Middle East: only the world proletariat can put an end to capitalist barbarity

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Military operations had barely ended in Afghanistan, when another round of carnage began in the Middle East. As the bloodshed continues in the West Bank and Jerusalem, another military operation is being prepared against Iraq. Inexorably, capitalism is plunging into chaos and military barbarism. With each new bloodbath, the murderous folly of this system stands more starkly revealed.

Once again, the Middle East is engulfed in war. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whose roots lie in the imperialist division of the region between Britain and France in 1916, has already been marked by four openly declared wars: in 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982. But since the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000, violence and blind slaughter has taken on a new dimension. Under its pressure, the laboriously constructed Oslo Accords and the years of peace negotiations that followed have burst asunder. The endless spiral of military folly reveals a situation where war is no longer the result of a conflict between two rival imperialist camps, but the expression of a general social breakdown and a descent into chaos of international relations.

Since 11th September, this tendency has seen a vertiginous acceleration. Each of the protagonists is pushed into the same logic as the Al Qaida attacks on the twin towers, where the attacker is also an expression of his own death-wish. On the one hand, the proliferation of suicide bombings by fanatical kamikazes - often no more than 18 years old - whose only aim is to surround themselves with as many victims as possible. These acts of terrorist despair are remote-controlled by this or that bourgeois nationalist fraction - Hamas, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, Hezbollah - when they are not being deliberately manipulated by Mossad (the Israeli secret service). At the same time, the different states try to defend their own imperialist interests by launching themselves into dead-end military adventures. Israel's attitude of bellicose arrogance is copied from the United States - and Sharon uses exactly the same arguments as Bush to justify his "crusade against terrorism". The result is the occupation and blockade of West Bank towns by Israeli tanks, an Israeli army that fires on anything that moves, shoots up hospitals and ambulances, systematically ransacks and pillages civilians' houses, dynamites whole districts, destroys vital infrastructure, terrorises and starves the civilian population.

Other states - and especially the US' great power rivals - are trying to exploit the situation as much as they can in order to destabilise their imperialist competitors' efforts. The European powers' feigned indignation, their "pacifist" mask, their attempts at "mediation", do nothing but fan the flames.

This is true in particular for those fractions of the bourgeoisie which try to present the spiral of war and militarism as being purely the result of "hawks" like Sharon and Bush, who should be held in check by "international law" based on "human rights". Whatever their proclaimed intentions, the great demonstrations organised around the world for or against the policy of Sharon (and Bush) can have no other result than to push the population to "choose their camp", to feed the tension and to maintain the hatred between the different communities.

In fact, the bourgeoisie is always trying to make believe that this disaster is the fault of this or that statesman, this or that nation, this or that camp, this or that people. With immeasurable hypocrisy every bourgeoisie claims to act in the interests of "peace", for the "defence of democracy", or "civilisation". And all with the sole aim of covering and excusing its own crimes.

When opportunity offers, it judges and condemns its peers in the eyes of History, as "war criminals". After World War II, the essential function of the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi war leaders (1945-49) conducted by the winning side, was to justify the monstrous crimes of the great democracies in Dresden, Hamburg, Hiroshima, Nagasaki. The International Tribunal in the Hague is sitting in judgement on Milosevic today, in order to legitimise the NATO bombardments of Serbia and Kosovo, and to hide the great powers' complicity in the crimes committed during the wars in ex-Yugoslavia.

Similarly, the "international community" is trying today to justify the war in Afghanistan as having "liberated" the country from the Taliban yoke: the pseudo-liberation of women, a return to "freedom" of trade and leisure (television, radio, sport?). The argument is all the more derisory, when at the same time a large part of the population is starving, while the innumerable local fractions and cliques fight over the country's remains.

The bourgeoisie's claim to serve the cause of peace is nothing but a lie.

Its activity inevitably aggravates military barbarity world wide, and this is one expression of capitalism's historic bankruptcy, of the fact that as it rots it threatens the very existence of humanity. Capitalism as a whole is responsible for the chaos of militarism, because war has become its permanent mode of existence.

The only social force that bears any future for humanity is the working class. Despite all the obstacles it confronts today, it is the only class able to put an end to the chaos and barbarity of capitalism, to create a new human society at the service of all the human species.

As capitalism does its best to push the most violent contradictions of its system and the effects of its economic crisis onto the peripheral countries, the example of Argentina shows how great are the difficulties facing the working class in rediscovering and reasserting its class identity, as its struggles are being derailed into an inter-classist dead-end (see the following article). At another level, the class is confronted with the trap of pacifism sowing the same inter-classist illusions - thanks notably to the "anti-globalisation" movement: this is nothing but another means of drawing the workers behind the defence of the bourgeoisie's national interest. The proletariat has a vital responsibility before it: that of struggling against the bourgeoisie's onslaught on its living conditions, and of integrating into the struggle an understanding of the mortal danger threatening humanity under capitalism. In the end, this must reinforce its determination to continue, develop, and unite its class struggle: "The coming century will be decisive for human history. If capitalism continues to rule the planet, then before 2100 society will be plunged into such barbarism that it will make the 20th century look like a minor headache and either reduce human-kind to the stone-age, or destroy it altogether. If humanity does have a future, then it is wholly in the hands of the world proletariat, whose worldwide revolution alone can overthrow the domination of the capitalist mode of production whose historic crisis is responsible for today's barbarity" (International Review n°104, 1st quarter 2001, "Why the proletariat has not yet overthrown capitalism").

GF, 7th April 2002