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 1281 November 23rd 2005

Secret torture flights, concentration camps, “turkey shoot” civilian killings, airburst blitzkriegs, no-trial indefinite detention, white phosphorus chemical warfare, censorship, “transportation” (deportation), extradition without evidence, press gagging by state order, assassination of journalists and TV crews. How much does it take to understand that imperialism in crisis is the source of all “fascism” and bourgeois “democracy and freedom” a joke and a lie? But the oncoming capitalist slump — already destroying General Motors and Ford — will make the point more forcefully, along with the universal warmongering imperialism has in store yet again as a “solution”. Only revolution to end capitalism and disciplined building of socialism can stop the devastation.

Building Leninism is urgent.

The hypocrisy and mendacity of the Iraqi and Afghan warmongering, an ever growing steaming dung pile of lies about “freedom”, “democracy” restored “peace” and “future prosperity”, is now so continuously exposed, almost daily, by fresh revelations about torture, concentration camps, barbarity, brutality, chemical warfare, mass civilian killing, massacre, plundering and corruption that even the most relentlessly pro-establishment intellectuals, New Labourite stooges and bourgeois press commentators are beginning to express serious doubts about the western order and its world control.

Even a dull-witted louse should now be able to work out what is happening to imperialism and just what a fraud the bourgeois democratic game is – a cover for the dictatorship of capital and one now being increasingly dispensed with as the urgency of the capitalist crisis deepens.

Society everywhere is being rapidly “fascist-ised” as part of imperialism’s drive to World War Three.

The only surprise is that masses of people have not already taken to the streets at the levels of Nazi barbarity, and nervous mass punishment depravity being exposed as the norm for western domineering by the growing spontaneous hostility of the world’s masses.

It is the defeats and setbacks being inflicted on the US-led imperialist order which are driving it into ever more frenzied open brutalities and stripping away even more quickly the threadbare “democracy” disguises by which it always covers its tyrannical rule, worldwide plundering and now widespread warmongering.

The re-introduced colonialism and “shock and awe” warring by which imperialism hopes to discipline the “uppity” world’s masses and simultaneously escape its relentlessly deepening world economic and political crisis is looking more chaotic and trouble prone each day. And the revelations of torture and atrocities reflect just how badly it is doing in imposing its will.

But such is the dire effect of decades of universal philosophical dumbing down, mind-numbing consumerism and idiot “pop” culture – unchallenged by the disarming stupidities of the fake-”left” swamp and its failure (or more often, petty bourgeois unwillingness and reluctance) to understand or argue a single aspect of the revolutionary significance of imperialism’s deepening crisis – that the best most of the intellectuals can do is a bit of helpless hand-wringing at the iniquity of it all and well-meaning nostrums about how perhaps “people have had enough”, “war is awful” and “this is not the way to do it”, tearing up “human rights”.

Deeper down they are also terrified that the disastrous way this Middle Eastern turmoil is going might be unleashing far worse upheaval – communist revolutionary upheaval.

The world is unstoppably heading for the most desperate slump and trade war mayhem and turmoil in all of history – and it can only provoke, eventually, the biggest revolutionary response ever seen, particularly throughout the centuries long exploited Third World whose masses can no longer tolerate the slave-like exploitation that has been their lot.

It is this terrifying gut-feeling in the imperialist ruling order of how its 800 year old profiteering grip on the world is being loosened that is driving the blitzkrieging “arse-kicking” into becoming more and more routine – and the simultaneous “fascist-isation” of daily life being pushed through in all the major “democracies” as centuries old human and legal rights are turned over and torn up and medieval levels of torture and imprisonment brought back.

And it is the reason why even in the teeth of Nuremberg-trial levels of atrocities the utterly discredited and politically bankrupt Bush/Blair axis continues its relentless progress down this warmongering path, straightfacedly asserting that black is white in best “doublethink” mode – continuing with the ID card farce eg when even the former head of MI5 has declared it to be useless, – and arrogantly lecturing the rest of the world about “democracy and freedom”.

The festering sticky quagmire that the hostility of the Middle East’s masses has created for the tyrannical imperialist invasion is also badly splitting the ruling class in the heart of imperialist America with former pro-war Democrats now in a frenzy of recrimination, splitting away from the imperialist consensus to demand the troops come home.

But imperialism can no more pullout of its mess – and admit defeat and disaster – than it can stop the endlessly accumulating “over-production” of its profit-bound economic system which is pushing it ever closer to the edge of the economic abyss and complete world wide collapse (see economic box).

The jumped-up barroom braggart Bush has no choice but to swear through his teeth again, incredibly, that the Iraq warmongering was justified and the critics are “disloyal and Un-American”.

And this brass-necked sinister threat – with its echoes of McCarthyism and 1930s domestic life under Hitlerism – is made even as the huge majority public American opinion decides 60% that Bush is completely untrustworthy (a total liar for a president) and as the second layer of lies about the Iraq warmongering has been itself been exposed as a monstrous Goebbelsian fraud – making even the Nazi-invented BIG LIE for “justifying” aggressive imperialist warmongering, look amateurish.

First devastating exposures of the lies used to start the criminally fraudulent Iraq war and the manipulations and arm-twisting used to produce them – that “Saddam has got weapons of mass destruction ready to use in 45 minutes” – were completely ignored by the Bush/Blair axis. They were hidden in turn under the even more monstrous lying diversionary cover-up that the war was really about “bringing a better life to the Iraqi people by restoring democracy and ‘decency’ from a brutal dictator ready to use torture and chemical warfare.”

But brutal dictatorship was imposed initially on Iraq by British imperialist diktat, post-World War One (divvying up the Ottoman Empire was part of the imperialist plunder which the Bolsheviks always insisted was the essence of WW1 from the beginning). And when the masses turned to revolution post-WW2 it was re-imposed via imperialism’s own CIA stooge, Saddam Hussein and the Ba’athists, who drowned incipient communism in blood (while posing as anti-imperialists).

And when the anti-imperialist hostility in the Third World grew so strong that Saddam had to posture a little too hard for imperialist taste, he was displaced too by “kick arse” marines.

And it turns out they are the “illegal” chemical weapon users, torturers and barbarians as the flood of bourgeois press has exposed:

...But there is hard evidence that white phosphorus was deployed as a weapon against combatants in Falluja. As this column revealed last Tuesday, US infantry officers confessed that they had used it to flush out insurgents. A Pentagon spokesman told the BBC that white phosphorus “was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants”. He claimed “it is not a chemical weapon. They are not outlawed or illegal.” This denial has been accepted by most of the mainstream media. UN conventions, the Times said, “ban its use on civilian but not military targets”. But the word “civilian” does not occur in the chemical weapons convention. The use of the toxic properties of a chemical as a weapon is illegal, whoever the target is.

The Pentagon argues that white phosphorus burns people, rather than poisoning them, and is covered only by the protocol on incendiary weapons, which the US has not signed. But white phosphorus is both incendiary and toxic. The gas it produces attacks the mucous membranes, the eyes and the lungs...

Last night the blogger Gabriele Zamparini found a declassified document from the US department of defence, dated April 1991, and titled “Possible use of phosphorus chemical”. “During the brutal crackdown that followed the Kurdish uprising,” it alleges, “Iraqi forces loyal to President Saddam may have possibly used white phosphorus (WP) chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels and the populace in Erbil.”... The Pentagon is in no doubt, in other words, that white phosphorus is an illegal chemical weapon.

...I have been reading accounts of the assault published in the Marine Corps Gazette. The soldiers appear to have believed everything the US government told them. One article claims that “the absence of civilians meant the marines could employ blast weapons prior to entering houses that had become pillboxes, not homes”. ..But buried in this hogwash is a grave revelation. An assault weapon the marines were using had been armed with warheads containing “about 35% thermobaric novel explosive (NE) and 65% standard high explosive”. They deployed it “to cause the roof to collapse and crush the insurgents fortified inside interior rooms”. It was used repeatedly: “The expenditure of explosives clearing houses was enormous.”

The marines can scarcely deny that they know what these weapons do. An article published in the Gazette in 2000 details the effects of their use by the Russians in Grozny. Thermobaric, or “fuel-air” weapons, it says, form a cloud of volatile gases or finely powdered explosives. “This cloud is then ignited and the subsequent fireball sears the surrounding area while consuming the oxygen in this area. The lack of oxygen creates an enormous overpressure ... Personnel under the cloud are literally crushed to death. Outside the cloud area, the blast wave travels at some 3,000 metres per second ... As a result, a fuel-air explosive can have the effect of a tactical nuclear weapon without residual radiation ... Those personnel caught directly under the aerosol cloud will die from the flame or overpressure. For those on the periphery of the strike, the injuries can be severe. Burns, broken bones, contusions from flying debris and blindness may result. Further, the crushing injuries from the overpressure can create air embolism within blood vessels, concussions, multiple internal haemorrhages in the liver and spleen, collapsed lungs, rupture of the eardrums and displacement of the eyes from their sockets.” It is hard to see how you could use these weapons in Falluja without killing civilians...This looks to me like a convincing explanation of the damage done to Falluja, a city in which between 30,000 and 50,000 civilians might have been taking refuge. It could also explain the civilian casualties shown in the film. So the question has now widened: is there any crime the coalition forces have not committed in Iraq?

The assault was preceded by eight weeks of aerial bombardment. US troops cut off the city’s water, power and food supplies, condemned as a violation of the Geneva convention by a UN special rapporteur...Two-thirds of the city’s 300,000 residents fled, many to squatters’ camps without basic facilities.

As the siege tightened, the Red Cross, Red Crescent and the media were kept out, while males between the ages of 15 and 55 were kept in...

The city’s main hospital was selected as the first target, the New York Times reported, “because the US military believed it was the source of rumours about heavy casualties”. An AP photographer described US helicopters killing a family of five trying to ford a river to safety. “There were American snipers on top of the hospital shooting everyone,” said Burhan Fasa’am, a photographer with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation. “With no medical supplies, people died from their wounds. Everyone in the street was a target for the Americans.”

The US also deployed incendiary weapons, including white phosphorous...Falluja’s compensation commissioner has reported that 36,000 of the city’s 50,000 homes were destroyed, along with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines.

The US claims that 2,000 died, most of them fighters. Other sources disagree. When medical teams arrived in January they collected more than 700 bodies in only one third of the city. Iraqi NGOs and medical workers estimate between 4,000 and 6,000 dead, mostly civilians – a proportionately higher death rate than in Coventry and London during the blitz.

The collective punishment inflicted on Falluja – with logistical and political support from Britain – was largely masked by the US and British media, which relied on reporters embedded with US troops. The BBC, in particular, offered a sanitised version of the assault: civilian suffering was minimised and the ethics and strategic logic of the attack largely unscrutinised.

Falluja proved to be yet another of the war’s phantom turning points. Violent resistance spread to other cities. In the last two months, Tal-Afar, Haditha, Husaybah – all alleged terrorist havens heavily populated by civilians – have come under the hammer. Falluja is still so heavily patrolled that visitors have described it as “a giant prison”. Only a fraction of the promised reconstruction and compensation has materialised.

Like Jallianwallah Bagh, Guernica, My Lai, Halabja and Grozny, Falluja is a place name that has become a symbol of unconscionable brutality..

Mike Marqusee is a co-founder of Iraq Occupation Focus

Gil Elliot’s critique of our Iraq casualty estimation (Letters, November 10) raises many excellent points but contained several errors. Most importantly, the line “The number of deaths uncovered by the fieldwork, excluding Falluja, was 21” is simply wrong – that number was 89. Second, our random sample of 988 households in 33 neighbourhoods represents the entire population and has no inherent errors when estimating deaths. The fact that aerial bombing, which causes deaths in clusters, was a significant cause of death contributes to the imprecision of our findings, but does not necessarily make the estimate high or low.

As hinted by Elliot, we strongly suspect that our 100,000 estimate is low. While deaths reported were confirmed with death certificates more than 80% of the time, families may have hidden deaths. The shame of burying wives and mothers without ritual may explain the lack of adult women. Our study has many limitations. The occupiers can and should improve upon our efforts to acknowledge and respect those lives lost.

Les Roberts

Johns Hopkins University

Prof Richard Garfield

Columbia University

Seif Saad, an Iraqi guard, showed no remorse yesterday for the detention and alleged abuse of 173 prisoners in Baghdad. “We placed sacks on their heads and tied their hands behind their backs,” he said of their arrests, but, as far as he was concerned, they were suspected terrorists.

He was standing in a watchtower overlooking the ministry of the interior building where the detainees were held. The cells were found at the weekend by US forces and the discovery of the prisoners – and the allegations of torture – have provoked an international outcry.

The Iraqi police force is now subject to intense scrutiny. The main charge is that the police have been infiltrated by Shia Muslim paramilitaries – in particular the Iranian-backed Badr Brigades – who have targeted Iraq’s minority Sunni community, from which the insurgency arose.

Since a new Iraqi government was established in the spring, several accounts have emerged of arrests, abuse and extrajudicial killings by paramilitary forces linked to the ministry and dominated by Shia Muslims operating in squads with names such as the Scorpions and the Wolf Brigade. Almost all the incidents have had a sectarian edge.

Mr Saad, 18, a former labourer with no police training, denied the arrests were religiously motivated. He told a Reuters reporter the suspects had been brought in for questioning in connection with bombings, regardless of whether they were Sunni, Shia or Kurd. The reporter said Mr Saad wore a special forces uniform resembling that of a Shia paramilitary group.

US forces said they had been hunting for a missing youth when they uncovered the secret detention centre. The Iraqi government has launched an inquiry and promised an answer within a week.

But Manfred Novak, the UN special envoy on torture, based in Geneva, yesterday called for an independent inquiry. He has received various allegations of torture and degrading treatment by both US and Iraqi forces in Iraq. “That torture is still practised in Iraq after Saddam Hussein is no secret,” he said.

Stephen Bowen, an Amnesty International UK campaigns director, said: “This is by no means the first time that we’ve encountered cases of detainees apparently being tortured by members of the interior ministry – a grisly pattern is emerging. It’s tragic that after years of documenting torture, killings and incommunicado detention under Saddam, we are talking about the same issues in the same country – with different perpetrators.”

...An Iraqi law student, who would only give his initials, MI, said yesterday he had been among those detained at the interior ministry. He had been arrested in August and released six weeks ago. Interviewed by Reuters at a Sunni party office, the 22-year-old said he had been blindfolded, his hands bound and hung from a ceiling hook. He was whipped with metal cables. “They called us Sunni dogs and thieves or friends of Saddam Hussein.” He said he had been in a room with 100 others, and that sometimes the captors used drills against people. “They put me in a barrel full of cold water during questioning and gave me electric shocks,” he said.

He said life was so tough that prisoners prayed for a transfer to the notorious US-run Abu Ghraib prison.

And even the existence of the prisons is layered with further monstrous inhumanity – such as the secret concentration camp facilities in Diego Garcia, part of the network of camps the US/UK is operating (putting Hitler’s network to shame in its ambition and potential):

Even murkier are the US and Canadian media reports about Diego Garcia being used to hold terrorist suspects beyond the reach of US and international law. The British government has consistently denied that any detainees from Afghanistan or Iraq have been held on Diego Garcia. Yet Amnesty International told a US senate hearing in June it had evidence that the island was one in a network of secret CIA detention facilities, where “detainees are being held arbitrarily, incommunicado and indefinitely without visits by the Red Cross”.

Today, a British-engineered occupation enters its fifth decade. There will be no commemoration, despite the human toll and murkiness surrounding what is going on there. Yet an entire population, exiled from their homeland and betrayed by the British government, are stepping up their campaign to return home. The coming weeks may decide their fate.

Forty years ago this week, while African and Asian countries were throwing off British rule, Whitehall officials were busy establishing a new colony. The British Indian Ocean Territory (Biot) was created by detaching the Chagos island group from Mauritius and other small islands from the Seychelles, then both British colonies. Mauritius was given £3m in compensation; the following year, Britain signed a military agreement with the US leasing it the largest island, Diego Garcia, for 50 years.

Washington wanted the island as a military base and made clear it was not prepared to put up with any inhabitants there – so Britain forcibly moved all 2,000 of them, the last leaving in 1973. Ever since, the Chagossians, most of whom live in poverty in Mauritius where they were dumped by the British, have fought for their right to return.

In 2000, the Chagossians won an extraordinary legal victory allowing their return to the outlying islands in the archipelago. But last year the government overturned this decision by issuing orders in council to ban the islanders from ever returning. Unless this decision is overturned by the high court next month, the Chagossians’ fate may well be sealed.

Such action might be expected to be a matter of public outrage. Yet the Foreign Office boasts in its annual report: “We have defended successfully a legal challenge from the Chagossian people ... who had sought compensation and assisted resettlement.” The government has probably spent around £1m of public money to defeat the Chagossians.

Such government ruthlessness over Diego Garcia is long-standing. Foreign Office officials in the Wilson [Labour] government stated in secret files the day after the creation of the Biot that it would be “best to avoid all references to permanent inhabitants” of the islands. “Best wicket ... to bat on,” they went on, was that “these people are Mauritians and Seychellois”. Britain ignored a UN general assembly resolution urging it not to dismember the territory of Mauritius, while British officials secretly wrote of the “urgent need to evacuate its permanent inhabitants” to make clear that the islands were “defence installations and not a new colony”.

The latest phase of deception involves the claim that resettlement of the Chagos islands is unfeasible, refuted by independent environmental analysts and the experience of the Asian tsunami last December. Even the 6ft wave that hit Diego Garcia caused no damage to facilities. Moreover, the islands have already been resettled – by the US military, which has built a library, post office, bank and chapel for the 1,700 troops there and enough housing for 1,500 civilian workers. The US navy website assures incoming servicemen that “personal living conditions on the island are excellent” and fails to trouble them with any mention of the exiled population.

B2 stealth bombers based on Diego Garcia have been used against Iraq following the Blair government’s approval in mid-2002 of a US request to base them there. The secret Downing Street memo of July 2002, leaked a few months back, made clear that the US military regarded the Diego Garcia base as “critical” to all Iraq invasion options.

Mark Curtis, author of Unpeople: Britain’s Secret Human Rights Abuses, was director of the World Development Movement

The photograph of an elderly Iraqi carrying the burned body of a child at Falluja, widely shown during the chemical weapons controversy of recent days, is almost a copy of an earlier one that Iraqis remember – from Halabja in March 1988. Both children were victims of chemical weapons: the first killed by a dictator who had no respect for democracy and human rights, the second by US troops, assisted by the British, carrying the colourful banner of those principles while sprinkling Iraqis with white phosphorus and depleted uranium.

The Falluja image is emblematic of an unjust occupation. We read last week that US troops were “stunned by what they found” during a raid on a ministry of interior building: more than a hundred prisoners, many of whom “appeared to have been brutally beaten” and to be malnourished. There were also reports of dead bodies showing “signs of severe torture”. Hussein Kamel, the deputy interior minister, was “stunned” too. This feigned surprise is a farce second only to the WMD lie. Torture has continued as under Saddam’s regime in detention centres, prisons, camps and secret cells well beyond Abu Ghraib.

While the US and British governments have spent the 30 months of occupation arguing for the legality of chemical weapons and the “usefulness” of torture to extract information, Iraqis have been engaged in a different struggle: to survive the increasingly harsh occupation, and to define democracy and human rights accordingly. Experiences of collective punishment, random arrest and killing are the defining features.

On October 16, for example, a group of adults and children gathered around a burned Humvee on the edge of Ramadi. There was a crater in the road, left by a bomb that had killed five US soldiers and two Iraqi soldiers the previous day. Some of the children were playing hide and seek, and others laughing while pelting the vehicle with stones, when a US F-15 fighter jet fired on the crowd. The US military said subsequently it had killed 70 insurgents in air strikes, and knew of no civilian deaths.

Among the “insurgents” killed were six-year-old Muhammad Salih Ali, who was buried in a plastic bag after relatives collected what they believed to be parts of his body; four-year-old Saad Ahmed Fuad; and his eight-year-old sister, Haifa, who had to be buried without one of her legs as her family were unable to find it.

US forces increasingly use air strikes to reduce their own casualties. They also work with Iraqi forces on search-and-destroy missions to retaliate after a successful attack on their troops, or to intimidate the population ahead of a US-choreographed political process.

Most Iraqis are indifferent to the political timetable imposed by the occupiers – from the nominal handover of sovereignty to the bizarre three months of sectarian and ethnic wrangling about the interim government and the declaration of a “yes” vote on the draft constitution by Condoleezza Rice within hours of the ballot boxes closing. They think the whole process is intended to divert their attention from the main issues: the occupation, corruption, pillaging of Iraq’s resources, and the interim government’s failure on human rights.

A recent Human Rights Watch report gave fresh details of torture of detainees by US forces in Iraq. At a military base near Falluja, Mercury, abuse was not only overlooked but sometimes ordered. The report describes routine, severe beatings of prisoners, and the application of burning chemicals to detainees’ eyes and skin, to make them glow in the dark. Thousands have been kept for more than a year without charge or trial, including the writer Muhsin al-Khafaji, who was arrested in May 2003.

Women are taken as hostages by US soldiers to persuade fugitive male relatives to surrender or confess to terrorist acts. Sarah Taha al-Jumaily, 20, from Falluja, was arrested twice: on October 8 she was accused of being the daughter of Musab al-Zarqawi, despite her father, a member of a pan-Arab party, having been detained by US troops for more than two months; and on October 19 she was arrested and accused of being a terrorist. Hundreds of people demonstrated, and workers went on strike to demand her release. The interior ministry states that 122 women remain detained, charged with the novel crime of being “potential suicide bombers”.

As large-scale US-led military operations continue, the health situation on the ground is at breaking point. The Iraqi health infrastructure, doctors and hospital staff are unable to cope with the deepening humanitarian crisis. No wonder more Iraqis are supporting the resistance.

Armed resistance is in accordance with the 1978 UN general assembly resolution that reaffirmed “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence ... from ... foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle”. The Iraqi National Foundation Congress (INFC), an umbrella group of parties and civil society organisations, is leading political resistance. There is also civil and community resistance, involving mosques, women’s organisations, human-rights groups and unions, which are linking up with international anti-war groups and anti-globalisation movements.

Most Iraqis believe that they have a right to more than a semblance of independence. The lesson history taught us in Vietnam, that stubborn national resistance can wear down the most powerful armies, is now being learned in Iraq.

· Haifa Zangana is an Iraqi-born novelist and former prisoner of Saddam’s regime

Far more than lessons about “national resistance” need to be learned, important though they are. Vietnam was guided by a revolutionary Marxist understanding and it is revolutionary struggle to end the whole imperialist order which is vital, the only way imperialism’s increasingly destructive degeneracy and stifling smothering of all human endeavour, creativity and development can be stopped.

The bourgeoisie is a historical class order that has reached the end of its time, long since failing to stimulate or motivate understanding and progress, and now a giant millstone around humanity’s neck. The revolution it made against the similarly worked through ossified feudal order (also a vibrant new way for humankind to progress in its time) now needs to be made against the limitations of half conscious capitalism – this time to end forever the whole 10,000 year period of class rule from slavery to imperialism and establish for the first time a completely rational scientific basis to society.

Socialism and reason is the only future.

The only prospect on offer from the US dominated imperialist world order is endless and devastating conflict, of which the Nato blitzing of tiny Serbia, the cruel bombardment of dirt-poor Afghanistan and the barbaric and worsening mayhem and blitzing in Iraq, are just opening shots, getting the world used to the idea of war as a normality once again (after tentative raids and adventures by Clinton in Somalia and Sudan etc).

Simultaneously the “punishment” of the once-time thug imperialist stooge Saddam Hussein was intended proved to be a dire warning by the US lords of the earth to any challengers to the most powerful Empire the planet has ever seen, from “insurgents” and “terrorists” (which means any revolutionary anti-imperialist struggle in reality) to the rival imperialist powers who are increasingly squeezed by the oncoming slump crisis and increasingly driven towards challenging the dominant power as in three previous world shattering inter-imperialist conflicts (1870, 1914-18 and 1939-45) showed with increasing impact.

The greatest slump disaster ever for imperialism – held off for an unprecedentedly long period by the enormously extended post-war globalisation of imperialist exploitation into ever more areas, and the fantastically complex refinement of credit and debt mechanisms to avoid the smaller disturbances in the always unstable capitalist system (as Marx showed in Capital Volume 2), – is now hanging over the whole capitalist dominated world like the famous sword of Damocles.

And despite the complacency and misplaced ridicule of the numb-brained fake-”lefts – forever mocking the EPSR’s insistence on pointing to the catastrophe that is shortly due – the signals just get stronger and stronger as even the bourgeois press occasionally points out:

What began as a whisper on Wall Street became a deafening roar at the end of last week. Could General Motors, the largest carmaker in the world and the backbone of American industry, be preparing to file for bankruptcy?

Shares in the company skidded to their lowest level since 1987 amid fears for its future. The firm is in a quagmire; partly of its own making, partly due to the challenges of globalisation, but a mess nonetheless that GM is sinking into fast. The company has lost almost $4bn (£2.3bn) so far this year. It now has a market capitalisation of $12bn. By comparison, the market values Wal-Mart at $204bn and Google at $112bn.

If GM were forced into bankruptcy it would be a deep psychological blow for the United States. It would also help to redefine the already shifting expectations of ordinary working Americans: the decent healthcare, wages and pensions that GM and its rivals in the Detroit car industry pioneered are likely to fade into memory. As GM and Ford suffer, so do suppliers. Michigan and the surrounding states that rely on the car industry have already seen thousands of job losses and slashed wages.

...Bank of America recently raised the odds on GM filing for bankruptcy in the next two years to 40%.

The biggest problem is in the company’s core north American division. In the most recent quarter, the carmaker narrowed its losses in Europe to $105m from $236m a year earlier. In the US, it lost $1.6bn. Amid intensifying competition from Asia, GM’s market share in the US has fallen to 25.6% from 28.5% a year ago.

...In the US, GM has found it difficult to wean buyers off the profit-eroding incentive deals it first introduced to get sales moving after the terrorist attacks in 2001. Without incentives in October, sales dropped 23%. The company has also been heavily reliant on the sport utility vehicles that generated much of its profits in the 1990s. As petrol prices have risen, sales of the gas-guzzlers have plummeted. In the meantime, GM has been slow to invest in the petrol and electric hybrids that are becoming increasingly popular.

GM’s biggest difficulty is the soaring cost of pension and healthcare liabilities for workers and retirees in the US, which add $3,500 to the price of each vehicle. Unions fear that under bankruptcy, GM could cancel worker contracts to sharply reduce its liabilities, erasing decades of hard-won gains. It insures 1.1 million Americans and healthcare costs this year will be about $5.6bn, up from $4bn four years ago.

The killer blow could be dealt by Delphi Corporation, the vehicle-parts maker spun out of GM in 1999, which filed for bankruptcy last month. GM could be liable for up to $12bn of the pensions and healthcare of Delphi workers, under a contract signed when the supplier was spun off.

More urgently, Delphi’s attempts to lower its costs could lead to a strike that would disrupt GM’s production line. Delphi is seeking to halve the average hourly wage for its factory workers from $25 to $12.50 as well as eliminating 18,000 jobs – an offer that unions have balked at.

GM’s cash pile is shrinking alarmingly fast, from $24bn a year ago to $19bn today. A strike at Delphi could cause it to burn through reserves even faster. A note from Deutsche Bank last week suggested that a three-month strike could use up $13bn of GM’s cash.

...The firm is accelerating a programme to reduce costs by $5bn by the end of next year. It is planning 25,000 blue-collar job losses and will announce plant closures shortly, in addition to further cuts among office workers and a continued freeze on salaries. It has a deal with unions to reduce healthcare liabilities by $1bn a year. It is also fast-tracking development of its hybrid cars.

...GM is not the only US firm struggling to cope with its pension and healthcare liabilities while still competing with rivals from low-cost countries.

Employer-paid pensions in the US are estimated to be underfunded by $450bn (£262bn). GM says its deficit is $10bn but official figures suggest its pension is underfunded by $31bn.

United Airlines and US Airways used bankruptcy this year to dump $9.6bn of pension liabilities on the federal agency that insures private pensions – itself facing a $22.8bn deficit. The agency usually makes good on the basic pension but pays no other benefits and has an annual upper limit. Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines, which both filed for bankruptcy in September, are likely to do the same – their pensions are underfunded by $16.3bn.

The number of Americans with healthcare paid for by employers is also steadily falling, according to the Census Bureau. For most workers, the trend has become known as the downsizing of the American dream.

“What is good for General Motors is good for America” as the cynical quote has it; and equally what is bad for General Motors is bad – for the American working class at least.

As always it is the proletariat – in America and every other imperialist country – which is to have the crisis forced upon it, driving it back into conditions worse than ever before, confirming the enduring Marxist grasp of the impoverishment of the masses by capitalism, which so many “clever” modern professors and analysts deride as “old-hat”, “disproven” and “belonging to Victorian times”.

But every gain in living standards achieved by the reformist politics of the entire spectrum of the fake-”left” from Labourism to the 57 shades of laughably named “revolutionaries” (who never seriously mention any such revolutionary perspective) who prop them up, has been in any permanent sense, an illusion. (And only ever achieved, or achievable, in the richest of the imperialist countries – paid for by the “super-profits” of additional surplus value levels ripped out of the Third World and its near-slavery.)

It is true that steps forwards by the working class have been made within capitalism and while the benefits of reforms last out they are clearly worth having, tactical victories in an unceasing class struggle, to strengthen the position of the working class.

But they have only ever been granted by the ruling class to fend off deeper underlying revolutionary ferment, before any clarity can be gained by the working class. Without the prospect of revolutionary eruptions – as even some of the bourgeois observers on the Paris and French city riots have noticed again in recent days as promises are made about improvements for the banlieue – there would be no changes.

And helping head the working class away into illusions about “parliament”, constitutional methods, “peaceful struggle” and “steady changes through left pressure”, have been the criminal reformist conscious lies of “big” official trade unionism and Labourism, supported at every critical moment by anti-communist Trotskyism and the dunderheaded retreat from revolutionary perspectives of the Moscow dominated revisionists.

This decades long blanket of complacent anti-communist class collaboration smothering the working class is about to get pulled very savagely away from existence in even the richest of imperialist countries:

But isn’t it the case, I hear you ask, that the United States notched up a record trade deficit of $66.1bn last week – equivalent to 6% or so of its gross domestic product? Yes it is. And isn’t the US financing that trade deficit by flooding the global markets with dollar-denominated assets that are snapped up by its creditors? Right again. And when the supply of something goes up, isn’t it customary for the price to come down? Full marks for impeccable logic.

Even so, if you were using logic to play the forex markets in the past few weeks, you would have lost money. All sorts of reasons have been trotted out to explain why the dollar has been going up – none convincing. One of the more absurd theories was that investors have been dumping Euros owing to the low-level civil war in France; this doesn’t explain why sterling fell against the greenback by a similar amount.

Nor is it convincing to argue that higher interest rates in the US than in the eurozone or Japan explain the appetite for dollars. To be sure, investors take into account prospective yields but they also have to factor in the risk of currency depreciation. And there has to be a risk – a whopping big risk, in fact – that at some point the world will have had a bellyful of a currency which, after all, stopped being backed by anything tangible back in 1971.

It is worth noting that the recent strength of the dollar has been accompanied by a sharp rise in the price of gold; some investors, at least, are taking precautions, and they are quite right to do so.

When you get down to it, there are only two reasons for an appreciating dollar. One is that it is going up because it is going up; the herd mentality of markets means that you do what everybody else is doing even if you think they are wrong. The second is that the markets have deluded themselves into thinking that a country that is spending one dollar and six cents for every dollar that it is earning doesn’t have a problem.

The fact that the Chinese, the Japanese and the other big exporting nations of Asia are colluding in this financial fantasy should come as no surprise. A strong dollar is wonderful for these countries since it helps them to build up their industrial – and, in China’s case, political –power even as American manufacturing is hollowed out.

It would be misguided of the US to believe that all sides gain equally from this arrangement; the Asians are getting by far the better of the deal, owning enough US dollar assets to buy a controlling interest in every company listed on the Dow Jones Index. As a new book by Bill Bonner and Addison Wiggin (Empire of Debt: The Rise of an Epic Financial Crisis; published by John Wiley) notes: “They [the Asians] have enough Treasury bonds to destroy the US economy on a whim.”

One day China may want to do just that, but not yet. For the time being, it does not have any incentive to halt a process that allows it to grow at three times the pace of the US economy, and is prepared to take the risk that the symbiotic relationship will fall apart. Whether it is in the interests of Americans to sit back and do nothing is another matter.

Bonner and Wiggins argue that the US can’t stop itself. Drawing parallels with the last days of Rome, they argue that Americans believe they can go on spending more than they make indefinitely. “They go deeper and deeper in debt, believing they will never have to settle up. They buy houses and then mortgage them out, room by room, until they have almost nothing left. They invade foreign countries in the belief that they are spreading freedom and democracy, and depend on lending from communist China to pay for it. The imperial people choose to spend rather than to save, and to hallucinate, rather than think hard. They demand bread and circuses at home; let the Asians sweat abroad.”

The question of whether Americans are now living on a far-flung outpost of cloud cuckoo land is explored a little less colourfully but with equal clout in a paper* written by Wynne Godley and three colleagues for the Levy Institute in upstate New York. This charts with brutal clarity the deterioration in the US trade balance and current account over the past 15 years, and projects that on current trends the trade deficit will be 7.5% of GDP by 2010.

When a country imports more than it exports, there is a hit to its growth rates. Between 1992 and 2001, the US managed to offset the impact of a widening trade gap on demand by a credit-financed consumer binge. Between 2001 and 2003, when the consumer briefly retrenched, the government stepped up to the plate with a huge fiscal stimulus that kept the economy going but only at the expense of a hefty budget deficit. From 2003 to now, consumers have again discovered the joys of borrowing as if there is no tomorrow, this time on the back of a housing market bubble.

With interest rates rising, and house prices in some parts of the US at unsustainable levels, Godley et al are right to bet on a period in which individuals will borrow less and save more. But in those circumstances, consumer retrenchment coupled with a whopping trade deficit would spell deep recession unless one of three things happened.

Firstly, the US government could take the strain again, widening the budget deficit to maintain demand. The Levy paper suggests the deficit would need to go to 8% of GDP to achieve this. Option one is therefore not likely.

Secondly, the Americans could take tough protectionist action to limit imports into the US, which would bring down the trade deficit even if – as would be likely – other countries retaliated.

This is the nuclear option, make no mistake, and Washington would undoubtedly prefer to see the trade deficit cut by rejigging currencies and rebalancing global demand. Indeed, it may use the threat of protectionism to seek a third way out of the current predicament. A longer-term solution to global imbalances through an international agreement in the spirit of the Bretton Woods post-war settlement seems just the ticket, with the Asians agreeing to boost domestic demand and revalue their currencies and the Americans agreeing to export more and consume less.

Let’s not delude ourselves, it’s not going to happen this side of an almighty crisis that brings everyone to their senses.

* The United States and Her Creditors: Can the Symbiosis Last?; Wynne Godley, Dimitri Papadimitriou, Claudio Dos Santos, Gennaro Zezza.

An “almighty crisis” is certainly the reality coming as Leninist science alone has understood and insisted upon however permanent – or at least historically extended – the long boom seemed to be. And the warmongering is the strongest symptom of all – imperialism’s favoured (and only) strategy for escaping the intractable contradictions of the profit system, and already well underway.

But dialectical logic of the crisis means that far from cowing and awe-ing the planet into another few centuries of piratical exploitation, the lessons being learned, as the man says about Iraq above, are an enormous expansion of the deepest hatred and hostility throughout the Third World, which will be driven ever closer to vital conscious Leninism.

Even the confused and fragmented resistance which increasingly frequently erupts throughout the Third World, behind a variety of more or less bizarre leaderships, from anti-decadence puritanism rooted in 8th century religion to populist leftism in South America and sometimes, as in Nepal’s Maoist struggle or the FARC in Colombia, struggles which characterise themselves as Marxist (though usually without the open polemicising that genuine Leninism would struggle for), – that resistance has inflicted substantial damage on imperialism and will continue to do so as long as it challenges imperialist dominance.

It can only be forced into deeper and deeper lessons just as the Palestinians have been forced to learn about the futility of the “two state” compromise with Zionism backed for so-long by Arafatism, and the chance for any “deals” with imperialism that are not simply permanent acceptance of the humiliating concentration camp slavery of the poverty stricken Gaza strip.

The relentless dialectic of the monstrous imperialist intrusion into Palestine in fact means that the Zionists occupiers can never feel safe until they have utterly destroyed most if not all of the Palestinian resistance, which means effectively endless expansionism and genocidal murderousness as yet another sick-making revelation proves hard on the heels of the recent shoot-to-kill civilians and children policy showed (last issue):

An Israeli army officer who fired the entire magazine of his automatic rifle into a 13-year-old Palestinian girl and then said he would have done the same even if she had been three years old was acquitted on all charges by a military court yesterday.

The soldier, who has only been identified as “Captain R”, was charged with relatively minor offences for the killing of Iman al-Hams who was shot 17 times as she ventured near an Israeli army post near Rafah refugee camp in Gaza a year ago.

The manner of Iman’s killing, and the revelation of a tape recording in which the captain is warned that she was just a child who was “scared to death”, made the shooting one of the most controversial since the Palestinian intifada erupted five years ago even though hundreds of other children have also died.

After the verdict, Iman’s father, Samir al-Hams, said the army never intended to hold the soldier accountable.

“They did not charge him with Iman’s murder, only with small offences, and now they say he is innocent of those even though he shot my daughter so many times,” he said. “This was the cold-blooded murder of a girl. The soldier murdered her once and the court has murdered her again. What is the message? They are telling their soldiers to kill Palestinian children.”

The military court cleared the soldier of illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and perverting the course of justice by asking soldiers under his command to alter their accounts of the incident.

Capt R’s lawyers argued that the “confirmation of the kill” after a suspect is shot was a standard Israeli military practice to eliminate terrorist threats.

Following the verdict, Capt R burst into tears, turned to the public benches and said: “I told you I was innocent.”

The army’s official account said that Iman was shot for crossing into a security zone carrying her schoolbag which soldiers feared might contain a bomb. It is still not known why the girl ventured into the area but witnesses described her as at least 100 yards from the military post which was in any case well protected.

A recording of radio exchanges between Capt R and his troops obtained by Israeli television revealed that from the beginning soldiers identified Iman as a child.

In the recording, a soldier in a watchtower radioed a colleague in the army post’s operations room and describes Iman as “a little girl” who was “scared to death”. After soldiers first opened fire, she dropped her schoolbag which was then hit by several bullets establishing that it did not contain explosive. At that point she was no longer carrying the bag and, the tape revealed, was heading away from the army post when she was shot.

Although the military speculated that Iman might have been trying to “lure” the soldiers out of their base so they could be attacked by accomplices, Capt R made the decision to lead some of his troops into the open. Shortly afterwards he can be heard on the recording saying that he has shot the girl and, believing her dead, then “confirmed the kill”.

Palestinian witnesses said they saw the captain shoot Iman twice in the head, walk away, turn back and fire a stream of bullets into her body.

On the tape, Capt R then “clarifies” to the soldiers under his command why he killed Iman: “This is commander. Anything that’s mobile, that moves in the [security] zone, even if it’s a three-year-old, needs to be killed.”

At no point did the Israeli troops come under attack.

Capt R claimed that he had not fired the shots at the girl but near her. However, Dr Mohammed al-Hams, who inspected the child’s body at Rafah hospital, counted numerous wounds. “She has at least 17 bullets in several parts of the body, all along the chest, hands, arms, legs,” he told the Guardian shortly afterwards. “The bullets were large and shot from a close distance. The most serious injuries were to her head. She had three bullets in the head. One bullet was shot from the right side of the face beside the ear. It had a big impact on the whole face.”

That this fascist dominance has been forced onto the back foot with its recent withdrawal from Gaza, is entirely down to the militancy and guerrilla war activity of the determined and heroic Palestinian resistance – particularly around Hamas and the Islamic Jihad – and not at all to the treacherous sub-Arafatism of the Abbas official Palestinian camp, ending up as nothing more than a stooge policeman for imperialism and its boggle eyed Jewish fanatics because of its insistence on “controlling” militancy.

The latest splits in the ruling Likud party are a further sign of the huge impact the intifada has made, with the most maniacal sections of the Zionists unable to stomach even the small signs of defeat given away by the murdering war criminal Sharon (author of the Sabra and Shatila camp massacres) in Gaza in order to continue pushing through the continuing (and totally illegal for what its worth) seizures of the West Bank.

The crisis will drive them into even more frenzied insane killing and repression just as it must drive the whole of imperialism into deeper and more universal warmongering.

There is no other path for this defunct system.

That is why, despite the more and more glaring reality that the censorship and repression and tearing up of human rights across the board are completely pointless for “defeating terrorism” they will be further pushed through.

Former MI5 chief Stella Rimmington says the ludicrous and expensive ID card system being introduced by the Blairites is completely useless for “the war on terrorism” - and so it is.

But then that is not its purpose, nor the internments, the “anti-glorification of terror” censorship laws. The whole notion of a “war on terrorism” is a giant fraud anyway designed to ratchet up the atmosphere of panic, fear and intimidation. And, equally to divert attention away from the real cause of fear and uncertainty - the capitalist slump, trade war and escalating war.

The small number of episodic bombings and incidents - for all that the biggest like 9/11 have a very real impact of capitalist morale (and are cheered on, rightly or wrongly, by millions in the Third World) could never represent the “world threat to our way of life” insanely postured by Blair and Bush. And neither could any “network” be anything more than a ludicrous James Bond SMERSH fantasy in terms of the impact it can have on the huge power and military might of imperialism.

But the significance of the likes of Bin Laden are that they indicate the rising temperature of the billions in around the planet heading for revolutionary ferment.

The point of all these measures is to suppress, intimidate and silence those revolutionary murmurings and more importantly the increasingly conscious leadership that must develop.

The Blairites may be utter non-entities - “pygmies” as the UK’s Washington diplomat correctly observed, desperate to rub shoulders with “really important people” but they are one of the few tools that imperialism has left, ready to do any dirty work to prove themselves to the ruling class.

Certainly the hugely significant Murdoch wing of imperialism thinks so, enough to pull all the stops out to say so.

What else could explain the extraordinary appearance in the “liberal” Guardian recently of a panegyric from Murdoch’s “philosopher king” mouthpiece Irwin Stelzer - astonishingly given an enormous five column space to sing the praises of Blair and company, just as their popularity and credibility is hitting the buffers?

The splits in the ruling class show how rattled the whole system is by the oncoming crisis.

Well it might be. There is a long way to go yet, most particularly in recovering and re-building the vital Leninist understanding that alone can ultimately guide the world proletariat, through the depravities to be inflicted by imperialism’s last spasms. But the writing is on the wall for this disgusting foulness.

Build Leninism. Don Hoskins


Return to top