On 7 April 2017, the world’s biggest killing machine went into overdrive. The U.S. unleashed a barrage of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against a Syrian airbase. The strike killed nine civilians – including four children. The right-wing Turnbull government could not wait to proclaim that it “strongly supports the swift and just response of the United States.” Meanwhile, the ALP Opposition was no better, calling the U.S. attack “appropriate and proportionate.”
The U.S. claims that its missile strike was retaliation for an alleged chemical attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s Idlib Province which they have pinned on Syria’s Assad government. U.S. president Trump claims that he was motivated to attack Syria by concern for children killed in the alleged attack. What a load of rubbish! For the U.S., Australian and other imperialist rulers, the masses in the ex-colonies are completely expendable in their drive to secure control of natural resources, markets and spheres of exploitation. Due to their barbaric willingness to disregard dangers to civilian lives in their war on ISIS, a March 17 airstrike by the U.S./French/British/Australian Coalition killed over 200 civilians in the residential Jadidah neighborhood of the western part of the Iraqi city of Mosul. Meanwhile, the racist Trump regime has shown how much concern they have for the people of the Arab and Muslim world by attempting to ban people from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S. and by stopping all refugees from the war in Syria. Trump’s offensive diatribes against Muslims, Mexicans and other non-white people has incited a terrifying increase in white supremacist attacks throughout North America – including the 29 January massacre of six people at a Quebec City mosque by a fascist Trump supporter. Here in Australia, the Turnbull regime, with the support of the ALP, shows its “concern” for the well-being of children from the Middle East by imprisoning dozens of them in hell-hole detention centres in Australia and Nauru and hundreds more in community detention centres. Meanwhile, Australian regimes of various stripes oversee a racist “child protection” system that has cruelly ripped hundreds of Aboriginal children from their families in an ongoing stolen generations outrage.
The real reason for the U.S. missile strike on Syria is to further the Western powers’ drive to impose regime change upon the people of Syria. For, although the Assad government is a capitalist government that oversees the exploitation of “its” working class – just like the governments of the U.S.A, Australia, Saudi Arabia,India etc do – and although it has facilitated the partial plunder of Syrian natural resources by, among others, French, British and Dutch “multinational” corporations, Syria’s Baathist government is still not compliant enough for the imperialists. It has not “opened up” its economy to Western corporations enough for the liking of the Western imperialists. More significantly, it has not submitted its military and bases to NATO dictates unlike almost every other government in the oil-rich and strategically located Middle East has. Furthermore, at times, the Syrian government goes against the interests of Israel – which is, next to Saudi Arabia, Washington and Canberra’s main enforcer in the region – by providing sanctuary and a degree of support for some Palestinian resistance groups. In this world where there is no longer the USSR socialistic superpower (socialistic China is developing fast but its military strength is currently greatly below that of the U.S.) that could protect a government of an ex-colony that sought a degree of independence from imperialism, the imperialist powers will accept nothing from the so-called “Third World” other than complete subordination. That is why the Obama regime conducted a brutal, years-long, proxy, special forces, sanctions and media drive for regime change in Syria. And it is why the hard-right Trump regime has continued this campaign and has now qualitatively escalated it by conducting a direct, open strike on Syria. We must resist this neo-colonialism! The working class and leftist movements around the world must mobilise in action to oppose the drive of the U.S. and its allies – as well as their “Rebel” proxies – to impose regime change on the people of Syria.
It is only the Syrian working class that has the right to depose the Syrian government. However, this must be on the basis of defeating the imperialist-imposed regime change drive and would be part of bringing to power a thoroughly secular, workers’ government that would, necessarily, be more consistently anti-imperialist – and therefore even more hated by the imperialists – than the current government. It is hard to imagine this happening other than as part of a revolutionary socialist wave that would also sweep away the despotic, women-oppressing Arab regimes that have done much of the leg work for Washington’s regime-change drive like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Jordan. This wave would surely then flow beyond to Turkey, Egypt and Iran and would eventually even lift up the Arab and Jewish workers of Palestine/Israel into a powerful alliance that will smash the genocidal, racial-supremacist Zionist regime.
Imperialist Lies and Hypocrisy
We, of course, at this stage, cannot know for sure who was responsible for the alleged chemical attack in Idlib Province. Indeed, we cannot even know whether the chemical attack actually took place or whether it was simply a staged hoax by “Rebel” supporters in this Al Nusra (i.e. the Al-Qaeda group in Syria) stronghold which was then “validated” by the pro-“Rebel” Turkish regime. However, the probability that the Syrian government was responsible for this alleged attack is very low. Although it is true that all the rival pro-capitalist forces are capable of chemical attacks on civilians, the fanaticism involved in a ghastly use of weapons of mass destruction on civilians is most congruent with the ideology of religious extremists – which is who the strongest Syrian “Rebel” groups consist of – or the megalomaniacal drive for world or colonial domination by imperialist powers. Let us not forget that it is the U.S. regime which to date has been the only power to actually unleash nuclear weapons on human beings. It is widely known too that the Australian regime and the rich propertied classes that it serves used to poison the flour of Aboriginal people as part of attempts to eliminate the people that they dispossessed. What is less well known is that it seems highly likely that the smallpox epidemic that wiped out some 90% of the Gadigal Aboriginal nation around Sydney’s Port Jackson, Botany Bay and Broken Bay areas – and which catastrophically spread to other Aboriginal peoples in South-East Australia – was deliberately introduced by officers in the First Fleet fifteen months after their arrival in order to crush resistance to their brutal actions from the Eora and other Aboriginal peoples. So it is certainly far from impossible that the racist Western imperialist ruling classes – for whom the killings of non-white people in their current and former colonies have always only ever been, at most, “collateral damage” to their predatory quests – committed the alleged chemical attack in Idlib in order to frame Assad.
It is very possible, too, that a faction of the pro-imperialist “Rebels” – with or without the complicity of Western intelligence agencies – either staged the chemical attack or committed a false flag attack in order to incite greater U.S. intervention. After all, certain “Rebel” factions have done this many times before! Furthermore, they have been able to count on the mainstream Western media to dutifully report and sensationalise their claims as incontrovertible facts. One of the most startling cases of this occurred in May 2012 in the Syrian town of Taldou where 108 people were slaughtered in cold blood including 49 children. Immediately, the NATO powers, their Australian imperialist allies, the then UN secretary general and, of course, the mainstream Western media blamed the Syrian government for the atrocity. Yet holes soon appeared in the story. It was finally completely debunked when a team from the mainstream German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, actually went to the massacre site. They found that the massacre was actually perpetrated by religious fanatic “Rebels” and some other members of the town who wiped out three entire extended families belonging to a religious minority and then paraded the bodies in order to blame the government.
Most important to note is the fact that the Assad government had nothing to gain and a lot to lose from carrying out a chemical attack. After all, it is already winning the war! Especially after the Syrian Army, backed by popular militias and Russian air power, ousted the “Free Syrian Army” and Al-Nusra “Rebels” from Aleppo late last year, the Syrian government has control of most major population centres. Any, even short-term, military advantage that the Syrian government gains from killing civilians in a single strike would be negligible. The crude reality is that horrifying weapons of mass destruction can only have a military significance if they are used in a sustained way – that is, used as actual weapons of mass destruction to despicably wipe out or cower a population into submission through a barrage of attacks killing thousands and more in a sustained heinous assault. On the other hand, all that an isolated chemical attack from the Assad government would do is provide a pretext for direct imperialist military intervention against it. So they have no rational reason to unleash an isolated – or even a series of isolated – chemical attacks. But “Rebels” eager for greater direct imperialist military involvement sure do have a reason to undertake a false flag attack … or to set up a hoax! And so do the imperialist rulers themselves! They know that their own populations are wary of being drawn into another direct Middle East war like Iraq and so need to create a “justification” for increased intervention. And the imperialists and their media have form when it comes to manufacturing “justifications.” In 2003, they created a furore that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and then used that as the pretext to a launch a destructive invasion of the country … after which they quietly admitted that Iraq actually had no such weapons! Meanwhile, four years later in Australia, the capitalist regime and its media here whipped up a racist storm implying that Aboriginal men in the Northern Territory had a particular propensity to commit child sexual abuse in order to “justify” a paternalistic and oppressive Intervention into NT Aboriginal communities.
What makes critical thinkers especially suspicious is that the U.S. bombarded Syria within three days of the alleged chemical attack. It did not even wait to conduct its own biased, phoney investigation! What’s more, while U.S. leaders have claimed that “they have evidence” of the Assad government’s complicity … they are yet to produce any of this “evidence”! Today, after meeting with the Russian foreign minister, U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson said that he was “quite confident” that the Syrian government was responsible for the chemical attack. Only “quite confident”! In a criminal trial a defendant is not meant to be convicted if the prosecution is only “quite confident” of the defendant’s guilt. Yet here, not only was the defendant pronounced guilty … his country was bombarded with missiles in an attack that killed civilians and risked the ignition of a wider war! So what is absolutely 100% certain is that the U.S. was intent on bombarding Syria regardless of the facts about the alleged chemical attack.
Predatory Capitalist Powers Versus the Victims of Colonialism and Neo-Colonialism
Even if in the highly improbable case that the Assad government was actually responsible for the chemical attack, the truth is that the U.S. and Australian imperialists are much more brutal and a thousand times more able to implement horrifyingly cruel agendas. It is they who killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people in their invasion and occupation of Iraq and caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands more by inciting religious divisions there. It is they who killed tens of thousands more during their invasion of Afghanistan, their 2011 devastation of Libya and their years of drone strikes in Pakistan. Let us never forget the millions of Vietnamese and Koreans that the U.S. and Australian imperialists killed in their anti-communist wars against Vietnamese revolutionaries in the Vietnam War and against North Korea in the 1950-53 Korean War. More recently there were the 20,000 people of Bougainville killed by gunfire, a lack of medicine and starvation when the Australian regime directed and armed its PNG puppet government and Australian mercenaries to attack and then blockade the people of Bougainville Island after they rose up against the plunder of their lands by Australian-owned mining giant CRA (now part of Rio Tinto).
Therefore, just as it was the duty of all opponents of imperialism to stand by Iraq in 2003 against the invading U.S./British/Australian regime-change forces, despite the truth that Saddam Hussein really was a brutal dictator who in 1988 (armed at that time by Washington) actually did kill 5,000 Kurdish people in a poison gas attack, we must today defend Syria against the U.S., Australian and other Western imperialists and their “Rebel” proxies even in the very unlikely event that Assad really was responsible for the alleged Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack. For what is going on in Syria is a conflict between, on the one hand, the most fearsome predatory capitalist powers on the planet and their proxies and, on the other, a small, still economically subjugated, ex-colony. In such a conflict, the international working class interest lies with defending “Third World” Syria against the bloodthirsty imperialist beasts. That means that the workers’ movement should understand that the Syrian forces – capitalist led as they are – are waging a just war against neo-colonialism. Therefore, any use of slogans such as “No to War” and “Peace” in this context is disorienting as it implies neutrality in a conflict where there is a side to be had. The international working class actually does not want the Syrian Army and allied militias to be imbued with pacifist feelings and to lay down their guns at a time when imperialist powers and their proxies are trying to conquer the country. Instead, workers of the world must offer their solidarity to Assad’s forces in their military conflict with imperialism and its “Rebels.” They should do so, however, without giving any political support whatsoever to Assad. Instead, they should politically prepare the masses for an eventual workers’ takeover of Syria.
To see why we must stand with Syria against imperialism: just think what would happen if the Western capitalist powers actually did succeed in defeating Syria and imposing regime change. The new, necessarily more compliant-to-imperialism government would allow greater penetration of its economy by Western “multinational” corporations, allow such businesses greater control of Syria’s natural resources and allow them to pressure Syria into awarding infrastructure contracts to them (including the crucial war reconstruction ones) on terms unfavourable to Syria. All this would lead to a greater share of national wealth being leached away by Western corporations and to production patterns in Syria being directed away from national needs and geared ever more to the profit demands of the U.S., West European and Australian capitalists rushing in to get a share of the opened treasure chest. The result would be more of the Syrian masses driven into poverty, while a layer of the local capitalists, managers, bureaucrats and financial consultants linked to the bounding in Western corporations would strike it rich. Seeing this, the new more pro-imperialist government would step up repression to keep the now more immiserated masses in line and ensure that their inevitable fury at the rising wealth gap would not turn into powerful resistance. They could probably only do this with the direct military assistance of their imperialist godfathers whose troops would therefore likely remain stationed in the country for years if not decades to come (note that U.S. and Australian troops have already been in Afghanistan for over a decade and a half!) The new regime would also try to suppress the masses’ growing resentments by drowning them in social conservatism through curtailing secular social freedoms and imposing religious laws – all of which would lead to the greatly increased subjugation of women. Furthermore, like all capitalist regimes when faced with such sharply increased social polarisation, the new government would seek to divert the masses’ frustrations into religious fervour, into inter-ethnic and inter-denominational hostilities and into hatred of religious and ethnic minorities. The fact that the “Rebel” forces are dominated by religious fundamentalists who, in the areas that they control, have already been brutally suppressing women’s rights and persecuting – and sometimes outright murdering – members of the Kurdish, Alawi, Shia, Druze, Christian and other minorities makes all the above triply true. In short, a victory of imperialism and its allies would see the relatively secular society in Syria – where women have a relatively better social position compared to those Arab countries which have been backing the pro-imperialist “Rebels” (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Jordan etc) come to a crashing end.
The above analysis is based on an understanding of what imperialism actually is. Imperialism is not simply a matter of a bad policy decision – like the decision to intervene in another country. It is not even simply a matter of ruthless, evil people. Imperialism is a system – it is in Lenin’s words capitalism at its highest stage. It is where capitalists of the most powerful countries are compelled to expand abroad to seek out new sources of raw materials to loot, new labour to exploit at even higher rates than they exploit at home and new markets to dominate. This is an absolute necessity for the capitalist exploiters of these more developed capitalist countries because failure to do so will lead to their own system crumbling under its own economic contradictions. Therefore, when a rich capitalist power establishes a regime loyal to it abroad, it by necessity uses that leverage to ensure that it will be able to increase exploitation, increase plundering and seize prized access to markets and contracts in these countries. To act otherwise is against its very nature – like a hungry tiger that refuses to prey on nearby deer.
If you don’t believe our analysis of what would happen if the Western capitalist powers imposed regime change on Syria then just look at what has happened in the two Arab majority countries that most recently had regime change imposed on them by the U.S. and its allies: Iraq and Libya. In both, the social position of women has been driven down considerably. Indeed, one of the first acts of the new regime installed by NATO in Libya was to declare that Libya’s previously semi-secular laws would be replaced by theocratic laws and that all previous laws contradicting Sharia would be nullified. And the victory of NATO and their “Rebel” proxies in Libya saw them unleash a terrifying wave of blood curdling murders and beatings of Libya’s black African population. In Iraq, the imperialist-imposed regime change has fomented an enormous explosion in inter-communal bloodletting between Sunni and Shia that, for the most part, did not exist in the pre-invasion society.
The effects of a conquest of Syria by imperialism and its “Rebel” allies would extend beyond Syria. The descent of Syria into inter-denominational violence would necessarily spill over into Lebanon where the peace between different religious groups is extremely precarious in that capitalist society. Indeed, the advent of Syrian “Rebel” groups based on extreme religious sectarian views has already incited outbreaks of inter-communal violence in Lebanon. Furthermore, an Iraq-style descent of Syria into inter-communal slaughter following an imperialist-imposed regime change would only add further fuel to the inter-denominational conflicts already burning up Iraqi society.
Imperialist victory in Syria would also see Syria brought into the NATO fold. The aid and sanctuary that Syria provides to some Palestinian resistance groups would almost surely be cut off. This is especially likely given that Israel has been one of the Washington allies in the region backing the “Rebel” forces – including by conducting direct air strikes on Syrian government positions. The resulting weakening of Palestinian resistance groups and the inevitable emboldening of all U.S.-backed forces following an imperialist triumph in Syria would allow Israel’s rulers to unleash still more barbaric oppression of the Palestinian people. It would also allow the most pro-imperialist political groups in Lebanon to gain the upper hand. Meanwhile, with imperialism pumped up by its victory and with Iran now isolated as the only non-NATO aligned country in the region, the U.S. and its allies will charge towards war on Iran. And they would not just stop with Iran! Like a man-eating tiger that gets a fresh taste of human flesh, every time imperialist powers are able to impose regime change on a smaller, dependant country it encourages them to devour other weaker, dependant countries. Thus what gave impulse to the regime change push against Syria was the victory of the NATO-“Rebels” regime change forces in Libya in late 2011. A neo-colonial conquest of Syria would, in turn, feed imperialist appetites to not only attempt the same on Iran but also on Venezuela and other ex-colonies that refuse to completely heel to the Western-imperialist dictated “world order.”
Most importantly, an imperialist-“Rebel” takeover of Syria would feed the U.S., West European and Australian rulers’ cravings to tear up those states which have been created by anti-capitalist revolutions – China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and Laos. Although working class rule in these states is deformed and, although in China, Vietnam and Laos, the leaderships have allowed in a too high degree of capitalist intrusion, all these countries remain places where socialistic state-owned enterprises dominate the key sectors of their economies and where the state power acts to defend this working class, socially-owned property system. The capitalist powers want to destroy these states because the mere existence of states where socialistic rather than capitalist economy is dominant is understood as a beacon that could attract the masses in other countries, including their own, to take the road of socialist revolution. Furthermore, these five workers states are former colonies where the imperialist powers are now able to exploit far less “freely” than they even can in Syria. That is intolerable for them! These predators can see the juicy bits of economic meat that they could devour from these societies. So they will do anything to smash the workers states that act as the cages keeping them well away from their prey.
Defeating the Imperialist Intervention in Syria Is Good for Working Class People
Having considered the negative possibility, let us now consider what would likely occur if the U.S. and Australian imperialist rulers and their “Rebel” proxies are actually defeated in Syria. For starters, their attempt to turn Syria into a completely subject neo-colony would be spiked. Although, in the short term, this would strengthen the grip on power of the capitalist Assad government, before long a section of Syria’s toiling classes would say: now that we have defeated the direct imperialist takeover its time to get working on dispensing with the Baathist government that still partially kowtows to the interests of imperialist corporations. This would especially be the case if the defeat of the Western capitalist powers and their “Rebel” proxies was due to anti-imperialist action by the working class masses in the imperialist countries themselves.
Meanwhile, a defeat for imperialism in Syria would make the masses in the West less likely to tolerate future attempts by “their” governments to impose regime change elsewhere. In general, the imperialist regimes who suffered the defeat in Syria would be weakened. Their attempts to whip up great power nationalism and reactionary patriotism at home would be met with greater cynicism. They would suffer loss of face and lose more of the confidence of their own populations. All this can only be a good thing for all the people suffering under their capitalist rule at home. In this country, trade unionists would be more emboldened to fight against anti-union laws, job slashing by greedy bosses, the erosion of real wages and the forcing of unemployed people into slave labour “internships” and Work for the Dole. The struggle to stop racist police terror against Aboriginal people and to resist Aboriginal people’s all-sided racist subjugation would gain a boost. So would campaigns against the sell-off of public housing, for refugee rights and for unemployed people’s rights. In general, every setback that the imperialist ruling classes receive in their predatory campaigns abroad is good for the working class and the other downtrodden people whom they exploit and oppress at home. And since it is thereby in the very self interest of the working class in Australia and other Western imperialist countries to oppose their rulers’ predatory intervention in Syria and Iraq, the working class has the potential to be the decisive force that can undercut this imperialist campaign. Beginning by winning, at first, the most politically conscious trade unionists to participate in demonstrations calling for the defence of Syria against imperialism and its proxies, it is possible to then win broader layers of the working class to the need to take action in defence of Syria. A small taste of the type of action that is possible occurred in 1991 when wharfies in three East coast ports in Australia responded to the beginning of the imperialist bombing of Iraq in the First Gulf War by going on strike for four hours.
Workers’ industrial action against the imperialist intervention would be very powerful. By hurting the profits of some of Australia’s capitalist exploiters it could make some of these capitalists, fearful of still greater losses and fearful of a mass radicalisation, re-consider whether the intervention is worth it. If sustained, such workers’ action could scare significant sections of the exploiting class into telling the regime that serves them to wind back the intervention in order to quell the resistance at home. Working class opposition to imperialist-imposed regime change is what we need to fight for!
Although Australian troops were not directly involved in the U.S, missile attack on Syria you can bet that the joint U.S.-Australia Pine Gap spy base in this country had been flat out locating targets and directing the missiles. Some in the reformist Left claim that the U.S. is simply “using” Australia and that it is against “Australia’s interests” “to be involved in U.S. wars.” To analyse this claim we first need to point out that there is no such thing as “Australia’s interests” per se, united across class lines. There is only, on the one hand, the interests of Australia’s capitalist ruling class and then there are, on the other hand, the interests of the people exploited and oppressed by this same ruling class – the interests of the working class, Aboriginal people, the homeless etc – whose interests are, in fact, synonymous with the downtrodden working class masses of the world. For the Australian capitalist exploiting class, joining the U.S. crusades is in its very self interest. After all, that is why they are doing it! These capitalists are greedy, callous and cruel but they are not stupid – they know what is good for them. This Australian ruling class wants to do everything it can to secure and strengthen U.S. power because it is the might of its U.S. ally that underwrites Australian imperialism’s tyranny in the Asia-South West Pacific region. It is just how a local criminal thug will loyally stand by his big-time mafia ally because it is the latter that helps protect his “own turf” from being threatened by resisting victims or encroaching rivals. The U.S. superpower is the guarantor that has allowed the Australian rulers to, at various times in the last ten years, have its troops and cops jackbooting around East Timor, PNG, the Solomon Islands and Tonga. These forces ensured that the local political order in these countries would uphold the interests of plundering Australian-owned “multinational” companies. Australian mining giants and other Australian business owners – big and small – are the number one foreign looters of natural resources and exploiters of labour in PNG, Fiji, East Timor, Vanuatu and beyond. These Australian capitalists are also among the neo-colonial robbers making huge profits in Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka at the expense of the local masses. Meanwhile, Australian military and police advisers, judges and bureaucrats litter the top echelons of the state apparatus of several South West Pacific countries. This is under the guise of “governance assistance” – which is to be read as ensuring that the local regimes’ domestic and foreign policies are “aligned” (i.e. subordinated) to the interests of Australia’s capitalists and that their local economies are “re-structured” to make them more profitable for Australian business operations there.
For working class people in this country, the Australian bosses’ super-exploitation of Pacific and Asian peoples and the alliance with the U.S. essential to securing this tyranny means something very different. Now, it is true that Australian companies’ plundering in the Asia-Pacific allows them to, in the short-term, pass on a few crumbs of the loot to a small layer of skilled workers in this country. However, in the long-term especially, all that Australian capitalist subjugation of the South West Pacific does at home is make the Australian bosses more pumped up to attack workers’ rights, unions and the poor– and with a bigger money chest to outlast industrial action to boot. That is why it is in the very interests of the working class to oppose the Australian regime’s marauding in the South West Pacific and to oppose its alliance with the U.S. that guarantees its “right” to such tyranny. The workers movement here must demand: Australian permanent and visiting military and police “advisers”, judges and high-level “bureaucrats” get out and stay out of South-West Pacific countries! Down with Australian imperialist exploitation of the Asia-Pacific masses! Close the joint U.S.-Australia Pine Gap spy base and all other U.S. bases in Australia! Down with the U.S.-Australia alliance – U.S. troops out of Darwin!
Imperialists: Marauding in the Middle East, Counterrevolutionary Crusades in the Far East
The aspect of the recent U.S. missile attack that the Australian rulers were most enthusiastic about was the, barely veiled, unofficial reason for the attack. That “hidden” reason is bleedingly obvious when one looks at the timing of Trump’s missile attack. The attack was smack bang in the middle of his first meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping. Many commentators have even suggested that the main purpose of the attack was more about China and its ally North Korea than about Syria itself. The U.S. regime was using its attack on Syria to threaten the DPRK (North Korea). Its message is that not only do the U.S. imperialist rulers have terrifying military might but that they are willing to unilaterally unleash it at any time against their enemies without any real pretext. Now the Trump regime has put the world on edge after directing a naval strike group, led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, to head towards the waters off North Korea. Ostentatiously, Trump ordered the battle group to storm towards the DPRK just a day after attacking Syria. These threats are also a means to pressure the DPRK’s Chinese ally into squeezing her into submission. Less than a week earlier, Trump declared that: “China has great influence over North Korea… Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.”
The U.S. regime’s war moves against the DPRK and its assault on Syria right in the middle of the Chinese president’s visit are also meant to be a direct threat to China itself. Successive U.S. capitalist administrations have escalated military pressure against China. Now, the new Trump administration has ratcheted up these threats even further. U.S. secretary of state Tillerson even threatened military action to blockade China’s access to its artificial islands in the South China Sea – a measure which if implemented would be tantamount to an act of war! Although for tactical reasons – as he attempts to piece off different U.S. adversaries – Trump has cooled his hostile rhetoric against China somewhat over the last few days, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) remains the primary strategic enemy of the U.S. This enmity to the PRC and the DPRK is different to the reasons for U.S. regime change moves against Syria. This is not about bringing to heel a “Third World” capitalist country that is not obedient enough in a strategic oil-rich region. Instead it is all about crushing socialistic rule. The mere presence of states under working class rule – even in the deformed and very precarious form it exists in the PRC and DPRK – is a challenge to capitalist imperialism. That is why the Australian capitalist rulers are just as enthusiastic as those of the U.S. in using military pressure to squeeze the PRC and DPRK into submission. They calculate that even though they are making a fortune from selling exports to China’s booming public sector-centred economy they could make far more if socialistic rule in China were destroyed and, consequently, her dominant state-owned enterprises privatised and the whole country turned into a giant sweatshop for unrestricted exploitation.
Washington and Canberra’s threats against North Korea may be more open than their ones against China but in targeting the DPRK they are in large part laying the basis for their moves against her Chinese ally and neighbour. Indeed, U.S. and Australian pressure on China to put the screws on the DPRK is not just about North Korea itself but also about China. The imperial powers know that if they can get the PRC to betray her socialistic sister – the DPRK – in order to improve relations with capitalist powers it is making the PRC badly violate the most basic socialist principles and is, thus, undermining the socialistic character of the PRC itself. U.S. and Australian ruling class strategists would be aware, too, that there is an intense debate going on within China about what policy to take with respect to the DPRK and that those pushing hardest for China to abandon North Korea are, in general, the ones who favour greater “rights” for China’s private sector bosses and for capitalist interests within China more broadly. That is why the struggle to ensure that the PRC does its socialist duty and stands much more strongly in support of her DPRK socialistic sister is a key part of the fight to strengthen the PRC’s own socialist character by politically defeating those forces within China that promote or accommodate capitalist interests. PRC support to the DPRK should include not only defence of the DPRK’s right to develop nuclear weapons but active aid for North Korea’s weapons program. Given the obvious threat she is under it is completely supportable and necessary for the DPRK to seek nuclear weapons and long-range missile delivery systems as a means to deter attack. The imperialist invasion of Iraq, imperialism’s violent regime change operation in Libya and its years long proxy – and now direct – war on Syria shows what the ruthless imperial powers do to adversaries who lack a nuclear deterrent.
Here in Australia we need to fight to mobilise the working class and all the oppressed to unconditionally defend the socialistic PRC and DPRK – and indeed the Cuban, Vietnamese and Laotian workers states too – against both external military threats and internal pro-capitalist forces.
Multiple Machinations in the Middle East
Western imperialism’s direct and proxy war on Syria is its most prominent intervention in the Middle East. But it is far from its only one! It continues to back Israel’s genocidal oppression of Palestinian people. This subjugation is getting worse. The hard right Trump regime has emboldened Israel’s right-wing regime to step up the building of illegal Israeli settlements on land even the UN recognises is Palestinian. Trump did this by attacking the former Obama government for its lack of public support for these settlements – even though, in practice, the Obama regime had continued to give a nod and a wink to its Israeli ally.
On yet another front, the U.S. is further cranking up pressure against Iran. Like Syria, Iran is an economically dependant capitalist country that is, however, being targeted because it is not compliant enough for the imperialists to accept. The series of increasingly bellicose threats against Iran coming out of the Trump regime seems to suggest that the U.S. may well be hurtling towards a direct military strike on Iran sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, the hard right U.S. regime is continuing the previous Democratic Party regime’s backing – if not orchestration – of the brutal Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen against that country’s Houthi rebel forces. Here, too, the U.S. regime is shifting its war effort up to a higher gear. The Trump regime has tripled the frequency of its drone strikes in Yemen against the Houthis and is planning to increase intelligence support and arms sales to Saudi forces and their UAE allies. This spells disaster for the people of Yemen. The Saudi-led attacks and U.S. drone strikes have butchered countless numbers of civilians and destroyed hospitals and schools. They have also smashed to pieces basic infrastructure driving the people of already one of the most impoverished countries in the world into terrible destitution. The Australian imperialists have their blood-soaked hands in this dirty war too. Many “former” Australian soldiers are fighting alongside the UAE forces in this war (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-14/former-australian-soldiers-involved-in-saudi-war/7087726). Most prominently, Major-General Mike Hindmarsh, a one time Australian special forces commander, leads an elite UAE military unit. The fact that Australian defence officials are so strongly defending the role of these mercenaries suggests that these “ex”-soldiers are actually acting under the direction of the Australian regime.
Finally, there is the U.S./Australian/British/French Coalition’s conflict with ISIS and ISIS’s parent group: Al-Qaeda. Here is where things get complex … and murky. To get a better picture we need look back in time. Before the 2003 U.S./Australian invasion of Iraq, for all practical purposes, Al-Qaeda did not exist in Iraq or Syria. However, after the imperialist invasion destroyed the country and the occupying forces crushed the Baathist led anti-occupation fighters and then literally bought off the leaders of tribal insurgents in the Sunni parts of Iraq, the Sunni fundamentalist Al-Qaeda in Iraq emerged to fill the vacuum. It promoted itself as the never-give-up opponent of the hated U.S.-led occupation forces and their puppet government. However, at the same time they rode atop the wave of Sunni-Shia hatreds that had been fomented by the occupying forces by conducting heinous attacks on Shia mosques and religious events. In part, Al-Qaeda in Iraq was able to play on the Sunni population’s resentment at not only the brutal imperialist occupation but at a level of discrimination against Iraq’s Sunni minority that followed the invasion. In Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Sunni-minority had a slightly favoured political position in the relatively secular Iraq. However, to try and get support for their invasion, the U.S. at first stoked anti-Sunni sentiments amongst the Shia majority and then repeatedly swapped sides from favouring Shia to Sunni communities in a destructive game of divide and conquer. With Sunnis being the minority they were always going to suffer badly from the resulting outbreak of inter-denominational tensions and denomination-based political parties.
The Iraqi Al-Qaeda group, which after a series of mergers became known as the Islamic State of Iraq, then sent forces to set up a group in Syria to join the insurgency against the Syrian government. The Syrian Al-Qaeda group then grew spectacularly. It did so because it was backed by Washington and especially by Washington’s Turkish ally as a proxy in their campaign to impose neo-colonial regime change on Syria. Eventually a power struggle within the group – fought over the issue of whether to merge with the Iraqi section – led to a violent split. Those who wanted to merge with the Iraqi group became ISIS, which then became disavowed by Al Qaeda, while those who wanted a separate Syrian extremist group became the official Al Qaeda group in Syria, Al Nusra.
As with Al-Qaeda, whom the Western imperialists had built up in the late 1980s to fight against the then secular, leftist Afghan government and its socialistic Soviet backers, ISIS turned against their one-time imperialist patrons. Yet, as with Al Qaeda, the imperialists still secure temporary covert alliances with ISIS at certain times for common goals. However, by mid 2014, ISIS was at war with Washington’s more favoured Syrian “Rebel” groups and ISIS in Iraq was threatening to overrun the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government – a regime subservient to the U.S. As a result, the then Obama regime had the U.S, other NATO powers, Australia and regional U.S. allies form a Coalition to launch a military campaign against ISIS. In Iraq it seems that the U.S.-led intervention forces do seem intent on defeating ISIS. However, in Syria the picture is murkier. Certainly, when ISIS has clashed with the imperialist-backed “Rebels” or Washington’s new-found Syrian Kurdish allies, the U.S.-led airstrikes and special forces operations have aggressively targeted them. At some other times however, the imperialist forces seem more to be herding the ISIS forces so that ISIS end up concentrating their forces against the Syrian government rather than against the “Rebels” – just as U.S. operations often herd the Al-Qaeda troops in Yemen into battle against the Houthi forces. Additionally, there have been some reports of U.S. weapons drops to its “Rebel” and Kurdish allies in Syria suspiciously going “astray” and “accidentally” ending up with ISIS. To be sure, the U.S. does seem to think that, even in Syria, ISIS is a force that they cannot control and so needs to be put down. However, their adherence to this versus their impulse to use ISIS to strike blows against the Syrian government waxes and wanes as the imperialist strategists toss and turn over how best to further their predatory interests.
As for Al Nusra, the Syrian Al Qaeda affiliate that recently nominally broke ties with Al Qaeda only so as not to embarrass its imperialist backers, the U.S./Australia Coalition has a more sympathetic outlook towards it than they do for ISIS. To be sure, the U.S.-led Coalition does still carry out airstrikes against Al Nusra when it clashes with their most favoured “Rebel” groups. At the same time, the imperialists and their Turkish, Saudi, Qatari and UAE allies underhandedly support Al Nusra by backing smaller “Rebel” groups that are in alliance with these extreme fundamentalist cutthroats. Indeed, when imperialist politicians and the mainstream Western media speak sympathetically of “Rebel” attacks on Syrian government positions, when they show maps of the territory controlled by “Rebels” or when they condemn Syrian or Russian airstrikes on “Rebel” positions, they are often actually referring to Al Nusra and its smaller allies. For at least up until recently, Al Nusra was actually the strongest “Rebel” group. Mind you, the Western imperialists do their best to hide this inclusion of Al Nusra amongst its “Rebels.” That would not play well at home to admit that they are indirectly actually backing the group (through supporting the group’s allies) responsible for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York! As with their attitude to ISIS in Syria, the U.S.-led Coalition is highly erratic as to its policy towards Al Nusra – meaning that they do sometimes launch attacks on this outfit.
Both Al Nusra and ISIS are extreme reactionaries. In areas that they control, they brutally subjugate and enslave women, violently enforce fundamentalist religious edicts suppressing social freedoms and violently persecute – and sometimes outright murder – members of religious minorities. As a result some in the region are tempted to support the imperialist powers against these groups. Yet, though they are horrific right-wing reactionaries in their own right, in terms of the harm that they have done to the masses and the harm that they can do, ISIS and Al Nusra are completely dwarfed by the U.S, British, Australian, French, German and other imperialists who make up the “anti-ISIS” Coalition. This is not because the social agenda of ISIS/Al Nusra is any better than that of the mainstream imperialists. Next to the white supremacist fascist groups and Christian extremists in the West, East Europe and Russia, the social program of these extreme Wahhabist groups is probably the most reactionary on the whole planet. However, it is the imperialists with their enormous military and economic power who are able to do far more damage. It is worth noting that due to their arrogant disdain for “Third World” people, the imperialists have taken so few precautions to protect civilians in their anti-ISIS operations that they have actually killed more civilians in these attacks than ISIS ever have. The respected liberal, journalist-based monitoring group Airwars reports that, up to now, a minimum of between 3,061 to 4,943 civilians have been killed by Coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria including at least 714 children and 398 women (https://airwars.org/civilian-casualty-claims/). But there is evidence of an additional between 4,089 to 5,602 deaths which could have been caused by these forces. In summary, the U.S./Australian coalition in Iraq and Syria have directly killed, for sure, over 3,000 civilians already but could have killed up to over 10,500 civilians!
It is not ISIS but the U.S., Australian and other imperialists who have been able to intervene in and destroy whole countries – like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and indirectly Syria – who have dropped nuclear bombs on human beings (as the U.S. with Australian backing did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki), who today are threatening a new war against North Korea that could again kill millions and who one day, because of the crisis-ridden nature of their violent system, could end up again leading humanity into a savage global slaughter the way they did in World Wars I and II … but this time with nuclear weapons! They are the tyrants who rule the world … and lord it over the world … and in the future could destroy the world! So when these fearsome top dogs of the world suffer any setback in their “anti-ISIS” adventure, when they are bitten by very nasty and ambitious little puppies in the form of ISIS, the downtrodden of the world should welcome the injuries that the imperialist top dogs suffer … even if the puppies inflicting them are absolutely terrible little beasts who have also been mercilessly bullying other little puppies. This is, of course, only when ISIS are actually striking back against legitimate military targets of the imperialists rather than when they are blowing up civilians in unpardonable terrorist attacks which, admittedly, is what they do a lot of. Furthermore, we should be opposing ISIS when they are clashing with Syrian government forces and Syria’s current Iranian and Russian allies since these ISIS/Al Nusra attacks are sometimes done with the tacit support of the imperialists and even when not directly so they nevertheless act to serve the imperialists’ drive to impose regime change in Syria, which at this time, remains the main goal of the imperialists in Syria and the main axis around which the multi-directional Syria conflict turns.
ISIS and its Al Nusra split are indirect – and even to a degree direct – creations of the Western imperialists. More broadly, the imperialists are the main force for spreading social reaction in the ex-colonies. This is because they so savagely exploit “Third World” and other economically dependant countries and so arrogantly trample on the national feelings of the peoples of these countries that the masses in these places can only be “kept in line” by upholding the most extreme social “conservatism” to confuse and divert them and by crushing them under the boot of local, semi-puppet regimes. That is why even as propaganda from the U.S.-led Coalition makes valid criticisms of ISIS’s misogynist and cruel policies, the U.S. are ardently backing the ultra-reactionary Saudi regime whose anti-woman and all-round barbaric policies are little different to those of ISIS. That is why to back imperialist intervention against ISIS – or indeed against any other extreme reactionary group based in the “Third World” – is like trying to fight the symptoms of a disease by helping the disease to spread even further. It is as futile and harmful as trying to stop workplace bullying by giving more powers to the greedy capitalist bosses – the very people whose exploitation of their workers and frequent open and implied threats to sack these workers is the main root cause of workplace bullying and bullying culture.
That is why we must oppose all foreign operations by the imperialist powers regardless of what pretext they use to “justify” any particular intervention. They always serve to strengthen reaction in the places where they intervene into. This has an additional aspect in the case of the U.S.-led Coalition against ISIS. The huge carnage of civilians caused by the imperialist forces will inevitably end up recruiting new fighters for the extreme fundamentalist forces – just as the horror of the U.S./Australian occupation of Iraq and the resulting inter-denominational hostility that it engendered first led to the growth of ISIS in Iraq. Although the eventual fate of ISIS itself is not clear, even if they are greatly weakened or destroyed, the suffering caused by the Coalition’s intervention will ensure that – in the absence of a revolutionary working class movement against imperialism – other similar outfits will rise to take their place. That, in turn, will lead to more terrorist attacks in both the Middle East and the West which will then provide the pretext for still more murderous imperialist intervention. Meanwhile, the fact that the U.S., Australia and other imperial powers are attacking ISIS is great propaganda for these extreme Wahhabi reactionaries. To be seen to be standing up to the hated colonial powers who have brought such suffering to the people of the Middle East will win the rabid fundamentalists new adherents.
Those who have illusions that the imperialists can be “used” to defeat the ISIS reactionaries, after which they will quietly go home should realise that imperialism is not like water flowing out of a tap. It cannot be turned on and off when needed! Rather, once the sluice gate holding out imperialist intervention is opened, imperialism floods in and its presence engulfs and dominates every aspect of the society it has flooded into. An intervention abroad by big capitalist powers necessarily increases the reach, influence and power of these imperialists in the lands that they enter. That, in turn, greatly increases their ability to enforce their agenda in these areas both immediately and in the future. Again this is true no matter what actual pretext they use for their initial intervention. Thus, the U.S. used its August 2014 re-intervention of large-scale military forces into Iraq to, within days, leverage the ejection of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Although himself a long-time Western puppet, Maliki occasionally pulled on his puppet strings too forcefully for the liking of the U.S. – for example, by building relations with U.S. foe, Iran. So Washington used the weight of its intervention to have his premiership buried by rival Iraqi politicians. What was nominally an anti-ISIS intervention thus became used for a regime-change type agenda. Meanwhile, the presence of U.S./Australian military operations in Syria, including large numbers of special forces troops on the ground, form a base from which they can expand regime-change operations in Syria when needed. These military deployments in Syria are also a means for the Western powers to exert considerable pressure on any peace negotiations with the aim of ensuring that their predatory interests are met in any deal. The international workers movement and Left must demand: All U.S., Australian, French, British, German and allied foreign troops get out of Iraq and Syria now! No to imperialist-imposed regime change in Syria! No to direct military intervention! No to arming of proxies! No to diplomatic intervention! Saudi, U.S., UAE and “former” Australian troops get out of Yemen! U.S. imperialism and its allies: Hands off Iran! Israel get out of all of the Gaza strip and the West Bank – For the complete right of return of Palestinians driven from their lands!
Competing Capitalist Powers
The main axis of the Syrian conflict remains, at this time, shaped by the U.S., West European and Australian drive to impose regime change on Syria. However the conflict is increasingly complex and involves shifting – and often mutually conflicting – alliances. The U.S., in order to prosecute its war on ISIS has, for instance, since late 2014, actively armed and supported a coalition dominated by the Kurdish YPG. However, the YPG has also clashed with the also U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army “Rebels.” Meanwhile, Turkey, a NATO ally of the U.S. and other Western imperialists, has directly attacked the U.S.-supported YPG because they fear that any increase in strength for Kurdish forces in Syria will aid the struggles for national liberation of its brutally oppressed Kurdish minority. Meanwhile, Russia which has been backing Syria against the U.S.-backed “Rebels,” has recently joined with the U.S. in complementary operations to assist the YPG. If that is not messy enough, Russia, which is the main power backing Syrian government forces, has been building a close relationship with Turkey (a regional power whose rulers dreams of restoring a version of the Ottoman imperialist empire) even though the latter is the most avid supporter of the “Rebels” and indeed the main conduit for imperialist support to the “Rebels.” Russia, Turkey and Iran had even been organising peace talks which cut out the U.S. from the process. Indeed, one of the goals of Trump’s missile strike was no doubt to deal the U.S. back as a major player in the game; and to entice Turkey back from drifting away from the U.S.-fold by showing that U.S. might can defend Turkish capitalist interests. Even within the NATO powers there are competing interests. Each of the “allied” NATO powers are elbowing the others for prime position to get the biggest share of the loot should there be some sort of partial, or full, regime change in Syria. Today in Libya, the different NATO powers that undertook the bloody 2011 regime change operation there are backing rival warlords in a squalid struggle for prime access to Libya’s oil wealth.
The fact is that all the capitalist powers intervening in the Syria conflict are motivated by their own greedy capitalist interests. None have any true loyalty to their allies. At any time they may junk an “ally” if another arrangement suits their short or long-term interests better. However, in the case of Russia, although it has intervened in order to promote its great power capitalist ambitions it has not, unlike the Western powers, up to the present, threatened to become one of the neo-colonial overlords of Syria. Furthermore, unlike the U.S. and its allies, Russia is not using its Syrian intervention as a means to secure overall domination of the oil-rich Middle East. Thus, by backing the Syrian government forces when arrayed against an imperialist regime-change drive, the right-wing capitalist Russian regime is, at the moment, inadvertently playing a useful role in Syria.
Relations between the U.S. and Russia – the world’s only two military superpowers – will have a significant impact on the future of the Syrian conflict. Trump and his co-thinkers had been hoping to build a U.S.-Russia capitalist super alliance that would, on the one hand, be used to isolate and pressure socialistic China and on the other, weaken the U.S.’s European NATO allies cum imperialist economic rivals. The U.S. missile barrage against Syria and the mutual recriminations that followed have, for the short and medium term, put on ice any plans Trump had to forge a partnership with Russia. In the longer term it is unclear.
There were always many obstacles to Trump implementing his original vision for a U.S.-Russia capitalist alliance. This is doubly so given the ongoing probe into the Trump campaign’s alleged links with Russia. However, a rapprochement between the U.S. and Russia is not impossible. If it did occur, the two powers could strike a deal over Syria. But what would the deal be? In one variant, the U.S. quietly abandons plans for regime change in Syria in exchange for Russian backing – or at least quiet acquiescence to – U.S. plans to turn the screws on socialistic North Korea and socialistic China. In another variant, Trump quietly agrees to accept Crimea’s incorporation into Russia and not to obstruct Russian support for Russian-speaking rebels in Eastern Ukraine in exchange for Russia quietly agreeing to a form of imperialist-imposed regime change in Syria. Especially given that Russia would lose face in such a deal after having so bluntly stated opposition to regime change – and gaining “face” in terms of being accepted as a world power is a fair part of the very reason for the Russian intervention – this outcome seems the least likely. However, the U.S. may be able to offer sufficient concessions – including continued Russian control of its military bases in Syria, a guaranteed prominent place for Russia in post-war Syrian politics and reconstruction contracts and the maintenance of a number of pro-Russia Baathists in the new regime – to entice Russia to accept. If this were to occur, the current anti-colonial forces in Syria could well split with some accepting the arrangement but other more anti-imperialist elements resisting. In that case, the international workers movement should support those resisting the deal – whether through mass protests or armed resistance – and oppose any form of imperialist-imposed regime change while demanding that all Western imperialist and Russian troops get out. Such a scenario is certainly, currently quite improbable but it is not impossible. We would be failing in our duty as Marxists and Leninists if we did not warn opponents of imperialism of this possibility.
Mobilise Working Class Opposition to the Imperialist Intervention
We cannot control what any of the capitalist powers do – they will act in the interests of their own class. What we can shape is what our side will do. We need to fight for mass action of the working class and downtrodden in Australia and the other Western imperialist countries to oppose all U.S./Australian/British/French etc military and political intervention in the Middle East. To realise such a perspective we need to challenge views amongst workers that the great power status of their rulers brings some benefits to workers as well as national honour. We need to respond by pointing out that a capitalist ruling class successful in its adventures abroad means a ruling class more emboldened to gouge even more from the working class and poor at home. And that the tyranny the imperialist rulers unleash abroad, while it may seem like a sign of strength, is also a sign of the crisis of the capitalist economic system – a crisis that compels the capitalists to seek new areas of the world to exploit. We need to explain that such grabs for new spheres of exploitation will eventually lead to world war – if this system is not first overthrown – as the different predatory powers fight over the same patch of ground. The violent imperialist bullying of a small, ex-colony like Syria, is a forerunner of the desperate imperialist expansionism that could well lead to a new inter-imperialist slaughter. We must point out that in such a slaughter it will be working class youth who will be, as always, the cannon fodder.
To bring such an anti-imperialist understanding to the workers movement means going up against the current ALP leaders of the working class. Their response to Trump’s attack on Syria was to fervently support the crusade for imperialist-imposed regime change: “Labor renews our call on the United Nations to continue to examine strong and appropriate action to hold the Assad Regime to account for the crimes it has committed against its people.” Anyone sincerely opposed to imperialism cannot support the ALP – either openly or as a “lesser evil” – when it is committed to such a rabid pro-imperialist platform. The ALP’s support for Australian imperialism abroad is part of their acceptance of capitalist rule at home. We need to fight for a new agenda and leadership to be ascendant in the workers movement. An agenda that opposes Australian imperialist tyranny abroad because it is based on an agenda of uncompromising opposition to the greedy, racist, capitalist ruling class that is undertaking this tyranny. The program of anti-imperialism is, thus, part of the program for the revolutionary overturn of capitalism through socialist revolution. It is this revolution that will not only finally bring jobs, safe workplaces, affordable public housing, racial equality and women’s emancipation but will free humanity of the threat of imperialist war. As part of the struggle for this future let us today fight to defend Syria against the U.S/Australian imperialists and their “Rebel” proxies. U.S./Australian imperialism: Hands Off Yemen and Iran! Let’s mobilise to defend socialistic North Korea and socialistic China against imperialist threats and capitalist restorationist forces!