Palestine: Beyond Third Worldism

Pothik Ghosh

New Delhi’s support for, and solidarity, with the Palestinian liberation struggle stands all but abandoned. That the Indian foreign policy has shifted decisively away from Palestine towards the Yankee-Zionist-led imperialist axis to become its integral part is no longer even a badly concealed mystery. It is an indisputably evident fact that the Indian state and polity, propped up by the neoliberal social consensus in the country, wears on its sleeve with shameless élan. One of the key erstwhile drivers of the pro-Palestine global liberal consensus, New Delhi now blames the erosion of that consensus on the emergence of Hamas as the principal political agency of the Palestinian resistance, and its ‘radical Islamist’ character. That, in its reckoning, is completely indefensible at a time when the ‘terroristic depredations’ of ‘pan-Islamism’ have sought to put the very existence of secular modernity in jeopardy all across the world. Clearly, this liberal position, permeated and informed as it is by the current international climate of anti-Islamist (even anti-Islamic) opinion, finds nothing wrong in projecting the Palestinian national liberation struggle as a local manifestation of the so-called internationalist project of Pan-Islamist conservatism.

That New Delhi today is no longer merely a junior client in this imperialist hegemony of globalised neoliberal capital, but is one of its principal proponents is borne out by, among other things, the fact that Israel today is by all accounts the largest exporter of defence hardware to India. Some even claim, not at all without basis or reason, that New Delhi and Tel Aviv are equal partners in intelligence sharing and cooperation at the level of military software and strategy. Much of this Israeli assistance with regard to both military hardware and software is used and deployed by the Indian state to not only maintain and reinforce its politico-economic hegemony as an imperialist power in its south Asian backyard, but to also perpetuate and deepen its brutal military occupations in Kashmir and India’s north-east, but especially in Kashmir.

Such assistance from, and cooperation with, Israel, among other key constituents of the global capitalist chain of imperialism, has added to the overall coercive might of the Indian state. It banks on this coercive might to prop up the crisis-ridden capitalist hegemony it represents and incarnates in its specificity. It is on account of this increase in its coercive might that the Indian state has been able to simultaneously intensify its oppression of religious and cultural minorities (mainly Muslims), socio-economically marginal groups such as the lower castes, indigenous tribes inhabiting the jungles and the hilly tracts in its central, eastern and northeastern parts, and the new utterly precarious and casualised proletariat and sub-proletariat in revolt in the industrialised belts in the northern, western and southern parts of the country. Such intensification of oppression is integral to the process of keeping the structure of neoliberal capital – which is the structure of capital as its own crisis – firmly embedded in the Indian socio-economic formation.

However, what is now unambiguously visible as the turn away of Indian foreign policy from the Palestinian cause towards building and deepening a cosy partnership and alliance between New Delhi and Tel Aviv had already been foretold as a direction during what was then considered to be the glory days of Third Worldist solidarity with Palestine, under the aegis of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), of which India was a key protagonist. Palestine, together with the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, was the central concern for NAM as an alliance of decolonised nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America. But, as leftist historian Vijay Prashad tells us in his book, The Darker Nations: “By 1983 (the New Delhi NAM meet), it was de rigueur, almost depressingly predictable, to demand rights for the Palestinians and the South Africans. The genuflection toward the Palestinians and the South Africans came, however, without any word on the support given by the Atlantic powers (particularly the United States) for both the Likud regime in Israel and the Afrikaner apartheid state in South Africa.”

This was clearly on account of the internal contradictions that had developed, and were sharpening, within the NAM. Contradictions that were, to speak dialectically, both the cause and consequence of the shift in the balance of forces in the sphere of international relations that had been effected due to the consolidation of the counter-revolutionary turn in the then USSR, which had long ceased to be the ever-expanding boundary of revolutionary proletarian internationalism to become the leader of a power bloc that in the name of world revolution competed with the Atlantic powers for global politico-economic supremacy. In such circumstances, it mattered very little, especially from the standpoint of revolutionary anti-capitalism, which of the two power blocs would be triumphant. For, regardless of who won the battle of global politico-economic dominance and supremacy, the hegemony of capital as the structure and logic of competition was bound to be reinforced and strengthened. In fact, if the stake willy-nilly was the reinforcement of the hegemony or structure of capital at the global level, it was more than likely that the less powerful among the two would be vanquished. And that, as we now know, is precisely what happened.

For now, let us attempt to grasp the shift in Indian foreign policy – from solidarity for the cause of Palestinian national self-determination towards political, economic and military partnership with Israel – in terms of the objective contradictions within NAM, and their progressive sharpening. Considering this foreign policy shift is a manifestation of India becoming an integral part of the global hegemony of neoliberal capital, it would not be inaccurate to insist that the contradictions within the Third Worldist solidarity of NAM, and their progressive sharpening, is constitutive of the global ascendancy of neoliberal capitalism. We will, therefore, examine here what those contradictions were and how they panned out, thereby rendering the shift in Indian foreign policy from Palestine to Israel and its Zionist ideology inevitable. In the same movement, we will also try to comprehend the new paradigm of globalised anti-capitalist politics and anti-imperialist solidarity that those contradictions and their sharpening posited, and which continues to be posited by the resultant global hegemony of neoliberal capitalism. In the process, we will hopefully be able to discern how the inevitability of the shift in Indian foreign policy vis-à-vis the Palestinian national liberation movement has, not least, been on account of the failure of all of us on the Indian left, across the board, to grasp, leverage and actualise that new paradigm of internationalised resistance and transformative politics.

NAM, albeit Mao’s China did not finally become its part, was, in a sense, an embodiment of Mao’s idea of Third Worldism. This Maoist idea of the Third World was, to begin with, a class-based conception of dual power in the realm of international relations by way of “struggle in unity, unity in struggle” with the Second World of the USSR-led Warsaw Pact against the First World of the Atlantic powers. It, however, gradually degenerated into a more Fanonian formation of unity of struggles against the common enemy of First World imperialism. Such a model of unity of struggles against a common adversary suggested that imperialism was, in the main, domination of some nation-states by others and that it had nothing to do with the generalisation of the structure of capitalist social relations of competition and domination into a world-system.

Such an approach meant that imperialism, which is actually the generalisation of capital as a logic of competitive social relations into a world system, came to be seen as being equal to only its historical moment of colonialism and neo-colonialism. Such hypostasis and reduction of imperialism to colonial and neo-colonial occupation and domination meant that one ignored or failed to see how capital as the logic of competitive social relations and uneven development was, in an objective sense, as much internal to and embedded in the newly decolonised nation-states of the Third World as it was embodied by the more powerful nation-states of the Second and First Worlds. As a result, what was almost entirely missed was the fact that the quest for national sovereignty of those newly decolonised nation-states of the Third World against the threat of neo-colonial domination posed by the First and/or the Second Worlds (in their mutual competition for global politico-economic supremacy) was as much underpinned by the capitalist structural logic of competitive social relations and uneven development as the mutual competition of the First and Second Worlds that yielded the politics of neo-colonial occupation and/or domination. Consequently, Third World unity, epitomised, for instance, by the NAM, became an embodiment of the principle of unity of all the oppressed for struggle against common oppressors.

What such unity of struggles against imperialist oppression tended to paper over was how that Third Worldist unity itself was the structuring of an internally segmented totality that ran through not only across its various constituent nation-states but within each of those nation-states as well. Hence, Third World as an anti-imperialist solidarity itself became – on account of imperialism being grasped by it merely as colonial and neo-colonial domination – an expanded reproduction of capital as the structural logic of uneven development.

We would do well to understand here how the anti-imperialism of the newly decolonised nations of the Third World, which articulated itself in terms of preservation and strengthening of economic sovereignty of those nation-states against the neo-colonial depredations of the First World Atlantic powers and the so-called social imperialism of the Second World, produced its own set of contradictions, ran into its limit and thereby undermined itself. If one were to encounter this paradigm of Third Worldist, anti-imperialist struggle and solidarity dialectically one would see how the failure of such politics – doubtless quite an effective and relevant form of anti-capitalism in its temporally determinate tactical specificity – to grasp its own limit eventually rendered it its very opposite. The NAM’s failure to wholeheartedly embrace Fidel Castro’s line of bolstering the solidaristic anti-imperialist politics of debt strike against the Atlantic powers at its 1983 New Delhi meet ensured that Castro’s Singaporean antagonist, Rajaratnam’s line of steering clear of both communism (read the USSR-led Second World) and capitalism (read the US-led Atlantic powers) would eventually seize the day.

But this eventual defeat of Castro’s line of globalised anti-capitalism as anti-imperialism by the Rajaratnam line of national sovereignty as an argument for capitalism was merely the effect of something deeper that had been happening in most of those decolonised Third World nation-states. National liberation is no more than an historically objective moment of anti-capitalist struggle tending towards internationalised proletarian revolution. The failure of such struggles to see their success as precisely the moment to move beyond themselves to refound their anti-capitalism in more evidently proletarian-internationalist terms transforms them into reproducers and perpetuators of precisely capital as the logic of competition and thus domination. That is exactly what happened with almost all the decolonised nations of the Third World. Their struggles against their respective First-World colonialist oppressors failed to transform those anti-colonial struggles as unity with the exploited and oppressed working masses of those colonising nations for newer levels of historically-specified struggles for the abolition of capital as the structural logic of competitive social relations in its various socio-historically concrete levels of expression. The consolidation of the counter-revolutionary turn in Soviet Union, which had set in due to the objective situation of retreat for the world revolution by the late 1920s itself, did not help matters.

This meant the consolidation of the leadership of those national-liberation struggles into a new ruling class that began intermediating between the leading powers of world capitalism and their own respective working populations. The result: a situation of unity in and for competition, the radical inverse of the Maoist revolutionary principle of “struggle in unity, unity in struggle” that had been the cornerstone of Third Worldism at its inception. This unity in and for competition meant that while national sovereignty was invoked by the ruling classes of the newly decolonised nation-states to compete against and bargain with the leading powers of the First and Second Worlds, they would come together in all sorts of permutations and combinations whenever this horizon of mutual competition was even potentially threatened with decimation by their respective working masses and oppressed peoples.

Nevertheless, a distinction must be made here. While the struggles against colonialism and/or neo-colonialism in countries such as Algeria, Vietnam, Cuba, Angola and so on preponderantly had a national-popular character, decolonisation in countries such as India, the so-called East Asian Tigers and some West Asian countries/Sheikhdoms had the character of passive revolutions that meant national independence was nothing more than transfer of power. The national-popular character of the anti-colonial struggles in question was on account of the leadership of those movements having arisen from the oppressed sections and working masses of those societies. This meant that even while those movements evidently failed, at a subjective level, to grasp themselves as a historically specific moment of globalised anti-capitalist struggle that tended towards proletarian internationalism, objectively they were more inclined to move in that direction as compared to countries such as India, Indonesia, Singapore and so on where the leadership of the anti-colonial movement was vested in a well-developed local bourgeoisie. That India’s Independence began, for instance, with its military occupation of Kashmir and its so-called north-eastern states serves to underscore the passive revolutionary character of its national independence. Also, the different trajectory of political-economic development that countries such as Cuba and Vietnam, on one hand, had initially taken with regard to that adopted by countries such as India and Singapore on the other, demonstrated this radical difference in the objective character of their anti-colonial movements.

However, the fact remains that eventually both sets of decolonised countries came to share, at an objective level, the same problem of their respective national liberation leaderships solidifying into ruling classes. The political-economic reasons that underpinned this phenomenon, which albeit proceeded at different rates in different countries depending on how passive revolutionary or national popular the character of their respective anti-colonial struggles had been, was what we have earlier indicated: the preservation and reinforcement of economic sovereignty of newly decolonised nation-states producing a situation that undermined precisely such sovereignty. Rajaratnam’s line at the 1983 NAM meet in New Delhi was nothing but a reflection of such a paradoxically changed situation. As Vijay Prashad’s The Darker Nations reveals, “The national interest invoked by Rajaratnam (against both the dominant power blocs) was actually the class interest of a section (of agrarian, industrial and financial bourgeoisie) created by import-substitution industrialization.”

Import-substitution industrialisation, which was politically enabled by the states of the newly decolonised nations of the Third World, was meant to protect and reinforce the economic sovereignty of those nation-states against the threat of neo-colonial domination posed by the nations of the First and Second Worlds, especially the First. What this really meant was import-substitution industrialisation served to strengthen the ‘local’ bourgeoisie, which was already well-developed much before decolonisation, and that was now rearing to fully and openly come into its own as an integral segment of the capitalist world-system by entering the global arena of completely liberalised free-market competition against the so-called traditional players of world capitalism. They now found the protection they had till then enjoyed, and which had enabled them to accumulate capital, as fetters that prevented them from entering the global arena of capitalist competition. For, without the freedom to enter that arena they realised they would not be able to invest the capital they had accumulated – precisely because of the domestic protection that had now turned into fetters – for even more intensified accumulation.

As a result, sovereignty of Third World nations became the sovereignty of its ‘local’ bourgeoisie marshalling their respective national status to make an impressive entry on the stage of international social relations of competition. In such circumstances, Third-World solidarity entailed the formation of a new power bloc of the newly emerged, postcolonial bourgeoisie against the power blocs of the traditional bourgeoisie of the First and Second Worlds within the global arena of capitalist competition and bargaining. The dismantling of the domestic regimes of economic protection that this new bloc of postcolonial bourgeoisie demanded in order to be able to compete in a globalised free market with the traditional players of world capitalism included easy access to loans from international financial institutions, including the IMF and World Bank. The reforms that were required, amounted to easy access to such loans for this bloc of newly ascendant global bourgeoisie in return for anti-labour and anti-poor structural changes in the domestic economy that those international financial institutions demanded in order to ensure that their loans were protected through the bolstered capacity of their debtors for unbridled accumulation that such structural adjustment programs would facilitate. This clearly meant the death of economic sovereignty of Third World nations on account of conditions created precisely by the pursuit of such economic sovereignty.

In such self-contradictory circumstances, the national sovereignty the technocratic political executive of this postcolonial glocal bourgeoisie – irrespective of whichever political formation is in power – have touted and asserted is essentially the sovereignty of this class. National interest meant that the national was effectively a consensus to serve the interests of this class by way of enabling it to compete effectively and without any domestic or local hindrance in the global free market. In other words, patriotism is the consensus that enables this class at the level of their respective nation-states to organise production so as to be able to effectively compete at the global level, and thereby efficiently intensify accumulation. Given that such consensus now clearly amounts to the undermining of the traditional economic sovereignty enjoyed by the citizens of the Third World nation-states, nationalism and patriotism could only mean the defence and assertion of an abstract and idealised form of nationhood that was, therefore, bound to be thoroughly culturalist founded on such premises as nationalised and culturalised blood-and-soil type of fascistic ethnicity.

Such culturalised, mythicised and idealised conceptions of nationhood, nationalism and national sovereignty have meant uniting people on an abstract basis to serve the concrete material interests of their postcolonial glocal capital that in the national specification of its global operation symbolizes sovereignty. Such culturalised form of nationhood, and the attendant conception of cultural nationalism, has, not surprisingly, proved to be a double whammy for the oppressed and the exploited. On the one hand, it tends to be the mechanism for the enforcement of social corporatism that enables capital, either through sheer ideology or through ideologically legitimised coercion, to compel labour to collaborate with it to serve interests that seem ecumenical but are, in material terms, restrictively those of this postcolonial glocal capital. On the other, this has meant, tendentially speaking, an attempt to shatter the collectivity of the working class as a revolutionary force by serving to accentuate the identitarianised segmentations and divisions within it and, in the process, neutralise the challenge such revolutionary solidarity would have otherwise tended to pose to the intensified accumulation drive of global neoliberal capital embodied in that local moment by this postcolonial segment of global capital.

Clearly, the unwillingness and/or inability of national liberation struggles of the Third World to grasp themselves as determinate moments of proletarian internationalism has been both the cause and consequence of their quest for economic sovereignty collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions to intensify and expand the scope of capitalist accumulation and capitalist class power (the structural logic of competitive socialisation). Consequently, the politics of resistance unleashed by various oppressed religious, socio-cultural, socio-economic and nationality groups – for, instance Muslims, Dalits, indigenous tribes, various sections of the newly proletarianised precariat, Kashmiris, etc. – has been quite concerted. But unfortunately they have so far been in the idiom of sovereignty and thus competitive identity politics, and not in class terms that is their sedimental reality. Therefore, all these movements continue to be articulated by precisely that which they tend to fight against in its various local manifestations.

Meanwhile, the failure of the working-class left in India in all its multiple varieties and shades has been quite galling on that score. It has, notwithstanding some degrees of difference among its various tendencies, failed on the whole to enable those resistance movements from grasping the reality of revolutionary class politics sedimented in their respective specificities, and generalise that sedimental reality beyond their respective identitarian niches towards forging a larger revolutionary solidarity of unity in struggle and struggle in unity. Instead, the various tendencies of the Indian left seek, on one hand, to convince the movements of different oppressed groups to accept to fight their battles under the leadership of working class as a sociologically identified and closed group, as if class is an identity and not the principle that aligns the particular struggles of various oppressed groups into a movement to overcome, break with and destroy the hegemony of the identity principle that is the condition of possibility of oppression actualised in and by the different specificities of domination. In the process, the Indian Left tends to reinforce the structure and principle of identity that is the condition of possibility of oppression.

On the other hand, the so-called working-class left in India, irrespective of the differences in the respective programmatic positions of its various sects, posits more or less a common praxis of fighting the cultural nationalism and economic liberalisation of the right (the BJP and the Congress respectively) by seeking to revive the principle of economic sovereignty that informed and determined our Third Worldist conception of nationalism at the moment of India’s decolonisation. Little does it realise that it was precisely the success of such quest for economic sovereignty that led to its collapse, and the rise of both cultural nationalism and economic liberalisation. That the two are mutually constitutive is not something we on the left are able to clearly see because our paradigm still remains, not unlike the current movements of various oppressed groups, an identitarian one.

The so-called working-class left in India, with very few and minor exceptions, still thinks of its politics of struggle in terms of achieving ‘true’ national independence as opposed to the ‘false’ one we currently suffer. Clearly, its politics continues to be inscribed within and articulated by a national-liberationist paradigm of sovereignty. As a result, its politics remains an eclectic combination of two different struggles: one against cultural nationalism and another against economic liberalisation. Vijay Prashad’s The Darker Nations is an apposite case in point. Even as it describes quite accurately the crisis of the Third Worldist project of nationalism based on economic sovereignty, it is unable to see what the facts it has at its disposal so clearly say. It fails to dialectically grasp the shift of India and other similar ex-colonial nation-states towards neoliberalism – the mutual constitutivity of economic liberalisation and cultural nationalism – in terms of the inner contradictions of their quest for economic sovereignty. For Prashad, but not just the tendency of the Indian left he represents, the subversion of economic sovereignty remains merely a matter of conspiracy subjectively willed by the ruling classes of these ex-colonies and not something structural that was produced because of the national-liberationist, third worldist project of economic sovereignty as anti-imperialism running into its limit. As a result, such intellectuals and militants – and there are legions of them on the Indian working-class left in all its variety – totally miss the fact that the Third Worldist nationalist economic sovereignty is now an anachronism.

What, therefore, continues to elude them is the fact that the success of the project of economic sovereignty, from the standpoint of revolutionary anti-capitalism, lay not simply in what it was able to deliver to the working masses, but precisely in the new class contradictions it generated. For, it is precisely by recognising those historically new contradictions, but more importantly the new paradigm of transformative politics that such contradictions posit, that revolutionary anti-capitalism can advance beyond its determinate moment of national liberation and not be hypostatised or conflated with it. This new paradigm of revolutionary anti-capitalism – which was posited by the contradictions generated by the success of economic sovereignty, and which continues to be posited even today by neoliberalism that has been generated as a new conjuncture of global capital in and through the collapse of that project of Third Worldist economic sovereignty – is more evidently proletarian internationalist that clearly envisages the simultaneity of struggle and unity as its modality.

Unfortunately, we on the Indian left, by and large, still refuse to recognise that, fixated as our practice is on an identitarian, if not a national-liberationist, paradigm. As a consequence, we have miserably failed to intervene productively in the struggles of various oppressed groups by not revealing the sedimental class reality of their respective politics of resistance to them so that they can on their own generalise that sedimental reality beyond the particularity of the identitarian niches their respective struggles are caught in. On the contrary, the uncritical and misplaced politico-ideological support we often seek to them has only served to reinforce the capitalist paradigm of competitive identity politics. This has ensured that those particular struggles do not realise the generic potential immanent precisely in the specific conditions of their respective struggles to shift that capitalist paradigm.

The strengthening of this paradigm of sovereignty (read competitive identity politics) – which such repeatedly misplaced and/or unsuccessful interventions on our part has yielded – has ensured the oppressed and the subordinated always remain at the receiving end. For, if the paradigm of the politics of resistance of the oppressed continues to be that of competitive identity politics then they as the disempowered group vis-à-vis the powerful group of oppressors will always be at a disadvantage. As a result, they have, not in spite but precisely because of the modality of their otherwise objectively legitimate struggles, continued to fail in advancing their movements. Worse, the failure of the politics of resistance of the oppressed to break out of the paradigm of sovereignty has further led to their internal segmentation and division and has thus further deepened the project of passive revolution.

It would be germane to examine the shift in Indian foreign policy with regard to the Palestinian movement for national self-determination in terms of the politics of Muslims as the most significant oppressed minority group – both in the Indian mainland and as the majority religious group that constitutes the oppressed nationality of Kashmir. The politics of Muslims in India suffers most intensely from the affliction that bedevils, as we have seen, the politics of resistance of the oppressed in this part of the world. This affliction, it must be reiterated yet again, is the failure of such politics to actualise the reality of revolutionary class politics sedimented in the specificity of its politics of resistance and in the process break with the paradigm of competitive identity politics within which it is currently inscribed.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that objectively the struggle of Kashmiris, and the Muslims of the Indian mainland, regardless of the many divergences in their specific conditions of oppression and resistance, is a class struggle insofar as identity is segmentation of the working class and thus constitutive of hierarchised distribution of social and political power. And precisely for that reason such struggles of the Muslims in India – particularly its more militant and extra-parliamentary forms, and despite the religious, petty-bourgeois character of its politico-ideological leadership – posits a serious challenge to the Indian moment of imperialism as the capitalist world-system of mutually competing capitals united only by the larger systemic logic of competition and its preservation. In such a scenario, Indian foreign policy tilting more and more towards the Yankee-Zionist politico-military configuration can be made sense of as a bulwark against the revolutionary working-class potential of various Muslim struggles being unleashed to form larger national- and international-level solidarity networks against global capital and its reign of exploitation realised in and as differential temporalities of oppression. And right now the Indian state-formation, as an integral part of imperialism as the globalised network of many different kinds and forms of capitals that is capitalism as world-system, seeks to keep the working-class potential posited by various struggles of the oppressed in check by quelling those struggles in the name of quelling ‘Islamic jehad’, ‘political Islam’ and so on.

It, therefore, gravitates, at the level of foreign policy, towards the Atlantic powers, and particularly towards Israel in the particular context of Asia and Muslim politics as politics of the oppressed, in order to align itself better with the global capitalist project of fighting ‘pan-Islamism’. This, needless to say, aids and bolsters Israel’s Zionist project of occupation of Palestine as a local West Asian moment constitutive of the globalised conjuncture of neoliberal imperialism.

Such a radically new conjunctural context imposes on ongoing national liberation struggles, particularly the ones in Palestine and Kashmir, a radically new task. Which is to come to terms with the fact that while the discursive appearance of their respective (colonial) occupations remain similar to what they were in the beginning, the difference between then and now is in terms of the structural-functionality of such occupations. Those occupations, when they were established as constitutive spatio-temporal units of the previous conjuncture, were mainly about politico-military domination to ensure the maintenance and reinforcement of politico-economic hegemony in South Asia and the Perso-Arabic world by India and Israel respectively as the vanguard of American imperialistic machinations in the region. Today, that hegemony-bolstering function of occupations has, on account of changes in the structure of global capital, got coupled with the management of cheap labour reserves in the occupied areas in order to maintain labour and wage arbitrage of domestic labour markets of the occupying powers.

This change has been on account of the change in the modality of operation of nation-states as the basic units of international division of labour. The earlier conjuncture was characterised by the internationalisation of only the moment of circulation in the circuit of capital. This meant nation-states managed locally self-contained production and globalised circulation, consumption and exchange. The current conjuncture, on the other hand, is characterised by the internationalisation of the circuit of capital in its entirety. This means nation-states now manage the localised moments of a globally integrated value chain to maintain and reinforce labour and wage arbitrage in order to reinforce the value chain and keep it going.

In such a situation, it would not be misplaced or inaccurate to contend that the days of Third Worldist solidarity with the Palestinian cause, as far as an ex-colonial nation-state such as India is concerned, are well and truly over. The Palestinian resistance should have no illusions on that score. And the least that the left in India must do, if it has any desire to live up to its name, is to try its utmost to disabuse the Palestinian movement that any kind of concerted support is forthcoming from the Indian people as a nation united. For, the national consensus the Indian state seeks to reinforce, and which in turn informs its foreign policy establishment, is thoroughly neoliberal. That India, together with Israel, is firmly ensconced in globalised neoliberalism as one of its key proponents and purveyors is an unmistakable fact. Even more unmistakable is the changed national consensus that bolsters this global situation of the Indian nation-state and is, in turn, bolstered by it.

More pertinently, the left in India must work towards shattering precisely this national and nationalist consensus if it wants its solidarity with the Palestinian people to be effective. Unfortunately, its paradigmatic reliance on sovereignty continues to get in the way. It will have to abandon this paradigm. And it can make a beginning in that direction now, in the context of Palestine, by thinking of how it can constellate the movements of the exploited and dominated groups (in particular, national liberation struggles of oppressed nationalities such as the Kashmiris) on the Indian subcontinent and the Palestinian resistance in order to develop a new anti-capitalist internationalism for our times. Only such a manoeuvre would transform the internationalism of the Palestinian movement, which has become abstract due to the collapse of the Third Worldist project, into a new historically concrete reality, even as it sets free radical politics in this part of the world from the iron-cage of sovereignty and identity politics, enabling it to fully actualise its emancipatory potential.

Evils of Casualisation: Airtel will not be allowed to enslave Nigerians

Press Conference by Comrade Abdulwahed Omar, the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) held on Tuesday 4th October 2011, at Labour House, Abuja

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) welcomes you to this press conference which is primarily to expose the evils of casualising permanent work, and the decision by the Airtel Management to enslave Nigerians on the 51st independence anniversary of our country.

As you know, Airtel took over the GSM Service Provider Zain. The company employed a handful of workers and decided to turn almost all the permanent jobs in the company into casual work.

Rather than employ staff to work in the company, Airtel contracted out the permanent jobs to two Indian companies; Spanco Channel BPO Limited and Tech Mehindra. Since these two parasitic companies cannot do the job, they in turn hired three Nigerian companies; HR Index, C.C. SNL and Bezeleel to hire Nigerians for the Airtel jobs.

Airtel then seconded hundreds of its staff inherited from Zain to these third party companies. Some of these staff had worked for seven years! It is under this exploitative arrangement the Nigerian staff were made to work; some of them without letters of appointment and identity cards, and non with a Condition of Service. These categories of workers were also denied all rights they were entitled to as Airtel staff or are supposed to benefit as staff.

Under such unbearable working conditions, the workers went on strike in July 2011 to demand for basic rights including the right to unionise and payment of incentives paid by Airtel to staff.

The NLC and its affiliate union, the National Union of Posts and Telecommunication Employees (NUPTE) intervened to protect the workers against the power of the transnational Company, Airtel, and its quite powerful collaborators in government who were threatening the workers.

On Wednesday, 27th July. 2011 the Airtel Network signed a three-point agreement with the NLC and NUPTE which was witnessed by a mutually agreed mediator, Bamidele Aturu Esq. The agreement signed by Airtel Director, Paul Usoro, SAN, and Jubril Saba, its Human Resources Manager stated clearly that the “Outstanding Third Quarter, 2010 and First Quarter 2011 Incentive Scheme “…shall be paid across board to all call centre/shop employees on modalities to be worked out by the management of Airtel on or before the 31st day of August, 2011 in consultation with the workers representatives”.

The agreement also provided that no worker will be victimized as a result of the industrial action and that the Mediator will be allowed to “resolve all outstanding industrial relations issues among the stakeholders as soon as practicable”.

Unfortunately, the Airtel Management has not implemented this agreement despite spirited efforts by the NLC, and advice by the Mediator.

To circumvent implementing this agreement, to avoid paying the workers their entitlement and to punish them for joining a union, the Airtel Management in collaboration with its parasitic partners offered the workers impossible conditions if they are to retain their jobs. They asked the workers to accept :

1. 60 per cent pay cut

2. Reduction of leave from thirty-six (36) days to six (6) days

3. A working week of six days (8 hours/day shift = 48 hours/week)

When the workers refused, Airtel decided that its Call Centres and other places these staff work should be closed and new staff recruited. When on September 30, 2011, on the eve of our country’s independence anniversary, the staff reported for work, they were shocked to find their offices shut.

Since Airtel and its partners in the enslavement of Nigerians decided to close the offices, the NLC will ensure they remain shut. The Labour Movement will not allow Airtel to do business in Nigeria if it denies workers their fundamental human rights including that of unionization which is guaranteed under Section 40 of the Nigerian Constitution.

The NLC advises Airtel Network and its collaborators to return to the negotiation table and allow the Mediator it approved, to resolve all matters otherwise, it will face with industrial actions by the NLC and its affiliates.

It is inconceivable that a company like Airtel which made over 50 per cent of its first year $17billion revenue from Nigeria alone, will seek to place Nigerians on less than half salary and deny them basic rights. This advice to Airtel, also serves as notice to all other local and foreign companies that are enslaving Nigerians that the days of exploitation are at an end.

The NLC calls on the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity to wake up to its duties and defend Nigerians against naked exploitation and injustice by companies like Airtel. Congress also calls on the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan to protect, defend and advance the interests of the Nigerian working people rather than allow them to be enslaved in their country by unscrupulous employers and business interests.

While workers intend to resolve these matters through peaceful dialogue and collective bargaining, the acts and actions of the employers will determine Labour’s appropriate reaction.

Thank you.


A Letter to ALBA countries

Amarantha for Latin American Friendship Association (Erode, Tamil Nadu)

Dear Comrades,

“Humanity is Homeland” said Jose Marti, poet, philosopher and Father of the Cuban Revolutionary war.

“The exploited, all over the world, are our compatriots; and exploiters all over the world our enemies… our country is really the whole world and all Revolutionaries of the world are our brothers” said Fidel Castro, Hero of the Cuban revolution who realized Marti’s dreams.

Cuban doctors are at work among less fortunate people in many parts of the world. Cuban medical teams are engaged in relief and rehabilitation work in various countries devastated by natural disasters. More than 26,000 students from across the world study medicine free of cost at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana promising to serve the poor and needy back home.

But why did the present leaders of Cuba hail Sri Lanka for killing Eelam Tamils? Why did they tow behind India in praising the Sri Lankan state at the UN Human Rights Council when tens of thousands of Eelam Tamils were killed in the gruesome war? Are Eelam Tamils excluded from the Internationalism unique to Cuba?

We at the Latin American Friendship Association consisting of Tamils of Tamil Nadu, India, were shocked and disheartened when the ALBA countries, at the insistence of Cuba, voted in favor of the Sri Lankan State at the UNHRC on 27 May, 2009. It is now time for Cuba and other Latin American countries to correct their stand about Eelam Tamils in the light of the UN Advisory Panel Report on Sri Lanka, released on 25 April, 2011.

Members of the U.N. Advisory Panel on Sri Lanka constituted by the Secretary General of U.N. Mr. Ban-ki-Moon, have confirmed the allegations of Tamils living across the world. The report confirms that more than 40,000 civilians were killed by heavy artillery and widespread shelling by Sri Lankan govt. forces; that there was systematic shelling on “No fire zones” including hospitals, schools, etc…. It strongly denies the Govt. of Sri Lanka’s claims of “Humanitarian…. Operation” with a policy of “zero civilian causalities” and indicates that a wide range of serious violations of International Humanitarian Laws and International Human Rights Laws were committed by the Govt. of Sri Lanka. Though it has been alleged that the LTTE had used civilians as human shields, recruited children in its cadre and stored weapons in civilian areas, the panel report accuses the Govt. of Sri Lanka of trampling on all International Humanitarian Laws. Therefore, the panel has called upon the UN Security council to “reconsider the resolution passed by the UNHRC on 27 May 2009 in light of the Panel Report”.

One may recall that the permanent People’s Tribunal, an international body independent of any state authority, after examining evidences and hearing eye-witnesses in Dublin in January 2010, concluded that the Sri Lankan government is guilty of War crimes and Crimes against Humanity and that the International community, particularly the U.K. and U.S.A., share responsibility for the breakdown of the peace process during 2002-2006. The tribunal comprised of renowned jurists, Nobel laureates including Rajinder Sachar, former chief justice of New Delhi High Court, Sulak Sivaraksa- a Buddhist Peace campaigner, writer, etc… This People’s Tribunal was set up by the continuous efforts of the Tamil Diaspora, Tamils in Tamil Nadu and some Sinhala democrats.

The Tribunal termed the civil war a “war without witnesses” because, the GoSL prevented entry of both National and International media into the war zone. In fact, some of the early victims were journalists who were murdered by unknown assassins. The atrocities carried out by the military relate particularly to civilians and there are evidences of cluster bombs being dropped by warplanes. Sexual abuse and rape of women by government troops was yet another atrocity repeated throughout the civil war by govt. military in destroyed villages and in the “welfare villages”. This led to tragedies such as abortions and suicide by victims unable to live with family shame and mental trauma. This policy of targeting also applied to Tamils living outside the conflict zone. Apart from mass deportations, selective terror campaigns were carried out by means of abductions, assassinations, arbitrary arrests, detention, sexual assault and torture.

The tribunal insists that the charges of genocide require further investigation, whereas the U.N. Panel on Sri Lanka restricts itself to allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The U.N. fails to view the conflict in Sri Lanka as an ethnic issue as it does not recognize the Tamils’ struggle for statehood or the Tamils as a nationality with a genuine need to protect itself from extermination. Sri Lanka’s war crimes are only a part of ethnic cleansing of Tamils over the last 60 years.

The Sinhala rulers on assuming power from the British in 1948 began the systematic oppression of Tamils in all aspects of life.

(1) One million Tamils were excluded from citizenship and rendered stateless by the citizenship Act 18 of 1948. Act 48 of 1949 denied the right to vote enjoyed by the Tamils until then.
(2) Tamil homelands in the North and East were deliberately colonized by Sinhalese with state funds, but were excluded from all development projects.
(3) The Sinhala Only Act of 1958 and Standardization Act of the same year deprived Tamils of higher education, employment opportunities, professional opportunities and all public office thereby consolidating the racial discrimination.
(4) Thousands of Tamils were killed in racial violence let loose by the Sinhala rulers in 1956, 1958, 1974, 1976, and 1977 against innocent Tamils. There was widespread looting, arson, rape, torture, burning people alive, destroying property and centers of cultural importance – all planned and executed by racist Sinhala Governments.
(5) The state sponsored violence against Tamils in August 1977 forced more than 50,000 Tamils to migrate to northern part of Eelam and to several other countries including India.
(6) Burning of Jaffna Library in 1981 and the massacre of Tamils detained in Welikkede Prison determined armed struggle as the only course available for the Tamils for their liberation.

Is Sri Lanka an anti-imperialist state? :

Sri Lanka, which calls itself as a ‘Socialist Democratic Republic’, was the first country in South Asia to open itself for globalization in 1976, and amended its economic policy accordingly. Recently, the Sri Lanka Govt. has evacuated poor people from neighborhoods around Colombo to offer lands for multi-national companies.

Active military collobaration between the ‘anti-imperialist’ Sri Lanka and United States has been going on for more than two decades. The United States of America has been arming and financing Sri Lanka for most of the civil war period. [] From at least the 1990s, the US has provided military training, financing, logistic supplies and weapons sales worth millions annually. A Voice of America installation was set up in the northwestern part of the country.

The Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA ) was signed soon after Rajapaksa assumed power. It was U.S. citizen Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Defense Minister, and brother to President Rajapaksa, who signed the agreement, March 5, 2007. Their younger brother, also a minister, is a US citizen too.) . ACSA will enable the United States to utilize Sri Lanka’s ports, airports and air space. As a prelude to the signing of the agreement scheduled for July, this year, United States Naval ships have been calling at the Colombo Port for bunkering as well as to enable sailors to go on shore leave.

In return for the facilities offered, Sri Lanka is to receive military assistance from the United States including increased training facilities and equipment. The training, which will encompass joint exercises with United States Armed Forces, will focus on counter terrorism and related activity. The agreement will be worked out on the basis of the use of Sri Lanka’s ports, airports, and air space to be considered hire-charges that will be converted for military hardware.

Today, lands in the war-torn North and Eastern parts of the Island are shared among Indian and Chinese corporate companies.

Sri Lanka is not a secular state as the constitution itself states that Buddhism is the foremost religion in the Island though there are people belonging to various other religions.

“War on Terror” is a slogan borrowed by Sri Lanka from the U.S. to justify the genocidal war on Tamils, using sophisticated weapons of mass destruction supplied by the U.S., Israel, Japan, Italy, China and India.

Truth and the UNHRC Resolution dated 27 May 2009; The Current Situation:

The U.N. Panel Report of 25 April 2011 is more than enough evidence to conclude that the UNHRC Resolution of 27 May 2009 is far removed from truth. The magnitude of physical torture, psychological torture, disease, starvation and abuse of the Tamils survivors has few precedents in history. It will be several generations before the Tamils recover from the horror of this war. As with any war, women have borne the brunt – there are about 89,000 war widows in Eelam. Tamil women have been molested, sexually harassed and raped as part of the genocidal program so that they never return to normal life. The Sri Lankan army has taken upon itself the duty of not letting any humanitarian aid reach the Tamil survivors. Deprived of food, water, medicine, medical services and other basic necessities, Tamils have been subject to several epidemics in the camps, leading to steady rise in death toll. There were an estimated three hundred thousand Tamils in these modern day “concentration camps” immediately after the war. The number has been dwindling by the day and two years after the war, though the govt. of Sri Lanka claims to have “let free” and “rehabilitated” Tamils, there is no evidence of resettlement; there is no information as to where these people were “resettled”. A state of emergency is still in vogue and the fear-gripped, psychologically tortured people in camps are still under the wrath of the Sri Lankan Army.

We would like to call upon the ALBA countries and other radical governments of Latin America to reflect upon the situation prevailing in south Asia. Countries that became independent after the Second World War including India (1947), Pakistan (1947) and Sri Lanka (1948) were under British rule for centuries. The British ruled these countries inhabited by several Nationalities speaking different languages under a single administrative unit for their own convenience. When these colonies became independent, people of different Nationalities were forced to remain under one state without recognition as separate Nationalities having separate homelands. This improper decolonization led to fighting by different Nationalities for the retrieval of their right to self-rule.

Just as the Tamils in Sri Lanka fighting for Eelam, their traditional homeland, there are other genuine Nationality struggles going on in Kashmir and the North Eastern states in India. Tamils and Punjabis are the potential Nationalities likely to rise in struggle sooner or later. With these realities in its backyard, the Indian government chose to assist the Sri Lanka Govt. in its war against the Liberation of Tamil Eelam. India let Sri Lanka use its satellites for surveillance, supplied sophisticated equipment including radars, technical assistance and billions of rupees in aid for the war against Eelam Tamils. India is well aware that a liberated Eelam state would not tolerate the dominance of the Indian state and its sway over Trincomalee, the strategically located natural port in Eelam territory. Liberation of Eelam could prove to be more than just precedence for Tamils in Tamil Nadu and other Nationalities in the Indian State. India has conveyed its message that it is capable of “nipping trouble in the bud” by deliberately taking part in the ethnic cleansing of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

In the light of the above, we urge the radical governments of Latin America to demand that:
a) The UNHRC Resolution dated 27 May 2009 be removed from the UN records.
b) The struggle of Eelam Tamils is accepted as a liberation struggle for the retrieval of their Homelands.
c) The Sri Lankan govt. under Mahinda Rajapakse is investigated for genocidal crimes in the international court of justice.
d) The planned Sinhala colonization and the land-grab by multinational corporations in Eelam be stopped immediately
e) International media and International Human Rights activists are allowed entry into Sri Lankan territory to gain access to the truth which has not happened even two years after the end of the war
f) Rehabilitation and resettlement happen under the supervision of the UN Peacekeeping Force
g) These countries join hands with Eelam Tamil support groups across the world in demanding that the Eelam Tamils languishing in camps under horrific conditions be let free to return to their homes and all humanitarian assistance rendered to restore normalcy in their lives.

We believe that the blossoming of Socialism in the Twenty First Century and its endurance will not be complete without the liberation of oppressed Nationalities of South Asia. The Eelam Tamils have paid their dues for such liberation dearly and this would no doubt go down in history as the impotence of the left and radical forces.

Imperialism has been successful in spreading the myth that ‘Communism is dead’ and ‘There Is No Alternative'(TINA) to capitalism. If we, as committed anti-imperialists fail to extend our solidarity for the democratic aspirations of the peoples, it will only become a historic blunder of joining hands with imperialism to bury the ideology of communism. And we would like to remind here the saying of the great Internationalist Che Guevera:

“The revolutionary [is] the ideological motor force of the revolution…if he forgets his proletarian internationalism, the revolution which he leads will cease to be an inspiring force and he will sink into a comfortable lethargy, which imperialism, our irreconcilable enemy, will utilize well. Proletarian internationalism is a duty, but it is also a revolutionary necessity. So we educate our people.”

The U.N. Panel Report on Sri Lanka released on April 25, 2011 gives us an opportunity to recognize the just struggle of Eelam Tamils for their self determination and to restore the dignity of International Humanitarian Laws. Cuba and the other Latin American countries should now voice their support for Eelam Tamils and demonstrate their true International spirit handed down to them by Comrade Ernesto Che Guevera.

We look forward to your cooperation in making this effort a success. A line in reply would go a long way in forging our belief in Freedom.

American Jews for A Just Peace (AJJP) stands up for ‘Miral’

MIRAL, Writer: Rula Jebreal; Director: Julian Schnabel; Cast: Hiam Abbass, Freida Pinto

We, at American Jews For A Just Peace,, stand in support of filmmaker Julian Schnabel and Harvey Weinstein in their efforts to distribute Miral, a new film based on the autobiographical novel by Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal. Miral tells the story of three generations of Palestinian women, and in particular an orphaned Palestinian girl, as they navigate the personal and political landscapes of their times, starting with the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, through the first nonviolent Palestinian uprising against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1987, to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Miral is not a documentary or a polemic; it is a window into the lives of Palestinians, whose voices have gone unheard in the United States for far too long.

We, at American Jews For Just Peace, stand in opposition to the efforts by the American Jewish Congress and the Israeli government’s efforts to block the film’s showing at the United Nations and other venues.

Imperialism and the endless war: Military attack on Libya

Raju Das

The military assault on Libya which has just started is another bloody, western imperialist war of aggression against a poor country, a former colony.

Apparently western governments want to protect Libya’s civilians. It is as if other governments are not killing civilians in the region. How hypocritical.

The war is more about the control over oil and stopping the rebellion of workers and younger people in the region from being more radical and anti-systemic.

The war is about a regime change: to create a new regime that will be more deferential to oil companies and western imperialist states than the current one.

Also: what better way to divert attention from western governments’ attack on the political and economic rights of their own people, thousands of whom languish in jails, than to start another war?

The governments launching the assault on Libya have been saying that they do not have money for education and health care, etc., but how are they finding the money to support a war now. Liars.

It is being said that the international community has launched the war. What international community? Security Council members, China, Russia, Germany, Brazil and India, all abstained on the vote on the UN resolution on the war engineered by America and its European followers (the second-tier imperialists of the world). The decision to attack Libya does not represent the opinion of millions of citizens of the world.

Peoples of the imperialized countries must understand that this war, like the wars before in the recent past, just signifies the fact that imperialists can destroy any country they like in their own political and economic interests.

Real national liberation from imperialist forces including the imperialist companies and institutions is the new national question and is a most important aspect of the democratic revolution that the working class in alliance with the peasants and other democratic forces, in every peripheral country and in the world as a whole, must address as a part of its fight for a world beyond capitalism.

As long as there is imperialism, this endless war syndrome will not go away. It has to be made to go away through massive anti-imperialist and anti-war democratic mobilization led by the working class.

Prof Raju Das teaches at York University. He has worked immensely on the political economy of Rural India and South Asia.

Book Notice: P Eric Louw’s “Roots of the Pax Americana”

Michael Perelman

Louw, P. Eric. 2010. Roots of the Pax Americana: Decolonization, Development, Democratization and Trade (Manchester: Manchester University Press).

The United States, like Germany, came late to the empire business. It did not aspire to informal Empire, but rather went to great lengths to undermine the existing empires to open them up for US business. Eric Louw tells the story very well.

In his account, the US was going to great lengths to undermine Britain’s Empire, especially India, even when those powers were allies during the Second World War. He attributes Chamberlain’s behavior in Munich to a justifiable fear that dependence on US support in fighting the Nazis posed a greater threat to the empire than the Nazis themselves. He shows that the US made good use of Gandhi in discrediting the British Empire.

Rather than going to the expense and trouble of maintaining a formal Empire, the US preferred finding compliant regimes in important venues. For example, the US could have kept Cuba as a colony, but it got what it needed much more cheaply by keeping friendly governments in place. In contrast, Puerto Rico, which was much smaller, would not pose much trouble as a territory controlled by the US.

The book does not seem to be intended as a radical critique. It does not discuss how this Pax (Pox) Americana proved to be a disaster, leaving people under the rule of Marcos, Mubarak, the Shah, and other such klepocrats and thugs I am anxiously waiting new chapter being written today in the streets of the Middle East.

The Political Significance of Arab Turmoil

Marzouq Al-Nusf, Sanhati

For more than a month now, the Arab world has been witnessing events unprecedented in its modern history. The self-immolation of a Tunisian college graduate on the 17th of December, 2010, has sparked a chain of events that resulted in the effective ousting of a dictator and the threatening of numerous others. After the departure of Tunisian president Zain Al Abideen Bin Ali this month, the 30 years old reign of Egyptian president Husni Mubarak is facing a serious challenge from its own rebelling people. Protests continue in many of the 22 Arab nations, either in solidarity with the Tunisian and Egyptian rebellions, or in hopes of instigating their own corresponding rebellions against their authoritarian regimes.

One reason for viewing the Arab rebellions as significant is that they are unprecedented in the modern history of the region. Specifically, it is the civilian character of the rebellions that is key. Traditionally, transitions in political regimes in the Arab world have been carried out either by foreign powers, as in the 19th century and earlier, or by military coups, which was the trend in the 20th century. Indeed, the fact that the Tunisian army, and more recently the Egyptian one, has elected to abstain from actively shaping the course of events reinforces the crucial break with previous historical trends of military interventions in domestic politics.

More generally, the robustness and effectiveness of the rebellions in Tunisia and Egypt have surprised even the keenest political observers, many of whom were more inclined to look for turmoil emerging from Europe in response to the global economic crisis. The Tunisian situation is a case in point. The country was perceived as so stable and uninteresting that the media, including the Arab speaking, could not excavate any worthy archival interviews with the Tunisian dictator to use in commenting on his character and inclinations. As for Egypt, the fact that there is a rebellion of any sort is seen as an anomaly in a national culture sometimes characterized, in a rather simplistic and prejudiced fashion, as submissive to the ruling figure from as old a time as when pharaohs ruled the land.

So far, the trajectory seems to point towards an increase in the spread and effect of rebellions in the region. The wave of civil unrest has spread from the relatively small Tunisia, with a population of around 10 million, to Egypt and its population of over 80 million. The rebellion against dictatorship has now taken root in the most populated, and arguably the most important, Arab nation. Hence, the remarkable significance of events in the Arab world has not yet exhausted itself, and may well continue to surprise the world.

It remains to be seen who will ultimately gain state power in the troubled Arab regimes, nonetheless it is possible to draw some implications of the very fact that regimes are being toppled by popular uprisings. Specifically, the fact that the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes have long been favored and supported by western powers means that the regimes’ uprooting will have ramifications on an international scale. France, as the primary guardian of the Tunisian dictatorship, has not only suffered strategic defeat with the dismantling of one of its strongholds in North Africa, but it had to endure public shame for its reluctance to give up its support to the Tunisian president, even when it was clear that his chances of survival were dismal. Right now, the United States seems to be hoping to avoid the French’s bluntness in suppressing Arab populations by carefully measuring its responses to the Egyptian situation.

A mapping of the Arab world’s alliances in pro and anti US hegemony terms is helpful. It is rather simple. The anti US policy regimes are 3: the Syrian regime, itself a dictatorship; the Hamas government in Gaza, which is an offspring of the islamist Muslim Brotherhood that was democratically elected to power; and potentially the new Lebanese government, where the former pro-US prime minister was voted out of office last month and replaced by a new one named by Hezbollah. As for the pro-US regimes, they are the other 20 governments in the region, including the Palestinian Authority. The camp’s members range from near-absolute monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula to secular dictatorships, such as the one in Algeria. Sudan and Libya are not considered in the anti US camp because they are not in fundamental contradiction with imperialist policy; rather their disputes with US hegemony can be resolved with minimal adjustments in policy.

From the US’s perspective, the alliances in the region thus far seem unproblematic, unless significant shuffling of regimes occurs. If democratic order is established in Tunisia and Egypt, then it is possible that the resulting governments will not align themselves with imperialist demands, if not oppose them diametrically. Aside from mere counting of numbers of allies, regime changes in the Arab world by people’s power could directly affect the US’s two main interests in the region, oil and Israel, particularly the latter. At this moment, two countries that border historical Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt, are experiencing regime shifts that are likely to lead to less compromising policy on the part of the Arabs. The rebellion in Egypt, if it brings a form of democracy, and the new democratically formed government in Lebanon might not instigate war in the region immediately. Nonetheless, if Israel decides to engage in warfare against Hams in Gaza or Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, then it is more likely for these new regimes to more actively participate in the resistance efforts against Israel, as opposed to the previously observed complacency with Israeli and US dictates.

As for the perspective of rebelling Arabs on the streets, it is probably safe to assume that they do not have US hegemony as their primary focal point, but that does not mean that they look favourably upon it. The US, as the chief foreign player in the region, has itself to blame if its name is implicated further as the enemy. The US’s support for notoriously corrupt and ruthless regimes has left little doubt in the minds of suppressed Arabs about the gap between US flowery rhetoric and grim action. If its unconditional support for Israel is added to the picture, then the US is virtually making it impossible for any genuinely democratic Arab government, if one emerges, not to oppose its policy.

As a matter of fact, there have been precedents of western powers planting through their own policy the seeds of antagonism in the region. Perhaps the most famous example is that of president Nasser of Egypt, who emerged as the leader of the first major Arab military-lead revolution in 1952. Although Nasser proclaimed progressive programs early on, he had no particular preferences when it came to choosing between the socialist and capitalist camps. He was not opposed to securing ties of cooperation with the west because of its historical interest in the region. However, in 1956 when Britain and the US drew their funding from his flagship development project, the High Dam in Aswan, Nasser nationalized the Suez canal and looked to fortify his anti imperialist stance through strengthening relations with the USSR and leading non-aligned nations, including India and Yugoslavia at the time.

What the rebellions in the Arab world have brought forth is the possibility of resurrecting a solid anti-imperialist block in the Middle East. At the moment, two nations that border the Arab world, Turkey and Iran, are at odds with US and Israeli policy in the region. If progressive forces are to gain power in key Arab states such as Egypt, then the US-Israeli agenda of war and domination could face a serious obstacle. On an interregional scale, the leftist and anti-imperialist governments in Latin America may finally have allies in the new emerging block of Middle Eastern states defiant of US hegemony.

All that being said, there remain a number of open questions, the answer to which will significantly influence the course of analysis. Will the interim government in Tunisia complete its promised transition to democracy? Will the Egyptian rebellion succeed in brining about democracy? Will the uprisings continue to spread in the Arab world? And perhaps more importantly, what are the prospects of a genuinely emancipatory political force gaining power in the newly emerging regimes? These matters deserve a more thorough analysis. One thing is certain, however, and that is that the future of dictatorships in the Arab world has never looked bleaker.

(The author is a graduate student at the Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.)

‘Too precious to have people’s rights snatched away’: Michael Perelman

Modern civilization began in the Middle East. Modern imperialism has blotted out much of what is valuable in a civilized society. Rather than being encumbered by the expense and responsibility of ruling such societies, the imperial powers have relied on corrupt and brutal dictators to enforce the needs of capital.

The people want to bring down the regime

Bleeding the country to maintain the lavish lifestyles of their families and friends, these dictators left ordinary people to languish. A few months ago, the expectation of revolutionary activity in the Middle East would seem highly unlikely, yet the people rose up with great courage. The numbers of protesters were great enough that violent measures would be unacceptable around the world.

“Revolution, People, Revolution”

The danger is that their revolutionary courage will pave the way for a dictatorship with a more human face; not the direct dictatorship of a brutal and corrupt individual, but rather the more insidious dictatorship of capital managed by obedient bureaucrats.

“This is the end of justice”

The present opportunity is too precious to have people’s rights snatched away under the pretense of democracy. The courageous people in the streets today deserve whatever support we can offer.

Michael Perelman’s latest book: The Invisible Handcuffs of Capitalism: How Market Tyranny Stifles the Economy by Stunting Workers, Monthly Review, 2011

Arab Uproar

Ron Ridenour

Long time in the making! Long time suffering poverty, inequality, official murder-torture-imprisonment, despotism, fundamentalism, and governments lackeyed to US/Western powers.

I am no expert on Arabic/Middle East history or politics, other than knowing that US/Israel-led imperialism has had a grip on the entire area for decades, and before that there were other foreign oppressors. I know that in part of the Arab world—not currently involved in this uproar—the US-led “humanitarian” operation has cost upwards to two million Iraqi lives, millions of migrants fled and fleeing, tens of thousands tortured, and the destruction and thievery of much cultural wealth and history. European allies assist in this butchery. Something similar is occurring in Afghanistan, and extending into Pakistan.

Wikileaks’ dispersal of US Embassy cables from Tunisia—posted in the British Guardian, December 7, 2010 and January 28, 2011—show how duplicitous and corrupted all US governments are with the Ben Ali family government for the past two decades.

US ambassador to Tunisia, Robert F. Godec, wrote, on July 17, 2009, that the Ben Ali regime is: “sclerotic;” and that “Tunisia is a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems.”

On the other hand, Godec expressed the need to continue supporting this regime because, “The government is like-minded on Iran, is an ally in the fight against terrorism…the US Mission has, for the past three years, [responded] by offering greater cooperation…notably in the commercial and military assistance areas.”

The US government supports Egypt with $1.3 billion in military aid annually, second only to Israel.

Most shamefully, a number of Arabic governments aid and abet the US in its “war against terrorism”. Egypt, and Tunisia—where the courageous uproar began a month ago—are among them. In others—Yemen, Algeria, Lebanon—many thousands of people act supportively with the Tunisian people, and with their own similar demands.

Will this lead to revolution, to socialism, as a rejection of misery under capitalism? Marxist analysis of what is takes before a socialist revolution can break out and grow entails two aspects. First, objective conditions must be present: too much poverty, exploitation and oppression to ignore; plus sufficiently high level of technology (industrial or?), and acutely antagonistic productive relations.

The second condition is subjective, in which a significant number (majority or?) of the most productive and exploited of industrial workers (perhaps also or either a significant number of land proletariat and small peasants) are conscious enough of their position as exploited, and are angry enough to take up the call for revolt. Overthrowing oppressors—as is occurring now, or is in the process of occurring, in some Arabic nations—is a good indication that a huge percentage of folk (in many places the large majority) are ready subjectively. Many have been murdered, thousands more arrested, yet they persist, especially in Tunisia and Egypt.

(Iraq, also an Arabic nation, has not moved into supportive action. Most of its people are too brutalized by the US+ invasion and their accomplice national governments, supported by the Persian neighbor, Iran, to come into the streets. But, I suggest that many have their hearts beside their Arabic brothers and sisters in uproar, and time may bring them to fore. But this will probably not occur shortly in Saudi Arabia where the US-backed multi-billionaire government leaders rule with a fascist fist.)

The objective material factors for Tunisia and Egypt are, in large part, present as well. Does the high level of production relations necessary exist? I do not know. Are the workers antagonistic enough with the bosses and do they know that (condition two)? I’d say yes to both.

I do not seek to become an oracle. I wish merely to shed us of illusions. It takes more than what is occurring now to win over not only the national oligarchies and their armies and police forces well-equipped with US-French-British armaments, but also the very Empire itself awaiting in nearby skies and waters for the signal to move in if all else fails. The people are not armed well enough.

Nevertheless, I am encouraged by a sense of pan-Arabic unity, a sense that they are all one brethren no matter the name of the State. I do not see, however, in many of these areas, that the people are well organized, that they have their own parties or unions that lead with sagaciousness, or that they lead at all. There is great spontaneity and determination. All to the good! But people never win over the oppressors unless they have organizations that formulate policy and direction.

In Tunisia, however, I see a positive development with the January 14th Front, forces involved in the revolt. The eight organizations and political parties forming it, several illegal and operating underground, gathered into a united front on the day that the dictator fled the country. They propose 14 points to move forward, to form a people’s government and change the economic foundations.

Among the key points are anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist demands, coupled with democratic and social demands to raise the people out of poverty and exploitation.

  • Eliminate all temporary governments that have any relations with the Ben Ali government and party (the RCD).
  • Dissolve the existing state apparatus and create an assembly of peoples’ organizations for a new constitutional foundation.
  • Eliminate the secret service and the political police.
  • Jobs, health care, civil and social rights for all.
  • Solidarity with all forces for liberation, especially with Palestinians in opposition to Zionism.
  • Most of you who read this commentary are not in the Arabic region. To you I say: we are all brothers and sisters in our common struggle! Take up what arm you can and support these people today, and hope that, one day, we will all support one another to build a universe where we are all one free people living with essential needs!

    For other articles by the author visit his website.

    Anu Muhammad on India’s role in South Asia

    For the full interview, click.

    During the recent visit of India’s Finance Minister to Bangladesh, India signed an agreement offering $1-billion credit facility to Bangladesh at a particular interest rate, which many in Bangladesh have found “disgraceful” and “too high”. This line of credit for Bangladesh was the one-time single-largest credit package offered by New Delhi to any other country. And it has been frequently noted that through such lines of credit, India, like other more advanced countries, has been facilitating the overseas expansion of its domestic capital. What is your assessment of the present Indo-Bangladeshi relationship? Don’t you find streaks of sub-imperialism (both in economic and political terms) emerging in this relationship as in the case of India’s relationship with Nepal and Sri Lanka?

    Anu Muhammad: The question of India is very important for us. Without locating India and the role of Indian corporate big capital we cannot get rid of overall hegemony of global capitalism. India has the highest number of rich people but contradictorily India also has the highest number of poor people. The current Indian state is not representing Indian people but is representing Indian big capital. India for South Asia is the same as what the US is for the world. It is hegemonic, oppressive and undemocratic. The present India should be characterised with the rise of big capital, unprecedented accumulation of wealth and power in few hands, and its linkages with global monopoly capital. This India can be termed as sub-imperialist within the global capitalist system, and within South Asia it is imperialist. This India has recently increased its military expenditure to a record high level, also building military alliances with the US. They are both now trying to take control of the Bay of Bengal. With the increasing interests of India, China and the US in Bay of Bengal, the possibility for creation of new alliances or conflicts is rather high. Either way, Bangladesh is going to suffer.

    Now global corporate bodies including the ADB, the WB or MNCs consider India a regional centre. Therefore, their projects are selected in line with the interest and long-term programme of Indian big capital. For example, the coal that the British company, Asia Energy, wanted to extract, when it attempted to start open-pit mining in Phulbari, was supposed to be exported to India. When the US oil multinational UNOCAL was trying to export gas, the destination was once again India. Now a number of projects have been conceived to build new coal-based power plants in Khulna and Chittagong. It is apparently a joint project, but the result will be different for the two countries. Bangladesh will have carbon emissions and dispossession of farmers that will create social tension and human tragedy, but Indian companies will earn huge profits.

    Indian big business has access to huge potential market in Bangladesh, especially after the SAP. India’s presence is very high in every sector in Bangladesh. It is trying to monopolise each of those sectors, started utilising aid or credit, very well-known instruments of imperialist control and influence. Recently, India granted 1 billion USD loan to Bangladesh for building its own transit facilities. This transit is going to change everything in South Asia. Bangladesh is entering into the ambit of India’s military, political and economic domination on a scale not seen before.

    I don’t know, how far the military aspect of the domination will go, but economically India is going to have a commanding authority over Bangladesh. India is claiming that Bangladesh is the land of terrorists and they erected fences around border, then how can they feel comfortable in taking their goods through Bangladesh? Yes, it will be used as an excuse. So, they will demand more regional security coordination under India’s control. The security system of Bangladesh will be subordinated to India status and interests.

    Indian sub-imperialism behaves similarly with Nepal, Sri Lanka and other smaller countries in the region. In this context, people’s movements of India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries should have a very high level of cooperation and coordination to strengthen united struggles for building a free, democratic and different South Asia not polluted by Indian or big capital’s hegemony.