Syria: Empire’s Last Gasp

IMPERIAL CRUSADE AGAINST SYRIA

Oscar Sánchez Serra

WHY is the United States attacking Syria?

Brazil, Russia – reborn as a superpower and an uncomfortable one – India and China – are emerging economies that are already acting as leaders on the world geopolitical stage. It is said that India and China, also the most populated nations of the world, will mark the rate of development during the 21st century. In other words, one has to be prepared for a global transfer of power. The current empire will not be the most powerful.

For Viktor Burbaki of the U.S. Strategic Culture Foundation, mathematical models of the global geopolitical dynamic have led to the conclusion that a grand-scale victory in a war utilizing conventional means is the only option for the United States being able to reverse the rapid collapse of its geopolitical status. Burbaki affirms that if the current geopolitical dynamic persists, a change in global leadership could be expected by 2025, and the only way in which the United States can derail this process is by unleashing a war on a grand scale.

Yugoslavia in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 have already endured imperial attacks, utilizing the same argument based on a pack of lies. The tactic of the world gendarme has never been to challenge states that could dispute its global supremacy, for which reason Burbaki considers that Iran, Syria and Shi’ite groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, face the greatest danger of suffering strikes in the name of a new world redistribution of power. The specialist did not state this the other day, but more than 12 months ago, in February of 2012.

In other words, to get rid of Syria and Iran, obstacles on the route to U.S. global domination, would be Washington’s next natural step.

Paul Farrell, U.S. columnist and financial analyst, stated last April that the United States needed a new war, in order for capital to thrive. He ironically commented then, in a brief note which appeared in Russia Today, “Didn’t WWII get us out of the Great Depression?” He capped this statement off with data which informs his thesis that wars benefit capitalists above all. The Forbes list of world billionaires skyrocketed from 322 in 2000 to 1,426 recently, 31% of them being American.

Marcelo Colussi, Argentine psychologist, professor, writer, journalist and full-time activist for social justice and global dignity, has one of the most convincing answers to the question as to why the United States would attack Syria. When, at the beginning of the 20th century, U.S. President Calvin Coolidge said that his country’s business consisted of doing business, this has today been transformed into doing business with war. Let others do the fighting and here we are to sell them weapons.

In this context, the Argentine intellectual passes his verdict that today, U.S. power is based on wars, always those in other nations, never on its own territory. In any event, war is its axis; its domestic economy is nourished to a large extent by the arms industry and its planetary hegemony (appropriation of raw materials and imposition of the rules of the economic and political game on a global scale, with primacy of the dollar. Today, Washington needs wars. Without wars, the power would not be a power.

What we are seeing now with a besieged Syria, what is leading the Middle East into a war of unforeseeable consequences, with the real target, Iran, following behind and with Israel, which is waiting, pressuring and coercing the master to the North to fulfill its promise of punishing that Persian country, is not a chance operation.

The first victim of war is the truth. While in Iraq the most obscene fallacies were its possession of weapons of mass destruction and its close links with Al Qaeda, and in Iran, the manufacture of powerful nuclear armaments, in Syria the lie is chemical weapons utilized by President Al-Assad against his own people, although nobody with the most elemental common sense believes it, because Syria would be the least to benefit by creating a pretext such as this.

But lies are part of the plan, and this one did not come into existence overnight, nor was it improvised in a bar over a few beers, but in the White House, in 1997, when a group of fevered minds of the alienated ultra-right created a project for the New American Century, with the objective of sustaining the United States as the hegemonic superpower of the planet, at any and all costs.

The objectives of the project are the opening up, stability, control and globalization of markets, as well as security and freedom of trade; unrestricted access to energy sources and raw materials needed to dynamize the U.S. economy and those of its allies; the monitoring and control in real time of people and all significant political and social movements opposed to its interests; the expansion and domination of the financial and industrial capital of its companies and transnational corporations; and the assuring of control over the means of communication and world information.

To that end it has not even stinted on mercenaries, who abound in Syria – well paid and armed – nor in the deployment of U.S. military might, as well as creating situations within nations, such as the manufacture and unveiling of the so-called Arab Spring in North Africa, which ended with the assassination, recorded live, of Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi.

Who thought up and armed this insanity based on the industry of death, the real sustenance of the U.S. economy? Illustrious neo-cons with senior positions in the administrations of Reagan, George Bush (father and son); in other words: Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Dan Quayle, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Elliott Abrams, John Bolton and Richard Perle, among others. Who sheltered them politically? The Republican Party, the Democratic Party, AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), or the pro-Israeli lobby in the nation of the stars and stripes; and many powerful organizations on Wall Street, in the media and in the powerful military-industrial complex. It would seem that it is not important who the President happens to be.

The Twin Towers were brought down, but this provided the basis for the rising up of the Project, sowing the divine fundamentalist idea that the United States is the only nation capable of combating the terrible evils of Islamist terrorism, drug trafficking, or organized crime, even though it is within its own territory that most terrorists are harbored, where the highest quantity of drugs are consumed, and where criminals enjoy impunity. An implacable media crusade was launched which fixed fear and danger in the mentality of citizens of the world.

It has reached the extent that, even the UN, in its investigation into the existence of chemical weapons in Syria – the key pretext for the aggression – has stated that its research is only to confirm whether they were used or not, and not who utilized them.

A variant of the of the Arab Spring was already tested out in Syria, but failed in destabilizing the country, hence the recourse of destroying the nation and leaving it without a government, and without order, because social anarchy there would justify a U.S. presence, plus that of its allies with all their troops and even a coalition. This would provide a gateway to Iran, additionally keeping a close watch on the dangerous Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a commitment to Israel which, since its defeat by this force in 2006, has not been able to heal its wounds.

Who can be left in any doubt that all of this is an orchestrated plot, and that the United States and its allies are not bothered as to whether or not chemical weapons enter the equation?

What does interest it is the geo-strategic situation of Damascus and imperial power, even if this involves a bloodbath in this nation of heroic people, and world peace is once again trampled by the nation and government which sets itself up as the paradigm of human rights. But it should be careful. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.

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Capitalist America: Racist Hell

Zimmerman Goes Free, Detroit Goes Under

Workers Vanguard

George Zimmerman was given a pass twice, first by the police, then by a jury, for the coldblooded murder of Trayvon Martin. With the racist vigilante again free to go about his business, protests flared up in cities across the country. It was impossible to mistake the message of the verdict in his trial: black life is as cheap as ever in capitalist America, where cops gun down youth in the streets with impunity and the vast majority are locked into the bottom rungs of the economy. This raw reality is playing out with a vengeance today in heavily black Detroit, the one-time Motor City that the auto bosses turned into a bankrupt industrial wasteland, at the cost of tens of thousands of decent-paying union jobs. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s recent gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is another blow at the democratic rights that black people have wrested through struggle.

As the Spartacist League wrote in a leaflet issued following the Zimmerman verdict (reprinted on page 15): “Here was a case study in the machinery of courts, cops and prosecutors whose job is to maintain and defend a system rooted in the brutal exploitation of the many by the few—a system built on a bedrock of racial oppression, from chattel slavery to wage slavery.” The expressions of anger and anguish at Zimmerman’s acquittal compelled President Obama—the current boss of that system—to comment on the situation in a “surprise” speech on July 19.

Many black people found solace in his remarks, especially the account of his personal experiences with race prejudice before becoming a Senator and his acknowledgement of “a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws.” A common refrain is that the first black president wants to do right by black people, but his “hands are tied” by hostile, mainly Republican, forces. The simple fact is that Obama has done the job that the main body of the ruling class selected him for: overseer for a capitalist profit system that criminalizes young black men and chews up the working people, spitting them out when their labor is no longer needed. Former president Bill Clinton also told black people that he felt for them as he put 100,000 more cops on the streets and ended “welfare as we know it.” This speaks to the role of the two parties of capital: While the Republicans openly declare their contempt for blacks, immigrants and the unions, the Democrats say they’re your friends…and end up doing the same thing.

Obama’s remarks came on the same day that the White House again rejected out of hand the idea that the federal government would rescue Detroit, where what remains of basic public services as well as the jobs, pensions and retiree health care benefits of city workers are on the chopping block. The Wall Street Democrat Obama—whose administration handed out trillions to the banks and tens of billions to the auto bosses—is showing an empty pocket to the city’s black masses.

“Justice” System at Work

For all his lecturing on “racial profiling,” Obama pronounced New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly “well-qualified” to run the Department of Homeland Security. Kelly is the architect of the city’s notorious stop-and-frisk program, which he designed “to instill fear” in young blacks and Latinos. He also set up the NYPD’s Demographics Unit, which has dispatched officers in the Northeast to spy on Muslims—fitting credentials for running the domestic “war on terror.”

Obama endorsed the propriety of the Zimmerman trial, throwing in a threat against protesters who might engage in “violence.” He also poured cold water on hopes about the outcome of the Justice Department’s review of the case, intoning that the legal code and law enforcement are “traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal level.” Democratic Party liberals and mainstream black leaders widely lauded Obama’s speech—as did the ever-obsequious International Socialist Organization (ISO), which wrote in “Why We’re Still Marching” (Socialist Worker, 1 August) that the imperialist Commander-in-Chief “spoke powerfully” about racism.

When PBS host Tavis Smiley broke the mold and blasted Obama’s talk as being as “weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid,” he was heaped with abuse. Radical academic Cornel West, a onetime Obama supporter, is also getting flak for a July 22 interview with Democracy Now!, in which he called the president “a global George Zimmerman” for the lethal drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that have come to symbolize his execution of the “war on terror.”

For his sharp comments, West is persona non grata for Al Sharpton and his National Action Network, the NAACP and others organizing the 50th anniversary March on Washington events this month. A key purpose for the liberal establishment that sponsored the 1963 march, where Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream” speech, was to keep the lid on the mass struggles for black rights that were shaking the country and to channel them into pressure politics for the benefit of the Democratic Party (see article on page 13).

While there is a dearth of class and social struggle today, thanks in no small part to the hat-in-hand labor bureaucracy and black bourgeois politicians, the bankrupt liberal strategy remains the same: pressuring the federal government and pushing the fortunes of the Democratic Party. Even as delicate criticisms of Sharpton and the NAACP are offered, the ISO’s “Still Marching” editorial expresses delight that such “mainstream groups” are organizing the protest, not least because it “will widen the mobilization, both for the Washington march and for anti-racist demonstrations generally.” They predict, correctly, that criticism of Obama will be verboten from the platform, but that’s no matter for the ISO—it’s going to be big!

With their calls for federal civil rights charges to be brought against Zimmerman, the liberals sow illusions in the same Justice Department that serves as the top cops of a system of rampant racist police terror, frame-up trials and overflowing prisons. In fact, at a time when state prison populations have declined as a whole, mainly due to budget pressures, the federal prison system has grown by 3 percent annually. Attorney General Eric Holder may well do something to block the openly racist voter suppression measures adopted in Texas and other states in the wake of the Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act. Such a step would simply be in the Democrats’ own interest. The black people, immigrants and other minorities denied the right to vote by these measures generally go Democrat.

For the Right of Armed Self-Defense

The Sanford, Florida, jury accepted George Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense, which was buttressed by the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Over 20 state governments, centered on the old Confederacy, have passed similar legislation with bipartisan support in recent years. We oppose such laws, which remove the guideline that a person in danger must seek to retreat before using deadly force. These laws thus sanction vigilantism. As we observed in “Trayvon Martin: Killed for Being Black in America” (WV No. 999, 30 March 2012),

Florida’s law “allows for the use of deadly force by anyone who claims a ‘reasonable belief’ that such force is necessary, without even attempting to disengage. And in racist America, a black kid in a hoodie is enough to claim ‘reasonable belief’ of danger.”

For that matter, so is a group of black youths listening to rap music. In November 2012, four teenagers at a Florida gas station were in a parked SUV, next to the car of Michael Dunn, a white man. After complaining bitterly of the “thug music,” Dunn opened fire on the SUV, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Since his arrest, Dunn has invoked the “Stand Your Ground” defense on the basis that he believed the teens had a rifle (they did not) and were threatening to kill him.

Many liberals draw a straight line connecting opposition to “Stand Your Ground” with support for gun control. This amalgam is deadly dangerous for workers, black people and the poor. As Marxists, we support the right of armed self-defense and oppose gun control, the effect of which is to strengthen a monopoly of arms in the hands of the capitalist state—leaving guns in the hands of fascists, vigilantes and criminals as well as the cops. Working people must vigorously defend the right to bear arms, which is supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution. Both Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis were minors, with no right to carry a firearm. If either had been armed, he might still be alive today. Of course, in racist America, survival might well have ended in a lengthy prison term, or even a death sentence. For simply firing a warning shot into the wall of her home during an argument with her husband, Marissa Alexander, a black mother of three, was recently sentenced to 20 years in a Florida prison after a judge denied her “Stand Your Ground” defense.

The crucial importance of armed self-defense for the fight for black rights was captured in a New Yorker (29 July) article by Jelani Cobb, despite its conflation of “Stand Your Ground” with the right to bear arms. Cobb noted:

“There is a long history of African-American support for gun rights and the principle of armed self-defense. In 1957, after receiving threats of violence, Robert F. Williams armed the N.A.A.C.P. chapter that he led in Monroe, North Carolina…. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee activist Fannie Lou Hamer spoke publicly of the loaded guns that she kept under her bed, and members of organizations like the Deacons for Defense and Justice carried weapons with the goal of protecting civil-rights workers in the South.”

Self-defense against racist terror has historically been met with state repression, including through gun control measures. In the 1960s, such laws were passed in New York and California to specifically target Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. State bans were followed by gun control laws nationwide, especially after the ghetto upheavals that broke out following Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968.

Capitalist Profit Drive Killed Detroit

Key to bourgeois liberal mythology in America is the notion that racism boils down to bad laws and bad ideas, obscuring the truth that black oppression is materially based. As Karl Marx explained a century and a half ago in A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), the “totality of relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which corresponds definite forms of social consciousness.”

The plight of Detroit throws into sharp relief the intertwining of black oppression and capitalist exploitation. When the city filed for bankruptcy on July 18, government spokesmen and the bourgeois press pointed the finger at mismanagement by city officials. This was a convenient alibi for the main perpetrators: the auto companies that first brought in waves of labor—white and black, native-born and immigrant—to slave away on the assembly line, and then mercilessly chucked them out when those plants did not produce sufficient profit. Motown was left to crumble away as the culmination of a decades-long process of deindustrialization—a series of decisions by the barons of capital to pursue profit-making elsewhere.

At its height, Detroit was the hub of the auto industry, and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, forged through strike action in the 1930s, became the powerhouse of the labor movement in the U.S. But between 1947 and 1963 Detroit lost 140,000 manufacturing jobs. When profit margins increasingly narrowed in the 1970s as a result of Japanese competition, the Big Three began in earnest to carry out waves of plant closures across the Midwest, moving a good deal of production to low-wage areas in the open shop South and overseas.

Shortly after the wreckers’ ball had demolished Chrysler’s Dodge Main, and with it 30,000 jobs, the Spartacist League ran two candidates for city council in 1981 on a platform “For a Socialist Fight to Defend Labor/Black Detroit!” The campaign noted: “Here in Detroit we see the crisis of the entire capitalist system most starkly revealed, most advanced in decay, most anarchic in irrationality, most painful in social consequences. Detroit’s skilled proletariat would be the most valuable resource of a rational society—the class that can build a socialist America” (WV No. 287, 14 August 1981). Today, with only two auto factories and 27,000 manufacturing jobs remaining inside city limits, skilled and unskilled workers are trying to survive on low-wage McJobs, unemployment lines and soup kitchens.

Since 1950, Detroit’s population has gone from 1.8 million to 700,000 today, leaving an 82 percent black population that the capitalist rulers consider surplus. From the liberal Coleman Young in the 1970s to the not-so-liberal Dave Bing today, black Democratic mayors have presided over the attacks on the city’s residents. Adding insult to injury, white Republican governor Rick Snyder appointed an emergency manager, black lawyer Kevyn Orr, to conduct a fire sale of city assets and slash costs to the bone, beginning with unionized labor. Orr’s main qualification to run the city is his having been part of Chrysler’s legal team during the auto bailout.

From the outset, the massive bailout of the automakers focused on how best to gut the UAW and bring wages and benefits down to the level in non-union plants. We opposed the bailout, warning that it “will be purchased through the further destruction of the jobs and livelihoods of working people” (“Bosses Declare War on UAW Workers,” WV No. 926, 5 December 2008). Indeed, plant closures and mass layoffs followed, clearing the way for hiring new workers and temps at half the pay of senior workers when production picked up.

The UAW leadership enthusiastically agreed to these massive concessions, as well as a no-strike pledge good for six years. At the root of the labor traitors’ capitulation is their support to the capitalist profit system—in particular the fortunes of the auto companies—and the “national interests” of U.S. imperialism. As UAW head Bob King told it during the 2012 elections, Obama had saved the auto industry with the bailout. With their program of class collaboration, the union tops have acceded to the proliferation of non-union plants, especially in the South—and now even Michigan has gone “right to work” like the Southern states. A first step in rebuilding the labor movement in this country will be to organize those plants, which means fighting head-on the color bar that has long served to divide workers and weaken their struggles against the bosses.

Such necessary struggles pose the need for a new leadership in the unions that is not beholden to the political parties of the class enemy. Such a leadership would use the weapons of the class struggle, not only to fight for jobs, better pay and conditions but also to wield labor’s power in defense of the unemployed and the ghetto and barrio masses. This is a crucial part of the fight to forge a revolutionary workers party dedicated to the overthrow of the decaying capitalist order, which consigns the black masses to entrenched poverty, unemployment, rotten housing, segregated education and police terror.

A revolutionary leadership would seek to mobilize the working class, with its militant black component, to fight against every instance of racist injustice. This perspective flows from the understanding that black freedom will finally be achieved only when the capitalist exploiters are thrown from power and labor rules this society. This understanding was first imparted to the American Communist movement by the Bolshevik Party of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, which had succeeded in leading the working class in smashing capitalist rule in the October 1917 Russian Revolution. It is in this tradition that the Spartacist League seeks to build a workers party that emblazons on its banners the call: Black liberation through socialist revolution! 

Undercover Agents Spied on Keystone Protestors

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Adam Federman

After a week of careful planning, environmentalists attending a tar sands resistance action camp in Oklahoma thought they had the element of surprise — but they would soon learn that their moves were being closely watched by law enforcement officials and TransCanada, the very company they were targeting.

According to documents obtained by Earth Island Journal, investigators from the Bryan County Sherriff’s Department had been spying on a Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance training campthat took place from March 18 to March 22 and which brought together local landowners, Indigenous communities, and environmental groups opposed to the pipeline.

On the morning of March 22 activists had planned to block the gates at the company’s strategic oil reserves in Cushing, Oklahoma as part of the larger protest movement against TransCanada’s tar sands pipeline. But when they showed up in the early morning hours and began unloading equipment from their vehicles they were confronted by police officers. Stefan Warner, an organizer with Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, says some of the vehicles en route to the protest site were pulled over even before they had reached Cushing. He estimates that roughly 50 people would have participated— either risking arrest or providing support. The act of nonviolent civil disobedience, weeks in the planning, was called off.

“For a small sleepy Oklahoma town to be saturated with police officers on a pre-dawn weekday leaves only one reasonable conclusion,” says Ron Seifert, an organizer with an affiliated group called Tar Sands Blockade. “They were there on purpose, expecting something to happen.”

Seifert is exactly right. According to documents obtained by Earth Island Journal, investigators from the Bryan County Sherriff’s Department had been spying on a Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance training camp that took place from March 18 to March 22 and which brought together local landowners, Indigenous communities, and environmental groups opposed to the pipeline.

An excerpt from an official report on the “Undercover Investigation into the GPTSR Training Camp” indicates that at least two law enforcement officers from the Bryan County Sherriff’s Department infiltrated the training camp and drafted a detailed report about the upcoming protest, internal strategy, and the character of the protesters themselves.

An excerpt from an official report on the “Undercover Investigation into the GPTSR Training Camp” indicates that at least two law enforcement officers from the Bryan County Sherriff’s Department infiltrated the training camp and drafted a detailed report about the upcoming protest, internal strategy, and the character of the protesters themselves.

At least two law enforcement officers infiltrated the training camp and drafted a detailed report about the upcoming protest, internal strategy, and the character of the protesters themselves. The undercover investigator who wrote the report put the tar sands opponents into five different groups: eco-activists (who “truly wanted to live off the grid”); Occupy members; Native American activists (“who blamed all forms of government for the poor state of being that most American Indians are living in”); Anarchists (“many wore upside down American flags”); and locals from Oklahoma (who “had concerns about the pipeline harming the community”).

The undercover agent’s report was obtained by Douglas Parr, an Oklahoma attorney who represented three activists (all lifelong Oklahomans) who were arrested in mid April for blockading a tar sands pipeline construction site. “During the discovery in the Bryan county cases we received material indicating that there had been infiltration of the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance camp by police agents,” Parr says. At least one of the undercover investigators attended an “action planning” meeting during which everyone was asked to put their cell phones or other electronic devices into a green bucket for security reasons. The investigator goes on to explain that he was able to obtain sensitive information regarding the location of the upcoming Cushing protest, which would mark the culmination of the week of training. “This investigator was able to obtain an approximate location based off a question that he asked to the person in charge of media,” he wrote. He then wryly notes that, “It did not appear…that our phones had been tampered with.”

(The memo also states that organizers at the meeting went to great lengths not to give police any cause to disrupt the gathering. The investigator writes: “We were repeatedly told this was a substance free camp. No drug or alcohol use would be permitted on the premises and always ask permission before touching anyone. Investigators were told that we did not need to give the police any reason to enter the camp.” They were also given a pamphlet that instructed any agent of TransCanada, the FBI, or other law enforcement agency to immediately notify the event organizers.

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The infiltration of the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance action camp and pre-emption of the Cushing protest is part of a larger pattern of government surveillance of tar sands protesters. According to other documents obtained by Earth Island Journal under an Open Records Act request, Department of Homeland Security staff has been keeping close tabs on pipeline opponents — and routinely sharing that information with TransCanada, and vice versa.

In March TransCanada gave a briefing on corporate security to a Criminal Intelligence Analyst with the Oklahoma Information Fusion Center, the state level branch of Homeland Security. The conversation took place just as the action camp was getting underway. The following day, Diane Hogue, the Center’s Intelligence Analyst, asked TransCanada to review and comment on the agency’s classified situational awareness bulletin. Michael Nagina, Corporate Security Advisor for TransCanada, made two small suggestions and wrote, “With the above changes I am comfortable with the content.”

Then, in an email to TransCanada on March 19 (the second day of the action camp) Hogue seems to refer to the undercover investigation taking place. “Our folks in the area say there are between 120-150 participants,” Hogue wrote in an email to Nagina. (The Oklahoma Information Fusion Center declined to comment for this story.)

It is unclear if the information gathered at the training camp was shared directly with TransCanada. However, the company was given access to the Fusion Center’s situational awareness bulletin just a few days before the Cushing action was scheduled to take place.

In an emailed statement, TransCanada spokesperson Shawn Howard did not directly address the Tar Sands Resistance training camp. Howard described law enforcement as being interested in what the company has done to prepare for activities designed to “slow approval or construction” of the pipeline project. “When we are asked to share what we have learned or are prepared for, we are there to share our experience – not direct law enforcement,” he wrote.

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At least one of the investigators seemed to have gained the trust of the direct action activists.

The evidence of heightened cooperation between TransCanada and law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma and Texas comes just over a month after it was revealed that the company had given a PowerPoint presentation on corporate security to the FBI and law enforcement officials in Nebraska. TransCanada also held an “interactive session” with law enforcement in Oklahoma City about the company’s security strategy in early 2012. In their PowerPoint presentation, TransCanada employees suggested that district attorneys should explore “state or federal anti-terrorism laws” in prosecuting activists. They also included profiles of key organizers and a list of activists previously arrested for acts of nonviolent civil disobedience in Texas and Oklahoma. In addition to TransCanada’s presentation, a representative of Nebraska’s Homeland Security Fusion Center briefed attendees on an “intelligence sharing role/plan relevant to the pipeline project.” This is likely related to the Homeland Security Information Sharing Network, which provides public and private sector partners as well as law enforcement access to sensitive information.

The earlier cache of documents, first released to the press by Bold Nebraska, an environmental organization opposed to the pipeline, shows that TransCanada has established close ties with state and federal law enforcement agencies along the proposed pipeline route. For example, in an exchange with FBI agents in South Dakota, TransCanada’s Corporate Security Advisor, Michael Nagina, jokes that, “I can be the cure for insomnia so sure hope you can still attend!” Although they were unable to make the Nebraska meeting, one of the agents responded, “Assuming approval of the pipeline, we would like to get together to discuss a timeline for installation through our territory.”

The new documents also provide an interesting glimpse into the revolving door between state law enforcement agencies and the private sector, especially in areas where fracking and pipeline construction have become big business. One of the individuals providing information to the Texas Department of Homeland Security’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division is currently the Security Manager at Anadarko Petroleum, one of the world’s largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies. In 2011, at a natural gas industry stakeholder relations conference, a spokesperson for Anadarko compared the anti-drilling movement to an “insurgency” and suggested that attendees download the US Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual.

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The infiltration of the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance action camp and pre-emption of the Cushing protest is part of a larger pattern of government surveillance of tar sands protesters.

LC Wilson, the Anadarko Security Manager shown by the documents to be providing information to the Texas Fusion Center, is more than just a friend of law enforcement. From 2009 to 2011 he served as Regional Commander of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which oversees law enforcement statewide. Wilson began his career with the Department of Public Safety in 1979 and was named a Texas Ranger — an elite law enforcement unit — in 1988, eventually working his way up to Assistant Chief. Such connections would be of great value to a corporation like Anadarko, which has invested heavily in security operations.

In an email to Litto Paul Bacas, a Critical Infrastructure Planner (and former intelligence analyst) with Texas Homeland Security, Wilson, using his Anadarko address, writes, “we find no intel specific for Texas. There is active recruitment for directed action to take place in Oklahoma as per article. I will forward any intel we come across on our end, especially if it concerns Texas.” The article he was referring to was written by a member of Occupy Denver calling on all “occupiers and occupy networks” to attend the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance training camp.

Wilson is not the only former law enforcement official on Anadarko’s security team; Jeffrey Sweetin, the company’s Regional Security Manager, was a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration for more than 20 years heading up its Rocky Mountain division. At Anadarko, according to Sweetin’s profile on Linkedin, his responsibilities include “security program development” and “law enforcement liaison.”

Other large oil and gas companies have recruited local law enforcement to fill high-level security positions. In 2010, long-time Bradford County Sheriff Steve Evans resigned to take a position as senior security officer for Chesapeake Energy in Pennsylvania. Evans was one of a handful of gas industry security directors to receive intelligence bulletins compiled by a private security firm and distributed by the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security. Bradford County happens to be ground zero for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, with more active wells than any other county in the state. In addition to Evans, several deputies of the Bradford County Sheriff’s office have worked for Chesapeake — through a private contractor, TriCorps Security — as “off-duty” security personnel. TransCanada has also come to rely on off duty police officers to patrol construction sites and protest camps, raising questions about whose interests the sworn officers are serving.

Of course for corporations like TransCanada and Anadarko having law enforcement on their side (or in their pocket) is more than just a good business move. It gives them access to classified information and valuable intelligence — essential weapons in any counterinsurgency campaign.

Gutting the Voting Rights Act: Supreme Court Spits on Black Rights

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Workers Vanguard

“Our country has changed,” wrote Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts in the majority decision striking down the section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that gives it teeth. In a five-to-four ruling, the Court effectively found its “pre-clearance” provision, i.e., prior approval from the Justice Department to fiddle with voting rules, too onerous for those states subject to it.

The gutting of the Voting Rights Act, which in its own words was meant to “enforce the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution,” is nothing but a punch in the face to black people. Part of the legal consolidation of the democratic gains that black people won, gun in hand, in the Civil War, the Fifteenth Amendment granted the right to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” But following the defeat of Reconstruction, it became a dead letter in the states of the old Confederacy, which employed poll taxes, literacy tests and other dirty tricks—backed up by the lynch-rope terror of the Ku Klux Klan and local police (often intertwined)—to keep black people from casting their ballots. It took a mass movement, and no small sacrifice of lives, to crush Jim Crow segregation in the South and wrest reforms such as the Voting Rights Act from the ruling class.

Signaling how little racist capitalist America has changed, the states that had fallen under federal oversight celebrated the Supreme Court decision by immediately gearing up their machinery of voter suppression. Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia rushed to implement new voter ID laws that will redound against not just black people but many others at the bottom of society—Latinos, the poor, the elderly. In Arizona, where authorities have gone to great lengths to one-up the Obama administration’s anti-immigrant crackdown, state attorney general Tom Horne railed that the Voting Rights Act “humiliates Arizona by making it say ‘Mother may I’ to the federal government every time it wants to change some remarkably minor laws.” Meanwhile, North Carolina and other states are moving to drastically cut early voting and eliminate same-day registration.

The Court’s ruling should come as no surprise. Chief Justice Roberts is but one of those on the Court who were schooled in the legal doctrine of “strict constructionism,” which in plain English means rolling back rights that black people and others have gained through struggle. Roberts has been devoted to this pursuit since his days as a Justice Department lawyer under Ronald Reagan. Commenting on Roberts’ and Samuel J. Alito’s confirmation hearings, we observed: “Theirs is not a mere ‘judicial philosophy’ but the expression in the legal/judicial realm of the call that the ‘South will rise again’” (WV No. 864, 17 February 2006). For Senate Democrats at the time, the reactionary views of these Bush nominees were not an issue. Despite Democrats’ rancor over the Voting Rights Act decision, Barack Obama and his party have done their part to downplay the enduring character of racial oppression, not least through Obama’s much-lauded comment in 2008 that the civil rights movement took black people “90 percent of the way” to full equality.

The reality is that by every measure—employment, income, housing, education—the yawning gap between white and black America persists to this day. Nearly 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, black people are still blown away on the streets of this country simply for their appearance, as was 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year. Today his vigilante killer is on trial, but only because nationwide protest prompted his arrest. Across the country, the police routinely stop, frisk, beat and jail black youth, although not to the satisfaction of NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently lamented that “we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.” Mass incarceration has left some 13 percent of black men with felony convictions. If ever released, most of them continue to be stripped of basic rights, including the franchise.

The “end of racism” nonsense plays into the hands of right-wing reactionaries as they go about instilling their view that oppressed minorities deserve nothing, ever. Take Justice Antonin Scalia sneering in February that pre-clearance is the “perpetuation of a racial entitlement.” Cut of the same cloth was the Supreme Court’s recent seven-to-one ruling that puts another nail in the coffin of affirmative action—also a gain, however minimal, of the civil rights movement. The case was kicked back to a lower court for consideration under a new standard that will make it even harder for universities to consider race in admissions. The ongoing racist purge of higher education and skyrocketing tuition costs cry out for a fight for free, quality, racially integrated education for everyone, through the university level.

These judicial feats turning back the clock have been very easy to carry out. Why? Time and again, the capitalist Democratic Party politicians who pass for leaders of the black masses have diverted justified anger back into electoral politics, as have the bureaucrats atop the trade unions. The resulting low ebb in social and class struggle has put wind in the sails of the decades-long effort to roll back the gains of the civil rights movement, not to mention the ongoing war on labor that has hit black workers, most recently in the public-sector unions, especially hard. Historically comprising a reserve army of labor to be maintained, albeit minimally, for the American bourgeoisie, today the black ghetto poor are increasingly considered to be an expendable population.

It is crucial to defend voting rights and every other gain for black people, other minorities and the working class. Depriving the oppressed of basic democratic rights is a declaration that it is open season on them. At the same time, a serious defense of those rights would involve mobilizing not votes for “lesser evil” representatives of the class enemy but rather mass struggles against the racist capitalist rulers. Such a fight for the rights of the oppressed would prove a powerful leaven to the class struggle of the working class as a whole.

Racial Oppression—Bedrock of U.S. Capitalism

Following the defeat of the South in the Civil War, the former slaves were liberated—codified in the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery—and extended such basic rights as the right to vote and hold office. This period of Radical Reconstruction was the most democratic in American history, with black rights enforced in the South at rifle-point by the interracial Union Army. Among the measures adopted were the Fourteenth Amendment—which conferred citizenship on “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” an important protection for immigrants as well—and the Fifteenth Amendment.

Ultimately, though, the Northern bourgeoisie in pursuit of its class interests went on to betray Reconstruction, making common cause with Southern landholders to ensure the maintenance of private property in the means of production. This turn was exemplified by the Compromise of 1877, after which Union troops were ordered back to their barracks, opening the road for Jim Crow to ride in on the Klansman’s horse. The black population, although not returned to slavery, was solidified as a specially oppressed race-color caste.

With the mass migration of blacks from the South to the industrial cities of the North—initially around the time of World War I—the bourgeoisie increasingly fostered anti-black racism, making the color bar a dividing line that has served to obscure the fundamental class divide in society. To this day, racist poison plays a central role in blocking the development of class consciousness in the American proletariat. As a result, the U.S. is the only industrial country where the workers have not had their own independent political party, even a reformist one. The legacy of black chattel slavery is behind much in the U.S. political system that is anti-democratic, e.g., the Senate, which is designed to favor less populous rural and Southern regions by granting each state equal representation.

Although the courageous struggles of the civil rights foot soldiers were instrumental in ending Jim Crow, the bourgeoisie had its own reasons for acquiescing. The system of legal segregation in the South had become outdated with the mechanization of agriculture and the growth of a black proletariat in the region. It was also a blemish on the U.S. image abroad. In countering American bourgeois propaganda that praised the virtues of “democracy,” the Soviet Union made hay of scenes of police dogs mauling and truncheons pummeling black men, women and children in the South. As Louis Menand related in the New Yorker (8 July): “American Presidents were trying to run a Cold War. They could live with Jim Crow when it was an invisible regional peculiarity, but once conditions were broadcast around the world they experienced an urgent need to make the problem go away.”

The strategy of Martin Luther King and other liberal civil rights leaders was to appeal to the “conscience” of the capitalist rulers, pinning their hopes on the beneficence of their courts and the Democratic Party in Washington. The ruling class was willing to make concessions in the sphere of democratic rights. But it would not and could not redress the abject material conditions besetting the black masses. The civil rights movement met its defeat when it came North, where it confronted the conditions of black impoverishment and oppression woven into the fabric of American capitalism: rat-infested slums, crumbling schools, mass unemployment and rampant cop terror.

The great Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky, co-leader with V.I. Lenin of the 1917 Russian Revolution that brought the proletariat to power, described this dynamic in his 1922 report “The Position of the Republic and the Tasks of Young Workers”:

“The bourgeoisie makes concessions to the working class: universal suffrage, social and factory legislation, national insurance, the shortening of the working day. The bourgeoisie makes a retreat step by step; where necessary it grants a reform; when possible it puts on the pressure again and then makes a retreat. Why? It is manoeuvring; the ruling class is fighting for its rule, for the exploitation of the other class. Of course the reformists suppose that bit by bit they will remake the bourgeois system into a socialist one. And we reply to this: rubbish!—while power is in the hands of the bourgeoisie they will measure out each reform but they know up to what point they can grant a reform. And just for this purpose they have the power in their hands.”

What the bourgeoisie grants it also can take away. As the chipping away at the gains of the civil rights movement shows, reforms under capitalism are eminently reversible. The same is true for gay rights, now widely considered on firmer footing after another five-to-four Supreme Court ruling last month that declared unconstitutional a key provision of the anti-gay federal Defense of Marriage Act signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996. That decision came amid increasing support among the bourgeoisie and more widely in society for extending to same-sex couples the institution of marriage—one of the means by which the ruling class exerts social control.

The only way to win social equality is to put an end to the capitalist system of exploitation. With black people historically a vital part of the American economy while at the same time in the mass forcibly segregated at its bottom, we advance the program of revolutionary integrationism. Fighting against all forms of discrimination and segregation, we understand that the liberation of black people can be achieved only through integration into an egalitarian socialist society. This perspective is counterposed to both liberal integrationism, which holds that black equality can be achieved within the confines of American capitalism, and black nationalism, which despairs of the possibility of overcoming racial divisions through united class struggle.

Liberalism and the American Nightmare

Adding a heavy dollop of cynicism to its reactionary ruling, the Supreme Court directed Congress to come up with a new, improved method of pre-clearance, well aware that lawmakers are unlikely to agree to any standard. But if you believe the NAACP and other liberal types, it is time to appeal to the “better angels” among the Congressional Republicans. Democratic Party mouthpiece Al Sharpton—one of the organizers of the August 24 “National Action to Realize the Dream” events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington—has pledged to “mobilize nationwide to put the pressure on Congress to come up with stricter voter protection laws.”

The predictable reaction of top officials of the unions, many of which have endorsed the August 24 events, is to similarly preach faith in the politicians who look after the interests of racist American capitalism. In his statement on the Voting Rights Act decision, AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka declared: “We call on Congress with leadership from President Obama to live up to the ideals of our democracy by protecting and ensuring the right to vote for all.” “Our” democracy is a society where the capitalist exploiters call the shots, offering up the electoral shell game to mask their class dictatorship. Barack Obama, the first black man elected president, took office at a time when the ruling class sought an effective Commander-in-Chief after the Bush-Cheney years, one who could sell the lie that rapacious U.S. imperialism was a bastion of democracy. He has delivered for them, advancing such American “ideals” as shredding democratic rights and expanding the surveillance state, pursuing the Afghanistan occupation and Libya bombing, deporting masses of immigrants and launching a crusade against teachers unions.

The real game for Sharpton, Trumka & Co. is to bolster the fortunes of the Democratic Party. Racist voter suppression impacts black, Latino and student populations that in the main vote for the Democrats. As such, it is advantageous for the Republicans to carry out a naked assault on voting rights, although this backfired in 2012 when the black voter turnout rate was higher than that of whites, impelled in part by outrage over attempts to suppress the vote.

The outright bigotry of the Republican Party allows the Democrats to take for granted support from black people, and in the recent past it has also thrown a lot more Latino votes in their direction. As Malcolm X once wrote: “‘Conservatism’ in America’s politics means ‘Let’s keep the n—ers in their place.’ And ‘liberalism’ means ‘Let’s keep the knee-grows in their place—but tell them we’ll treat them a little better; let’s fool them more, with more promises.’” Although he lacked a revolutionary working-class perspective, Malcolm was a scathing truth-teller, pointedly referring to the original March on Washington as the “Farce on Washington.”

Chattel slavery was abolished on the battlefields of the Civil War, the Second American Revolution. But a lot of unfinished business remains. It will take a Third American Revolution to do away with the system of wage slavery in which the oppression of black people is materially rooted. To this end, workers and the black masses must be broken from the grip of the Democratic Party. Workers need their own party, a revolutionary party capable of leading the struggle for an egalitarian socialist society, ushering in the dawn of black freedom.

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

Capitalist Surveillance State: Everyone’s a Target

prism

Worker’s Vanguard

George Orwell’s Big Brother may have been watching, but Barack Obama and his secret police are wiretapping, seizing enormous quantities of phone records, mining electronic data and doing so much more we do not know about. What books and periodicals you read, who you chat with, what Internet sites you visit and other intimate details of your life are the daily fare of FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) snoops. Obama sugarcoats the massive spying operation as necessary for the population’s own well-being. Add to the mix the other Orwellian newspeak—e.g., drone strikes save lives, secrecy is transparency, press freedom means subpoenas and indictments—and what you have is a creeping police state that is picking up the pace.

Obama’s ongoing dustup with the basic constitutional rights of speech, press and privacy sprang into view last month when the Associated Press (AP) revealed that the Justice Department had secretly obtained two months of phone records for several AP reporters and editors. Then came the disclosure that Attorney General Eric Holder had authorized a warrant for the Feds to track Fox News reporter James Rosen’s movements in and out of the State Department, trace the timing of his calls and read his e-mails.

Rosen had reported that U.S. intelligence believed that North Korea would respond to additional UN sanctions with more nuclear tests. His alleged informant, government employee Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, who did not steal any classified documents or sell secrets, faces more than a decade in prison on espionage charges. For supposedly encouraging Kim to speak to him, Rosen was named in the warrant application as an “aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in violation of the Espionage Act. With much of the bourgeois press corps howling in protest over the criminalization of standard journalistic practice, Obama bluntly declared: “I make no apologies.”

The controversy over the government’s low intensity warfare against the press was eclipsed by a series of disclosures last week giving a greater glimpse into the extent of government spying on the entire population. First the London Guardian reported on a secret court order authorizing the NSA to collect all phone records from Verizon Business Services on an “ongoing daily basis” through July 19. Officials have admitted that such accumulation of phone metadata—e.g., the numbers of callers and recipients, the serial numbers of the phones involved and the calls’ timing and duration—has been going on for years.

The day after this data trawling came to light, the Guardian and Washington Post published accounts of the Prism Internet surveillance program. In agreement with nine industry giants, including Microsoft, Google, YouTube, Facebook, Yahoo, Skype and Apple, the NSA can access troves of private information communicated over their networks. Combing through the large volumes of audio, video, photos, e-mails, documents and connection logs with such data-mining tools as Boundless Informant, NSA technicians can readily assemble individual profiles and track movements and contacts over time.

The whistleblower who leaked the information about these clandestine activities, Edward Snowden, has since come forward to voice his repugnance with “a world where everything I do is recorded.” A 29-year-old former CIA technical assistant who had been working at the NSA for the last four years as an employee of an outside contractor, Snowden elaborated in an interview with the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald: “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your e-mails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your e-mails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.”

Having taken refuge in Hong Kong, Snowden also told Greenwald, “I do not expect to see home again.” Indeed, soon after the interview was made public, top U.S. lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were howling for his head. According to Britain’s Daily Mail today: “The United States may have already approached Interpol or its consulate in Hong Kong to start [extradition] proceedings. They will use the Espionage Act to gain warrants for his arrest.” Meanwhile, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, has asked the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation into the leaks.

The public airing of the Feds’ clandestine activities knocked the legs out from under Obama’s plan to press Chinese leader Xi Jinping on cyber warfare in the summit that just concluded. While most Democratic and Republican politicians have backed Obama on the grounds of “national security,” there have been some protests from both liberals and the libertarian right. In its June 6 editorial on Obama’s data dragnet, the New York Times even offered that “the administration has now lost all credibility on this issue.” Such rebukes from the bourgeois press and politicians reflect fear within the ruling class that it, too, is getting caught in the state surveillance web, one of the tools of repression whose central purpose is to keep the exploited and the oppressed in line.

Under fire, Obama justified such surveillance as crucial to defending the homeland against “terrorism.” Following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the “war on terror” was launched as a rationale for the imperialist occupations of Afghanistan and later Iraq, as well as for expanding the repressive powers of the state at home. We have repeatedly warned that the draconian measures initially directed against Muslims and immigrants would lead to an assault on political dissent and the rights of all, particularly those of black people and the labor movement. The shredding of rights has since come to pass in spades.

During his tenure, the Democrat Obama has proved very capable in extending and expanding the “war on terror” policies of his Republican predecessor, not least the vast surveillance apparatus. Former Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer posted on Twitter last week: “Drone strikes. Wiretaps. Gitmo. O is carrying out Bush’s 4th term.” Despite the outcry by some in Congress to rein in the snooping, Senator Saxby Chambliss acknowledged, “Everyone’s been aware of it for years, every member of the Senate,” a fact confirmed by California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. Proposals floated for greater “checks and balances” and more focused targeting are all aimed at streamlining and winning wider acceptance for government spying on the population.

As Marxists, we expect that the capitalist state, whether Democrats or Republicans are at the helm, will continue to eavesdrop on what the rulers term “persons of interest,” not least those who oppose the blood-soaked capitalist order and its brutal repression. There is an inherent tendency for the state, which governs on behalf of a minuscule, ruthless class of obscenely wealthy exploiters, to attempt to amass ever greater power to control the population because it hates and fears the working people.

With a labor “leadership” that has prostrated itself before the capitalist rulers, the working class has taken it on the chin from a government flaunting constitutional rights while pursuing its slaughters abroad. But make no mistake: The bourgeoisie is determined to build up its powers of repression so that it is better able to smash any perceived threat to its rule and profits. At the same time, what it gets away with depends ultimately on the level of class and other social struggle. The working class will not advance its fight against exploitation without also defending the democratic rights of everyone and opposing the overseas savageries of its own ruling class.

“Welcome to America”

The government’s spy network is expanding for the simple reason that it has the technology to do so. The genie is out of the bottle, and this or that piece of legislation or court order is not going to put it back. In a Business Insider (21 March) article titled “CIA Chief Tech Officer: Big Data Is the Future and We Own It,” the CIA’s Ira Hunt brags, “It is really very nearly within our grasp to be able to compute on all human generated information.” Hunt described anybody carrying a mobile device as a “walking sensor platform”—now your gait, as measured by smartphone sensors, is distinctive enough to identify you.

The popularity of smartphones, tablets, social media sites and the like has brought with it an explosion of digital data that the spymasters have harnessed. Some 97 billion pieces of data were collected from networks worldwide in March alone. Just from phone metadata, analysts can weave a mosaic of a person’s life, ferreting out all manner of correlations and patterns. As the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., observed, “The information associated with communications today is often more significant than the communications itself, and the people who do the data mining know that.”

So it was with more than his characteristic sleight of hand that on June 7 Obama promised: “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That’s not what this program’s about.” He similarly waved aside concerns over Prism, curtly intoning that it “does not apply to U.S. citizens and it does not apply to people living in the United States.” In fact, enhancing the government’s capacity to listen in and further pry is precisely what such programs are all about.

Last month, former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente was asked by CNN whether the government could retrieve the content of phone conversations between deceased Boston marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his wife Katherine Russell. Clemente responded: “We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her.” He added, “Welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”

In late 2005, it was revealed that the NSA was intercepting not only communications abroad but also those of U.S. citizens, without first procuring warrants. A glimpse of the scope of such snooping was provided by retired Bay Area AT&T worker Mark Klein, who came forward to reveal how the NSA had tapped into AT&T’s fiber-optic cables to access much of the country’s Internet data flow. Klein’s revelations became Exhibit A in a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to expose and stop the illegal government data mining (see “Phone Worker Exposes Government Spying Network,” WV No. 953, 26 February 2010). In a June 7 interview with the right-wing Libertas Institute, longtime NSA staffer William Binney noted about the NSA’s original AT&T project: “They could get most of it, but they couldn’t get it all. So in order to get all the data, they had to go to the service providers to fill in the blanks. That’s what the Prism program is for—to fill in the blanks.”

The AT&T data tap, as Binney noted in a 20 April 2012 interview with Democracy Now!, was “prepared to deploy about eight months before 9/11.” Since those attacks, more than 30 secure complexes with a total size of three Pentagons have been constructed in the Washington, D.C., area to accommodate spying operations. In September, the NSA is slated to unveil its Utah Data Center in the desert town of Bluffdale, a $2 billion project. Coursing through its servers and routers will be the complete contents of e-mails, cellphone calls, Google searches, parking receipts, travel itineraries, books purchased and much more. The NSA has separately created a supercomputer with the aim of breaking sophisticated encryption, one of the few ways people can protect their privacy. The simple truth is that in the “information age,” the most secure way to communicate is to buy a postage stamp.

Institutionalizing the “War on Terror”

On May 23, with the spotlight then on drone killings of men, women and children overseas and on Guantánamo hunger strikers protesting their indefinite detention, Obama delivered a speech at the National Defense University pledging to wind down the “war on terror” and to protect the rights of journalists. He advised repealing the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to avoid keeping “America on a perpetual wartime footing.” Adopted with overwhelming bipartisan support immediately after the September 11 attacks, the AUMF has been the legal pretext for U.S. imperialism’s terrorization of workers, peasants and the impoverished around the world. Obama added, “I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further.” He also spoke of creating new protections for civil liberties “to strike the appropriate balance between our need for security and preserving those freedoms that make us who we are.”

The New York Times gushed with joy that their prodigal son had finally come home. In an editorial posted online the same day, the Times hailed the speech as “a momentous turning point in post-9/11 America.” The statement also lauded the president’s shift in drone policy, e.g., turning the CIA’s fleet of drones over to the military—the significance of which will certainly be lost on the masses in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

Momentous? About as much as a New York Mets loss. Turning point? Depends on how you look at it. Rather than articulating a change in policy, Obama’s speech marked the institutionalization of the panoply of post-September 11 repressive measures and laws as permanent fixtures of the American legal system. Obama is for discarding the AUMF not just because it is no longer necessary—the powers assumed under its authority are authorized by the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as well as Obama’s own presidential directives—but also because it serves as an unwelcome reminder that those powers were supposed to be temporary exigencies.

Obama’s speech was his Michael Corleone moment, recalling the christening scene in The Godfather in which Corleone promises to renounce Satan and all his works at the very moment his lieutenants are carrying out a murderous vendetta against Mafia rivals. Since Obama “renounced” the war on terror, more drones have struck in Pakistan’s tribal areas while the government vendetta against reporters and whistleblowers proceeds apace, as does the massive government spy operation.

Perhaps most ominous in Obama’s oration was the redefinition of due process. Obama asserted, “I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen—with a drone, or a shotgun—without due process.” What he meant was seen in the drone assassination in Yemen two years ago of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who was an Al Qaeda publicist. The president stated: “My administration submitted information about Awlaki to the Department of Justice months before Awlaki was killed, and briefed the Congress before this strike as well.” Dating back to 13th-century English common law, due process signifies that one cannot be deprived of life or liberty without notice of the charges and an opportunity to defend oneself in a court of law. For the former constitutional law professor Obama, due process now means merely consulting other members of the administration before terminating or locking up anyone deemed an enemy of U.S. interests anywhere in the world.

Obama has repeatedly promised to make his administration more “transparent” while pulling the shroud tighter over the government’s deadly machinations in a way that would make Richard Nixon turn green with envy. Similarly, in his May 23 speech, the president pronounced that “journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs,” even as he and his hatchet man Eric Holder were pursuing a vendetta against the media for (at times) unearthing and reporting things the White House finds uncomfortable. In the case of government employees who supply the information, it has been a full-scale assault.

The trigger for the seizure of the AP phone records was a 2012 article about a foiled terror plot that disclosed leaked information about CIA activity—specifically, a CIA-Saudi-British operation that planted a mole inside Al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate. The mole had volunteered to blow up an airliner using a new bomb designed to circumvent airport security, which he then turned over to his CIA handlers. AP honored the CIA/White House request to hold the story for days in order to facilitate the assassination of a top Al Qaeda official using information obtained from the mole. Among the AP journalists involved in the Yemen article were Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, who won a Pulitzer Prize last year for exposing the NYPD’s surveillance of American Muslim communities.

For lifting a bit of the veil of secrecy and lies with which the imperialist rulers cover their depredations, Army Private Bradley Manning is now undergoing a court-martial with the possibility of life imprisonment (see article on page 12). The Obama administration drips venom for WikiLeaks, which posted online the war logs and diplomatic cables made available by Manning. James Goodale, general counsel of the New York Times in its clashes with the Nixon administration, pointed out: “The biggest challenge to the press today is the threatened prosecution of WikiLeaks, and it’s absolutely frightening.”

Goodale’s former client, like the rest of the bourgeois media, is quite content to throw WikiLeaks head Julian Assange to the wolves. Although the Times & Co. bridle when the government steps on their toes, their role is not to expose the capitalist rulers but to be their mouthpieces. It was the Times that played an instrumental role in peddling the lies that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction,” a pretext for the U.S. invasion in 2003. When Mark Klein fought to expose the NSA/AT&T collaboration, the paper turned him away and sat on the story for months, just as it had refused to report the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping for over a year at the Bush administration’s request. In The ABC of Communism (1920), Nikolai Bukharin aptly described the role of the bourgeois press as auxiliaries to the armed bodies of men that make up the state, acting together with the schools and churches as “specialists to stupefy and subdue the proletariat.”

The Fraud of Bourgeois Democracy

As Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin wrote in his 1918 work The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky: “Bourgeois democracy, although a great historical advance in comparison with medievalism, always remains, and under capitalism is bound to remain, restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, a paradise for the rich and a snare and deception for the exploited, for the poor.” Among the “snares and deceptions” perfected in the U.S. is the vaunted “separation of powers” between the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of government. While this setup purports to maintain “checks and balances” on the power of any single branch, the White House gave the game away in responding to the disclosure of the Verizon data tapping. As described by an administration official: “All three branches of government are involved in reviewing and authorizing intelligence collection under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Congress passed that act and is regularly and fully briefed on how it is used, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizes such collection.” In the first 30 years of its existence, that secret court approved all but a handful of the tens of thousands of intercept requests by the government.

With Congress having written the White House a blank check to wage war on democratic rights and civil liberties, some lawmakers are belatedly and disingenuously professing dismay at the scope of the snooping. Among them is Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, an author of the Patriot Act, who now pleads, “I do not believe the broadly drafted FISA order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.”

Such measures were precisely the purpose of the Patriot Act, which expanded the government’s authority to monitor anyone it claims is involved in international “terrorism.” Under its Section 215, the FBI has served tens of thousands of “national security letters” to libraries, phone companies and other businesses demanding records. The same section sanctions the seizure of journalists’ phone records. The repeated renewal and expansion of the law, including with the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, has made it even easier for the government to obtain authorization for electronic surveillance and interception.

The ultimate target of the police and spying apparatus is the working class, whose role in producing the wealth of this society gives it the social power to choke off profits, the lifeblood of the capitalist system. At the turn of the 20th century, the Russian tsars propped up their decrepit rule by unleashing an army of agents provocateurs and Okhrana (secret police) against that country’s small but rapidly growing proletariat and the Marxist circles that sprouted up at the time. This was the hallmark of a dying ruling class. In October 1917, the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky led the Russian proletariat to power, overthrowing capitalist rule on one-sixth of the globe. The bourgeoisie to this day sees it as a calamity whose repetition must be prevented at all costs, while we Marxists see in that revolution a model for the proletariat of the world. It is our purpose to forge a world party of socialist revolution to lead the workers in overthrowing capitalist class rule and putting an end to its repression and imperialist ravages once and for all.