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Socialist Democracy May 2006


Socialist Democracy

May 2006



Lanre Arogundade x-rays the crisis in the Middle East and concludes that while the Imperialist Nations, led by the United States are engaged in un-winnable wars, a united working class action is urgently needed to save the people from the ravages of war, economic suffering and sectarian strife.

"Look beyond the bloodshed and see signs of progress" is the latest of American President Gorge Bush's appeal to Americans as his popularity rating continues to plummet following what has now turned to be a disastrous invasion of Iraq four years ago.

Obviously, only him and his imperialist cohorts, like Tony Blair of Britain, could see 'progress' in a war whose cost to American tax payers could end up hitting $2 trillion mark.

"One thing is certain about the Iraq war: It has cost a lot more than advertised. In fact, the tab grows by at least $200 million each and every day", writes Martin Wolk, Chief Economics correspondent of MSNBC.

He says further: "The most current estimates of the war's cost generally start with figures from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which as of January 2006 counted $323 billion in expenditures for the war on terrorism, including military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just this week, the House approved another $68 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which would bring the total allocated to date to about $400 billion. The Pentagon is spending about $6 billion a month on the war in Iraq, or about $200 million a day, according to the CBO. That is about the same as the gross domestic product of Nigeria. Scott Wallsten, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, put the direct cost to the United States at $212 billion as of last September and estimates a "global cost" of $500 billion to date with another $500 billion possible, with most of the total borne by the United States"

With such a drain on the resources of a nation bugged down by an estimated $7 Trillion national debt two years ago, it is not surprising that the American economy has faced a downturn. At least 34 million Americans are living below the poverty line while as at 2004 about 9 million were un-employed.

But if the gains to the multinational corporations backing the conservative regimes in America and Britain are anything to go by, then, Bush and co cannot but see 'progress'. For example, the total value of Iraqi contracts awarded Halliburton Oil Services of which Vice President Dick Cheney was once the Chief Executive Officer is $4.7 billion. Many more contracts are still being executed and when the pay back time comes, you can be sure that the campaign funds of the Republican conservatives will hit the sky.

But the profit to the multinationals is at the expense of the lives that are daily lost as Iraq moves to the brink of a civil war. About the time Bush was making his 'see progress' appeal 51 people were killed in yet another round of sectarian violence that has consumed thousands of civilian casualties. Already, over 2,000 American soldiers and service men and women had already been killed in a war that has been condemned all over the world with as many as 10 million participating in anti-war demos last year on the occasion of the second 'anniversary' of the invasion.

Getting imperialism out of Iraq, stopping sectarian violence and preventing a slide into civil war would require the building of a united front primarily by the working class in Iraq. Only such a front, based on a class appeal and cutting across religion, sectarian and nationality lines could offer a way out of the present confusion.

To the extent that the imperialist organized elections have failed to produce an acceptable leadership to the majority of the Iraqis, such a working class movement may need to put forward the perspective and program of an elected sovereign constituent assembly to be composed of the working masses, the youth, women, political and religion interest groups etc to discuss and determine the political and economic way forward for the country.

Alongside the above and perhaps more crucial is the task of building an alternative political organization of the working class that is capable of drawing strength across nationality and religion divides and make a class appeal for ending sectarian violence on the basis of a program to:

  • end imperialist occupation of Iraq
  • nationalise the commanding sectors of the Iraqi economy (especially the oil industry) under working class democratic control and management
  • convoke an elected sovereign constituent assembly
  • create jobs through a program of massive investment in public works
  • invest massively in education, health care and infrastructure development in general

There is however a limit to what the Iraqi working class could achieve on its own without the class support of the other oppressed working classes in the neighbouring countries of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Kuwait and the rest of the Middle East that equally face the twin-problem of imperialist/capitalist domination and sectarian division.

But this will be a major challenge. Some of the extremely conservative and right wing of the ruling classes in these countries are clever at exploiting the prevalent anti-imperialist sentiments in the region to hold themselves out as anti-west champions while they do not hesitate to clamp down on the populace at the slightest attempt to demand or assert political and economic rights. Such has been the case in Syria where the Aziz dynasty remains solely in charge of political power and Iran where a conservative clique of clerics ultimately determines the political direction and frequently kills or jails radical oppositionists.

On the other side of the divide are the ruling classes that survive on the direct patronage of Imperialism such as in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt etc, though equally repressive and ruthless in dealing with their people.

If American imperialism is so edgy about Iran's nuclear ambition, it is because of its capability to tilt the balance of power in favour of its most hated enemies in the Middle East besides the precarious situation that imperialist-backed Israel would find itself.

But there are clear indicators that imperialism is losing out in the Middle East. Outcome of Palestinian elections that has seen Hamas, the Islamic movement branded a terrorist organization by the US; emerging victorious in the recent Palestine elections is an example. Threats by Israel that it would not deal with a Hamas government and by the US led West that it would withdraw aid will not remove the reality of a Hamas led Palestine. It would probably drive it into the political and financial orbit of the likes of Iran.

Basically, it must be understood that the victory itself is rooted in the years of Intifada (uprising) that came to be led by Hamas, the rejection of Israeli occupation and the hatred by the masses of the corrupt Fatah ruling class founded and led many years by the late Yasser Arafat.

But having come to power, the Palestinian masses will look less to Hamas to continue with suicide bombings, but more to end corruption and provide jobs for restless youths in addition to delivering on education, health, food etc besides providing for returning refugees. This will be a major challenge should imperialism stick to its threat to isolate Hamas and if Israel goes to the extreme of partial economic blockade.

If Fatah's rotten rule has been replaced by a movement armed with the correct political and ideological perspective, then it would have been possible to have made class appeal to the working masses in Israel who equally will hope that years of wars and bombings will end. In the absence of this, its continuing anti-Israel rhetoric could drive the Israel working class towards supporting anti-Palestine policies of its ruling class.

More than anything else, what Hamas' victory in Palestine has shown however is the fact that there is a strong potential for an alternative political organization of the working class to be formed, built and developed on the basis of appeal to class unity and socialist transformation of the Middle East. With growing political resistance in such key Middle East countries as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the leadership of the working class in the region will be expected to play the decisive vanguard role in the crystallisation of such a movement.


Socialist Democracy May 2006