Summer of Imperialism in Middle East, North Africa

MENA_map

Lucien Gauthier

(reprinted from Informations Ouvrières No. 264, the weekly newspaper of the Independent Workers Party of France)

In the middle of August, the violence but also the “negotiations” have increased across the Middle East and in the Maghreb.

More than two years after the fall of Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia, the situation in these two regions, far from being “stabilized,” as U.S. imperialism would like it, is witnessing ever-increasing contradictions.

EGYPT
Mobilizations by millions upon millions of workers, youth, and people as a whole led to the fall of President Morsi. Many political forces of the Egyptian opposition have carefully avoided saying that the regime in Egypt was not made up solely by the Muslim Brotherhood, but was formed by a coalition of this current with the Egyptian Army.

In the face of these latest revolutionary developments, the top military brass, in conjunction with the U.S. administration, ousted Morsi to preserve the regime.

For decades, it has been the highest echelons of the Army that in fact run the country and constitute its main political, economic and legal force.

In this situation, part of the population that does not want a return to military rule continues to mobilize to demand the return of President Morsi.

Faced with the risk of an all-out explosive situation, the U.S. administration is pushing with all its weight for the Muslim Brotherhood to be reinstated in the Egyptian government via the formation of a government of national unity in Egypt. This country is indeed one of the pillars of imperialist domination in the Middle East. An explosion of Egypt could lead to a general explosion in the Middle East, already marked by a major drift toward its dislocation.

IN IRAQ AND SYRIA
“The Islamic State in Iraq,” that is to say, the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the wave of attacks that left dozens dead during the holiday of Aïd, which marks the end of Ramadan.

Le Monde (August 13) said that the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda has now extended its influence in Syria. The newspaper notes that the organization “imposes its methods wherever it goes: decapitation of Alawites, anti-Christian violence and even attacks on Sunni forces considered too luke-warm. This was the case in Rakka, where the Islamic State in Iraq eventually ousted all other rebel forces through abductions and assassinations.”

NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN THE STATE OF ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
Given all these developments, the U.S. administration has thrown all its weight to force the leaders of the State of Israel to reopen negotiations with the “Palestinian Authority.” This has caused profound contradictions in the government of the State of Israel, as major sectors of the state apparatus oppose any negotiations and in fact are pushing for greater confrontations with the Palestinians.

On the Palestinian side, the participation of leaders of the Palestinian Authority in the pseudo-negotiations has not met with the approval of the masses of Palestinians, who know from experience that nothing positive will come of these “negotiations” for the Palestinian people.

IN TUNISIA
The assassination of Member of Parliament Brahmi, after that of Choukri Belaïd, both leaders of the Popular Front, led to a new wave of mass protests. The international press has presented these developments in Tunisia as an opposition between the Islamist government and a secular opposition. Some groups in Tunisia have done the same. Many articles have sought to draw a parallel with the situation in Egypt.

But the reality is different. The revolutionary mobilizations in Tunisia, framed and structured by the UGTT trade union federation, not only resulted in throwing out Ben Ali, but also led to the liquidation of large parts of the Ben Ali regime — unlike what happened in Egypt, where the army remained in power and preserved the regime.

Thus the mobilization of the people in Tunisia led to the convening of a Constituent Assembly. But the combination of the actions taken by many political parties, all supported by the Major Powers, distorted and gutted the content of these elections, prohibiting de facto the election of a true Constituent Assembly. What resulted was a parliamentary election that led to the formation of a government that brought together the Islamic Party, Ennadha, and two secular parties, one on the right, the Congress for the Republic, and the other on the left, Ettakatol.

The result of this agreement was as follows: the appointed President of the Republic, Marzouki, is a leader of the Congress of the Republic; the Prime Minister comes from Ennadha; and the President of the Constituent Assembly is a leader representing Ettakatol.

Why do they all hide this fact? Precisely because this national coalition agreement has not only preserved the broad policy directives of the Ben Ali government, but has even accelerated them. This coalition government not only did not oppose, let alone challenge, the Association Agreement with the European Union, a “free trade” agreement with the EU, but has gone a step further by signing a special partnership with it.

The coalition government has accepted all the conditions put forward by the IMF and the U.S. administration. And yet it was precisely these agreements that laid the basis for the destruction of the Tunisian economy and that caused the revolutionary uprising in Tunisia two and a half years ago, raising the demand of “Bread and Water — Not Ben Ali” .

Faced with the mobilizations in Tunisia, the Major Powers and some of their relays in Tunisia seek to lay the groundwork for a broader coalition government, including other political forces now in opposition. Thus the President of the Constituent Assembly announced that his work would be put on hold as a gesture toward the opposition. At the same time, he asked the UGTT trade union federation to assume its “historic role by sponsoring talks between the government and the opposition.”

According to the Agence France-Presse (AFP), “after more than four hours of negotiations, Ghannouchi, the leaders of the Islamic party Ennadha, and Abassi, the leader of the powerful UGTT union federation, announced that they had made no progress that could lead to a solution to the crisis caused by the assassination of Member of Parliament Brahmi …. The UGTT had found itself placed reluctantly in the role of mediator between the opposition and Ennadha. ”

One question is carefully hidden by the international media, and that is the fact that the sovereignty of the Tunisian people can only be guaranteed by severing the ties of subordination to imperialism. This is valid in Tunisia, but also in Egypt and elsewhere.

Mugabe Wins Again!

gaddafi-and-mugabe-600

New Worker

When is an election not an election? The answer, as far as the imperialists are concerned, is whenever the result goes against them.

This week Robert Mugabe won the Zimbabwean presidential race for the fifth time on the run while his Zanu-PF party trounced the opposition in the race for seats in the National Assembly.

Mugabe has long been a thorn in the flesh of the Anglo-American and Franco-German imperialists who saw their plans to control the Zimbabwean economy time and time again frustrated by the veteran African leader. Mugabe’s land-reforms and general anti-imperialist stance led them to put all their money and political and economic muscle behind Tsvangirai’s movement whose high vote in the 2008 parliamentary election led to the formation of a coalition with Zanu-PF the following year.

But Tsvangirai’s dismal performance as premier along with the autocratic handling of his own front and the damaging splits that followed caused a massive slump in support for the opposition and this was clearly demonstrated in the vote this time round.

President Mugabe won the presidential race with over 61 per cent, while Movement for Democratic Change —Tsvangirai (MDC-T) leader Morgan Tsvangirai managed about 34 per cent; breakaway MDC frontman Professor Welshman Ncube came a distant third with almost three per cent and two also-rans got less than one per cent between them. Zanu-PF exceeded the majority threshold of 140 by bagging 160 seats in a 210 National Assembly contest, with MDC-T managing a paltry 49 seats.

Though the results have been endorsed as free and fair by election observers from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community Tsvangirai is again claiming electoral fraud. This is a subject that the soon-to-be former premier may be well acquainted with given the accusations from his own ranks of rigging his own primaries and his own party congress. This, they say, is the only way Tsvangirai knows to win elections and so he naturally assumes that when others win, the votes must have been rigged.

But many observers, including the paid pundits often described as “Africa experts” in the bourgeois media, believe Tsvangirai’s political career is now over.

Though Tsvangirai is no longer of any further use the imperialists are now clearly looking for another willing tool to represent the interests of the “commercial farmers” who are demanding vast sums in compensation for their lost estates, and the “agro-imperialist” western farm investors, who want to once-again exploit the fertile lands of Zimbabwe.

That’s why we’re hearing a renewed imperialist mantra of “ballot rigging” and “electoral fraud” from Washington, London and the chancelleries of the European Union in a concerted effort to undermine the legitimacy of the Zimbabwean elections and justify the continuing targeted economic sanctions against Robert Mugabe and some of his closest supporters.

Well let them bleat. Mugabe and Zanu-PF won the elections fair and square. The Zimbabwean people must be allowed to live their lives under their chosen leadership and along their chosen economic path of independence and social progress.

USA: Creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Cynthia McKinney
via Alexandra Valiente

My Proposal for us to discuss this weekend:

Creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to move this country forward, to a higher level, where we all–on this page, anyway–want it to be. (Bill Clinton suggested a National Dialogue on Race.)

Not too long ago, we also discussed the Laissez-Faire Leadership that us visionaries are saddled with in the White House and the Congress. I would also like to make this a call for us to support only Transformational Leadership–what the times in our country call for.

Transformational Leadership is charismatic, visionary, highly ethical, and morally based. Transformational Leadership does not dictate what is needed, but allows a process of discovery of solutions that are consistent with stated and shared values.

On this page, I saw the beginnings of the kind of transformations that are possible when people open up on their feelings, hear others, and then reflect on what they’ve experienced. This is the process by which we can move forward on a new SHARED vision.

While many are preparing to rally in their hometowns against the Trayvon Martin murder verdict, I thought I’d encourage us on this page to develop a possible solution that could last more than the mere hours of a protest rally. Rallies serve their purpose, but only the development of a process whereby we all can functionally come together and work collectively on a new shared vision that includes everyone will put an end to the scourge that we continue to face.

I posted my sincere feelings here and many others did, too. I believe that we engaged in open and honest discussion here with everyone not agreeing. Except for the Zionist trolls who populate this site, I do believe that we began a process that our country as a whole really needs if we ever are to move forward together, building character, with integrity, for liberty and justice in our local and global communities.

So, I propose a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I must admit that the idea I’m putting forward came to me in the form of a paper submitted by Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Tupac Shakur’s father figure, incarcerated as a political prisoner since the days of the Black Panther Party before it was cracked down upon by the FBI and others in COINTELPRO.

Towards a Truth and Reconciliation Commission For New African/Black Political Prisoners, Prisoners of War and Freedom Fighters by: Dr. Mutulu Shakur May 2010
Truth and Reconciliation Commission by: Dr. Mutulu Shakur January 2011

Tell me what you think about the idea of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the U.S. whose goal would be to allow us to develop goals and shared values first. Perhaps, if this had been done generations ago, many communities could have been spared so much pain. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission would begin with that pain and encourage civic action with common purpose and enlightenment.

Let me know what you think. Do you have an alternative or complementary solution? Please think about your solution and share it here on this page with the rest of us.

And, as always . . . Thank you for sharing.

Egypt Coup: Blood-Soaked Military Ousts Reactionary Morsi

Workers Vanguard

Five days after ousting the reactionary government of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian military has gunned down more than 50 Morsi supporters outside a Republican Guard officers club in Cairo, where the Islamist leader is believed to be held. With this massacre, the military has sent a message: what they’re doing to Brotherhood supporters today they are prepared to do tomorrow to anyone standing in the way of order.

The July 3 coup took place after days of massive protests around the country demanding the resignation of Morsi, whose year in power was marked by the continuing collapse of the economy, mounting shortages of fuel and other necessities and heavy-handed attempts to reinforce Islamic legal and social strictures. News of the coup and Morsi’s arrest was cheered by hundreds of thousands who had gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Military helicopters and jet fighters flew overhead, driving home the generals’ message that they are the “defenders of the nation” and the ultimate arbiters of who will rule. In nightly clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi forces, scores died on both sides. Now, after today’s bloodbath, the Muslim Brotherhood has called to extend its protests into a national uprising.

As Marxists, we are just as adamantly opposed to the coup as we are to government by the Islamists. Many of the bourgeois-nationalist and liberal-reformist organizations that helped kick off the anti-Morsi protests whitewash the coup, which the military warned of well ahead of time, by claiming that the masses in the street are determining events. The opportunist Revolutionary Socialists, who a year ago called for a vote to Morsi, now chime in with talk of a “second revolution.” The masses that rose up two years ago against the hated bonapartist regime of Hosni Mubarak sought a fundamental change to their conditions of poverty, brutal oppression and absence of democratic rights. Mubarak was ousted. But what the working people and the oppressed got was not a revolution but a new political face on the same system of capitalist oppression—first under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), then the elected Morsi presidency and now back to direct military rule. As we wrote following the 2011 ouster of the Mubarak regime:

“We Marxists reject this bankrupt reformist framework, which posits that the only two ‘choices’ for the working class in Egypt are to capitulate either to the ‘secular,’ military-backed bourgeois nationalist regime or to political Islam. In fact, these are alternative ways of propping up capitalist class rule, the system that ensures vast wealth for its rulers and dire poverty for the urban and rural masses. We look instead to the revolutionary mobilization of Egypt’s proletariat, standing at the head of all the oppressed, in a fight for socialist revolution, which alone can address the fundamental problems facing the masses.”

—“Pandering to Reactionary Muslim Brotherhood” (WV No. 974, 18 February 2011)

The same armed forces that have been cheered in Tahrir Square rounded up thousands of protesters in 2011, subjecting many to electric shock and other brutal tortures. Tahrir Square’s “Street of the Eyes of Freedom” got its moniker after security forces, in a cruel and calculated attack, fired directly into the faces of protesters rallying against SCAF rule. During the Maspero massacre of 9 October 2011, armored military vehicles, in concert with the police and Islamists, mowed down dozens of Coptic Christians protesting the burning of homes and churches. Women protesters detained by the army were subjected to humiliating “virginity tests.” Now large numbers of women demonstrators are again being gang-raped and otherwise assaulted under the eyes of the security forces.

Not surprisingly, during the coup U.S. officials were on the phone constantly with their Egyptian counterparts. The Egyptian military is dependent on the $1.3 billion in aid that it receives annually from Washington. General Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, the central figure in the coup (and Morsi’s Defense Minister), was trained at the U.S. Army War College and has close relations with American military tops. Washington also made clear to Morsi that his time was up. Using a common reference to the U.S., a Morsi aide texted to an associate shortly before the coup, “Mother just told us that we will stop playing in one hour.”

The military—the backbone of all of Egypt’s bourgeois regimes, along with the police—has stepped in to put a stop to social turmoil in order to halt the economic collapse, which has affected all but the wealthiest layers of Egyptian society. Government debt has increased by $10 billion in the last two years and the country’s foreign currency reserves are rapidly being exhausted. The vital tourist industry has all but collapsed since the initial protests in 2011. The value of the Egyptian pound has plummeted over the past year, while food prices have skyrocketed. Youth unemployment is almost 80 percent.

In the eyes of the capitalists, the only policy to address such a crisis is by taking it out of the hides of working people. While breaking strikes, Morsi’s government began to introduce vicious austerity measures against the poor to fulfill the conditions of an IMF loan. The working class can expect nothing less from the SCAF, which has a long, bloody record of repressing labor struggle and political dissent. To this end, the generals are turning once again to veterans of the Mubarak regime. Adli Mansour, a former crony of Mubarak, was named to replace Morsi. Other Mubarak appointees from the so-called “Deep State” have also stepped to the fore to resume governing.

A key task for revolutionary Marxists is combating the widespread nationalist ideology that is evident among the protesters waving Egyptian flags and embracing the army, and even police, as their allies. Anti-Morsi crowds chanted, “The people and the police are one hand” while battling Brotherhood supporters last week. Even the New York Times (6 July) called it “a curious sight since the police had been widely detested for killing protesters during the anti-Mubarak uprising.” Particularly among the petty bourgeoisie, there is a sentiment to get cops back on the street in the service of “law and order.”

Illusions in the army run particularly deep in Egypt, where officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew the British-backed monarchy in 1952. Nasser’s pretensions to “Arab socialism” notwithstanding, his regime tortured, killed and disappeared hundreds of opponents, including workers and Communists. He was also adept at co-opting Communists and others who pledged allegiance.

During the “Arab Spring” uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011, we pointed to the working class, whose strikes played a major role in bringing down both despotic regimes, as the potential gravedigger of the bourgeois order. We underlined the urgent need for the proletariat to act as the defender of all the oppressed layers of society, including women, Copts and impoverished peasants. The working class continues to wage economic struggles, as in April when a national train drivers strike paralyzed Egypt’s train service for days. However, politically the proletariat remains subordinated to bourgeois forces.

There will be no end to the exploitation of working people, no emancipation of women or liberation of the peasant masses, short of a proletarian revolution that sweeps away the bourgeois state, expropriates the capitalists as a class and proceeds to establish a collectivized economy. There is no nationally limited road to the emancipation of the workers and the oppressed. The powerful Egyptian proletariat can be a leading force in the struggle for a socialist federation of the Near East, part of the fight for proletarian revolution internationally, crucially including the imperialist centers. To bring this perspective to the working class requires the construction of a Leninist vanguard party, which will be forged in political combat against the reformists, liberals and others who seek to subordinate the working class to the imperialists, nationalists and forces of Islamic reaction.

How Egypt Killed Political Islam

Shamus Cooke

The rebirth of the Egyptian revolution ushered in the death of the first Muslim Brotherhood government. But some near-sighted analysts limit the events of Egypt to a military coup. Yes, the military is desperately trying to stay relevant — given the enormous initiative of the Egyptian masses — but the generals realize their own limitations in this context better than anybody. This wasn’t a mere re-shuffling at the top of society, but a flood from the bottom.

In reality the Egyptian people had already destroyed the Morsi regime (for example government buildings had already been occupied or shut down by the people), which is why the generals intervened — the same reason they intervened against Mubarak: better to try to lead than be led by the people. But the people remain in the driver’s seat, no matter what “national salvation government” the generals try to cobble together to retain legitimacy before the Egyptian people.

Political legitimacy — especially in times of revolution — must be earned, not assumed. Revolutionary legitimacy comes from taking bold actions to satisfy the political demands of the people: jobs, housing, public services, etc. A “democracy” that represents only Egypt’s upper crust as the Muslim Brotherhood government did, cannot emerge from a revolution and maintain itself; it was destroyed by a higher form of revolutionary democracy.

The brief, uninspiring reign of the first Muslim Brotherhood government will alter the course of Middle East history, whose modern chapter was formed, in part, by the rise of the Brotherhood. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has done the Middle East a profound favor by exposing its political and economic ideology for what it is: pro-western/capitalist economic policies that serve the IMF-dominated big banks, while preventing any real measures to address Egypt’s jobs crisis and massive inequality — itself born from previous neo-liberal privatization policies.

What did the Brotherhood do with the corrupt state they inherited? They tried to adapt; they flirted with the Egyptian military, coddled up to the security services, and seduced the dictatorship’s primary backer, the United States. They shielded all the Mubarak criminals from facing justice.

The Brotherhood’s foreign policy was also the same as Mubarak’s, favoring Israel at the expense of the Palestinians, and favoring the U.S.-backed Syrian rebels against the Syrian government, while increasingly adopting an anti-Iran agenda. A primary financial backer of the Muslim Brotherhood government was the oil-rich monarchy of Qatar (a U.S. puppet government), who helped steer the foreign policy of the Egyptian government.

The Muslim Brotherhood followed the same policies as the dictatorship because they serve the same elite interests. Consequently, political Islam will no longer be a goal for millions across the Middle East, who will opt for a new politics that will serve the real needs of the people of the region.

Political Islam outside of Egypt is also being rapidly discredited across the Middle East. In Turkey the mass protests that erupted were, in part, a reaction by the youth in Turkey to the conservative political and free-market economic policies of the Islam-oriented government.

The people of Iran recently chose the most religiously moderate of candidates to represent them, whose electoral campaign sparked an emerging mass movement.

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has allowed itself to become a pawn of U.S. foreign policy against the Syrian government, participating in a U.S.-organized “transition government” that will take power, in theory, after the U.S.-backed rebels destroy the Syrian government. The Syrian government’s battlefield victories and the new Egyptian revolution will further set back the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

Political Islam was already stained by the disgraceful monarchies of the Middle East. The especially corrupt and decrepit dictatorship of Saudi Arabia has thoroughly exploited Islam, where a fundamentalist version of Sharia law is reserved for the Saudi masses, while the Saudi monarchy partakes in any kind of illegal or immoral behavior it wants. Saudi Arabia’s only source of political legitimacy is its self-portrayal as the “protector of Islam” — since the holiest Islamic cities are in Saudi Arabia. But the Ottoman Empire that was destroyed in WWI also based its legitimacy on being the “defender of Islam” — both exploited Islam for political and financial power.

Of course, Islam is not the only religion that is exploited by elites. The ruling class of Israel defiles Judaism by using it to legitimize the state’s racist and expansionist policies. A nation-state based on religion — like Israel — implies that the non-religious minority be treated as second class citizens, while also implying that the “most devout,” i.e. most conservative religious groups, gain greater influence and are granted greater privileges by the state.

The same is true in the United States for the Republican Party — and increasingly the Democrats — who base much of their legitimacy on a fundamentalist version of Christianity, the inevitable result of which discriminates against non-Christians, though especially Muslims. Republicans increasingly rely on whipping up their fundamentalist Christian base against immigrants, Muslims, and homosexuals, allowing them the cover to pursue a pro-corporate and militarist foreign policy.

In the Middle East the modern history of political Islam was birthed by the Western powers after WWII, who installed and supported monarchies across the Middle East to maintain cheap oil and subservient governments; these monarchies use a fundamentalist version of Islam as their primary source of legitimacy.

This Islamic-exploitative policy was extended to fight the rise of the powerful pan-Arab socialist governments that favored a Soviet-style publicly-owned economy, first initiated by the still-beloved Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Retired CIA agent Robert Baer discusses this pro-Islamic/anti-Soviet dynamic in his excellent book, Sleeping With the Devil, How Washington Sold Our Soul For Saudi Crude.

When Arab countries — like Syria, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, etc. — followed Egypt’s example in the 1960′s and later took action against the rich and western corporations, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia relied ever more strongly on the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic extremists to destabilize these nations or steer their politics to the right.

When the Muslim Brotherhood tried to assassinate Egypt’s Nasser, he used the military and state repression to destroy the organization, whose members then fled to Syria and Saudi Arabia. Then the Brotherhood tried to assassinate Syrian President Hafez al-Assad — Bashar al-Assad’s father — who followed Nasser’s example and physically destroyed the organization. Libya’s Gaddafi and Tunisia’s Bourguiba — both popular Presidents for years — likewise took aggressive action against the Brotherhood’s own aggressive, reactionary tactics, which remained protected and nurtured by U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia.

This policy of using radical Islamists against Soviet-allied states was extended further when the U.S. and Saudi Arabia funded, armed, and trained the groups later known as al-Qaida and the Taliban against the Soviet-allied Afghanistan government. After this “success” the same policy was applied to Yugoslavia, where the radical Islamists, known as the Kosovo Liberation Army, were funded and supported by Saudi Arabia and the U.S. as they targeted the Soviet-inspired Yugoslavia government. Now, the Saudi-backed radical Islamists are being employed against the Syrian government.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, the semi-socialist Arab nations that depended on it for trade and support found themselves economically and politically isolated, and consequently shifted their economies towards western capitalist policies seeking injections of capital (foreign investment) and new avenues for trade.

This transition required neo-liberal policies — especially widespread privatization schemes — that created vast inequality and unemployment, and eventually became the main economic causes of the revolutionary movements now known as the Arab Spring. Ironically, to combat their flagging popularity, these regimes lessened restrictions on the Islamic parties as a way to funnel energy away from economic demands, while also acting as a counterbalance to the political left.

The Arab Spring toppled dictatorships [Crimson Satellite note: Libya was not a dictatorship, but a direct democracy] but didn’t provide an organized political alternative. The Muslim Brotherhood was sucked into this vacuum, and was quickly spit out as a viable political alternative for the demands of a revolutionary Egypt and the broader Middle East.

And although the Egyptian military again holds the reins of institutional power in Egypt, it understands the people’s distrust of the post-Mubarak military, and is thus limited in its ability to act, since mass repression would further inflame the revolution and possibly fracture the army — the same way it did when former President Nasser rose to power in a junior officer’s leftist coup (a similar type of coup was attempted and failed by Hugo Chavez before he was elected president).

Ultimately, the Muslim Brotherhood and other similar Islamic political organizations are not a natural expression of the religious attitudes of people in the Middle East, but instead an unnatural political creation that serves a specific geo-political agenda, specifically that of the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

The Egyptian people have now had the experience of political Islam and have discarded it, in the same way a tank deals with a speed bump. Now new policies must be sought based on a different political-economic ideology, until one is found that will represent the actual needs of the people.

Until the Egyptian masses discover and organize around a platform that serves the people’s needs, a series of other governments will be constructed in an attempt to keep Egypt’s elites — and their western foreign backers — in place. These governments will be likewise tossed aside until one emerges that represents the needs of the people.

There is a valid fear that the Muslim Brotherhood will choose to take up arms in Egypt in the same way that the Algerian Islamists triggered a civil war when the military annulled the elections they had won. The Brotherhood may say, “We tried elections and the results were denied to us.”

But revolution is the greatest expression of democracy, and only by extending the revolution can a potential civil war between the Brotherhood and the military be averted. The power of both groups can be undercut by a revolutionary movement that fights for improving the living conditions — with concrete demands — of the majority of Egyptians. The lower ranks of both the army and the Muslim Brotherhood will sympathize with such a movement, allowing for a new direction for the country.

Many revolutionaries in Egypt have learned a thousand political lessons in a few short years; they will not easily allow the army to usurp their power. The Egyptian revolution is the most powerful revolution in decades and has already re-shaped the Middle East. It will continue to do so until the people’s needs are met.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

An Avalanche of Protests Awaits Obama in South Africa

Kwame Biko

Barack Hussein Obama, America’s first Black President will from 26 June to 3 July undertake his so-called Africa Tour. This is not just an ordinary tour because Africa is the continent of Obama’s late father – Barack Hussein Obama Sr. So Obama comes as a “great friend of Africa”, whether he merits that title or not.

To me, this is Obama’s first visit to Africa since he became the President of United States. I don’t agree that his brief stop-over in Ghana in 2009, on his way back to America, after his speech to the Muslim World in Egypt, was the first Obama’s visit to Africa as American President. Clearly, that event in Ghana was a mere acknowledgement of Africa’s support for Obama in 2008.

This time around, he will be visiting three African countries: Tanzania, Senegal and South Africa. He won’t visit Kenya – his father’s country – as according to Obama, the country does not deserve to receive him.

However, the fact that Obama won’t be visiting Kenya will not pose any problem. After-all, countries in Africa usually compete for this kind of visit. Moreover, wherever he goes during his tour, he won’t be treated just as an American President, but also as a son of the soil. In every country, he will be received with some exaggerated fanfare and celebration, that is, under a heavy security protection.

Therefore, when Obama arrives in South Africa, there will be a Zulu dance group to perform for him. And more significantly, there will be some “Rainbow Nation Band” on hand to choreographically show him and his “respected” entourage how “unique” South Africa is. Also, some “ordinary” people will be chosen to come out with their Vuvuzelas and celebrate the arrival of President Barack Obama.

But above the din of the foregoing practiced performances will be the roar of millions of conscious world citizens in South Africa, who are aware of America’s role in many of the problems that ravage our world. These people will be out in the streets and in their numbers to denounce those countries, like America, that cause confusion and cheat others in the comity of nations. Thus, an avalanche of protests awaits Obama in South Africa.

While many groups are involved in planned anti-Obama protests in Cape Town area, it has emerged that another group in Johannesburg area made up of other progressive bodies is also planning to protest against the visit.

The group, which includes the South African Communist Party (SACP), Young Communist League of South Africa (YCL), South African Students Congress (SASCO), Muslim Students Association(MSA), National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union(NEHAWU), Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Friend of Cuba Society (FOCUS), Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel in South Africa (BDS South African), and the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), in a press release today completely rejected Obama’s planned visit to South Africa: “Progressive forces in South Africa have consistently been raising these issues and many others regarding the role of the USA in the global community. We categorically make it known, that the visit of the USA President to South Africa is an unwelcome visit that will be protested, picketed and resisted by all justice and peace-loving peoples of this country. Friendship with South Africa must be based on values of justice, freedom and equality and these the USA has offended, undermined and ridiculed through its actions in the global front,” they said in their statement.

They base their rejection of Obama and America on “USA’s arrogant, selfish and oppressive foreign policies, [bad] treatment of workers and [America’s] international trade relations that are rooted in war mongering, neo-liberal super-exploitation, colonial racism and the disregard and destruction of the environment.”

In their litany of America’s crimes against humanity, the group accused the US of being “deeply implicated in oppression of the people of Western Sahara.” They are angered by what they call “a continuing baseless embargo” against Cuba and, in the same vein, pointed at America’s refusal to release the five Cuban nationals who are unjustly being held in America despite an international campaign that includes Nobel Laureates like Wole Soyinka , Desmond Tutu, Nadine Gordimer, Rigoberta Menchú, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, José Saramago, and Günter Grass.

They further stated that the “criminal occupation of Palestine” by Israel would not have been possible if not for “USA’s financial and political support for” for Israel. While slamming America for standing against progress, the group recalled how the U.S. used “its veto power to defend Apartheid South Africa.”

They equally accuse the United States of being “one of the largest contributors to global warming.”

The group will march from the Union Building to the United States of America Embassy in Pretoria on Friday, 28 June, 2013. Time: 10h00.

There is also a demonstration against the decision of the University of Johannesburg to award President Barack Obama an honorary doctorate degree. This revolutionary action will happen on Saturday, 22 June, 2013. Time: 11am; Venue: Kingsway Road.

Surely, with these and other up-coming plans, an avalanche of protests awaits Obama in South Africa.

For more information on the protests, contact:

Lucian Segami (NEHAWU): 079 522 0098 

Mbuyiseni (BDS-SA): 073 133 3012 

Richard Mamabolo (YCLSA): 079 670 0274

China and Africa: The West Just Doesn’t Get It

New Worker

China has been investing heavily in Africa over the last few years but has not been telling the West much about the details — giving rise to all sorts of speculation about China’s motives, claims of unfair secrecy and Chinese ambitions to grab control of supplies of vital raw materials.

So United States researchers have been beavering away to build up a big public database of Chinese development in Africa, giving details of 1,700 projects in 50 countries since 2000. These researchers, from AidData at the College of William and Mary, have spent 18 months creating their database. They have been looking to discover any underhanded practices by the Chinese; they are certainly not pro-Chinese propagandists.

They found that China’s financial commitments in Africa are much larger than previously thought. China has committed $75 billion (£48 billion) on aid and development projects in Africa in the past decade, according to research which reveals the scale of what some have called Beijing’s escalating soft power “charm offensive to secure political and economic clout on the continent.”

This is still less than the $90 billion the US has spent in “aid” to Africa but is likely to be more useful to Africans because it does not include strings linked to privatisation of public utilities or the funding of mercenaries to destabilise governments it does not like.

They found that China is still keeping to the Eight Principles of Chinese aid that date from 1964:

1. Equality and mutual benefit form the basis of Chinese aid;

2. China respects sovereignty, never attaches conditions or asks for privileges;

3. China helps lighten the burden with interest-free or low-interest loans and by extending repayment terms when necessary;

4. The purpose of aid is to help countries become self-reliant;

5. Projects that require less investment but yield quicker results are favoured;

6. China provides quality equipment and materials manufactured in China at international market prices;

7. China will help recipient countries master the techniques of any technical assistance;

8. Chinese experts will have the same standard of living as those of the recipient country and are not allowed to make special demands.

The data obtained by this American research challenges western capitalist assumptions —Beijing’s unrelenting quest for natural resources.

There are few mining projects in the database and, while transport, storage and energy initiatives account for some of the largest sums, the data also reveals how China has put hundreds of millions of dollars towards health, education and cultural projects.

In Liberia, China has put millions towards the installation of solar traffic lights in Monrovia and financed a malaria prevention centre. In Mozambique, China’s projects include a National School for Visual Arts in Maputo. In Algeria, construction has begun on a multimillion dollar 1,400-seat opera house in the Ouled Fayet suburbs of western Algiers.

China has also sent thousands of doctors and teachers to work in Africa, welcomed many more students to learn in China or in Chinese language classes abroad and rolled out a continent-wide network of sports stadiums and concert halls.

Western analysts are going crazy trying to work out China’s motives and why it is doing so much that does not seem to bring in any direct profit. Western propagandists are forever cynically proclaiming human rights and humanitarianism while impoverishing and oppressing millions in the Third World.

They cannot grasp that these “sinister Orientals” have a better grasp of human rights — that, as Stalin said, “free speech” and “voting rights” are a poor joke to someone who has no job, no home and no idea where the next meal is coming from.

In other words, in spite of their successes in economic growth using capitalist methods, the Chinese state still retains working class, communist values and their humanitarianism is not a cynical pretence.

Missing from the Drone Debate: Americans Aren’t the Only Ones Worthy of Human Rights

Rania Khalek

As the debate over drone strikes and targeted killings finally breaks into the mainstream, there remains a key aspect of the kill program that has been virtually ignored even by its most ardent detractors.

I’ve noticed that many of the people outraged over the kill program focusing solely about its potential impact on American citizens, which implies that it’s perfectly acceptable to subject non-Americans to due-process free execution. But what about the non-citizens at the other end of our drones and signature strikes? Don’t they deserve basic rights, too?

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And let’s get real, we’re not talking about Canadians or Europeans, but ”Yemeni parents, Pakistani uncles and aunts, Afghan grandparents and cousins, Somali brothers and sisters, Filipino cousins”, as Falguni Sheth puts it. In other words, we’re routinely killing brown “others” whose lives have little value in the eyes of the American public. Otherwise there would have been an outcry following the a December 17, 2009, US strike in Yemen that wiped out entire families:

Among those killed that day were 22 children. The youngest, Khadje Ali Mokbel Louqye, was just one year old. A dozen women also died, five of them reportedly pregnant.

Yet these numbers mask the many individual families annihilated in the attack. Mohammed Nasser Awad Jaljala, 60, his 30-year-old wife Nousa, their son Nasser, 6, and daughters Arwa, 4, and Fatima, aged 2, were all killed.

Then there was 35-year old Ali Mohammed Nasser Jaljala, his wife Qubla (25), and their four daughters Afrah (9), Zayda (7), Hoda (5) and Sheikha (4) who all died.

Ahmed Mohammed Nasser Jaljala, 30, was killed alongside his 21-year old wife Qubla and 50-year old mother Mouhsena. Their daughter Fatima, aged 13, was the only survivor of the family, badly injured and needing extensive medical treatment abroad.

The Anbour clan suffered similarly catastrophic losses. Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye died with his wife, son and three daughters. His brother Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye’s seven-strong family were also wiped out.

Sheik Saleh Ben Fareed, a tribal leader, went to the area shortly after the attack and described the carnage to Al Jazeera reporter Scahill: ‘If somebody has a weak heart, I think they will collapse. You see goats and sheep all over. You see heads of those who were killed here and there. You see children. And you cannot tell if this meat belongs to animals or to human beings. Very sad, very sad.’

Our government has been terrorizing these communities for quite some time and aside from a handful of journalists and human rights organizations, barely anyone cared. But as soon as Americans became a target, things changed. And that’s not just speculation (emphasis mine):

A majority of Americans [59 percent] support using drones to kill high-level terrorism suspects overseas, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. But support drops [to 43 percent] when those suspects are American citizens.

Meanwhile, people laughed yesterday when Rand Paul expressed concerns that Americans could be targeted while “eating dinner” at home or “at a cafe.” But this isn’t a difficult scenario to imagine considering the routine targeting of funerals, weddings and even rescuers who come to the aid of victims in the aftermath of a (the infamous “double-tap“). As the Huffington Post points out:

Newspaper reports have identified signature strikes as the predominant type of drone attack. And because this type of strike targets behavior, such as clustering in groups, rather than individuals, they are prone to kill civilians.

A study last year by human rights researchers at Columbia University found that signature strikes make reliable tallies of the drone civilian death toll impossible to count. Even without deaths, the report added, the practice results in “constant fear” among citizens in Pakistan and Yemen, since they can never reliably know if their “behavior will get him killed by a drone.”

Children have been traumatized by this experience, researchers have reported — both by witnessing drone strikes and by living where they are common and seemingly random occurrences.

Administration officials, Brennan chief among them, have denied that drone strikesresult in civilian deaths, in part by relying on a metric that considers every military-age male to be a combatant unless definitively proven otherwise.

“Our children’s blood is not cheaper than American blood and the pain of losing them is just as devastating. Our children matter too,” writes Yemeni blogger Noon Arabia. Indeed, Americans aren’t the only ones who deserve basic human rights.

To those who object, perhaps you should look at the following pictures taken by Pakistani photojournalist Noor Behram to awaken your conscious:

UPDATE: The White House does not have the authority to target Americans with drone strikes on US soil, said US Attorney General Eric Holder in a letter to Senator Rand Paul. The letter was short and blunt:

It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” The answer to that question is no.

Again, if it’s not okay on US soil, why is it acceptable anywhere else? Keep in mind that we never declared war on Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia or the Philippines, all of which have been targeted with drone strikes. If this isn’t a double standard, I don’t know what is.

Obama’s Kill List and Imperialist Terror

Signing away your basic civil liberties: a bipartisan task.

Signing away your basic civil liberties: a bipartisan task.

Workers Vanguard

In one respect at least, Barack Obama’s pitch for bipartisanship in Washington is paying off. From liberal Democrats to the Republican right, the two parties of U.S. capitalism responded to the Department of Justice White Paper justifying assassinations of U.S. citizens by overwhelmingly hailing this augmentation of the lethal powers of the imperial presidency. Obtained by NBC News, the previously secret document confirms what was already known: the executive branch of the government can assassinate a U.S. citizen anywhere, anytime, without even the pretense of judicial oversight. Obama asserted this principle with his “targeted killings” of Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan and al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki—all U.S. citizens—in Yemen in 2011. Those assassinations are but a tiny fraction of the murderous toll of U.S. imperialist terror on the people of Yemen, not to mention Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As described by Glenn Greenwald in the London Guardian (5 February): “The president’s underlings compile their proposed lists of who should be executed, and the president—at a charming weekly event dubbed by White House aides as ‘Terror Tuesday’—then chooses from ‘baseball cards’ and decrees in total secrecy who should die. The power of accuser, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner are all consolidated in this one man, and those powers are exercised in the dark.” It is not even necessary for the intended victims to be charged as terrorists or for there to be a shred of evidence against them. Anyone deemed an “associate” of a “terrorist” can end up on the kill list, with the authorities even spared the trouble of having to concoct an imminent threat.

Greenwald expresses righteous anger at Democrats’ falling into line behind Obama’s shredding of such Constitutional protections as the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process. He chastises “obsequious lawyers telling their Party’s leader that he is (of course) free to do exactly that which he wants to do, in exactly the same way that Bush got John Yoo to tell him that torture was not torture, and that even if it were, it was legal.” No mystery to this. The Democrats have been just as diligent as the Republicans in using the “war on terror” to augment the repressive powers of the capitalist state because the aim of both parties is to operate that state machinery against the working class, minorities and the poor, at home and abroad.

The White Paper offers some legal basis for the kill list in the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which Congress passed with exactly one dissenting vote in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. The Justice Department document reaffirms the global sweep of the “war on terror,” stating that “none of the three branches of the U.S. Government has identified a strict geographical limit on the permissible scope of the AUMF’s authorization.” Under Obama, U.S. forces continue to kill and maim in wars, drone strikes and special operations from Central Asia to the Horn of Africa, while the administration cranks up the war on the rights of the U.S. population.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit against the Obama government in 2010, challenging the placement of Anwar al-Awlaki on government kill lists before his death. A federal district court dismissed the case on the grounds that the issue of targeting for assassination was a “political question” to be taken up by the executive branch. The ACLU has now filed another suit charging that the killings of the al-Awlakis and Samir Khan violated the Constitutional guarantee against the deprivation of life without due process of law. Its February 6 statement on the new suit notes that “the government counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” (An “innocent” corpse is still a corpse.)

Some of Obama’s liberal critics ask that he at least go through the motions of getting prior approval before launching his “targeted” killings. One option they offer is to establish a special court for such purposes, akin to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts for wiretapping applications. Trumpeted as a check on the nation’s secret police, FISA has never been anything more than a rubber stamp. From 1979 to 2011, it denied all of eleven of nearly 32,000 wiretap applications. The bottom line for Obama is not only that the White House must have the power to order U.S. citizens killed but that the documents explaining the “legal” rationale for this power must be classified, i.e., concealed. While some liberal critics bemoan Obama’s lack of transparency in this matter, their concerns do not extend to his legions of non-American victims.

Remote-Control Murder

Guantánamo is not closed, but Obama is taking few prisoners. Over the last three years, his administration has carried out at least 239 covert drone strikes. The Air Force now trains more unmanned-systems operators than it does fighter and bomber pilots combined. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that CIA strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and 2013 have resulted in 3,468 deaths. In Somalia, the Bureau reports, up to 57 people described as civilians have been killed and in Yemen as many as 178. The key architect of the drone murder scheme is John Brennan, who is slated to be chief of the CIA, which directs many of the drone strikes. Brennan’s résumé, spanning a 25-year CIA career, includes working as a top agency official during the torture interrogations carried out under the Bush administration.

On MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes last year, Jeremy Scahill described the village of al-Majalah in Yemen after the first strike there authorized by Obama. With 35 women and children killed, the U.S. tried to palm it off as the work of the Yemeni government. But, as Scahill said, “We know from the Wikileaks cables that David Petraeus conspired with the president of Yemen to lie to the world about who did that bombing. It’s murder—it’s mass murder—when you say, ‘We are going to bomb this area’ because we believe a terrorist is there” (Huffington Post, 3 June 2012).

An editorial in the liberal Nation (6 June 2012) stated: “The drone strikes are inciting even more anti-American hatred in troubled places like Yemen as well as Pakistan…. It is hard to argue that they are making us safer when, for every suspect killed, one or more newly embittered militants emerge to take his place.” In other words, the Nation feels that Obama has broken his only real 2008 campaign promise, which was to be a more effective chief executive for blood-drenched U.S. imperialism. The carnage wreaked by the Obama administration gives the verdict on the reformists—International Socialist Organization, Workers World Party, Party for Socialism and Liberation, et al.—who pushed pro-Democratic “anybody but Bush” politics in protests over the Iraq war and cheered Bush’s replacement as a supposedly more benign Commander-in-Chief.

In “9/11 in Retrospect” (Foreign Affairs, September-October 2011), Melvyn P. Leffler laid out that the Obama administration’s strategy has been in continuity with that of the Bush administration and, in fact, others going back to the dawn of the 20th century. The September 11 attacks, this bourgeois historian writes, “did not change the world or transform the long-term trajectory of U.S. grand strategy.” Rather, the U.S. “quest for supremacy” as well as “its preference for an open door and free markets, its concern with military supremacy, its readiness to act unilaterally when deemed necessary…all these remained, and remain, unchanged.”

Wars, invasions, torture, executions, massacres of civilians, deployment of mercenaries, covert operations: all are integral to capitalism in its imperialist epoch, i.e., in its (prolonged) death agony. We wrote in “U.S. Imperialism’s Torture, Inc.” (WV No. 826, 14 May 2004):

“Capitalist society was born in blood; modern imperialism continues the brutal practices of mass murder, torture and humiliation that accompany exploitation of labor and the ceaseless struggle between competing imperialist forces to dominate the world. From the Belgian Congo killing fields of King Leopold and the massacres in the Philippines by U.S. troops in the early days of its imperialist expansion to the first concentration camps, created by the Spanish in Cuba and a little later used by the British in South Africa in the Boer War, to Japanese imperialist atrocities in China and Nazi Germany’s Holocaust, imperialism has created a world in constant, cruel convulsions.”

Decaying Capitalism and the Imperial Presidency

The Obama administration’s assertion of the power to assassinate U.S. citizens is a dangerous but entirely logical extension of the police-state powers assumed by the government after the September 11 terrorist attacks. In 2003, the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee submitted an amici curiae brief on behalf of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen arrested in Chicago in 2002 on trumped-up charges, declared an “enemy combatant” and disappeared into a Navy brig in South Carolina. Tortured by extreme sensory deprivation and other measures, Padilla was initially threatened with execution. In the end, a civilian show trial sentenced him to 17 years. Our brief noted:

“The ‘war against terrorism’ is a fiction, a political construct, not a military reality…. Like the ‘war against communism’ and the ‘war against drugs,’ this ‘war’ is a pretext to increase the state’s police powers and repressive apparatus, constricting the democratic rights of the population.”

The brief observed: “Following the Executive’s own logic, Padilla could have been shot to death in the Chicago O’Hare airport, just as well as being taken into custody. Thus the rationale of the ‘war against terrorism’ is a construct justifying not only the right to disappear citizens, but the right to assassinate them as well.”

Promoting the myth of “national unity” against an ever-shifting “terror” threat, the U.S. ruling class has tried to get the population to willingly accept attacks on fundamental democratic rights and massively increased state snooping. We insisted in the immediate aftermath of September 11 that the enhanced police powers that would first be used against Muslims and Near Eastern and South Asian immigrants were ultimately aimed at the oppressed black population and the working class as a whole. This may not be evident today, with the absence of any massive social or class struggle, let alone a revolutionary threat to capitalist rule. But the Obama administration hinted at what may be in store when the FBI staged raids against leftists in the Midwest and elsewhere in 2010 on the grounds that their support for Palestinian nationalists and Latin American guerrillas constituted “material support to terrorism.”

The lack of class and social struggle has emboldened the capitalist rulers in their sidestepping of Constitutional niceties as well as their slaughter abroad. But make no mistake: The bourgeoisie is determined to build up its powers of repression so that they can be used to put down any perceived threat to its rule and profits.

The working class cannot advance its struggle against exploitation without also defending democratic rights and opposing every instance of imperialist barbarism carried out by its own ruling class. The tiny class of obscenely rich capitalist exploiters rules over a society marked by decaying infrastructure, joblessness, low wages for most of those who have jobs, abject urban and rural poverty, massive incarceration particularly of black and Latino men and women, and an education system where quality is increasingly the preserve of the wealthy. This social destruction has been wrought with the active complicity of the pro-capitalist, “America first” trade-union bureaucracy, which has presided over the vast decline in union membership and rarely engages in action against the bosses’ one-sided class war.

The economic decline of the U.S. in recent decades has been accompanied by unchallenged military superiority abroad, to which the existence of the Soviet Union had stood as a counterweight until its counterrevolutionary destruction in 1991-92. That dominance is something that no wing of the U.S. ruling class will concede voluntarily, just as it will never concede its ability to answer with massive repression any genuine challenge to its rule “at home.” Power must be wrested from the blood-soaked rulers as the Bolshevik-led workers in Russia wrested power from the bourgeois rulers in October 1917, smashing the existing state apparatus and replacing it with the dictatorship of the proletariat.

From the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the counterrevolutionary slaughters in Korea and Indochina to the neocolonial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. imperialists have repeatedly demonstrated that they are the biggest force of organized terror on the planet. Having long outlived any progressive role, the capitalist system must be overturned from within. We seek to forge the necessary instrument to lead the working class in struggle against its “own” rulers—a revolutionary, internationalist proletarian party dedicated to nothing other, nothing less than new October Revolutions.

Imperialist Troops Out of Mali Now!

mali520x2

Workers Vanguard

In a stark assertion of French imperialism’s domination over its former colonies in West Africa, Socialist Party president François Hollande has launched a bombing campaign and intervention by some 2,000 ground troops in Mali. Billed as part of the global “war on terror,” the military assault was intended to force a retreat by Islamic fundamentalist forces that, having seized the northern half of the country, were threatening to march on the capital, Bamako. Hollande bluntly ordered: “Destroy them. Take them captive, if possible” (London Guardian, 15 January). His defense minister candidly declared that the aim of the Mali mission is “total reconquest.”

However, as battles continue to rage in and around key towns that had been seized by the fundamentalists, Hollande’s critics within the French ruling class are beginning to fret about sinking in a quagmire if left to go it alone. Meanwhile, the seizure of scores of hostages at a natural gas field in Algeria by Islamists declaring their solidarity with the Malian rebels—and the considerable loss of life when Algerian security retook the installation—may offer a sampling of future fallout from the imperialist occupation of Mali. After initially expressing concern over the intervention in Mali, the Algerian regime saluted the effort, crucially allowing the French military overflight rights.

While rulers of the major capitalist powers rushed to express their solidarity with the French operation in Mali, they are also reticent about contributing forces and money. The UN Security Council voted unanimously last month to approve an African “peacekeeping” mission of some 3,300 troops, and some countries of the Economic Community of West African States already have hundreds of troops on site. But the imperialists have little expectation that these forces will be an effective gendarmerie. Meanwhile Washington, after initially distancing itself from the French operation, has dispatched about 100 “trainers” to African countries that are providing troops. Last week, European Union foreign ministers agreed to send 450 “non-combat” troops to Mali, supposedly to train its armed forces.

The Obama administration, still smarting from having its Libyan ambassador killed by Islamist forces that had been armed and financed by the U.S. and its allies in the drive to topple Muammar el-Qaddafi, has ruled out sending its warplanes to Mali. The White House has also turned a deaf ear to requests that it provide air tankers to help refuel French jets, which France views as vital to its imperialist marauding given the vast distances it has to cover in crossing over North Africa. However, Washington has offered to provide limited logistical support to the French operation, as have Britain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Canada and Russia.

Immediately following the announcement of the French imperialist expedition, our comrades of the Ligue Trotskyste de France issued a leaflet demanding French troops out of Mali and all of Africa and calling for defense of the insurgents against the imperialist intervention. The leaflet notes that among France’s multiple security interests in the region are the uranium mines in northern Niger, which have been operated for decades by the French Areva nuclear power conglomerate and its predecessors.

The American bourgeoisie has its own imperialist interests in Africa. A Congressional report last summer titled Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa emphasized “the increasing importance of Africa’s natural resources, particularly energy resources” and expressed “mounting concern over violent extremist activities.” The report cited, in particular, oil production in Nigeria—Africa’s largest oil exporter and the fifth-largest supplier of oil to the U.S.—and the potential for deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Guinea.

Washington has paid out tens of millions of dollars to beef up the military in Mali and neighboring countries in order to prevent jihadists from getting a foothold in the region. Under Barack Obama, the Horn of Africa port of Djibouti, where more than 2,000 U.S. troops are stationed at Camp Lemonnier, has become the busiest Predator drone base outside the Afghan war zone. Since 2007, the U.S. military has also set up a dozen small air bases in Africa, from which Special Ops forces launch surveillance flights. The U.S. military presence in Africa has grown steadily under Obama, with an average of 5,000 troops spread across the continent at any one time and 30 ships patrolling the Indian Ocean. All U.S. bases and troops out of Africa!

As the LTF leaflet stresses, our military defense of the insurgents in Mali implies not the least political support to the reactionary Islamists, whose atrocities include floggings, amputations and the stoning to death last summer of a couple accused of having an extramarital affair. In an act reminiscent of the destruction by the Afghan Taliban of two ancient Buddha statues in Bamiyan, the fundamentalists in Mali took pick-axes to Timbuktu’s historic mausoleums and Sufi shrines, threatening as well its collection of rare archives. Much less prominently reported by the Western bourgeois press are the wholesale killings, disappearances and torture inflicted by the military regime in Bamako on its perceived opponents.

The armed rebellion in northern Mali was initially led by the secular National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which has variously called for independence or autonomy for the Tuareg region of Mali. Distressed that the rebellion was gaining momentum, a group of officers seized power in a coup in Bamako last March, suspended the constitution and launched a campaign of terror against their political opponents. Within days, taking advantage of the chaos, the MNLA seized the whole of northern Mali in alliance with Islamic fundamentalist forces. The Islamists promptly turned on their MNLA allies and drove them from the population centers. Today, the marginalized MNLA warns of genocide if French air strikes allow the Malian army to “cross the demarcation line” separating northern Mali from the south. Nevertheless, the MNLA declares that it is “ready to help” the French intervention.

A particular target of the blood-soaked regime in Bamako has been the civilian Tuareg population. The Tuaregs, the dominant ethnic group in northern Mali, are a semi-nomadic people stretching across the Sahara who are ethnically distinct both from Arabs, who constitute the majority in the countries to the north of Mali, and the black Africans who inhabit southern Mali and control the national government and military. When the northern rebellion heated up a year ago, the military went on a killing spree, bombing the civilian population and arresting, torturing and killing Tuaregs for the “crime” of their ethnic origin. Not surprisingly, such atrocities spurred Tuaregs serving in the Malian army, including a number trained by U.S. Special Forces, to go over to the rebels.

Last February, mobs in Bamako attacked homes and businesses owned by Tuaregs and other ethnic groups there—including Arabs, many of whom also inhabit the north of the country—while security forces looked on. Last week, as the French military pushed north to confront Islamist forces in the town of Diabaly, Human Rights Watch reported that Malian soldiers in Niono, a town on the road to Diabaly, were again massacring Tuareg and Arab civilians.

The rebel offensive that broke out in northern Mali was an indirect consequence of the imperialists’ successful drive in 2011 to oust Qaddafi. Many Malian Tuaregs worked in Libya’s oil fields, as well as in Qaddafi’s armed forces, as a way to escape from conditions in northern Mali, which successive regimes have left bereft of schools, hospitals and paved roads—to say nothing of job opportunities. In the Sahel region south of the Sahara, almost a quarter of a million children die of malnutrition-related causes each year, according to Oxfam.

With the fall of Qaddafi—and the racist pogroms carried out by imperialist-supported rebels in Libya—those Malian Tuaregs returned home, bringing with them their military know-how and, in some cases, heavy weapons. Many of the arms for the northern Malian rebels have been funneled in by reactionary Islamists who were part of the imperialist-supported anti-Qaddafi forces.

The imperialist onslaught will no doubt deepen the already intense interethnic tensions in the region. These were highlighted in an article in the London Guardian (6 July 2012) by its West Africa correspondent, Afua Hirsch. Reporting from a Tuareg refugee camp in Burkina Faso, she wrote that the black NGO staff were refusing to work with the lighter-skinned Tuaregs because they “felt aggrieved by the reputation of the Tuaregs for enslaving black Africans.” She noted that this history “still plays itself out in the Tuareg caste system—where ‘Bella,’ dark-skinned members of the tribe who were once slaves, still occupy the lowest positions.” In return, many Malian Tuaregs claim that they have fled their country not only because of atrocities carried out by the army but because Bella militias “are also targeting anyone with light skin.”

That interethnic tensions and racial discrimination in the region remain so poisonous today is a legacy of French colonialism, which reinforced these and other reactionary aspects of the societies they conquered. After subduing the Tuareg region of what was then called French Sudan in the late 19th century, the colonialists set up a racially discriminatory system that pitted Tuaregs and black Africans against each other. Implementing a policy of divide and rule, the French government encouraged the Tuaregs’ traditional supremacy over black Africans. Though the French colonialists largely ended the slave trade in the first decades of colonial occupation, they helped to ensure that black slaves remained subject to their Tuareg masters long afterward. Their system of forced labor and compulsory military service was based on racial criteria, with an exemption for the Tuareg elite.

The French also played the Tuaregs off against black Africans—and Algerian nationalists—through their drawing of territorial boundaries. In the 1950s, after it was discovered that the Saharan region was rich in mineral resources, they floated the idea of creating a new French-controlled colony, dominated by Tuaregs and Arabs, and limiting the soon-to-be independent Mali to the overwhelmingly black south. France dropped that proposal, and independent Mali was formed as a powder keg of ethnic tensions between Tuaregs and black Africans, who led the first post-colonial government. Those tensions led directly to the first Tuareg rebellion in 1963 and its brutal repression by the Malian army.

There will be no end to the interethnic bloodshed and abject poverty of the region within the framework of capitalism. Just as the October Revolution in Russia in 1917 opened up the perspective of revolutionary change in the backward regions of Central Asia, the emancipation of the masses in the Sahel and other parts of Africa whose development has been so dreadfully retarded must be linked to the international struggle of the working class for socialist revolution. Proletarian revolution in South Africa, Egypt or other countries in Africa that have experienced significant industrial development would propel social transformation reaching into the most backward areas of the continent. Such a perspective must include the fight for socialist revolution in France and other imperialist centers, where Malian and other immigrant workers can provide a living link to the struggles of the dispossessed in Africa. What is necessary is the forging of Trotskyist vanguard parties committed to the fight for new October Revolutions.

The following is a translation of the LTF leaflet, which was issued on January 11.

*   *   *

The head of French imperialism, François Hollande, announced tonight a military intervention of the French air force and special forces in Mali as part of a so-called “anti-terrorist” operation. For months now, French imperialism has been looking for a pretext to launch its killers into action in its neocolonial backyard. Today we are told that the reactionary Islamists who now control the north of Mali have supposedly launched an offensive against the rest of the country, and that the Malian army supposedly collapsed when faced with a hundred pickup trucks filled with Islamist forces, thus opening up the road to the south all the way to Bamako. We have no idea what is true or not about this story. Regardless, we denounce the French intervention. French military out of Mali and out of Africa!

For the past year, Mali had been torn by a reactionary civil war in which the international workers movement had no interest in supporting either the military regime in Bamako or the anti-woman Islamists of the north. Now, however, it is necessary to unequivocally defend the people who are being bombed in the north against the neocolonial French military, without giving the least political support to the benighted reactionaries. Defend the northern insurgents against the French intervention!

Today’s New York Times reports rumors that a French military helicopter was shot down by the northern troops. Any military setback for French imperialism in this operation would weaken it and would thus be a boost to class struggle in France against this capitalist-imperialist government, now led by the Socialist Party and the bourgeois Greens, with the support of the Communist Party (PCF). That is why the working class in France, with its strong component of Malian workers—thousands of whom live in the Paris region—has a vested interest in opposing French imperialism’s latest neocolonial military adventure. We can say this even more forcefully because we called on workers not to vote for Hollande as Commander-in-Chief, unlike the PCF and the New Anti-Capitalist Party. As for the [fake-Trotskyist] Lutte Ouvrière, they did not want to choose between abstaining and voting for Hollande.

The current disaster in Mali is the product of a long history of French colonial and neocolonial oppression. French imperialists plundered the country during decades of colonial occupation, marked by the systematic practice of forced labor (only officially abolished in 1946). They then arbitrarily drew the borders of an “independent” Malian state, which only had the bare trappings of sovereignty. The currency, the CFA franc, is directly managed by the Banque de France, which controls its exchange rate as well as deposits. The French imperialist military intervention takes place in what France considers its exclusive preserve. Its purpose is to maintain French imperialist domination in the entire region—and especially to protect the profits of the Areva company, which exploits enormous uranium deposits in neighboring Niger.

The situation in northern Mali today is a direct result of both the oppression of the Tuareg population by the central Malian state and the imperialist intervention in Libya in 2011, which François Hollande and [social democrat] Jean-Luc Mélenchon supported. Not only did this military intervention bring various rival Islamist militias to power in Libya, institutionalizing sharia against women, but it also enabled reactionary Islamist groups throughout the region to get arms. When it suits French interests, as in Libya and Syria, Paris promotes the Islamists. But elsewhere, as in Afghanistan and now Mali, they are massacred. This in itself shows the boundless cynicism of the Hollande government and its interior minister Valls when they brandish “Islamic terrorism”—a code word for launching racist police operations in France against a population considered suspect because they are Muslims, in particular workers of North African or West African origin and their families.

Algeria now rightly sees the French intervention directly on its borders as a threat, a first since it gained independence in 1962 after seven years of war. This casts a harsh light on Hollande’s “confession” speech [admitting that the French had committed atrocities during the Algerian War] when he traveled to Algeria just a few weeks ago. Meanwhile the war minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian of the Socialist Party, had just honored the memory of General Bigeard, the French general who came to symbolize torture during the Algerian War.

For the last 30 years, Mali has been used mainly as a pool providing ruthlessly exploited labor in France. Thousands of Malian workers in France today are undocumented, even after years of living and working here. Many youth of Malian origin participated in the 2005 revolt of the ghetto neighborhoods and in protests against murderous racist police terror in the town of Villiers-le-Bel. The labor movement must defend the ghetto youth, just as it must oppose the neocolonial adventures of French imperialism. The working class of this country must unite against the abuses carried out daily by the capitalists and their government, which are intent on rolling back workers’ gains. Ultimately, there is only one way to put an end to the bloody crimes of the brutal French military in the world: overthrowing the dictatorship of capital in this country through a workers revolution led by a Bolshevik party. French troops out of Mali and out of Africa! Down with French imperialism! Down with the Hollande-Duflot capitalist government!