Putin’s Latest Move in Syria

We can now add "Tsar" Putin’s Russia to the already tragically overcrowded number of participants in the war around the shaky regime of Bashar al Assad. It officially claims to be entering the fray against the infamous Islamic State.

From Cold War to More War

In era of "mutual suspicion", when the fake socialism or more accurately state capitalism of the USSR crumbled under the weight of its own contradictions, almost all international analysts joined in the chorus to sing the "De Profundis" of a “communist” utopia, writing epitaphs on the failure of a much-feared political and ideological opponent. At the same time we were treated to enthusiastic panegyrics on the superiority of the capitalist system, claiming that the fall of the ''evil empire” would open up horizons of peace and prosperity for all humanity. It was claimed that with the Cold War over thanks to the collapse of one of the two contenders, “the baddie” in the Western bourgeois clichés, there would be no more episodes of open warfare and, finally, the huge resources spent on wars would be used for economic development, care of the environment, for the prosperity of the people, creating a kind of earthly capitalist paradise that only the "evil" of the regime in Moscow had, for decades, prevented.

Even in the era of "mutual suspicion" we allowed ourselves to reply to these learned analysts that 1) the collapse of the USSR did not represent the failure of the communist project, but the fall of an economic and political regime which was entirely capitalist after the failure of the October Revolution in the twenties. 2) that the historical event was nothing less than the collapse of one front of international imperialism and that 3) the contradictions of capitalism would continue to operate, the exploitation of the international proletariat would be further intensified and that 4) the war would follow the rhythm of the economic crisis, becoming ever wider and increasingly devastating.

Today we can say that the facts have shown up the litany of the praise-singers of capitalism for the stupidity that it was. Crises have dramatically re-appeared one after another bringing greater hunger and despair. Wars have never ended, reaping death wherever the interests of capital have clashed in all their virulence. The "cold war", after a break of a few years, has resumed its course even if in a broader and more complex imperialist scenario, characterised by a series of wars for oil, for its routes and marketing, with the rise and the disappearance of imperialist pawns whose moves have never ended.

And within this scenario lies the current tragic events in Syria, the rise of Isis, the role of the USA and the entry into the field of the other imperialist antagonist: Putin's Russia.

The Syrian Tragedy

Against his will the small-time Syrian dictator found himself in the middle of an imperialist conflict involving the most powerful forces on the international stage. For US imperialism, backed by Europe, the elimination of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, like that of Ghaddafi, has meant and means removing any obstacle to the manoeuvres of its Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. It means removing any residual support in the small sea for the resurgent imperialism of Moscow and forcefully retaking the leadership of the West from Europe, at the same time undermining the Russian "monopoly" of energy supplies to Europe itself. The theatres of this "new Cold War" are the Eastern European countries, from the former Yugoslavia to Ukraine via Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary. The usual means are being employed: the use of NATO, its expansion to the east, fomenting civil wars, the "colour" revolutions and economic sanctions. The important thing was not to allow the old Russian bear to growl again on the strength of its barrels of oil and cubic metres of natural gas.

For a renewed Russian imperialism it is just the opposite. First, it needed to break the organised encirclement along its borders. Then it had to try to resume in the East the imperialist role that was once the USSR’s. Finally, it had to prevent the same old opponent from shutting down its access to the Mediterranean Sea. When the events of the war in which the Assad government found itself reached the height of military, and even greater social, tension, Putin saw fit to call a referendum on Crimea that would allow Moscow to have the access that it otherwise risked losing with the demise of its ally in Damascus. The "recaptured" Crimea is better than nothing, but the path that separates Sevastopol from the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus is still precarious and operationally dependent on the shifting alliances with Ankara and its hegemonic ambitions in the Black Sea. Today the agreement on the Turkish Stream seems to pave the way for Russian "ships" but, any day a re-established relationship with the US could overturn this. And, regardless of this situation, Putin cannot afford the luxury of losing two Syrian ports such as Latakia and Tartus. The first is important as a commercial and possible oil and gas terminal favouring Russia. The second a military port that has "always" allowed the Russian ships to be an opponent of the American Sixth Fleet’s military presence in the Mediterranean.

This explains the recent decision by Putin to begin an assault against the IS and militarily enter Syria alongside the Coalition. Putin actually kicked off a series of air strikes in the northwest of Syria by bombing some military positions of the Caliphate, but also focussed on the areas controlled by Assad’s opponents. So the picture is complete. The Islamic state has become, for all the military actors in Syria, the screen behind which to hide their imperialist designs as much as possible. For the US the "campaign against the Islamic State, once nurtured, financed and armed, by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, then ditched when it became a burden and politically inconvenient", is in fact an excuse to support the jihadist galaxy against the Assad regime. For Turkey, which has done a u-turn on its original position, joining the Coalition means bombing the positions of the Caliphate’s militias, but, above all, it is a great excuse to fight Kurdish fighters on Syrian and Iraqi territory, and the PKK on the domestic front, as well as the home-grown leftist opposition. Putin is doing otherwise. Officially Russia is not in the Coalition but is at its side to fight the terrorism of al-Baghdadi. In fact it also operates, if not mainly, against the enemies of its ally in Damascus.

Imperialist Rivalry

No wonder the Russian raids immediately opened a polemic between Putin and Obama, who has denounced Russia’s presence in Syria as not so much to operate against the Islamic State, as against the forces fighting the regime in Damascus. Imperialism is capable of these absurd arguments in a childish game to justify criminal wrongdoing. Obama accuses Putin of defending the dictator Assad. Putin accuses Obama of arming and financing the jihadists who are fighting against the regime in Damascus, as if the vested interests of both were not sufficiently clear to even the most inattentive observer. For reasons already noted, the former fights Assad through the galaxy of jihadists present in Syria, the latter fights to defend its strategic ally. Nevertheless, Turkey continues with its ambiguous programme to fit as many shoes possible on the same foot. After the Russian raid inside Syria it sided with American criticism to mend old wounds, but not very loudly to safeguard its Turkish Stream project with Moscow. To complete the picture, inside the coalition, including Arab countries, only Saudi Arabia seem to follow the bellicose input from Washington, while Qatar continues its course of asymmetrical action like Kuwait and Yemen, who are, however, otherwise engaged.

Within the schemes of the small and large imperialisms which decide world history in their interests, move the dispossessed masses. With no alternative social project, nor a revolutionary point of reference, they become the tools of these objectives. At the mercy of the ideologies of their ruling classes, these dispossessed masses of workers on the edge of survival, end up falling into the clutches of this or that jihadism, either Sunni or Shiite, but always serving the interests of the enemy class. These networks can also be those of secular or religious nationalism, but are always on the side of our class political opponents. They make use of it in every way they can to produce so-called "collateral damage". This means destroying entire villages, cities, perpetrating horrendous crimes including the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, leading to a biblical exodus of millions of refugees who flee from the hunger, death and war that imperialist relations endlessly produce.

It's time to break these relations, to give political meaning to the only possible alternative to capitalism, to its imperialist essence, its crisis and its ever more devastating wars. It's time to build the international revolutionary party, the political condition towards the only possible alternative: communism.


October 5th, 2015

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


fd ends the interesting article above by saying:

[quote] It's time to break these relations, to give political meaning to the only possible alternative to capitalism, to its imperialist essence, its crisis and its ever more devastating wars. It's time to build the international revolutionary party, the political condition towards the only possible alternative: communism. [/quote]

Someone being flippant might say "okay then. Go ahead. Build the international revolutionary party. What are you waiting for? What's stopping you?"

The ICC says this isn't the time to think of the party because the class is not in fighting mode as a class. (At least I think that's what they say, I could be wrong.) Does fd disagree with this? Does the ICT disagree with this? Does fd and/or the ICT think in fact we could or should set about building the party now? And if you do are you trying to do it and making a start?

Of course a start might include the ICT and the ICC joining up together. So how likely is that after 40 years of believing this to be absolutely out of the question?

Thanks for that Charlie but it takes us a little bit off the topic of the article. Perhaps you should start a new thread on the forum? I am not trying to duck the issue though. I did not think the article said anything much different to what we have always said. The only difference is that the global crisis of capitalism is getting deeper by the day and more lives are flung into the abyss of desperation. I saw this week one French mainstream newspaper announce the events in Syria signalled the beginning of the Third World War (albeit by a different route than the last two). The problem is that we cannot just declare the party formed (as some keep urging us to do on our own forum). This has to come from the movement of the class itself. All we are doing is giving a pointer, an indication, an orientation. The ICC are right if they are indeed now recognising that the class is still in retreat but this used to be the difference between us - they argued until the collapse of the USSR that the class was "undefeatd" whilst we have argued that the class has been in retreat since 1976. In the 1980s when the ICC mantra was we were living through the "years of truth" they used to say in meetings that the working class was carrying out "waves of struggle". We agreed but the difference was we said it was on a "receding tide".

There is a fundamental difference between the ICT and the two other branches of the Communist Left here. Whilst the others all focus on the fact that only under certain conditions can the party be formed (agreed) we via the original Internationalist Communist Party argue that whatever the situation the revolutionary elements of the class have to fight for a real class political organisation (i.e party) because the party "cannot be the product of the last minute". The Bordigists rejected this in 1951 and said that the PCInt had been formed on the premise of a post-war struggle which had died out ergo it should be dissolved. So they split the PCInt. Confusingly they then formed a new party! The International Communist Party (Programma Comunista) then started up mainly on the basis of the idea that the tasks of revolutionaries were now just theoretical (but in reality they were gradually sucked into going out into the class). The roots of this theory of lie in the Fascist period, On the one hand there was a debate in the internationalist communist left where Ottorino Perrone (Vercesi) amongst others argued that this was now the time of the fraction (not the party) as they had to make sense of the great defeat the working class suffered in the 1930s. The same Vercesi was arguing that there would be no imperilaist war in early 1939! No wonder the fraction abroad collapsed. The ICC take their view of the fraction-party debate from the Italian Left of this epoch. For them the working class has to "undefeated" before it can even think of forming a party. For the ICC the end of the post-war boom (which led to massive class struggle) was the sign of the revival of the class movement (the ICC and CWO were formed at the same time) but for them this meant that revolution was just around the corner (one of their problems is they have always confused the notion of decadence with the idea of the immediate economic crisis). This was seen as a sort of messianism by the CWO and later by the ICT as "idealism". The ICC claimed that if only the working class were "demystified" then it would make the revolution. We keep pointing out that however militant the class was it was not reflected in the numbers joining revolutionary organisations. However the ICC was growing rapidly at first so they did not accept our arguments. Of course you can only sustain the "revolution is just around the corner" line for so long and we would argue that this led to the ICC's huge problems and splits after Mark Chirik died. They are not alone, as sustaining a revolutionary organisation in the face of the class retreat we have talked about is not easy. Petty differences can easily be exaggerated and act as a cover for demoralisation. Its hard to build something up but it can take only a few wrong words for everything to unravel in a few months. And the people who split generally end up by concluding that the working class failed them or disppear without trace. The fact that we are all still here after such a long retreat has to induce a certain kind of mutual respect (hence there are no longer articles which are often sterile polemics on any of our respective publications). The problem is the legacy left by those polemics which as they were initiated by the ICC against anyone who thought differently (such was the need to get the organisation formed in the 1970s) means that there is a residue of bitterness amongst many of our supporters and members. The big question remains the class movement which lags way behind the level of the attacks of the bourgeoisie. Once a real and wider fightback occurs it will force revolutionaries to confront the things that divide us and put on the agenda once again the need to work towards the world proletarian party. In that process many of the issues whcih were considered so pressing in the past will be forgotten.

Jock, clearly you have a thorough grasp of the whole history and residue of arguments as to whether or not it was appropriate for a party to be formed, but, now, is it worth considering that although it is argued that class is in 'retreat', even if that is so to some or a large extent, then, even if a revolution is not imminent, however necessary, then, as the likelihood of big wars breaking out threatens us all, would it not be as well to form a party by which perhaps some preventative protests could be more effectively organised ? Then, if a war does break out, what other than a party could coordinate efforts by sundry 'workers councils' if any such are known to exist by then , to tackle whatever the circumstances then require, if anyone still survives ? In any case, surely workers want to know if there is a party worth joining, whereas 'currents' and 'tendencies' are not such tangible concepts. It could be more psychologically rewarding to feel to be in and with a party, even though the right - wingers abound in negative examples of that angle. As a class, we can of course learn from many who have taught us and struggled with and for us, but we must assess the present and likely future and think some more, then show what would be different from being just private marxists !