Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Does America Have an Anti-War Majority?

A new Zogby America poll claims: "A majority of likely voters -- 52% -- would support a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, and 53% believe it is likely that the U.S. will be involved in a military strike against Iran before the next presidential election" ("Zogby Poll: 52% Support U.S. Military Strike Against Iran," 29 October 2007).

It should be noted that this Zogby poll showing a pro-war majority is an exception to other recent polls: e.g., the 12-14 October 2007 CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll reports that only 29% favor "military action in Iran" and 68% oppose it; and the 4-8 September 2007 CBS News/New York Times poll says that a mere 9% want "military action now," 59% go for "diplomacy now," and 24% even think that Iran is "not a threat" requiring any action ("Iran,", 31 October 2007).

Why does the Zogby poll show such a dramatically different result than others?

The Zogby poll came out the way it did because it gave another option to support a military strike against Iran beyond a simple three-way choice of "favor, oppose, or unsure," the option appealing to "cruise missile liberals" who don't trust the Bush White House but are waiting for a liberal feminist empire presided over by the next POTUS Hillary Rodham Clinton:
There is considerable division about when a strike on Iran should take place -- if at all. Twenty-eight percent believe the U.S. should wait to strike until after the next president is in office while 23% would favor a strike before the end of President Bush's term. Another 29% said the U.S. should not attack Iran, and 20% were unsure. The view that Iran should not be attacked by the U.S. is strongest among Democrats (37%) and independents, but fewer than half as many Republicans (15%) feel the same. But Republicans are also more likely to be uncertain on the issue (28%). (emphasis added, "Zogby Poll: 52% Support U.S. Military Strike Against Iran," 29 October 2007)
Among the four camps of Americans, the No War camp is still the largest, and we'll continue to have an anti-war majority till the end of George W. Bush's term, but we have to think about how to sway, directly or indirectly, the 23% who say "the U.S. should wait to strike until after the next president is in office."

New Prophets of the Proletariat

Historical materialism, in so far as it is a variety of materialism, takes nature, human and non-human, into account. One of the most important factors for social change in this century will be natural disasters, whose intensity and frequency are likely to increase due to climate change.
The business-as-usual scenario yields an increase of about five degrees Fahrenheit of global warming during this century. . . . How much will sea level rise with five degrees of global warming? Here too, our best information comes from the Earth's history. The last time that the Earth was five degrees warmer was three million years ago, when sea level was about eighty feet higher.

Eighty feet! In that case, the United States would lose most East Coast cities: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and Miami; indeed, practically the entire state of Florida would be under water. Fifty million people in the US live below that sea level. Other places would fare worse. China would have 250 million displaced persons. Bangladesh would produce 120 million refugees, practically the entire nation. India would lose the land of 150 million people. (Jim Hansen, "The Threat to the Planet," New York Review of Books 53.12, 13 July 2006)

James Hansen, Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA, Presentation at Albany Law School, April 18, 2006.

James Hansen, Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA, Presentation at Albany Law School, April 18, 2006.

The world at the end of the 21st century, if not sooner, may very well look like demographic and environmental nightmares of Mike Davis re-mixed, amplified, and in an endless loop. The impacts of climate change will be especially severe in the global South. Disasters will displace and dispossess untold numbers, and weak states unable or unwilling to provide for the newly displaced and dispossessed will be in for legitimation crisis.

Old priests of capitalism will be challenged by new prophets of the proletariat of global slums. The new prophets, however, are unlikely to speak the language of Marx. "Indeed, for the moment at least, Marx has yielded the historical stage to Mohammed and the Holy Ghost. If God died in the cities of the industrial revolution, he has risen again in the postindustrial cities of the developing world" (Mike Davis, "Planet of Slums," New Left Review 26, March-April 2004). Can the new prophets, unlike the old ones, prevail?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Egypt: Islam, Democracy, and Labor Unrest

A story that Lenin's Tomb, Hossam el-Hamalawy, Joel Beinin, etc. have been covering well has finally percolated down to the corporate media.
The weeklong strike last month ended peacefully when the government-owned company made concessions on wages and profit-sharing bonuses that fell short of workers' demands. But the mill and its 27,000 employees have become a focal point of the labor unrest. Nearly a year ago, the same workers struck for several days, igniting solidarity across Egypt as work stoppages spread to railway, flour and other industries whose salaries and benefits have not kept pace with sharp rises in the cost of living.

"This is the largest, most militant strike wave since the 1940s," said Sameh Naguib, a labor expert and sociology professor at the American University in Cairo. "Hundreds of thousands of workers are involved and it's spreading quite rapidly. . . . The question is how this labor movement may play into a larger democratic movement against the government."

Mubarak's economic reforms, including privatization and lower corporate tax rates, have led to 7% economic growth in each of the last three years. Those otherwise impressive statistics have not benefited workers whose stagnant salaries have been decimated by wildly surging prices that have recently pushed inflation to monthly rates as high as 15%. This has created resentment among the lower and middle classes, who say Mubarak's economic liberalization has benefited only those with government connections.

The strikes come as Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party, or NDP, has cracked down on political opposition, jailed journalists and editors, closed a human rights organization and imprisoned hundreds of members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Egyptian officials contend that the Muslim Brotherhood, which adheres to strict Islamic law and has been accused of inspiring militants, and other anti-Mubarak elements, including the secular Kefaya political organization, are attempting to radicalize the nation's unions.

The textile workers say they are not influenced by outside forces, but by disillusionment over salaries and what they see as corrupt union leaders poorly representing them during Egypt's opening of its economy.

"Of course we will see more strikes, and the reason is clear to everybody," said Kamal Abbas, head of an independent worker advocacy group that was shut down by the government this year on charges of inciting labor unrest. "This union is totally subordinate to the state, and all its members are appointed by the state security services. There must be a [genuine] union that represents workers."(emphasis added, Jeffrey Fleishman, "Discontent among Egypt's Workers," Los Angeles Times, 27 October 2007)
Rarely do workers en masse rebel against corporatist "trade unions" (a common problem from post-socialist to post-nationalist states that have degenerated from enlightened despotism to mere despotism) as well as their employers at the same time, so what's happening in Egypt is noteworthy. Mubarak's NDP charges "outside agitators" like the Muslim Brotherhood (whose economic program, while criticizing some aspects of privatization, unemployment, etc., is extremely cautious: "The Electoral Programme of the Muslim Brotherhood for Shura Council in 2007," Ikhwanweb, Cairo) and Kifaya with causing trouble, but that is not the case . . . yet. If Egypt's political opposition do not support workers fed up with economic liberalism as well as political corporatism, and vice versa, they cannot challenge the Mubarak regime. Neither workerism nor electoralism nor activism in "civil society" alone suffices.

Iran's Military Budget: "Roughly the Same as Sweden's"

The US power elite want Americans to believe that Iran will dominate the Middle East if America doesn't stop it. Paul Krugman expertly deflates the politics of fear: "we're talking about a country with roughly the G.D.P. of Connecticut, and a government whose military budget is roughly the same as Sweden's" ("Fearing Fear Itself," New York Times, 29 October 2007). Even compared with its neighbors', Iran's defense spending is quite modest. See Kaveh Ehsani's table below ("Iran: The Populist Threat to Democracy," Middle East Report 241, Winter 2006).

Total Defense Spending
(in dollars)

Per Capita Defense Spending
(in dollars)

Percentage of GDP

Active-Duty Armed Forces


4.1 billion





10.1 billion





9.7 billion




Saudi Arabia

21 billion





4 billion





2.6 billion





3.3 billion




Source: International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2005-2006 (London, 2005)

See, also, "What Is Hegemonic about Iran?" Neo-Resistance, 29 October 2007.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Right to Organize an Independent Labor Union in Iran

In 2001, Saeed Rahnema and Haideh Moghissi wrote:
For the workers' movement in particular, nothing is more crucial than an opportunity to form independent trade union organizations, and this cannot be achieved without weakening the power of the present autocratic clerical regime.

Such developments will create real possibilities for the century-old movements for democracy, freedom of conscience, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, respect for minority rights, women's rights, economic development, and social justice to succeed. Such objective circumstances favoring action by the secular left will almost inevitably arise, if the existing equilibrium, or "the balance of fear" -- a popular term used to define the hesitation of various factions within the ruling bloc to strike the final blow -- continues. This impasse within the Islamic reform movement will undoubtedly intensify the push for radical change and will give the secular opposition a chance to actively participate in the struggle for establishing -- as a first step -- a secular democratic state in place of the existing clerical oligarchy.("Clerical Oligarchy and the Question of 'Democracy' in Iran," Monthly Review 52.10, March 2001)
I'm afraid things didn't turn out the way Rahnema and Moghissi hoped. Among the candidates for the 2005 Presidential Elections in Iran, there was one who came out for the right to organize an independent labor union -- Mostafa Moin, "the candidate representing 'progressive reformists'":
Moin's backers also reached out to workers by acknowledging their rights to strike and to establish independent unions. Since the revolution, all unions have been organized under the auspices of the Labor Ministry. If it is not just a symbolic statement, this acknowledgement would signal a change in orientation by the reformist politicians toward the reality that Iranians will not simply trust them to be wiser and more just stewards of the Islamic Republic than the conservatives. (Arang Keshavarzian and Mohammad Maljoo, "Paradox and Possibility in Iran's Presidential Election," Middle East Report, 17 June 2005)
Moin received only 14% of the vote, finishing in fourth place in the first round. Not surprising, since "the reformists surrounding Moin continued to direct their appeals to the middle classes, and openly spoke of themselves as a party of 'the elite' (nokhbegan, a term which, unfortunately, does not have the negative connotations it carries in English)" (Kaveh Ehsani, "Iran's Presidential Runoff: The Long View," Middle East Report, 24 June 2005).

Iran's labor activists will have to first get their fellow Iranians interested in workers' self-organization. Unfortunately for them, ardent support of the labor wing of the empire for "free, independent trade unions" in Iran will likely be a minus, not a plus, for their cause in the eyes of a majority of Iranians.

I Am Iran -- Do Not Bomb Me

The best anti-war slogan for Iranian-Americans is "I Am Iran -- Do Not Bomb Me." Here are two photographs with signs that say just that (plus one that shows a really lovely young woman) seen at the 27 October 2007 demonstration in San Francisco.

I Am Iran -- Do Not Bomb Me

Stay Out of Iran

I Am Iran -- Do Not Bomb Me

Photo by Jahanshah Javid ("'I Am Iran, Do Not Bomb Me': Photo Essay: San Francisco Anti-war Rally,", 28 October 2007)

Comments left on Javid's photo essay at show, however, that Iranian-Americans are far from united around this slogan.

One commentator observed: "Imagine if it was a gugush concert. More would show up. That's sad." True, but this is just a beginning. More Iranian-Americans will rediscover their love for Iran.

How Can Anybody Be Persian?

Comment peut-on être Persan ?
par Manouchehr Mottaki

Dans son chef-d'oeuvre Les Lettres persanes, publié en 1721, le grand philosophe français Charles-Louis de Montesquieu s'interroge sur les comportements surprenants des Français : lorsque Rica, son voyageur iranien arrivé à Paris, décide de s'habiller à la française, il constate avec étonnement que ses amis français ne le traitent plus avec l'admiration qu'ils lui portaient auparavant. Ce dualisme dans le comportement de la société française du XVIIIe siècle conduit le voyageur à se demander comment il est possible d'être iranien et de vivre dans un autre monde, à savoir l'Occident.

L'histoire du dossier nucléaire iranien repose la même question. En effet, il y a trente ans, alors qu'un régime dictatorial régnait sur l'Iran, la décision de la République française de coopérer à la politique nucléaire d'un tel régime avait reçu l'approbation de tous les hommes politiques jusqu'au plus haut niveau. Au cours de ces années, les Français ne se sont posé aucune question concernant les objectifs du chah.

Bien au contraire : la France proposa la participation iranienne à Framatome, puis à Eurodif, allant même jusqu'à inviter le chah à visiter les sites nucléaires français à Saclay et ne montrant aucune inquiétude concernant la coopération dans le domaine nucléaire, y compris militaire.

Des années plus tard, lorsque le peuple iranien a mis fin au régime dictatorial et, s'inspirant des principes suprêmes de l'islam, a décidé de fonder une République ayant pour principe l'indépendance et la liberté (les valeurs mêmes de la Révolution française et de la Ve République), il s'attendait à ce que les dirigeants français accueillent positivement ce grand soulèvement, oeuvrant pour le développement de la démocratie en Orient.

Or, la véritable tragédie est survenue lorsque l'Iranien de l'ère nouvelle, comme le personnage de Montesquieu, décida de bénéficier des moyens modernes du développement. Depuis, les coopérations pour le développement se sont arrêtées et les relations bilatérales se sont assombries au point que les armements français ont été généreusement mis à la disposition d'un autre tyran, nommé Saddam Hussein, afin qu'il prenne pour cible le peuple sans défense des villes iraniennes et détruise avec des armes françaises une partie du patrimoine historique grandiose d'un pays aussi ancien que la Perse.

Un pays tel que la République islamique d'Iran, avec son potentiel régional et international, n'a pas besoin de se livrer à des marchandages pour défendre ses droits et poursuivre son développement économique et social. Œuvrer pour l'avenir des générations futures est notre devoir sacré et ne tolère aucune hésitation. Bien évidemment, dans cette voie, la République islamique d'Iran n'a pas opté pour une logique de confrontation. La coopération avec l'Agence internationale de l'énergie atomique, l'acceptation de l'initiative des pays européens en 2003, la mise en oeuvre volontaire du protocole additionnel et la suspension de l'enrichissement pendant deux ans, etc. sont des illustrations de la bonne foi de l'Iran.

La question est donc de savoir ce qui s'est passé pour qu'un certain nombre de nos amis français, sans prendre en compte la place historique de leur pays en Europe, aient opté pour un ton très éloigné de celui qu'on pouvait attendre d'une vieille diplomatie. Nos documents de négociations démontrent qu'à l'été 2003, au début des négociations avec les Européens, nos amis français ont précisé qu'ils prenaient en main ce dossier afin de renforcer le poids de l'Europe sur la scène internationale et de tirer le bateau britannique vers le continent.

Or, lorsque j'ai entendu le ministère britannique des affaires étrangères annoncer qu'il soutenait avec enthousiasme la demande française pour des sanctions unilatérales, et qu'en face l'Espagne, l'Italie, l'Autriche et l'Allemagne ont annoncé leur préférence pour davantage d'efforts diplomatiques, je me suis demandé si ce n'était pas le bateau britannique qui depuis 2003 tire le continent désemparé vers lui ? Même s'il convient de patienter un peu avant de se prononcer sur l'attitude du nouveau gouvernement britannique.

Le président de la République française estime, à juste titre, que le développement insuffisant des pays de la région entraîne l'instabilité et l'accroissement de l'insécurité. Ce développement passe par celui de l'énergie nucléaire. La République islamique d'Iran ne souhaite donc pas que sa politique en matière nucléaire fasse l'objet d'une vision discriminatoire de la part de la France. Aussi, l'Iran poursuivra ses activités nucléaires et l'enrichissement d'uranium à des fins civiles, dans le respect des accords de sauvegarde et sous la supervision de l'AIEA, et en coopération avec les autres pays du monde. Il le fera sans se préoccuper de l'éventualité d'une attitude discriminatoire.

Les préoccupations de la République islamique d'Iran ne sont nullement hypothétiques. Dans l'histoire des relations bilatérales, il existe en effet de nombreux exemples d'une approche discriminatoire de la part de la France (notamment l'embargo sur la vente d'avions de transport civil, de matériels médicaux et des radars pour la lutte contre le trafic des stupéfiants ou l'immigration clandestine).

"Comment peut-on être Persan ?", se demandait l'ami français du voyageur des Lettres persanes. Montesquieu en tirait la conclusion que la pensée étroite de cet homme ne lui permettait pas d'admettre qu'il y ait, dans l'univers, d'autres personnes que des Français.
How Can Anybody Be Persian?
by Manouchehr Mottaki

In his masterpiece Persian Letters, published in 1721, the great French philosopher Charles-Louis de Montesquieu ponders the surprising behaviors of the French: his Iranian traveler Rica, arriving in Paris, decides to dress like the French and learns with astonishment that his French friends no longer treat him with admiration that they previously had for him. This dualism in the behavior of French society of the 18th century leads the traveler to wonder how it is possible to be Iranian and to live in another world, namely the West.

The history of the Iranian nuclear issue raises the same question. Indeed, thirty years ago, when a dictatorial regime reigned in Iran, the French Republic's decision to cooperate with such a regime on nuclear policy received the approval of all the politicians up to the highest level. In those years, the French did not ask any question about the objectives of the Shah.

Quite to the contrary: France proposed the Iranian participation in Framatome, then in Eurodif, even going so far as to invite the Shah to visit the French nuclear sites in Saclay, without exhibiting any unease about cooperation in the nuclear field, including military.

Years later, when the Iranian people put an end to the dictatorial regime and, inspired by the highest principles of Islam, decided to found a republic on the principles of independence and freedom (the very values of the French Revolution and the Fifth Republic), we expected the French leaders to positively welcome this great uprising, working for the development of democracy in the East.

However, a veritable tragedy occurred when the Iranians of the new era, like Montesquieu's character, decided to benefit from modern means of development. Thereafter, cooperation for development was halted, and the bilateral relations darkened, so much so that French weapons were generously placed at the disposal of another tyrant, named Saddam Hussein, so that the tyrant could target the defenseless people of Iranian cities and destroy, with French arms, a part of the magnificent historical heritage of a country as old as Persia.

A country such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, with its regional and international potential, has no need to give itself up to haggling in order to defend its rights and to continue its economic and social development. Work for the future of coming generations is our sacred duty, and it doesn't admit any hesitation. Obviously, in this path, the Islamic Republic of Iran did not choose a logic of confrontation. Its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, its acceptance of the initiative of the European countries in 2003, its voluntary implementation of the additional protocol, its suspension of enrichment for two years, etc. illustrate the good faith of Iran.

The question is thus what caused a certain number of our French friends to -- without taking their country's historic place in Europe into account -- choose a tone very far from what we would expect from venerable diplomacy. Our documents of negotiations show that, in the summer of 2003, at the beginning of the negotiations with the Europeans, our French friends explained that they took charge of this issue in order to reinforce the weight of Europe on the international scene and to pull the British ship towards the continent.

However, when I heard the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs announce that it enthusiastically supported the French demand for unilateral sanctions, though Spain, Italy, Austria, and Germany in opposition announced their preference for more diplomatic efforts, I wondered whether it wasn't the British ship that, since 2003, had been drawing the lost continent towards it. Even if it is advisable to have a little patience before coming to a conclusion about the attitude of the new British government.

The president of the French Republic rightly believes that insufficient development of countries leads to regional instability and heightened insecurity. This development goes through that of nuclear energy. The Islamic Republic of Iran thus does not wish its nuclear policy to become the target of a discriminatory vision on the part of France. Therefore, Iran will continue its nuclear activities and uranium enrichment for civilian purposes, respecting the safeguard agreements and under the supervision of the IAEA, and in cooperation with other countries of the world. It will do so without worrying about the possibility of a discriminatory behavior.

The concerns of the Islamic Republic of Iran are by no means hypothetical. In the history of bilateral relations, there indeed exist many examples of a discriminatory approach on the part of France (in particular embargo on the sale of civil transport aircraft, medical equipment, and radars to combat drug trafficking or illegal immigration).

"How can anybody be Persian?" wondered the French friend of the traveler of Persian Letters. Montesquieu drew the conclusion from it that the narrow thought of this man did not permit him to admit that there are, in the universe, other people besides the French.

Manouchehr Mottaki is the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  This essay was first published in Le Monde on 25 October 2007.  English translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.   Read it in Persian at Entekhab News.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

For Left Unity, of All Its Currents

Hisham Bustani, a Jordanian Marxist, says that Islamists are "the only real political force on the Arab scene today" and calls upon them to "open up internally to other non-religious forces (Marxist and nationalist) and espouse a civil, secular liberation program" (As'ad al-Azzouni, "Surmounting Sectarianism in the Middle East: An Interview with Hisham Bustani," MRZine, 28 October 2007):
Islamists who see themselves on the side of political clarity must comprehend the impossibility of attaching a liberation program to a subordinate authority structure, and they must decide on their options by removing themselves from a so-called pragmatic approach that enables containment and manipulation by international and regional powers. Islamists must open up internally to other non-religious forces (Marxist and nationalist) and espouse a civil, secular liberation program; and they must learn from the experiences in Lebanon and Iraq, where the religious and sectarian element was the basis for the game of hegemony and the foundation for fragmentation setting people against each other instead of being united against their common enemy.

This is not to say that Islamists are opportunists while secular forces are not. My concentration on Islamists is because they are the only real political force on the Arab scene today. There are two trends in the Islamic movement, one opportunist and the other principled. And the principled Islamists should pay heed, because in the light of this analysis they will be the first to be sacrificed by their opportunist brethren in faith and struggle.

Of course, there are also opportunist leftists (NGO beneficiaries and Marxists-turned-liberals) and xenophobic nationalists (with fascist tendencies against Iranians, Kurds, and Turks), but these phenomena are only trivial, since their currents are too weak to take the streets and challenge existing power.

Overall and as a prime desideratum, there is a huge and pressing imperative today for Left unity, of all its currents: the left of the Islamic movement, the left of the nationalist movement, and the left of the leftist progressive and revolutionary movement, on the basis of a program of resistance, liberation, and political clarity. The opposing Right of all those currents is already united and taking action.
Secular Marxists and nationalists wouldn't like to be told that "their currents are too weak to take the streets and challenge existing power"; and few Islamists, even those who are already working with other forces externally, are ready to make radical changes in their movements' internal structures and political programs and make that public (even when they have already made such changes in practice, they are often loath to alter their movements' founding documents). And yet, it is undeniable that "Left unity, of all its currents" is indeed "a prime desideratum."

"The Russians Know Very Well What Would Happen to Them if a Pro-American Government Was in Power in Tehran"

Putin compares the US plan for a missile shield in Europe to the Cuban missile crisis: "Putin Invokes Cuban Missile Crisis" (Tony Barber, Financial Times, 26 October 2007). It is possible that Putin also sees Iran as the USSR saw Cuba -- only more is at stake this time, as Iran is closer to Russia than Cuba. Putin must have considered a possibility: what if Washington succeeds in its "regime change" campaign, installing a pro-American and anti-Russian regime in Iran, under the pretext of Iran's nuclear dossier and its support for its friends in Iraq and Afghanistan? Indeed, Iran's Leader Ali Khamenei said as much: "The Russians know very well what would happen to them if a pro-American government was in power in Tehran" ("Iranian TV: Ayatollah Khamene'i Speaks on Khomeyni's Death Anniversary (2), Islamic Republic of Iran News Network Television," Trans. the Open Source Center, 4 June 2006, available online at Informed Comment). Washington has so far failed to understand the seriousness with which Putin is taking what he probably sees as the empire's steady march toward Russia, from both the European and West Asian fronts. Therein lies Iran's chance, if its leadership does not overplay its hand.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Labor Wing of the Empire

The history of the labor wing of the US-led multinational empire -- such as the International Trade Union Confederation (the result of the 2006 merger of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the World Confederation of Labour) with which the International Transport Workers' Federation is allied -- claiming to promote free, independent trade unions, i.e., trade unions that are independent of Communist parties and governments, and to act in solidarity with workers of the global South has not been a pretty one: see, for instance, Beth Sims, Workers of the World Undermined: American Labor's Role in U.S. Foreign Policy (South End Press, 1992). The end of state socialism and the Cold War did not change its fundamental role. A more recent history of it has been documented by such labor writers as Harry Kelber and Kim Scipes among others. Here is an example from Haiti: Jeb Sprague, "Failed Solidarity: The ICFTU, AFL-CIO, ILO, and ORIT in Haiti" (Labor Notes, June 2006). Leftists inside and outside Iran ought to be aware of what the labor wing of the empire does.1

The labor wing of the empire, like other vehicles of "democracy assistance," seizes upon a real problem of most post-revolutionary governments, whether they are Communist, nationalist, or Islamic: the fact that space for autonomy for organizations of workers and others is restricted to various degrees for reasons of national security (lack of autonomy is nearly complete under a one-party state-socialist state). The absence of autonomy eventually undermines the social gains of revolution when either the rulers abandon their commitment to the ideology that made revolution possible or the ruled become depoliticized and self-centered or both (the history of state socialism in China, Russia, and Eastern Europe is a cautionary tale for the Iranians, just as the history of the overthrows of Mossadegh, Arbenz, Allende, and others is). However, workers who turn to the labor wing of the empire to solve this undeniable problem usually come to grief.

Workers of the North, especially in the USA, are normally unaware of the dilemma faced by workers under post-revolutionary government in the South, who must fight for their class interests without undermining their national interests (especially defending their nation from the empire). In many cases, trade union members in the USA aren't even aware of what their unions are doing at home, let alone abroad. Naturally, they do not realize that intensified global competition, workers of formerly socialist or nationalist countries now competing with them for jobs, has come about in part because of the exertion of top labor bureaucrats of the North who were supposed to protect their interests.

In the meantime, workers of the North are also finding out how good their free, independent unions are, some of which are going far beyond business as usual of concession bargaining and giving up the right to strike altogether. See, for instance, Sam Gindin, "The CAW and Magna: Disorganizing the Working Class" (MRZine, 22 October 2007).

It is possible that, in the near future in the North, only French workers will remember how to strike, if not to win new gains, at least to defend their way of life. Even the still impressive national solidarity of French workers, however, may eventually be undermined by the gap between the public and private sectors: "nearly 20 points separates the rate of sympathy [for the 18 October 2007 strike] in the public sector (69%) from that in the private sector (49%)" (Christelle Chabaud, "The Majority Strike in Public Opinion," MRZine, 18 October 2007).

1 For instance, "On 15 February 2006, the ICFTU and its International Transport Workers' Federation coordinated rallies and protests outside Iranian legations world-wide" (Andreas Malm and Shora Esmailian, Iran on the Brink: Rising Workers and Threats of War, Pluto Press, 2007, p. 120), officials of the AFL-CIO and James P. Hoffa of the US Teamsters Union taking the lead. Malm and Esmailian celebrate this as "an unequalled manifestation of global solidarity with a labour movement in the Middle East" and "the most awe-inspiring show of global opposition to the labour politics of the Islamic Republic ever recorded" (Malm and Esmailian, pp. 120-121). Note, however, that nothing of the sort was done for any other Iranian workers, let alone workers of other countries in the Middle East, especially those of the empire's client states like Egypt.

Other Iranian labor activists took note of this contrast. Malm and Esmailian report that "The activists of Mohsen Hakimi and the other council communists of Komiteye Hamahangi, on the other hand, limited themselves to issuing a few statements, one of which was a condemnation of the global day of action" mentioned above (Malm and Esmailian, p. 121). The condemnation in question stated: "It means that the ICFTU . . . in the realm of the current conflict among the bourgeois government of Iran and other bourgeois governments [sic] has wanted the false defense of the demands of workers in Iran [to] be made a pretext in order to support one sector of the bourgeoisie in contrary to another sector" (qtd. in Malm and Esmailian, p. 121). While the translation is awkward, you get the drift. Malm and Esmailian cite it only to dismiss it as "[u]ltra-leftist gibberish," but that says more about their own lack of understanding of the labor wing of the empire, of which some Iranian workers are aware.

So do some workers of the North. Take Zenroren, an ally of the Japanese Communist Party, for instance. This year, there was an "ITF/ITUC International Action Day on Thursday 9 August in solidarity with union leaders Mansour Osanloo and Mahmoud Salehi," the day of action in part organized by the State Department-funded Solidarity Center. Rengo joined them, but Zenroren did not. Communists of Japan, no longer Marxists, still know better than getting involved in labor imperialism.

Far from it, JCP leaders actually attend the celebrations of the Iranian Revolution held at the Iranian Embassy in Japan and take other actions for the purpose of what they call Yato Gaikou, "opposition party diplomacy": see, for instance, "イラン革命記念レセプションに 志位委員長が出席," Akahata, 11 February 2003; "イラン革命記念レセプション: 不破議長が出席," Akahata, 11 February 2004; "イラン革命記念レセプション: 志位委員長が出席、ハラジ外相とあいさつ," Akahata, 11 February 2005; "イラン大使と志位委員長が懇談," Akahata, 21 December 2005; and "イラン革命記念レセプション: 市田書記局長が出席", Akahata, 10 February 2007.

Not that they agree on everything. The JCP, like most political parties in the world, is committed to a two-state idea on Israel/Palestine, whereas Iran is just about the only country in the world whose government is officially committed to a one-state solution based on the referendum of all people who live in historic Palestine and Palestinian refugees (though Iran's government adds that, whatever the Palestinians accept, it will also accept it), and the party candidly discusses its concerns with Iran's ambassadors (see "イラン大使と志位委員長が懇談," Akahata, 21 December 2005).

What's Good about Islam?

What's behind David Horowitz's "Islamo-Fascism Awareness" week? A short supply of pinkos in the USA, observes Alexander Cockburn: "The left in America is really in very poor shape: near zero Commies, and really only a sprinkling of radical black profs, militant Lesbians and kindred antinomians to beat up on" ("So Much for Islamo-Fascism Awareness," CounterPunch, 27-28 October 2007). Right he is.

Leftists in the USA have built neither a mass communist party nor a mass social democratic party. The Red Purge of the fifties was so successful that few Reds remain in trade unions. There are only two institutions that leftists have managed to "capture" through a "long march" in the USA: academia and mainline Protestantism.1 The former has been a target of Horowitz for a long time, as its conquest was never complete, its summit (boards of trustees and top administration) firmly in the enemy camp. It's only a matter of time before he turns to the latter.

Cockburn also contends in the aforementioned article: "Coalitions have formed to combat Horowitz's version of Awareness with superior Progressive Awareness about what is good or not so good about Islam" (27-28 October 2007). This I doubt. Rare are secular leftists who, though quick to point out what's "not so good" about Islam, wouldn't stumble if asked to explain what's "good" about it.

Average secular leftists are, in reality, as uncomfortable about encounters with Muslims as rightists. They, unlike rightists, tolerate Islam and even defend Muslims when they become victims of right-wing Islamophobia, but that is as far as they are willing to go. They still think it is a "tragedy" that Muslims, especially Muslim women, adhere to their faith, assuming it to be inferior to their own secular ideology: "Liberal-Leftist Islamophobia Watch (Part I)," Ihsan, 18 September 2007; and "Left-Liberal Islamophobia Watch (Part II)," Ihsan, 23 October 2007.2 That won't do. We expect the religious to recognize that the irreligious are morally equal to them. So would they in turn. Unless and until secular leftists realize that Islam is as good a theology of liberation as Christianity and historical materialism, and vice versa, solidarity won't be forever.

1 Left-wing Jews might have "captured" at least Reform Judaism if not other branches had they remained within their faith community, but they have tended to reject their faith altogether. Indeed, Zionists' hegemony of major institutions, secular or religious, that claim to represent Jews is so complete that some Jewish leftists, exasperated, would even consider resigning from "the Jewish people":
Did you ever wonder what your last thought would be just before you died or believed you might die? Well, I did, and a few years ago in the waning moments before going under the knife for a life threatening operation I got my answer. As the nurses wheeled me into the operating room, what burst upon my consciousness was not, as might be expected, the fear of dying but a terrible angst at the idea of dying a Jew. I was appalled to finish my life with my umbilical cord still tied to a people with whom I can no longer identify. That this should be my "last" thought greatly surprised me at the time, and it still does.

What did it mean . . . and why is it so hard to resign from a people? (Bertell Ollman, "Letter of Resignation from the Jewish People," Dialectical Marxism)
2 For secular leftists' criticisms of Islamophobia on the Left, see, for instance, Deepa Kumar, "Danish Cartoons: Racism Has No Place on the Left," MRZine, 21 February 2006; Deepa Kumar, "Fighting Islamophobia: A Response to Critics," MRZine, 3 April 2006; Richard Fidler, "Ontario's 'Sharia Law' Controversy: How Muslims Were Hung Out to Dry," MRZine 27 May 2006; Rami El-Amine, "Anti-Arab Racism, Islam, and the Left," MRZine, 3 September 2006;

Friday, October 26, 2007

"We Would Like to See Them Work Together"

Revolutionary Leaders

There exists an image of ideal-typical class struggle in the imagination of many a leftist: the working class, united across borders, fight against the capital-states. That has never happened, and that never will.

Jay Gould, who reportedly said, "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half," understood class struggle much better than any Marxist.

Class struggle in the real world is a cross-class political faction fight. When class struggle becomes revolutionary, it tends to polarize, pitting one faction consisting of peasants, workers, the petit-bourgeoisie from whom revolutionary leaders usually arise, and even a section of the bourgeoisie, against the other faction made up of peasants, workers, the petit-bourgeoisie, and the bulk of the bourgeoisie.

Why is it that revolutionary leaders tend to come from the middling sort? Because they are better educated and more ambitious than those below them and yet those above them block their advancement in the existing order. Only by destroying the existing order and establishing a new one can they make full use of their education and fulfill their ambition.

Their objective circumstances are not unlike those of Julien Sorel and Jude Fawley, but they are temperamentally Anti-Juliens and Anti-Judes: unlike Julien, they are not individualists; and unlike Jude, they are not defeated.

Intellectuals cannot become revolutionary leaders, however, unless the masses endow them with charisma. It is not intellectuals who choose the masses but the other way around. How the masses do so has been little studied by Marxists. For that, we must turn to Max Weber and Weberians, especially Pierre Bourdieu.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

El socialismo, el estadio más alto de la democracia y el republicanismo

El socialismo, el estadio más alto de la democracia y el republicanismo

Por Yoshie Yuruhashi
Traducción Julio Fernández Baraibar

Hay una tendencia, entre los laicistas, tanto izquierdistas como liberales, a adoptar un punto de vista conspirativo frente a la aparición de un "Islam político": el imperio o las clases dominantes "compradoras", o ambas, lo implantaron entre las masas inocentes que previamente eran "tan sólo musulmanas". Esto es un punto de vista simplista. El Islam como movimiento político de masas no puede ser implantado desde afuera, así como el socialismo como movimiento político de masas no puede ser implantado desde afuera. Las clases dominantes, extranjeras o locales, sólo pueden ayudar a desarrollar y deformar lo que ya existe entre las masas, así como los socialistas sólo pueden ayudar a desarrollar, reformar y revolucionar lo que ya existe entre ellas.

Un punto de vista conspirativo del "Islam político" soslaya un examen empírico de las condiciones políticas y económicas, sociales y culturales del pueblo trabajador que lo acepta y lo hace propio. Esta negligencia no ayuda para nada a los izquierdistas laicos a cualquier aproximación que quieran hacer hacia alguna variedad de Islam, a darle un apoyo crítico, como los comunistas libaneses han estado haciendo con el Hizbollah, por ejemplo, o a combatir, tal como deben hacer, sectas terroristas voluntaristas y aventureras del tipo Al Qaeda, o a tratar de alguna manera con cualquier otro grupo (como el AKP1, los Hermanos Musulmanes2, etc.)

Los izquierdistas laicos deben acordar con un hecho: las variedades del Islam son una parte esencial de la cultural de las masas nacional-populares de muchos países, especialmente aquellos que son los más cruciales para el Gran Juego del Siglo XXI (la caza de energía en el contexto de una declinante hegemonía del dólar), tal como lo son las variedades de cristianismo en Latinoamérica. Y dentro de la misma cosmovisión religiosa de las masas existen semillas tanto de liberación como de reacción. Cuando los intelectuales orgánicos de la izquierda, laica o religiosa, que son "concientes de estar encadenados orgánicamente a las masas nacional-populares"3 fallan en levantar y crear una ideología nacional-popular que haga justicia a las semillas de liberación en la conciencia religiosa de las masas, las clases dominantes sacan ventaja de las semillas de reacción en esa misma conciencia.

Los izquierdistas laicos deben aprender a descartar la ilusión de que las masas trabajadoras religiosas deben primero ser secularizadas y luego, y sólo luego, serán receptivas a la idea radical de revolución. Aquellos que estén tentados por esta ilusión necesitan, tan sólo, mirar al Japón: la clase obrera japonésa es, quizás, la más secularizada del mundo y a la vez, y desde hace mucho, está entre las menos revolucionarias.

La historia muestra que una revolución social auténtica puede ocurrir a través de una ideología secular (Francia), una ideología religiosa (Irán) o una creativa combinación de ambas (Venezuela). Las experiencias de auténticas revoluciones sociales, así sean religiosas o seculares, jacobinas o bolivarianas, son más importantes para la educación política de las masas acerca de la democracia y el republicanismo que el laicismo autoritario impuesto desde arriba por déspotas ilustrados (sean nacionalistas o socialistas) o la secularización molecularmente efectuada por el consumismo capitalista (que tiende, primero, a pacificar las masas y, luego finalmente, invita a la reacción cuando el despotismo ilustrado degenera en mero despotismo, y esto despolitiza al pueblo y los hace más pasivos que ninguna otra ideología, religiosa o secular). Y por lo que luchamos es la democracia y el republicanismo: después de todo, ¿qué es el socialismo sino el más alto estadio de democracia y republicanismo?

1 Partido religioso turco, vencedor en las últimas elecciones. Expresa puntos de vista de centro derecha y enfrenta el tradicional secularismo kemalista, que ha gobernado el país durante varias décadas y ha sido, después de la guerra, un aliado estratégico de los EE.UU. Nota de JFB.

2 Movimiento religioso revolucionario egipcio, de creciente influencia política en oposición al régimen laicista pro norteamericano. Los Hermanos Musulmanes son el movimiento político más numeroso de Egipto y, oficialmente, han sido proscriptos. Nota de JFB.

3 Antonio Gramsci, El Príncipe Moderno. Nota de JFB.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Varieties of Secularism

Secular leftists as well as liberals tend to think that religion is an ideology, a product of alienation, whereas secularism isn't. Secularism, however, is a political doctrine, and as such, it is as much of an ideology as religion.

What kind of ideology is secularism?

There are at least three major varieties of this ideology that we need to study:
  • republican secularism (secularism won from below through authentic social revolution, seen, for instance, in France and Mexico);

  • authoritarian secularism (secularism imposed from above, for instance, Kemalism, an ideology invented as much to dissociate Turkey from its own region and make it a member of the mythical West1 as to pacify the working masses by dictating and controlling their ideology, purging religion here, promulgating a state-sanctioned variety of it there);

  • the American separation of church and state (which makes the state legally secular but makes religion, both good and bad varieties, flourish in civil society).
Not all varieties of religion are valuable, nor are all varieties of secularism. Among the three, only republican secularism may serve as a path to the proletarian Enlightenment, political or intellectual, that empowers them.

Nevertheless, even republican secularism, if the Left is not careful, can be deformed by the power elite into an instrument of social control, for example, as a weapon of xenophobic attack on predominantly proletarian migrants from France's former colonial possessions in the MENA region. An uncritical approach to secularism just helps make the empire more powerful at the expense of working people, in the North as well as the South.

1 Initially, Kemalism was an ideology of modernization as Westernization. The European Union's reluctance to admit Turkey as its member, however, has begun to change it. Mustafa Akyol, deputy editor of the Turkish Daily News, recently observed:
What is most striking in this nationwide division is that the so-called Islamists are generally on the liberal pro-Western side, while the secularists are often on the other. In the general election held on July 22, the "Islamist" AKP had the most strongly pro-E.U. platform, whereas the ultra-secularist Republican People's Party tried to woo voters with Euro-skeptic rhetoric. (The AKP won the elections with a clear victory of 47 percent, while its main secular rival took 21 percent.) The AKP is also a strong proponent of free markets and foreign investment, whereas most secularist politicians see such things as "imperialist" and favor a state-protected economy. As Ziya Onis, a political economist at Koc University in Istanbul, said recently, the current power struggle in Turkey is between "conservative globalists" and "defensive nationalists" -- including the ultra-secular Kemalists. ("The Protocols of the Elders of Turkey," Washington Post, 7 October 2007, p. B2)
It is in this context where the strangest variety of anti-Semitism, which peddles "a conspiracy theory about a Zionist plot to create an Islamist state" in Turkey, has emerged among Kemalists.
Look in just about any bookstore in Turkey, and you'll see some of the strangest bestsellers imaginable. The cover of "The Children of Moses," the first and most popular book in a series of four, shows the country's devoutly Muslim prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the middle of a six-pointed Star of David. Inside, you'll find a head-spinningly weird argument: that Erdogan and his conservative allies in Turkey's ruling pro-Islamic party are actually crypto-Jews with secret wicked ties to the conspiratorial forces of "global Zionism."

The books are hardly a fringe phenomenon. They're arrayed in chic bookstores along Istiklal Avenue, the funky pedestrian mall that's the heart of secular Istanbul. They're openly displayed alongside Orhan Pamuk novels at Ataturk International Airport. And they're even sold on tiny bookstands on the Princes' Islands, the vacation destinations in the Sea of Marmara that many well-off Turks view the way Manhattanites do the Hamptons. By the publishers' figures, they've sold about 520,000 copies since the books started rolling out this year -- a staggering figure for a nation of about 71 million people.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Ergun Poyraz, who wrote the series, is a self-declared "Kemalist," the term used here to describe the committed followers of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the resolutely secular war hero who founded modern Turkey in 1923. The politicians whom Poyraz is out to skewer define themselves as sensible conservatives, but they're derided as closet fundamentalists by their foes among Turkey's traditional elites, who are still deeply suspicious of any intrusion of Islam into the public sphere. Poyraz's books argue -- apparently in all seriousness -- that "Zionism" has decided to steer Turkey away from its time-worn secular path and turn it into a "moderate Islamic republic." It is hard to believe that "Zionism" (let alone any sane Israeli leader) would prefer an Islamist Turkey to a secular one, but Poyraz is convinced that a mildly Islamic state would be more easily manipulated by foreign powers than a staunchly nationalist one. (Akyol, 7 October 2007, p. B2)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Iran and Egypt

Electoral turnouts are one indicator of the legitimacy of government. I'll compare Iran and Egypt, the most important powers in the MENA region.
  • Iran

    2005 Presidential Elections
    Turnout: 62.7% (the first round) and 59.6% (the second round)

    2004 Parliamentary Election
    Turnout: 50%

  • Egypt

    2005 Presidential Election
    Turnout: 22.9%

    2005 Parliamentary Election
    Turnout: 23%
I'd venture to say that Iran's electorate regard their government as more legitimate than Egypt's electorate do theirs.

But guess which government is Washington's target for "regime change," and which government is the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel?

Idealists and Materialists

Islam is the only medium of effective internationalism that can resist the empire on the front line of the Great Game of the 21st century: an energy hunt in the context of the declining dollar hegemony. Secular leftists have become decisively marginalized in nations of the MENA region, and secular leftists elsewhere, even those in Latin America, lack transnational infrastructure that Muslims have built over time to move money, manpower, hardware, and software for resistance in the region. Ironically, it is "idealists," Muslims, who have material means to combat the empire in its chosen battlefield, whereas in most cases "materialists," secular leftists, have only ideas. Muslims alone can only resist and cannot prevail, however. In the end, everything depends on the Russians and the Chinese, "materialists" of another category altogether.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Socialism, the Highest Stage of Democracy and Republicanism

There is a tendency, found among secular leftists as well as liberals, to take a conspiracist view of the emergence of "Political Islam": the empire, its comprador ruling classes, or both implanted it among the innocent masses who were previously "just Muslims," just like that. That is a simplistic view. Islam as a mass political movement cannot be implanted from outside, just as socialism as a mass political movement cannot be implanted from outside. The ruling classes, foreign or domestic, can only help develop and deform what already exists among the masses, just as socialists can only help develop, reform, and revolutionize what already exists among them.

A conspiracist view of "Political Islam" slights empirical examinations of political and economic, social and cultural, conditions of working people who consent to it and make it their own. This neglect does not help secular leftists at all in any approach they may take toward any variety of Islam, in giving critical support to it, as the Lebanese Communists have been doing for Hizballah for instance, or in combating voluntarist and adventurist terrorist sects of Al Qaeda varieties as they must be, or in dealing with anything else (like the AKP, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.) in any way.

Secular leftists must come to terms with a fact: varieties of Islam are an essential part of the culture of the national-popular masses of many nations, especially those who are the most crucial to the Great Game of the 21st century (an energy hunt in the context of the declining dollar hegemony), just as varieties of Christianity are in Latin America. And within the same religious worldviews of the masses there exist seeds of both liberation and reaction. When organic intellectuals on the Left, secular or religious, who are "conscious of being linked organically to a national-popular mass" fail to arise and create a national-popular ideology that does justice to the seeds of liberation in the religious consciousness of the masses, the ruling classes take advantage of the seeds of reaction in the very same consciousness.

Secular leftists must learn to discard the illusion that religious working masses must be first secularized, and then and only then they will be receptive to the radical idea of revolution. Those who are tempted by this illusion need only look at Japan: the working class of Japan are perhaps the most secularized in the world, and yet they are also among the least revolutionary, as they have been for a long time.

History shows that authentic social revolution may come about through a secular ideology (France), a religious ideology (Iran), or a creative combination of both (Venezuela). Experiences of authentic social revolutions, whether they are religious or secular, Jacobin or Bolivarian, are more important in schooling the masses in democracy and republicanism than authoritarian secularism imposed from above by enlightened despots (whether they are nationalists or socialists) or secularization molecularly effected by consumerist capitalism (the former tends to first pacify the masses and then eventually invite reaction when enlightened despotism degenerates into mere despotism, and the latter depoliticizes people and makes them passive more than any other ideology, religious or secular). And it is democracy and republicanism that we should aim for -- after all, what is socialism but the highest stage of democracy and republicanism?


Yoshie Furuhashi, "El socialismo, el estadio más alto de la democracia y el republicanismo," Traducción Julio Fernández Baraibar, Critical Montages, 25 October 2005.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sex and Race

Reactions against racism of James Watson -- who said "he is 'inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa' because 'all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours -- whereas all the testing says not really'" -- came very fast: Robin McKie and Paul Harris, "Disgrace: How a Giant of Science Was Brought Low" (Observer, 21 October 2007). It may be a sign that the scientific establishment now accepts as the scientific norm that race, IQ, or both are social constructs rather than immutable biological essences, scientists such as the late Stephen Jay Gould having successfully educated their fellow scientists and the general public.

It has not gotten that far when it comes to gender, though, probably because most people, even many scientists, still think that gender, unlike race, has a biological foundation called sex. However, the concept of sex has changed as much as gender -- for instance, from the one-sex/two-gender model (according to which a woman is an "imperfect" man) before modernity to the two-sex/two-gender model (which has us believe that men and women are "opposite" sexes) after modernity in the West (see Thomas W. Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, Harvard University Press, 1990) -- demonstrating that it, too, is a social construct.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Most Powerful Pacific Weapons of the New World Order

The political economy of transnational "human rights" NGOs, even better ones like Amnesty International, is essentially a racket that commodifies morality and privatizes politics. They are even less accountable to "[p]eoples, including future generations, whose rights we seek to protect and advance" (in the extraordinarily arrogant words of the International Non-Governmental Organization Accountability Charter to which AI is a signatory) than governments they criticize. Unlike governments, they can't be voted out in elections or overthrown through revolution.

They say, "Our right to act is based on universally-recognised freedoms of speech, assembly and association, on our contribution to democratic processes, and on the values we seek to promote." But democracy is undermined, not promoted, when transnational moral corporations headquartered in the global North, accountable to no people (much like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund), promote their "values" in the global South. Even though a few of them have come to occasionally criticize problems (such as violations of prisoners' rights) of some governments of the North, a majority of their targets are still in the South. The ideology that the empire of NGOs cannot do without is one that would have us believe that people of the South need help of people of the North but not vice versa -- a fundamentally racist, imperialist ideology.

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri put it memorably in their book Empire (Harvard University Press, 2000):
What we are calling moral intervention is practiced today by a variety of bodies, including the news media and religious organizations, but the most important may be some of the so-called non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which, precisely because they are not run directly by governments, are assumed to act on the basis of ethical or moral imperatives. . . . Such humanitarian NGOs [e.g., Amnesty International, Oxfam, Medecins sans Frontieres, and other orgs for relief work and human rights protection] are in effect (even if this runs counter to the intentions of the participants) some of the most powerful pacific weapons of the new world order -- the charitable campaigns and the mendicant orders of the Empire. (pp. 35-6)
While Hardt and Negri do not reject the empire and its "charitable campaigns and the mendicant orders" outright, we should.

Revolutionary Realpolitik

Lenin (of Lenin's Tomb) wants socialism as "revolutionary realpolitik," "realpolitik for the poor."
Socialism is . . . realpolitik for the poor, the working class and oppressed. That involves an attempt to understand, and to detect potential temporary allies and obstacles. If it rules out certain alliances, it isn't on a priori moralistic grounds (they're eeeevvvillll, they're violent, they're ruthless, they're communalist, they're against democracy!).

Proceeding from a political economy of Political Islam demands a much more complicated set of responses than that. It would suggest, I think, that it is right for the Left in Lebanon to work with Hezbollah for a limited series of objectives, while retaining critical independence; similarly, it is right for the Left in Pakistan to utterly reject the Jamaat e-Islami, even while defending their right not to be murdered by the Pakistani state. It is certainly right for Palestinian socialists to cooperate with Hamas, and it was a sectarian mistake for some socialist groups to refuse to work with them given the gravity of the challenges faced. ("A Rational Approach to Political Islam," Lenin's Tomb, 20 October 2007)
Quite good. Machiavelli and Benjamin, Foucault and Gramsci, against liberal progressivism and Amnesty Internationalism in the North, against the India/Brazil/South Africa model (liberal democracy) in the South. Get that right, and we'll be (theoretically if not practically) ready for temporary marriage with Islam, the most important religion for the 21st century, and defense of the Bolivarian Revolution, which is likely to lose most liberal supporters it recently acquired.1

The next step is to divorce class analysis from the implicit imperialist economism that infects much of the Marxist and other traditions on the secular Left.

1 Cf. Yoshie Furuhashi, "Reading Arendt in Caracas," Critical Montages, 18 August 2007; Steve Ellner, "The Trial (And Errors) of Hugo Chavez," In These Times, 27 August 2007; Edgardo Lander, "Party Disciplinarians: the Threat to Dissidence and Democracy in the United Socialist Party of Venezuela," Transnational Institute, 28 September 2007; and Human Rights Watch, "Venezuela: Disturbing Plan to Suspend Due Process: Chávez Supporters Seek to Suspend Rights in Emergencies," 16 October 2007.

Socialists in Europe

Socialists in Europe have to ask themselves. Is socialism possible in Europe? If so, what kind of socialism? And when? If not now or any time soon, what is to be done in the meantime? In their nation, and the European Union? Is their nation to become or remain a member of the European Union? If no, then what? If yes, what kind of Europe? How to get there?

The interval between the No vote on the European Constitution in 2005 and the elections in France this year, more than anything else, showed that the absence of clarity and of vision with regard to the aforementioned questions is a great problem. The defeat of the Left made France itself more Atlanticist -- and it can take Europe even closer than it is to the USA as well, which will be a great setback for the Third World.

We live in an age when populists of the Third World, religious or secular, have a more forward-looking vision1 than European Marxists. That must be rectified, immediately.

1 "Ahmadinejad: Europe Can Save Itself," Press TV, 18 October 2007; Lucian Kim, "Iran, Venezuela Form Oil Venture to Rival Shell, Eni (Update1)," Bloomberg, 18 October 2007; and "Russian and Iranian Presidents' Joint Statement,' ITAR-TASS, 17 October 2007.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Russian and Iranian Presidents' Joint Statement

Juan Cole made "Russian and Iranian Presidents' Joint Statement" (translation by the United States government's Open Source Center) available at his blog Informed Comment. This is an extremely important text.
Russian and Iranian Presidents' Joint Statement

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tehran, 16 October: A joint statement has been signed following today's talks in Tehran between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad. Here is its full text.

On 16 October 2007, which corresponds to 24 Mehr 1386 in the Iranian calendar, Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the head of a high-ranking delegation, paid a working visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran on the invitation of President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mahmud Ahmadinezhad. This was the first visit to Iran by a Russian head of state in the whole history of relations between the two countries.

During his stay in Tehran, Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the Second Caspian Summit, met and held talks with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i and President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mahmud Ahmadinezhad.

During the talks, which were held in the atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding, the sides discussed key aspects of Russian-Iranian relations and cooperation in various areas, exchanged views on important regional and international issues and reached the following agreements.

1. The sides confirmed that mutually beneficial cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and other areas, as well as cooperation on the international stage, meet the national interests of the two sides and play an important role in supporting peace and stability in the region and beyond.

2. The sides expressed their determination to further contribute to the steady development of multifaceted Russian-Iranian relations, keeping with the spirit and the letter of the Treaty on the Fundamentals of Relations and Principles of Cooperation, which was signed in Moscow on 12 March 2001.

3. On issues of trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Iran, the sides spoke in favour of increasing efforts to further expand economic ties between the two countries, especially in areas like the oil and gas, nuclear power, electricity, processing and aircraft-building industries, banking and transport. Both sides are convinced that the Permanent Russian-Iranian Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation will make a valuable contribution to this work.

4. Special attention was paid to cooperation in the extraction and transportation of energy resources. The sides agreed to develop direct contacts between the two countries' oil and gas companies in order to sign concrete, mutually beneficial commercial agreements on joint work in all segments of the oil and gas sectors.

5. The sides confirmed their interest in coordinating marketing policies in oil and gas exports, attracting Russian companies to the development of oil and gas fields in Iran, including the Southern Pars gas field, and creating in Iran industrial facilities to produce, store and export natural gas.

6. Both sides confirmed their interest in continuing cooperation in the energy sector, including the modernization of thermal and hydro-electric power plants built with Russia's help and the construction of new ones, including the Tabas coal thermal power plant in Iran.

7. The sides noted bilateral cooperation in the area of peaceful nuclear energy and confirmed that it will continue in full compliance with the requirements of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In this regard they also noted that the construction and launch of the Bushehr nuclear power plant will be carried out in accordance with the agreed timetable.

8. The sides noted with satisfaction the signing of a contract to supply Iran with five Tu-204-100 aircraft. In this regard they expressed interest in deepening cooperation in the area of aviation industry further. The sides support the on-going talks between the relevant organizations of the two countries on the supply to Iran and the production in this country of Tu-334 and Tu-214 commercial aircraft and Kamov civilian helicopters. They also expressed their support for a speedy preparation and signing of contracts on these projects.

9. During their meeting the presidents deemed it necessary to continue work on the creation of favourable legal, economic and financial conditions for joint investment in Russia and Iran. In this context the sides noted the need to sign as soon as possible a memorandum between the government of the Russian Federation and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the development of long-term trade and economic, industrial and scientific and technical cooperation and an agreement on facilitating and protecting capital investment.

10. The sides agreed to continue work on the development of the north-south international transport corridor, including its automobile, rail and maritime components, in the interest of further strengthening trade and economic ties between Russia and Iran, as well as other countries of the region.

In this regard the sides agreed to speed up the consideration of the issue of resumption of road transport communication between the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran through the territory of (Russia's) Republic of Dagestan.

11. The sides expressed their satisfaction with the steady development of regional cooperation between the Russian Federation's constituent parts and provinces of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In this regard they expressed confidence that the resumption of operations in the city of Rasht by the Russian Consulate General and the opening of Iran's Consulate General in the city of Kazan, Russia, will facilitate further strengthening of interregional ties between the two countries.

12. The sides discussed pressing regional problems, expressed interest in bilateral and multilateral cooperation in Central Asia and the Transcaucasus with the aim of strengthening stability and security in these regions, including by way of closer cooperation between the countries of the region on the basis of mutual respect and interest.

13. Russia and Iran advocate the development of equal and constructive cooperation between member and observer states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on matters of mutual interest.

14. The presidents of the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran confirmed the two sides' aspiration to solve all the issues arising on the Caspian Sea solely by peaceful means, through cooperation on equal footing between the five Caspian littoral states. They agree that the relevant norms of the agreements of 1921 and 1940 between Iran and the former Soviet Union remain in force until there is a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.

Taking into account the vulnerability of the environment of the Caspian Sea, the sides call on everyone to refrain from taking steps that could harm the environment, to maintain a reasonable balance between the efforts to develop energy resources and protect the marine environment of the Caspian Sea.

The sides invite the other Caspian littoral states to start talks, as soon as possible, on issues of cooperation in maintaining peace and strengthening security and stability on the Caspian. They advocate the exclusion from the Caspian of military presence of non-Caspian littoral states.

The Second Caspian Summit, which took place in Tehran on 16 October 2007 (24 Mehr 1386), and its declaration -- the first political document adopted by the five countries -- were assessed as highly significant. Satisfaction was expressed with the Caspian littoral states' positions on key issues of status, security and cooperation on the sea drawing closer to each other.

15. The sides confirmed the understanding of special responsibility of the littoral states for ensuring security on the Caspian Sea, including as regards countering new challenges and threats. In this regard the sides think that the implementation of the idea to create on the Caspian a naval group for operational cooperation (Casfor) would facilitate the elimination of the threat of terrorism and the proliferation of WMD, the fight against illegal trafficking of arms and narcotics and human trafficking and facilitate the protection of the Caspian littoral states' economic interests, the strengthening of stability and security in the region and the development of cooperation and interaction in addressing common tasks. They call on all the littoral states to actively join in this project and start talks on the parameters of their cooperation for this purpose as soon as possible.

16. The Russian and Iranian presidents noted the closeness of Russia's and Iran's approaches to the tackling of key issues of world politics and confirmed their readiness to expand cooperation with the aim of building a fairer and more democratic world order which would ensure global and regional security and create favourable conditions for stable development.

It was stressed that such a world order should be based on collective principles and the supremacy of international law with the United Nations Organization playing a central coordinating role, while any international and regional conflict and crises should be settled in strict compliance with the UN Charter and norms of international law, taking into account the legitimate interests of all the sides involved.

The sides confirmed their refusal to use force or threat of force to resolve contentious issues, and their respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of the states.

17. The presidents stated that Russia and Iran resolutely condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, confirmed the inadmissibility of equating terrorism with any nation, culture or religion.

The sides spoke in favour of strengthening the United Nations Organization's central coordinating role in the fight against international terrorism and other new challenges and threats. They will closely cooperate in implementing the UN's global antiterrorist strategy, ensuring strict observation of norms of universal antiterrorist conventions, as well as in promoting the soonest possible completion of the process of coordinating the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

Being concerned by the ideological expansion of terrorism, Russia and Iran pay attention to the need for a consistent implementation of all the UN Security Council resolutions which condemn terrorism and call for every possible development of global dialogue.

The sides continue their cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other new challenges and threats at the regional level, above all on the basis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, laying prime emphasis on curbing terrorist and drugs threats emanating from the territory of Afghanistan and creating anti-drugs and financial security belts around it.

The presidents noted the importance of increasing bilateral cooperation between Russia and Iran in the fight against terrorism and spoke in favour of continuing the practice of exchanging views between the ministries of foreign affairs of the two countries on the subject of countering new challenges and threats, making contacts between relevant bodies more active and giving them practical content.

18. When discussing the situation in Afghanistan, the sides expressed their concern over the continued worsening of the situation in that country, an increase in terrorist threats on the part of Taliban and other extremist forces. The presidents confirmed Russia's and Iran's intention to continue to take part in the post-war reconstruction of Afghanistan and are interested in strengthening its statehood and the process of that country becoming a peaceful, democratic, independent and flourishing state.

19. The sides expressed their concern over the difficult humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian Territories, especially in connection with the effective isolation of Gaza Strip.

The presidents noted that the restoration of Palestinian-wide consensus and unity through dialogue is a necessary precondition for the implementation of national aspirations of the Palestinian people, including the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state.

The Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran confirmed their adherence to reaching a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement of the Middle East conflict.

20. The sides noted the need to strengthen the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Lebanon and maintain national unity, stability, security and peace in that country. The sides support efforts to achieve accord between various Lebanese movements to enable them to make decisions vital for Lebanon, within the framework of the constitution, with the participation of all political forces of the country, without any interference from abroad. The sides believe that this is the only way to take the country out of the present crisis.

21. The Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran expressed vigorous support for Iraq's territorial integrity and sovereignty and for an end to foreign military presence in that country on the basis of the relevant schedule.

Supporting Iraq's government and parliament, which was elected on the basis of the constitution, the sides express hope that inter-faction strife, which negatively affects their work, will be soon overcome through a comprehensive pan-Iraqi dialogue.

22. Acknowledging the strategic importance and sensitivity of the Gulf region, as well as the importance of supporting security and stability there, the sides noted a need for collective cooperation of all littoral states in ensuring peace and security in the region and developing tools to ensure security within the framework of international law.

The sides noted the importance of reducing foreign military presence in the region and drawing up common measures of trust between regional and other states in order to ensure stability and security in the Gulf region.

23. The presidents of Russia and Iran noted the need to settle the issue of Iran's nuclear programme as soon as possible by political and diplomatic means through talks and dialogue and expressed hope that a long-term comprehensive solution will be found.

After the visit to Iran, Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mahmud Ahmadinezhad for hospitality and warm welcome and invited him to visit Russia at his convenience. The invitation was received by the Iranian president with gratitude. The sides will agree on the date of the visit through diplomatic channels.
Note that Russia is now consciously positioning itself as a counter-power to the USA in the Middle East, including the crucial Persian Gulf region.

Opium for the Masses

The US-led multinational empire holds up Shining India as an example of what liberal democracy can do for the Third World: "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Bush today declare their resolve to transform the relationship between their countries and establish a global partnership. As leaders of nations committed to the values of human freedom, democracy and rule of law, the new relationship between India and the United States will promote stability, democracy, prosperity and peace throughout the world" ("Joint Statement Between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh," 18 July 2005).

But liberal democracy in the Third World, for instance, lets 99.6% of its population who are in need of palliative care do without it, "spending their last days writhing in agony, wishing death would hurry":
Although opium was one of the chief exports of British India and the country still produces more for the legal morphine industry than any other country, few Indians benefit. They end up like millions of the world’s poor -- spending their last days writhing in agony, wishing death would hurry.

About 1.6 million Indians endure cancer pain each year. Because of tobacco and betel nut chewing, India leads the world in mouth and head tumors, and has high rates of lung, breast and cervical cancer. Tens of thousands also die in pain from AIDS, burns or accidents.

But only a tiny fraction -- Dr. [M. R.] Rajagopal ["India's 'father of palliative care'"] estimates 0.4 percent -- get relief.

Clinics dispensing morphine are so scarce that some patients live 500 miles from the nearest. Calcutta, a city of 14 million, has only one. (Donald G. McNeil, Jr., "In India, a Quest to Ease the Pain of the Dying," New York Times, 11 September 2007)
The world's largest democracy does have occasionally useful parliamentary Communists, and one of the things that they are reportedly good at is prescribing opium for the masses:
The exception is Kerala, where Dr. Rajagopal practices and about 80 percent of India’s palliative care is delivered. A small slice of the southwest coast, it is sort of India’s Massachusetts: it has a mere 3 percent of the population, but high literacy rates, responsive local leadership and a bent for bucking central government.

The state government allows any doctor with six weeks of training -- which Dr. Rajagopal provides -- to prescribe morphine. (McNeil, Jr., 11 September 2007)