No 1524 24th November 2017
“End austerity” pleading by petty bourgeois liberals and fake-“left” still leaves workers tied to hopes in capitalist renewal and bourgeois democracy just when the endless stagnation, ruling class splits and continuing war horrors say the exact opposite. Far worse Slump cuts are on the way as QE credit too implodes and war belligerence intensifies. Only finishing the entire festering capitalist order to build communism can stop now constant slide to breakdown and Slump. Saudi Arabia “reform” desperation and belligerent lashing out symptomatic of collapse eating away all capitalism, driving vicious destructive warmongering.
The usual chorus of “end austerity now” demands before the Budget not only confirms the narrow horizons and limited perspectives of the fake-“left” of all shades but underlines their treachery and misleadership.
Instead of warning the working class of the Great Catastrophe unfolding in the entire “free market” system, the biggest breakdown collapse in all history, dragging the world towards not just deepening stagnation but Slump and world war destruction, they continue to press for reforms and minor tinkering changes larded with sanctimonious political correctness.
What needs exploring is how the deepest ever crisis of the entire private profit making system is being manifested in a now universal breakdown into chaos, incompetence, rancid sleaze ridden scandal and bitter splits within and between government after government in the capitalist world.
It will increasingly degenerate, heading into universal war destruction, even worse than the unparalleled savagery which has already ripped whole countries apart in Ukraine and the Middle East.
The mighty US topdog imperialist power itself has an establishment riven down the middle, with even its state agencies in conflict to the point of abuse; the equally split British establishment (Labour and Tory) just spits blood, hatred and recriminations at each other and at Europe over Brexit; the Belgians have taken nearly two years to form a government and the Dutch almost as long. Spain is torn apart by petty bourgeois nationalism and Italy too on top of its constant mafia infested chaos.
Poland, Hungary and Romania as well as nearby Austria are a festering mess of rising reactionary backward nationalism and now powerful Germany itself is falling apart unable to keep its complacent conservative coalition intact.
Even greater chaos besets the war ravaged Middle East and particularly around Saudi Arabia, itself riven by internal upheavals and dragging the whole region towards deadly war that could see far worse destruction yet than that imposed on Syria for six years and on the genocidally blitzed Yemeni people where now 8 million face all-out famine, 200,000 cholera and 50,000 children imminently face death (see below).
All these are symptoms of the terminal paralysis of a capitalist system which is out of time and rapidly degenerating towards complete anarchic destruction and devastation.
Only a revolutionary world perspective can begin to make any sense at all of this confusing and dizzying cesspit mess and only the total overturn of this terminally degenerate system provide the way out of it for humanity.
But few of the “left” go beyond the kind of desperate exhortations from several dozen liberal and “left” economic “heavyweight” academics, trade union leaders, pastors and other worthies posted in the Guardian this week, wringing their hands at the very real devastation being wrought on the working class:
Seven years of austerity has destroyed lives. An estimated 30,000 excess deaths can be linked to cuts in NHS spending and the social care crisis in 2015 alone. The number of food parcels given to impoverished Britons has grown from tens of thousands in 2010 to over a million. Children are suffering from real-terms spending cuts in up to 88% of schools. The public sector pay cap has meant that millions of workers are struggling to make ends meet.
Alongside the mounting human costs, austerity has hurt our economy. The UK has experienced its weakest recovery on record and suffers from poor levels of investment, leading to low productivity and falling wages. This government has missed every one of its own debt reduction targets because austerity simply doesn’t work.
The case for cuts has been grounded in ideology and untruths. We’ve been told public debt is the outcome of overspending on public services rather than bailing out the banks. We’ve been told that while the government can find money for the DUP, we cannot afford investment in public services and infrastructure. We’ve been told that unless we “tighten our belts” we’ll saddle future generations with debt – but it’s the onslaught of cuts that is punishing an entire generation.
Given the unprecedented economic uncertainty posed by Brexit negotiations and the private sector’s failure to invest, we cannot risk exacerbating an already anaemic recovery with further public spending cuts. We’ve reached a dangerous tipping point. Austerity has failed the British people and the British economy. We demand the chancellor ends austerity now.
Joseph Stiglitz Professor, Columbia University Ha-Joon Chang Professor, University of Cambridge David Graeber Professor of anthropology, LSE – Plus 100 others
All well and good, and such concerns by intellectuals and petty bourgeois reformists are symptoms too of system nearing its end, unable any more to buy off rising discontent in the once empire-privileged Western working class, a discontent which is getting explosively closer to the surface with every passing day, as all kinds of disparate struggle erupts, from battles to preserve ancient trees from privatised “management” destruction, to stopping potentially polluting and/or dangerous fracking, bin strikes, rail strikes and NHS defence.
But “anti-austerity” captures only a smattering of the life-destroying burdens imposed in the “developed countries” like the self-righteous workhouse severity of the universal credit scheme, callous cuts for the disabled, homelessness, indifference and contempt for frightened thousands trapped in Grenfell-fire type tower blocks, the grind and depression of zero-hours and outsourced jobs, growing child poverty, and the sheer in-your-face contempt and hopelessness of ever widening inequality.
They get nowhere near linking this to the agonies and horrors being imposed in the Third World by the same world capitalist Catastrophic failure (on top of the routine near-slavery imposed by centuries of colonialist exploitation which is the main basis on which any reforms have ever been achieved anyway for the metropolitan countries).
More importantly they completely mislead everyone about both the problem and the solution on offer.
There can be no “ending” of austerity because it is not a “policy choice” in any normal sense of the word.
Just the opposite: the capitalist ruling class is driven to tear up all reformist concessions by the cutthroat competitive pressure it faces in ever worsening world market conditions which dictate the imposition of massively increased exploitation all the way down to Third World levels.
Crisis is built into the very nature of capitalist production for private profit and arises from its fundamental contradictions, always accumulating more and more capital which piles in to the desperate search to find new investment opportunities and inevitably drives down the capacity of the whole system to make profit it all.
The whole monopoly capitalist system always returns to Slump collapse and war, and always on a wider and deeper scale than ever before.
In other words there is no way to improve capitalism, or even alleviate its savagery any more, smoothing off the rough edges as done in the temporary post-war boom period.
A completely different way of ordering society is needed.
That is true socialism, (not the misnamed Western capitalist welfarism of Labour etc) for the planning and rational use of commonly owned resources and production in harmony with nature for all humanity on a world scale, initially under the firmest working class control (while the reactionary disruptive remnants of past society still remain), and then managed by steadily developing universal consent, as a completely new type of rational, scientifically guided, human society emerges, no longer coerced by class exploitation, but with each cooperating member self-consciously and willingly aware of what needs to be done, for the good of all.
Scientific (Marxist) theory is at the heart of it, leading the class war fight to achieve it and then as the solid basis of future society.
Only by giving up its entire grip on the world’s wealth and resources, and the sick and distorted class war antagonisms which its system lives by, (including racism, sexism, and other prejudices and divisions), could the bourgeois ruling class “choose” such an anti-austerity path to climb out of this Slump collapse and the war horrors which are coming.
But no ruling class has ever given up its privileges and wealth much less abolished itself as a class.
So only the proletariat (workers, poor farmers, etc) seizing and taking control of all of society’s resources in common ownership, forming workers state authorities of the type which made huge headway in the twentieth century (but even better), can now change anything.
Revolution in other words, is the only way forwards, with the working class in every country establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat, ultimately joining up on a world scale, when full communism will be realisable.
It will have to carry through a total transformation in social and property relations, overturning the way things are done, beginning with the abolition of the greed-driven private profit motivation and principle on which the “free market” and capitalism is built.
That is something entirely different to any “forcing” of the system to change by “left pressure”, however “r-r-r-evolutionary” it claims to be, or however much “this time we hold the Labourites’ feet to the fire” etc.
Class collaborating pretences about corporate regulation and redistribution, “fairer taxes” and partial “nationalisations” are an historically worked out seam and the working class correctly trusts none of it or the spectrum of fake-”leftism” which is “entering” the Labour Party etc.
The latest deluge of bourgeois press leaks and revelations in the Paradise Papers, has just shown yet again that the ruling class always finds a way round all such reformism and control, secretly hiding its grotesque wealth and privilege away from “the authorities” on mostly delightful tropical island “havens”.
They evade the taxes that reformism is supposed to “redistribute”, and they disguise from public view just how obscene is their thieving expropriation of not just the lion’s share of the world’s wealth but virtually all the rest of it too.
Staggeringly, as the greatest Slump ever imposes mass desperation, they are filching even more away for lives of such unrestrained and wasteful luxury and power that it is beyond the most fevered imagination of most ordinary people:
The globe’s richest 1% now own half the world’s wealth.
Their share of the globe’s total wealth increase(d) from 42.5% at the height of the 2008 financial crisis to 50.1% in 2017, or $140tn (£106tn), according to Credit Suisse’s global wealth report.
“[They] achieve new peaks every year” the report said. Increases in wealth among the already very rich led to the creation of 2.3 million new dollar millionaires over the past year, taking the total to 36 million. “The number is now nearly three times the 2000 figure,” Credit Suisse said.
These millionaires – 0.7% of the world’s adult population – control 46% of total global wealth that now stands at $280tn.
The world’s 3.5 billion poorest adults each have assets of less than $10,000 (£7,600). Collectively 70% of the world’s working age population, accounts for just 2.7% of global wealth.
The poor are mostly in developing countries, with more than 90% of adults in India and Africa having less than $10,000. “In some low-income countries in Africa, the percentage in this wealth group is close to 100%,” the report said.
The number of ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) – those with $50m or more – has increased even faster. “Millionaires increased by 170% [since 2000], while UHNWIs have risen five-fold” the report said.
Most are in the US, but 22% come from emerging economies, notably China.
The biggest losers, the report says, are young people...Millennials have been dealt a series of blows including high unemployment, tighter mortgage rules, increased income inequality and reduced pensions.
The most vigorous and principled reformism (a contradiction anyway) will not dent or “clean up” these degenerate scams because the entire network of hidey-holes is not some mistake or “historic hangover” but the deliberate creation of the entire capitalist system (as much by Labour governments from the “left” Attlee onwards as by the Tories) with the “tax loopholes” carefully written into law for the rich and their “consultants” to take advantage.
Bankers, lawyers, accountants and other middle-class “wealth manager” servants (the rich do not lift a finger themselves, even to count their own money!) – questioned on TV simply drip with disdain and contempt for the journalists presuming to ask about such things.
The unspoken threat behind that sinister hostility is the knowledge that should anyone ever really try to take away their “property”, this tiny ruling class (and the capitalist state forces it commands) is ready to impose as much fascist mayhem and draconian suppression as it needs (or is able to impose) to maintain its rule, its wealth and its power.
The treachery of reformist pleading is in failing to warn workers of this deadly reality, the bloody fate imposed on dozens of rebels, reformist regimes and “parliamentary road” socialists in the past, archetypally that of the “legally elected” socialist government of Salvador Allende and thousands of workers drowned in blood by CIA supported fascist coup in 1973 in Chile but in dozens of examples before and since.
Only the firmest and most aware class dictatorship, ready to defend socialist rule, can prevent the sabotage, disruption, lie campaigns, and provocations that are constant against any regime which even turns towards ending capitalism.
The lessons are repeated over and over again, notably at present against the entire multi-nation “Bolivarian revolution” in Latin America and its various shadings of reformist “left” nationalist movements, where every kind of counter-revolutionary skulduggery has been used from manipulated elections and “judicial coups” (Paraguay, Argentina, Honduras) and stitched up allegations of corruptions and impeachment (Brazil), to economic sabotage and fomenting of violent “demonstrations” along with outright fascist violence like that against the Nicolás Maduro Venezuelan regime at the core of the anti-US imperialism movement (including at least 30 working class pro-government supporters horrifically burned alive, surrounded by petty bourgeois lynch mobs, strung wire decapitations of motor cyclists and other grotesqueries).
And yet they remain unlearned with 57 varieties of fake-“left” still advocating yet more variations of “this time our real socialist pressure is really going to change things” (Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, Corbynism), or “we should all follow the Chávez 21st century ‘peaceful’ socialist path” etc etc etc still being advocated by dull-brained revisionism (even advising the astonishing decades long revolutionary struggle of the FARC in Colombia to disarm and turn to “parliamentary means”, as if Chile had never happened).
But that is only the half of it.
As well as tying the working class back to fatal delusions in “bourgeois democracy” as a means for improvement, such notions do not begin to convey anything like the vital Marxist perspective of worldwide collapse.
That does not mean just throwing in some references to the world economic crisis, since 2008 largely unignorable anyway, and how it has “intensified the struggle”.
Nor even does it mean “boldly” declaring that the capitalist system has to be replaced by planned socialism as some of the “left” and “Marxist” groups will dutifully do in their back page lists of principles, usually adding “ultimately”, to cover over reformist business-as-usual because “we have to do something in the meantime”.
What really needs conveying is that the world and its dominating imperialist system is now teetering on an abyss of total disintegration.
There is no “meantime” – only the need for revolutionary understanding confronts everyone.
It is a completely different grasp of what crisis is, meaning a point where self-developing but intractable conflicts and contradictions cannot go any further and must be resolved into something new altogether, possible only by revolutionary class war, defeating and overturning the old and its ever more bloody efforts to prevent the emergence of the new.
The overproduction contradictions identified by Karl Marx in his greatest work Capital, and philosophically much expanded on, in multiple works by himself, Friedrich Engels and later Lenin, bring the entire world class exploitation system to a point of complete paralysis, albeit an active paralysis, so to speak, expressed in the antagonisms, trade war and hot war conflicts which have been bursting out now for over two decades, and which are tearing up governments, the European Union, and most of all the Middle East.
The world is pregnant with hostility as the ruling class lashes out for its failures and bankruptcy, whipping up the war atmosphere around petty nationalism and chauvinist scapegoating and finger pointing, to blame others for the catastrophic collapses in the world markets, where it is increasingly difficult to sell anything at all, let alone the huge output of the giant world-spanning multinational industries, each competing to dominate the entire world (and thereby producing far more goods than can ever be sold to realise the value in them and obtain the profit).
Demented hysteria about “dumping” and “currency manipulation to ‘unfairly’ undercut our goods” is now poured out, most of all by Donald Trump’s “America First” fascist aggression, on show again last week on his Far Eastern tour, blaming shocked and stunned south-east Asian nations for the problems of the sclerotic American economy (though notably treading carefully for the moment around the revisionist leadership of the powerful Chinese workers state economy).
The world atmosphere increasingly resembles the international tensions of the pre-WW1 period where it took a small and apparently random incident, the 1914 anarchist assassination of an Austrian Archduke, to explode into world war, the Austro-Hungarian empire’s war response on Serbia triggering a cascade of interconnected conflicts for the “defence of plucky little Belgium” etc etc.
But these were not the real causes at all; it was the economic disintegration of the whole imperialist system and huge imbalances between the major powers, fighting it out to get a bigger slice of the colonialist plunder, which was really at stake, a thieves’ war for world booty as Lenin’s Bolsheviks declared endable only by revolutionary war on the ruling class.
The same kind of tinder-box conditions are clear in the Middle East now (which was a major part of the spoils in 1918 divvied up under secret agreements like the infamous British-French Sykes-Picot, and the Balfour Declaration, using Zionist ambitions to secure Palestine and the Suez Canal for British imperialism) and for the same reasons of systemic economic Catastrophe, but written even larger.
For over two decades imperialism’s blitzkrieging response to its crisis - the only means it has to distract attention from its collapse – has been trying to intimidate the world, topdog Washington in the lead tearing the Middle East to shreds by scapegoating various “rogue states” like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and then using the ludicrous notion of a “war on terror” to keep the “kill them all” public opinion frenzy going (capitulated to across the board by the fake-“left” condemnations of the rising Third World revolt).
It has not solved anything for the ruling class; its economic crisis imploded in the still unravelling 2008 global credit collapse and growing hostility and hatred against imperialist exploitation tyranny and against the imperialist blitzkrieg has been rising ever since, as “terrorism” and “jihadism” initially, but then escalating into the giant Arab Spring upheavals.
Imperialism’s answer was to try heading it off with more blitzkrieg in the Libyan invasion and the deliberately created sectarian civil war to topple “rogue state” Syria.
None of that has worked either; and the manipulated jihadism and local nationalist revolt in Iraq blew back even more against imperialism to such an extent (in the form of ISIS) that time had to be spent eradicating that (with stunningly inhuman butchering depravity, flattening major cities like Mosul to the ground in an orgy of bombing and murderous depravity, along with killing or driving out hundreds of thousands of “in the way” civilians).
Barely have the ruins stopped smouldering than even greater war threatens the whole region, consciously and deliberately, instigated by the desperate imperialist ruling class.
The sudden escalated belligerence of Saudi Arabia, already destroying millions of lives in the Yemen, could now be the match dropped in the powder keg dragging in a host of participants, including all those who have just suffered the agonies and pains of the Libyan and especially the Syrian civil war, including the hardened Shia Hezbollah fighters who fought imperialism’s deliberately provoked sectarian terrorism (funded by elements in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states) which have been defeated in their attempts to topple Syria’s bonapartist Assad regime:
In Beirut’s southern suburbs, where buildings scarred with wars of old blend with posters of the latest dead, talk of another conflict has taken hold. A fight on a scale not seen before may be brewing, say locals like Hussein Khaireddine, a barber who says he and his family in the Shia suburb of Dahiyeh have grown used to tensions over decades.
“This one’s different,” he said. “It could lead to every valley and mountain top. And if it starts, it may not stop.”
The trepidation extends beyond the city’s predominantly Shia suburbs and south Lebanon, which bore the brunt of the 2006 war with Israel, to all corners of a country that has suddenly found itself at the centre of an extraordinary regional crisis. The turmoil had been brewing for years. But it was brought to a head on 3 November, at a lunch in Beirut being hosted by prime minister Saad Hariri. Midway through the meal with the visiting French cultural minister, Françoise Nyssen, Hariri received a call and his demeanour changed. He excused himself and left for the airport, without his aides.
Within hours Hariri, by then in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, had resigned his position, concluding his transition from Lebanese leader to Saudi envoy and Lebanon’s transformation from outpost to ground zero of a stunning regional escalation.
The aftermath of the hurried departure, and the heated week since, has swept across the region, linking apparently disparate events which, in reality, were symptoms of political undercurrents that had been coursing through the Middle East for generations, and which have now burst to the surface.
The fall of Kurdish-held Kirkuk in northern Iraq to the Iraqi government, backed by Iran’s most prominent general, in October, starvation among the population of war-torn Yemen, a ballistic missile over Riyadh, and the apparently forced exit of the premier in Lebanon are all part of the same machinations – a great strategic power play between two regional heavyweights that has suddenly shifted from back rooms to potent realisation.
Now, more than at any point in modern history, Iran and Saudi Arabia are squared off against each other as a race to consolidate influence nears a climax from Sana’a to Beirut.
The standoff is seeing new ground conquered, previously unimaginable alliances being mooted and the risk of a devastating clash between two foes whose calculations had long been that shadow wars through proxies were safer than facing up directly.
The shift in approach has been led from Riyadh, where a new regime determined to put Saudi Arabia on an entirely different footing domestically, is also trying to overhaul how the kingdom projects itself regionally – and globally.
The ambitious, unusually powerful, crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has been given a mandate by his father, King Salman, to take on what the kingdom and its allies in the United Arab Emirates see as an Iranian takeover of essential corners of the Sunni Arab world.
His role on the home front, meanwhile, appears to have few bounds. Cultural reforms, economic rehabilitation, overturning traditional forms of governance, and a corruption purge that has dragged in previously immune royal billionaires, have left Saudi society reeling.
Six months into his job, Prince Mohammed, and the UAE’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, believe that the time has come to muscle up to Iran. Both insist that Iran’s arc of influence has conquered Baghdad, Damascus, Gaza and Lebanon, and is making inroads into Yemen and Manama, with the city states of Abu Dhabi and Dubai also within reach.
As Hariri settled back into Riyadh, the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas – whose administration last month reconciled with Hamas, which has received support from Iran – was also summonsed to Riyadh to meet King Salman.
“Where this story starts depends on your vantage point,” said a European diplomat who has spent more than 20 years in the region. “To the Saudis, it’s the Islamic Revolution of 1979. They say that forced them to behave abnormally, and that now things are reverting to their old ways. There is truth to that, but there is just as much truth in suggesting 2003 kicked things off. Some of the Iranians at the pointy end of this, meanwhile, might go back another 1,500 years.”
The foundational split between the two main sects of Islam, over whether followers or descendants should succeed the Prophet Mohammed, has long been a starting point for attempts to explain the contemporary rivalry between Tehran and Riyadh. But the contest has more recently been drawn along modern lines of political power and influence, particularly in the post-Saddam years, which left the centre of the region deeply destabilised. “Saddam was the Sunni bulwark,” said a Lebanese politician who advised the former Iraqi dictator. “That is only now being understood by the Saudis, who are trying to position themselves in his wake, all these years later.”
“While they dithered, Iran took hold,” said a senior Saudi official who has left the kingdom in the past year. “While they thought the US was doing their bidding, it was actually enabling an Iranian takeover. This is now almost complete. So they are right to worry. So is everyone. Things have changed in the Middle East by them doing nothing about it.”
In the past year, as its forces have propped up Bashar al-Assad’s army in Syria, and allied with the Iraqi army and paramilitaries fighting with it, Iran has played a leading role in the imminent military defeat of the Islamic State (Isis). It has done so mainly through the use of proxies, which have played essential roles in most battles – including the Iraqi recapture of Kirkuk – and have helped clear land across central Iraq and much of Syria that has become strategically vital.
Iran now all but controls a land corridor that runs from Tehran to Tartous in Syria, on the Mediterranean coast, giving it access to a seaport a long way to its west, and far from the heavily patrolled waters of the Gulf. The route passes through the centre of Iraq, and Syria, skirting the Lebanese border and what were some of the most active areas of the Syrian civil war, which have been returned to regime control. “They are two months from finishing this,” said a senior regional intelligence official. “This changes things. It gives them an open supply line to move whatever they want. And it gives them strategic depth. It is a big deal.”
Among all its proxies, Hezbollah in Lebanon has been the most valuable – and potent. Hezbollah is the arrowhead of Iran’s projection against Israel, and it has drawn heavily on its battle-hardened members and leaders in other regional conflicts – Syria especially, where the group has suffered at least 1,500 casualties – as well as Iraq and Yemen.
The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has taken an active interest in the Saudi war in Yemen, which has pitched the kingdom’s US-armed military against Houthis, who are at least partly backed by Iran. Riyadh believes that Hezbollah members have been instrumental in arming and training the Houthis, and claims that a ballistic missile that was shot down over Riyadh airport on the night that Hariri quit, was helped on its way by Hezbollah members.
Saudi leaders had long placed faith in Hariri as their man to defy Hezbollah and assert the authority of state institutions over its parallel political and military structure in Lebanon.
Their patience ran out last year when the Saudi construction sector collapsed, dragging down with it a company that Hariri chaired. Since then, he and Saudi leaders have been at odds over more than $1 billion. Riyadh’s new sense of crisis appears to have put that feud on hold and invited Hariri back into the fold – for a price.
Lebanon has capabilities to counter “any threat,” but only wants peace and stability in the region, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has told RT in an interview. He warned that any potential aggressor state would suffer consequences, which could reach as far as Europe.
The Middle Eastern country has always chosen to “maintain constructive and sound policies” with its neighbors and other states in the Arab world, but this hasn’t prevented “hostile actions” against Lebanon, Bassil told RT on Friday. Citing the current crisis triggered by the “unexpected” resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri announced from Saudi Arabia, the official said it is a “good example [showing that] virtually anyone can start a war against us.”
“We are ready to act in case of such developments, but we are trying to do everything we can to prevent this from happening and to maintain a good relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Bassil said, adding Beirut would “stick to” its peaceful and diplomatic approach “unless forced to defend ourselves.” While Lebanon is against any interference in its internal affairs, it also “does not approve of any attacks by its citizens against Saudi Arabia,” he said.
However, the current situation appears to involve far more players, the foreign minister said, having mentioned Israel and the US in particular. “We should not be provoking Israel into a war simply because it is likely to lose it. We should restrain Israel from starting a war exactly because Lebanon is sure to win it,” he claimed.
“Any country can take action against Hezbollah like the US does, even though the leader of Hezbollah has said repeatedly: ‘If you want to fight us, you can fight us, but leave Lebanon alone. We don’t want Lebanon to suffer because of us.’ We think if they target us, they will punish all the people of Lebanon, and those who dare do this will also face consequences. There will be consequences for the whole region, for Europe.”
Earlier this week, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, the chief of staff of the Israeli Defence Forces, has said he believes the current escalation in the region “is Iranian provocation.” He said that while Israel had no intention of launching an attack on Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement allied with Tehran, it was ready to share intelligence on Iran with Riyadh. “There is an opportunity for a new international alliance in the region and a major strategic plan to stop the Iranian threat,” said in an unprecedented interview with a Saudi newspaper. Tel Aviv and Riyadh do not officially have diplomatic ties with each another.
All kinds of murky dealings are revealed by this new turn to even more horrific wardrum banging including the pressure from the new Trump regime, which was visiting Riyadh just weeks before the "ew broom" Saudi Prince - now to be King Salman - imposed a an aggressive economic blockade on Qatar.
Alone among the primitive and corrupt tribalist/feudal sheikhdoms of the Gulf, Qatar has connections with the Iran Shia side mentioned above. It also gives sanctuary to many regional political opposition figures not least senior Hamas leadership from the anti-Zionist militant Palestinians in Gaza, who correctly maintain an implacable refusal to recognise the landtheft Zionist colonial occupation of their country.
The bourgeois press spells some of this out:
Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, is a young man in a hurry. So, too, is Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Together, they make a dangerous combination. By all accounts, the two men have become firm friends, forging a strong bond melding youth and power. Kushner, 36, made his third visit to Saudi Arabia this year at the end of October. He reportedly talked late into the night with Salman, 32, at the latter’s desert ranch.
Shortly after the meeting, three things happened: Salman began a sweeping purge of wealthy royal rivals; he launched a silent coup in Lebanon; and the Saudi armed forces imposed an aid blockade on Yemeni ports, which (though now partly eased) threatens a humanitarian catastrophe. The White House, supportive of its Saudi friends, made no criticism. Trump tweeted support for the purge. Thanks in part to Kushner, his first foreign trip was to Riyadh, where he was feted by the autocratic regime. He feels a connection.
The strong links between Salman, the de facto Saudi ruler, and the influential Kushner, Trump’s personal overseas troubleshooter and Middle East envoy, are nevertheless a big worry for American diplomats and the Pentagon. Officials told the New York Times they were not briefed on the Salman-Kushner talks. Such secretiveness is apparently the norm. “Jared is a bit of a black hole. There is no sense of the positions he has advocated. We can only guess, based on what he has done and where he has been,” an official said. “The Saudis have been very careful to cultivate him and bring him along.”
How the US under Trump runs its foreign policy is its own business. But when reckless, impulsive and confrontational actions, destabilising the world’s most volatile region, are the result, it’s a problem for everyone. That is what is happening now. As defence minister in 2015, Salman launched the military intervention in Yemen. Its aims were to defeat Shia Muslim Houthi rebels and reduce Iranian influence. It has failed miserably in both. What is has done is turn one of the world’s poorest countries into a killing ground, ravaged by violence, disease and malnutrition.
UN relief organisations warned last week that millions could perish. Save the Children said an estimated 130 Yemeni children are dying every day. More than 50,000 children are believed to have died this year alone – an horrific figure that, coming on the eve of World Children’s Day tomorrow, is deeply shaming.
As Clive Myrie’s graphic BBC television reports last week suggested, the disaster in Yemen is as unacceptable as it is avoidable. But Saudi actions, including alleged crimes against humanity, pass unchallenged by Kushner and a collusional Trump administration.
Visceral Saudi fear of its great regional rival, Iran, lies at the heart of Salman’s many foreign policy miscalculations and mistakes – the cause of growing alarm among western allies, oil buyers and arms suppliers. A furious row has erupted with Germany over Riyadh’s alleged role in forcing the resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister, Sa’ad Hariri, over his refusal to crack down on Iran-backed Hezbollah. Hariri, who his supporters claim was kidnapped by the Saudis, has now taken refuge in Paris.
Circumventing the White House’s silence on Lebanon, Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, warned last week the country must not become “a venue for proxy conflicts”. His implied criticism of Riyadh as well as Tehran was significant. France and Germany, mindful of the blockade against Qatar that Salman imposed earlier this year over its links to Tehran, have expressed similar concerns about a widening arc of instability. As Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minister, reportedly put it: “Another troublespot is the last thing people in the Middle East need now.”
Salman’s campaign of attrition in Yemen even provoked a mild rebuke from Britain’s foreign office last week, which called for “immediate access for commercial and humanitarian supplies”. This was unusual, given the British government’s habitual subservience to Riyadh. Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, may have ulterior motives. He is in deep trouble over his mishandling of the case of the wrongly imprisoned British-Iranian woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Johnson is due to visit Tehran soon. Perhaps he hopes to curry favour before he arrives.
The sclerotic House of Saud has been viewed historically in the west as a necessary if unattractive force for stability in the Middle East. The biggest criticisms concerned its undemocratic governance, its appalling record on human and civil rights and the ultra-conservative nature of the regime, notably its role in the propagation of Sunni fundamentalism and jihadist ideology. But Salman’s Saudi is increasingly viewed in quite a different light: as an unpredictable, dangerous loose cannon proficient at starting or fuelling conflicts it cannot finish. Its many failings now look less tolerable.
Saudi Arabia is under pressure not just from Iran’s ambitions but also from falling oil revenues, shrinking national wealth and mounting demands for reform.
Big changes are undoubtedly required – and in train. Salman’s foolish, headstrong behaviour, sanctioned by his unaccountable pal in the White House, risks it all.
This liberal self-righteous nervousness at the Trumpite fascist stridency, and pretence that the West has viewed Saudi with “distaste” – (that would be why the British Royal Family constantly visits then?) – misses out the equally sinister secret visits made by “discredited” Tory Minister Pritti Patel and her 12 - count them -twelve meetings with Zionist officials in August including the Zionist reactionary prime minister – all set up and coordinated by leading Tory Zionist fixer Lord Polak, part of the Jewish freemasonry intertwined with, and pulling strings in the British establishment.
The excuse that these were just “private meetings on a holiday” including one with the ultra-reactionary prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, – “as you do” – and followed up with two more in New York (holiday too?) is obviously so risible that it indicates either terminal stupidity or a cockiness founded on the conviction that two years of demented and nonsensical accusations of “anti-semitism” against all anti-Zionism has so cowed the “left” that any piece of bullshit can be got away with.
It actually throws further light on the unholy (as well as holy) alliance of forces now pushing this warmongering, the most astonishing part being the alignment of the Saudis with the Nazi-Zionist occupiers in Palestine - traditionally they were supposed funders of the dogged Palestinian revolt against the Zionist landtheft colonisers, for decades refusing even to recognise passports with Zionist visas stamped in them.
The international ripples and antagonism stretch far expressing some of the inter-imperialist conflicts just beneath the surface, and particularly that between the US and the EU, two of the great monopoly trading blocs which are lined up against each other in the increasingly desperate “free market”:
The Saudi foreign ministry said the government also handed Germany’s representative in Riyadh a protest note over what it said were “shameful” comments Gabriel made after a meeting with his Lebanese counterpart.
After a meeting in Berlin with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Gabriel told reporters that Europe “could not tolerate the adventurism that has spread there”. It was not clear from a Reuters television recording that the remark was targeted at Saudi Arabia.
“Such remarks provoke the surprise and disapproval of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which considers them as aimless and based on false information that would not help bring about stability in the region,” the Saudi ministry said.
The ministry later said on its Twitter account it had summoned the German ambassador in Riyadh and handed him “a protest memorandum over the shameful and unjustified remarks made by the German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.”
Hariri’s abrupt resignation has raised concern over Lebanon’s stability. He met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Saturday, several hours after he left Saudi Arabia. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said on Twitter Hariri had told him in a phone call from Paris he would be in Lebanon on Wednesday for Independence Day celebrations.
The German foreign ministry welcomed Hariri’s departure from Saudi Arabia for Paris and impending return to Lebanon.
“We are very concerned about regional stability and call on sides to reduce tensions,” the statement read.
Russia too, lined up with the Iran-Syria axis is also on the edge of this whirlpool.
But “reduced tensions” are the very last outcome really being sought by imperialism which wants and needs war, the only way to escape its crisis (and simultaneously German imperialism is also selling hundreds of millions of arms to Saudi!).
All kinds of further specific causes and analysis can follow and assorted “lefts” will undoubtedly be lining up to take sides.
But the key elements here are the defeats so far for imperialist skulduggery – including the setbacks for its Saudi stooges - and the underlying crisis of the entire system, eating away at its confidence.
Ironically, given the slick and superficial “all about oil” theories pumped out by the “left” when the Iraq and Afghanistan wars first erupted - pompously “explaining” only 1% of the real forces at work, distracting from the real crisis causes and used ever since to bolster their ever more convoluted conspiracy theories about “terrorism is really all run by the CIA” etc - this terrifying emerging conflict really is – about oil.
But it is not the hunt to secure ever more oil that was ever the issue – it is that like all commodities in a crash, there is far too much of it, leading to a total collapse of the oil price. An apparently disconnected story from faraway “peaceful” Scandinavia makes the point:
Unlike Britain, which squandered its North Sea oil and gas boom, Norway squirreled away its hydrocarbon tax receipts – and now has a $1tn sovereign wealth fund to show for it.
Now, the Norwegian central bank, which manages the fund, is proposing that it ditch the investments in the very industry the fund was built on.
In a letter to Norway’s finance ministry, Norges Bank wrote: “We conclude that the vulnerability of government wealth to a permanent drop in oil and gas prices will be reduced if the fund is not invested in oil and gas stocks.”
The recommendation rested “exclusively on financial arguments”, it added. Climate change and the environment did not even merit an aside – the advice is all about a fund manager maximising value for their client.
Oil prices have yo-yoed from below $30 a barrel in January to more than $60 now due to output curbs by the world’s biggest producers.
But some experts think that in the medium term it will be lower than in recent decades – Shell’s chief executive has warned of “lower forever” rather than BP’s “lower longer”. Dieter Helm, an influential energy economist, believes oil prices will carry on falling forever.
It might be tempting to write off the significance of the move as parochial and relevant only to Norway, which is particularly exposed to oil price falls.
But that is to miss the big picture. A $1tn fund has just decided that oil and gas is too risky to invest.
As activist group Share Action points out, (other) institutional investors are already withdrawing capital from oil and gas,
Quite where they think they will put the dosh to get a return when all investments face decline is whole story in itself (with consequences for all capitalism) but for the moment the Middle East impact is serious enough.
But returning to the Middle East, nowhere is more “about oil” than tribal/feudal Saudi Arabia and is the hollowing out of the price which has produced the sudden astonishing “liberal” upheavals as women are allowed to drive after decades of repression, the all powerful “religious police” are restrained, and dozens of utterly corrupt Princes and “royals” are detained in the Riyadh’s luxury hotels, – the world’s only “five star” prison - and told to give back decades of siphoned off $billions.
Saudi is increasingly close to state bankruptcy, now even part selling-off the “family silver” of the gigantic Aramco oil company, desperate to keep the lid on long festering internal discontent, previously kept at bay by swamping it with handouts.
Its concessions smell like those of the last Tsar in Russia before 1917, desperately proffering limited “democratic reform” to pretend “changes were coming”.
History knows how well that went, 100 years ago.
It is no coincidence that the Al-qaeda side of worldwide imperialist-hating jihadism (a primarily petty bourgeois driven movement i.e anti-feudal) began in Saudi – disgusted at the degeneracy and imperialist stooging of the “royalty”, and particularly after the first Gulf War establishment of “infidel” US military bases.
Saudi Arabia’s problem is America’s problem too.
Alongside the attack dog role played for Washington by the Zionist fascist smiting of all “upstart” Arab revolt, - and particularly its endless genocidal “punishment” of the long-suffering Palestinians for presuming to fight for their own land – Saudi Arabia has been the main instrument for pacifying the permanently brewing regional anti-imperialism, with a mixture of bribery, largesse and Islamic religious prestige through stewarding Mecca.
Most critically it helps keep the lid on next door Egypt, with subventions and investments and particularly at present propping up the General Sisi counter-revolutionary dictatorship.
But none of that can be afforded now.
And Saudi is reeling from the setbacks to its anti-Shia anti-Syrian nastiness.
Internal rebellion is explosively near the surface.
But if Saudi goes under, then so does Egypt.
With its 85 million population, millennium long culture and intellectualism, and a long post-war history of anti-imperialist revolt, Cairo is at the heart of the Arab world.
Any changes there have a shattering import for the entire region and would trigger huge rebellion throughout the Middle East and into North Africa too, and with potential influence worldwide.
As the 2011 Arab Spring made clear, the potential for mass revolution is just beneath the surface, and only the most brutal clampdown by the fascist Sisi regime, cold-bloodedly massacring thousands of civilians, and imposing draconian torture, death-sentence and domestic repression since 2013, has kept the population contained.
As the Sinai jihadist terrorism attacks into Cairo itself demonstrate, the rebellion has not gone away and there is much more hidden behind many front doors throughout the country.
Declaring that such revolt is “not communism” as the fake-“lefts” do, and therefore “reactionary” and to be “condemned” is both to miss the point and to end up on the wrong side, as in practice nearly all the “left” did against the Muslim Brotherhood when it was toppled in Cairo.
The Morsi government had been the temporary expression of a giant anti-imperialist movement.
As with all the confused Islamic struggle, no particular support needed to be offered; but recognising the importance of defeats for imperialism is crucial – however they come about.
Keeping the lid on the Arab Spring is the point of the Yemeni wars too, its sick depravity backed and armed by imperialism – partly for the money to be gained from lucrative arms sales of course but also for counter-revolutionary purposes.
Hence the murky goings on, from Washington and via the Jewish network in Britain, and the (not so) hidden support for this stepped up belligerence.
All kinds of detail remains to be explored as to how these dangerous war provocations might unfold, in the specific Saudi aspects and how the Arab World and the Middle East further afield will be dragged in; equally how it could entangle many others, like Turkey, Iran, Syria once more, and bigger players too, including Russia, Germany, France etc.
Britain and the US are already embroiled.
There is potential for a new war in Lebanon to engulf half the planet.
Overstatement?? Hysteria?? But this imperialist breakdown is deadly and intractable; as in 1914 and 1939 it can only reach total war disaster – if not now then at some point not far off and on a greater than ever scale.
Marxist-Leninist theory was mocked and belittled as “old hat” for years (unlike fresh new Chávez eclectic “21st century socialism” for example) before the crisis broke open in 2008 and such is the contempt for, and belittling of theory, that ever since it continues to be ignored despite being proven as the only understanding to have warned that Catastrophe was inevitable (and intractably continuing - not a “one-off” global meltdown).
The philistine rejection of the need for revolutionary theory (deeply embedded in a cynical and empirical British Labour movement) and disbelief that it could make any kind of difference, is still reinforced by the delusions of “recovery” pumped out by Labourism and the liberal economists, and the failure of the fake-“left” to challenge them philosophically (both on economics and in general).
But the most important lesson of all these dirty dealings and the deadly savagery of the near genocide being imposed on Yemen is the weakness it shows of the imperialist system
Far from being able to impose its will on the world, with newly minted “kill-them-all” Trumpite ruthlessness this desperate degeneracy hiding behind the Saudis to pursue its warmongering, reflects a system reeling from defeat; even the Yemeni Houthi struggle, triggered initially by the surge of the Arab Spring as the Yemenis fought to get imperialist stoogery off their backs, continues its fight.
And the bigger picture is of an imperialism reeling from failure to re-impose its world authority, first in Afghanistan and Iraq, then in the Middle East in general, and in suppressing the Arab Spring, its strategy all to pieces in the Syrian civil war and more brittlely desperate than ever.
But the bigger picture is what the working class does not get because of decades of deliberately fostered consumerist shallowness, philistinism and poisonous anti-communist swamping of all understanding with cynical “it all goes wrong anyway” and “what’s the point” defeatism.
Continuing fake-“left failure to draw revolutionary conclusions - and its resistance to the debate and polemical battles needed to build revolutionary understanding keeps the lid on too.
But Leninist understanding will not be suppressed forever and the revolutionary struggles that it will head are inexorably getting closer.
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Mugabe overturn a human tragedy but so far seems a sound response by Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF liberation movement to potential chaos.
To the dismay of the Western bourgeoisie, the coup-that-isn’t-a-coup which has militarily deposed long term Zimbabwe revolutionary leader Robert Mugabe, looks for the moment to have kept intact the rule of the Zanu-PF national liberation leadership.
The poisonous bourgeois media (none more biliously sour than the petty bourgeois liberalism of the Guardian) does not know if it should laugh or cry.
After 37 years the most personal of targets for their racist hatred and smarting defeated colonialist imperialist vengefulness, has been pushed aside, only to be replaced seemingly by another (just?) as “bad”.
The question now is whether the new leadership, under his long term former deputy and freedom fighter Emmerson Mnangagwa will take the this Third World country on a path which preserves and strengthens its anti-imperialism.
Or will it potentially open the door to the non-stop Western, and especially British, hate-filled counter-revolutionary skulduggery which has been trying to undermine and destroy this stubborn anti-colonialist regime for the last three decades (ever since it found out it could not buy off Mugabe (eventually) in the way other post-independence leaders have been “absorbed”)?
All kinds of mixed signals and the lack of a clear picture of the politics between the two Zanu-PF factions involved in events makes caution vital for any assessment, particularly given that neither side comes close to offering a world view, let alone something approaching a Marxist-Leninist perspective, to explain themselves, prepare future leaders or give a lead to the rest of the world working class.
That is the only solid scientific basis on which to grasp all events and even more so day by day as the world imperialist crisis is accelerating chaotic breakdown everywhere.
Lack of a wider view has always been a weakness in leaderships like Zanu-PF though until now not a fatal one, primarily because Mugabe’s well-sharpened anti-imperialist stubbornness – honed through ten years in Ian Smith’s fascist prisons and nearly a decade of armed bush fighting, – has been willing to give two fingers both to imperialist post-”independence” bribery, and to the vindictive bullying racist arrogance which has followed.
For his 37 years, whatever world media hate campaigns have been mounted, vicious strangling economic siege sanctions imposed and plots have been hatched – like the laughable MI6/CIA spawned Movement for Democratic Change petty bourgeois “opposition”, complete with assassination attempts – none have ever come near toppling this doggedness or the whole Zanu-PF movement supporting him.
To justify the coup, the story now being told by the newly installed Zanu faction and the Zimbabwe Defence Force which carried through the coup, is that the ageing Mugabe now 93 has lost his edge, and has succumbed effectively to a usurping group within Zanu-PF, lead by his current wife Grace; that those are “criminal elements” who have been seeking power and effectively hijacked his authority, not for the good of Zimbabwe’s people but for their own sake – a kleptocracy.
But while the flamboyant behaviour and apparently high spending of Grace Mugabe and her sons in particular seems to give credence to this, any effort to grasp what is really unfolding needs deeper thought.
Obviously the great deluge of Western allegations about supposed corruption, pocket lining and self-seeking needs to be taken not just with a pinch but a bucket full of disbelieving salt, on principle and in practice; such imperialist “facts” pour out of the intelligence agency disinformation departments to character assassinate and discredit all those who stand up to imperialism, and Mugabe more than most for having restored colonialist thieved farmland to the poor farmer population; for allying with the Kabila government in the Congo to resist plundering war invasion by Uganda and Rwanda, both stooges for imperialism; for scuppering the dirty dealing British/South African attempted coup in Equitorial Guinea (exposing its funding by Mark Thatcher and links to other sections of the corrupt and degenerate high British establishment) and for maintaining a revolutionary nationalist determination not to give in to Western pressure to allow corporate plunder of Zimbabwe (as in Kenya etc).
The confused events over ten days also unleashed the usual deluge of utterly lurid accusations, allegations, disinformation and Western liberal sanctimony about supposed “abuse of democracy” and “human rights infringements”, much of it poured onto Mugabe’s head for his alleged “mismanagement” of the economy and “corrupt patronage” etc etc all going back over fifteen years at least (which is when the land repossession of the colonially stolen “white farms” programme was in full swing - leaving the British ruling class smarting for revenge ever since).
Every dirty journalist trick in the book has been wheeled out over the alleged mega wealth holdings of the Mugabes for example, larded with hearsay phrases such as “it is rumoured that”, “it is alleged”,” it is said”, “reflecting a widespread belief”, “according to some estimates”, “is reported to have”, “opposition politicians have claimed” etc - (all from one Guardian story).
But discounting this vile Western poison still leaves a picture of an ageing leader increasingly disconnected from his own party, and needing to be “rescued” from an opportunist faction around him, the G40 group and what looks like some dirty dealing infighting.
A clear view has not been helped however by lack of any information about the political line of the G40 grouping, all condemned instead for “criminality”.
Digging down a little indicates this wing was the major upholder of “indigenisation” of the economy, seeking to impose a 49% maximum on external investment holdings.
Against this the Mnangagwa wing stands for a more open policy encouraging some privatisation and looser controls on external savings investments (particularly from the large diaspora of Zimbabweans who went abroad to find work).
That would give some relief to an economy brought to its knees by the vicious near-siege sanctions imposed (illegally and secretively) by Western imperialism. More open investment could see those lifted in part or wholly.
It would benefit most of all from major Chinese investments increasingly made into the African continent (and which have already helped sustain the economy).
But how risky is such investment? Western pressure has always tried to tie this to unacceptable political conditions and retreats on land questions for example.
It depends. Full workers states, let alone simply anti-imperialism, have used this policy to help accelerate development, including in the NEP under Lenin himself. The key is making sure to maintain overall political control – as the Chinese workers state does now (whether sufficiently firmly is another question).
It is not a coincidence that China backed the Zanu side in the liberation wars, that many of its fighters had training there, and that the army chief General Constantino Chiwenga who has maintained close links ever since, flew there just days before the coup.
Beijing was “not involved” it says but it clearly did not disapprove.
And it is no coincidence either that Chinese (revisionist) political influence lies behind Mnangagwa’s policy as even the bourgeois press indicates:
It is a connection that may help him bring in the loans and foreign investment Zimbabwe so badly needs, but has also sparked worries that he could look to Beijing for a new political model for his country, seeking to mix economic freedom with tighter political control.
Or as a Marxist might say, that would alleviate worries that the coup represents a giving way in some form to imperialist pressure.
Mugabe’s form in resisting imperialism, and a history of skulduggery against him, fairly raises qualms that the overturn is yet another attempt by imperialism to worm its way into sabotaging Zimbabwean resolve, and pre-event knowledge of the coup and the response to it internationally raise concerns; or rather, like the Dog that didn’t bark in the night, the lack of response by an imperialism that would promptly have decried such a coup if had been obviously revolutionary communist eg. Pre-coup reports that Mnangagwa was the “favoured choice by the international community (read - Western imperialism) to succeed Mugabe”, and the declarations by reactionary Africa Minister Rory Stewart, – fresh from calling for all ISIS returnees to be “killed outright” – that Britain “can work with the new government” don’t help.
Despite revisionist influenced calls to “revitalise democracy”, Zanu reflects a confidence that it is going to remain in charge. But a better grip on capitalist crisis would not come amiss. ST
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