Archive for May, 2010

Israel, Gaza and a joke called ‘International Law’

May 30, 2010

The state of Israel is preparing its next crime, announcing it in  broad daylight.  Victims of this crime will be – agian – the people living ont h the Gaza strip, and other people trying to help the Gaza Palestinian population. A whole assortment of gangster states, better known as ‘the international community’, basically looks the other way while the crime is in preparation.

What am I talking about? A flottilla of boats, shipped with humanitarian aid, is preparing to sail to Gaza to help the Palestinian population there. The Gaza Palestinians are suffering from an Israeli blockade that brings those people permanently close to starvation. That, of course, is a crime in itself, juist as the so-called war that Israel fought against Gaza, December 2008-January 2009 – basically, a one-sided massacre – was a crime.

The aid flottilla wil try to bring items like wheelchairs and  systems for water purification to Gaza. Israel will have none of that, however. It threatens to block the flottilla, it has warships ready for that job. That is – after the massacre, after the ongoing blockade – the third crime against the Gaza population. The whole Israeli attitude is despicable and cries out for the strongest condemnation. The fact that Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a movement that, as such, does not deserve support, does not change the need of this condemnation. The fact that Israel claims that both itself and Egypt have offered to bring in the aid, does not change things. You hardly tcan rust wolves when they start promising to feed the sheep they have been hunting.

What reasons does Israel give for preventing the aid flottilla? According to Israel, this is part of a “provocation intended to delegitimise Israel”. Well, a state occupying, massacring and staring a civilian population badly needs as much “delegitimation” it can possibly get. And if Israel does not want to be ‘provoked”‘ it better stop its nmurderous blockade of Gaza itself.

There is another reason Israel ggives for blocking the aid convoy. Aljazeera: “It asserted that the flottilla would be braking international law by landing in Gaza”. It takes one’s breath away, doesn’t it? The state of Israel is ignoring UN resolution after UN resolution aginst the occupation of Palestinian lands. The state of Israel ignores international regulations and treaties against, for instance, possession of nuclear weapons. The state of Israel would not recognise ‘International Law’ if it bumped right into it. The whole thing can only provoke hollow laughter. Even so, Israel is now welcome as a member of an influentual club of rich and powerful countries: the OECD. Why not indeed?  They are not the only occupying state there.

But in the meantime, Israel is about to commit its next crime. The world is watching. So are the governments, those other upholders of  ‘International Law’ besides Israel itself. And they are doing, in essence, nothing. They are not even seriously objecting to this Israeli crime. So much for ‘International Law’.

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Netanyahu, accidental truth-teller

May 24, 2010

Sometimes, even very disagreeable people speak the truth. No, they don’t do that on purpose: I will not hold them responsible for it. But yes, even evil leaders of horrible states (as if there are states that are not horrible, but let’s not digress now…), come close to truth-telling. A case in point is Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel.

What truthful thing did he say? This: “The greatest thing mankind faces is a radical regime, without limits to its cruelty.” Well, yes. One might argue about even bigger threats to humanity – human-induced climate disaster, for instance. However, Netanyahu is not wrong in saying that states led by extremists and religious fanatics and armed with neclear weapons are very, very dangerous. States like, for instance, the United States under people like Reagan and Bush.

Which state does he mean himself? Well, Iran, of course. No matter that there is not any proof that Iran is even trying to develop nuclear weapons. No matter that everyone can see that, in case Iran had nuclear weapons, it could not fruitfully use them unless it wanted toe invite immediate and total destruction through US or Israeli action. Whatever the proven facts, Iran is the big radical evil enemy, as far is the state of Israel and its leaders are concerned.

Iran does not quite fit the bill, as we can see. There is a state, rather close to where Netanyahu lives, that does fit the bill. That state is called Israel, with Netanyahu as prime minister. Its limitless cruelty has been on discpay during the murderous attack on Gaza, at the end 2008 and the beginning of 2009. Around 1,400 Palestinian deaths, many of them civilians. Number of Israeli victims: 13. Its cruelty continues, in the form of a blockade of Gaza, imposing desperate poverty and worse on the population there.

And yes, Israel is led by radicals – right wing radicals, that is. The state, founded on occupation of Palestine, ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and more occupation, seeks part of its legitimacy ina nationalism that accepts no compromise, and an interpertation of Judaism that does not accept limits on what its holy state is allowed to do. Israel is a radical state, led by nationalist and religious extremists. And it is based on open discrimination along ethnic/religious lines. Jews are worth more than Palestinians, according to Israeli law and governance. Apartheid is a fitting label for the way Israeli society is organised and ruled.

A radical regime, limitless cruelty … and nuclear weapons as well. For Ir srael has themm, even if it never ackowledged their existence. However, documentation has come to light that proves their existence. Israel has in the past offered nuclear warheads to … South Africa, that other apartheid state. The deal was made by South African  and prime minister Vorster and Shimon Peres, who was minister of defence in that year, 1975. One state behaving with exemplary racist cruelty helping another state behaving with similar racist cruelty – helping that state in getting weapons of mass destruction. Shimon Peres, who is in denial about the deal, is president of Israel at the moment.

Fortunately, more and pore people are no longer accepting Israeli excuses for their despicable behaviour. Still, double standards for Israeli and Palestinian violence have not died. Here is the BBC, in a recent headline: “Israeli army kills infiltrators from Gaza.”  Two men, apparently sent by Hamas inside the borders of Israel, werre killed by Israeli soldiers.

Now, you can think all kinds of things abvout the events themselves. My rejection of the state of Israel does not imply any support for Hamas, who has its own authoritarian form of rule, much weaker that Israel, but certainly no beacon of revolutionary hope (yes, I changed my mind on that, as readers of my Dutch-language blog may notice).

But notice the words the BBC uses! Israel has a ‘military’ that the government sends across borders as it sees fit; Hamas, however, sends ‘infiltrators’. Question: how can you be an infiltrator when you go from one part of the country you considers yours, to another part of that same country? From the indirectly occupied bit of Palestine called ‘Gaza’ to the directly occupied bit calles ‘Israel’? Should’n we call all Israeli soldiers, on whatever part of historic Palestine they are, ‘infiltrators’?

Strike in Yemen should cheer us up

May 16, 2010

Capitalist society is torn apart in two ways. One offers despair; the other may offer a way out. One way leads to a seemingly endless series of wars.  ‘Seemingly ‘, because, with all the high-tech-weaponry around, sooner or later humanity might get utterly exterminated through military violence, in which case the series of wars does come to an end. The other way puts class against class, those down below against those at the top. This may lead to revolution, the end of capitalism, liberation from wage slavery, from exploitation, the end of capital and the state.

The two tendencies play themselves out all around the globe. Competition drives segments of the ruling class into rivalry, spilling over into wars. That is the root cause of the first tendency. But competition also leads capitalists to put pressure upon workers, to exploit them even more in order to remain, uh, competitive 🙂 This pushes workers towards self-defence, towards resistance. This is the root cause of the second tendency.

We are in a race between these two tendencies. Will wars – and other destructive tendencies rooted in competitive exploitation – dominate? or will workers find and use their collective strength in time to themselves and thereby liberate humanity? To be free, or not to be at all? That – with due respect to Shakespeare – is the question.

These two tendencies are both at work all over the world. In countries like Greece, the tendency of hope, of workers against capitalists and state – dominates. That does nog mean that revolution is at the point of succeeding. But it does mean that the battle lines are those indicating revolution as possibility. We see insurgent workers and other downtrodden layers of the population, striking, demonstrating, rioting against the government, the banks, the police. Class against class, the tendency of hope. But the other tendency is there as well: the Greek government who translates the crisis as a national one: international financial institutions   ant EU governments on one side, the whole of the Greek population on the other. A shallow anti-imperialism, not without influence amongst left-wing parties which have influence among the working class as well.

Other parts of the world are, sadly, dominated by the other, dangerous, destructive, tendency. A case in point is the Middle East region. Here, we see rivalries between segments of the ruling classes, mobilising peasants, workers, the poor against other peasants, workers and the poor, by means of religious, nationalist, ethnic and/ or regionalist themes. We have seen Iraqi society torn apart in that way. First, an American-British invasion and occupation. Then through classic divide-and-rule policies, Shiite elites, often under cover of the occupation,  encouraging oppressive policies against Sunni population, Sunni leaders encouraging a resistance against both the occupation and against the Shia community. Western occupation opened the door to communal slaughter. The violence has abated in recent years. In recent months, however, we see a new wave of bombings and bloodshed.

Other countries see the same dynamics. There is, for example, Yemen. A very poor country, formerly two countries that became one through a unification process in 1990. Regional rivalry remains, however. People in the south complain that most power is reserved for people in the North. There is an armed resistance in operation, based on this kind of feelings. Again, poor people kill and die for the ambitions of the powerful. Again, the destructive war-tendency in full bloom.

But even in countries full of despair, like Iraq, like Yemen, the other tendency now and then raises its head. There is a workers’ movement in Iraq, for instance with collective action in the oil industry – sometimes, as in April 2009,  successfully. In Yemen, there is workers’ struggle as well. The GLU trade union federation, in which 520.000 empluyees are organised, is  holding strike action, in the form of escalating general strikes: one hour yesterday and today, two hours the next to days, three hours the day after that… until the strike is complete on May 24. Emergency services in, for instance, water supply and health, are exempt from the strike.

The union federation demands higher wages. “Following  the sharp rise in prices and cost of living that has been afflicting Yemeni citizens in the last two years, GLU demands a rise in wages and salaries and the establishment of a minimum wage of at least 300 dollars as well as recognition of employees’ rights for workers in the cleaning sector.”  This is the kind of news that cheers me up, as it hopefully cheers you up as well.

Britain after elections: governmental speculations makes little sense

May 10, 2010

The British elections have led to a situation of political confusion. No party got a working majority. Labour did better than expected: many working  class people apparently feared a Tory majority and the ferocious cuts that they are threatening to impose. The expected Tory majority did not materialise. The Liberal Democrats won votes, but not nearly as many seats. Rarely was the contradiction between the number of votes for the parties and the numbers of seats more blatant. First-past-the-post distorts the electoral picture and adds to the already valid sense that elections offer only a distorted way to express what policies people support.

A number of comments from the Trotskyist left  deserve to be mentioned. Lenin’s Tomb has several pieces. One of them discusses the question: what governmental combination is the best for the working class and the left? A conservative-Liberal coalition? A conservative minority government? Both are made up of the biggest fans of savage cuts. Both mean that the open class enemy is in the giovernmental saddle. The article tries to convince the readers that a Labour-Liberal coalition is to be preferred. Such a government wil also go for cuts – but its mandate rests on people voting Labour because the fear the even more vicious Tory policies. That may weaken the government, which would bea positive thing for those who want to resist the austerity policies about to be imposed. The contradiction between a totally bourgeois Labour leadership and its working class base – also through the union link that still connects workers to Labour – makes Labour a weaker opponent for a resisting working class.

Socialist Resistance also prefers a Liberal-Labour coalition. It explains that the Liberals would harm not only the working class but their own prospects, if they would jopin the Tories in government. Supporting hated Tory policies would also hurt themselves, and the Tories would not be above promising some deal on proportional representation – an issue that is pushed by the LibDems – and then cynically breaking their promise. Much better for the LibDems to support Labour, with which party they have a lot of common ground. That might also a deal on PR possible, which would make it much harder for the Tory party to come back in government, als long as they do not reach the 50 percent of the vote.

Socialist Resistance adds “two key conditions” for such a coalition to “play any kind of progressive role”: serious reform of the electoral system in the direction of PR; and “an abandonment of the cuts agenda as an approach on the ecopnomic crisis and its replacement by an agenda of recovery through planned investment in green jobs.” In other wordds: Socialist resistance calss an openly pro-capitalist, neoliberal government – both Labour an the LibDems accept the neoliberal framework – to act as a serious radical social-democratic government. One might as well ask foxes to stop chasing rabbits.

But there is more to be said about the speculations on the Trotskyist left about which government is more favorable for our side, the working class side. The first thing is: you never know, you know. The idea th that a left-of-center government is a weaker opponent for us than a right wing government may be true. Then again, it may not. I remember the right wing electoral victory in France, 1995. Within a year, the new government overplayed its hand and had to retreat in the face of mass strikes of very serious proportions.

Right wing govermnents are more openly our enemy that left-wing governments. At the same time, they are more easily recognised as outrr enemy. Sometimes, left wing governments have less trouble in pushing cuts, because they can rely on forces with influence among workers – unions, especially their leaderships – to push their agenda. I would NOT prefer, as a rule, one type of government above the other. They are all enemies.

There is one more thing: specualation on what government is more or less favorable are rather futile. Giving electoral advice at least has the merit of recommendingh a certain copurse of action. Governmental speculation does not even doe that. There is, in essence, nothing that people in Britain can do to bring about one or another government coalition. Too much speculation distracts energies from the real task: how to counter the austerity offensive, no matter from which government the attack is about to come?

Remembering the Kent State killings

May 4, 2010

On May 4, exactly 40 years ago today,  soldiers of the National Guard shot and killed  four students protesting the invasion of Cambodia. With that invasion, president Nixon escalated the Vietnam War. That was on April 30.

After that invasion, protests broke out immediately. Within hours, there were people protesting on the streets. The days and weeks after that saw 4 million people in action. Universities and colleges closed down because of student strike action. High school kids protested.

Students revolted on Kent State University, Ohio. Activists burned down a recruiting centre on campus. The National Guard occupied the university. Students assembled to protest. Their number was around 4,000. Some threw rocks, some threw molotov cocktails. The days of purely peaceful protests were – after a war that dragged on and on and had already cost hundresds of thousands of Vietnamese lives, and tens of thousands of American lives as well – were gone.

Then, National Guardsman opened fire on the crowd. From a distance,  67 bullets  were fired. Four students died, two of them, on their way to class, were not even part of the protests. In the days after thisese shootings, more people got killed. On May 14, two protesters were shot dead by National Guards on Jackson State University, Mississippi. These state killings got much less publicity than theose on Kent State. The victims on Kent, you see, were white. The victims on Jackson State were black.

For days and weeks, revolt rumbled through the United States. Anger against the escalation f the war combined with anger because of the state killings. Within months, president Nixon announced that the invasion of Cambodia would end. The Vietnam war, however, dragged  on for a number of years. We should not forget the people who were murdered by the U.S. state in its effort to keep that war going against the will of a large part of the U.S population.

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