Attention!! If you can see this message it means you are viewing the web with an old browser (web viewing programme such as NETSCAPE 4.x or earlier) or a handheld or mobile phone type reader. That means you will see only a basic version of the pages — the content should be perfectly readable but will have a basic layout. For a printable version you can click on a link to download. A better webpage layout will be shown in modern browsers(eg Opera7, InternetExplorer6, Safari or Mozilla). If you are not limited by small memory in older computers, you can download these programmes from the Internet. Installation is usually quite simple and usually safe from viruses.

Engraving of Lenin busy studying

Economic and Philosophic Science Review

Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism is to be tested. V. I. Lenin

Skip Navigation(?)

Recent issue

No 1279 October 23rd 2005

Iraq quicksand ever worse for imperialism despite fraudulent “constitution” stunts to pretend a “new democracy” is in place. Tory stunts to make a new “Blair” show how rolling defeat for imperialism has undermined the last throw for parliamentary trickery in Britain of bare-faced lying spin and illusion mongering — with the ruling class desperate to ditch this losing version for a “clean” one. But the real story is the whirlpool of capitalist crisis which is sucking down all this capitalist rubbish — with only Leninist polemic and science missing to finally build the revolutionary leadership needed

The quagmire of military and political humiliation facing imperialism worldwide grows deeper by the day – with the armed anti-US and anti-British resistance in the Middle East particularly inflicting ever greater damage.

Growing defeat for the capitalist system’s efforts to impose a desperate new colonialism – and with it to demonstrate and re-assert with “shock and awe” the once unquestioned might and ruthlessness of its dominant power, the USA - has turned the Bush/Blair axis into a laughing stock.

Mere laughter will not stop imperialism’s relentless progress towards Third World War disaster any more than the widely mocked buffoonery of Mussolini in the 1930s and the “joke” strutting of Hitlerite fascism was stopped by disbelief and satire.

The sinister sabre rattling against Iran, Syria and even Saudi Arabia, is a better guide to where imperialist crisis is going. And only the revolutionary ending of the system will stop the slide into wider and wider warmongering.

But the difficulties for the system keep piling up.

Far from keeping the lid on the ferment of anti-imperialist hatred which is boiling throughout the Third World as the injustices of this globalised exploitation system grow ever more exaggerated and out of time, their big-lie justified fascist bullying has multiplied a thousand fold the determination of millions to hit back, however they can.

But the real significance of this failure - signalling the watershed transition of the entire 800 year old capitalist order into collapse, incapacity, and vulnerability to revolutionary overturn - continues to be missed, or deliberately avoided, by the entire spectrum of supposed “lefts”. Instead they flounder in local and short-sighted squabbles about whether to “ally” with Islamism; fatuous and shallowly utopian - and unachievable - pacifist demands for “troops out”; and even shallower discussions about workerist activism, currently aping bourgeois charity for Pakistan etc. among other things and dozens of other warmed-over limited reformist perspectives.

And with it goes an almost universal capitulation to imperialism’s lying and fraudulent “war on terror” censorship and human rights clampdown, via the grotesque and cowardly stoogery of “condemning terrorism” at every possible incident.

Even those who avoid this craven betrayal like the slyly re-branded revisionist Lalkarites, now posturing mightily as a revolutionary party magically (and without explanation) stripped of an 8-year long collusion and sycophantic “left” justification for the reactionary trade unionist manipulations of Arthur Scargill in the SLP - and equally magically without any reference to their Stalin “guru” - give no perspective at all for continuing turmoil and spontaneous resistance within Iraq, and throughout the Middle East.

Instead they go the other way, confusing the working class with calls for and “support” for the resistance in purely “solidarity” terms - yet another heroic nationalist struggle.

But it is not victory for potentially confusing ideologies which should be supported, but DEFEAT for the imperialist system. It is imperialism’s plundering profit-grabbing which is the SOURCE and ROOT of the all the antagonisms and contradictions on the planet.

And there is a long Marxist grasp of the difference between seeing defeat for imperialist forces and calling for victory for the other side (if it is not clearly and openly anti-capitalist).

“Support” not only misleads the working class everywhere about the stew of mixed and often backward religious and nationalist ideologies in Iraq and elsewhere which is bound together only loosely by its anti-Americanism - and in parts may lack even that determination (the petty-bourgeois “democratic” Kurdish leaderships having a long record of opportunist collusion and collaboration with the CIA for example) - but leaves out the crucial worldwide significance of the Iraq disaster at this point in history.

It is the historical context of desperate worldwide CRISIS in which such defeats are made possible because of the growing paralysis and incapability of the entire overripe monopoly capitalist order, facing the terrifying prospect of the total disintegration of its economic and political structure into devastating slump and trade war (already well underway).

And even more terrifying is the visceral fear of the ruling class - whatever it is able to analyse consciously with its one-sided unMarxist undialectical thinking - that will be unseated by revolutionary overturn, as partially experienced repeatedly from 1917 onwards.

It is overdue. History, like all other processes in the universe, is revolutionary and dialectical with contradictions accumulating to the point of sudden transformation into something new in order to move on.

Capitalism has long worked through the period when it was taking mankind forwards with a vibrant new scientific, exploratory and philosophical spirit, having itself overturned by revolution (Italian Middle Ages, 1640, 1789, 1848) the agricultural and Catholic feudal order, turned moribund and ossified, holding back the new industries with its privileges.

Technology, and the education of the mass of mankind has inexorably moved on, driven by capitalism’s own industrial needs for more efficient exploitation, to the point where it has created the globalised working class that is now sophisticated enough to take life forwards with a full rationality and science rather than the one-sided understanding of the bourgeois world.

The hampering contradictions of the profit motivation, private capital investment and the elaborate and now Byzantine financial bureaucratic system that has grown from it (elaborate Stock Markets, derivatives, hedge funds, currency exchange, arbitrage, bonds, syndicated loans and so on and so forth) have accumulated to the point of clogging up the entire world economic and technological framework.

Instead of the sensible planned and straightforward organisation of modern mass production and international trade to serve mankind’s needs, (and not excessive over consumption) the capitalist mode of production has become a set of handcuffs around humankind preventing it going forwards - a fetter as Marx said in his brilliant understanding of the system (see joining box), starving tens of millions and drowning others in shallow philistine consumerism, emptiness and uncertainty.

And it is all about to get a thousand times worse. The ruling imperialist powers have become the greatest threat to mankind in their ruthless determination to hold onto the whole world as it is, defying the common sense and rationality of socialism.

It will only be changed when the world’s proletarian masses can throw off the exploitative dominance of the capitalist class keeping it permanently under the thumb of wage-slavery.

No ruling class ever willingly left the sweet rich life of domination and three devastating war “solutions” (1879 Franco-Prussian War, WW1 and WW2) to the unstoppable slump crisis have already shown to what lengths the ruling class will go to hang on, wiping out half the planet in order to re-establish the rate of profit.

With the greatest network of international exploitation ever achieved, and the greatest most decadent luxury power in all of history to lose (in the overwhelmingly dominant imperialist power the USA) , the potential destruction to be wreaked by the system is colossal, as it has already begun to demonstrate with the “warm-up” wars against tiny Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq and shortly too against the next “rogue state” be it Iran or bite-sized Syria, both being readied with streams of endless Goebbels big-lie provocations and accusations.

It is no episodic coincidence or “bad behaviour” which must (arrogantly) be “sorted out” that has led to three increasingly vicious wars in a row but a slide into total world war with US imperialism eventually forced to take on even the largest of its capitalist rivals in the fight to stay on top in the coming terrifying slump collapse.

The Pentagon fireworks and publicly increased use of torture, concentration camps, death squads and cynical civilian blitzing are deliberately being escalated – along with the domestic repression and tearing up of rights - to intimidate and dismay any potential challenges in advance of the full scale conflicts to come. Bush has repeatedly made clear warnings against any country which tries to develop weaponry capable of challenging the USA.

The bullying blitzkrieg intimidation is equally designed to fend off any growing challenges to the arrogant disregard of the United States to do anything serious to tackle its now unprecedented dollar deficit - the largest in all history and completely unrepayable.

The deficit is one of the biggest symptoms of the economic time bomb ticking away underneath the world’s most powerful economy – and because of the universal printed dollar saturation of the world’s trading system since 1945, under all capitalism.

And despite the persistent complacent and light-minded mockery of the Trotskyite fake-“left”, wilfully disarming the working class by jeering at the supposed exaggerations of “economic catastrophism” (some Marxists these!) there are plenty more signs week by week in the capitalist press of the deadly underlying malaise which is built in to the capitalist profit making economy.

The best efforts of imperialism to plug the holes may have bought a few years of credit fed economic grace here and there (at tragic cost to slump ridden millions in the Far East; South America (bankrupted Argentina eg); Africa where the Malawian famine is devastating yet more millions, and the carpet-bagged Russian working class, suffering enormous collapses in living standards) - but the sickening lurches in the crisis still threaten to overturn the whole at any time:

It is hard to exaggerate the crisis being faced by the big carmakers in Detroit.

Late on Monday, General Motors reported a $1.6bn (£915m) loss for the third quarter - twice as heavy as Wall Street’s worst fears - and announced desperate measures. It proposed cutting spending on healthcare for its employees and pensioners by $1bn a year, speeding up plant closures and selling a majority stake in its money-spinning finance arm, GMAC.

Wall Street and union leaders agree the actions were necessary. Some suggest they are unlikely to be enough. In Detroit, the mutterings that GM might be forced into bankruptcy are getting louder. One analyst recently said the firm has a 30% likelihood of filing for bankruptcy within the next two years.

GM and Ford have been struggling to make vehicles that customers want, especially in North America. GM sales are down 1.4% this year. Raw material costs are getting higher and the love affair with big sport utility vehicles and pickups, 60% of GM’s revenue in the US, is fading as petrol prices rise.

The biggest issue for GM is the healthcare and pension costs once credited with creating the American middle class but now a heavy burden in the fight against overseas competition. GM expects this year’s healthcare bill to be $5.6bn - $1,564 for every vehicle sold. The bankruptcy filing of supplier Delphi, spun out of GM, could add $11bn to its liabilities.

GM says it still has $19.2bn in cash and equivalents, down $5bn on the same time last year. The sale of a share in GMAC, which has made most of the company’s profits in recent years, would bring between $10bn and $15bn more to invest in the auto business. But that will be a one-off chance to get it right. There is no other family silver to sell.


...troubles at a US futures broker few of us had ever heard of could herald the economic meltdown which the doom-mongers have been predicting ever since hedge funds became the masters of the universe.

Such fears are understandable. First, the hedge fund industry has been growing rapidly. According to the latest asset survey by Eurohedge, the bible for hedge funds in Europe, funds under management in Europe alone have trebled since 2003 and now stand at $279 billion (£159bn) while, worldwide, there is now more than $1,000bn invested in more than 8,000 hedge funds.

While some take an even more long-term approach than traditional fund managers, holding assets for years, many other are very active traders, buying and selling shares, bonds, futures and other instruments rapidly. That makes them a key part of the financial market: CSFB has estimated that global investment banks made more than $25bn, an eighth of their total revenues, through dealings with hedge funds. And, while such funds account for only about 5 per cent of total assets under management worldwide, they are estimated to account for between a half and a third of all daily trading on the London and New York stock exchanges.

Yet we know virtually nothing about them....they do not have to give anything away: most hedge funds are based in tax havens such as Bermuda or the Cayman Islands where regulation is, at best, light.

Probably the best-known hedge fund is one that no longer exists: Long Term Capital Management, whose collapse following the Russian debt crisis seven years ago, precipitated a global financial crisis. The growth of the industry - particularly the growth of its dealings with other parts of the financial services industry - mean that regulators cannot risk a recurrence of the LTCM collapse.

...In Britain the FSA thinks the risks of a repeat of LTCM are limited because of ‘enhanced risk management by hedge fund counterparties [the banks and brokers they deal with] and the seeming absence of hedge funds with the level and exposures taken on by LTCM’.

But it admits there is a risk that: ‘The failure or significant distress of a large and highly exposed hedge fund - or, with more probability, a cluster of medium-sized hedge funds with significant and concentrated exposures - could cause serious market disruption.’

...It is this area that has been found wanting in the latest crop of hedge fund disasters: Refco’s chief executive is accused of hiding $430 million he owed to the company; Bayou Capital and Wood River Partners, which both stopped trading in recent months, have been accused of hiding losses and faking returns to investors.

A survey by accountants KPMG found that only 15 per cent of fund managers are clear stars capable of generating the returns clients expect; a further 55 per cent are what KPMG describes as ‘wannabes’, who have yet to prove that they can perform and the rest are ‘has-beens’, whose performance is not good enough for them to survive.

Keeping track of this disparate bunch of managers is a real challenge for regulators - but the challenge will not necessarily diminish as hedge funds grow in size. The bigger the hedge fund, the more likely it to employ a range of strategies - and that could make them riskier, rather than safer.

...While there may be no obvious connection between, say, the Japanese yen, Russian bonds and US exchange rates, if they are held by the same people, and everyone wants to withdraw them at once - say because of a panic in the market or a liquidity crisis in one firm - the effects could be severe.

The authorities prevented a global disaster in 1998 by rescuing LTCM and making liquidity available in the system. The Pollyannas say that such a lifeboat will not be needed again: few hedge funds these days have the level of borrowings which LTCM did - debt was around 50 times its net assets - and regulators are much more on top of the problem.

The doom-mongers say that even the most astute of regulators cannot hope to stay on top of the problem - and that, when disaster happens, the size of the lifeboat needed will be beyond the capacity of the financial system.

An Austrian bank owned by the country’s trade unions was forced to admit the scale of its exposure to the stricken derivatives broker Refco yesterday as ratings agencies reiterated their concerns over the Vienna-based bank’s potential losses from the broking house’s collapse.

Bawag PSK has €425m (£290m) tied up in the Refco affair, which has spiralled after its chief executive, Phillip Bennett, was charged with fraud a week ago. Numerous parts of Refco filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday, while a deal was struck to sell the firm’s futures broking business to a consortium run by the former Goldman Sachs banker Christopher Flowers.

The €425m line of credit consists of a €355m loan to a firm owned by Mr Bennett, which was largely secured against his stake in Refco itself and which is therefore almost worthless. Shares in Refco were delisted by the New York stock exchange yesterday after losing almost three quarters of their value in a week.

Just a week ago, Refco was valued at $6bn. Then it was revealed that Mr Bennett had concealed a $430m debt and that accounts dating back to 2002 could not be relied on. Mr Bennett denies the charges.

The rating agency Moody’s warned it might cut the ratings of Bawag PSK due to the loans to Refco and Mr Bennett.

It is this historical desperation – knowingly and cynically covered up by the entire parliamentary racket (rightwing and “left” MPs) and its endless arguments about this or that minor economic adjustment when the entire system is ready to tip over the edge of the biggest slump crisis in history, – which is driving the demented war drive of the American ruling class and its increasingly hysterical Blairite stooges.

But the sinister war plans of the half-deranged neo-con Washington keep running into trouble because the intractable problems caused by the contradictions of the capitalist system also eat away the capacities and confidence of the ruling order.

And the confidence of the middle class and its intelligentsia - the great mainstay of the system when it is going well – has been badly hammered by the chaotic disasters caused by the resistance on the ground and growing worldwide. The questioning of the war and everything around it – the lies, evasions and demented bug-eyed religiosity of the ruling circles is now constant:

It’s finally becoming clear on Capitol Hill, and maybe even in the White House, that the United States cannot win the war in Iraq. The only question still to be decided is how many more American lives will be wasted in George W. Bush’s grand debacle.

The wheels have fallen off the cart in Iraq, and only those in the farthest reaches of denial are hanging on to the illusion of an American triumph over the insurgency.

Air Force General Richard Myers, who retired Friday as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was publicly chastised at an Armed Services Committee hearing last week by Senator John McCain of Arizona, who has always been a strong proponent of the war.

McCain bluntly declared that “things have not gone as we had planned or expected, nor as we were told by you, General Myers.”

The general replied, “I don’t think this committee or the American public has ever heard me say that things are going very well in Iraq.”

The gruesome events throughout Iraq over the past month or so were understandably overshadowed in the American news media by the obliteration of New Orleans and other matters connected to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. An apocalyptic tone was set on Aug. 31 when nearly 1,000 people were killed in a stampede on a bridge in northern Baghdad. The stampede was provoked by rumors of a suicide bomber.

Another two dozen Iraqis were killed in attacks by insurgents on Sept. 3. A few days later a taxi blew up outside a crowded restaurant in Basra, killing 16. That attack came just hours after four American contractors in Basra were killed by a bomb that was detonated next to their convoy.

The violence would continue without respite. Nearly 200 Iraqis were killed in just 48 hours in a series of suicide bombings in Baghdad on Sept. 14 and 15.

On the evening of Sept. 17, a Saturday, insurgents used a remote control device to detonate a car bomb in a crowded marketplace on the outskirts of Baghdad. At least 30 people were killed. A dozen Americans, including a State Department aide and eight soldiers, were killed in a series of attacks from Sept. 19 to 23.

And so on.

The president who slept through the early days of the agony in New Orleans is sleepwalking through the never-ending agony in Iraq. During an appearance at a naval base in California, Bush characterized the war that he started in Iraq as the moral equivalent of America’s struggle against the Nazis and the Japanese in World War II.

If that’s true, the entire nation should be mobilized. But, of course, it’s not true. This is a reckless, indefensible war that has been avoided like the plague by the children of the privileged classes.

Even the most diehard defenders of this debacle are coming to the realization that it is doomed. So the party line now is that the Iraqis at some point will have to bear the burden of Bush’s war alone.

Talk about a cruel joke. On the same day that McCain faced off with Myers, more than 100 people were killed in a series of car bombs in a town north of Baghdad; five U.S. soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Ramadi; and the American general in charge of U.S. forces in Iraq, George Casey, admitted before the Armed Services Committee that only one of the Iraqi army’s 86 battalions was capable of fighting the insurgency without American help.

The U.S. death toll in Iraq is fast approaching 2,000. If the American public could see the carnage close up, the way it saw the horror of New Orleans, the outrage would be beyond belief.

You never want to say that brave troops died for the mindless fantasies spun by a gang of dissembling, inept politicians. But what else did they die for?

And what about all those men and women, some of them barely out of childhood, who are lying awake nights, hardly able to move their broken, burned and paralyzed bodies? What do we tell them as they lie there, unable to curb the pain or fight off the depression, or even begin to understand the terrible thing that has happened to them?

What do we tell them about this war that their country inflicted on them for no good reason whatsoever?

Remember the referendum? Last weekend the world’s airwaves were full of broadcasts about the success of the voting in which millions “defied the insurgents” by turning out to cast their ballots. Then we heard preliminary but “informed” speculation that the constitution had passed. Majorities of Kurds and Shias had given it enthusiastic support in the north and south-east. In Sunni areas, where voters had been expected to reject it, not enough had come forward to turn it down.

The rule was that if two-thirds of voters in any three provinces rejected the constitution, it would fail. Election officials conceded that two-thirds had done so in the two fiercely anti-American provinces that include Falluja, Ramadi and Tikrit. But Nineveh, which Sunnis share with Kurds and Christians, had not produced a big enough no vote. So the message was: “Sorry, Sunnis. Our constitution is safe.”

Along comes a second big Iraqi event: the trial of Saddam Hussein. Important though it is as a catharsis for the former dictator’s hundreds of thousands of surviving victims, it has little political significance since only a small minority of Iraqis still support him. Of course, it could backfire on the Americans if Saddam is humiliated in court by unfair or high-handed treatment. To a wider circle of Iraqis, and other Arabs, he might then become a symbol of wounded national pride, as he was briefly when Washington published pictures of his mouth being examined by a military dentist after capture.

Manipulating the trial’s timing is the real story. Why suddenly this week? A fortnight ago, at Chatham House in London, Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, said he did not know when the trial would take place. Within days a date was fixed, conveniently diverting reporters’ attention from the referendum count. With the issue out of the spotlight, it is a fair bet that when the official result is declared - perhaps today - the announcement that the constitution has passed will be treated as pretty dull since we already “know” that from the weekend leaks by Condoleezza Rice, Jack Straw and the Iraqi government.

How could they be sure, since counting was not yet complete? Was the fact that the count would be flawed the real thing they knew? Was the trial an improvised political device to get rigging out of the headlines?

On Monday some Iraqi election officials were beginning to say they had come upon major irregularities and suspiciously high Kurdish voter turnouts, in places exceeding 95%. Below the radar of the Saddam Hussein trial, more questions have been raised. Turnout figures in such cities as Najaf doubled from an initial figure of 45%. In Nineveh and Diyala, another province with a Sunni Arab majority, officials initially talked of startling yes votes of up to 70% in each. Later, they changed the Nineveh figure to say the no votes had won - but the figure was only 55%, and so below the crucial 66% threshold for rejection.

In a rigorous analysis for the Inter Press Service, the American scholar Gareth Porter questions even that figure. He says it is based on an unbelievably low turnout among Sunnis. It implies that Nineveh’s Christians, who had declared their opposition to the constitution in advance, changed their mind on the day. He quotes a US military liaison officer who used to work there as admitting that Kurdish officials, who have long vied for control over Mosul, Nineveh’s main city, and inflate its population figures, stuffed ballots in January’s election and may have done it again.

Does this matter? The constitution will be declared to have passed, because the Bush administration wants it passed. It paves the way for elections in December, which will be spun as further proof of Iraq’s gradual democratisation. Yet it will have been bought at a high price. Cheating the Sunnis is not a sensible policy, especially when, out of the other side of its mouth, the Bush administration claims to be trying to get them into the political process.

The fact that large numbers of Sunnis voted last week does not mean they no longer support armed resistance. Reporters in Falluja found voters who said they backed the insurgency even as they cast their ballots. This is logical enough. Iraqis who questioned the legitimacy of the January elections had no option but to boycott. Those who question the constitution’s legitimacy had a more complex choice. They could boycott it, as the Association of Muslim Scholars and some other groups close to the resistance proposed. Or they could vote it down. This made pragmatic as well as ideological sense - if you assume the counting will be fair.

...Washington’s spooks recently released a letter purportedly intercepted from al-Qaida’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri. He urged his people in Iraq to give up attacks on Shias and other civilians because they alienate potential supporters. The letter may be forged, meant in part to frighten Syrians as well as Iraqis. It calls for al-Qaida to move on from setting up a Sunni Islamic state in Iraq when the Americans pull out - “perhaps faster than we imagine” - and extend the jihad “to Iraq’s secular neighbours”.

Whether the letter is fake or not, the targeting issue certainly resonates in Iraq. Resistance is based mainly on nationalism and anger at the US military’s record of abusing detainees and killing civilians in poorly targeted attacks on cities. Most Iraqis denounce the suicide bombings as the work of foreign jihadis rather than as legitimate revenge. It would be one of the many unintended ironies of Bush’s futile war on Iraq that he has spawned so much terrorism there that he now has to use letters from al-Qaida’s leaders to moderate the more extreme tactics of their followers.

The desperate manoeuvring to cover up the extent of the disaster in Iraq is itself causing further dismay and ridicule:

The White House found itself at the centre of another public relations disaster yesterday after a Pentagon official was seen coaching a group of handpicked US troops before a live teleconference with President George Bush.

In a cringingly wooden exchange the group of soldiers stationed in Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit told the president exactly what he wanted to hear - that Iraqis were eager to vote on a new constitution this weekend and the country’s fledgling security forces were ready to meet the challenge.

But before Mr Bush entered the room Alison Barber, a senior defence department official, went through a list of topics the president would later ask them about. At her prompting, the soldiers, who were displayed on a large video screen in a room of the Eisenhower Building next to the White House, raised their hands when the topic they were to answer came up.

At one point, she said, Mr Bush would ask them specifically, “In the last 10 months, what kind of progress have we seen?” before asking who was prepared to answer the question. “Master Sgt Lombardo,” one of the soldiers replied.

Minutes later Mr Bush asked the same question and Master Sgt Corine Lombardo responded: “Over the past 10 months, the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces are improving ... They continue to develop and grow into a sustainable force.” Mr Bush then asked: “Do the Iraqis want to fight, and are they capable of fighting?” He was told they were.

What a joke!

The reality is that the defeat has hugely damaged imperialism’s military capacity and morale with profound implications for its future plans:

The biggest slump in recruiting figures for a quarter of a century has thrown the US army’s plans for expansion into doubt, it was claimed today.

The US army is expected to have enlisted 73,000 personnel in the 12 months to the end of September, well short of its 80,000 target. Although the figures have yet to be confirmed officially, the expected 7,000 shortfall would be the largest - in absolute number as well as in percentage terms - since 1979, according to army records.

The slump comes at a time where there is a growing belief among some US politicians that the million-strong army needs to get bigger -by an estimated 50,000 soldiers-to meet its many overseas commitments.

However, the frequent deaths of US soldiers in Iraq, combined with low domestic unemployment has dented enthusiasm to join up.

The army national guard and the army reserve, which are smaller than the regular army, are likely to have suffered even worse results.

The army is facing a recruitment crisis triggered partly by its operations in Iraq, senior officers admitted yesterday. They are so concerned they are launching the first campaign in 10 years to attract young officers. “We are beginning to see the warning signs,” one officer who asked not to be named said. “Once you start tipping off over the cliff, it is difficult to stop.”

The shortfall in the total number of soldiers has risen by more than 300% this year to more than 2,000, according to the latest Ministry of Defence figures. Though figures do not yet show a shortage in the number of officers, they reveal that more are leaving the army early.

Army chiefs are concerned at the failure to get recruits from a variety of backgrounds. They hope the £2m campaign will generate up to 40,000 inquiries to fill the 2,000 places available for regular and Territorial Army officers each year.

Brigadier Andrew Jackson, commander of the Army Recruiting Group, told the Guardian: “We cannot pretend Iraq isn’t a factor. It is reasonable to assume that the officer community might have thought more deeply about the wider implications of the army’s role in Iraq.”

Evidence is emerging of growing concern among army and RAF officers over the pressures they are under in Iraq. Last weekend, Captain Ken Masters, a military police officer investigating serious allegations involving British soldiers, was found dead. At the same time, it emerged that Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, a medical officer based at Kinross in Scotland, faced four charges of “disobeying a lawful command” for refusing to serve on operations in Iraq on the grounds that he believed the war was unlawful.

General Sir Michael Walker, the chief of defence staff, recently conceded that the army’s ability to attract recruits was suffering because people saw the armed forces as “guilty by association” with Tony Blair’s decision to invade Iraq.

The concerns over the effects of Iraq on the military come amid further criticism over the continued presence of British troops in the region by one of the country’s most eminent lawyers. Retired law lord Lord Steyn, who stepped down last month from Britain’s highest court, said the war was unlawful, and that the government had been “driven to scrape the bottom of the legal barrel” to find a justification for it.

None of which says that imperialism will not continue is degenerate plunge towards fascist barbarity:

Australian investigative news programme Dateline broadcast a film which appeared to show US soldiers burning the bodies of two fighters and using their charred and smoking corpses as a taunt to nearby Islamic militants.

According to a transcript of the program, the soldiers faced the bodies towards Mecca in a deliberately provocative move and set them on fire. One said: “Wow, look at the blood coming out of the mouth on that one, fucking straight death metal.”

A message was then broadcast over a loudspeaker in the local dialect which, according to the freelance cameraman, Stephen Dupont, embedded with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, said: “Attention, Taliban, you are all cowardly dogs. You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned. You are too scared to come down and retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be.”

The cremation of bodies is not part of Islamic tradition, which calls for remains to be washed, prayed over, wrapped in white cloth and buried within 24 hours. Mr Dupont said the burnings happened on October 1 outside the southern village of Gonbaz, near the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

Afghanistan’s government demanded that those responsible be punished and senior Islamic clerics warned that anti-US demonstrations were likely to break out.

“This is against Islam. Afghans will be shocked by this news. It is so humiliating,” said Faiz Mohammed, a Muslim leader. “There are very, very dangerous consequences from this. People will be very angry.”

The US military said its army criminal investigation division had opened an investigation into alleged misconduct that included “the burning of dead enemy combatant bodies under inappropriate circumstances”.

The SBS report suggested the deliberate burning of bodies could violate the Geneva conventions governing the treatment of enemy remains in wartime. Under the conventions, soldiers must ensure that the “dead are honourably interred, if possible according to the rites of the religion to which they belonged”.

Exactly the opposite - it says that there is no way out of this worldwide warmongering chaos except by the ending of the capitalist system in the inevitable civil war mayhem which will can grow deeper and more widespread.

And only the imposition of the firmest dictatorship of the proletariat to finally end the depredations of this monstrous bloated minority exploiting ruling class, and allow the space for the development of rational self-disciplined society - which eventually will need no coercion or dictatorship other than each individual’s consciously understood grasp of reality and the necessities it imposes - is going to achieve it.

But that means the development of revolutionary leadership which is only possible by the building of a Leninist revolutionary party constantly struggling by internal and external polemic for highest and most advanced philosophical and political understanding of the world and the class forces in it.

Exactly the opposite is coming from the fake-”left” and its subjective idealist anti-communist Trots busy “condemning” the spontaneous struggles erupting all through imperialism as “nothing but terrorism” and lining themselves up with imperialism’s Goebbels lie campaign to turn reality on its head and pretend the world’s problems are caused by this response of the desperate have-nothing masses (from Palestinian “Bantustans” to the exploited slave-labour economies of Indonesia, the desert barrenness of blitzkrieged Afghanistan and the fascistic hellholes of places like Egypt etc – and Chechnya too).

One bizarre sub-group (AWL) even declares in a letter to the Weekly Worker that it supports capitalism on the astonishing grounds that it is more “progressive” than Islamism and therefore should be encouraged to takeover in countries like Iran.

A more wooden, undialectical, ahistorical and plain reactionary nonsense (right up the arse of the Blairite fraud) is hard to conceive; historically capitalism may have played a progressive role in sweeping aside more primitive feudalism (where islamism is rooted) but as discussed above imperialism long ago reached the point of transformation into its opposite - the fetter on the planet which hampers all development and understanding.

It is the overturning of this deadweight which will release mankind’s progressive talents – whatever illusions contribute to the fight against it.

Modern islamist puritanism is only a form which partially carries the anti-imperialist sentiments of the proletarians throughout the planet (because militant) – and it only has such momentum currently because of the dismal failure of revisionism for decades not only to provide revolutionary understanding but to monstrously mislead the working class into blind alleys of class collaboration and “peaceful road” parliamentary illusions.

World disillusion in the common view of “communism” represented by the now dismally discredited revisionist perspective (sadly still not clarified by the revisionist backwardness in Beijing or Havana eg) will not last forever. But to end the dismay and fragmentation it has caused, a massive honest reappraisal of all the leadership mistake of the first great experiments in workers power is crucial, as well as the fight to state clearly the huge progress made by the USSR and its follow-ons.

The giant achievements of the first massive twentieth historical steps forwards on the planet towards socialist development – particularly the breakthrough 1917 victory of the Bolsheviks and the establishment of the world’s first coherent workers state followed by many communist and anti-imperialist movements inspired and aided directly by the Soviet Union - have already demonstrated indelibly and for all time the huge potential of cooperative non-antagonistic human existence.

The Soviet Union made staggering achievements in every sphere from accelerated economic growth building an industrial society in one-tenth the time it took capitalism; to scientific and technological leaps (first man in space; more patents than anywhere else in the world); major cultural achievements (Shostakovitch and Prokofiev eg, advances in film technique); domestic provision for the working class (universal free medical care; universal higher education; universal housing provision; military organisation (virtually single handed destroying Nazi aggression, developing the atomic bomb in record time to defend itself against imperialism) and all without a capitalist in sight.

But its titanic 70 year history finally “collapsed” - not because of some inherent defect in planned economics (which continued to grow steadily despite all western subversion and 2WW destruction, until the last few years of deluded liquidationist leadership under Gorbachev) - but finally because of the long slow slide into deluded philistinism caused by the revisionist Stalinist retreat from world revolutionary perspectives. From the 1920s onwards this began tainting at first the tactical and strategic decisions of the growing vibrant new communist society and then gradually degenerated into increasingly opportunist gibberish about “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism and major mistakes in the world (such as recognition and aid for the monstrous Zionist colonisation of Palestine in 1948).

The culmination in the semi-religious cynicism of the Gorbachevite era and its mystical faith in market economics to somehow “stimulate” faster economic development (instead of the inspiration that was needed from clearer revolutionary perspectives) was tragic endpoint not simply for the now devastated lived of millions of Russian workers but for world revolutionary movements; already setback by decades of the rotten and compromising politics of revisionist Moscow they were now further hampered (for a while) by the sense of “defeat” magnified by the tide of unrestrained lies and propaganda pouring out of every capitalist intelligence agency, press mouthpiece and educational establishment about supposed failures and atrocities (as the Guardian has just been caught out doing in a quickly disproven front page account of an “anti-democratic death beating”).

But far from challenging all this and battling for the open discussion needed to clarify and re-assess all these past mistakes, the (now camouflaged) Museum Stalinists of the Lalkarite CPGB-ML continues to evade any mention of these questions (as repeatedly polemically challenged to do - see EPSR 1193-95 and 1245 for example). This from 1245:

"An even more substantial problem is the age-old Lalkar flaw of always posturing hard with “Marxist” self-importance, but never actually saying very much, or committing to anything substantial.

For 25 years the EPSR has been challenging Lalkar and others to state what their real perspective is on imperialist crisis.

Lalkar has in practice worked Scargill’s “left-reformist” coat-tails for the last 8 years, just throwing in the odd “revolutionary” word in their own Lalkar propaganda, but never saying when, where, how, or why this “revolution” would come.

There are no perspectives for a World War III inter-imperialist breakdown; or a world “free market” economic collapse break down; or for an extended Third World national liberation revolutionary breakdown leading towards a return back to communist revolutionary inspirations.

The Brarites have a brand new communist party now, but we are still none the wiser.

After endless months of EPSR polemical battering, these intellectually-cowardly opportunists have moved on from Scargill’s “condemn terrorism” at last (though never openly challenging Scargill’s reactionary class-collaborationism while inside the SLP), and have accepted (though with no acknowledgement of past leaden-footedness) that the historical evaluation of Western imperialist warmongering escalation from Serbia onwards maybe deeper than “just about oil”.

But despite a huge new summary of “facts” about Iraq, there is still a conscious avoidance of any discussion about how deep is the American imperialist warmongering crisis in historical terms, about how significant might the Middle East resistance be in world socialist revolutionary terms, and about what role the insoluble economic crisis might play in driving the warmongering imperialist rivals against each other as this turn to belligerent “solutions” gets more and more into its stride, — all of which possibilities are frequently eagerly discussed around the EPSR’s struggle for Marxist-Leninist scientific perspectives."

Its latest formally less-reactionary-than-the-Trots position on Iraq continues in this vein - with some useful if academically presented information information - but a tragically limited perspective of a nationalist struggle, in which the resistance is declared – with more exhortation than evidence to be increasingly “united”, glossing over its major ideological differences which allow imperialism some scope to manipulate and fragment the country (as a desperate last ditch strategy to limit the damage of the insurgency on its overall world position.)

And the aims of the resistance? – to get a “better” version of the constitution! Proper “democracy” in other words with not a word mentioned about future revolutionary movement and perspectives that such devastating defeat is having for imperialism.

“In the final analysis there will no constitution that truly reflects the needs of the Iraqi population until the occupiers have been driven out and power has passed into the hands of the victorious resistance forces”

it says lamely.

By all means let imperialism be driven out and by all means let the unifying effect of anti-imperialist hatred grow even stronger - but what are Marxists supposed to make of this and say about it in the inevitably huge ferment of discussion about future directions of Iraq and the Middle East? What is this fudged over “unity” going to do in the future and what are its implications?

It is crucially screaming out for revolutionary input just as the rest of the world is.

The CPGB-MLs pale “perspective” is another version of the “popular front” errors of the 1930s - as developed by Stalinism - which completely sacrificed the battle for understanding and clarity to the “need” to be part of whatever popular movement was underway at the time, submerging itself and its clarity.

Leninism has always been happy to see blows inflicted on imperialist domination by whatever disparate elements take up the struggle and, as during the struggle with the reactionary coup attempt on the new parliament by Tsarist General Kornilov in 1917, would even fight alongside the class collaborating Kerenskyites who were under attack – but only while simultaneously warning the working class of the vile duplicity of these “liberals”.

It has always made clear the crucial importance of independently battling for the truth at all times. “March alone but strike together” has been the watchword and in such times of dumbing down and philistinism it remains even more true.

The disasters of the Spanish Civil war popular frontism, declaring the fight to be one for “democracy” led to the gigantic misconceptions of the “anti-fascist” alliance of the Second World war and the post-war period and Stalin’s distinguishing of “good” and “bad” imperialisms; underpinning the entire misleadership of the “peaceful coexistence“ strategy.

It is becoming clearer and clearer by the day that there is no difference between Nazi German aggression and the fascistic Bush/Blair version.

This desperate Proletarian non-analysis based on wishful thinking and above all an avoidance of examining any crucial revolutionary questions equally fails to tackle the huge significance of the oncoming slump - pointing out only that the huge cost of the war - some $300bn plus and rising – is adding to the already crippling debt burdens of the States.

But to show what? Only that eventually it will be difficult for the US to keep going in Iraq. But it is the titanic WORLD significance of this debt burden in its historical context which is the crucial point to emphasise.

The article’s conclusion wilfully confounds the titanic struggle of the Vietnamese against imperialism with the fight in Iraq. But the Vietnamese leadership was first and foremost conscious Marxist revolutionary communists, not a disparate collection of assorted religious, “democratic” and revisionist elements with no clear ideas about capitalism.

Support for dedicated communists is vastly different, which is why the “Victory to the Iraqi resistance!” slogan posturingly added to the end of the piece is utterly and confusingly wrong.

There are all sorts of signals - like the growing anti-war movement in the USA and Britain - of the enormous significance of the impact of the resistance. But it is the defeat of imperialism which is significant, which opens up future prospects and which expands the perspectives worldwide.

Until these questions are more honestly and widely taken up there can be no revolutionary solution to the world’s problems however many setbacks imperialism suffers.

The continuous struggle to take Leninism forwards needs much greater input.

Build Leninism

Don Hoskins

Return to top

World Revolutionary Socialist Review

(edited extracts from a variety of anti-imperialist struggles).

How the Irish republican resistance showed itself to be undefeatable despite the worst concentration camp conditions imposed by British imperialism — the heroic basis to its current strides forwards politically and eventual Irish unity

When he was first approached by the Gort na Mona Historical Society and asked to write a play about Kieran Nugent, 23-year old actor/writer Brian Milligan didn’t know who Nugent was.
..Milligan began to research his subject. He quickly discovered the depth and intensity of experience he would soon be called upon to portray onstage. It must have seemed a daunting task.
“I began by reading On The Blanket - The H-Block story, says Milligan. “I read a couple of pages and to be honest with you, I had to put the book down because I found it so emotional. I kept wondering why I didn’t know about my own history. My family comes from Ballymurphy and has a republican background, yet I didn’t really know what the Blanketmen went through and what the whole protest involved.”
...Ar an Phluid, (On The Blanket) tells the story of the Blanket protest from the perspective of one man — Kieran Nugent. Before he was 16 years of age Nugent was involved in the republican struggle and at one point had been shot seven times. By the age of 18 he found himself in the Crumlin Road Jail waiting to be shipped to an uncertain future in a newly-built prison. It was March 1976 and the British state thought it had a new weapon with which to defeat the Republican Movement - the H-Blocks. With the removal of political status, the stage was set for one of the most horrific and ultimately triumphant periods of recent struggle.
Led into the Blocks and told to put on a criminal’s uniform, Nugent defied the prison regime by refusing to do so. Repeated beatings and isolation did nothing to convince him otherwise. He simply would not submit. In the end he was left naked in a cell with only a blanket to cover himself. In spite of this he never wavered in his conviction. And so began the “Blanket Protest”. Nugent was the first — but before long hundreds of other republican prisoners would join him.
Alone onstage, much the way Kieran himself was, Milligan literally throws himself into the role, playing the part of both Kieran and the screws who tortured him and his comrades relentlessly. His emotional interpretation is imbued with the same kind of passion and focus that Nugent himself is proudly remembered for...It is no easy feat to stand alone onstage before an audience and relive some of the most brutal treatment ever perpetuated against republican prisoners. But it is even more intimidating to do so before an audience of men and women who actually knew and loved Kieran Nugent; those who knew him as a child, a friend, a brother, a son, a comrade.
Milligan, with the intuitive support of Director Alison McCrudden — has managed not only to capture the strength and rebellious spirit of the man, but also to reveal his humanity and humour. It is an open and honest portrayal, fuelled by the same kind of commitment and fearlessness that Nugent embodied while he was alive.
An an Phluid is great theatre. Compelling and powerful, it is not to be missed. Go see it .



Return to top