Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Uphill Battle of the Afghan Resistance

A CP news feed printed in the Jan18-20 weekend edition of Metro reports of two Afghan farmers being shot by Canadian gunfire a few days before christmas last year. The report states "A 12-year-old boy said he was there when soldiers - whom he insisted were Canadian because he recognized their vehicles - shot and killed his father and seven-year-old brother while they tended crops north of Kandahar City." That is the unfortunate reality of war-ravaged Afghanistan to which the role of the Canadian military is contributing. This particular story is a perfect example of just how difficult and almost impossible it is for conventional armies to defeat guerrilla warfare and civilian militas, something NATO and U.S forces are obviously having a hard time with, which often results in the tragic deaths of innocent civilians.

Mainstream media reports claim that the ISAF is gaining ground and controls most provinces, but 2007 was the bloodiest year since the 2001 invasion, and independent research groups claim that Taliban presence still dominates the majority of the country's provinces. A November 2007 report by the Senlis Council (Stumbling Into Chaos: Afghanistan on the Brink) states that "The Taliban has proven itself to be a truly resurgent force. Its ability to establish a presence throughout the country is now proven beyond doubt; research undertaken by Senlis Afghanistan indicates that 54% of Afghanistan's landmass hosts a permanent Taliban presence, primarily in southern Afghanistan, and is subject to frequent hostile activity by the insurgency. The insurgency now controls vast swaths of unchallenged territory including rural areas, some district centres, and important road arteries. The Taliban are the de facto governing authority in significant portions of territory in the south, and are starting to control parts of the local economy and key infrastructure such as roads and energy supply. The insurgency also exercises a significant amount of psychological control, gaining more and more political legitimacy in the minds of the Afghan people who have a long history of shifting alliances and regime change." The fact that Taliban support is growing and that the civilian population is increasingly involved in the Afghan Resistance to U.S/NATO Imperialism is a clear indication that the majority of Afghans want the ISAF to leave their country. The occupation's persistence is a tyrannical violation of the Afghan people's right to self-determination.

Civilian opposition and involvement also higlights how Afghanistan, much like Iraq, is now more and more becoming an unwinnable war. An Al-Qaeda strategist, Ayman al-Zawahiri, stated in 2001 "The leadership made a decision to dismantle the Taliban and integrate into the Afghan society once again. This move will enable it to return in seven years, in harmony with a well examined plan to defeat the Americans and their plans." This could be an indication as to why the Taliban managed to come on so strongly in 2007. And even if U.S/NATO forces were to somehow gain the upper-hand, the militias always have that option open to them, to scatter back into the civilian population and simply play the waiting game. The Taliban is not going anywhere, they are at home in their own country, time is on their side, but the imperialists at some point will have to go back home.

Another huge problem for U.S/NATO forces is the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the Achilles' heel of the so-called war on terror, which are completely controlled by and have served as a base for the Taliban divisions of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and all sorts of other insurgent activity, with an Al-Qaeda presence. Again the Senlis report states: "Ever since their egress from Afghanistan in November 2001, the Taliban’s Command and Control structures have re-established themselves in Quetta, Pakistan, directing insurgency propaganda and activities from a safe haven just 60 kilometres from the border with Afghanistan. Furthermore, the North West Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas have become a training ground for an array of actors intent upon driving NATO forces from Afghanistan. Bolstered by support from elements of Pakistan’s overbearing military establishment, the Taliban have established firm roots within these regions. Parts of Waziristan in NWFP are now controlled by militant islamists..." So again the situation simply amounts to a waiting game for the Taliban. Neither Pakistan's military nor the imperialist forces in Afghanistan have taken the initiative to do anything about the NWFP and FATA; in any case, even if they wanted to they would be unable to do so.

It was revealed last week that British diplomat Paddy Ashdown will become the United Nation's new super-envoy to Afghanistan. In a response of desperation to the impossible situation of Afghanistan, the UN thinks that added bureaucracy will somehow provide the solution to their problems. So typically egocentric American isn't it, to use the word super to refer to the chief executive of a major imperialist intervention. But there is reason to believe that Mr.Ashdown will take a different approach to NATO's failure in Afghanistan. He is not a typical politician and is in much better touch with the realities and nuances of a military intervention than anyone else involved. He acknowledges "that Afghanistan has become a disorganized disaster, that we are repeating the worst mistakes of the Balkan Wars, that we are on the verge of a loss that would be even more dire than the West's defeat in Iraq." He also openly admits that there is more to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan than just the war on terror: "Our failure relies on the fact that we believe, for some bizarre reason, that we have such a unique system of government in our own countries - by the way, not a view shared by many of our citizens - that we believe we have a right to impose it lock, stock, and barrel, along with the values and everything that goes along with it, on other countries with the use of B-52s, tanks and rifles." What is manifest through these wars is the imperialists' distorted, contradictory theory of democracy, the self-righteous assumption that western-style "democracy" is the envy of all nations.

Mr.Ashdown says that these nations before being able to embrace any sort of democracy are in need of something far more basic; "Look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs. They want security. Actually, I think democracy is what people choose when they have enough prosperity that they want a system of government that will protect it. The big thing about democracy is not that its efficient, but that its the best means of protecting what you have." In other words, Afghans at the moment are worried first and foremost about surviving, not about what sort of government is best for them; a country cannot prosper when it is consumed by war. The Senlis Council report puts it this way: "Living conditions in Afghanistan, particularly in the south, remain appalling. Overall health indicators for women and children are at exceptionally low levels, with only two countries having worse child mortality rates than Afghanistan. Access to healthcare, education and other basic services is dramatically hindered by the lack of essential infrastructure. Today, the majority of the Afghan population is malnourished and lacks essential access to safe drinking water." The result so far of the more than six year military occupation is that unemloyment in Afghanistan is over 80%, only 13.5% of Afghans have a stable income, and 48.8% of families have at least one child that works. Afghanistan has the lowest per capita income in the world. The U.S/NATO forces try to legitimize the occupation on the grounds that, by rescuing them from the inhumane customs of the Taliban, they are vastly improving conditions for women. Yet, one of five women dies of pregnancy related causes every thirty minutes in Afghanistan. Only 13% of Afghans have access to safe drinking water. In 2004, three years into the occupation, less than 40% of Afghans had access to basic healthcare. There is only one doctor for every 50,000 people. A war-torn reality renders impossible the capacity for stability and human prosperity.

In essence, democracy is the freedom to choose, so a military intervention to impose it is a complete paradox. I do not condone terrorism or some of the brutal religious practices of the Taliban, but I categorically state that the war on "terror" is primarily just a convenient pretext for ruling class ambitions. The culture crusade of neo-democracy to pacify the resisters, and forceful neo-liberalism to produce the conquest of capitalist globalization. The resistance in Afghanistan and internationally must consolidate its strength and solidarity in demanding with a loud voice that imperialism grant humanity to the Afghan people immediately.

U.S/NATO Forces Out of Afghanistan Now!
Self-Determination for All Oppressed Nations!

Letter to the Editor submitted to The Globe And Mail (Those Stumblimg Strongmen - Jan.19)

Pinochet's Chile

I occassionally disagree with what is printed in The Globe And Mail, but I am very rarely offended by it. To give any sort of credit to Pinochet's brutal dictatorship in the 70s,80s, however, struck a nerve. Your article on democracy and dictatorship (Those Stumbling Strongmen - Jan.19) claimed that "Chile's Augusto Pinochet pushed through a successful program of free-market economic reform". Lets have a quick look at what the policies and results of this "successful program of free-market economic reform" consisted of. State spending was cut 20 to 25 %, capital markets deregulated, over four hundred state industries were privatized and sold off in an astonishing transfer of wealth to the private sector, multinationals were given the right to repatriate 100 % of their profits, and the public pension fund and healthcare were privatized. As a result of these policies GNP plunged 13 %, purchasing power broke down to 40 % of its 1970 level, GDP fell 15 %, the private debt rose from $2 billion in 1978 to over $14 billion in 1982, and the Central Bank lost 45 % of its reserves. Bankruptcies tripled all around the country, and thousands of government workers were layed off as skyrocketing unemployment soared to 30 % spreading accross the board among chile's poor and working class. That quite simply amounts to a program of economic reform that just cannot be defined as successful. In fact, so brutal were Pinochet's policies, that only the killings and disappearances of tens of thousands made possible the forceful implementation of Friedman's economic injustice. But even if we cast aside the killings, torture, hunger, and political repression that characterized the years of the dictatorship, Pinochet's reforms, nonetheless, led to the economic ruin that devastated Chile in 1982. So next time before making such a distasteful, careless, and unenlightened statement on such a delicate issue, perhaps the information presented should be more thoroughly examined.

Julien Lalonde, Toronto

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Whims of Multinationals, The Distress of the Working Class

As capitalist globalization is mushrooming throughout the world, its effects are also apparent, and being felt in Canada. The most frequent victims of this system's erratic instability are the young, the poor, and the working class. Canada is a country rich in natural resources, a haven for multinationals, but it is also a rich country with expensive labour and energy costs. And, although it is rich in natural resources, it is reliant on mainly oil, natural gas, lumber, and minerals. When so many people are reliant on one industry, and corporations because of unfavourable economic conditions decide to move camp and set up in other more cost-efficient countries, the social consequences for many working class people can be dire.

In the small community of Dalhousie in New-Brunswick, a paper mill which has generated the livelihood of the town's majority for decades, is about to be shutdown by AbitibiBowater(AB), a siginificant player in the North American forest products industry. The announcement comes after Abitibi-Consolidated and Bowater Incorporated have recently merged to form the new company. Now as a result of big business decisions, and in the name of cost-efficiency and maximizing profits, the working class people of New-Brunswick dependent on the forestry sector will take a hard hit, as AB moves some of its Canadian operations to be relocated elsewhere. This story came out in a Dec.22 article of last year in The Globe and Mail. Telling of how difficult the situation truly will be for the small community, Dalhousie will loose $2 Million in taxes paid by the paper mill, a figure which accounts for almost one third of the city's budget. The article also poitns out that "there will be less wealth circulating to support local businesses and real estate values are expected to take a hit." So essentially the people of this community will loose everything all at once; many of them will loose their jobs directly, others will loose their businesses as a result of the damaged economy, and even if they wish to sell their homes and start over elsewhere, it will be very difficult for them to do so with very little money, because even if they are lucky enough to find buyers who are looking for ghost town real estate, the value of their homes will already have fallen drastically.

In response to community concerns, AB officials have said they will help find a buyer for the building, but that they refuse to sell to a competitor, and that they intend on removing some of the paper-making equipment. But Dalhousie's residents are aware that AB's malicious intentions of removing machinery are illegal if the workers are not sufficiently compensated for their losses. In many situations in Argentina during the 2001 economic crash, factory-owning multinational investors were closing factories and disappearing overnight, in most cases owing large sums of money to their workers. In some cases, owners claiming the factories were non-profitable even managed to extract government subsidies in order to pay workers, only to keep the money for themselves, and to sell off the factories' supplies and machinery after vanishing. Argentinian workers began obtaining government issued licences to inspect the factories in order to make sure nothing had been removed from inside, and if they found any of the equipment missing then had a case to eventually occupy and run the factories themselves. Many of them did so by these legal channels, others did so "illegally", nationalizing their factories or forming worker cooperatives, making their workplaces productive and profitable once again. I'm not sure how much the workers of the Dalhousie paper mill know about the Movement of Occupied Factories in Argentina, but they are seemingly militant union workers who have a good level of awareness about the injustice being commited them. One of the mills' union leaders told The Globe and Mail, "I know the people in this mill and they'll have people at every gate....And believe you me they'll make sure nothing moves out of the doors."

In a similar closure in New-Brunswick, in the small city of Miramichi, a Finnish company UMP-Kymenne closed down the city's facility only to invest in overseas mills to exploit Russia's forests, effectively putting 600 people out of work. It is estimated that the forestry sector in New-Brunswick alone has discharged 5,000 workers in the past few years. ABs announcement in December has already affected 3,600 workers, and they may still announce a second round of closures as early as April or May of this year.

In order to water down the grave magnitude of this situation which is becoming an issue in other parts of Canada as well, the Harper government announced on Jan.10th a $1 billion trust fund to offer one-time assistance to communities in need. But if multinationals weren't allowed to operate with such impunity, this sort of thing wouldn't happen in the first place. The $1 billion relief being offered is only a quick fix that does not remedy the social and financial instability of wild west capitalism.

Capitalism is an economic and social system that is inherently volatile and unreliable. Capitalist governments have no control over the security and welfare of their own people. The substance which holds capitalism together is based on movements, on change, on ups and downs, on booms and recessions, and its profits are made on the nature of this instability. Capitalism is big, intimidating, and extravagant, yet it is held up by a dissproportionate, top-heavy, frail, hollow structure. It is like an immense, glamorous palace made entirely out of delicate crystal, or a vulnerable castle of cards. Governments are there only to preside over the spending of tax dollars which go one of either two directions, public or private. When national money goes into public projects, it is an investment to create its own institutions, to construct human capital for its people. When public wealth goes into private hands, it is wasted, it is wealth that is leaving the country, wealth that will never be retrieved. Capitalist governments are there only to create empty spaces for the corporations to fill. When governments privatize hospitals, or sacrifice public schools to the charter system for example, they are simply opening up new markets for large private companies or corporations, facilitating the dominance of multinationals. The objective is for the working class to possess only the bear minimum amount of wealth, just enough to keep them alive and the capitalist machinery functional.

A nationalized economy on the other hand, with consolidated central planning, provides economic, and thus social stability. We need to build our own system where the economy is managed and controlled by us, for our interests. Che Guevara wrote that economic planning should be seen as humanity's first chance to reign over economic forces. Carlos Tablada, a Cuban economist, in continuation of Che's theory on political-economy wrote that "the planned economy becomes the instrument by which men can know reality and make decisions about it, thereby creating and shaping both their present and their future." The idea that the economy is successful only insofar as it serves as a tool to shape the prosperity and advancement of humanity. So to the mill workers of Dalhousie, and to the poor and working class people all across the world, we stress that their self-determination will not be attained until "man ceases to be the slave and instrument of his environment and becomes an architect of his own destiny."

Workers of the World Unite for Economic Independence!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Ludicrous Slander of the Empire

To those who won't stop ranting about Hugo Chavez's alleged dictatorial aspirations, perhaps its time you start observing the process a little more closely. Everything Hugo Chavez has done since he was democratically chosen by a passionate electorate in 1998 has always been fully democratic and constitutional. Since Hugo Chavez lost the referendum on December 2nd of last year by a margin of 0.7 % only because there was an abstention rate of 45 % of the electorate, of which the overwhelming majority were supporters of the Bolivarian Revolution, the opposition and hostile reactionary governments and media have clamoured that the Revolution is dead. The referendum failed only because the PSUV and the Revolutions' supporters took victory for granted, and didn't sufficiently mobilize the rank and file. When the next referendum arrives by alternate channels, the Revolution will not make the same mistakes, and it will continue moving toward the full construction of Socialist Venezuela.

Since the MVR's (Movimiento Quinta Republica) victory in 1998, the Bolivarian Revolution has won no less than 12 electoral processes, elections and referenda. Hugo Chavez's "crime" is his aspiration to be president "indefinately". However, he made this proposal to the Venezuelan people through a referendum, and gallantly conceded the 0.7 % defeat. The most siginificant factor in all this, is that everything in Venezuela is decided either through elections, referendum, or through direct, grassroots, participatory democracy in collaboration with the people's communal councils, which is not the case in the Western "democracies" who slander the Bolivarian process. If Hugo Chavez was in fact a strong-arm, autocratic dictator, he would have simply rigged the referendum, which of course he did not; instead he embraced the setback as a shining illustration of Venezuela's healthy and exemplary democracy. I could go on, but I think thats enough.

I call on all the the juvenile, one-dimensional reactionaries to please, please, stop singing the same old hollow song! If you insist on bringing slander against the Bolivarin Revolution, I challenge you to try and find something substantial and legitimate.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Imperialists Are Insatiable

On December 14th, 2007, Brigadier-General Andre Deschamps of the Canadian forces released an exaggerated affidavit in response to an injunction request by Amnesty International and the British-Columbia Civil Liberties Association to ban detainee-transfer to Afghan prisons because of the risk of torture or abuse. A very legitimate request considering our Canadian soldiers are members of a military force led by top General Rick Hillier, who sees Afghans as "detestable scumbags and murderers". Given the type of men who lead the Canadian military, is it even reasonable to think our troops give any consideration to the fate of the detainees after they've been transfered? In the affidavit Gen. Deschamps makes fatalist claims that if the federal court rules in favour of the injunction, the combat portion of Canada's mission will be lost. But the general goes even further by claiming the injunction would also force Canadian troops to halt the medical treatment of Afghan children, to cancel the inspections of Afghan prisons, and to cease the training of the Afghan forces and police. Of course the Harper government backs Gen. Deschamps' affidavit as part of their push against the injunction, proof that the Canadian government desperately wants to extend the war drive in Afghanistan. The Republicans as well are eager to maintain a troop presence in Afghanistan; there is even talk of a 3000 troop increase of American Marines to counter the projected Taliban offensive in the spring. Along for the ride with the Canadian and American imperialists are the other NATO military contributors to Afghanistan, all seek to keep ISAF and the occupation alive as long as possible.

In Iraq, with no end to the war in sight, violence seems to have stagnated for the time being, but it will flare up again. The Americans are arming Sunnis and tribal militias in a country with a weak, divided, and incompetent Shia-dominated government, which has failed miserably at reaching any sort of consensus with the rest of Iraq's political players on sharing power and oil. The obvious consequence of this glaring mismanagement will see the American's newly armed "allies" turn on the Shia government as soon as the Yankee troops leave the country.

In Northern Kurdistan, the first region where the dust has settled, the only region in Iraq with relative peace and human prosperity, the Kurds slowly have been re-establishing themselves. The oil finally has been flowing consistently. As a result of this, the Americans want a piece, and so 100,000 Turkish troops have gathered at the Iraqi Border, and the U.S. has approved air strikes on kurdistan. On Dec.16 of last year, about three weeks ago, fifty Turkish warplanes bombed ten Kurdish villages in Northern Iraq, killing a few civilians and wounding eight more.

Meanwhile Israel is proceeding with hypocrisy; they continue to kill Palestinians with bombs over Gaza, while ongoing peace talks are expected to progress. Since Hamas' takeover of Gaza in June, Israel has systematically cut the flow of cash, electricity, and food. It is estimated that 80 % of Gazans rely on the World Food Program. Even the normally silent International Committee of the Red Cross spoke out in a statement released recently, essentially condemning Israel's policy on Gaza as a reprehensible crime against humanity, saying that Palestinians "are prevented from doing what makes up the daily fabric of most people's existence", and that "The Palestinian territories face a deep human crisis, where millions of people are denied their human dignity. Not once in a while, but every day." Is it because they suffered through the holocaust that the international community stands by and does nothing while Israel decimates a people with impunity? After all it wasn't Palestinians who killed six million Jews, but what the Zionists are doing to Gaza and to the Palestinians is beginning to resemble genocide.

In Afghanistan, 2007 was the bloodiest year since the invasion in 2001 with an all around rise in violence; a peak in the number of suicide bombings, and a 20% increase of attacks by the Taliban as their resistance has spread to much of the country. More than six years on, the possibility of winning the war looks increasingly unlikely, but if forces do manage to somehow "succeed" in Afghanistan, the U.S., Canada, and other NATO members will have interest in the Caspian Sea natural gas pipeline running through Afghanistan, which is why the occupation so stubbornly persists.

In Iraq, as violence in generally abating in many parts of the country, bombs dropped by one of America's closest allies coincidentally began to fall on Kurdish villages, the only region where oil is flowing freely. Is it a coincidence that already having established a considerable degree of autonomy, and desperately wanting their sovereignty and independence, Iraq's Kurds may set off a revolutionary tide that would rouse the Kurds in Turkey to rise up, a popular struggle Turkey and the Americans desperately need to avoid? Is it also a coincidnce that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is a U.S. designated "terrorist" organization?

When we are out doing Anti-War rallies or talking to people on the streets or in universities, people often tell us we shouldn't compare Iraq with Afghanistan, that they are two completely different situations. But I reserve the right to refer to these wars together because although they have different features, they are both being fought under similar pretexts, under the name of "freedom" and "democracy", and fundamentally they are both military occupations for the geo-political and economic advancement of the imperialist ruling class. Occupation is not liberation, it is simply substituting one oppressor for another.

Through their culture crusade to impose capitalist globalization and control over international markets, they are robbing the sovereignty of millions upon millions of people. By forcing themselves upon the world in search of oil and by dictating the geo-political landscape, the imperialists are creating a planet of death, destruction, and refugees. The formula is clear; petroleum wars to feed the war economy, and puppet governments to assist the multinationals with open markets and deregulation.

The war on Palestine is Israels's ticket to maintaining a strong elite-oriented economy to feed the wealth of the ruling class, and so the ongoing "peace" talks are nothing other than political postering full of completely insincere intentions. While Israel continues to bomb and starve Gaza, the Palestinians scoff at the insulting naivete and hypocrisy of the American led peace efforts. To the suggestion that they make amends and compromises with ruthless Israel that has killed and displaced millions of its people over more than five decades, the Palestinians respond with "existence first, co-existence later." When a people is faced with the threat of extinction, a militant resistance is the only option. Hamas attacks Isarel only in response to the fact that it is under siege economically and militarily, and lacks food and electricity. When Israel puts an end to the sonic booms, the air strikes, and the various sanctions, Hamas' rockets will cease to fly over the border.

We demand
An immediate end to Imperial violence!
Free Palestine!
Give the Middle-East a chance!
All troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan Now!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Revolutionaries and the Status-Quo Left

The status quo left is the sector of the left which sees the international struggle for social justice as a 40 hour work week. They can also be refered to as the institutionalized left. They are at peace with the roles they play as long as a small place is reserved for them within the establishment, as long as they can put a little bit of occasional pressure on reactionary governments, as long as their voice is heard. But taking a revolutionary approach to changing society only half way is not viable; it is naive, it is conciliatory, it is contradictory and hypocritical.

The problem with the status-quo left is that it is satisfied, it is comfortable with its position. For revolutionaries on the other hand, 24 hours of daily struggle is never enough, not until every sinlge oppressed nation attains sovereignty, not until every single exploited person is liberated.

Being a member of the status-quo left is an agreement to compromise with the ruling class. Essentially the ruling class tells them, 'we will allow you to pratice your leftist politics within our establishment, as long as you do things our way and abide by the same rules as us'. It is collaborating with the very system that perpetrates all the injustices we struggle against. How can they attempt to extinguish fires while being in partnership with the arsonists?

The aim of the status-quo left is to do things to create awareness and to cause reaction, but to not aggravate the powers that be too much, to not push our luck. 'You're too loud, you're overly active, you're giving the left a bad name' they tell us. Martin Luther King once said, "This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism." Yet the reformist "revolutionary" strategy of the staus-quo left can be described as a passive state of comfortable drowsiness. It is taking our so-called "rights and freedoms" under the system of capitalism for granted, all while allowing the reactionaries to further our oppression and exploitation. In 1952, before the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro wrote, "There is nothing in this world as bitter as the spectacle of a people who go to sleep in liberty and awaken in slavery." We can never allow the authenticity of our struggle to be watered down, yet the example that the status-quo left is setting for the working class is that the international struggle for the liberation of humanity is a submissive one, a privilege granted us dependent on the consent of our antagonists.

Being a revolutionary is making a concious decision to give your life to the cause of humanity. Che Guevara wrote that a revolutionary is "a self-sacrificing worker who gives up his hours of rest, his personal tranquility, his family or his life for the revolution." He noted that "Our sacrifice is a concious one: an installment paid on the freedom that we are building", and furthermore, we add that our struggle is not conditional on whether those sacrifices bear fruit in our lifetime or in our grandchildren's lifetime, rather it is an ongoing fight against capitalist globalization's advance toward the extinction of humanity.

We demand:
No concessions to the ruling class!
Solidarity and struggle in line with the true interests of the working class!