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Sri Lankan constitutional changes raise tensions with India
By Wasantha Rupasinghe
24 July 2013
In the face of opposition from India, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has shelved, at least for now, proposed changes to the 13th amendment to the constitution aimed at reducing the powers of the country’s provincial councils.
The amendment was introduced in November 1987 under the Indo-Lanka Accord signed between the two governments, as a means of disarming the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The devolution of limited powers at the provincial level was to establish a power-sharing arrangement between the island’s Sinhala and Tamil elites.
Having defeated the LTTE in 2009, the Sri Lankan government is attempting to wind back the powers granted to the provincial councils, including over police, land and the merger of adjoining councils. At the same time, Rajapakse is exploiting the issue to whip up anti-Tamil chauvinism as he seeks to ram through International Monetary Fund demands for austerity.
The Indian government, which is facing widespread hostility in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu to the treatment of Tamils in Sri Lanka, objected to the mooted changes. Visits by Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapakse to New Delhi on July 4, following a two-day trip by Indian Defence Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon to Colombo on July 8–9 failed to resolve the standoff.
After discussions with Basil Rajapakse, V. Narayanasamy, minister of state in the Indian Prime Minister’s Office, told the BBC that as the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord was signed between two sovereign governments, both were bound to implement it. “One government cannot unilaterally cancel the agreement,” he declared.
In Colombo, Shiv Shankar Menon held discussions with President Rajapakse, Basil Rajapakse and defence secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapakse. He insisted that the Sri Lankan government had to adhere to its commitments to India and other powers for a political settlement to the protracted civil war in Sri Lanka. Menon also met with leaders of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), which oppose any reduction of provincial council powers.
Following the visits, President Rajapakse effectively put the constitutional changes on hold, saying that he would wait for a report on the issue from a parliamentary select committee, due in six months. Without naming India, Rajapakse declared that he would not promise anything to the “international community.”
The Indo-Lanka Accord was signed amid an intensifying war between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Fearing the crisis would create instability in India, New Delhi dispatched Indian “peace-keeping” troops to disarm the LTTE and impose the provincial devolution package in a merged North and East province. The Accord enabled the Sri Lankan government to shift its military forces to the south to suppress unrest among the working class and rural youth. Pro-government death squads working with the security forces killed an estimated 60,000 rural youth.
Now as then, India’s concern is not the democratic rights of the Tamil people, but that Colombo’s continued military occupation of the North and East of the island will trigger unrest in Tamil Nadu. Above all, India fears the diminution of its influence in Colombo and its standing as a regional power if Rajapakse were to ignore the Indo-Lanka Accord.
New Delhi is uneasy about the growing ties between Sri Lanka and China, which India regards as a regional rival. Along with the US and European powers, India fully backed Rajapakse’s war against the LTTE, but is now exploiting the Sri Lankan military’s gross human rights abuses to pressure Colombo to distance itself from Beijing.
The Sri Lankan government is attempting to balance between the US and India, on the one hand, and China on the other. At the same time, Rajapakse is seeking to concentrate political power in Colombo as part of his drive to carry out extensive pro-market restructuring in order to boost foreign investment.
Like previous Colombo administrations, the Rajapakse government is bitterly opposed to any concessions to the Tamil elite and has been whipping up anti-Tamil and anti-Indian sentiment over India’s demand to implement the 13th amendment.
Rajapakse is stirring up communal hostilities to divide the working class as his government’s austerity measures provoke resistance among workers and youth. Two weeks ago, sections of railway workers went on strike, halting rail transport for two days. Last week, nurses stopped work demanding higher pay. Thousands of university students are continuing their protests in opposition to government plans to further privatise education.
Sinhala extremist groups in Rajapakse’s ruling coalition, including Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and the National Freedom Front, have been engaged in a vociferous communal campaign against the Indo-Lanka Accord. The JHU has joined other groups, such as the Buddhist Power Force, to form a so-called “national collective” to intensify the campaign.
The opposition JVP has joined the communal band wagon, demanding the repeal of the 13th amendment and denouncing the government for “bowing to India.”
The right-wing opposition United National Party (UNP) and its pseudo-left allies—the Nava Sama Samaja Party and United Socialist Party—have held several rallies demanding the full implementation of the 13th amendment.
These protests have nothing to do ending anti-Tamil discrimination or defending democratic rights. The UNP is lining up with US imperialism, as well as India and the European powers, as the best means for defending the interests of the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie.
The working class must reject this reactionary campaign that backs the major powers and their pursuit of their own strategic interests in South Asia. They also must reject Rajapakse government’s vicious communal appeals to divide the working class.
There is only one progressive path to fight for the democratic rights of the Tamil masses. The Sinhala and Tamil workers must unite with their class brothers and sisters throughout South Asia, including India, to fight for a Sri Lanka-Eelam Socialist Republic, as part of struggle to establish a Union of Socialist Republics in South Asia.
Leaked emails reveal conspiracy to throw Detroit into bankruptcy
By Bryan Dyne
24 July 2013
Leaked emails show that as far back as January, there were backroom discussions being held between Detroit and Lansing public officials and corporate law firm Jones Day suggesting that the best course for Detroit would be to send it through Chapter 9 bankruptcy.
The revelations expose the charade by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr who claimed he only made the“tough decision to file bankruptcy reluctantly after thorough negotiations with creditors, pension trustees and public sector unions. In fact, all along Orr, Republican Governor Snyder, Detroit’s Democratic mayor and the powerful financial interests behind them, were determined to use federal bankruptcy laws to circumvent legal obstacles, including the state constitution and the city charter, for the gutting of city worker pensions and sale of public assets.
The emails were obtained by Robert Davis, a figure in the local political establishment tied closely to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 25. The Detroit unions have complained that Orr’s bankruptcy filing halted their efforts to reach a “good faith” deal with the emergency manager to impose his demands on their members.
Davis is involved in an ongoing lawsuit over whether Michigan Governor Rick Snyder violated Michigan's open meeting laws by ultimately appointing Orr not by the interview process through the Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board (ELB), but through closed door discussions.
One of the emails dated January 31, from Dan Moss, an associate at Jones Day who worked with Orr on the Chrysler bankruptcy and restructuring, told Orr the “ideal scenario” would be for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Snyder to “go through an orderly Chapter 9.” Moss then stated his own reservations about whether an emergency manager would be useful in a city where his powers would be questioned at every turn, versus bankruptcy, where a federal judge simply dictates to the city what to sacrifice. Others involved in the discussions include Jones Day Managing Partner Stephen Brogan, Jones Day Partner Corinne Ball and Rick Snyder's Transformation Manager Richard Baird.
As last week’s events showed an emergency manager can declare bankruptcy anyway. As Orr himself once said, “I have a very powerful statute. I have a more powerful Chapter 9.” From the perspective of the local and national ruling elites—who consider Detroit a test case for cities around the country—they got the best of both worlds: an emergency manager essentially unchallenged from the Detroit establishment and a Chapter 9 bankruptcy to expedite the gutting of the city.
Davis previously revealed secret correspondence between Governor Snyder and Mayor Bing over the selection of Orr as emergency manager long before any public vetting process began. Orr was part of a Jones Day team, which pitched its services to the governor last January. The governor selected Orr because of his role as a bankruptcy attorney for Chrysler during the 2009 restructuring, where he shut down hundreds of dealerships, wiping out thousands of jobs. Moreover, as an African American and Democrat, Orr, would give the Republican governor some political cover in an overwhelmingly black population, officials thought.
The emails expose the anti-democratic nature of the emergency manager law itself. Voters last year rejected Public Act 4 overturning the emergency manager law passed in 2011. In response, Governor Snyder declared that an old law, Public Act 72, was back in force, allowing the state to appoint an “emergency financial manager.” Then, against the will of the public, the governor essentially changed the name of Public Act 4 to Public Act 436—the current EM law—and forced it through with bipartisan support in a lame duck Congress. PA 436, which gives even greater dictatorial powers to an “emergency manager” than PA 72, went into effect just after Orr was installed under the old law, and then was automatically upgraded three days later.
In his emails to his law partners at Jones Day, Orr expressed concern over the voter’s defeat of the previous law, noting, “So although the new law provides the thin veneer of a revision it is essentially a redo of the prior rejected law and appears to merely adopt the conditions necessary for a chapter 9 filing. The news reports state that opponents of the prior law are already lining up to challenge this law.”
Corinne Ball from Jones Day seems to have been a sounding board for Orr as to whether he would accept the position. An email sent by Orr from January 31 thanks her for showing him “alternative ways to skin this cat.” Such comments also show that Orr was being scouted by Snyder well before his appointment was officially announced or he was even interviewed, illegal under even PA 436, much less other Michigan laws.
It should come as little surprise that the decision to bankrupt Detroit was made long before the imposition of the emergency manager. The Obama administration used the same cynical ploy during the restructuring of GM and Chrysler in 2009, first claiming it wanted to avoid bankruptcy and then using the courts and the collaboration of the UAW to carry out a “managed bankruptcy.” The result was the shutdown of a dozen plants, the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs and the halving of wages for new workers.
Last year's consent agreement with Detroit, where city workers had their wages and benefits cut by 10 percent, was the first step in this process. Emergency management and bankruptcy were the next logical steps, providing Wall Street free access to loot not just workers' wages and benefits, but legally protected pensions and public assets. The latter includes the city’s lighting and water systems and even the masterpieces of the Detroit Institute of Art.
All the talk about the tragic, “tough choice” to declare bankruptcy was a lie. There was even discussion of how to present it, so that local politicians would take as little heat as possible. One email from Jones Day lawyer Dan Moss to Orr notes, “Making this [bankruptcy] a national issue is not a bad idea. It provides political cover for the state politicians.” The same email also notes that a successful Detroit bankruptcy, and the requisite destruction of living standards, will open up further patronage jobs for Snyder and Bing—“Cabinet, Senate or Corporate”—once their terms are ended.
Jones Day was involved in the discussions on Detroit's bankruptcy, and knew it was the end goal. As such, they positioned themselves to be hired by the city as its “restructuring consultant” to a tune of millions of dollars, and now stand to make even more. One estimate placed the legal costs for Detroit's bankruptcy at around $100 million, of which Jones Day now will most likely make a significant fraction.
Even the late July 18 filing was carried out on a conspiratorial basis. Orr and Snyder rushed the bankruptcy filing to preempt lawsuits filed by pension trustees and public-sector unions seeking to block bankruptcy on the grounds that it would lead to unconstitutional pension cuts. Attorneys for Snyder reportedly asked the lawyers representing the pension funds for a five-minute delay before they sought a temporary restraining order to block the bankruptcy filing. During those five minutes, Orr’s attorneys filed the bankruptcy petition in Detroit.
The destruction of basic democratic forms in Detroit is part of the broader assault on democracy nationally and internationally. The financial aristocracy realizes it cannot impose deeply unpopular measures on the population through democratic means and is therefore increasingly adopting authoritarian methods.
The Bradley Manning verdict: Criminalizing the exposure of crimes
1 August 2013
On Wednesday, the day after the conviction of Bradley Manning was handed down by a military judge, the Washington Post published an article under the headline, “Manning’s Conviction Seen as Making Prosecution of WikiLeaks’ Assange Likely.” The Post noted that the prosecutors—that is, the Obama administration—specifically tailored their case against Manning to implicate the founder of WikiLeaks.
“Military prosecutors in the court-martial portrayed [Julian] Assange as an ‘information anarchist’ who encouraged Manning… And they insisted that the anti-secrecy group cannot be considered a media organization that published the leaked information in the public interest,” the Post wrote. The prosecution continually sought to present Assange as a co-conspirator.
Other articles sounded a similar theme, including one by the Associated Press stating that Manning’s conviction “gives a boost to the Obama administration’s aggressive pursuit of people it believes have leaked national security secrets to the media.” In addition to Assange, the AP noted that “the government’s case against National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden” will likely be “similar to the Manning prosecution.”
This is further evidence that the kangaroo-court trial of the young whistle-blower Manning is part of a ruthless government campaign to criminalize all exposures of government criminality.
The prosecution of Manning, who faces a maximum sentence of 136 years in prison, is intended as an example and a precedent. Whistle-blowing, the government is declaring, amounts to espionage and treason.
The Obama administration has already opened up a grand jury investigation into Assange and WikiLeaks, and there are reports that a secret indictment has been filed. It has submitted charges against Snowden under the Espionage Act for his actions in exposing illegal government spying programs. If either Snowden or Assange is captured by the United States, there is no doubt that he will face a fate equal to, or worse, than Manning’s.
Obama, along with top officials in the military and intelligence apparatus, is acutely aware that the actions taken over the past decade violate innumerable laws and constitutional provisions.
Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, under the pretext of the “war on terror,” the American ruling class, first under Bush and then under Obama, has engaged in wanton criminality, only a small portion of which has been exposed by the revelations of Manning and Snowden. Washington is responsible for torture centers all over the world, domestic spying on an unparalleled scale, illegal rendition, the assassination of US citizens, and secret anti-democratic laws drawn up by secret courts.
On Wednesday, the Guardian reported on yet another surveillance program, XKeyscore, that allows NSA analysts—contrary to the testimony of government and intelligence officials—to comb through “vast databases containing emails, online chats and browsing histories of millions of individuals” without a court order.
All of these crimes flow from the illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Manning himself was moved by the atrocities he witnessed in Iraq in a war based on outright lies. Hundreds of thousands have been killed. Entire cities have been destroyed.
The wars against Afghanistan and Iraq have been followed by other war crimes, with the US government now operating a fleet of drones that rain death on peoples throughout the world.
Manning is to spend decades in jail, if not his entire life, for helping to expose these crimes, while those who carried them out walk free or occupy plush offices in the White House.
Of particular concern to the ruling class is that individuals like Manning and Snowden, utilizing the power of the Internet, have been able to bypass the stranglehold of the American media, which has aided and abetted every government conspiracy against the population.
The New York Times in particular played an indispensable role in propagating the lies used to launch the war in Iraq and has utilized its pages to carry out a smear campaign against Assange and Snowden. In a two-faced editorial Wednesday, the Times declared, “There is no question that Private Manning broke laws.” This—a cowardly statement worthy of scoundrels—was published as Manning faces life in prison for exposing government illegality!
A companion “news” article published the same day, entitled “Loner Sought a Refuge, and Ended Up In a War,” began with a gratuitous reference to military prosecutors who “called [Manning’s actions] one of the greatest betrayals in the nation’s history.”
Manning, Assange and Snowden have put their lives at risk to expose to the American people the secret actions of a military-intelligence apparatus that operates without constraint and above the law.
In considering the fate of these individuals, one is reminded of the prosecution of Hans and Sophie Scholl, executed for treason for distributing leaflets as part of the White Rose group that opposed the Nazi regime in Germany and exposed its mass murder of Jews, Poles and Russians. (A cinematic rendition of the Scholl’s trial can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuzafuNHKlk&feature=youtu.be.)
“Where we stand today, you will stand soon,” Sophie Scholl proclaimed before she was sentenced by the Nazi judge Roland Freisler and beheaded. And she was proven correct.
In its contempt of legal norms, the attitude that prevails in the corridors of power in the United States is not fundamentally different from that of Hitler’s Germany. Laws exist solely for the purpose of advancing the interests of the ruling class that controls the state. They can be violated by the executive at will, receiving, if it is convenient, the endorsement of the courts and a servile Congress. Exposure of these violations, carried out in the public interest, is by definition illegal because it violates the secrecy demanded in the name of “national security.”
The crimes of the Hitler regime—including the mass internment and execution of political dissidents—have yet to be replicated in the United States. However, the logic of dictatorship is the same—a logic that is driven by the irreconcilable antagonism between the interests of a parasitic financial aristocracy and the vast majority of the population.
There is immense popular sympathy for Manning, Snowden and Assange. The measures that they have exposed are unpopular, which is why the ruling class must conceal them.
This sympathy must be translated into a conscious political movement, one that connects the defense of democracy with the overthrow of the corrupt economic and political system that prevails in the United States and around the world.
Egyptian junta imposes martial law amid bloody crackdown
By Johannes Stern and Alex Lantier
15 August 2013
The bloody massacre and imposition of emergency rule carried out yesterday by Egypt’s military junta testifies to the ruthlessness of efforts of the Egyptian ruling class and its imperialist backers in Washington and Europe to drown the Egyptian revolution in blood.
The army’s ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi on July 3 was a pre-emptive action amidst mass working class protests against the elected government’s reactionary policies. The military coup has since developed into an open attempt to restore the military-backed dictatorship that existed before the Egyptian revolution under the regime of Hosni Mubarak.
Starting early Wednesday morning, security forces backed by helicopters, armored vehicles and snipers assaulted protests and sit-ins by Mursi supporters in cities across Egypt. In the capital, Cairo, the army dispersed two pro-Mursi sit-ins and repeatedly attacked the central protest site, at the Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque.
“Tear gas (canisters) were falling from the sky like rain. There are no ambulances inside. They closed every entrance,” said protester Khaled Ahmed, 20, a student wearing a hard hat who had tears streaming down his face. “There are women and children in there. God help them. This is a siege, a military attack on a civilian protest camp.”
“At 7 AM they came. Helicopters from the top and bulldozers from below. They smashed through our walls. Police and soldiers, they fired tear gas at children,” teacher Saleh Abdulaziz told Reuters, while clutching a bleeding head wound. “They continued to fire at protesters even when we begged them to stop.”
Egyptian officials reported that 235 people were killed, including 100 in Cairo, and 2,001 wounded. AFP reporters said they had personally counted 124 dead in Cairo. Muslim Brotherhood (MB) officials, who run the protest sites and field hospitals, put the toll at 2,200 killed and 10,000 wounded.
The army tried to prevent coverage of the killings, fatally shooting at journalists who defied orders to avoid protest sites. The victims included Sky News cameraman Mick Deane and Habiba Ahmed Abd El-Aziz of the United Arab Emirates’ Xpress service.
The regime also closed down major highways and train lines into Cairo to keep protesters from traveling to the capital to reinforce the main protest sites. Outside Cairo, Egyptian Health Ministry figures showed that dozens were killed and hundreds wounded in protests in Minya and Fayoum. Dozens more were killed or wounded in protests in Suez, Sohag, and Assuit, and protesters marched in Alexandria and Beni Souif.
The re-imposition of emergency rule, which existed for decades under Mubarak, allows the police and military to arrest and detain protesters at will. Yesterday afternoon, Egyptian police reported that they had arrested 543 people. There will also be a 7 PM to 6 AM curfew in 12 of Egypt’s 27 governorates, including most of the country’s industrial centers.
The army also threw out governors appointed by Mursi, naming a new list of 25 governors that included 19 generals and two judges known as Mubarak loyalists. The new governor of Cairo, civilian Galal Mostafa Saed, was a top official in Mubarak’s now-dissolved National Democratic Party.
These events obey an inexorable political logic: the capitalist ruling class, having been compelled to make concessions in the first upsurge of the revolution, takes the gloves off when the first opportunity arises to deal a blow to the working class.
In this, the Egyptian junta enjoys the support of Washington and its European allies. Washington has repeatedly backed the Egyptian army’s bloody crackdowns since the July 3 overthrow of Mursi, which it declined to call a coup so it could continue giving the Egyptian army $1.3 billion in yearly military aid. Earlier this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry praised the generals’ decision to topple Mursi as “restoring democracy.”
The responses of US and European diplomats to yesterday’s massacre were masterpieces of cynicism and hypocrisy. While Kerry said that he “strongly opposed” the state of emergency in Egypt, White House spokesman Josh Earnest made it clear that support for the junta would continue.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki blandly declared: “Certainly there have been some significant bumps in the road, but our focus is getting back on a path to democracy.”
In a comment as banal as it was hypocritical, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said, “Confrontation and violence is not the way forward to resolve key political issues.”
As bullets flew in Cairo, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called upon the security forces to “act with restraint.”
The fundamental lessons of Leon Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution find bloody vindication in the latest slaughter in Cairo. The struggle for democracy can be carried out only in a ruthless struggle against imperialism, all sections of the capitalist class, and their political accomplices in the middle class. The task of fighting for democratic rights falls to the working class, as part of an independent revolutionary struggle for socialism and workers’ power.
Over the two years of mass strikes and protests by workers and youth since the ouster of Mubarak in 2011, the liberal bourgeoisie and sections of the affluent middle class closest to it have shifted openly into the camp of counterrevolution. In the absence of a socialist leadership within the working class, they ultilized the growing strike movement and popular protests against Mursi to their own advantage.
While a group of Egyptian billionaires and multimillionaires provided finance and pulled the strings behind the scenes, the necessary political conditions for the planned coup were created by a reactionary coalition of liberal, Nasserite, and pseudo-left parties and organizations, which provided the military with the needed “democratic” cover.
Now, with Egypt in the grip of a murderous dictatorship, these organizations are either backing the repression or trying to cover their tracks.
Hamdeen Sabbahi, the Nasserite leader of the Egyptian Popular Current, cynically blamed the bloodshed on the Muslim Brotherhood. In a statement, his party wrote that the MB had “chosen a standoff scenario with the state.” It said it would “reject the Brotherhood’s attempt to enlarge the circle of violence in Cairo and the governorates, as well as their targeting of churches and police stations.” The statement further called upon the Egyptian people to support the police and the army in “confronting terrorism and upholding popular will.”
Before yesterday’s crackdown, numerous liberal and pseudo-left parties called for a crackdown against pro-MB forces. Karima al-Hefnawy, a leading member of the Egyptian Socialist Party, said: “This is a violent and armed sit-in, and it is the right of every government to disperse it by law, and the people are saying that if the government does not disperse, we will do it ourselves.”
Shadi Ghazali Harb, the founder of the liberal Awareness Party and a former leader of the now-disbanded Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, said that “these sit-ins should be dismantled by any means … unfortunately, there will be injuries and probably deaths.”
These liberal and “left” forces have blood on their hands. They are politically responsible for the mass murder of peaceful protesters, including women and children.
Another section of liberal politicians, who provided essential political support for the military seizure of power, now seek to cover up their responsibility for the massacre. Liberal leader and Egyptian vice president for international affairs, Mohamed ElBaradei, in an act of consummate political cynicism resigned from his position in the junta’s puppet government.
In a letter to President Adly Mansour, ElBaradei wrote: “It has become hard for me to keep bearing responsibility for decisions that I did not approve of and warned against their consequences. I cannot be responsible before God for a single drop of blood.”
Can there be any doubt that ElBaradei’s letter was drafted in close consultation with the US State Department, which is fearful that this trusted political asset may be of no value to the United States if he is totally compromised by his association with the military?
The middle-class charlatans of the Revolutionary Socialists (RS), who collaborated closely with the pro-Army parties in the run-up to the coup, are also trying to cover up their own role, posing as critics of these forces. They write: “Many who described themselves as liberals and leftists have betrayed the Egyptian Revolution, led by those who took part in Al-Sisi's government. They have sold the blood of the martyrs to whitewash the military and the counter-revolution. These people have blood on their hands.”
What a cynical fraud! The liberal bourgeoisie did not “betray” the revolution. It acted, entirely predictably, in accordance with its class interests, to crush popular opposition and restore the infrastructure of a police state. It was the RS that played the filthiest role, promoting the pro-Army Tamarod, rubbing shoulders with those forces organizing and abetting the conspiracy, and presenting them as revolutionaries.
The RS participated in the Tamarod (“Rebel”) campaign, a right-wing conspiracy financed and supported by former Mubarak regime elements, to channel mass discontent against Mursi and the MB behind the Army. Tamarod leaders Mahmoud Badr and Mohamed Abdel Aziz, who were cheered by the RS in their headquarters, later flanked al-Sisi when he announced the coup on state television. Tamarod and its allies, including the RS, all have blood on their hands.
Yesterday’s bloody events do not signify the end of the revolution, but its baptism under fire as the different political forces reveal their class loyalties ever more openly. The working class did not participate in mass protests against Mursi in order to bring the military satraps of the Mubarak dictatorship back to power. As the military seeks to extend its repression of the MB into a generalized onslaught against the working class, it will encounter implacable resistance.
Heaven Shall Burn’s Veto: Politicised heavy metal
By Ben Trent
12 August 2013
The metalcore band Heaven Shall Burn, from Saalfeld in eastern Germany, released their seventh studio album in April of this year, simply entitled Veto. The album, coming after their Iconoclast trilogy (Iconoclast—Part 1: The Final Resistance ; Bildersturm—Iconoclast II [The Visual Resistance] ; Invictus [Iconoclast III] ) is full of the same heavy metal sound infused with lyrics of a socially conscious nature.
“Death metal” is primarily a form of heavy metal music found in Europe and the US, although in the last half-decade, it has become increasingly global, producing bands such as Bhayanak Maut from India, Crackdust (Botswana) and Seth.Ect (Turkey). For those who are not fans, death metal is not an easy genre to get into, and the politicised message is somewhat lost when the lyrics are hard to make out without having the liner notes at hand. This sort of music certainly isn’t for the casual listener.
The new album is everything that Heaven Shall Burn have showcased to date and, as a death metal band, they utilise an assortment of heavy guitars, blast-beating drums and screeching vocals, along with synthetic effects that give the songs added depth.
To some extent, the band lacks musical innovation because they are limited by the death metal genre, which is now well established and suffers from genuine stagnation. However, they do push the boundaries with their use of synthetic elements.
The band is also unusual amongst its contemporaries in the genre for its use of “political” lyrics, described on allmusic.com as “highly controversial and politicised death metal.”
Not many bands in the genre address socio-political concerns—the 2003 Iraq war being one of the few events that really took the heavy metal scene by storm. There are a few major self-styled “anarchist” bands, including Arch Enemy and The Agonist, and attempts by other acts to release the occasional “politicised” track. However, the depth and seriousness of Heaven Shall Burn lyrics are somewhat refreshing in a genre whose themes are generally nihilistic or empty-headed.
The band has a tendency to reflect on “folk heroes” of the Left, often bourgeois nationalists or other figures promoted by the former Stalinist parties. The album Antigone had songs about Víctor Jara, the murdered Chilean Communist and songwriter, and African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela. Presumably, growing up in East Germany has something to do with the band’s political inclinations.
The current album’s second track, “Land of the Upright Ones,” is dedicated to Thomas Sankara (1949-1987), the first leader of Burkina Faso, touted as “Africa’s Che Guevara.” It is a song of resistance, and the bridge gives a brief pause to the sustained heaviness of the track, to proclaim over melodic keyboards,
This life, this future, we’ll build a new foundation.
A new era we will bid welcome
The theme of the third track, “Die Stürme Rufen Dich (The Storms are calling you),” is overt anti-imperialism, with reference to genocide, despotism and the looting by “Northern Kingdoms.” The track is very stark and bleak in its recognition of the horrors committed by Western imperialism.
“An unseen genocide, a world war on the enslaved ones
Shieldless, Facing despotism,
This is the time of awakening”
“You Will Be Godless” and “Like Gods Among Mortals” (the sixth and ninth tracks, respectively) are directed specifically at the oppression of the ruling elite. “You Will Be Godless” suggests that the Vatican has a long history of corruption and collusion with the aristocracy and bourgeois classes, with religion used to suppress the spirit of the oppressed—
An isolated super state
Lead and controlled by rotten tyrants
Detached from the world and disconnected from reality
Maintaining power is the highest destination
Suppressing real enlightenment and ruling by oppression
Misanthropic doctrines, committed only to their profit
The song closes with the lyrics “Ancient traditions of justifying dark suppressors.” It’s a very heavy and brutal track, even for death metal music, highlighting the band’s feelings of hostility towards the Vatican and its corrupt nature. However, whether such a violent song will have the apparently intended effect of making the listener question religion is another matter.
“Like Gods Among Mortals” is a quintessentially heavy death metal track. It strikes up an antagonistic tone towards the “democratically elected” elites of the world, alluding to the Bilderberg Conference and the latest assaults on democratic rights (which, with the recent Edward Snowden revelations, resonates even more strongly):
Deathmongers, elected and legitimised
Sitting in secret councils
Corrupted henchmen, no beholder
Fraternity is wiped from the face of this earth
The song title lends itself well to the name of the band, which despite its rather Satanic overtones, is a reflection on the end of a system that falsely promises self-enrichment while actually exploiting all but a very few excessively wealthy individuals. In an interview, a band member explained, “We use the term heaven as a metaphor for some kind of a fake paradise that people create in their heads. Some people close their eyes and don’t see the truth surrounding them. So this kind of fake heaven should burn.”
The opening track (and the inspiration behind the cover art), entitled simply “Godiva,” is a very unusual take on the legend of Lady Godiva—the thirteenth century noblewoman who rode naked through the streets of Coventry, pleading with her husband (the Earl of Mercia) to alleviate his heavy taxation of the populace. It requests, “Godiva, promise me, convey our hate and screams” and to give “new hope to all the fallen ones, To all the silenced, to those unheard.”
The cover-track, “Valhalla,” written by another German metal band, Blind Guardian, and featuring a cameo role by its frontman Hansi Kürsch, is a complete departure from Heaven Shall Burn’s politicised topics. The style of the track is (while remaining essentially a metal track) a somewhat light-hearted interlude in an otherwise heavy and dark album.
The final track attacks the “European Super State” and questions poetically,
Why are the proud descendants of Plato
Paying off more debts accommodating NATO?
We the caretakers of democracy
No longer tolerate this hypocrisy
Heaven Shall Burn should be congratulated for their concern with today’s political and social conditions. There are limitations in the genre itself and in the band’s approach, but their music’s aggression and thoughtful lyrics can provide the acquainted listener with a powerful sense of fury at the injustices of capitalism. How many of their listeners take their social attitudes seriously remains an open question.
Bradley Manning’s statement: A forced “confession” concludes a drumhead tribunal
By Eric London
15 August 2013
Army PFC Bradley Manning addressed the military tribunal at Ft. Meade, Maryland yesterday in the eleventh day of post-trial sentencing hearings. The 25-year-old whistleblower was found guilty last month on 19 counts, including six charges of espionage. He faces up to 90 years in prison.
Manning’s comments yesterday reflect the tremendous element of coercion in the entire proceedings. In all, the episode more closely resembled a Stalinist show trial than a democratic court of law.
“First, your honor, I want to start off with an apology,” he told Army Col. Denise Lind, the military judge overseeing the proceedings. “I’m sorry that my actions hurt people, and I’m sorry that it hurt the United States. I understand what I was doing and the decision that I made. I’m sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions.”
Noting that he would “have to pay a price for my decisions and actions,” Manning pled for a lower sentence.
“How on Earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better over those with the proper authority? I know that I can and will be a better person. I hope that you can give me the opportunity to prove, not through words but through conduct, that I can return to a productive place in society.”
Manning delivered these comments in a visible state of despondency—he shook and grew tearful as he spoke. That a defendant in a legal proceeding is forced to apologize for and denounce his acts of opposition underscores the advanced state of decay of American democracy. Such sordid events bear the badge of a police state.
In fact, Manning’s actions did not hurt anyone but the politicians and military officials that have waged one illegal war after the next. In providing documents to WikiLeaks, he performed an immense service to the population of the United States and the entire world.
Moreover, in verbally repudiating the suggestion that he, as an individual, “could change the world for the better over those with the proper authority,” Manning implicitly condemns the state and the Obama administration. It is as if the American ruling class, through this confession, is seeking to convince the population, and itself, that opposition is useless.
That the state feels compelled to extract this mea culpa is a reflection of its own deep-seated fear. Those with the “proper authority” are well aware that they have committed grave crimes, even as they dare to stand in judgment of those who, like Manning, have revealed them.
Considering his past treatment, it is understandable that Manning wants to put an end to the entire antidemocratic charade perpetrated against him.
In his three years in captivity, Manning has been subjected to mental and physical forms of torture, including being placed for months in a 6 foot by 12 foot cell for 23 hours a day. This so-called pretrial detention was in direct violation of the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees the right to a speedy trial, and the Eighth Amendment, which bans cruel and unusual punishment of prisoners.
His sham military trial, like his imprisonment, has been a mockery of due process. Judge Lind has barred the utilization of any politically motivated defense by Manning. The court has drastically limited the rights of journalists covering the trial. The proceedings occur under censorship—the military has been able to limit access of key information to journalists and the public, ostensibly on account of potential damage to national security.
There is a sharp contrast between Manning’s comments yesterday and a statement he made in February, in which he asserted that the American people had the right to know the “true costs of war.”
“I believed if the public, particularly the American public, could see this that it could spark a debate on the military and our foreign policy in general [that] might cause society to reconsider the need to engage in counter-terrorism while ignoring the human situation of the people we engaged with every day.”
In an attempt to neutralize Manning’s potential as an icon of opposition, both the prosecution and the defense have worked at length to portray Manning as mentally unstable and plagued with eccentric personal insecurities. The trial has been marked by an obsessive focus on Manning’s sexuality, his psychological motives. Photographs of Manning dressed in make-up, wig, and women’s clothing have been published.
One reads with sadness Manning’s verbal repudiation of his noble actions, a repudiation extracted through psychological and physical abuse and the threat of a life in prison. That the Obama administration and the state apparatus feel the need to extract such statements and to compel political prisoners to speak in this way only adds to their own moral degradation, giving further proof of the putrefaction of what passes for American democracy.
Seventy-five years of the Fourth International
By David North
4 September 2013
Seventy-five years ago, on September 3, 1938, the Fourth International was founded at a conference held on the outskirts of Paris. The work of the conference had to be completed within one day due to precarious security conditions. During the 12 months that preceded the conference, the Trotskyist movement had been under relentless attack. Though he lived in exile in Mexico, Leon Trotsky was viewed by the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union as its most dangerous political opponent. Stalin was determined to destroy the international movement that Trotsky had created during the decade that followed his expulsion from the Soviet Communist Party in 1927 and his deportation from the USSR in 1929.
In September 1937, Erwin Wolf, a political secretary of Trotsky, was murdered in Spain by agents of the Soviet secret police, the GPU. During that same month, Ignace Reiss, who had defected from the GPU and declared his loyalty to the new International being founded by Trotsky, was assassinated in Lausanne, Switzerland. In February 1938, Leon Sedov—Trotsky’s eldest son and most important political representative in Europe—was murdered by the GPU in Paris. And in July 1938, only six weeks before the founding conference, Rudolf Klement—the leader of the movement’s International Secretariat—was kidnapped from his apartment in Paris and murdered.
Sedov, Wolf and Klement were elected honorary presidents of the conference, and the French Trotskyist, Pierre Naville, informed the delegates that “Owing to the tragic death of Klement there would be no formal report; Klement had had a detailed, written report in preparation which was to have been circulated, but it had disappeared with the rest of his papers. The present report would be merely a summary.”
The hellish conditions in which the conference was held reflected the political situation that confronted the international working class. Fascist regimes held power in Germany and Italy. Europe teetered on the brink of war. The infamous Munich conference at which British and French imperialism surrendered Czechoslovakia to Hitler—with the acquiescence of the capitalist government in Prague—was to be held only several weeks later. The Spanish revolution, having been misled and betrayed by its Stalinist and anarchist leaders, was rapidly approaching defeat after more than two years of civil war. In France, the Popular Front government of 1936-38 had done everything in its power to demoralize politically the working class. In the Soviet Union, the terror that had been unleashed by Stalin in 1936 had annihilated virtually the entire generation of Old Bolsheviks. The betrayals of the Stalinists and Social Democrats had sabotaged the only means by which the outbreak of a second imperialist world war could have been prevented—that is, the socialist revolution of the working class.
The main task facing the delegates attending the founding conference was the adoption of a document that had been drafted by Leon Trotsky. It was entitled “The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International.” Its opening sentence, among the most significant and profound in the annals of political literature, stated: “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.”
With these words Trotsky summed up not only the situation as it existed in 1938, but also the central political problem of modern history. The objective prerequisites—i.e., the international development of the productive forces, the existence of the revolutionary class—for the replacement of capitalism by socialism were present. But revolution was not merely the automatic outcome of objective economic conditions. It required the politically conscious intervention of the working class in the historical process, based on a socialist program and armed with a clearly elaborated strategic plan. The revolutionary politics of the working class could not be less conscious than the counterrevolutionary politics of the capitalist class it sought to overthrow. Herein lay the historic significance of the revolutionary party.
But the decisive role of the revolutionary party, which had been positively demonstrated in October 1917—when the Russian working class, under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky, overthrew the capitalist class and established the first workers’ state in history—was confirmed in the negative by the defeats of the 1920s and 1930s. A series of revolutionary opportunities had been lost by the false policies and deliberate betrayals carried out by the mass Social Democratic and Communist (Stalinist) parties that commanded the allegiance of the working class.
The political bankruptcy and reactionary role of the Social Democratic parties of the Second International had been laid bare as early as 1914, when they repudiated their own internationalist programs and supported the war policies of their own national ruling classes. The Communist (or Third) International had been formed in the aftermath of the October Revolution, in opposition to the betrayal of the Social Democracy.
But the growth of the state bureaucracy within the Soviet Union and the political degeneration of the Russian Communist Party had far-reaching consequences for the Communist International. In 1923, the Left Opposition had been formed under Trotsky’s leadership to combat the bureaucratization of the Russian Communist Party. But the bureaucracy, which found in Stalin a dedicated representative of its interests and privileges, fought back savagely against its Marxist opponents. In 1924, Stalin and Bukharin proclaimed the program of “socialism in one country,” which repudiated the program of socialist internationalism—that is, of Permanent Revolution— upon which Lenin and Trotsky had based the Bolshevik conquest of power in October 1917. The Stalin-Bukharin program provided an anti-Marxist theoretical justification for the practical subordination of the interests of the international working class to the national interests of the Soviet bureaucracy.
The impact of this fundamental revision of Marxist theory on the practice of the Third International and its affiliated parties was catastrophic. In the course of the 1920s, those leaders of national Communist parties who failed to fall in line with the dictates of Moscow were bureaucratically removed and replaced with compliant and incompetent factotums. Disoriented by the policies formulated by Stalin—who ever more openly viewed the Third International not as a party of world socialist revolution, but rather as an instrument of Soviet foreign policy—the Communist parties staggered from one disaster to another. The defeat of the British General Strike in 1926 and, one year later, the defeat of the Chinese Revolution were critical milestones in the degeneration of the Third International.
In 1928, having been exiled to Alma Ata in Central Asia, Trotsky wrote The Draft Program of the Communist International: A Criticism of Fundamentals on the eve of the organization’s Sixth Congress . This document was a detailed elaboration of the theoretical and political causes of the defeats suffered by the Communist parties during the preceding five years. The main target of Trotsky’s critique was the Stalin-Bukharin theory of “socialism in one country.” He wrote:
In our epoch, which is the epoch of imperialism, i.e., of world economy and world politics under the hegemony of finance capital, not a single communist party can establish its program by proceeding solely or mainly from conditions and tendencies of development in its own country. This also holds entirely for the party that wields the state power within the boundaries of the USSR. On August 4, 1914, the death knell sounded for national programs for all time. The revolutionary party of the proletariat can base itself only upon an international program corresponding to the character of the epoch, the epoch of the highest development and collapse of capitalism. An international communist program is in no case the sum total of national programs or an amalgam of their common features. The international program must proceed directly from an analysis of the conditions and tendencies of world economy and of the world political system taken as a whole in all its connections and contradictions, that is, with the mutually antagonistic interdependence of its separate parts. In the present epoch, to a much larger extent than in the past, the national orientation of the proletariat must and can flow only from a world orientation and not vice versa. Herein lies the basic and primary difference between communist internationalism and all varieties of national socialism.
It is important to recall that the central emphasis placed by Trotsky on the primacy of a world orientation arose not simply from general theoretical considerations, but from his analysis—which Trotsky developed in 1923-24—of the global implications of the emergence of the United States as the principal imperialist power.
Trotsky was barred, of course, from attending the sessions of the Communist International. His writings were already proscribed within all the Communist parties. However, through some extraordinary mishap, Trotsky’s Criticism was translated into English and came into the possession of James P.Cannon, who was attending the Sixth Congress as a delegate of the American Communist Party. Persuaded by Trotsky’s Criticism, Cannon, with the assistance of a Canadian delegate, Maurice Spector, smuggled the document out of the Soviet Union. On the basis of the analysis presented in the Criticism of Fundamentals, Cannon—joined by Max Shachtman, Martin Abern and several other leading members of the Communist Party—began the fight for Trotsky’s ideas outside the Soviet Union. Soon expelled from the Communist Party, Cannon and Shachtman formed the Communist League of America, which played a critical role in the emergence of the International Left Opposition.
When it was formed in 1923, the aim of the Left Opposition was the reform of the Communist Party on the basis of the program of revolutionary internationalism, and the reestablishment of open debate within the party in accordance with the principles of democratic centralism. With the establishment of the International Left Opposition, which rapidly gained adherents throughout the world, Trotsky sought to achieve the reform of the Communist International. As long as there remained the possibility that the disastrous policies of Stalin might be reversed through the growth of opposition within the Soviet Communist Party and the Third International, Trotsky refrained from issuing the call for a new International.
The situation in Germany between 1930 and 1933 weighed heavily in Trotsky’s calculations. With the collapse of the German economy in the aftermath of the Wall Street crash of 1929, Hitler’s National Socialist (Nazi) party emerged as a mass force. Whether or not Hitler came to power depended on the policies of the two mass organizations of the German working class, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Communist Party (KPD). These two parties commanded the allegiance of millions of German workers and possessed the power to defeat the Nazis.
Having been exiled in 1929 to the island of Prinkipo, off the coast of Turkey, Trotsky wrote voluminously, analyzing the German crisis and appealing for united action by the two working class parties to stop Hitler’s march to power. But the SPD, subservient to the bourgeois state and opposed to any politically independent action by the working class, would not countenance even a defensive struggle against the Nazis. The fate of the German working class was, instead, to be left in the hands of the corrupt and criminal bourgeois politicians of the Weimar regime who were scheming to bring Hitler to power. As for the KPD, it adhered blindly to the Moscow-dictated definition of the Social Democracy as “social fascist”—that is, the political equivalent of the Nazi party. The Stalinists rejected Trotsky’s call for a United Front of the KPD and SPD against Hitler. In a political prognosis that must be counted among the most disastrous miscalculations in history, the Stalinists—justifying their own passivity—proclaimed that a Nazi victory would soon be followed by a socialist revolution that would bring the Communist Party to power. “After Hitler, us,” was the Stalinist slogan.
The tragic denouement came on January 30, 1933. Appointed chancellor by the aged President von Hindenburg, Hitler came to power legally, without a shot being fired. Both the SPD and KPD, organizations with millions of members between them, did nothing to oppose the Nazis’ triumph. Within days, the Nazis, now in control of the state apparatus, set their terror into motion. Within months, the SPD, the KPD, the trade unions and all other mass working class organizations were smashed. The twelve-year nightmare, which would cost the lives of millions, including the vast majority of European Jewry, had begun.
Trotsky waited several months after Hitler’s accession to power to see whether the German catastrophe would evoke protests and opposition within either the remnants of the KPD or the Third International. But the opposite occurred. The Stalinist organizations, within Germany and in the International, reaffirmed the correctness of the political line that had been dictated by the Soviet bureaucracy.
The outcome in Germany convinced Trotsky that there existed no possibility for the reform of the Communist International. Therefore, in July 1933, Trotsky issued a public call for the formation of the Fourth International. This fundamental shift in policy in relation to the Third International led Trotsky to a further conclusion. If the possibility of reforming the Communist International did not exist, the perspective of reform was no longer valid for the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. To change the policies of the Stalinist regime would require its overthrow. However, as this overthrow would be aimed at defending, rather than replacing, the nationalized property relations established in the aftermath of October 1917, the revolution advocated by Trotsky would be of a political rather than a social character.
The events between 1933 and 1938 confirmed the correctness of Trotsky’s new course. During the five years that followed Hitler’s conquest of power, the Stalinist regime emerged as the most dangerous counterrevolutionary force within the international workers’ movement. The defeats that were caused by the policies of the Kremlin bureaucracy were not the outcome of mistakes, but, rather, of conscious policies. The Stalinist regime feared that the success of social revolution in any country might inspire a reawakening of the revolutionary fervor of the Soviet working class.
As Trotsky worked systematically for the formal establishment of the Fourth International, he encountered two major forms of opposition.
The first was that of tendencies and individuals who refused to draw any conclusions of a principled character from the international experience of the class struggle and the betrayals of Stalinism and Social Democracy. While occasionally expressing sympathy and even agreement with one or another aspect of Trotsky’s analysis, they refused to commit themselves and their organizations to the fight for a new revolutionary International. In effect, these tendencies—which Trotsky designated “centrist”—sought to find a safe middle-ground between revolution and counterrevolution. Underlying their unprincipled political maneuvering were thoroughly opportunist calculations. They were determined to prevent international program and principles from impinging on their national tactics. The parties that exemplified this form of national opportunism were the German Socialist Workers Party (SAP), the Spanish Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), and the British Independent Labour Party (ILP). The latter organization, led by Fenner Brockway (later Lord Brockway), played a major role in the establishment of the so-called London Bureau.
The second argument against the formation of the Fourth International was that its proclamation was premature. An International, it was claimed, could arise only out of “great events,” by which was meant a successful revolution. At the founding conference, this position was advanced by a Polish delegate, identified in the minutes as Karl, who argued that a new International could be created only in a period of “revolutionary upsurge.” The conditions of “intense reaction and depression” were “circumstances wholly unfavorable for the proclamation of the Fourth.” The delegate stated that “the forces constituting the Fourth were disproportionately small in relation to its tasks,” and that “It was therefore necessary to wait for a favorable moment and not be premature.”
As he drafted the founding document of the Fourth International, Trotsky anticipated the arguments of the Polish delegate:
Skeptics ask: But has the moment for the creation of the Fourth International yet arrived? It is impossible, they say, to create an International “artificially”; it can arise only out of great events, etc., etc. All of these objections merely show that skeptics are no good for building a new International. They are good for scarcely anything at all.
The Fourth International has already arisen out of great events: the greatest defeats of the proletariat in history. The cause for these defeats is to be found in the degeneration and perfidy of the old leadership. The class struggle does not tolerate an interruption. The Third International, following the Second, is dead for purposes of revolution. Long live the Fourth International!
In October 1938, Trotsky recorded a speech in which he welcomed, with evident emotion, the founding of the Fourth International.
Dear friends, we are not a party like other parties. Our ambition is not only to have more members, more papers, more money in the treasury, more deputies. All that is necessary, but only as a means. Our aim is the full material and spiritual liberation of the toilers and exploited through the socialist revolution. Nobody will prepare it and nobody will guide it but ourselves. The old Internationals—the Second, the Third, that of Amsterdam, we will add to them also the London Bureau—are rotten through and through.
The great events which rush upon mankind will not leave of these outlived organizations one stone upon another. Only the Fourth International looks with confidence at the future. It is the World Party of Socialist Revolution! There never was a greater task on earth. Upon each of us rests a tremendous historical responsibility.
With the perspective afforded by three quarters of a century, it is possible to judge whether history has vindicated Trotsky’s appraisal. What remains of the old organizations—Stalinist, Social Democratic and centrist—whose political shipwreck was foretold by Trotsky? The Second International exists only as a center of anti-working class operations and conspiracies directed by the CIA and various other state intelligence agencies. The Third International was officially dissolved by Stalin in 1943. The Stalinist parties throughout the world continued to orbit around the Kremlin bureaucracy for several more decades, until the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 swept them into the garbage dump of history.
No, let us not exaggerate. The Russian Communist Party, though much reduced in size, continues to exist. It holds demonstrations in Moscow alongside Russian nationalists and fascists, where placards bearing the portrait of Stalin are waved alongside banners that have the swastika emblazoned upon them. And it is true that the “Communist Party” holds power in China, where it presides over the second largest capitalist economy in the world, whose police state regime guarantees that super-profits extracted from the working class are transferred to the transnational corporations of the United States and Europe.
The Fourth International is the sole revolutionary organization that has successfully navigated the shoals and rapids of such an extended period of history. Of course, it has passed through intense political struggles and splits. The internal conflicts reflected the vicissitudes of the class struggle under continually changing international socio-economic conditions and the realignment of social forces—not only within the working class, but also among different layers of the middle class—under the impact of these changes.
Political cynics, who ferment in abundance in the bubbling miasma of ex- and pseudo-left academics, are fond of pointing to the splits within the Fourth International. Such people, who submit in silence to the crimes of the capitalist parties to which they give their vote year after year, understand nothing of the class dynamics of politics. Nor, on a personal level, can they understand why anyone, anywhere, would conduct a determined and uncompromising political struggle over matters of principle.
Fifteen years after the founding of the Fourth International, in November 1953, the emergence of a pro-Stalinist tendency led to a split in which fundamental questions of class orientation, historical perspective, and political strategy were involved. The combined pressure of the post-war restabilization of capitalism, the still immense political influence of the Stalinist bureaucracy, and the increasing political self-consciousness of a growing middle class found expression in the development of a new form of opportunism. This new opportunism, known as Pabloism (derived from its best known exponent, Michel Pablo), rejected Trotsky’s characterization of the Soviet bureaucracy and Stalinism as counterrevolutionary. It envisaged the realization of socialism in a process that was to unfold in the course of centuries, through revolutions led by the bureaucracy and its affiliated Stalinist parties. It even suggested that a nuclear world war would create the conditions for the victory of socialist revolution. The Pabloite theory also attributed revolutionary capacities denied by Trotsky to numerous bourgeois national and petty-bourgeois radical movements, especially in the colonial and “Third World” countries.
The essential content of Pabloism’s revision of Marxist theory and the Trotskyist perspective was its rejection of the central role of the working class in the socialist revolution. The International Committee of the Fourth International was formed in 1953, at the initiative of James P. Cannon, to fight against the influence of Pabloite opportunism, whose political logic and practice would lead, unless opposed, to the liquidation of the Fourth International as a revolutionary working class party.
The political struggle against the influence of Pabloism raged within the Fourth International for more than 30 years. This struggle was brought to a successful conclusion in 1985 when the orthodox Trotskyists of the International Committee regained the political leadership of the Fourth International. The objective factors that contributed to this victory were the deepening global crisis of capitalism, the deep crisis of the Stalinist bureaucracy, and the evident bankruptcy of all labor organizations based on a national reformist program.
However, these objective conditions alone would have been insufficient. The defeat of the revisionists and opportunists by the orthodox Trotskyists of the International Committee was achieved because the latter consciously based their work on the vast political and theoretical legacy of Trotsky and the Fourth International. This legacy, which had been developed and built upon over decades, was an immense source of political strength. In the final analysis, the development of the world crisis of capitalism and the class struggle unfolded in accordance with the perspective developed by Trotsky and the Fourth International.
Seventy-five years—three quarters of a century—is a substantial period of time. Obviously, much has changed since the time of the Founding Congress of the Fourth International. But the basic structures and contradictions of capitalist society persist. For all the technological innovations, the situation that confronts modern capitalism seems no less desperate than it was in 1938. In fact, it is worse. When Trotsky wrote the founding document of the Fourth International, the world bourgeoisie was plagued by an intractable economic crisis, abandoning democracy and racing toward war. Today, as we celebrate 75 years since the founding of the Fourth International, global capitalism is… plagued by an intractable economic crisis, abandoning democracy and racing toward war.
The words of Trotsky, written 75 years ago, retain an extraordinary immediacy:
All talk to the effect that historical conditions have not yet “ripened” for socialism is the product of ignorance or conscious deception. The objective prerequisites for the proletarian revolution have not only “ripened”; they have begun to get somewhat rotten. Without a socialist revolution, in the next historical period at that, a catastrophe threatens the whole culture of mankind. It is now the turn of the proletariat, i.e., chiefly of its revolutionary vanguard. The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership.
Srbt 7003, what happened to Proletaurus??
Three years of the Egyptian revolution
25 January 2014
On January 25, 2011, mass revolutionary struggles erupted in Egypt against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. Egyptian workers and youth followed the example of their Tunisian class brothers, who had toppled that country’s dictator, Zine El Abedine Ben Ali, eleven days before. They defeated police in street battles on the “Friday of Anger” and, after 18 days of mass strikes and protests, forced Mubarak from office.
The Egyptian Revolution proved the revolutionary capacity of the working class, dealing a powerful blow to those who claimed that the fall of the Soviet Union signified the “end of history” and the final triumph of capitalism. Above all, however, it revealed the crucial task the working class faces in this era of world revolution: the building of its own revolutionary socialist party.
The day before Mubarak’s ouster, the World Socialist Web Site wrote: “The revolutionary Marxists must counsel workers against all illusions that their democratic aspirations can be achieved under the aegis of bourgeois parties. They must expose ruthlessly the false promises of the political representatives of the capitalist class. They must encourage the creation of independent organs of workers’ power which can become, as the political struggle intensifies, the basis for the transfer of power to the working class. They must explain that the realization of the workers’ essential democratic demands is inseparable from the implementation of socialist policies…
“Above all, revolutionary Marxists must raise the political horizons of Egyptian workers beyond the borders of their own country. They must explain that the struggles that are now unfolding in Egypt are inextricably linked to an emerging global process of world socialist revolution, and that the victory of the revolution in Egypt requires not a national, but an international strategy.”
The perspective laid out by the WSWS, based on Leon Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, has been vindicated by the subsequent developments in Egypt. After three years of mass social struggles, the Egyptian bourgeoisie has proven incapable of meeting any of the demands for bread, freedom and social equality that drove the working class to revolution.
It is seeking instead, with the support of its backers in Washington, to restore as much as it can of the old Mubarak regime. Since the July 3, 2013 coup, the junta of Mubarak-era intelligence chief General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has murdered and jailed thousands, banned the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and pushed through a constitution, publicly endorsed by Mubarak himself, enshrining a military dictatorship.
The junta is seeking to stabilize its rule through terror and repression. Today, on the third anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution, 260,000 policemen, 180 battalions, and 500 combat troops will be deployed throughout the country.
Without its own party fighting for a revolutionary perspective and the development of Marxist consciousness, the proletariat was able to topple the head of state and shake the political establishment to its foundations. It was not, however, able to overthrow the Egyptian bourgeois state and lay the basis for achieving its social and democratic aspirations by ending capitalist exploitation and imperialist oppression.
Instead, the unfolding of the revolution brought the working class into conflict with the social and political forces through which the Egyptian capitalist class and its imperialist backers successively sought to stabilize their rule in Egypt. As workers launched one wave of struggles after another, the irreconcilable conflict between the working class on the one side and bourgeois and petty-bourgeois forces on the other came to the fore.
Initially, the army sought to continue its rule without Mubarak, installing the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) junta, pushing through anti-strike and anti-protest laws and cracking down on demonstrations in Tahrir Square.
When the ruling class responded to an upsurge of mass protests against the SCAF by organizing presidential elections that brought the Islamist Mohamed Mursi to power, the MB was exposed as a defender of the same class interests as the hated Mubarak regime. Mursi held talks with the International Monetary Fund to prepare austerity measures against the workers and served as a stooge of US imperialism, supporting Israeli air strikes against Gaza and the escalating US-led proxy war in Syria.
With each stage in the struggle, the liberal and pseudo-left factions of the affluent middle class turned more sharply against the working class as they realized that its aims posed a threat to their own privileges.
When mass protests of tens of millions erupted last summer against the hated Mursi regime, these groups panicked and threw themselves behind the return of a military dictatorship as an alternative to working class revolution. They gave their support to the right-wing Tamarod movement and sought to channel mass anger against Mursi behind it. Meanwhile, Tamarod helped the army organize the July 3 coup. Forces like Hamdeen Sabahi’s Popular Current and Mohamed El Baradei’s Constitution Party joined the transitional government established by the military and helped organize mass repression.
The most corrupt group supporting the coup and aiding the forces of counterrevolution was the pseudo-left Revolutionary Socialists (RS). In each phase of the revolution, the RS sought to subordinate the working class to one or another faction of the bourgeoisie. Having initially claimed that the SCAF junta would grant social and democratic reforms, the RS opposed calls for a “second revolution” against the SCAF. Instead, it promoted the MB as “the right wing of the revolution,” hailing Mursi’s election as “a victory for the revolution.” When working class opposition to Mursi mounted, the RS hailed Tamarod as “a road to complete the revolution” and called the coup a “second revolution.”
Driven by the fear that the junta’s repression will provoke a renewed revolutionary movement of the working class, the RS is shifting even further to the right. It is currently allied with the Islamist Strong Egypt Party and the April 6 Youth Movement in the so-called Revolutionary Path Front (RPF). The RPF aims to reconcile the feuding factions of the Egyptian ruling elite, warning that, “the victory of either party over the other will mean the defeat of the state.”
The tumultuous struggles in Egypt contain enormous lessons, obtained at a bitter price, for the working class in Egypt and throughout the world. The victory of revolution depends on establishing the political independence of the working class, in opposition to liberal and pseudo-left forces in the middle class who will stop at nothing to block a social revolution.
The revolution cannot triumph over imperialism and Egypt’s various bourgeois and petty-bourgeois factions except through the building of a revolutionary party that bases itself on the theory of permanent revolution and fights for the working class to take power in Egypt and throughout the Middle East.
Global stock sell-off highlights financial parasitism
By Barry Grey
25 January 2014
Stock markets around the world plunged Friday as emerging market currencies hit record lows. The rout on financial markets began Thursday and intensified Friday, triggered by a report showing a slowdown in the growth of Chinese factory output and anxiety over the impact of a further cutback in the US Federal Reserve’s multi-billion-dollar bond-buying program.
Stock prices plummeted from North America to Europe, Asia and South America. In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 318 points (-1.96 percent) to close at 15,879, ending below 16,000 for the first time since December 17. On Thursday, the Dow fell 176 points. For the week, the blue chip index dropped 579 points, its worst point drop since September of 2011.
The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index fell 38 points (-2.09 percent), ending below 1,800 for the first time since December 17. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index declined 90 points (-2.25 percent).
Trading volume was sharply higher than in previous weeks and the markets closed at session lows, suggesting a further sell-off to come.
In Europe, all of the major country indexes fell sharply. Britain’s FTSE declined 1.6 percent; Germany’s DAX dropped 2.5 percent; France’s CAC fell 2.78 percent; Greek stocks fell 3.21 percent. The composite Stoxx Europe 600 index dropped 2.4 percent, adding to Thursday’s 1.0 percent slide. The index was down 3.3 percent for the week.
In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei fell 1.94 percent; Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 1.3 percent; the Jakarta Composite dropped 1.31 percent.
In Latin America, Argentina’s stock index plunged 3.93 percent and Brazil’s fell 1.1 percent.
The financial turmoil was sharpest in the so-called “emerging market” economies, including China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Russia and South Africa. The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets exchange-traded fund, which tracks emerging market stocks, plunged 2.1 percent on Friday after falling 2.5 percent on Thursday, to close at a four-and-a-half-month low.
The decision of the Fed to begin cutting back its money-printing, bond-buying program, combined with slowing growth in China and fears of deflation in Europe, has destabilized economies around the world that experienced rapid growth on the basis of massive inflows of speculative, “hot” money from banks and hedge funds in the US, Europe and Asia.
The Fed’s policy of keeping interest rates at near-zero and pumping $85 billion a month into the financial markets by purchasing US Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities cheapened the US dollar and lowered US interest rates relative to those in “emerging market” countries. Parallel polices by the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan had a similar effect.
This flood of cheap credit to the banks encouraged frenzied financial speculation, sending waves of cash seeking higher returns into the economies of countries such as Argentina, Brazil, India, Turkey, Indonesia and South Africa. Now this flow is being reversed back to the US, as the Fed’s “tapering” of its bond-buying program increases the value of the US dollar on world currency markets and drives US interest rates higher.
At its last policy-making meeting, in mid-December, the Fed cut the scale of its bond-buying from $85 billion a month to $75 billion, while reassuring the markets that it would continue to hold interest rates at near-zero for at least another year. It is widely believed that the Fed will further “taper” its bond-buying program by another $10 billion when it meets next week.
The result is a financial unraveling of countries that could precipitate another global financial meltdown. On Thursday, the Argentinian peso plunged 15 percent in early trading, forcing the government to withdraw controls and allow the currency to devalue. It ended the day down 12 percent to a record low against the US dollar.
The same day, the Turkish lira depreciated 1.4 percent, extending declines for the month to 8.2 percent. The Turkish central bank intervened directly in foreign exchange markets for the first time since 2012 but failed to prevent the lira from falling to new lows “as doubts grew over its ability to prevent a run on the currency” (Financial Times, January 23).
The South African rand sank 0.9 percent to its weakest level since October 2008.
Venezuela partially devalued its currency on Wednesday, and the Russian ruble fell to new lows on Thursday. The Australian dollar fell 1 percent versus the US greenback.
A Bloomberg gauge tracking 20 emerging market currencies fell to the lowest level since April 2009 on Friday, dropping 9.7 percent over the past 12 months.
Since the Fed first signaled last May that it might begin scaling back its bond purchases, more than $940 billion has been erased from the value of emerging market stocks.
A recent report by Goldman Sachs entitled “Emerging Markets: As the Tide Goes Out” warned that economic problems in China, Brazil, Russia, Turkey and other countries are not just cyclical, but call for “a significant reassessment of emerging market countries.” The report predicted “underperformance and heightened volatility over the next five to ten years” in these economies.
A Reuters article published Friday under the headline “Rout in emerging markets may only be in Phase One” stated: “The flight of investors from the once-booming emerging markets they previously favored with $7 trillion worth of inflows may have only just begun.”
These developments highlight the degree to which the world economy is dominated by the most parasitical and quasi-criminal forms of financial speculation. While the real economy continues to stagnate or decline, the capitalist system is kept afloat by massive infusions of virtually free cash into the financial markets. Central banks have pumped an estimated $10 trillion into the markets since the Wall Street crash of September 2008.
This has been paid for through the destruction of jobs, wages and social welfare programs upon which hundreds of millions of working people depend.
The banks and corporations have not used the handouts from governments and central banks for productive investment—to rebuild crumbling infrastructures or expand the productive forces. The Financial Times reported Friday that US capital spending is expected to grow this year at its slowest pace in four years. And it is estimated that American non-financial companies are currently sitting on a cash hoard of $1.5 trillion.
Instead, the massive subsidies have been used to drive up the stock market and underwrite a speculative frenzy that has increased the wealth of the richest 1 percent at the expense of the overwhelming majority of the world’s people. The S&P 500 index has risen by 170 percent from a twelve-year low in March of 2009, soaring 30 percent in 2013 alone.
The result is a staggering growth of personal wealth among a miniscule layer of society. This week, as the world’s bankers and CEOs gathered at the annual World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos, the charity Oxfam released a report showing that the richest 85 individuals have more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the world’s population—3.5 billion people.
The domination of the globe by a new financial aristocracy driven by greed and immersed in criminality was symbolized Friday by the announcement that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, currently being feted at Davos, was awarded a 74 percent pay raise for 2013.
Dimon’s bank had to pay $20 billion in fines in 2013 to settle charges of mortgage fraud, concealing losses by lying to regulators and fixing the books, complicity in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme and other crimes. This crook, who by rights should be serving time in prison, saw his compensation jump from $11.5 million for 2012 to $20 million for 2013.
Such is the historically unprecedented scale of parasitism at the very heart of the world capitalist system.