Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New Direction - Occupy Wall Street shifts to Occupy Corporations

In All-India General Strike, Workers Go All Out Against Neoliberalism by Michelle Chen

Trade union activists participate in a rally to show support for the All India General Strike, in Siliguri on February 27, 2012. (Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images)  
India’s economic ascent seems like it should be the envy of the world’s richest nations; with rocketing growth rates and gargantuan consumer and labor markets, India's destiny as Asia's next superstar looks beyond a doubt. Except Indian workers just gave the boosters of global capitalism a few million second thoughts.
The all-India general strike of February 28 brought together workers of various sectors and political stripes, civil servants along with rickshaw drivers, united under a banner of opposition to neoliberal policies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government. The labor movement of the world’s largest democracy issued a stark challenge to the idea of deregulation as an economic cure.
AFP quoted All India Trade Union Congress general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta: “We are fighting for our rights against a government that is anti-people,”
The core grievances center around government corruption, rising costs of living, labor violations, privatization, and the general rush to hand the economy over to the talons free enterprise and shred the welfare state.
Public Services International, a global union that works with public employees in India, articulated abroad agenda of social and economic protection:
The common demands are (a) gaining the same rights and protection for temporary and contract workers as that of permanent workers, (b) raising and extending the minimum wage, (c) resisting the attacks on trade unions, (d) stopping price rise, (e) the creation of a national social security fund, (f) increase in pensions, (g) combating corruption.
In addition, public sector advocates oppose the “downsizing, outsourcing, contractualisation, corporatisation and privatisation of government function.” They demand protection for the right to strike, regulation of the use of “casual” labor, and measures to “Keep the public utilities in public hand.”

G Sanjeeva Reddy, President of INTUC, Member of Parliament and CWC Member spoke about the demands made by the 11 trade unions that called for an all-India strike

Other rallying points of the strike include pressing the government to ratify key international labor accords and to provide social security for all workers, including the irregular laborers often subjected to exploitation, discrimination and outright slavery.
Since the start of India’s neoliberal reform push in 1991, the country has reportedly seen fourteen general strikes. Like the mass protests against the proposed expansion of Wal-Mart into India late last year, this general strike is an affront to a governing party that has tried to project an image of populism and now faces weakening growth rates.
The Indian workforce remains socially and politically stratified, and not all workers participated in the union-led strike. But for at least a little while, legions of workers aligned to put the brakes on the public and private sectors. Transit services were blockaded in some areas, and many bank employees struck to jam up the country's financial engine.
J. S. R. Prasad, director of India’s Union Development and Organising Centre (UNIDOC), an affiliate ofUNI Global Union, told In These Times that the strike marked “a firm step in opposing the Government’s policies dealing with workers in India” and displayed unprecedented alliances. “For the first time the INTUC, the Trade Union Federation affiliated with ruling Congress party, also participated along with communist controlled Trade Union Federations in India,” he noted.
Still, though the general strike involved both white and blue collar workers, the country’s vast labor force is awash with unregulated, unorganized laborers relegated to the shadows of the economy, lacking even the most basic regulatory protections. As long as this cheap labor pool fuels India’s explosive “development,” all workers will spiral deeper into a capitalist freefall, accelerated by policies aimed at luring in the vultures of foreign investment.
In a recent analysis of labor issues in India, the International Trade Union Confederation reported that many of the most oppressed workers are children, who “can be found in a wide variety of industries, sometimes undertaking hazardous tasks, including in mining and quarrying, textiles, leather and garment factories, fireworks factories and many others.” In general, according to the report, “forced labour is a problem in agriculture, mining, commercial sexual exploitation, and other sectors. Overall law enforcement is poor and judicial capacities are not effective in addressing the problem.”
Yet even in mainstream sectors, the free-market development agenda is steamrolling workers’ rights. A report issued by PSI’s India Office describes how India's “new economic policy,” which embodied the free-market ideology that has shaped "development" across the Global South, has systematically eroded the economic security of government workers:
The system of outsourcing, contractualisation and casualisation of workforce started in 1993-94. During 1995 the total number of permanent central government employees was 3.98 million whereas in 2008 it came down to 3.11 million. Nearly 22% of permanent jobs were lost, which were replaced by casual workers including on jobs of permanent nature.
Though the general strike suggests that labor groups are being galvanized by shared economic struggles, Prasad said that “division among working class” is still a major impediment to organizing that “loosens their united strength and bargaining power.  This is where the government and managements take full advantage and deny their legitimate demands.”
The destruction of workers’ collective power is an old story. India’s path to modernization is trailed by long historical threads of imperialism, from the first waves of colonization to the current tides of neoliberalism and political profiteering. Yet as a response to those inequalities, the general strike reveals a common battlefront emerging for all workers, from child factory workers to bank clerks, all facing a global assault on human rights.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Egyptians combat state media propaganda

A promise from Occupy London: this is only the beginning - Statement from Occupy London

The last thing to go were the kitchen shelves. Around a dozen occupiers peacefully resisted to the last; a short distance away a vigil continued on the Cathedral steps as others observed, supported, prayed and remembered. The police cordons made the groups seem further apart than they actually were.
On the steps, a mini GA discussed events as they were happening around it – and in particular the collusion of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in the eviction they had previously said that they did not want to see.
 At around 2am in the morning, the floodlights which illuminate the neoclassical edifice of that great building were turned off. When the lights returned, four policemen could be clearly seen on the balcony, in silhouette.
Not long afterwards, police were given leave to clear the steps themselves, the site of former Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser’s famous intervention of 16 October, when he asked the police to leave and recognised our right to assemble. Giles Fraser, who is so much a part of this story, was prevented from crossing the police lines to reach the Occupy London Stock Exchange site tonight. We would have liked to see him there.
This morning, the City of London Corporation and St Paul’s Cathedral have dismantled a camp and displaced a small community, but they will not derail a movement. The attention given to the final hours of the Occupy London Stock Exchange site is testament to that. We would like to thank all those who got the word out on social and traditional media overnight. We are deeply appreciative of the sustained attention we have received; it’s all the more precious at absurd hours of the morning.
The natural question to rush to in these moments is “what next?” In the short term, there will be a GA at 7pm on Tuesday by the steps of St Paul’s. In the medium term, it is only right that people will need time to rest, reflect and recharge, to take stock and learn the lessons of the past four and a half months. But be assured that plans are already afoot: plans of some ambition, employing a diversity of tactics and delivered with the aplomb you would expect from us. All will be revealed in time. May is one of our favourite months.
This morning also saw the eviction of the Occupy London School of Ideas in Islington in, to say the least, somewhat unorthodox circumstances, while their case was still progressing through the court system. We trust that occupiers will be able to fully retrieve their belongings before what sounds like a hastily brought forward demolition is enacted. What happens to Southern Housing Group’s planning application this week deserves careful examination, as do the views of local people living near Bunhill Row.
We’ll miss Occupy London Stock Exchange but not because of the tents, or even the kitchen shelves: it was a makeshift, loosely cooperative, occasionally quarrelling and fiercely idealistic group of people who came together to achieve something extraordinary. The relationships forged during these strange and beautiful four and a half months still have much further to run. This is only the beginning.
Occupy London Press Team

St Paul's Churchyard site of Occupy London Stock Exchange evicted by police

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Comrade Claudia Jones her Spirit Lives on in Today's Struggles


Claudia Jones, the "mother of the Notting Hill Carnival" was a communist who spent her last years in London after being hounded out of the United States during the McCarthy witchhunts.

Born in the British West Indian colony of Trinidad in 1915 her family emigrated to the black slums of Harlem, New York in 1922. She joined the youth movement of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA), the Young Communist League (YCL) in 1936 and soon became YCL organiser for Harlem. An active campaigner for black and womens' rights Claudia was a regular writer for the American Daily Worker and editor of the YCL's Weekly Review.

She visited every state in the USA campaigning for civil rights, womens rights and peace and soon became a target for the anti-communist witchhunts of the 1940s. In 1948 she was jailed for "advocating the overthrow" of the American government and imprisoned again in 1951. Bailed out by the CPUSA she was jailed for a third time. Claudia appealed to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear it, and was eventually deported in 1955 on the grounds that she was not an American citizen.

Racked by ill-health since childhood Claudia opted to come to Britain rather than Trinidad in the hope of better care. She joined the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and resumed active work amongst the growing Caribbean community in London launching and editing the West Indian Gazette. A year after the Notting Hill race riots of 1958 Claudia campaigned for integration and the promotion of Caribbean culture and was one of the founders and promoters of the Mardi Gras festival that has now become the Notting Hill Carnival -- the largest street festival in the whole of Europe.

Struck down by heart disease and tuberculosis Claudia Jones died on Christmas Eve, 1964. She is buried in a grave next to Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery. The inscription reads 

"valiant fighter against racism and imperialism who dedicated her life to the progress of socialism and the liberation of her own black people".

Protest at Greek Embassy London on 25th February in solidarity with the fight against austerity in Greece

Hundreds of protesters marched around the Greek embassy in London yesterday, Saturday, in solidarity with the fight against austerity in Greece.

The mainly Greek crowd chanted, “People of Europe, unite and fight!” as they held up traffic in the unannounced demonstration.

Activists from Britain and other eurozone countries joined the protest.

Michael Hudson - Capitalist Planned Economy for the 1% plus Joseph Ball on the need for Socialist Planning in Cultural Logic


An important new article that defends the record of Soviet socialist economic planning has been published by the Cultural Logic online Marxist journal.

Soviet central planning, up until Stalin's death in 1953, created a robust and technically advanced economy. It was not 'unsustainable' as is usually argued. If the socialist, planning system had continued after Stalin's death, the Soviet Union could have avoided its ultimate economic failure. After 1953, the Soviet Union had a stagnant, state capitalist economy. The primary reason for this stagnation was the way the new structure undermined technical progress. Effective planning in this area had been ended but a fully competitive, free market economy was not introduced. Thus no effective incentives for technological innovation existed.

This led to a progressive slow-down in economic growth. Before Stalin's death innovation and technical advance had been successfully introduced into the economy via the central plan. After Stalin's death attempts were made to introduce 'endogenous' incentives for innovation that were intended to copy market mechanisms. This was part of a wider effort to introduce market socialism. This hybrid economic system contained inadequate incentives for innovation.

The article also directly addresses the allegation that the nature of the socialist system itself in the Stalin-era led to mass executions and famine.

Full article here:

Also visit :

Discussion on Soviet Planning also here :

A Soviet Plan for Communications

Friday, February 24, 2012

Greek Song of Resistance - The First Dead (beginning Struggle)

Statement from Communist Organisation of Greece (KOE) and Greeks Look to the Left for Solutions interview with Costas Lapavitsas

Press Statement of  Communist Organisation of Greece (KOE)
• Down with the coup of the Bailout Agreement, down with the illegal Papadimos’ government
• Overthrow the whole rotten political system
• DemocracyIndependence, Productive Reconstruction, Emancipation
The Communist Organization of Greece salutes the hundreds of thousands of people who swamped Athens yesterday and protested throughout Greece, resolutely opposing the new bonds that the IMF-EU-ECB troika imposes. The Greek people proved their advanced readiness for combat, and showed increased endurance and courage facing the ruthless attacks of the “special police” forces. Despite the state terrorism and the blackmails of the establishment, the fighting spirit of the people against the new occupation and the tyranny is raging.
The new Bailout Agreement is imposed entirely as in a coup, by an illegal government, and “approved” by a parliament that has lost any legitimacy. The Papadimos’ puppet government, the three bourgeois pro-Agreement parties and the politicians who voted for and supported the new disastrous Bailout Agreement are continuously violating their own Constitution and the country’s sovereignty. Their whole political system is hence entirely illegitimate. They have definitively taken a divorce from the people, and must leave immediately.
 Since the appointed “prime minister”-banker Papadimos and his entourage didn’t manage to terrorize the people with the default threat (besides, the Bailout Agreement leads to default with mathematical accuracy), they found as sole refuge the ruthless police violence and terror. They unpretentiously suffocated Athens with chemicals, not hesitating to use their “weapons” in the most ferocious way even against two emblematic figures, like our National Resistance hero Manolis Glezos and the internationally famous compositor Mikis Theodorakis.
The illegal and completely illegitimate government, with the full support of most mainstream Media, resorted to violence and invested in terror. The “journalists”-parrots of the system and the apologists of the troika talked systematically only about the damages provoked in buildings. They “forgot” to mention the hundreds of thousands of people who, despite the barbarous police attacks and the chemicals, remained in Syntagma square and the rest of Athens’ centre during 5 hours. For what happened yesterday, as well as for what’s coming, the sole responsible is non other than the illegal government, which in full contrast to the will of the people and with repeated coups is delivering the country, the life and the future of its people, to its patrons.
The political system that robbed and destroyed Greece, that leads it to default and is now delivering it as a colony to foreign commissioners and foreign “courts of justice”, is crumbling in front of our eyes. They cannot even convince themselves any longer: 45 MPs of the bourgeois parties, under the popular pressure, voted against the Bailout Agreement and were immediately expelled from their respective parties. For the first time since the fall of the dictatorship in 1974, fewer than 200 MPs voted “yes” at a decision that had the support of both the two big bourgeois parties.
The intensified crisis of the political system is an opportunity for the promotion of a social and political front that will put a stop to this illegal regime and set the country in a different course, materializing what the people want and claim for. A social and political front which will pave the way for the salvation of the people and the country: Real Democracy. Independence. Productive Reconstruction. Stop the payments NOW – Not one more euro to the loan sharks. We can break the chains, the fight continues!
Forward, to a radical political change led by the people!

Let’s pay tribute to Pierre Overney Maoist worker killed 40 years ago

40 years ago, a man died. Pierre Overney, maoist worker and Gauche Prolétarienne’s activist (Proletarian Left), was shot by Jean Antoine Tramoni, member of the employer's militia in Renault Billancourt factory. In the midst of a wave of racist crime, Pierrot was distributing a leaflet for an antifascist demonstration at Metro Charonne in memory of the savagely suppressed protest by police 10 years earlier.

Of those who knew him, all tell his enthusiasm and vivacity, his energy devoted to the revolution, the people's cause. Beyond his personal character, Pierre Overney is a symbol of the youth who wanted to change everything, turn everything upside down by standing on the side of the exploited and oppressed. This part of the youth that was not satisfied with the achievements of May 68 and who wanted to go further ; this youth that rose "to storm the heavens."

Today it is a duty of memory to pay tribute to Pierre Overney, to salute his struggle and before all to take it our own hands. For older comrades, it is a matter of transmitting the fighting spirit that animated the time, transmitting the history as we do not read it in books, history from below, history siding with the people. For young comrades, it is a matter of appropriating our own history, working movement history, the history of the Gauche Prolétarienne, which was surely the most advanced and the most promising revolutionary experience in recent history in our country.

Appropriating our history means to make it live in the practice, every day, in every struggle, wherever there is oppression and exploitation. Our past must help us understand our present and must serve for the future. It is the duty of the younger generation, aided by the former.

Let’s pay tribute to Comrade Pierre Overney, fallen 40 years ago !

Transform nostalgia into energy for the struggle and revolution !

Pierre Overney lives in our struggle !


Saturday, February 25

Rally Tribute
Père Lachaise Cemetery

M°  Père Lachaise
Line 2 - exit 1

3:30 p.m.

Meeting, testimonies, discussion,
songs from Dominique Grange

CICP - 21 ter rue Voltaire - 75011

M° Rue des Boulets

Line 9
Le Drapeau Rouge,
Organe du Parti Communiste maoïste de France

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Alain Badiou - Save Greeks from their Saviours !

Alain Badiou, Jean-Christophe Bailly, Étienne Balibar, Claire Denis, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Ranciere, Avital Ronell. Save the Greeks from their Saviors! February 22, 2012. Translation into English by Anastazia Golemi.

At a time when one Greek youth is unemployed. Where 25,000 homeless wander the streets of Athens. Where 30% of the population has fallen under the poverty line and where millions of families are forced to place their children in the care of someone else in order for them not to die of hunger or cold, where refugees and the new poor compete for trashcans at the public dump, the “saviors” of Greece, under the pretext that “Greece is not trying hard enough”, impose a new aid plan that doubles the lethal administered dose. A plan that abolishes the right to work and reduces the poor to the most extreme misery, at the same time as it makes the middle class disappear.
The goal is not about “saving” Greece. All economists worthy of this name agree on this point. It’s about gaining time in order to save the creditors at the same time it leads the country into deferred collapse. Above all it’s about making a laboratory of social change out of Greece that, in a second generation, will spread throughout all of Europe. The model experimented upon Greece is one where public social services, schools, hospitals, and dispensaries fall into ruin, where health becomes the privilege of the rich, and where vulnerable populations are doomed to a programmed elimination while those who work are condemned to the most extreme conditions of impoverishment and precarity.
But in order for this neo-liberalist offensive to achieve its ends, it is necessary to install a regime established an economy of the most basic democratic rights. Under the injunction of saviors, we see throughout Europe technocratic governments installing themselves with disregard for popular sovereignty. This is a turning point in the parliamentary system where we see the “representatives of the people” giving carte blanche to the experts and bankers, abdicating their supposed decisional power –A kind of parliamentary coup d’etat, which also uses an amplified arsenal against popular protest. Thus, when members have ratified the convention dictated by the troika (the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund), diametrically opposed to the mandate for which they had received power, without any democratic legitimacy, it will have committed to the future of the country for thirty or forty years.
Meanwhile the EU is preparing to establish an account which would be paid directly to aid Greece but only so that it is used for servicing the debt. The revenue of the country should be the "absolute priority" devoted to repay creditors, and, if necessary, paid directly to the account managed by the European Union. The agreement stipulates that any new bond issued under it shall be governed by English law, which involves material guarantees, so that disputes will be adjudicated by the courts of Luxembourg, having Greece waive in advance any rights to appeal against an entry determined by its creditors. To complete the picture, privatization is assigned to a fund managed by the troika, where the title deeds of public goods shall be placed. In short, it is the widespread looting, characteristic of financial capitalism which here offers itself a really beautiful institutional consecration. To the extent that sellers and buyers sit on the same side of the table, we have no doubt that this enterprise of privatization is a real treat for the buyers. But all the measures taken so far have only dug Greece into deeper sovereign debt. With the help of rescuers who lend at exorbitant rates, it has literally exploded into free fall in approaching 170% of GDP, while in 2009 it represented more than 120%. It is likely that this cohort of rescuers - whenever presented as "final" - had no other purpose than to weaken further still the position of Greece so that, deprived of any opportunity to propose itself the terms of a restructuring, is reduced to yield to all its creditors under the blackmail of "the disaster or austerity."
The worsening of the artificial and coercive debt problem was used as a weapon to attack an entire society. It is proper that we speak here of terms related to the military: we are indeed dealing with a war conducted by means of finance, politics and law, a class war against society as a whole. And the spoils that the financial class wrestles away from the "enemy", are the social benefits and democratic rights, but ultimately it is the very possibility of a human life that is taken. The lives of those who do or do not consume enough in terms of profit maximization strategies, should be no longer be preserved.
Thus, the weakness of a country caught between speculation and endless devastating bailouts, is the backdoor through which a new social model erupts conforming to the requirements of neoliberal fundamentalism. A model destined for all Europe and maybe elsewhere. This is the real issue and why defending the Greek people can not be reduced to a gesture of solidarity or abstract humanity: the future of democracy and the fate of European nations are in question. Everywhere the "pressing necessity" of "painful but salutary" austerity will be presented to us as the means to escape the fate of Greece, while it really leads us right into the middle of it.
Up against this attack against society, faced with the destruction of the last pockets of democracy, we call our fellow citizens, our French and European friends to speak loudly. Do not leave the monopoly on speaking to the experts and politicians. Can we remain indifferent to the fact the German and French leaders in particular have requested Greece to be banned from elections? Does the systematic stigmatization and bashing of a European people not deserve a response? Is it possible not to raise ones voice against the institutional assasination of the Greek people? And can we remain silent in front of the establishment of a forced march towards a system that outlaws the very idea of social solidarity?
We are at the point of no return. It is urgent to fight the battle of numbers and the war of words to counter ultra-liberal rhetoric of fear and misinformation. There is urgent need to deconstruct the moral lessons that obscure the actual process at work in society. It becomes more than urgent to demystify the racist insistence on the " Greek specificity " that allegedly is the supposed national character of a people (laziness and cunning at will) the root cause of a crisis in global reality. What matters today is not the specifics, wheher they are real or imaginary, but the common: the fate of a people that will affect all others.
Numerous technical solutions have been proposed to overcome the alternative of "either the destruction of the society or bankruptcy" (which we see today really means "and the destruction and bankruptcy" of the company). Everything must be brought to the table as food for thought for the construction of another Europe. But first you must report the crime, bring to light the situation in which the Greek people is because of "rescue packages" designed by and for speculators and creditors. When a movement of support is woven around the world, where Internet networks buzz with initiatives of solidarity, are French intellectuals the last to raise their voices for Greece? Without further delay, multiply articles, media appearances, debates, petitions, demonstrations. For any initiative is welcome, any initiative is urgent.
As for us, this is what we propose: quickly move towards the formation of a European community of intellectuals and artists in solidarity with the Greek people in resistance. If we can’t do this, then who will? If we don’t do this now, then when?
Vicky Skoumbi, Editor-in-Chief of the journal, “Alètheia”, Athens, Michel Surya, director of the journal «Lignes», Paris, Dimitris Vergetis, director of the journal, “Alètheia”, Athens. And : Daniel Alvara,Alain Badiou, Jean-Christophe Bailly, Etienne Balibar, Fernanda Bernardo, Barbara Cassin, Bruno Clément, Danielle Cohen- Levinas, Yannick Courtel, Claire Denis, Georges Didi-Huberman, Roberto Esposito, Francesca Isidori, Pierre-Philippe Jandin, Jérôme Lèbre, Jean-Clet Martin, Jean- Luc Nancy, Jacques Rancière, Judith Revel, Elisabeth Rigal, Jacob Rogozinski, Hugo Santiago, Beppe Sebaste, Michèle Sinapi, Enzo Traverso

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vijay Prashad Urges Re-Evaluation of NATO Attack on Libya in Debate Over Syria Intervention

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay presented report to Security Council on Libyan human rights abuses in closed session while report on Syrian abuses was in public session.

Clearly any public exposure of the numerous human rights abuses in Libya during and following the overthrow of Gadaffi by NATO and The Libyan Transitional Authority would undermine its case for a new intervention in Syria.

Save the life of the jailed comrade Azedine Erouissi - 64 days of hunger strike in the Taza jail, Morocco !

For more information visit here :

background on struggle in Morocco here :

Taza city:Azedine Erouissi in hunger strike for 65 days,in a very serious state in the hospital,betwen life and death !

Fes city: 4 millitants in hunger strike for 31 days.
loss of consciousness........!

Errachidia city: 3 millitants started today an open hunger strike !

Monday, February 20, 2012

News About Syria: Information or Propaganda ?

Syria: no to Assad, no to foreign intervention! by World to Win News Service plus an interview with Hassan Khaled Chatila

13 February 2012. A World to Win News Service. The US military has "begun to review potential military options" in Syria, according to The New York Times (12 February). An unnamed American military official told this authoritative newspaper,

"We're looking at a whole range of options, but as far as going to one course of action, I haven't seen anything." The report says the "possible options" that would be considered include "everything, from doing nothing to arming rebels to covert action, airstrikes or deploying ground troops."

This admission comes as the US is already backing various forms of intervention in Syria, including Turkey's efforts to use Syrian military opposition elements to form an army under its control, and the money and arms allegedly pouring into the country from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are almost undoubtedly backing fellow Sunni Islamic fundamentalists, as they have everywhere else.

The US followed an often ambiguous policy toward Syria for many years, working to isolate and weaken the regime while also recognizing its importance in preserving the status quo in the region at times when that has been a prime American goal. Bashar al-Assad's father Hafez crushed the revolutionary Palestinian movement then centred in Lebanon in the 1970s, enforced peace with Israel despite the Zionist occupation of Syria's Golan Heights since 1967, and supported the US during the 1991 invasion of Iraq. 

When the Syrian revolt broke last March, inspired by similar spontaneous revolts that toppled Egypt's Mubarak and Tunisia's Ben Ali, the US did not support its main demand, the fall of the regime. Instead Washington called on Assad to implement economic and political reforms meant to appease the movement while making it easier to pull Syria into the US orbit.

That revolt, Salameh Kaileh, a prominent Arab Marxist from Palestine living in Syria, told AWTWNS in an interview last August, was unleashed by the middle strata in the countryside. In smaller provincial cities, it now involves all social classes, including the merchants and local capitalists, Kaileh said.

"There are reasons why Damascus and Allepo haven't moved," he said at that time. "First, the concentration of security forces there makes any protest very difficult. Further, these two cities have benefited from economic changes during the preceding period. Thus we've seen Aleppo profit from the economic opening to Turkey and Iraq. Damascus, for its part, has profited from development of the service and tourism economy. But nevertheless in these two cities there are many poor sectors who are starting to move."

This situation has been complicated by the danger of the revolt being dragged down and degenerating into ethnic and religious conflict. The regime draws its core forces mainly from among Alawi (a branch of Shia Islam) clans with support from Christian forces, a configuration whose domination of the country was inherited from the French occupation. The revolt has been   mainly rooted among the Sunni majority, as well as Kurds. Unforgivably, the regime has also enjoyed the support or neutrality of almost all of Syria's so-called left, which unlike in Tunisia and Egypt have played little role in the mass movement.

The revolt has often raised slogans and made gestures emphasizing the unity of the Syrian people against the regime, while it has been the regime that has most fanned the sparks of ethnic conflict to pose itself as the only alternative. But clearly the regime is not alone in seeing the potential of conflicts among the people as a way to achieve reactionary goals.

It was not until 18 August that Washington called for Assad to go. This was not because the Obama government had suddenly found out how bloodthirsty the Syrian regime is. There had already been five months of massacres of unarmed civilian demonstrators, and for years the US had turned over prisoners to Syria precisely in order that they be tortured. But the US saw both necessity and opportunity in the current situation.

As Kaileh said, the US was now seeking regime change, but a controlled regime change, hoping to avoid unleashing uncontrollable forces, including the masses of Syrian people themselves, that might lead to an outcome that would destabilize the whole US-dominated structure of region, including the regimes in neighbouring Turkey and Jordan.  

"Following the Tunisian and Egyptian model, this change (sought by the US in Syria) would not be a radical one but a change within the regime itself", Kaileh said. One possible form would be a split within the power structure, particularly the armed forces and a coup, spurred on by or even possibly brought about by foreign military intervention.

The necessity was to step in a resolve a situation – a popular uprising – that imperilled American interests. The opportunity was that it had become possible to envisage taking out a formerly stable regime that formed a bloc with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Palestinian Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon, posing serious problems for the US and threatening its reactionary regional allies. It is no coincidence that the US's eagerness to bring down Assad comes amid heightened US threats to attack Iran and/or back Israel in attacking it.

Even as the popular revolt in the Middle East and North Africa continues to acutely challenge some of the existing regimes and forms of imperialist domination, and the genie of the peoples' awakening has been released from the bottle, instead of giving in to the popular will and or even retreating slightly, the US has worked to advance its interests amid these turbulent waters.

To the so-called Tunisian and Egyptian models has now been added the "Libyan model" in which the US and the European powers (acting both in concert with the US and also out of rivalry with the US and each other) basically invaded (if mainly from the skies) and brought down the Gaddafi regime. This show of force was meant not only to assert control of Libya but also proclaim and maintain regional dominance in the face of both the peoples and other rivals, including Russia and China.

The foreign interference and stoking of civil war by the US and its allies in Syria is exactly the kind of thing the UN supposedly exists to prevent. A few years ago the US blustered threats against the Assad regime for interfering in Lebanon and demanded that the UN step in. For the US, UK and France, the question is not what is morally right or legal according to international law but what serves their imperialist interests.

Now that these powers have taken the opposite position regarding Syria: outside interference can be justified because Assad is "killing his own people". Further, if it is true that forces linked to Al-Qaeda in Iraq are now fighting in Syria, this is not unrelated to the Gulf states' backing of other Islamic fundamentalist forces there. The point, for the West, is that their interference (or moves backed by them) is good, while anyone else's is an excuse for... Nato intervention. 

As Robert Fisk pointed out in the UK Independent, one particularly sharp illustration of the hypocrisy of the US and Europe is that the absolute monarchs of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are now portrayed as the region's best champions of "democracy" in Syria. The fact that the Saudi regime sent in troops to put down a rebellion by the Shia majority in Bahrain and is shooting Shia demonstrators in Eastern Saudi Arabia has been politely overlooked.

The increasing importance of the alliance between the US and the reactionary Gulf states – driven by the dread that the "Arab Spring" inspires in them all – is exemplified by the fact that they were able to change the position of the Arab League overnight, from one of at least apparent neutrality toward the Assad regime to putting forward a stunningly arrogant and detailed plan for what should happen next in Syria, beginning with a transfer of power from Assad to others within his regime, with or without a military coup.

The Arab League has called for a "joint Arab-UN peacekeeping mission" in Syria, but this isn't about peace. It called for providing "all forms of moral and material support" to opposition forces, but this isn't about helping the advance of what has been the main thrust of the people's revolt so far, an end to oppression.

What it resembles more closely is the 19th-century "gunboat diplomacy" when Western powers used their warships to force those local governments not already under colonial control to comply point-by-point with an imposed agenda. The fact that these demands come from Arab mouths does not change the fact that the US wrote the script, or at least gave it the green light. How could the Gulf monarchies threaten Syria without the spectre of Western gunboats (and aircraft and armies) looming just behind them?

With the pretext that Saddam Hussein was "killing his own people", two invasions separated by a decade of murderous sanctions not only led to the deaths of many hundreds of thousands of people but also plunged the Iraqi people into as dark a night as they have ever faced before, a situation very unfavourable for revolt. Then, on the same pretext, came the "Libyan" model, in which a regime that had become highly compliant with Western (and especially British and Italian) interests was brought down amidst the unleashing of all sorts of reactionary interests and forces, making life in Libya today as great a hell as ever before.

Right now the US is in no position to mount another large-scale invasion, thanks not to any sudden change of heart but the way the American projects in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned out. On the other hand, the kind of "cheap" war in Libya (cheap to the US and other Nato members, not to the Libyan people who are still paying a horrendous price) may not be possible in Syria, where the last five months of revolt have shown that the regime reactionary does have a stronger social base as well as a real army.

American strategists (see, for example, Foreign bemoan the fact that an "air exclusion zone" would have little affect in Syria, where the regime hasn't been using war planes, and that air power cannot be applied to aid anti-regime forces because to the extent that combat is going now, it is in densely populated cities. "What is presented as an alternative to military intervention [on the ground] is more likely to pave the way to such intervention once it fails," Marc Lynch warns in that publication.

Will a coup provide them with a solution? That's one possibility, but Syria is not like Tunisia and Egypt, whose militaries were closely tied to and trusted by the US and not totally identified with the regime in the public mind. The Syrian military has run up huge blood debts with major sections of the people.

We can't predict what will happen – how the US and its allies might try to solve their dilemma and make a grab for Syria. But we should know by now, after all that we've seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and so many other places, that what the imperialists are capable of is sometimes worse than we can imagine – and the results of their intervention are always disastrous for the people.

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(For more about the Syrian revolt, see the interview with Hassan Khaled Chatila in AWTWNS110516)

Following is an edited version of an interview with Hassan Khaled Chatila, a Syrian revolutionary living in Europe.
It is circulated by A World to Win News Service, based in Britain. They write: “Although we have done our best to faithfully represent his views on the questions addressed here, they remain his own.”
The balance of forces among the opposition now favours counter-revolutionaries, because [under current circumstances] the militarization of the movement against the regime favours international interference. Alongside the unarmed protests in the streets there are now significant armed actions. But there has not been much change in the political consciousness of the mass movement, which remains a spontaneous revolt whose unifying goal is the fall of the regime. Now street slogans call for armed action to achieve this.
The head of the Free Syrian Army [formed by officers and soldiers who left the regime's armed forces] has been calling for foreign intervention since early on. It’s not clear who they are. It seems that the name actually covers several armed groups aided and sheltered by Turkey. Because there is no real organization and little political unity among these army deserters, they are often act more like armed gangs, carrying out looting and rape. The FSA [claims its purpose is to] protect demonstrations in the cities from government attack. Their tactics are bad – they shoot at government soldiers who return fire and kill civilian protesters. Their real strategy is to militarize the clash between the movement and the regime so as to provoke foreign intervention.
Politically and ideologically the mass movement is not mature enough to achieve a democratic and nationalist state, because of the absence of a revolutionary left. The reactionary forces among the opposition seek to bring to power a military regime that could be even worse than Bashar al-Assad. In Egypt, the US wants the army to protect the state and keep peace with Israel. The issues in Syria are more complicated, because of its relations with Iran, Turkey, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The US wants the forces backed by Saudi Arabia to dominate in Syria and keep politics out of the hands of the people, who tend to support the Palestinians and the resistance to Israel, and are generally anti-American – much more so in Syria than in Egypt. Because of its relations with all those forces, Syria can play a key role in the region.
Since the death of [Egyptian President] Nasser in 1970 and the defeat of the Baathist left [associated with Nasser] in Syria around that time, Saudi Arabia has come to be the predominate country in the Arab world. [The weakening of the Saddam Hussein regime and its fall with the 2003 US-led invasion accentuated this situation.] Bashar’s father Hafaz had good relations with the Saudis in some periods, though later they cooled. Both regimes want to avoid war with Israel and the US. Rami Maklouf [Syria's wealthiest businessman, a cousin of Bashar and pillar of the regime] is infamous for having once said that Syria’s stability requires a stable Israel.
The Syrian National Council, an organization of opposition forces in exile in Europe, the US and Turkey, wants to be recognized as the representative of the people. It has no presence in Syria. Its chairman, Bourhan Ghaion, is a French citizen and teaches at the Sorbonne. Its spokeswoman has long worked for the European Union. Their official programme calls for the fall of the regime, a democratic republic and no political confessionalism [politics organized by religious groupings]. Its main forces comprise economic liberals, other secular forces and the Moslem Brotherhood. They are very actively soliciting foreign intervention. Their representatives are going from capital to capital to bring about foreign military intervention but they do very little inside the country.
The SNC has issued statements condemning the Islamic Republic of Iran and Hezbollah, and calling for a diplomatic solution to the Palestinian problem.
Some Moslem Brotherhood members seek what they call a “civil state”, a deliberately vague formulation that doesn’t make it clear whether that state would be Islamic or secular. In other words, all citizens would be equal, but it seems that they would not accept a constitution that does not define Sharia [Islamic law] as the source of all law. So there are significant differences among the members of the Syrian National Council.
While the Council is backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and, implicitly, Europe and the US, it has no control over the Free Syrian Army.
There is also the non-revolutionary Syrian left, which is still seeking “a solution with and through” the Assad regime. This means change from above, not below. Their goal is to be part of a new government. Their influence among the people is limited, especially since they are widely reviled as agents of the regime. The various Local Coordinating Committees include people from the more revolutionary left and Arab nationalists.
The “Friends of Syria” meeting to be held in Tunis 24 February may be very significant. [This entity is being built on the model of the "Friends of Libya" under whose auspices Nato intervened in that country – in the present case, the purpose is to by-pass the need for a UN Security Council resolution to authorize foreign interference in Syria.] It was called by France’s President Sarkozy and backed by the [pro-US, Islamic-led] Tunisian government. There seems to be some differences among these “friends” about which Syrians to invite.
Opinion in the street is constantly changing. Some people carry banners hailing the SNC and calling for foreign intervention. In contrast, the 17 February demonstrations were called “the Friday of Resistance”, with the view that the people should rely on themselves.
The opposition to the regime from within Syria’s “political class” has come to be divided between a left that emphasizes the political and social rights of the people but is cut off from the masses, who have no confidence in any of the traditional political groups, and a neo-liberal right that demands foreign intervention. Both are in favour of globalized economic development in Syria and both fear the people.
The divisions among the people on religious/ethnic lines have been exaggerated abroad. There are people from all the religions and ethnicities on both sides. The 17 February “Friday of Resistance” brought several welcome developments in the capital. They hold the potential for bringing about another reversal in the relationship of forces between the armed opposition forces and the people’s movement.
[Until now the anti-regime movement has not shaken Damascus and Aleppo, as it has poorer provincial cities. Protests in Damascus have mainly been confined to the less well-off, mainly Sunni suburbs. The anti-regime protest that broke out in a popular suburb of Damascus 17 February spread to Mezze, an area of government and corporate offices and residences not far from the presidential palace. Alawites make up a large percentage of the population of Mezze – and the regime has drawn much of its core support from Alawite clans. Assad's troops killed three protesters in a small demonstration in Mezze on Friday. The next day, after their funeral, a small march swelled into at least many hundreds as men and women from the neighbourhood joined in.]
If the people were left to themselves, I don’t think there could be a civil war among the people. But the situation is complex, and foreign intervention could lead to a reactionary, ethnic/religious-based civil war. In that case, Syria could explode, with enormous consequences for the surrounding countries where all these ethnicities are represented.
As of now, no one in Syria today has a real revolutionary strategy. Activists are doing everything on a day-to-day basis.