews held with Osman Ocalan and his statements in the newspapers and on television recently also indicate this fact. The names of the former Democracy Party (DEP) deputies and certain Kurdish politicians are being mentioned and as well as their readiness to be included in this plan. Under these circumstances, DEHAP will either go forward as an anti-imperialist, anti-US Kurdish democratic movement, or if it hesitates it will fall into the trap of this operation. Its progress along its current political orientation will mean taking its place among the front ranks of not only the struggle for the democratisation of Turkey but also the struggle against US hegemony in the Middle East and against the Greater Middle East Project as a tool of this hegemony. Otherwise it will become just another ordinary Kurdish nationalist movement.

DEHAP advancing along the same platform as the Kurdish and Turkish labourers, with the labour and democratic forces, is significant in terms of the democratic movement and its future in Turkey. A DEHAP acting in this direction will also bring the collaborator “Kurdish Platform” being hatched up to nought.

The Party of Labour (EMEP) and the Kurdish Question

All the labour and democratic forces in Turkey are faced with an important duty of rendering the alliance between imperialism, the reactionary forces of Turkey and Talabani-Barzani-Osman Ocalan unsuccessful. EMEP, as the party of the working class and labourers of all nations in Turkey, will continue with all its efforts for the Kurdish workers and labourers to overcome this danger. Attaching great importance to acting together with DEHAP against this reactionary plot and to struggle, our Party will carry on its struggle with all its organisations, both in the Kurdish region and all over Turkey. It is necessary in this period to be strengthened and united around an anti-imperialist political line. Our party, which established an election front with DEHAP in both the general elections of November 3, 2002 and the latest local elections, will carry on its fight for the advancement of the struggle of all the people of Turkey, whether Kurdish, Turkish or any other nationality, against imperialism and the collaborator reactionary forces of Turkey.

On the other hand, the dark contra-guerrillas, the drug related forces, and the military and paramilitary forces have started to become active again. These developments are also being manipulated to cause panic among the people, to provoke divisions and to incite an oppositional attitude towards the Kurdish democratic movement which is refusing to collaborate. These kinds of provocative initiatives have been brought to the agenda in Van, Diyarbakir, Tunceli and other Kurdish provinces. Our Party will be even more careful to warn the people in the face of the explosions and assassination plots by unidentified forces and in condemning initiatives of this kind.

Again this period in the region is clarifying the demands of the workers and the labourers. It is to be expected that the big landowners, the tribal forces and the despots, who have been left motionless due to the hegemony of the Kurdish movement, will become reactivated and make new moves to regain their previous prestige and privileges. The AKP handing out ‘small bribes’ to the labourers of the region, who are in the claws of unemployment and poverty, are among such moves. The demands of the agricultural sections will become even more fervent. It is to be expected that developments similar to those in Maras and Diyarbakir (two Kurdish provinces in which the poor sections of the Kurdish people partially united to demand land from the big landowners) will take place in other provinces. Taking into consideration that the landowners and the tribal forces will go into action, it will be necessary to take more advanced steps for the organisation of the class struggle in the Kurdish villages. Considering that unemployment and poverty are prevalent in the Kurdish regions, putting forward demands particular to these regions will play an important role in unifying the people and repulsing the attacks.

What is at the head of the agenda in this particular period is to carry forward the anti-imperialist attitude of the Kurdish people and to spoil the games of the feudal nationalist forces. In addition, one of the most important duties of our Party is to develop the struggle in order for the Kurdish workers and labourers to intervene in this process and to stand up to the attacks and resist with their own demands the attacks of the bourgeoisie as well as all other kinds of attacks.

The Current and Urgent Demands of the Kurdish People

A general political amnesty and a cease-fire must be declared and the Kurdish question must be solved as a democratic and political problem. All the mistreatment of the people of the region stemming from the Kurdish question must cease and they must be compensated for their damages. Industry, agriculture and stockbreeding must be supported. The Southeast Anatolian Project (GAP) must be rearranged to the benefit of the people and it must be put to their service. All the enterprises within the scope of privatisation must be removed from such a plan, all the workplaces that have been privatised and closed down must be reopened and work must be provided for the unemployed. The right to education in the mother tongue must be recognized and chairs for the Kurdish language must be opened at the universities. Publishing and broadcasting in Kurdish must be backed up and all relevant bans must be abolished. The system of the rural guard (which completely serve to inform on the Kurdish people) must be eradicated and all special organisations in the region, including the special teams, must be dissolved. A commission to investigate the murders by ‘unknown perpetrators’ must be established and those responsible must be judged and punished. The September 12 Constitution, acting as an cover for the Political Parties Act, the 10% election quota and all other antidemocratic laws must be annulled and the Kurdish people must achieve an equal and free status.

Source

Revolutionary Communist Party of Turkey: The Kurdish Movement’s Direction of Development

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September 1999

The Turkish bourgeoisie’s war threat to Syria with the support of US imperialism, the driving of the PKK leaders out of Syria, and the bringing of A. Ocalan to Turkey through an international operation – all these events have inflamed discussions about the Kurdish question both in Turkey and in the international arena. Although it is not the first time it appeared on the agenda, the question which arises now is: ‘What will happen next?’ Besides their declarations about the ‘importance of co-operation against terrorism’, the leaders of the US, the EU countries, Russia, the Arab and Balkan states expressed their views that ‘Turkey should utilise this opportunity to recognise the cultural rights of the Kurds’. It was obvious that all were concerned about their own bourgeois imperialist interests and objectives, and that they were making plans as to how and to what extent they could benefit from this question.

The ruling classes of Turkey have chosen to use the ‘Apo operation’ (Apo is the nickname for Abdullah Ocalan) as an instrument to conceal the Kurdish question and the country’s social problems. The authorities, including the Military General Council, the President and government officials, claimed that there is no such thing as a Kurdish question, and intensified propaganda about the ‘elimination of terror’. Military and police attacks have been intensified and the state of emergency has been spread over the whole of Turkey.

Following Ocalan’s flight from Syria with the intervention of US imperialism and his arrival in Rome, the Turkish authorities sought to create a ‘national mobilisation’ with the propaganda that Italy and Germany as well as Syria and Greece ‘support separatist terrorism’. Chauvinist and reactionary propaganda was designed to promote reactionary prejudices amongst the most backward sections of the working people and to cover up the attacks and repression on the Kurds. The collaborator bourgeoisie and the top officials of the dictatorship too knew well that the ‘Apo operation’ would in no way keep the Kurdish question out of the agenda.

Nevertheless, this operation was a military and political success. Thus, it could be used as an efficient instrument of propaganda about the power and the greatness of the state both within the country and internationally. They tried to use this fully for their objectives such as the consolidation of the bourgeois influence and control over the masses, the postponing or denial of the demands of the working people through repressive means, and the implementation of economic policies in favour of international capital and the collaborating monopolist bourgeoisie. The collaborating ruling classes have mobilised all reactionary forces. They also mobilised every means with the aim of strengthening the policy of denial of the existence of the Kurdish nation and their rights under the new conditions and on the basis of their supposed success.

The Military General Council have bullied neighbouring countries; repeated once again the demagogy of a ‘single state, single nation, single language under a single flag’; and declared its determination ‘not to allow’ any development opposed to this. All the institutions of the system and its political and military forces have been brought to bear in this aggressive campaign.

One of the objectives of the collaborating reactionary forces has been the hindrance of the development of the Kurdish movement, which is one of the reasons of the economic and political dilemma and instability, into an advantage in favour of the reactionary forces. This was in line with the plans of US imperialism for the Middle East and the Caucasus and the role it has given to Turkey as its imperialist subcontractor. The line followed by the Kurdish bourgeois reformist movement and the line of struggle which considered the Kurdish popular masses as logistic support has led to a setback and tiredness in the Kurdish movement since 1992. This has facilitated the implementation of the policies of the ruling classes.

The PKK has deliberately identified itself with the Kurdish people and movement, and on behalf of them it called Western imperialist states to ‘intervene to solve the question’. While the propaganda about ‘Turkey’s gates could only be opened by Washington’ and the obligation of the intervention of ‘civilised Europe’ raised the Kurdish people’s expectations from the imperialists, it has orientated towards a line which is increasingly tied to policies of big Western states in the name of diplomacy.

Ocalan’s arrival at Rome and his application for political asylum was presented by the PKK and the Kurdish liberal reformist circles as the Kurds ‘entrance into the EU from Rome before Turkey’. Imperialist reactionary forces were esteemed as civilised democrats. With all this they revealed their trust in and expectations from the imperialists who are the most dangerous and the main enemy of the oppressed peoples. In this sense ‘diplomacy’ was everything now. The phrase ‘let’s become diplomats’ has been turned into a slogan by these circles. Ocalan was going to lead these diplomatic activities; relations with the US and the EU countries were going to be improved; Turkey was going to be forced through their influence; and a ‘political solution’ was going to be ensured. This is one of the most important tendencies in the Kurdish movement.

The Kurdish question was no longer ‘an internal question’ of Turkey. Although the collaborating bourgeoisie and state officials claimed ‘not to let anybody intervene in our internal affairs’, it was inevitable that slavery or struggle for liberation of a nation in a region where there is intense imperialist rivalry and in capitalist imperialist conditions was going to turn into an international question. The reasons for this is not only the fact that the conciliatory rulers of Turkey deny the existence of the Kurdish nation, their rights and the Kurdish question; and that the governments of the western imperialist countries’ recognition of the question and the possibility of its solution within the system. Also the existence of the Kurds in Iran, Iraq and Syria as well as Turkey is one of the objective factors for the expansion of this question to a regional and international dimension. Among other factors are the ‘migrant status’ of the Kurds in Europe; and the fact that the Kurdish question could have a role in the imperialist fight for hegemony over the Middle East, the Balkans and the Caucasus.

The question which direction will the development of the Kurdish movement take is directly linked with the Kurdish social reality. The level that capitalist development has reached in Turkey and Turkey-Kurdistan, and the synchronous development of capital accumulation and poverty in opposite directions make the struggle inevitable between the bourgeoisie and reactionary forces and the proletariat and the working people as opposite forces. Objective developments and the sharpening contradictions give rise to this struggle in the form of antagonistic contradictions between the two opposite classes. An opposition line to the reformist, conciliatory and collaborating line within the Kurdish movement is becoming more and more clear. Amongst the Kurdish working people, mainly the most advanced sections of the workers, the tendency to take up the question of national liberation together with political and economic demands, and to establish a firmer unity with the Turkish workers and working people against the attacks of capital.

This tendency has to be strengthened further for a democratic and popular solution of the Kurdish question. This is possible. The most advanced sections of Kurdish workers and working people have begun to organise in and around a revolutionary working class party. Tiredness, hopelessness and setbacks caused by a certain understanding of the struggle of the parties and organisations in the Kurdish movement, like the PKK and HADEP, which do not pay attention to the daily economic and political demands of the working masses and which do not bother to develop the mass movement, is being replaced by the tendency to struggle and the determination of advancing the movement of the Kurdish working people who understand through their political experience that the problem can be solved through unity of all working people from all nationalities of Turkey and on the basis of a struggle against the dictatorship and imperialism. It is possible that reformism and ‘terrorism’ whose aims and targets have become blurred and whose implementers do not count who they are serving with it could continue to co-exist by feeding each other. Nevertheless, what we are going through is a process where the differentiation of what is revolutionary from the conciliatory and reformist will accelerate.

The fact that the Kurdish bourgeois reformist and liberal circles opening the door to the imperialist bourgeoisie in the name of ‘diplomacy’, and that the imperialist states use this unsolved question as an instrument of pressure on their servants in the region poses a serious threat to the present and the future of the Kurdish movement.

Fortunately, Kurdish workers and working people have learnt much from the developments of the last 15-20 years and from the experiences of the struggle. Apart from the long past, they also take into account the experiences of Kurdish uprisings since the foundation of the Turkish Republic. They have seen in practice the inevitability of the peoples’ united struggle against the provocations, attacks and colonial oppression of the collaborating bourgeoisie and of the imperialists. The advanced sections of Kurdish working people have become mature enough to understand that national, political and economic rights can only be obtained through a line of struggle independent from the bourgeoisie and the reactionary forces.

This is the basis and the guarantee for the development of the movement in a revolutionary direction. The Kurdish question is not a new question; it has not come on to the international agenda for the first time; and it is not directly related to the PKK’s existence or non-existence. For almost a century the Kurdish people have been demanding their national rights through a struggle with ebbs and flows and interruptions. The fact that the Kurdish people is increasingly getting rid of being a divided and closed society strengthens the mass basis of their demand for national liberation and ensures the growth of the forces of the struggle. Also, the conditions have become ripe for the Kurdish working people to draw a thick demarcation line from the bourgeoisie and the reactionary forces. This is the main direction of the development. The Kurds can obtain their national liberation with the success of the struggle of the Kurdish workers and working people – hand in hand with the Turkish workers. This is the direction of the development in the movement of the Kurdish working people.

From: ‘The Voice of Revolution’, International Bulletin of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Turkey, TDKP.

Source

Platform of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

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 l. Conventional War Is the War of the Bourgeoisie. Revolutionary War Is People’s War

The Arab bourgeoisie has developed armies which are not prepared to sacrifice their own interests or to risk their privileges. Arab militarism has become an apparatus for oppressing revolutionary socialist movements within the Arab states, while at the same time it claims to be staunchly anti-imperialist. Under the guise of the national question, the bourgeoisie has used its armies to strengthen its bureaucratic power over the masses. and to prevent the workers and peasants from acquiring political power. So far it has demanded the help of the workers and peasants without organising them or without developing a proletarian ideology. The national bourgeoisie usually comes to power through military coups and without any activity on the part of the masses, as soon as it has captured power it reinforces its bureaucratic position. Through widespread application of terror it is able to talk about revolution while at the same time it suppresses all the revolutionary movements and arrests everyone who tries to advocate revolutionary action. The Arab bourgeoisie has used the question of Palestine to divert the Arab masses from realising their own interests and their own domestic problems. The bourgeoisie always concentrated hopes on a victory outside the state”s boundaries, in Palestine, and in this way they were able to preserve their class interests and their bureaucratic positions.

The war of June 1967 disproved the bourgeois theory of conventional war. The best strategy for Israel is to strike rapidly. The enemy is not able to mobilise its armies for a long period of time because this would intensify its economic crisis. It gets complete support from U.S. imperialism and for these reasons it needs quick wars. Therefore for our poor people the best strategy in the long run is a people”s war. Our people must overcome their weaknesses and exploit the weaknesses of the enemy by mobilising the Palestinian and Arab peoples. The weakening of imperialism and Zionism in the Arab world demands revolutionary war as the means to confront them.

2. Guerrilla Struggle as a Form of Pressure for the “Peaceful Solution”

The Palestinian struggle is a part of the whole Arab liberation movement and of the world liberation movement. The Arab bourgeoisie and world imperialism are trying to impose a peaceful solution on this Palestinian problem but this suggestion merely promotes the interests of imperialism and of Zionism, doubt in the efficacy of people”s war as a means of liberation and the preservation of the relations of the Arab bourgeoisie with the imperialist world market. The Arab bourgeoisie is afraid of being isolated from this market and of losing its role as a mediator of world capitalism. That is why the Arab oil producing countries broke off the boycott against the West (instituted during the June war) and for this reason McNamara, as head of the World Bank, was ready to offer credits to them.

When the Arab bourgeoisie strive far a peaceful solution, they are in fact striving for the profit which they can get from their role as mediator between the imperialist market and the internal market. The Arab bourgeoisie are not yet opposed to the activity of the guerrillas, and sometimes they even help them; but this is because the presence of the guerrillas is a means of pressure for a peaceful solution. As long as the guerrillas don”t have a clear class affiliation and a clear political stand they are unable to resist the implication of such a peaceful solution; but the conflict between the guerrillas and those whose strive for a peaceful solution is unavoidable. Therefore the guerrillas must take steps to transform their actions into a people”s war with clear goals.

3. No Revolutionary War Without a Revolutionary Theory

The basic weakness of the guerrilla movement is the absence of a revolutionary ideology, which could illuminate the horizons of the Palestinian fighters and would incarnate the stages of a militant political programme. Without a revolutionary ideology the national struggle will remain imprisoned within its immediate practical and material needs. The Arab bourgeoisie is quite prepared for a limited satisfaction of the needs of the national struggle, as long as it respects the limits that the bourgeoisie sets. A clear illustration of this is the material help that Saudi Arabia offers Fatah while Fatah declares that she will not interfere in the internal affairs of any Arab countries. Since most of the guerrilla movements have no ideological weapons, the Arab bourgeoisie can decide their fate. Therefore, the struggle of the Palestinian people must be supported by the workers and peasants, who will fight against any form of domination by imperialism, Zionism or the Arab bourgeoisie.

4. The War of Liberation Is a Class War Guided by a Revolutionary Ideology

We must not be satisfied with ignoring the problems of our struggle. saying that our struggle is a national one and not a class struggle. The national struggle reflects the class struggle. The national struggle is a struggle for land and those who struggle for it are the peasants who were driven away from their land. The bourgeoisie is always ready to lead such a movement, hoping to gain control of the internal market. If the bourgeoisie succeeds in bringing the national movement under its control, which strengthens its position, it can lead the movement under the guise of a peaceful solution into compromises with imperialism and Zionism. Therefore, the fact that the liberation struggle is mainly a class struggle emphasises the necessity for the workers and peasants to play a leading role in the national liberation movement. if the small bourgeoisie take the leading role, the national revolution will fall as a victim of the class interests of this leadership. It is a great mistake to start by saying that the Zionist challenge demands national unity for this shows that one does not understand the real class structure of Zionism. The struggle against Israel is first of all a class struggle. Therefore the oppressed class is the only class which is able to face a confrontation with Zionism.

5. The Main Field of Our Revolution Struggle is Palestine

The decisive battle must he in Palestine. The armed people”s struggle to Palestine can help itself with the simplest weapons in order to ruin the economies and the war machinery of their Zionist enemy. The moving of the peoples struggles into Palestine depends upon agitating and oranising the masses, more than depending upon border actions in the Jordan valley, although these actions are of importance for the struggle in Palestine.

When guerrilla organisations began their actions in the occupied areas, they were faced with a brutal military repression by the armed forces of Zionism. Because these organisations had no revolutionary ideology and so no programme, they gave in to demands of self-preservation and retreated into eastern Jordan. All their activity turned into border actions. This presence of the guerrilla organisations in Jordan enables the Jordanian bourgeoisie and their secret agents to crush these organisations when they are no longer useful as pressure for a peaceful solution.

6. Revolution in Both Regions of Jordan

We must not neglect the struggle in east Jordan for this land is connected with Palestine more than with the other Arab countries. The problem of the revolution in Palestine is dialectically connected with the problem of the revolution in Jordan. A chain of plots between the Jordanian monarchy, imperialism and Zionism have proved this connection.

The struggle in east Jordan must take the correct path, that of class struggle. The Palestinian struggle must not be used as a means of propping up the Jordanian monarchy. Under the mask of national unity, and the main problem in Jordan is the creation of a Marxist-Leninist party with a clear action programme according to which it can organise the masses and enable them to carry out the national and class struggle. The harmony of the struggle in the two region, must be realised through co-ordinating organs whose tasks will be to guarantee reserves inside Palestine and to mobilise the peasants and soldiers in the border-territories.

This is the only way in which Amman can become an Arab Hanoi:-a base for the revolutionaries fighting inside Palestine.

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Grover Furr: Israeli Rule over Palestinians is Fascist

Apartheid South Africa - Apartheid Israel (1)

Originally published in The Montclarion, student newspaper at Montclair State College (now University), Thursday, May 5, 1988, p. 13.

To the editor:

Professor Edward Aronow’s letter of April 21 on Israeli treatment of Palestinians is so filled with error and distortion that one short response can only begin to correct it.

Israeli rule over Palestinians is essentially fascist. The Israeli army assault on the West Bank town of Beita in the wake of the death of an Israeli teenager can only be described as a pogrom — brutal, murderous assault such as the Tsarist police and the Nazis committed against Jews.

Killing persons armed only with stones or “trying to flee” – – including numerous Palestinian teenagers — collective punishment, beatings, imprisonment without trail for indefinite periods, deportations — this is fascist repression, akin to Nazi terrorism.

The lesson of World War II — especially of the Nazi holocaust — is that fascism cannot be fought with “moderation.” Mass Palestinian protests, including violent protests, must be welcomed, and supported by all those who oppose injustice. Pacifist and “non-violent” protest would be morally irresponsible, since they can never succeed against fascist oppression, but only lead to the unnecessary deaths of many protesters.

Terrorist assassinations, whether by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), or the far more numerous acts of terrorist murder by the Israeli army and settlers, must be condemned. However, Israel is far more guilty in this regard, quantitatively, than the PLO.

About 10 times the number of Palestinians have been murdered by Israel than the number of Israelis murdered by PLO terrorists. Yet Israeli terrorist repression against Palestinians is termed `retaliation” or “assassination” in the US media!

Israeli fascist brutalities follow a long history of working with some of the worst fascists on earth, including South Africa, Iran, Turkey, and Argentina. Israel is a major supplier of arms and military advisors to South Africa. Israeli advisors helped train the Iranian Secret Police under the fascist Shah in torture techniques. Today Israel is the major arms supplier to Khomeini’s Iran!

One need not look far to find the roots of Israeli terrorism and fascism. Take Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Shamir. Before World War II he belonged to a Zionist grouplet that, in 1940, offered to enter the war on the side of Nazi Germany if the Nazis would permit a Zionist state, run along fascist lines, in Palestine. Shamir personally planned the 1948 terrorist murder of Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN Special Mediator for Palestine.

During the war, the major Zionist leaders collaborated with Adolf Eichmann to send half a million Hungarian Jews to their deaths in Nazi extermination camps, in return for the Nazis letter 1500 or so Zionists emigrate to Palestine — a fact long since documented by Zionist writers. Such is the “love” of the Zionist leaders for “their own people”!

The root problem is racism and its twin, nationalism. Israeli law claims that any Jew, anywhere in the world, has a right to full Israeli citizenship, while Arabic-speaking Palestinians have no such right even if they were born and have lived all their lives on the territory now comprising Israel. This is an inherently racist policy. Fascist racism is built into the very existence of the Israeli state.

It is in the interest of Israeli rulers to foment as much hatred between Jews and Palestinians as they can. Israel’s economy depends heavily upon the exploitation of very cheap Palestinian labor, just as South Africa’s does on Black labor.

Israeli Jewish workers are very militant; relative to population;there are more work-days lost to strikes in Israel than in any country in the world. Racism and nationalism are the main things keeping Jewish and non- Jewish workers from allying with one another.

At all costs, Israeli bosses must prevent this, while keeping the super-exploited Palestinian workers nearby and without rights. The parallel with South Africa — or with American treatment of “illegal aliens” and minorities — is unmistakable.

Incidentally, there are not “dozens of Arab states,” as Professor Aranow, following the Israeli government propaganda line, says. There is one major Arab state, Saudi Arabia, and several minor ones on that peninsula. There are many Arabic-speaking states, just as there are many countries besides England where English is spoken. There is no “Palestinian state” in Jordan. Here Professor Aranow simply parrots Israeli disinformation.

Like Israel, the Moslem, Arabic-speaking states are also undemocratic, elite-run dungeons. In light of Israeli terror, however, Professor Aranow’s prattle about the need to “await greater Arab political maturity” is racist nonsense.

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