ALLIANCE! A Revolutionary Communist Quarterly
Published by Alliance Marxist-Leninist (North America) – Summer 2005
October Communist Organization of Spain
On the London Bombings
May 5th UNITE-HERE was poised to launch the biggest healthcare laundry strike in US history, which would have included workers at a plant in Durham, North Carolina, servicing the Duke Health System. Seven plants would have been involved in all, in Stockton, Fresno, and Antioch (California), Batavia (New York), Dallas and Wichita Falls (Texas), and Durham. Workers at eight other plants promised not to cross picket lines if strikers came there and workers at the rest of Angelica’s facilities staged actions in support. The Service Employees International Union pledged not to service Angelica trucks at hospitals and Angelica truck drivers in the Teamsters International Union promised not to drive that day. The strike was called off because Angelica management was willing to negotiate with the union and because the Company had extra linens and temporary workers to break the strike, according to Union organizers. A settlement was announced June 14th.
According to Bishara Clark, a UNITE-HERE organizer in Durham, 66 community members representing many worker and social justice organizations protested at the Durham plant from 5am to 5pm that day in support of the union. According to the Durham Herald-Sun, organizers estimated that 8 to 10 workers would strike, in the face of recent firings and harassment of pro-union workers. About 80% of the workforce has signed cards in 2004 for unionization. UNITE-HERE represents about 440,000 workers and its Angelica campaign has been going on for about 18 months.<>
Angelica Corporation performs laundry services, predominantly for healthcare facilities. It is the largest US linen service company. It employs 5575 workers in 35 plants in 13 states. UNITE-HERE already represents workers at 2/3rds of Angelica facilities but how the union can expand was not negotiated (until now). The Union wanted to use the card check procedure for unionization, in which 50% plus one of the workers at a plant have to agree before a union is formed, versus a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) secret ballot election, which Angelica wanted. Each side said the other party’s procedure allows for pressure and intimidation of workers. Card check is a much faster method than an NLRB election. Another difference is that an NLRB election can be won based on getting a majority of votes while victory in a card check requires a majority of eligible voters.
UNITE-HERE accused Angelica of endangering the health and safety of employees and customers and treating its workers poorly. Angelica workers handle linen contaminated with blood, wastes, and sharp objects from medical facilities. In one shift a worker could be exposed to 10,000 pieces of linen. As the sources of individual items are not identified, identification of risks is difficult if a worker is exposed. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Angelica in 17 different investigations of unsafe conditions and Angelica may have to pay up to $435,000 dollars in federal and state fines. In 2004 the National Workers’ Rights Board found that Angelica did not have safe and healthy operations. In Phoenix a worker went over a year without getting vaccinated after being exposed to potentially contaminated blood, while the vaccination is supposed to be gotten within ten days of exposure, according to Union organizer Fernando Bribiezca. The Union says that prior to its campaign Angelica required workers to refuse vaccination for the blood-borne disease Hepatitis B. Many workers have had repetitive strain injuries and amputations because of high-speed equipment. In Vallejo, California the Company removed guards from a machine and removed a quick stop button, and a worker then lost a finger in the machine. Angelica is accused of moving carts of dirty laundry through washed linen storage areas and of not having consistent procedures for washing after employees work with contaminated linens. Facilities are cleaned by raking trash and compressed air “blow downs” of surfaces, according to UNITE-HERE. This leads to the Union’s accusation that Angelica sacrifices quality for quantity.
Angelica had financial troubles a few years ago but is now stronger, since January 2004 having expanded its credit rating from $70 to$150 million dollars and having bought seven new facilities. The new CEO since September 2003 received a $25,000 bonus after a year, increasing his salary to $405,000 dollars. Most workers make less than $10 dollars an hour. Angelica spent $1.1 million dollars opposing UNITE-HERE in 2004. NLRB finds merit in 47 complaints of unfair labor practices at Angelica filed by workers.
The campaign in Durham started after Duke University outsourced its linen services to Angelica April 16, 2004. AFSME Local 77 represented these workers before privatization, which it could not stop, but was able to have workers moved to other Duke jobs (according to Local 77 President William McKnight). Ten temporary workers remained after privatization and asked UNITE-HERE to help them. When Angelica took over wages dropped, by about a dollar for most people. Disrespectful treatment of workers increased, such as a manager yelling at a worker, reducing her to tears. A worker complained about pain in his hands but was told to rest a moment, not by a doctor, and then to return to work. After work he was told that he should see a doctor.
Several workers have been fired or had pay cuts, allegedly for union activity. The NC Division of Labor fined Angelica $1,925 dollars for problems with its linen conveyor system and poor worker training, three citations, after a bag of laundry weighing more than 100 pounds fell 15 feet on to a worker’s foot. Workers complain about favoritism, the speed of work, disrespect by managers, and sexual harassment of pro-union employees. UNITE-HERE says safety training is inadequate and that caution signs were not posted.
Five anti-union workers are allegedly given the easiest jobs, using machines that make work less strenuous, according to Bribiezca. New workers are placed with the anti-union workers to persuade them to oppose unionization. Pro-union workers are given less overtime, reducing their income. Organizers say workers are separated racially, so that units are composed of mostly black or Latino workers, instead of being more mixed. A Latino supervisor allegedly discriminates against blacks, and management has not answered complaints about this.<>>
During a very cold period in January there was a spontaneous walkout because management would not turn on the heat. It was so cold that a frozen towel broke into pieces, and workers had to bundle up, allowing their clothes to become contaminated. A walkout was being planned because of harassment of union supporters, arbitrary work hours, etc. The five workers involved were illegally suspended for four hours and written up. An old attendance policy was suddenly enforced after OSHA came to investigate workers’ complaints and was used to fire Darrelle Lindsey and Reggie Cameron, walkout participants, who have been given jobs as local volunteer organizers for the Union. Management increased harassment of two workers for legally participating in a bargaining conference in California in April. Five workers have been fired, including Juwana Ross, the main union leader, who was fired in late May. 27 complaints, mostly relating to the walkout have been filed with the NLRB and found to have merit, but Angelica settled the charges out of court.
The organizers have high praise for the fighting spirit of the workers in Durham. Angelica workers have testified at worker’s rights board hearings organized by Triangle Jobs with Justice, including one in March during the annual statewide Pilgrimage for Justice and Peace.
For more information about the national campaign see www.unitehere.org. Duke SAS’ website is www.threadonline.net/community/dukesas.
Workers, students, and community members accuse the ARAMARK Corporation, which runs dining services at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and Duke University, of wrongly firing workers, treating workers without dignity, cheating customers, and unsanitary operations, mirroring problems seen nationally. ARAMARK is a $10 billion dollar company with 200,000 employees providing food service at schools, stadiums, hospitals, and prisons, uniforms, childcare, healthcare, and periodical distribution. It has a major role in profiting from prisons, according to the Engaged Zen Foundation. In 2002 ARAMARK was the third largest food service company globally and the second largest uniform rental company in the country. It also operates in Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Mexico, Spain, and Britain.
ARAMARK grew rapidly after its founding in 1959. Between then and now it was also charged with monopolistic practices and corruption. According to an article in MIT’s Thistle newspaper and business directories, in 1964 ARAMARK agreed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to sell $7.7 million dollars worth of its recently acquired vending machine holdings to prevent monopoly charges. In 1973 the FTC again found the ARAMARK to be monopolistic and required the Company to sell some of its vending and periodical holdings, as well as needing FTC permission to expand in certain businesses. In 1979 the FTC won a $300,000 dollar civil penalty from ARAMARK for violating the 1973 agreement and further divestments of holdings. In another lawsuit the Company was fined $80,000 dollars for conspiring to fix cigarette prices in Ohio and Georgia. In Hawaii a former ARAMARK official admitted to trying to under-bid rivals and then raise prices once they were crushed. The Human Rights Campaign says ARAMARK systematically discriminates against and fires queer employees. In Texas, Colorado, and California ARAMARK has faced fines, lawsuits, and decertification for major violations of nursing home regulations. There have been several workers’ rights lawsuits or disputes with the company nationwide in recent years.
According to the Thistle, in 1977 ARAMARK admitted to giving out $393,000 dollars between 1970 and ‘76 to influence state contract bids and to having received $504,000 dollars in shady or illegal rebates during the same time. In 1983 a Boston School Committee member admitted to extorting $50,000 dollars from ARAMARK after giving it a $40 million dollar contract. ARAMARK paid a former employee and FBI agent $167,000 dollars and lawyer fees so he would not discuss ARAMARK’s ties to the mafia.
The Case of Lezlie Sumpter
ARAMARK took over at UNC in 2001 from Sodexho, another service company with bad labor practices, according to United Students Against Sweatshops. It had lost an earlier contract at UNC. June 11, 2004 ARAMARK fired Lezlie Sumpter, a long-time employee at Lenoir dining hall’s Ram Cafe after she complained to management about sexual harassment by a manager. She was fired for “making malicious allegations against a manager” and “improper personal conduct,” because she allegedly violated a company gag rule, according to her termination notice. She claims that managers were improperly discussing her case and not thoroughly investigating her complaint. She says this manager similarly harassed other employees at work and at his apartment. Another employee has confirmed for this article that she was harassed similarly. This manager is now moving to UNC’s massive new Rams Head Center, behind Kenan Stadium, due to open in March. Last May when an employee was accused of sexually harassing an Upward Bound student, he was quickly fired. Students believe Sumpter was fired because she was an outspoken employee and had disputes with management in the past. An evaluation a few weeks before she was fired had given Sumpter high marks.
Sumpter says she was threatened by a manager in March 2003 for telling police to include that manager in a theft investigation. In August 2003 an account was mixed up and a different manager threatened Sumpter and improperly discussed business outside of work. When UNC reduced the hours of the cafe in November 2003, managers wanted to demote Sumpter from supervisor to dishwasher. Sumpter refused to take the position and was able to remain at the Ram Cafe (now Java City), but as a food service worker.
Allegations of Worker Mistreatment, Cheating of Customers, and Unhealthy Conditions
Managers at UNC have allegedly avoided paying earned overtime (since resolved), wrongfully labeled full-time workers as part-time, and discriminated against Latino employees. An employee and a former student worker say that Latino workers were given the worst jobs and treated disrespectfully by managers and other workers because of language problems. ARAMARK does allow workers to take a course to learn English, but reportedly it has been made more difficult to attend. A manager using racial slurs was fired and there are allegations that there was another official using slurs, who was fired for an unrelated reason. Although many complaints have been resolved, still employees were transferred or fired, allegedly for advocating unions. Workers see managers as systematically using intimidation, overwork, arbitrary transfers, and firings while other managers cover this behavior.
Employees and students allege that ARAMARK cheated its customers. In summer 2002 and sporadically afterward a regular house blend of coffee was sold as a more expensive gourmet blend in Java City, according to Sumpter, a current employee, and a former student worker at Java City. The manager who is accused of harassment is said to have told employees to make the substitution. This was allegedly done because the store is neglected and often out of necessary materials. Only UNC would benefit from the extra profit according to Mike Freeman.
There are also allegations of unsanitary conditions, although Lenoir dining hall consistently gets good sanitation grades and has pest control programs. Sumpter says there was a cockroach infestation, which managers treated lightly. At the Rams Head Center shortly after opening there was a clogged drain, which was found to contain maggots. Workers say that managers did not act promptly to prevent the possibility of maggots getting to food on lower floors once the drain had been opened up. Signs that a rat was living under a salad bar were ignored until the rat literally came out on a weekday afternoon last spring. Mike Freeman says that the rat may have come from a nearby building under renovation, using a building code violation at Lenoir. A former student worker say rodents once or twice, meaning there could be a rodent infestation. Spilled food is allegedly re-used. A sickness on Campus last spring was cause by a Norwalk virus, indicating that it was not necessarily ARAMARK’s fault.
Activists representing student, community, and national groups protested ARAMARK at Lenoir, including marching inside the building, November 22nd. They demanded that Sumpter be compensated and that her name be cleared and they advocated a contractor code of conduct. ARAMARK and University officials have not commented on the specific charges.
A National Union Organizing Campaign Comes to North Carolina
Since then this issue has become part of a vibrant community campaign supporting ARAMARK workers’ right to organize and for a worker allegedly targeted because she was pro-union. Student Action with Workers / Students Against Sweatshops (SAW) organized the campaign working with a coalition of student and community organizations. The Chapel Hill NAACP has been working with Sumpter in negotiating with ARAMARK’s lawyers on the basis of new and old evidence of her allegations. Associate University Counsel Joanna Carey Smith is interested in meeting with her after Sumpter spoke at a meeting between SAW and administrators.
A joint campaign by the Service Employees International Union and UNITE-HERE to organize food service workers nationwide began this year. This campaign to organize Service Workers United targets Compass, ARAMARK, and Sodexho service workers in schools, prisons, hospitals, and corporations. Organizing is going on in California, Phoenix, Florida, Boston, New York, Chicago, and elsewhere. In North Carolina Meredith, St. Mary’s, UNC-Greensboro, and other colleges have organizing campaigns, and service workers at a pharmaceutical company.
In North Carolina ARAMARK is the dominant food service company and it is one of the largest employers in Orange County, where UNC is located, having 380 employees. ARAMARK is officially neutral on unionization and 19% of its workforce is already unionized. About 70% of the workers have signed cards to organize a union so far. The union wants workers to be able to vote for the union by card checking, with ARAMARK and UNC being neutral on the vote, while ARAMARK wants a National Labor Relations Board vote. An NLRB vote happens after 30% of the workers in a unit request an election and can take years because of bureaucratic hurdles, giving a company time to intimidate or fire union supporters, and allowing the company to lobby against the union, according to SAW. Card checking results in unionization after one worker over 50% of the workforce signs a union card. An NLRB election can be won based on getting a majority of votes while victory in a card check requires a majority of eligible voters. ARAMARK says card checking could pressure workers.
Organizing at UNC took off this year and community meetings began in February.
March 2nd ARAMARK sent a letter to its employees saying that the company cared for their interests and misrepresenting how unions work, according to students. SAW wrote a counter-letter. A national email campaign has sent 947 emails to UNC officials supporting SAW’s demands, as of April 11th (see www.unionvoice.org). There have been small disputes between students and ARAMARK (and a manager at the Student Store) over distributing flyers and wearing union paraphernalia. SAW organized daily events during Labor Solidarity Week/Farmworker Awareness Week in late March, culminating in a large demonstration Monday, April 4th.
The protest focused on supporting popular Lenoir cashier Vel Dowdy after she was suspended with pay for alleged felony food embezzlement. Dowdy was interviewed by investigators March 2nd and removed in handcuffs by Campus Police March 25th. Dowdy and her boyfriend are pro-union and activists believe she was watched and targeted to intimidate other workers. According to officials she was filmed allowing students to eat free four times and was suspended after weeks of investigation. Only managers have the right to treat customers with company cards. Mike Freeman, Directory of UNC’s Auxiliary Services, which oversees CDS, says he discovered her crime by coincidence, was required to report it, and that ARAMARK might have been more lenient. Many students love Dowdy and felt she was one of the best parts of the CDS. According to union organizers Dowdy accepted a plea bargain and no longer works at UNC and is barred from coming on Campus, but has a new job nearby. The Union was prepared to defend her in court and thought she had a strong case.
More than 300 people protested to support Dowdy, Sumpter, and workers’ right to organize April 4th, supported by the Black Student Movement, Campus YMCA, Carolina Hispanic Association, Chapel Hill NAACP, UE Local 150, a former student body presidential candidate, and others. Protesters met at the Pit in front of Lenoir dining hall and then walked through the building, to Chancellor Moeser’s South Building office, and then returned to the Pit and ARAMARK’s new Rams Head Center. A petition with more than 700 signatures supporting the union’s demands and Dowdy was given to a University secretary. SAW requested a meeting between the Chancellor, ARAMARK, and SAW. About 12 activists and workers had a meeting with two University officials and a University observer on April 12th.
SAW viewed lower level meetings as Moeser stalling, so it began a wait-in the next day at South Building in which students continuously occupied the lobby. After three-and-a-half hours the Chancellor agreed to a meeting between the Administration, ARAMARK, and SAW. Moeser claimed that it would be illegal for the University to endorse card checking, which SAW disputes. The University set up a meeting between itself and ARAMARK and requested that the Company meet with the students. ARAMARK set up the meeting with little notice and would not meet with workers and students together, claiming workers would be intimidated, so it met with each group separately. They agreed to resolve specific complaints but not to allow card checking, which did not satisfy SAW.
SAW protested at South Building to pressure the administration to meet with workers. On the 21st the union organized a workers’ demonstration in the Pit, through Lenoir, to South Building, where 14 workers met with Carey Smith. Workers spoke to the Chancellor again at his annual open house, dominating the meeting, according to activists. About 50 workers recently requested a meeting with Evan Clingman, ARAMARK’s UNC general manager, but it was cancelled at the last minute because of an emergency, but workers found him in his office and request a new meeting. [ ]
Duke University has a similar situation following privatization of eateries in 2001, according to Duke’s Chronicle newspaper. A problematic manager from Lenoir dining hall was recently sent there to streamline operations. The firing of a 19-year Marketplace employee has caused open worker discontent. Managers reportedly intimidate and overwork employees, according to the Chronicle. AFSCME Local 77 represents the Duke’s ARAMARK workers and agreed to privatization but is dissatisfied because ARAMARK does not provide all of the promised training and incentives according Local 77’s President William McKnight. Student government has censured ARAMARK for low quality service.
The Chronicle reports that ARAMARK has similar problems at several other universities. At the University of Michigan ARAMARK broke a pre-existing contract with AFSCME Local 1583 and fired or moved 39 employees. 125 students at Sam Houston State University got food poisoning from ARAMARK food. 127 students contracted salmonella at an Aramark eatery at Pomona College. At Clarmont McKenna College ARAMARK is accused of age, gender, and racial discrimination and violating workers’ rights.
SAW held weekly solidarity events during the spring (see www.uncsolidarity.org). There may be SAW activities during the summer sessions.
Watch for future local updates in Triangle Free Press.
Boycott of Taco Bell Ends in Victory for Farmworkers
On March 8th a four-year boycott of Taco Bell called by the Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) ended. The CIW won an agreement to increase tomato harvesters’ wages by a surcharge of a penny per pound (a 70% wage increase, up from 1.4 cents per pound of tomatoes, according to The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky) and amendments to Yum! Brands, Inc.’s Supplier Code of Conduct. Suppliers are now strictly required to operate lawfully, to not practice slavery, and unannounced inspections will be held. Yum! can now end a contract based on violation of the Code of Conduct. The pay increase will only cost Yum! about $100,000 dollars, to be absorbed by the Company. This agreement is between CIW and suppliers, similar to the agreement ending the Farm Labor Organizing Committee’s boycott of the Mount Olive Pickle Company (see Alliance! December 2004). Yum! is the owner of Taco Bell, A&W All-American Food Restaurants, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Long John Silver’s and is the largest fast food company in the world, in the number of restaurants. The CIW and Yum! will jointly monitor agreement compliance. The two parties, with the Florida Tomato Committee, a growers’ organization, will lobby for stronger Florida laws regarding working conditions. Yum! will encourage other companies, including supermarkets, to increase farmworker wages.
About 1500 workers will be affected by the agreement, out of about 3500 workers in the tomato industry, according to the CIW. This victory occurred just days before the CIW’s second Taco Bell Truth Tour reached Yum! Brands’ headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky for a demonstration March 12th . During the Tour about 80 Immokalee workers spoke at 15 cities on their way to Kentucky.
The CIW is based in southwestern Florida, a major agricultural region, and has about 2500 members, mainly Latino, Haitian, and Guatemalan Maya immigrants who harvest fresh tomatoes and citrus in Florida and other states. After tourism, agriculture is Florida’s largest industry. Many of the workers are employed by Immokalee companies but work as far away as Pennsylvania during the harvesting season. Florida supplies 95% of all American grown tomatoes consumed domestically between October and June and 45% of yearly consumption. The Coalition was formed in 1993. It succeeded in raising wages 13-25% by 1998, to the pre-1980 tomato piece rate, and exposed slavery and indentured servitude, freeing about 1000 workers. The CIW helped expose five slave operations in 6 years, the most recent one in November 2002, resulting in three crewleaders from Lake Placid, Florida being sentenced to a total of 31 years and 9 months in federal prison and confiscation of $3 million dollars. The men had threatened to kill workers and pistol-whipped and assaulted drivers for a service transporting farmworkers. 700 workers were freed after two years of investigation by the CIW. More enslaved farmworkers have been found by other groups since. The Coalition was a founder of the Freedom Network Institute on Human Trafficking, a national group, and belongs to two state anti-slavery organizations.
The CIW organized three general strikes in Immokalee and it publicized its cause through a month long hunger strike by six members in 1998, a 230-mile march in Florida in 2000, and other actions. According to Campus Progress, these methods were not very effective on the employers targeted, so the CIW targeted Taco Bell. The CIW demanded that the piece rate be increased by 1 cent per pound and that working conditions be improved. The Taco Bell boycott, begun in April 2001 after Taco Bell ignored the CIW’s requests, was the first farmworker-led boycott of a large fast-food company. Campaigns like the CIW’s have succeeded in pressuring companies like Starbucks, chocolate producers, and now Taco Bell. In 2003 75 farmworkers and students fasted for 10 days outside of Taco Bell’s headquarters in Irvine California, one of the largest such actions in American history. At one point 33% of Yum!’s shareholders endorsed a resolution calling for the Company to report on the labor and environmental impact of its supply chain. 3-7% is the usual percentage of votes in shareholder campaigns of this kind.
Taco Bell has 6,500 restaurants in the USA and made about $3.10 billion dollars in sales in 2004, serving 35 million customers a week (from a joint press release and Standard and Poor’s catalogue of companies).
Tomato pickers are paid 40 –50 cents per 32 lb. bucket harvested, requiring harvesters to pick 2 tons of tomatoes to earn $50 dollars. This piece rate has been in decline since 1978 due to inflation while company profits increase, according to the CIW and Oxfam America. The uninflated wage was only 1/3rd of what it was in 1985 (Campus Progress, March 18, 2005). A piece rate of 40 cents in 1980 equals 92 cents today. According to Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, farmworkers’ pay has dropped greatly nationally, for example in California, where wages have halved since 1980, adjusting for inflation.
Wages are variable because of weather, travel time, pay by piece rate, etc., and there is often cheating by employers, although the piece rate is legally required to be at or above minimum wage. The CIW says this makes Taco Bell’s claim that some workers are paid well, at $9 dollars an hour, misleading. In 2000 farmworkers had a median annual income of $7500 dollars, much less than the national poverty level, according to the US Department of Labor.
Farmworkers also lack benefits, many legal protections, such as overtime (they are not covered by the National Labor Relations Act), and the many immigrant farmworkers have even fewer legal protections.
Taco Bell argued that, since it did not employ farmworkers, and because it was a minor purchaser of Florida tomatoes (10 million pounds, less than 1% of the 2004 harvest), it was not part of the problem. The CIW argued that Taco Bell was complicit in and benefiting from the poverty of farmworkers and that it had the leverage to change the conditions. Taco Bell is part of Yum!’s Unified Foodservice Purchasing Co-op, which uses Yum!’s combined purchasing power to decrease prices of materials, making Taco Bell’s share of the Florida tomato harvest irrelevant. The Co-op is the largest organization of its kind in the quick service restaurant industry, according to its website, and it spends $4.35 billion dollars a year. According to the CIW Yum! and other businesses use this buying power to decrease supply costs and the suppliers try to profit by decreasing labor costs, since they can’t control prices. This effect is illustrated by the fact that in 1990 tomato suppliers received 41% of the consumer price of tomatoes, while ten years later they received only about 25% of the final cost, according to Oxfam America. This is similar to the situation in the beef industry and other agribusinesses, where suppliers lose control of the price because they face a single buyer in their market (monopsony), meaning the buyers can set the price (see Alliance! April [??] 2004).
Taco Bell probably has contractual control over its suppliers. This information is usually confidential, but it has been revealed that Taco Bell has a long-term contract with Six L’s Packing Company, an Immokalee tomato supplier and one of the largest American fresh tomato suppliers. Six L’s Packing pays a low 40 cent piece rate. The Company monitored suppliers for food safety and quality, but not working conditions.
Taco Bell refused to meet the CIW’s demands but on other issues it was more forthcoming. It required its suppliers to treat livestock more humanely. Yum! was one of the first companies to stop advertising during ABC’s Desperate Housewives because of moral concerns.
Taco Bell targets the 18-24 year old age group, so students were the focus and major players in the boycott. The Student Farmworker Alliance’s Boot the Bell campaign involved about 300 college and universities about 50 high schools, and 11 national student groups. The campaign’s first victory was at the University of Chicago, followed by UCLA, Notre Dame, Cal State San Bernadino, the University of Texas – Austin, and others. Ultimately twenty-one universities refused to contract with Taco Bell. Boycott committees were formed in almost every state. The National Council of Churches (representing 50 million people), the Presbyterian Church (USA), Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, Catholic churches in Louisville, and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights supported the campaign. President Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center was involved in the negotiations. Actors such as Jeffrey Bridges, Martin Sheen, and Susan Sarandon joined.
Taco Bell says that the boycott did not hurt its sales figures (which increased greatly over the last three years), but when it found suppliers willing to meet the CIW’s demands it ended its opposition. Yum!’s senior vice president for public affairs, Jonathan Blum, told The Courier-Journal that the Company had proposed similar reforms before, but did not have growers willing to implement them. Yum! initially claimed that it could not increase wages without the entire industry agreeing to do it. This is very similar to what happened when the Farm Labor Organizing Committee demanded that the Mt. Olive Pickle Company work to improve the condition of farmworkers. In 2004 Yum! tried to pay the CIW about $110,000 dollars, to cover the one cent surcharge, which the CIW refused (according to an article from Washington University). After the agreement Blum said that Yum! was “taking a leadership role within the industry to be part of the solution.” Todd Howland, director of the RFK Memorial Center, said that Yum! “has shown that companies can and should reach for a higher standard than their bottom line,” not profiting off poverty. This victory follows the victorious end of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee’s 5-and-a-half year Mt Olive pickle boycott last September. CIW is pressuring McDonald’s, subway, and Burger King to follow Taco Bell’s example, and emails can be sent from its website, www.ciw-online.org, under “Breaking News”).
HISTORY OF THE
CORRESPONDENCE: JUNE 2005.
ON THE CHARACTER OF THE USSR STATE IN THE STALIN YEARS
Recently on the e-list `Stalinist', there
has been an exchange on whether or not the
USSR in the period of
Stalin was a "military
A few brief quotations from three notes are provided:
Firstly from CmL on 22 June 2005:
"I believe that it is pretty much obvious that in history Stalin – [represented – ED] a Military dictatorship. I also believe (in a
shortened version) that as long as the dictator is not crazed and evil, such as in the case of Hitler, the people of a country will
feel safer, in turn be more productive, which will allow the people of foreign nations to see the productivity and ask "Why not my
country?", and join their Communist or Socialist parties, get involved, and in time get enough people to understand so that they
are capable of having such government. To me, military dictatorship represents stability and safety, and under a Communist system, you do not have to worry about your rights and values being in jeopardy as is the case with the United States (i.e they tell you how great your freedom is, they destroy your economy, keep you from getting a good education that would allow you to advance in social class, and FINALLY, if you question or oppose them in any public way, you can expect to be thrown in jail, followed, or monitored constantly).
Look at rivalry between dictatorships though. Look at WWII. Stalin crushed the Germans (as powerful as they were) because the people
were so ambitious and proud. They had such pride in their homeland, and marched all the way to Berlin fueled by this. Even though you
can look at it and say "Ya, well, the Americans and British were fighting Germany too.", you have to look at how they were doing what
it was taking two other countries to do, and they arrived in Berlin first.
If war had broken out during the Cold War era, the Soviets would have prevailed, because of this same enthusiasm. They had
written plans to keep their factories and facilities running even in the event of nuclear war. If the military dictatorship assembled by Stalin had not existed, then Russia would have never became the great industrial power that it is today. It would still be a rural backwards nation,
with oppressed people if not for Stalin. His effective dictatorship industrialized that country in a matter of years, what had taken
other nations half a century to achieve. If you look at this, then it gives politicians plenty of reason to be jealous of him, and to
make up stories of awful things, so people do not see the true man and his genius.
Military dictatorships (in the right hands) are the most effective form of government in the long run.
Secondly from `Mouse' in two notes, on
the 21st June and the 26th
June, we read:
`Stalin did represent a militaristic
dictatorship. It is through such a
political system that he accomplished as much as he did. He planted the
of national pride in his people alongside balancing and righting the
market and so forth. Stalin did not use his militaristic penchant to
his people – although you are of course free to decide that for
understand that he used it to protect his people from outside threats
furthermore to maintain structure, order, and fair class balance.
I support a militaristic dictatorship because as much as I relish a good fight I am just as interested in realizing my personal potential. I desire a strong leader that is proficient on the international scene but also dedicated to taking care of business at home. Someone that inspires the classes into a respectable harmony and opens the door for a productive and constructive co-existence. I am being sensible. It is my dream to focus on making a difference in my life and although fighting class oppression is a large part of that, I am not content to stop there. I long for a leader to restore order so that I may become that something more and do more to help my people and my country.
I do not reckon that is so outrageous. I am not a traitor. I do not lend a hand to the bourgeois fat cats. I am only being realistic. It makes no sense to me to fight, in simple, for the sake of it. I long for resolution and closure. I thought that was the point of being a Communist. I thought our cause was to fight to restore order so that our people could, at the end, find peaceable contentment. In a militaristic dictatorship, as in Stalin's Soviet Union, the bourgeoisie could not abuse the proletariat because of the strict guidelines that opposed it. .."
‘Mouse’ later writes also as follows:
"I agree with Chase and the Political
Philosopher. In a militaristic
dictatorship there is a strong focus on national pride and
structure. In the obtainment and establishment of structure you in turn provide the people a set order and that breeds a sense of
safety and security. People can not feel safe in the absence of structure and order. In society, the founding and application of
disciplined boundaries is the impetus of a productive populace. One is not going to be capable of motivation or ambition if he resides
in a perpetual state of chaos. In respect to pride, that is the identity of the people ... and of course, in groups as in
individuals, the absence or loss of identity is the fundamental catalyst for crisis, discordance and desperation.
….I concur that in the right hands, a dictator is the best political option. For one, once he is in office, he stays. You do
not find yourself biting your nails because of the relentless and exhausting custom of political "musical chairs." Second, it establishes set order and structure and therefore a more grounded and stable populace. C. is right – in a militaristic dictatorship both production and personal potential goes through the roof. People at last understand their surroundings and no longer harbour the fears and doubts they once had. People become accomplished and proud – and because of that you get the result cited on Berlin. In a democracy, you have, in simple, disorganized chaos. People can not become accomplished or productive under such a system. It is in our nature to be structured and ordered. It is the deciding factor that lets us explore and realize our potential – both as individuals and as a populace. It is basic human psychology. Mouse; Saturday 25 June 2005
Summarised, these letters opine that:
1) military dictatorship is preferable to any other form of government on behalf of the working class;
2) Democratic forms of government are unable to be effective in harnessing the potential of humans.
3) That human psychology is a fixed entity and cannot be changed.
4) That Stalin was a military dictator.
The editors of Alliance consider that the exchange has been to date quite un-dialectical, and one un-informed of prior debates. It certainly appears to us that the correspondents are either forgetting the principles of the dictatorship of the proletariat, or have never grasped it.
We believe it is not inappropriate therefore to first of all, revise some of the principles embodied in this theory that although first initiated by Marx and Engels, was made easily accessible by V.I.Lenin in "State and Revolution", first published in December 1918. The year of publication is not an accident, since Lenin was grappling with the creation of a new society.
Having reviewed these principles we will attempt – all too briefly at this juncture – to show how far Stalin valued the `democratic' aspect of the `dictatorship of the proletariat', before two key events occurred. These were the onset of the Yezhov purges which were directed at the best of the proletariat, peasants and Bolsheviks – in order to undermine the steps towards socialism. And secondly the war.
Some Key Principles underlined by Lenin in `State and revolution’
Lenin's work is easily accessible to all who wish to pursue the question of the character of socialist democracy and the nature of
the dictatorship of the proletariat, in more detail. Our task here is to synopsize the main points to assess whether or not,
the `dictatorship of the proletariat' is the same as a `military dictatorship'? At the same time we will explore the meaning of the
term `dictatorship' in relation to the term `democracy'.
Before these objectives can be met, we must first address the question `What is the State'?
Lenin himself started from the definition of Frederick Engels:
"Let us being with the most popular of Engels' works, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, the sixth edition of
which was published in Stuttgart as far back as 1894….. Summing up his historical analysis, Engels says:
"The state is, therefore, by no means a power forced on society from without; just as little is it 'the reality of the ethical
idea,' 'the image and reality of reason,' as Hegel maintains. Rather, it is a product of society at a certain stage of
development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has
cleft into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel. But in order that these antagonisms, classes with
conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in sterile struggle, a power, seemingly standing above
society became necessary for the purpose of moderating the conflict, of keeping it within bounds of 'order'; and this power, arisen out
of society, but placing itself above it, and increasingly alienating itself more and more from it, is the state." (Pp.177-78, sixth
Lenin V.I: "State and revolution" at: http://www.marx2mao.com/Lenin/SR17.html;
Or in Volume 2 Selected
Works; Moscow; 1977; p.243;
The bulk of Lenin's article is aimed at
unraveling the way in which the
socialist state was to develop; concretely, in the circumstances
following the 1917 seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in the new Soviet state. Lenin was dealing with the objections from anarchist
and Mensheviks, that the new state should be one that was "state-less", or `withered away'. Opponents of the Bolsheviks argued for
the disintegration of the state, justifying it by citing Engels - who had used the term the `withering away of the state". Lenin put
it this way:
"Engels' words regarding the "withering away" of the state are so widely known, they are often quoted, and so clearly reveal the
essence of the customary adulteration of Marxism to look like opportunism that we must deal with them in detail. We shall quote
the whole argument from which they are taken:
"The proletariat seizes the state power and transforms the means of production in the first instance into state property. But in doing this, it puts an end to itself as proletariat, it puts an end to all class differences and class antagonisms; its puts an end also to the state as state. Former society, moving in class antagonisms, had need of the state, that is, an organization of the exploiting class at each period for the maintenance of its external conditions of production; that is, therefore, mainly for the forcible holding down of the exploited class in the conditions of oppression (slavery, villeinage or serfdom, wage labor) determined by the existing mode of production. The state was the official representative of society as a whole, its summation in a visible corporation; but it was this only in so far as it was the state of that class which itself, in its epoch, represented society as a whole: in ancient times, the state of slave-owning citizens; in the Middle Ages, of the feudal nobility; in our epoch, of the bourgeoisie. When ultimately it becomes really representative of society as a whole, it renders itself superfluous. As soon as there is no longer any class of society to be held in subjection; as soon as, along with class domination and the struggle for individual existence based on the anarchy of production hitherto, the collisions and excesses arising from these have also been abolished, there is nothing more to be repressed which would make a special repressive force, a state, necessary. The first act in which the state really comes forward as the representative of society as a whole -- the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society -- is at the same time its last independent act as a state. The interference of the state power in social relations becomes superfluous in one sphere after another, and then ceases of itself. The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things and the direction of the processes of production. The state is not 'abolished,' it withers away. It is from this standpoint that we must appreciate the phrase 'a free people's state' -- both its temporary justification for agitational purposes, and its ultimate scientific inadequacy -- and also the demand of the so-called anarchists that the state should be abolished overnight." (Herr Eugen Duhring's Revolution in Science [Anti-Duhring ], pp.301-03, third German edition.)".
Lenin in Ibid p. 248-9.
Lenin traces the evolution of this thought from an early period of the work of Engels and Marx. So for instance Marx points out in an
early work that:
"In The Poverty of Philosophy Marx wrote:
"The working class in the course of its development will substitute for the old bourgeois society an association which will
exclude classes and their antagonism, and there will be no more political power properly so-called, since political power is
precisely the official expression of class antagonism in bourgeois society." (P. 182, German edition, 1885.)"
Cited by Lenin; Ibid p. 251.
But also early on in 1847, in the `Communist Manifesto', Marx and Engels wrote that the purpose of state seizure by the communists was
to seize power in order to `win the battle of democracy' by becoming the "ruling class":
"In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging
within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the
bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat…. "We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the
working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy. ….
The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all
instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of proletariat organised as the ruling class, and to increase the total
of productive forces as rapidly as possible." (Pp. 3I and 37, seventh German edition, 1906.)"
Cited by Lenin; Ibid p. 251.
Lenin cites Marx's letter to Weydemeyer
in order to drive home the distinct
feature of Marxists – who recognise the need for
a `dictatorship of the proletariat':
" In 1907, Mehring, in the magazine Neue Zeit (Vol. XXV, 2, p.164), published extracts from a letter from Marx to Weydemeyer dated
March 5, 1852. This letter, among other things, contains the following remarkable observation:
". . . And now as to myself, no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society, nor yet the struggle
between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this struggle of the classes and bourgeois
economists the economic anatomy of the classes. What I did that was new was to prove: 1) that the existence of classes is only bound up
with particular historical phases in the development of production [historische Entwicklung sphasen der Produktion ]; 2) that the class
struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat; 3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to
the abolition of all classes and to a classless society. . . ."
Lenin Ibid p. 261-2
Lenin ends by putting it clearly that to be Marxist, it is necessary to recognise the need for the dictatorship of the
"For the doctrine of the class struggle was created not by Marx, but by the bourgeoisie before Marx, and generally speaking it is
acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Those who recognize only the class struggle are not yet Marxists; they may be found to be still within
the boundaries of bourgeois thinking and bourgeois politics. To confine Marxism to the doctrine of the class struggle means
curtailing Marxism, distorting it, reducing it to something which is acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Only he is a Marxist who extends the
recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is what constitutes the most
profound difference between the Marxist and the ordinary petty (as well as big) bourgeois."
Lenin Ibid p. 261-2.
But what form was this `dictatorship of the proletariat' to take? This is needed to understand, as the terminology of Mouse and CmL –
`military dictatorship' – might superficially be appear to be vindicated by this view of Lenin's. However this is only true IF we
are to accept the substitution of the "armed people" – for the standing army to be inferred by the term `military dictatorship";
and if one were to accept that under the dictatorship of the proletariat there was no democracy. We will argue that neither can
Lenin put it that Marx and Engels had no pat answers as to how exactly in every day terms the dictatorship of the proletariat would
operate. But they did have at least five governing principles, which they largely derived from an acute analysis of the successes and
failures of the Paris Commune.
The first principle was the need for the suppression of the bourgeois standing army and its substitution by the armed people:
". . . The first decree of the Commune . . . was the suppression of the standing army, and the substitution for it of the armed people."
Cited by Lenin; Ibid p. 267
The second principle was the right of recall of elected officials:
"All officials, without exception, elected and subject to recall at any time, their salaries reduced to the level of ordinary "workmen's
wages" -- these simple and "self-evident" democratic measures, while completely uniting the interests of the workers and the majority of
the peasants, at the same time serve as a bridge leading from capitalism to Socialism. These measures concern the reconstruction
of the state, the purely political reconstruction of society; but, of course, they acquire their full meaning and significance only in
connection with the "expropriation of the expropriators" either being accomplished or in preparation, i.e., with the transformation
of capitalist private ownership of the means of production into social ownership.
"The Commune," Marx wrote, "made that
bourgeois revolutions, cheap government, a reality, by destroying the
greatest sources of expenditure -- the standing army and State functionarism." ""The Commune," Marx wrote, "was to be a working,
not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time. . . ." ". . . Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member
of the ruling class was to represent and repress [ver- und zertreten ] the people in Parliament, universal sufferage was toserve the people, constituted in Communes, as individual suffrage
serves every other employer in the search for the workers, foremen and bookkeepers for his business.""
Cited by Lenin Ibid; p. 269- 70
Third it was necessary to maintain an `un-free state' in the transition period:
"One of the most, if not the most, remarkable observations on the state in the works of Marx and Engels is contained in the following
passage in Engels' letter to Bebel dated March 18-28, 1875. … Engels wrote to Bebel criticizing that same draft of the Gotha
Program which Marx also criticized in his famous letter to Bracke. Referring particularly to the question of the state, Engels said:
".. Taken in its grammatical sense, a free state is one where the state is free in relation to its citizens, hence a state with a
despotic government. The whole talk about the state should be dropped, especially since the Commune, which was no longer a state
in the proper sense of the word. … As, therefore, the state is only a transitional institution which is used in the struggle, in the revolution, in order to hold down one's adversaries by force, it is pure nonsense to talk of a free people's state: so long as the proletariat still uses the state, it does not use it in the
interests of freedom but in order to hold down its adversaries, and as soon as it becomes possible to speak of freedom the state as such
ceases to exist. We would therefore propose to replace state everywhere by the word 'community' [Gemeinwesen ], a good old German
word which can very well represent the French word 'commune.'" (Pp.32I-22 of the German original.)". Lenin Ibid p. 284
As Lenin points out, Marx explicitly uses the term the of dictatorship of the proletariat to mean the period of transition:
"Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. There
corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the
Cited by Lenin p. 301.
Logically Lenin poses the question as to how this `dictatorship' related to `democracy'?
"What, then, is the relation of this dictatorship to democracy? …..
In capitalist society, providing it develops under the most favourable conditions, we have a more or less complete democracy in
the democratic republic. But this democracy is always hemmed in by the narrow limits set by capitalist exploitation, and consequently
always remains, in reality, a democracy for the minority, only for the propertied classes, only for the rich. Freedom in capitalist
society always remains about the same as it was in the ancient Greek republics: freedom for the slave-owners. Owing to the conditions of
capitalist exploitation the modern wage slaves are so crushed by want and poverty that "they cannot be bothered with democracy," "they cannot be bothered with politics"; in the ordinary peaceful course of events the majority of the population is debarred from participation in public and political life. "…..
Democracy for the vast majority of the people, and suppression by force, i.e., exclusion from democracy, of the exploiters and
oppressors of the people -- this is the change democracy undergoes during the transition from capitalism to Communism. ….
Thus, in capitalist society we have a democracy that is curtailed, wretched, false; a democracy only for the rich, for the minority.
The dictatorship of the proletariat, the period of transition to Communism, will for the first time create democracy for the people,
for the majority, along with the necessary suppression of the minority -- the exploiters. Communism alone is capable of giving
really complete democracy, and the more complete it is the more quickly will it become unnecessary and wither away of itself. "
Lenin; Ibid p. 301; 303
Lenin points out that Marx had explicitly pointed to the need for realistically dealing with the long-standing effects of capitalism
on the psyche of the people:
"In the Critique of the Gotha Program
…Marx makes a sober estimate of
exactly how socialist society will have to manage its affairs.
Marx proceeds to make a concrete analysis of the conditions of life of a society in which there will be no capitalism, and says:
"What we have to deal with here" (in analyzing the program of the workers' party) "is a communist society, not as it has developed on
its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically,
morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges." …
"Equal right," says Marx, we indeed have here; but it is still a "bourgeois right," which, like every right, presupposes inequality. Every right is an application of an equal measure to different people who in fact are not alike, are not equal to one another; that is why "equal right" is really a violation of equality and an injustice. In deed, every man, having performed as much social labour as another, receives an equal share of the social product (after the above-mentioned deductions).
But people are not alike: one is strong, another is weak; one is married, another is not, one has more children, another has less, and so on. And the conclusion Marx draws is: ". . . with an equal performance of labour, and hence an equal share in the social consumption fund, one will in fact receive more than another, one will be richer than another, and so on. To avoid all these defects, right instead of being equal would have to be unequal."
Cited by Lenin Ibid; p.304-6.
Fourthly, after the transition period, a higher stage can be envisaged where indeed the state is no longer needed, and `withers':
"In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour, and
therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; after labour has become not only a means of life but
life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the
springs of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly -- only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and
society inscribe on its banners: 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!'"
Only now can we appreciate to the full
the correctness of Engels' remarks
in which he mercilessly ridiculed the absurdity of
combining the words "freedom" and "state." So long as the state exists there is no freedom. When there will be freedom, there will
be no state.
The economic basis for the complete withering away of the state is such a high stage of development of Communism that the antithesis
between mental and physical labour disappears, when there, consequently, disappears one of the principal sources of modern
social inequality -- a source, moreover, which cannot on any account be removed immediately by the mere conversion of the means of
production into public property, by the mere expropriation of the capitalists. This expropriation will create the possibility of an
enormous development of the productive forces. And when we see how incredibly capitalism is already retarding this development, when we
see how much progress could be achieved on the basis of the level of technique now already attained, we are entitled to say with the
fullest confidence that the expropriation of the capitalists will inevitably result in an enormous development of the productive
forces of human society. But how rapidly this development will proceed, how soon it will reach the point of breaking away from the
division of labour, of doing away with the antithesis between mental and physical labour, of transforming labour into "the prime
necessity of life" -- we do not and cannot know. "
Of course UNTIL this higher stage
arrives, there is no question of an
abdication of control by the working class. And this is exercised
by a "state of armed workers":
" Until the "higher" phase of Communism arrives, the Socialists demand the strictest control by society and by the state of the
measure of labour and the measure of consumption; but this control must start with the expropriation of the capitalists, with the
establishment of workers' control over the capitalists, and must be exercised not by a state of bureaucrats, but by a state of armed
workers. Ibid; p. 309.
Finally, the dictatorship of the proletariat encompasses a democracy that transcends the `bourgeois state democracy':
"Democracy is of enormous importance to the working class in its struggle against the capitalists for its emancipation. But democracy
is by no means a boundary not to be overstepped; it is only one of the stages on the road from feudalism to capitalism, and from
capitalism to Communism.
Democracy means equality. The great significance of the proletariat's struggle for equality and of equality as a slogan will be clear if we correctly interpret it as meaning the abolition of classes. But democracy means only formal equality. And as soon as equality is achieved for all members of society in relation to
ownership of the means of production, that is, equality of labour and equality of wages, humanity will inevitably be confronted with
the question of advancing farther, from formal equality to actual equality, i.e., to the operation of the rule, "from each according
to his ability, to each according to his needs." By what stages, by means of what practical measures humanity will proceed to this
supreme aim -- we do not and cannot know. But it is important to realize how infinitely mendacious is the ordinary bourgeois
conception of Socialism as something lifeless, petrified, fixed once for all, whereas in reality only under Socialism will a rapid,
genuine, really mass forward movement, embracing first the majority and then the whole of the population, commence in all spheres of
public and personal life.
Democracy is a form of the state, one of its varieties. Consequently, it, like every state, represents on the one hand the organized, systematic use of violence against persons; but on the other hand it signifies the formal recognition of equality of citizens, the equal right of all to determine the structure of, and
to administer, the state. This, in turn, results in the fact that, at a certain stage in the development of democracy, it first welds
together the class that wages a revolutionary struggle against capitalism -- the proletariat, and enables it to crush, smash to
atoms, wipe off the face of the earth the bourgeois, even the republican bourgeois, state machine, the standing army, the police
and the bureaucracy, and to substitute for them a more democratic state machine, but a state machine nevertheless, in the shape of the
armed masses of workers who develop into a militia in which the entire population takes part.
Here "quantity turns into quality": such a degree of democracy implies overstepping the boundaries of bourgeois society, the
beginning of its socialist reconstruction. If really all take part in the administration of the state, capitalism cannot retain its
hold. And the development of capitalism, in turn, itself creates the premises that enable really "all" to take part in the administration
of the state. Some of these premises are: universal literacy, which has already been achieved in a number of the most advanced
capitalist countries, then the "training and disciplining" of millions of workers by the huge, complex, socialized apparatus of
the postal service, railways, big factories, large-scale commerce, banking, etc., etc.
Given these economic premises it is quite possible, after the overthrow of the capitalists and the bureaucrats, to proceed immediately, overnight, to supersede them in the control of production and distribution, in the work of keeping account of labour and products by the armed workers, by the whole of the armed
From the moment all members of society, or even only the vast majority, have learned to administer the state themselves, have
taken this work into their own hands, have "set going" control over the insignificant minority of capitalists, over the gentry who wish
to preserve their capitalist habits and over the workers who have been profoundly corrupted by capitalism -- from this moment the need
for government of any kind begins to disappear altogether. The more complete the democracy, the nearer the moment approaches when it
becomes unnecessary. The more democratic the "state" which consists of the armed workers, and which is "no longer a state in the proper
sense of the word," the more rapidly does every form of state begin to wither away. "
Lenin Ibid p.311 313
It is readily seen that in the work `State and Revolution' – Lenin effectively deals with the points raised by the recent correspondence. In contrast to the un-dialectical approach of ‘Mouse’ and CmL, Lenin maintains that:
i) A dictatorship of the proletariat is not incompatible with the highest forms of democracy, and one that empowers people to grow both materially and in their capacity to take control;
ii) That there should be no substitution for the `armed people' – certainly not a substitution by a military clique.
iii) That in the transition between the early stage of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the state is not `free', but requires guarding.
To what extent was the reality under the period of Stalin's life time any different from how Lenin viewed this?
PART TWO: An illustration of how Stalin Viewed the Democratic process in the Dictatorship of the Proletariat
In this part, we wish only to point out one matter. That is that the type of active participation in daily life that the people were
enabled to take part in – up to the Yezhov purges – show that the concept of a `military dictatorship' was far from reality as perceived by the peoples.
Both Lenin and Stalin endorsed the fight of the working class and peasantry as one for a dictatorship . But it was for a very particular form of a dictatorship. It was one of a dictatorship of the proletariat, and not one of the "military". Those on the Marxist-Leninist left who propose that Stalin was a `military dictator',
feed into the combined Trotskyist and bourgeois view of the USSR under Stalin.
Even the most objective of bourgeois historians, accede to the view that the general notion of Stalin as a `dictator' in a `totalitarian' state, is convenient for the bourgeois ruling classes. This is made clear by Lewis Siegelbaum, who points out that scholars who were labeled as "revisionist" realised that the conventional view was incorrect.
"For several decades following the Second
World War, American and more
generally Western sociology viewed the Stalin era through the
prism of totalitarianism. Under Stalin, it was argued, the Soviet Union became a full-blown totalitarian society in which formal legality was a mere smokescreen for the dictatorship of the Communist Party and the caprice of ties general secretary, Stalin"….
"Other scholars more directly challenged the usefulness of the totalitarian conceptualization. Relying heavily on the Soviet press
and the Smolensk Party Archive, which had been captured by the Germans in 1941 and subsequently by the Americans,
these "revisionists" rejected the .. image of the Stalinist state as monolithic and all-powerful. It was in their views riddled with internal tensions and contradictions."
Siegelbaum L, Sokolov A: "Stalinism as a Way of Life"; New Haven Yale 1970; p.3, 4 Introduction.
The USSR Was a State of Letter Writers
One small illustration of how the state
was perceived by the people, is
the sheer volume of letters that were written to the leaders of
the party and state.
The amount of correspondence was staggering:
"One of the chief revelations to come from the opening of the Soviet Archives is the sheer volume of letters received by newspapers, as well as party and state leaders and institutions. We now know that in the not atypical month of July 1935, Krest'ianskaia Gazeta (the peasants newspaper) received approximately 26,000 letters. Mikhail Kalinin who as president of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets was one of the most frequent recipients of letters, received an average of 77,000 a year between 12923 and 1935. Throughout 1936 Andrei Zahdanov Leningrad Party secretary received 130 letters a day. The regional party secretary in Denpropetrovsk, Mikhail Khataevich, reported, perhaps with some exaggeration that he received 250 letters per day. Letters also poured in to other newspapers, municipal soviets, procurators' offices, the Peoples Commissariat of internal Affairs (NKVD), party and state commissions, and the offices of Politburo members and government leaders including Stalin."
Siegelbaum; Ibid; Introduction p. 9.
Irrespective of how one views the USSR, it is somewhat improbable that a military dictator would evince billet-douxs addressed in familiar tones as follows:
"The familiar even intimate tone of many of the letters also suggested the link between the personal and the political. .. One notes for example, that letters sent to Mikhail Kalinin president of the Executive Committee of the Soviets, addressed him as `all-Union elder (starosta) – a term combining Soviet and village communal lexicons – and more frequently as `dear uncle' and `grandfather'. Nadezhda Krupskaya, Lenin's widow and an important official in the
RSFR's Commissariat of Education becomes `Dear NK".."
Lewis Siegelbaum and Adrei Sokolov `Stalinism as a Way of Life'; Yale New Haven, 2000; Introduction p. 22.
Siegelbaum is simply an academic, he is
not a communist. Yet even he does
not dispute that these letters are real. Scholars have repetitively
the torrent of letters to both high officials, local officials and the
presses. When the Nazi army invaded into the USSR, it captured various
the city of Smoklensk. These were shopped to Germany, where the USA army seized them at the end of the war.
Many of these letters were used as "the jumping off point for an investigation" [Merle Fainsod; `Smolensk Under Soviet Rule'; London 1958; p.379]. Several examples are given by Fainsod of instances where abuses, both in the kolkhoz and in factories – were highlighted by letter writers, and which forced Soviet authorities to make redress. Fainsod refers to the case of D.V.Gapeshin ` a senior stableman in the `perelom' kolkhoz, who wrote to raikom
secretary [ie secretary of an intermediate administrative layer] on the drunkenness and mismanagement of kolkhoz chairman Volkov. Redress followed, although not without a protracted course [Fainsod p.380-383].
Clearly, high echelons of the party were closely watching what the people were saying. They were in fact encouraging them to speak up
and loudly. Previously we have web-archived Stalin's 1937 rebuke of the un-Bolshevik behaviour of the bureaucrats:
From: J.V.Stalin: "Speech In Reply To Debate" On Bureaucracy 5 March 1937; In `Works'; Volume 14;" Red Star Press Edition;
London; 1978. or at: http://www.allianceml.com/STALIN-TXT/Stalin-bureaucracy.htm
"Two examples to demonstrate the correctness of Lenin's thesis. This happened several years ago. We, the members of the Central Committee, were discussing the question of improving the situation in the Donetz Basin. The measures proposed by the People's Commissariat of Heavy Industry were obviously unsatisfactory. Three times we sent the proposals back to the People's Commissariat of Heavy Industry. And three times we got different proposals from the
People's Commissariat of Heavy Industry. But even then we could not regard them as satisfactory. Finally, we decided to call several workers and lower business and trade union officials from the Donetz Basin. For three days we discussed matters with these comrades. And all of us members of the Central Committee had to admit that only these ordinary workers, these "little people," were able to suggest the proper solution to us. You no doubt remember the decision of the Central Committee and of the Council of People's Commissars on measures for increasing coal output in the Donetz Basin Well, this
decision of the Central Committee and the Council of People's Commissars, which all our comrades admitted was a correct and even a remarkable one, was suggested to us by simple people from the ranks. The other example. I have in mind the case of Comrade Nikolayenko. Who is Nikolayenko? Nikolayenko is a rank-and-file member of the Party. She is an ordinary "little person." For a whole year she had been giving signals that all was not well in the Party organization in Kiev; she exposed the family spirit, the philistine petty-bourgeois approach to workers, the suppression of self -criticism, the prevalence of Trotskyite wreckers. But she was constantly brushed aside as if she were a pestiferous fly. Finally, in order to get rid of her they expelled her from the Party. Neither
the Kiev organization nor the Central Committee of the C.P. of the Ukraine helped her to bring the truth to light. The intervention of
the Central Committee of the Party alone helped to unravel the knot. And what transpired after the case was investigated? It transpired
that Nikolayenko was right and the Kiev organization was wrong. Neither more nor less. And yet, who is Nikolayenko? Of course, she
is not a member of the Central Committee, she is not a People's Commissar, she is not the secretary of the Kiev Regional Organization, she is not even the secretary of a Party cell, she is only a simple rank-and-file member of the Party.
As you see, simple people sometimes prove to be much nearer to the truth than some high institutions. I could quote scores and hundreds of similar examples. Thus you see that our experience alone, the experience of the leaders, is far from enough for the leadership of our cause. In order to lead properly the experience of the leaders must be supplemented by the experience of the Party membership, the experience of the working class, the experience of the toilers, the experience of the so-called "little people." But when is it possible to do that? It is possible to do that only when the leaders are most closely connected with the masses, when they are connected with the Party membership, with the working class, with the peasantry, with the working intelligentsia.
Connection with the masses, strengthening this connection, readiness to heed the voice of the masses – herein lies the strength and invincibility of Bolshevik leadership. "
We also should reiterate Stalin's defense
of open and full criticism
of abuses, in his reply
who felt this was open to misuse
against the USSR:
"Dear Alexei Maximovich,
Heaps of apologies, and please don't be down on me for my tardy (too tardy!) reply. I am dreadfully over-worked. What is more, I have not
been altogether well. That, of course, is no excuse. But it may serve as a sort of explanation.
1) We cannot do without self-criticism. We simply cannot, Alexei Maximovich. Without it, stagnation, corruption of the apparatus, growth of bureaucracy, sapping of the creative initiative of the working class, are inevitable. Of course, self-criticism provides material for our enemies. You are quite right about that. But it also provides material (and a stimulus) for our advancement, for unleashing the constructive energies of the working people, for the development of emulation, for shock brigades, and so on. The negative aspect is counter-balanced and outweighed by the positive aspect.
It is possible that our press gives too much prominence to our shortcomings, and sometimes even (involuntarily) advertises them. That is possible and even probable. And, of course, it is. bad. You demand, therefore, that our shortcomings should be counterbalanced (I would say: outweighed) by our achievements. You are, of course, right about that too. We shall most certainly repair this defect, and without delay. You need have no doubt of that.
2) Our youth are of various kinds. There
are the grumblers, the tired and
the despairing (like Zenin). There are those who are cheerful,
of strong will and indomitably determined to achieve victory. It cannot
case that now, when we are breaking the old relations in life and
ones, when the customary roads and paths are being torn up and new,
ones laid, when whole sections of the population who used to live in
are being thrown out of their rut and are falling out of the ranks,
for millions of people who were formerly oppressed and downtrodden—it
the case that the youth should represent a homogeneous mass of people
sympathise with us, that there should be no differentiation and
them. Firstly, among the youth there are sons of wealthy parents.
even if we take the youth who are our own (in social status), not all of
them have the hardiness, the strength, the character and the understanding to appreciate the picture of the tremendous break-up of the old and the feverish building of the new as a picture of something which has to be and which is therefore desirable, something, moreover, which has little resemblance to a heavenly idyll of "universal bliss" that is to afford everyone the opportunity of "taking his ease" and "basking in happiness." Naturally, in such a "racking turmoil," we are bound to have people who are weary, overwrought, worn-out, despairing, dropping out of the ranks and, lastly, deserting to the camp of the enemy.
These are the unavoidable "overhead costs" of revolution.
The main thing now is that the tone among the youth is set not by the grumblers, but by our militant Young Communist Leaguers, the nucleus of a new and numerous generation of Bolshevik destroyers of capitalism, of Bolshevik builders of socialism, of Bolshevik deliverers of all who are oppressed and enslaved. Therein lies our strength. And therein lies the pledge of our victory.
3) That, of course, does not mean that we should not try to diminish the number of grumblers, whiners, doubters, and so on, by bringing organised ideological (and all other) influence to bear on them…."
Stalin: Letter to A.M.Gorky; January 17 1930; Works; London Red Star edition; nd; Volume 12; pp179-193.
Finally, we have previously pointed to
Stalin's insistence that he was
only one of a group of leaders operating under the principles of
"Ludwig: Sixteen chairs are placed around
the table at which we are seated.
Abroad people know, on the one hand, that the U.S.S.R. is a country in
everything must be decided collectively, but they know, on the other
everything is decided by individual persons. Who really does decide?
Stalin: No, individual persons cannot decide. Decisions of individuals are always, or nearly always, one-sided decisions. In every collegium, in every collective body, there are people whose opinion must be reckoned with. In every collegium, in every collective body, there are people who may express wrong opinions.
From the experience of three revolutions we know that out of every 100 decisions taken by individual persons without being tested and
corrected collectively, approximately 90 are one-sided. In our leading body, the Central Committee of our Party, which directs all our Soviet and Party organisations, there are about 70 members. Among these 70 members of the Central Committee are our best industrial leaders, our best co-operative leaders, our best managers of supplies, our best military men, our best propagandists and agitators, our best experts on state farms, on collective farms, on individual peasant farms, our best experts on the nations constituting the Soviet Union and on national policy. In this areopagus is concentrated the wisdom of our Party. Each has an opportunity of correcting anyone's individual opinion or proposal. Each has an opportunity of contributing his experience. If this were not the case, if decisions were taken by individual persons, there would be very serious mistakes in our work. But since each has an opportunity of correcting the mistakes of individual persons, and since we pay heed to such corrections, we arrive at decisions that are more or less correct.
"TALK WITH THE GERMAN AUTHOR EMIL LUDWIG
December 13, 1931Stalin J;
Works" Volume 13; Originally published
Moscow 1955; by Foreign Languages Publishing House; reprinted by Red Star Press; London in facsimile form; circa 1976; p.106-125.; or at:
We know that Stalin therefore was in
favour of the voice for the masses
Perhaps the best example of this was the full discussions that took place over the Stalin Constitution. As Siegelbaum puts it:
"The draft of the Stalin Constitution in
1936, the subject of the third
chapter, occasioned something akin to a national referendum on the
version of socialism. Seizing the opportunity presented by the
incorporation of a language of rights, letter writers and participants
formal discussions projected their own ideas, hopes, and resentments
document. … "
Introduction Siegelbuam; Ibid; p. 7.
That some of the correspondence was highly critical to the state, is clear:
"On the basis of recent archival research, it had become clear that practically every major state initiative of the 1930's was accompanied by some form of popular resistance. In the case of the full scale collectivization, which commenced in late 1929, resistance was massive. It ran the gamut from insurgencies and other acts of violence to murders of collectivizers and their local collaborators, to vociferous protests by women the so-called bab'I bunty), frequently in connection with raion soviet decisions to close churches and/or confiscate church property, to the razbazarivanie (`squandering") of livestock and other property
through slaughter and sale, the destruction of collective farm buildings, the liberation of arrested kulaks, the reacquisition of confiscated property, and the disbandment of collective farms.";
Siegelbaum; Introduction Ibid p. 12.
This criticism reinforces two points.
Firstly that Stalin, at least on the basis of his reply to Gorky was aware of the mass of such correspondence and did not wish to shut it down. His praise of this type of correspondence showed that he wished to use it against the dangers of a sterile bureaucracy.
The discussions on the proposed new Soviet Constitution were very significant.
"The discussion and adoption of a new Soviet Constitution was one of the most important public events of the 1930's. .. the Constitution was designed to consolidate the principles of the new socialist state and social system";
Siegelbaum Ibid; p. 158.
It differed from the first federal constitution adopted under Lenin's guidance, but after his death – some 13 years earlier. The Constitution of 1936:
`reflected the new `correlation of class forces in the USSR' – that is the elimination of landlordism, kulaks and capitalist in the intervening periods – it proclaimed a system of universal secret ballot suffrage, albeit under the aegis of the Communist party… the new basic law of the land also reflected changes in official thinking about the role of law in a socialist society.. the main spokesman for the new approach was A Ya Vyshinsky, whose appointment as Procurator-General of the USSR in 1935 symbolized the ascendance of that philosophy. Taking his cue from Stalin's assertion that the ` withering of the state will not come through a weakening of state authority, but through its maximum intensification".
Siegelbaum Ibid p. 159.
Despite Siegelbaum's insistence that this
debate was `controlled' from
above, and that the numbers are `inflated' - the statistics of
its depth are astounding. It is clear that even Siegelbaum is impressed.
"The figures on the participants in the discussion of the draft are mind-boggling. According to official data 623,334 meetings were held around the country; they were attended by 42,372,990 people who produced 169,739 proposals comments, and prospective amendments. … the campaign's organizers themselves resisted the temptation to claim that every individual participated in debating the constitution… for example it was reported form Moldavia that
the "the discussion involved 70.5 % of voters", from Vonronezh Oblast meeting of working people have been attended by1,130,000 people or 71 % of voters.."
Siegelbaum Ibid p.162.
Now some documents cited by Siegelbaum
purport to show how warped the
process is. For example, a letter from I.Vasil'ev to
Krest'ianskaia Gazeta, on how a move showing was hijacked by some officials in the Kabardino-Balkarian Oblast [p.164-165].
But it must be obvious that writing to the newspapers so openly and so sarcastically hardly betrays a fear of a `military dictatorship'. And in stark contrast to that note, are the examples such as the Letter from kolkhoznik P.I.Vornov to the same newspaper, endorsing "Stalin's' Constitution with great joy", while submitting
concrete proposals for revisions [p.168-169].
The obvious retort by bourgeoisie and Trotskyites is that this was all a shibboleth; that the purges and their injustices showed that
this was hypocrisy.
At this stage, we will only reiterate our previous documented views, that the state was subverted by Yezhov who was acting in cahoots
with the hidden capitalist class. It was under a person that Stalin trusted – Lavrenti Beria – that a wide-spread reversal of the arbitrary and improper abuses led to freedom for those imprisoned incorrectly.
We believe that it is a serious mistake to view Stalin as the head of a military dictatorship. Those arguing that this was the case are unwittingly perhaps, but definitely – assisting in the character sabotage of Stalin. But more importantly, they place themselves outside of any pretence of an alliance of Marxist-Leninist
politicians with the masses. This is surely no accident, since at the heart of the comments lies an inability to rely on the masses and their strength in defending the dictatorship of the proletariat.
THE INTERNATIONAL FRONT
The Case for Impeachment after the Leaked British Memos
The Constitution gives the people of the United States, through our representatives, the legal power to stop officials who commit criminal or other dangerous acts. Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, one of six places in the Constitution mentioning impeachment, says that the President and others can be impeached for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Calls for impeachment or threats of impeachment have been common throughout our history for various reasons. Definitions of impeachable conduct have ranged from only serious felonies to President Ford’s definition of it as being anything the majority of the House of Representatives defines it as.
Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark has called for the impeachment of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and Attorney General Gonzalez (see www.votetoimpeach.org). The following are some of the charges.
Waging a war of aggression against Iraq in violation of the Constitution, the UN Charter (which is part of the Law of the Land under Article VI, Paragraph 2 of our Constitution), and the rule of law in general. Bombing Iraq to generate a pretext for war. Violating the sovereignty of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries. Lying to Congress to justify this war. Bribing and coercing individuals and governments to make war. Knowingly allowing attacks on civilians, assassinations, and torture. Preparing and threatening to use nuclear weapons.
Ordering the illegal detention of citizens, in violation of the Constitution and of their human rights, and indefinite detention of non-citizens and foreigners. Refusing to disclose who is being held, and where, including in response to a Congressional request. Refusal to release INS detainees found to be wrongfully held by the judiciary. Spying on confidential attorney-client communications without court order or criminal charges being made. COINTELPRO-style domestic spying on citizens and groups because of their legal activities. Making racial and religious profiling common government practice.
Seizing the assets of organizations by Executive fiat. Not releasing information necessary for Congressional oversight of the Executive branch. Withdrawing from treaties and agreements without Congressional approval.
In 2003 the National Lawyers Guild charged the Administration with similar impeachable offenses. The Green Party, Veterans for Peace, Ralph Nader and others have called for impeaching Bush. According to John C. Bonifaz, a constitutional lawyer, if the Downing Street Memo is true then Bush violated a federal anti-conspiracy law, 18 USC 371 (making it a felony to “defraud” the government), and The False Statements Accountability Act of 1996, 18 USC 1001 (making lying to Congress a felony) in his March 18, 2003 letter to Congress. This letter invoked Congress’ October 2002 Joint Resolution on Iraq (this was when Congress ceded its responsibility for declaration of war), saying that the Resolution’s criteria to justify an attack had been met (which was untrue). According to Take Back the Media! (www.takebackthemedia.com) If Bush lied in his State of the Union speech, which was under oath and an official responsibility to the Congress, it would break the same two laws. Others point to the Administration usurping Congress’ control of the Treasury when in late July 2002 it moved money appropriated for Afghan operations to something else (www.rawstory.com/exclusives/muriel/path_of_war_timeline_613.htm). These charges refer to official acts or constitutional duties, making them serious, as well as having caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, the destruction of countries, and the waste of billions of dollars. There are many charges Bush and his partners could be impeached for, Congress just has to have the will.
Bush’s loss of popularity, splitting of the Republican Party over the Administration’s neo-conservative policies, and the outcome of the mid-term Congressional elections could give Congress the will. www.impeachbush.tv points out that a clear case for impeachment will force Congress to either expose itself as ignoring the Constitution or it will have to vote to impeach. The last three Presidents to have a second term were all tried for crimes or threatened with impeachment. Most or all of the Bush Administration can be impeached and any neo-conservatives left would be too exposed and illegitimate to do any major damage.
May 1st the Times of London printed the first of several leaked memos of meetings between British and American officials (see the memos at www.afterdowningstreet.org). Although the corporate media has largely ignored them, these memos show that the Administration planned to attack Iraq long before it claimed to be trying to find a peaceful solution, that it tried to create a pretext for war and that it “fixed” intelligence to argue for aggression. Many have taken this as proof that the Administration knew it was lying in its rationale for the Iraq War. A May 22, 2002 memo says that the Administration could not prove that Iraq was working with al-Qaida or making WMDs, making the Administration’s argument for war before Congress and the UN a deliberate lie. In Britain the leaked memos have created an uproar against Prime Minister Tony Blair.
June 16th Representative John Conyers (D-MI) held a hearing on the memos and presented a petition with over 540,000 signatures demanding answers from the Administration about the Memos. The questions of Conyers and 88 other members of Congress earlier in May were blown off by the White House as not worth answering.
The next step is for Congress to investigate these allegations and, if they are true, to do its constitutional duty and begin impeachment proceedings against Bush and his Administration. To impeach, the House of Representatives needs to make a Resolution of Inquiry telling the House Judiciary Committee to look at the charges and see if they are impeachable offenses. Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) is writing a Resolution of Inquiry, but it is not for impeachment.
Afterdowningstreet.org suggests several grassroots actions to take. Representatives should introduce or support a Resolution and thank Conyers for his efforts. Senators should call for a Resolution in the House, sign a letter being circulated by John Kerry, and thank Senator Ted Kennedy for his efforts.
The war of choice launched by Bush, probably to dominate Iraq out of greed and hegemonic geopolitical reasons, has killed up to 100,000 Iraqis, more than 1700 US soldiers, as well as contractors and soldiers from other nations. It is time for the American people to stand up and stop this. In the Triangle area of North Carolina, Alliance Marxist-Leninist (a supporter of the After Downing Street Coalition) is calling upon local groups to lobby Representative David Price to support an investigation. Price signed Conyers’ letter to Bush on the memos. Other groups should join in this effort, which can unite all of those campaigning for the rule of law and social justice. A victory in impeachment would be a great success for every progressive movement and even without victory it will weaken the legitimacy of Bush and those who refuse to support impeachment.
Since February 13, 1996 the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has been fighting a guerilla “People’s War” against the royal government ruling the landlocked Himalayan country, situated between China and India. Nepal is the second poorest country, with 71% of the population living below the poverty line, and 60% of its gross domestic product devoted to its foreign debt. 46.5% of the national income belongs to 10% of the population. 81% of the labor force is engaged in “backward agricultural occupations” according to the CPN (M), and 60% is illiterate. Unemployment is at 10% and 60% are underemployed or in masked unemployment. The country lacks infrastructure despite government efforts and for three decades the growth rate in food grains production has been decreasing. In ten years of democracy, the country has had 10 prime ministers.
Nepal has known peaceful and armed struggles for change in the recent past. In 1951 direct monarchical authority was returned to Nepal through armed and other forms of struggle that began in November 1950. After one year of royal democracy it was replaced by the powerless, semi-democratic panchayat system when King Mahendra arrested the Cabinet December 15, 1960. The king controlled appointments, the military, what legislation was considered, veto power over the 90-member Panchayat national assembly and the Supreme Court, and he could change the constitution at will. Political parties were outlawed and Nepal became an absolute monarchy. Thirty years of protest later forced some democratic reforms.
In 1990 49 days of mass demonstrations, in which 500 people were killed, forced King Birendra to abolish the panchayat government and Nepal became a constitutional monarchy. Nepal has had up to 48 “communist” parties (Neelesh Misra, End of the Line) along with many other kinds of political parties. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) was formed from an underground group disagreeing with the 1990 constitution in the mid-90’s.
The umbrella group of the guerillas, the United Revolutionary People’s Council, presents the minimum revolutionary demands in its Common Minimum Policy & Programme (www.cpnm.org/worker/issue8/urpc.htm). The Maoists’ new-democratic or people’s democratic revolution, a bourgeois revolution, is to destroy what remains of feudalism and imperialist relations in Nepal. A new-democratic revolution targets the landlords and comprador capitalists and also imperialism and thus represents an intermediate step before a revolution for socialism is launched. The Maoists plan to overthrow and dispossess the comprador capitalists, those who are employed by foreign capital, while cooperating with locally based national capitalists, and to end subservience to foreign powers. They see this as uniting demands for democracy and independence. These demands are portrayed as being contradictory by the comprador capitalists, claiming to be for democracy, and the feudalists, claiming to represent independence, according to the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement’s A World To Win magazine.
The program calls for a constitutional convention, to be elected by universal suffrage. Locally the revolutionaries are establishing People’s Committees composed of workers, peasants, guerillas, petty bourgeoisie, national capitalists, oppressed nationalities, women, Nepalese émigrés, leftists, Dalits (lowest caste), and patriotic or nationalist groups, including parliamentary opponents. The government will have spaces for different classes, nationalities, regions, women, and important popular figures. On a national basis there is a National Conference in control until a national House of People’s Representatives is elected. Representatives will be subject to recall and there will be no professional army.
The program calls for freedoms of speech and press, gathering, movement, to organize political groups, to contest elections, and of religion and irreligion (which the Maoists see as “a personal matter”). Employment, health, and education are considered rights; education and healthcare will be made universal and free. Society will care for disabled people, children, the poor, and the elderly. There will be equal opportunity, equal pay for equal work, and a 40-hour work week. A minimum wage will be enforced and housing provided to squatters. The new-democratic state will not discriminate on race, ethnicity, religion, language, or gender and there will be forms of affirmative action for Dalits and women. Oppressed nationalities and regions will be given autonomy within the Nepalese system (autonomous areas were created in Maoist controlled areas in January 2004) and involvement in decision-making. Counterrevolutionaries will be disempowered for a period of time (but this will not be punitive against innocent family) and institutions like religion cannot be used for counterrevolution. Citizens will have the duties to defend the country, serve in the PLA, pay taxes, follow the new constitution, preserve national property, be lawful, and keep labor discipline.
A cornerstone of this republic is to be a revolution in agricultural relations. Feudal obligations will be ended and land confiscated without compensation from landowning feudal organizations and some capitalists. This land will be distributed as private property to peasants on the basis of how much land they already have. This will be done with local participation. Generally the revolution is envisioned as nationalizing large or basic industries and financial organizations while other sectors will be jointly owned and peasants, small capitalists, law-abiding financial firms, and traders will be private. They hope to establish “socialism-oriented capitalist relations.” The Maoists plan to improve agriculture and create more markets for produce. They will annul the debts of poorer peasants. Where they cannot do this yet they limit land ownership by wealthier peasants, as they will do after gaining power, reduce interest, land rent is set at 1/3, tenants’ rights are enforced, and feudal lands are made “governmental.” The Maoists hope to balance industrial, agricultural, urban, and rural development, use land rationally, and to develop sustainably. They also seek self-sufficiency to guard against imperialist sanctions.
The other pillar of Maoist development is quick, but balanced, industrialization, “the leading sector of the economy.” They will expropriate the “misused” capital of the comprador class while encouraging the few national bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie and freeing Nepal’s market for Nepalese. Workers will participate in business management. Consumer cooperatives will be encouraged and prices and interest will be kept stable and more equitable. Industry will be designed to use Nepal’s large labor force and local technologies. Nepal’s abundant hydroelectric possibilities will power industrialization but in smaller-scale and more multi-purpose ways than in current development schemes. Foreign trade and trade in “basic goods” will be state controlled. The Maoists welcome tourism but they want it to benefit the people.
The Maoists want education to produce progressive and skilled citizens for Nepal’s development. A new-democratic culture will foster patriotism, respect for the masses and workers, belief in science, and a sense of responsibility for national property. They want to ease the division between intellectual and manual work. Education will be compulsory and literacy programs will be developed. They encourage herbal medicine and denounce unspecified foreign medicines but say traditional healing systems ought to be discarded. Abortion will be a right. Nepal’s cultural heritage will be preserved. The Maoists call for the prohibition of “vulgar and obscene literature and films.” The program promises freedom of the press and editorializing but with the qualification that it be “objective.”
The program says marriage should only be for mutual love and calls for the prohibition of polygamy. Divorce will be allowed and it says that divorced fathers of children should be responsible for 2/3rds of their care.
They do not accept current foreign debts and will nullify oppressive treaties. They say Nepal’s resources belong to the Nepalese people and will take back water resources given to India. They perceive many international NGOs as fronts for imperialist meddling and have disrupted their activity, but are not against NGOs in general. Maoist foreign policy is to be based on “peaceful coexistence.” This means respect for sovereignty and territory, non-interference in domestic matters, equality, and mutually beneficial relationships. Simultaneously they support national liberation and revolutionary movements. They advocate a South Asian Soviet Federation.
The first step of the Maoist insurgency was 5,500 actions targeting feudal, comprador, and state interests. The CPN (M)’s chairman is the supreme commander of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), formed in the fall of 2001, whose purpose is to make revolution and afterward to serve as a political organizer and economic developer. Paramilitaries of the powerful Nepali Congress Party attacked rural areas and blamed the Maoists, as well as being scouts for the police, so they were attacked. The guerillas were and are outnumbered but they attacked police stations, driving the police into a few fortified posts. The Maoists have successfully raided several of these militarily fortified posts, the first in April 2000. This weakened police morale and they welcome defectors to their ranks.
The Maoists are popular in rural areas. In November 2002 10 out of 24 million Nepalese lived in Maoist-controlled areas. The insurgency is most powerful in the west and soon had the 78,000-member Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) on the defensive there and the URPC is the government in the western districts Rukum, Rolpa, Jajarkot, and Salyan. The Maoists are also active in the Terai, the plains of Nepal where the government is more powerful, and in the cities. They are able to call successful bandhs, or general strikes. There were negotiations during a cease-fire between December 1999 and October 2000. During the cease-fire elections were held in Maoist areas and there were mass rallies, including in the capital, Kathmandu. Soon after the cease-fire ended the CPN (M) captured a military base in the district capital of Dang, which was western Nepal’s major base.
June 1, 2001 Crown Prince Dipendra shot King Birendra, Birendra’s family, and himself, supposedly because they objected to whom he wanted to marry. The Maoists believe the shootings were a coup by King Gyanendra Shah, Birendra’s brother, who they say represents comprador interests. The Maoists partially supported King Birendra, considering him a nationalist, and because he refused to deploy the RNA, instead using militarized police. A cease-fire was again declared, from July to November. November 6, 2001 to August 28, 2002 there was a state of emergency, but the country remains militarized. The government imposed a state of emergency, arrested people, shut down newspapers, and banned gatherings of more then two people in the capital. Later the Maoists were declared terrorists. The Maoists say that government forces attacked and beheaded civilians and blamed the Maoists to draw them out.
The gains of 1990 ended October 4, 2002 when Gyanendra dropped the constitution and indefinitely postponed elections. The Maoists destroyed several district headquarters, assassinated the national police chief in Kathmandu, and held a successful university student strike and bandhs. Model revolutionary governments and economic development projects were established. From January 29 to August 27th 2003 there was another truce for negotiations. The Maoists want a roundtable conference, to serve as an interim parliament, an interim government, and elections for a constituent assembly, as well as proposing social changes. The CPN (M) stopped taxation and cancelled a plan bandh to show goodwill, but accuses the RNA of continuing to attack Maoists and acting aggressively. A joint agreement on conduct during the cease-fire was routinely violated by the government forces, according to the Maoists. At one point government negotiators said that the RNA would not move more than 5 km from its bases, leaving it with only 18% of Nepal’s territory. The government later tried to retract this but the public forced acceptance of the proposal, A World To Win. The RNA killed 19 activists on the day of the third set of negotiations and ten days later the Maoists ended the violated ceasefire. Fighting increased in intensity after the truce and now about 10 people are killed everyday. More decentralized operations in the Terai and cities were launched by the PLA. September 17-20 a bandh was observed countrywide, including in the capital, which cost the country $10 million dollars a day. October 2-10 the Maoists unilaterally observed a ceasefire for the important festival of Dashain.
August 20, 2003, during a cease-fire, a senior member of the CPN (M)’s Politbureau, Chandra Parhash Gajurel (also known as Gaurav) was arrested at Chennai airport in southern India for possessing illegal travel papers. He was clandestinely traveling to Europe to dialogue with the EU. Normally this is a minor matter but he is still being held and is remanded to custody every 15 days by the court. He may be extradited to Nepal, violating the1962 Extradition Act and endangering his life, according to the CPN(M). Matrika Prasad Yadav, a member of the CPN (M) Central Committee’s Politbureau and leader of the Madhes Autonomous Government, and Suresh Ale Magar, a Central Committee alternate member, were later arrested by India and deported without trial. In the 70’s India did not extradite Nepali Congress members accused of hijacking and bank robbery. The Maoists encourage progressives to protest this case by writing to the Indian government.
During the 2003 peace negotiations, the USA listed the Maoists as possible terrorists, gave military aid to Nepal, and concluded a 5-year anti-terrorist agreement. Christina Rocca, the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia said, “The US and India can help Nepal defeat the ‘ruthless’ Maoist rebels.” US and UK diplomats exhorted parties to rally around the monarchy. The Maoists believe external pressure encouraged the government to go on the offensive. In May protests forced Gyanendra to restore the government dissolved in October 2002.
February 1st King Gyanendra dissolved the elected government, cut off communications, and imposed heavy censorship. Gyanendra claimed to be acting for democracy and peace and said the control was to be for 100 days. According to Amnesty International, 3000 civilians had been arrested by April, and that some were tortured. The USA, UK, EU, India, China, and others condemned the action and stopped military and other aid and the US threatened sanctions, but it was slow to cut off aid. The Maoists called three general strikes to encourage other parties to protest. Military aid by India has now resumed. According to Asia Times, about 11,000 people have been killed so far.
The Maoists and others charge the RNA with killing POWs and civilians, whom it claims are Maoists, arbitrary arrests, torture, and mass rape. A recent report by Amnesty International documented 250 “disappearances” and the Maoists claim 500 disappeared in custody. The Maoists usual release POWs.
The government charges the Maoists with killing about 900 civilians judged “enemies of the revolution,” hostage taking for ransom, the killing of POWs, recruitment of children, possibly making up 30% of insurgent forces, and forced recruitment. The Maoists deny recruiting youths below 18.
The USA, India, other countries are very involved in this civil war. Under a treaty of 1965 India supplies Nepal with arms or recommends others. It has supplied helicopters and other arms. Nepal borders some of the areas of long running Indian Maoist (Naxalite) guerrilla fighting. The chief of the Indian army visited Nepal and was given briefing papers on the fighting. India’s much criticized Prevention of Terrorism Act has been used to arrest émigrés and wounded Maoists for extradition without due process.
The USA gave Nepal $40 million dollars in aid and the UK gave $22 million. Between 2001, when aid increased dramatically, and 2004, the US has given the government $29 million dollars to buy American weapons. In fiscal year 2004 Bush wanted $10.6 million dollars for aid and $45 million in aid, 10% for security, had been given in that fiscal year to September 2004. This fiscal year $44 million dollars, 1/3rd for security, has been called for. Many Nepalese Gurkhas serve in the British military.
US military personnel surveyed Nepal and were caught serving with the RNA during offensives. The FBI has an office in Kathmandu and a military base has been proposed. The Maoists were declared terrorists after the September 2004 bombing of the American Center in Kathmandu and were compared to the Taliban and Al-Qaida. October 31, 2003 the US responded to threats by the Maoists against US activities in Nepal by freezing any assets in the US and advising wariness. The Maoists say they have never attacked tourists and welcome foreigners. Up to 50 special forces are in Nepal training the RNA in counter-insurgency, along with British and Indian military advisors. According to Commondreams.org, the US is giving Nepal a total of 10,000 M-16 rifles and Belgium is illegally supplying 5,500 machine guns.
REACTIONARY TERROR CONTINUES IN LEBANON
By Garbis Altinoglu
Bombings and assassinations continue in
latest victim of this wave of terror was the 67-year old George Hawi,
leader of the Lebanese Communist Party, who was killed on June 21st,
bomb devastated his car. The White House immediately accused Damascus
angrily linked Syria's 'long and continued presence' in Lebanon to
Hawi's assassination and demanded a formal investigation into his
"These are not random killings, these are targeted assassination of
political figures," charged White House spokesman Scott McClellan. On
22nd, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Syria and prompted
end destabilization activities in Lebanon, obviously referring to
The assassination of Hawi is and very
be only one of several links in the chain of terrorist actions aimed at
destabilizing Lebanon, pushing this unfortunate country into a spiral
renewed civil war and isolating the Syrian regime and forcing it into
capitulation. The recent despicable acts of terror began with the
billionaire capitalist and former prime minister Rafiq Hariri on
2005. On March 19th, a bomb explosion in the Christian suburb of Beirut
11 people. On March 23rd, another bomb killed three people in the
town Kaslik north of Beirut. On April 1st, a bomb explosion wounded
people in Broumana, a mountain resort overlooking Beirut and the
After a lull in May, bombings have begun
On June 2nd, Samir Qaseer, a prominent journalist of An-Nahar newspaper
killed after a bomb destroyed his car in the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood of
And this was followed by the assassination of George Hawi.
In almost all these cases, Lebanese
US imperialists, some Western powers, especially Britain and France,
Western corporate media immediately blamed Syria. The Damascus regime
accused of attempting to maintain its hold over Lebanon even after it
withdrawn its forces there; it was accused of attempting to intimidate
opponents in Lebanon and aiming to destabilize its smaller neighbor.
in the corporate media has automatically assumed Syrian culpability as
and a foregone conclusion. As expected, none of these mouthpieces of
imperialist robbers have mentioned the names of the US and Israel among
possible suspects. This has been so, despite the fact that, Washington
Aviv terrorists have openly been advocating and practicing a policy of
preventive strike and targeted assassination of their opponents,
after the events of 11 September 2001. Besides, a survey of the
record and day to day conduct of US imperialists and their Zionist
provide us with innumerable instances of such acts of provocation and
terror. Indeed, it will not be an exaggeration to argue that,
long adopted state terrorism, including bombings and targeted
a regular way of "neutralizing" and defeating their opponents or
intimidating and pressuring them into submission and capitulation.
they have enriched the ancient art of provocation utilized throughout
by the ruling classes and their intelligence agencies. These masters of
regularly undertake terrorist actions, which frequently are blamed on
enemies and opponents, by means of disinformation campaigns. Here, it
come amiss to remind the reader that most of the armed attacks in the
present-day Iraq targeting ordinary people, mosques, aid workers,
gruesome killings of hostages and actions targeting country's already
infrastructure, are conducted either by certain sections
of the occupying US military and/ or the private
"security" firms and puppet Iraqi elite forces under their control.
By committing bloody and loathsome terrorist acts imperialist powers
intelligence agencies aim to discredit and vilify revolutionary forces
resistance movements and to undercut their mass support. They also
methods to build up some sort of reactionary mass support and to
and isolate their bourgeois opponents, such as Syria, which seems to be
in the present-day situation in Lebanon.
However, the sharpening of all basic
of capitalist-imperialist system and the growth of fascist and
sentiment among the most aggressive sections of finance capital, has
laying bare the terrorist nature of its advance guard, comprised of the
Britain and Israel. In fact, in January 2003, Israel openly announced
intention to conduct a campaign of so-called targeted killings in the
other friendly countries, in the context of a "more aggressive role in
war on terrorism". Eight months before the September 11 attack, in
US Representative Robert L Barr Jr had introduced a "Terrorist
Act", which designated even the so-called al-Qaeda fundraisers as
targets for assassination. After the events of 11 September 2001 and
subsequent declaration of the war on terrorism, American neo-fascists
claim to unprecedented global jurisdiction. They vowed to pursue Osama
Laden's followers with force wherever they may be or hide.
One should not, however, be led to
believe that, the
US and Israel have begun to tread a path of terrorism, that is a path
provocation, assasination and massacres especially after the events of
September 2001. This feature has been inherent in the nature of the
and external policies of all property-owning and exploiting classes
history. Reactionary bourgeosie and its apparata of repression have
refined and developed this practice in the age of imperialism. One
remember the massacres conducted by the death squads in El Salvador and
Guatemala, planned and financed by the US military, the numerous
attempts of US
intelligence agencies on the lives of foreign leaders, such as Congo's
Lumumba, Cuba's Fidel Castro, Haiti's Jean-Claude Duvalier, Indonesia's
Sukarno, South Vietnam's Ngo Dinh Diem, the Dominican Republic's
Trujillo and Chilean Chief of Staff Rene Schneider. CIA-led Operation
in Vietnam, in which nearly 20,000 local leaders, such as mayors,
teachers suspected of revolutionary sympathies were killed. In 1986, US
President Ronald Reagan himself ordered the bombing of the Libyan
compound, remarking that he would shed no tear if Muammar Gaddafi were
Another terrorist President of the US, George Bush Sr made a similar
hitting Saddam Hussein's palace in Baghdad in 1991. At the time he
"No one will weep for him when he is gone." His successor, President
Bill Clinton prepared a secret memorandum expanding the use of deadly
actions and authorizing in 1998 lethal force against al-Qaeda.
As to Israel, its brief political life
span has been
characterized by a rich inventory of state terrorism, including,
provocation, assassination and massacres. Let's take a look at a few
of the record of the Zionist state.
After the creation of Israel in 1948,
worked relentlessly to create fear among Jews in the Arab countries to
migration of the Jews of Middle Eastern countries into Israel. This
terror was successfully employed in Yemen, Morocco, Iraq, Algeria,
Tunisia. According to the detailed accounts of Naim Giladi, for
provoke the departure of Jews from Iraq, Zionist agents carried out
against synagogues and other Jewish institutions in Baghdad at the
the 1950s. Zionists were also successful in inducing through bribes the
Iraqi government to pass anti-Semitic laws which further encouraged
immigration into Israel.
In July 1954 Israeli government agents
several acts of sabotage against British & US property in Egypt.
aimed at incriminating "Egyptian terrorists", thus driving a wedge
between Britain & Egypt, and postponing British evacuation of the
Canal. The plan failed. Several Israeli agents were caught by Egyptian
authorities and made confessions during their trials. This fiasco led
resignation of the Israeli "Defence" Minister Pinhas Lavon resigns in
On 27 of April 1997 Yediot Aharonot
published a 1976
interview with Moshe Dayan. Dayan, who was the defense minister in
explains there what led, then, to the decision to attack Syria. At the
the Six Day War of June 1967, Syria was portrayed as a serious threat
security of Israel, and a constant initiator of aggression towards the
population of northern Israel. But according to Dayan, neither before
after that date did Syria constitute a threat to Israel. "Just drop
it", he says, "I know how at least 80% of all the incidents with
Syria started. We were sending a tractor to the demilitarized zone and
that the Syrians will shoot. If they did not shoot, we would instruct
tractor to go deeper, till the Syrians finally got upset and start
Then we employed artillery, and later also the air-force... I did
Itzhak Rabin did that, when he was there (as commander of the Northern
in the early sixties)."
The instances of systematic bombing of
and Lebanese civilian population by the Israeli army, use of car bombs
eliminate Israel's opponents, launching of missiles from armed
warplanes at the leaders and members of resistance movements,
homes of the people by armed bulldozers and destruction of Palestinian
Lebanese economy and infrastructure etc. are too numerous and too well
be mentioned separately here. Therefore, it is obvious that -together
American boss and partner- the terrorist Israeli state is a much more
candidate for the recent terror attacks in Lebanon.
Especially under the present
Iran or the Lebanese Hezbollah did not have anything to gain form the
assassination of Rafiq Hariri on February 14th and they do not have
gain from the bombings and assassinations that have followed it. One,
cannot say the same for the US and Israel, who more or less openly
their intentions of redrawing the map of the Middle East in accordance
their interests, their aim of securing the control of oil and natural
sources and their "right" to assassinate, destroy and terrorize all
who stand in their way.
The Significance of the Assassination of Rafiq Hariri in the Light of the Strategic and Tactical Objectives of Israel
A very professionally executed act of
resulted in the death of Rafiq Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon
February 14th by a very powerful bomb. A hitherto unheard of
called "Victory and Holy War in Syria and Lebanon" claimed
responsibility for the assasination. Right after the event, the US,
the imperialist media put the blame on Syria. In tandem with this
campaign, the reactionary Lebanese opposition led by Maronite
their opportunistic allies (mainly "Progressive Socialist Party" of
Druzes and some Sunni politicians) took to the streets to demand the
of Syrian troops and an end to the Syrian domination over Lebanon. US
of State Condoleezza Rice upbraided Syria, while Margaret Scobey, the
ambassadress in Damascus was withdrawn. Already, the Bush clique and
mouthpieces had for months repeatedly marshalled their lies and
regard to the support Syria was allegedly providing to the enemies of
the US and Israel; Damascus was being
accused of helping the Iraqi resistance, harboring Iraqi Baathist
weapons of mass destruction, supporting the Palestinian resistance and
Hezbollah terrorists", which had to be disarmed, if progress was to be
made towards a "peace" between Palestine and Israel.
The Current Significance of Hariri Assassination
The causes and motives behind this
cannot be understood by observing solely Lebanon, where the wounds of
drawn-out civil war have not been healed entirely. Neither can these
motives be understood by solely observing the present-day Middle
These latest developments in Lebanon can only be understood in the
light of the
decades-long imperialist-Zionist strategy of liquidation of Palestinian
revolution, almost two decades-long imperialist-Zionist strategy of
dismemberment of Iraq and present imperialist-Zionist aggression
Palestinian, Iraqi and Lebanese resistance movements and the regimes in
Moreover, the track record of the Zionist
bourgeoisie has clearly shown and continues to show that it can go to
lengths to achieve its evil ends. These include torture, systematic
civilians, including children, poisoning of wells, assassination of
opponents and "friends", systematic use of provocations, widespread
deception and disinformation, violation of all international treaties
trampling of all known norms of civilized conduct, massive bombings of
residential areas etc.
In view of these incontrovertible facts,
start to discuss the matter and ask that classical and salient
has gained from the assassination of the multibillionaire capitalist
former prime minister and whose agenda has been served and promoted
this barbaric act? Who stands to profit from the ignition of the flames
civil war of 1975-1990 in this country, where tens of thousands had
and the economy and infrastructure was thoroughly destroyed? Was not
war provoked by Israel, who held its southern half under a brutal
for 22 years? Was not this country the target of several military
and invasions of Israel, whose policy included systematic killing of
and military leaders of Palestinian and Lebanese resistance, by car
armed helicopters and missile strikes?
It is patently clear that neither
Palestinian resistance, nor Syria and Iran, who have been declared as
terrorists, rogue states etc and targeted by the axis of evil comprised
US, Israel and Britain and therefore are under threat of aggression, do
stand to gain anything from the assassination of Rafiq Hariri; it is
shadow of doubt that this act of assassination benefits only:
a) Israel, who has been acting in keeping
fascist principle of "preventive war" and been preparing its plans of
aggression against Syria and Iran in front of the whole world,
b) the US imperialism, the boss and partner of Israel and
c) the reactionary Maronite bourgeoisie of Lebanon, the lackey of the US and Israel.
The Syrian bourgeoisie, who already has
into a corner and accused of various attempts to undermine the
Israeli-Palestinian "peace" process and the US effort to crush Iraqi
resistance, cannot be expected to be behind this act of assassination
into the hands of its enemies, who are looking for excuses to further
Damascus and move against it; nor can it be expected to alienate its
vacillating neghbors in Lebanon and the Arab world in general and help
cowardly and hypocritical Western European and Russian imperialists
arms of Washington and Telaviv. So, these allegations do not amount to
beyond third rate disinformation work.
Flynt Leverett, who served on the
National Security Council
under George W. Bush as the Senior Director for Mideast Affairs, from
2002 to March 2003 conceded this state of affairs to a certain extent
article "Don't Rush on the Road to Damascus", published in New York
Times on March 2nd, 2005. In this article, he urged the Bush
move cautiously in any attempt to force Syria out of Lebanon, citing
that could well result in the strategy backfiring; he drew attention to
fact that any effort to engineer pro-Western Lebanese government would
resisted by Hezbollah, largest party in Lebanon's Parliament, which
its record in fighting Israel is at least as legitimate in Lebanese
eyes as the
anti-Syrian opposition and contended that efforts to establish
government would fail, creating more instability in region when the US
afford it. There is, however, very little data indicating that the more
realistic views of this representative of the more cautious sections of
American imperialism are heeded.
By putting the blame on the shoulders of
bourgeoisie for the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, imperialist and
reactionaries are in reality targeting armed Palestinian, Iraqi and
resistance and to a certain extent the nuclear ambitions of Iran. That
real reason behind the endless reactionary bourgeois demagogy over
rogue states, democracy, women's rights, proliferation of nuclear
A Look at The Recent Past
The invasion of Iraq and its
neutralization as a
potential threat to Israel, had been planned years, if not decades
embargo enforced upon Iraq in the wake of the Second Gulf War of 1991,
led to the death of more than 1 million people in this country
according to the
UN, destruction of Iraq's economy, infrastructure and public services
banning of the entry of Iraqi armed forces into Iraqi territory north
36th parallel (that is Southern Kurdistan) and south of 33rd parallel
part of the region inhabited by Iraqi Shiites) constituted a sort of
to the invasion of Iraq and the operation to redesign the map of the
East. Therefore, the Clinton years when there occurred a slow-motion
of Iraqi people was in essence no different than the reign of
clique following the elections of 2000.
Still, these neo-fascist forces, who
most reactionary sections of American finance capital were raising
even during the Clinton era; they were for pressing for a more
policy vis-a-vis other imperialist powers for the "protection" of the
positions of the US, for strengthening and extension of the control of
on oil and natural gas resources of the Middle East and Central Asia,
more radical steps to improve the strategic position of Israel and for
the resistance of workers and of peoples through more naked, extensive
systematic military aggression. For instance, David Wurmser, Vice
Dick Cheney's Middle East Advisor, Douglas Feith, Undersecretary of
Policy, Richard Perle, former Chairman of the Defence Policy Board and
of the Advisory Board of JINSA (=Jewish Institute for National Security
Affairs) had published a report to be presented to the Israeli Prime
Binyamin Netanyahu back in July 1996. The report, entitled "A Clean
A New Strategy for Securing the Realm", urged the Zionist bourgeoisie
abandon the traditional of "land for peace" formulation and to adopt
a more aggressive policy. Smearing the Hezbollah-led resistance of
people against the UN-condemned Israeli occupation as "aggresion" and
advocating the weakening of Syria and the overthrow of the Saddam
regime, the report told us that:
*striking Syria's drug-money and
infrastructure in Lebanon, all of which focuses on Razi Qanan.
*paralleling Syria's behavior by establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces.
*striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, *striking at select targets in Syria proper.
Israel also can take this opportunity to
world of the nature of the Syrian regime. Syria repeatedly breaks its
violated numerous agreements with the Turks, and has betrayed the
by continuing to occupy Lebanon in violation of the Taef agreement in
Instead, Syria staged a sham election, installed a quisling regime, and
Lebanon to sign a "Brotherhood Agreement" in 1991, that terminated
Lebanese sovereignty. And Syria has begun colonizing Lebanon with
thousands of Syrians, while killing tens of thousands of its own
citizens at a
time, as it did in only three days in 1983 in Hama.
Israel can shape its strategic
cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even
back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power
- an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right - as a
foiling Syria's regional ambitions."
In 1997, that is more than three years
Bush clique took the reins of power, American, Israeli and Lebanese
forces had organized the USFCL (=United States Committee for a Free
chaired by Ziad K. Abdulnoor, a Lebanese Christian banker. The USFCL,
the support of Christian fundamentalist and pro-Zionist
as JINSA, Project for a New American Century, American Enterprise
Center for Security Policy, US Institute for Peace, stated its purpose
"to rid the Middle East of dictatorships, radical ideologies, border
disputes, political violence and weapons of mass destruction." In fact,
the forces who formed and supported the USFCL were none others than
in October 1992 had formed and supported the Iraqi National Congress,
Ahmad Chalabi. In 1998, during the Clinton administration, US
had been responsible for the death of more than a million Iraqi
and elderly due to the UN embargo had proclaimed "The Iraq Liberation
thus prepared the political infrastructure for the invasion of this
In 2000, David Wurmser helped draft a
similar document entitled "Ending Syria's Occupation of Lebanon: the US
Role?" This document called for a confrontation with the regime in
Damascus, which it accused of developing "weapons of mass
destruction." Among those signing the document were Feith and Perle, as
well as Elliott Abrams, Bush's chief advisor on the Middle East, who
recently appointed deputy national security advisor.
This document urged the use of US military force, claiming that the 1991 Persian Gulf War had proven that Washington "can act to defend its interests and principles without the specter of huge casualties." It continued: "But this opportunity may not wait, for as weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities spread, the risks of such action will rapidly grow. If there is to be decisive action, it will have to be sooner rather than later." In April 2003 Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz warned: "There's got to be a change in Syria." And in December 2003, Bush administration passed "The Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act" into law with the support of the US Congress and thus prepared the political infrastructure of the coming invasion of Syria and/ or the overthrow of the Syrian regime.
In brief, at least part of the ruling
classes of the
US, Israel and Britain had decided upon the destabilization and if
invasion and dismemberment of Syria and Iran along with Iraq, long
events of 11 September and before the advent of George W. Bush's
This observation, however, will not take us to the origin of the story.
cursory examination of the process of formation and history of Israel,
enough to disclose the fact that the policy and strategy of this
child of British and US imperialists has all along been characterized
aggression as well as plots and intrigues against the countries and
the region. As Edward W. Miller had said in his May 1996 article,
"Lebanon, Israel's Killing Fields", "The basic Zionist plot is
unchanged, only new players have appeared on Israel's stage."
Expansionist Strategy of the Zionist Bourgeoisie
Zionist chiefs had formulated their
Lebanon, decades before the formal foundation of Israel. In 1918 during
discussions with the British authorities, they had demanded the
the northern borders of Palestine, then under British mandate, to the
river in Southern Lebanon. At the time of the armed clashes between
Palestinian/ Arab and Jewish forces in 1947-48, Zionist military units
approached the Litani river, but had to retreat under intense
pressure. In 1954, during the discussions with the representatives of
Eisenhower administration, Ýsraeli leaders had gone so far as to
use of force against Lebanon in case it utilized the waters of the
for the economic development of Southern Lebanon.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Moshe
diaries, which were published posthumously by his son in the face of
threats of Zionists, expose the targets and intrigues of Israel. In her
Israel's Sacred Terrorism, Livia Rokach presents extensive excerpts
Sharett's diaries. "Sharett's Diary, however," says Rokach,
"provides the entire documentation of how in 1954 Ben Gurion developed
diabolic plans to 'Christianize' Lebanon, i.e., to invent and create
scratch the inter-Lebanese conflict, and of how a detailed blueprint
partition and subordination of that country to Israel was elaborated by
more than fifteen years before the Palestinian presence became a
factor in Lebanon."
In another section of the book, we come
another facet of Zionist aggression:
"On May 16, during a joint meeting of
officials of the defense and foreign affairs ministries," writes
"Ben Gurion again raised the demand that Israel do something about
Lebanon. The moment was particularly propitious, he maintained, due to
tensions between Syria and Iraq, and internal trouble in Syria. Dayan
expressed his enthusiastic support:
"According to him [Chief of Staff Moshe
the only thing that's necessary is to find an officer, even just a
should either win his heart or buy him with money, to make him agree to
himself the savior of the Maronite population. Then the Israeli army
Lebanon, will occupy the necessary territory, and will create a
regime which will ally itself with Israel. The territory from the
southward will be totally annexed to Israel and everything will be all
If we were to accept the advice of the Chief of Staff we would do it
without awaiting a signal from Baghdad... (16 May 1954).
"The Chief of Staff supports a plan to hire a [Lebanese] officer who will agree to serve as a puppet so that the Israeli army may appear as responding to his appeal 'to liberate Lebanon from its Muslim oppressors.' This will of course be a crazy adventure.... We must try to prevent dangerous complications. The commission- must be charged with research tasks and prudent actions directed at encouraging Maronite circles who reject Muslim pressures and agree to lean on us." (28 May 1954)
Zionist bourgeoisie has consistently
followed a line
of gradual colonization of Palestine and seizing Palestinian land by
force; moreover, it has always conducted a strategy of "divide and
rule" vis-a-vis its other neighbors, including Lebanon and that of
supporting separationist movements of non-Arab minorities in Arab
strategy of expansionism, terrorism and war. Oded Yinon, a former
analyst with the ministry of foreign affairs of Israel stated the
the Zionist bourgeoisie quite frankly in an article published in
in a journal called Kivunim (=Directions). Here he tells us:
"In reality, however, Egypt's power in
proportion both to Israel alone and to the rest of the Arab World has
about 50 percent since 1967. Egypt is no longer the leading political
the Arab World and is economically on the verge of a crisis. Without
assistance the crisis will come tomorrow... Egypt, in its present
political picture, is already a corpse, all the more so if we take into
the growing Moslem-Christian rift. Breaking Egypt down territorially
distinct geographical regions is the political aim of Israel in the
Eighties on its Western front.
"Egypt is divided and torn apart into
of authority. If Egypt falls apart, countries like Libya, Sudan or even
more distant states will not continue to exist in their present form
join the downfall and dissolution of Egypt. The vision of a Christian
State in Upper Egypt alongside a number of weak states with very
power and without a centralized government as to date, is the key to a
historical development which was only set back by the peace agreement
seems inevitable in the long run.
"The Western front, which on the surface
appears more problematic, is in fact less complicated than the Eastern
in which most of the events that make the headlines have been taking
recently. Lebanon's total dissolution into five provinces serves as a
for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian
peninsula is already following that track. The dissolution of Syria and
later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in
Israel's primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the
dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary
term target. Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and
structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that
will be a Shi'ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the
area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor,
Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan, and certainly
Hauran and in northern Jordan. This state of affairs will be the
peace and security in the area in the long run, and that aim is already
our reach today.
"Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel's targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us. Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi'ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north. It is possible that the present Iranian-Iraqi confrontation will deepen this polarization."
In his article, "Israel: The Ultimate
Winner", Palestinian political scientist Saleh Abdel-Jewwad examined
strategy of the Zionist bourgeoisie vis-a-vis its Arab neighbors. His
published in the 634th issue of Al Ahram in 17-23 April 2003, confirmed
conclusions of Oded Yinon's analysis:
"For this reason, successive Israeli
governments have adopted policies based on the principle of supporting
ethnic minorities such as the Kurds in Iraq or the Maronites in
Literature on the Zionist movement -- particularly those published at
of the 1930s and the beginning of the Arabisation of the Palestinian
-- indicate that the Zionist leaders in general, and yeshiva leaders in
particular, placed their hopes and concerns on on establishing
with every minority within the Arab world and neighbouring non-Arab
"Since the end of the 1930s, Ben Gurion
articulated some principles which would become indisputable Zionist
'1. The Arabs are the primary enemy of
movement. To confront this chief enemy, it is necessary for Zionism to
for allies in the East to stand with its allies in the West. These are
to act as a counter force and support the power of the Zionist project
faced with this (primary) confrontation. At the end of the day it is a
struggle between us and them'. Therefore, any group or sect which
nationalism - 'the primary enemy of the Jewish people'-- or is prepared
fight against it, is an ally which helps Zionism implement its
"It is against this backdrop that Israel has supported secessionist movements in Sudan, Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon and any secessionist movements in the Arab world which Israel considers an enemy. Yet the concern for Iraq and its attempts to weaken or prevent it from developing its strengths has always been a central Zionist objective. At times, Israel succeeded in gaining a foothold in Iraq by forging secret yet strong relationships with leaders from the Kurdish movement. In sharp contrast it failed to gain allies amongst the Coptic community in Egypt primarily because of the historical continuity of the Egyptian state."
Zionist Aggression Against Lebanon
This strategic approach of Israel to
weakest link in the Arab world, has found its expression in almost
interference in the internal affairs of this country and aggresion
people. In fact, the history of Lebanese-Israeli relationship is a
the military aggresion of Zionist bandits against Lebanon under
protective wings of US and British imperialists. Here I mention the
significant instances of such acts.
*In 1969, under the pretext of
the killing of an Israeli citizen in Athens by an Arab, Zionist forces
the newly built Khalde airport of Beirut. The airport complex and 13
airplanes were destroyed as a result of this attack.
*At the beginning of the 1970s, Zionists had started to launch more or less regular assaults on PLO bases in Southern Lebanon. This was directly related to the relocation of the main body of Palestinian resistance in Lebanon in the wake of the Black September days of 1971 in Jordan.
*In 1975-1976, a civil war took place in Lebanon between reactionary and fascist forces defending mainly the interests of Maronite bourgeoisie and the progressive and leftist forces, defending mainly the interests of Druze and Sunnite Muslim toilers allied with Palestinian resistance. This war, which led to the death of tens of thousands of people and the destruction of the economy and infrastructure of Lebanon was instigated by Zionists. In fact, as I have mentioned above, as far back as 1954, the latter were preparing plans to dismember Lebanon and establish a pro-Western and pro-Israeli Christian state there. On 27 February 1954, Ben Gurion, the founding father of Israel, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Moshe Sharett. He said:
*Zionist forces once more invaded Lebanon
1978 up to the Litani river in Southern Lebanon. Around 1,000 people,
civilians were killed during the clashes and Israeli bombing of
towns. More than 250,000 civilians were forced to flee their homes. As
of international pressure, Zionists were compelled to evacuate most of
territory they invaded. However, they formed a 100 km-long and 8 to 10
"security belt" at the Lebanese-Israeli border before they retreated.
This "security belt" was manned by a puppet Christian mercenary
force, called South Lebanese Army and led by the so-called Major Saad
*In July and August 1979, Israeli army conducted a heavy bombardment against Southern Lebanon, on the pretext of retaliating against the actions of Palestinian guerillas. This assault was followed by the bombardment of Beirut in July 1981. Hundreds of people lost their lives and thousands were wounded as a result of these piratical acs of aggression.
*On 6 June 1982, Zionist forces began another major assault on Lebanon under the pretext of retaliating against an assasination attempt targeting the Israeli ambassador in London a few days before. During the assault nicknamed "Operation Peace in Galilee", Israeli aggressors occupied a major part of Lebanon after bombing the Palestinian guerilla bases in Southern Lebanon and then proceeded to encircle Beirut itself on 13 July. The capital of Lebanon was pounded by Israeli artillery, tanks and warplanes for almost two months and reduced tu rubble. 650 Israeli soldiers and 20, 000 Lebanese and Palestinians, most of whom were civilians, are estimated to have died as a result of this military operation.
In the wake of the retreat of Palestinian
from Southern Lebanon and Beirut in the second half of August, Bashir
the leader of reactionary "Lebanese forces" and a close ally of
Israel was elected president of Lebanon. Jemayel was assassinated on 14
September 1982. This immediately triggered a bloody attack by the
militia of Bashir Jemayel on unarmed Palestinian civilians residing in
Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in West Beirut. In the
planned Sabra-Shatilla massacre, these reactionary mercenaries killed
blood approximately 3,000 women, elderly and children under the
supervision of the Israeli army.
*After the killing of 5 Israeli soldiers
so-called "security belt" in Southern Lebanon, Zionist forces
conducted another military operation against Lebanese people in July
During this assault, called "Operation Accountability", around 130
people, most of whom were civilians, were killed and 300,000 people
flee their homes.
*On 11-27 April 1996, Israeli army conducted another military operation against the Lebanese resistance led by the Hezbollah. During this attack, nicknamed "Operation Grapes of Wrath", 154 people were killed and 351 wounded.
However, all these operations leading to
of thousands of people proved powerless to crush and stop the
Lebanese people to occupation. The same can be said about the
torture and killing of thousands of other people in the notorious Khiam
prison/concentration camp -directed by the SLA and supervised by the
military intelligence- in Southern Lebanon. On the contrary, this
fueled the resistance and contributed to its victory. In the end,
their mercenary puppets, who were continuously harassed and forced into
defensive position through guerilla warfare, were unceremoniously
thrown out of
Lebanon as a result of well-planned and coordinated military attack on
May 2000. In fact, the defeat of the Israeli army in Southern Lebanon
mid-2000, was and remains the first instance of Zionist aggressors
militarily beaten and thrown out of an occupied Arab territory. This
the Lebanese resistance in turn, would contribute to the reawakening of
dormant Palestinian resistance, the second intifadah would begin in
September 2000, four months after the liberation of Southern Lebanon.
passing, let me stress that, this is one of the main
reasons behind the fanatical insistence of Israel and the US and their henchmen in the so-called international community on the disarming of the Hezbollah.
At least since the formation of Syria as
state, after the termination of the French mandate in 1943, the Syrian
bourgeoisie had voiced its intentions to reunite with Lebanon; it had
that, historically Lebanon was a part Syria and was torn away from the
body of the country at the end of the First World War, when the
was compelled to leave all Arab territories to the victorious Allies.
achieve its objective, throughout the last decades Damascus has entered
variety of shifting, unprincipled and opportunist alliances with
fections in Lebanon and at times it has not refrained from acting in
with the US and even Israel to prevent the supremacy of
democratic forces as was the case during the civil war of 1975-1976.
discussing the pros and cons of the historical claims of the Syrian
bourgeoisie, we can say that, it is the Lebanese workers and toilers of
different nationalities and religious confessions, who have the right
determine the destiny of their countries and to decide on the content
of the relationship of Lebanon with Syria. No outside force, including
has the right to impose its will upon the Lebanese people.
On the other hand, it should be made patently clear that US imperialists, the main enemy of workers, other toilers and oppressed nations of the world, have no right whatsoever to interfere in the internal affairs of Lebanon or any other country. Neither US imperialists, who have massacred tens of millions of workers and other toilers, planned and executed hundreds of anti-democratic and fascist coups d'etat, committed countless provocations and war crimes against the toiling humanity, nor their bloodthirsty Zionist partners and lackeys have the right to do so.
The position of Syria and its policy with
its small neighbor, cannot make us forget, even for a moment, the
that US imperialism and Israeli Zionism are and remain the main enemies
Lebanese, Palestinian and Iraqi workers and other toilers. This is
true at present, when the US, Britain and Israel have declared and
new world war against the workers and peoples of the world and have
to pressure and threaten all political forces and states to toe their
under the motto of "you are either with us or with the terrorists."
Under the present circumstances, states such as Syria, Iran, North
objectively become indirect, though vacillating and questionable
the workers and peoples of the world, depending upon the extent of
resistance against and the level of their rejection of the threats and
blackmails of the neo-fascist axis of evil of US-Britain-Israel.
Therefore, all class-conscious workers
consistent revolutionary forces should decisively reject the so-called
game of the Lebanese reactionary bourgeios forces inspired by the US
allies. They should unequivocally oppose the possible aggression of the
evil on these countries, notwithstanding the anti-democratic and
nature of these regimes and wish the victory of these regimes against
American-Israeli-British aggression in case such an open aggression
Such a stand cannot in any way be
portrayed as an
endorsement of these bourgeois regimes, which are ready to cooperate
US and do so to a certain extent. Therefore, Marxist-Leninists and
revolutionaries do not for a moment forget the fact that, only under
leadership of the communist party of the working class, can
aggression be defeated and democratic and socialist demands of the
exploited and oppressed people of the Middle East be met.
Fighting for Peace and Democracy - American style – Guantanamo Bays World Wide
A recent UK newspaper article (Levy A, Scott-Clark C. "Beyond Guantánamo." (Guardian Weekend, March 19th, 2005. p19-25) graphically illustrates the realities of the US ‘war on terror’ by providing a chilling account of how Afghanistan is now the hub of a global network of detention centres. While Washington holds up the example of Afghanistan as a ‘rogue regime’ replaced by democracy, outside Kabul, the country is more inaccessible and lawless than it was under the Taliban, and US forces preside over a system of detention centres where prisoners are held incommunicado amidst widespread allegations of torture. According to the US legal watchdog Human Rights First, the detention system in Afghanistan exists entirely outside international norms and is part of a far larger and more sinister jail network.
In an interview with a regional director of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission it was revealed that many thousands of Afghans have been rounded up and detained by the occupying forces. Those who were freed frequently comment that they were held together with foreign detainees who have been brought to Afghanistan to be processed. No one is charged, no one is identified and no international monitors are allowed into these US jails. Bodies of dead detainees have been returned to families with no explanation, and in scores of cases people have simply disappeared. Prisoner transports crisscross the country connecting camps in Gardez, Khost, Asadabad, Jalalabad and Kandahar. In addition, there are 20 more facilities in outlying US compounds, and CIA centres at Bagram and near Kabul, together thought to be holding more than 1500 prisoners from Afghanistan and many other countries.
Personal accounts of detention include that of an Afghani employee of the BBC world service who found himself locked up with suspects from many countries. Moved around from one base to another while hooded, he and the other prisoners had to maintain complete silence. Eventually released after the intervention of the BBC, he had been detained in Bagram; the US military said it had been a misunderstanding. In fact, what is happening in Afghanistan can be seen as an attempt to replace Guantánamo Bay – a detention centre beyond the reach of the US constitution and the Geneva convention. Legal wranglings over Guantánamo have undermined its usefulness, and a global prison network built up over the past few years, beyond the reach of American and European judicial process, has suddenly received a boost. This process became explicit when the US government announced that many Guantánamo inmates were being transferred to prisons in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
Since September 11th 2001, one of the US’s chief strategies of the “war on terror” has been to imprison anyone considered suspect on whatever grounds. To that end it commandeered foreign jails, built cell blocks at US military bases and established covert CIA facilities. This network has no visible infrastructure – no prison rolls, visitor rosters, staff lists or complaints procedures. In the opinion of an unnamed Afghan government minister, “ . . .the US military has deliberately kept us down, using our country to host a prison system that seems to be administered arbitrarily, indiscriminately and without accountability”. Outside Afghanistan, most countries hosting these invisible prisons are already partners in the US coalition. Others, notably Syria, are pragmatic associates working privately alongside the CIA and US Special Forces, despite bellicose public statements from Bush condemning Syria for pro-terrorist activities.
One thing that unites host countries is their poor human rights record, enabling interrogators to operate without restrictions. Prisoner letters, declassified FBI files, legal depositions, witness statements and testimony from UK and US officials indicate that methods used across the network include shackles, hoods, electrocution, whips, mock executions, sexual humiliation and starvation. Although there are a few high profile terrorist operatives identified as being held within the system, many others have few, if any, provable connections to any outlawed organisation. Former prisoners claim they were released only after naming names, coerced into making false confessions that led to the arrests of more people unconnected with terrorism. The floating population of “ghost detainees”, according to US and UK military officials, now exceeds 10,000.
The origins of the prison network can be traced back to the legal status of the first terror suspects detained in the wake of September 11th. Guantánamo prisoners were designated “unlawful combatants” enabling the US administration to claim it was entitled to sidestep the Geneva conventions and normal legal constraints. Regimes previously condemned by the US for their use of torture, were now welcomed into the fold so long as they signed up to the ‘war against terror’. According to one former US counterterrorism agent, Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Syria were all asked to make their detention facilities and expert interrogators available to the US.
In the UK, the home secretary withdrew Britain from its obligation under the European human rights treaty not to detain anyone without trial; the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act extended the government’s powers of arrest and detention. Within 24 hours ten men were seized from their homes and imprisoned. Subsequently the Foreign Office modified internal guidance to diplomats, enabling them to use intelligence obtained through torture. This approach not only encourages and promotes torture but is contrary to the UN Convention Against Torture.
Although the extent of the US extra-legal network is only now becoming apparent, suspects began to disappear as early as 2001 when the US asked its allies to examine their refugee communities in search of possible terror cells. Ahmed Agiza was an Egyptian asylum seeker who had been living in Sweden with his family for three years. Arrested by Swedish intelligence acting on a request by the US, he was handed over to an American aircrew and flown out of Sweden on a private executive jet. Six months later his mother in law was allowed to see him in a Cairo prison where he related details of his abduction. Held in solitary confinement, Agiza was subjected to beatings, electric shocks and other forms of torture; he remains in prison. The executive jet has been identified as belonging to Premier Executive Transport Services, incorporated in Delaware, a paper company with nonexistent directors. Its flight plans always begin at an airstrip in Smithfield, North Carolina, and end in some of the world’s hot spots. An ex-CIA officer explained that: “We pick up a suspect or we arrange for one of our partner countries to do it. The suspect is placed on a civilian transport to a third country, where, let’s make no bones about it, they use torture. If you want a good interrogation you send someone to Jordan. If you want them to be killed you send them to Egypt or Syria. Either way the US cannot be blamed as it’s not doing the heavy work”. The jet has been tracked over 70 times including a flight in June 2002 when it landed in Morocco to pick up a German national Mohammed Zamar who was “rendered” to Syria, his country of origin, where he disappeared. American interrogators are described as working freely within foreign jails by ex-detainees, who also report torture and sexual humiliation. Legal depositions indicate that at least 400 prisoners are being held at the request of the US in Pakistani jails.
Confessions made under torture implicate innocent victims with disastrous consequences. On September 26, 2002, Maher Arar, a 34 year old Canadian computer scientist was detained by immigration staff at New York airport on his way to Montreal for a job interview. He was “rendered” in a private jet to Jordan where he was detained at a US run interrogation centre before being handed over to Syria, a country he had left at the age of 17. He spent the next year being tortured and in solitary confinement, unaware that someone he barely knew had named him as a terrorist. Arar was eventually released in October 2003 when a Syrian court threw out a coerced confession in which he said he had been trained by al-Qaida. These and other examples demonstrate that the “war on terror” represents an indiscriminate system that has the potential to seize anyone implicated in terrorist activity by however tenuous evidence. Reflecting on the American War of Independence when Americans were arbitrarily arrested and detained by British forces, James Madison, one of the architects of the US constitution observed that the “accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny”. His comment could have been a prescient insight into modern America.
Organizing Alliance Marxist-Leninist in North Carolina By Comrade MP
As the only Alliance member in the Triangle area of North Carolina (around Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh) I have been trying to publicize the Party, with the goal of forming a local branch. I have mainly been working among students and members of social justice organizations and unions. First I posted flyers at local colleges, public libraries, independent bookstores, and other places. Alliance! has been publicized on activist email listserves when relevant. Literature was given to people riding Durham’s bus to national events such as the Million Worker March October 17th and anti-war demonstrations. I passed out some literature at these events, October 16th at the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s conference at Duke University, and elsewhere. Alliance! is distributed free at local bookshops and a co-op.
This year I started tabling at events for Alliance. Alliance was one of about 160 co-sponsors of the annual Students United for a Responsible Global Environment (SURGE) Conference (www.surgenetwork.org). Alliance was also given publicity in the Conference packet. This year the Conference had a very large tabling fair and about 300 participants. Most of the participants are students and youth from North Carolina, but there are a range of ages and out-of-state and international participants. The Conference has been held annually since the late 90’s. I also tabled at the March 20th anti-war demonstration in Fayetteville, which had at least 4800 participants (www.ncpeacejustice.org). People were interested and came by the table each time and took literature, though admittedly it was only a handful of people. A student group in Asheville was interested in getting our literature for their library. Tabling at the SURGE Conference had the best results; in Fayetteville my set-up did not get much attention. I tabled in a peripheral spot, without an actual table, and it might have been better if I stayed at my post longer instead of looking around.
Now I am building up to an information meeting or meetings in early September to gauge interest in Alliance. I will flyer more widely and distribute Alliance! at more events and locations this summer. Having an active campaign would be a good organizing tool, so I suggest that we start a US campaign to impeach Bush, highlight election fraud and reform, to repeal or limit the PATRIOT Act, or something else. Since July 4th is coming up these issues are appropriate, and they are current. The campaign could be done at the local level, working with other groups, and coordinated nationally by working with a pre-existing coalition. A campaign would also give us the opportunity to collaborate with other Marxist parties to work for principled unity. I am starting a campaign to lobby Representative David Price and others to support investigation of the Downing Street Memo. The Durham Bill of Rights Defense Committee likes the idea and I am hoping that other groups will participate. Alliance will work on this at the national level with the After Downing Street Coalition (www.afterdowningstreet.org). Such an investigation could be the first step in impeaching Bush. Alliance also joined a statewide coalition against the Dominican Republic - Central America Free Trade Agreement, soon to be voted on by Congress before July 4th. There are at least 7 Marxist groups in the area and I am discussing cooperative projects with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and Solidarity.
I am also interested in creative agitprop methods and making more use of the Internet, through blogging, a state Alliance website, and trying to adapt the model of online activism created by groups like MoveOn.org.
Send questions or comments to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The following communication, from the OCTOBER COMMUNIST ORGANIZATION of Spain was received by Alliance Marxist-Leninist.
On the London Bombings
While the imperialists and their guests were meeting at the so-called G-8 Summit Conference, a series of explosions rocked London this morning. Although the exact number of victims is unknown, there is every indication that that number is high. Once again, fanatical terrorism has struck at defenseless citizens. Once again, just as occurred in Madrid on the 11th of March last year it is the peoples, the workers and their familias who are the victims – just as happens on a daily basis in Iraq.
Neither the police or military forces, nor the political centers of the imperialist oligarchy were targeted by the murders: Their target was the people. This criminal violence had as its goal to cause the greatest harm possible to the citizens of London., those self same citizens who, two years ago, marched in the streets by the millions demanding peace and denouncing "Her Gracious Majesty's Government's" terrorist aggression against the Iraqi people.
The G-8 member states, with Bush and Blair at the head, have tried to characterize their militant "crusade" against the rights and liberties of the peoples as a "just response to terrorism." In fact, it is their own imperialist policies which creates the conditions that breeds this terrorism – often inspired by their own actions.
The citizens of Madrid and of all Spain know how to give a sharp response to the reactionary Aznar government; mobilizing not only against terrorist fanaticism, but also against the vile manipulations of the Spanish oligarchy.
We wish to express our solidarity with the British working people. Let us unite our forces and push forth a popular and progressive struggle against imperialism and reaction.
7 July 2005
October Communist Organization
Translated from the Spanish, for Alliance M-L, by H.D. Benoit