In Baghdad, the United States kills General Soleimani, moving closer to open war with Iran, while Turkey is preparing to send troops to Libya, and AMLO and Fernández are trying to create a new institutional framework for the international conflict in Latin America. This year, the tacit New Year’s truce has not even come close to Epiphany. What follows is a summary and analysis of the first, short and violent week of 2020.
General Qassem Soleimani, head of the Al-Quds column, the Revolutionary Guard column that is the real expeditionary force of Iranian imperialism throughout the Middle East, was killed this morning in a U.S. air strike at Baghdad’s airport. The Revolutionary Guard’s promises of revenge “around the world” arose immediately. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard is an autonomous body of the state, dependent only on the “leader of the Revolution” which at home represses, tortures and massacres striking workers and disaffected people mercilessly and which abroad is the spearhead of Iranian imperialism. It does so by maintaining through local forces which it arms, trains and organizes, an open front from Lebanon in the Mediterranean to Ormuz and from the Caucasus to Yemen.
This new escalation was entirely predictable and had been announced by the deployment of new American troops and the annulment of Mike Pompeo’s trip to Ukraine and Cyprus, all the more remarkable because these are two already very “hot” fronts.
As we had been pointing out in our weekly reports, the Iraqi revolt had been progressively captured and exploited by the imperialist game between Iran and the US through Shiite militias of both orientations. Thus, the burning of the Iranian consulate in Karbala, which left three dead, was followed by various skirmishes and threats that culminated in the assault on the U.S. embassy by Shiite militia organized by Iran.
Thus, the tendency towards an open war between Iran and the Arab bloc allied to the U.S. is taking shape and leaving behind the reassuring calculations of the Iranian bourgeoisie itself, which kept telling itself that an open war would be too costly for the U.S. while constantly reinforcing the local Shiite militias close to Iran in Iraq. Imperialist “rationality” is not subject to a cost-benefit calculation. What characterizes imperialist conflicts that end in war is that the losses and gains of the other side end up outweighing their own for both sides. A phase long since reached by both powers.
As we have been pointing out since September, when Iran targeted Saudi refineries from Iraq:
There is only one way to reverse this race towards disaster. The Iranian workers showed how, but it would be as short-sighted as suicidal to rely on their ability to react. War is like lava struggling to emerge beneath the surface of an exhausted capitalism: It may erupt in the short term wherever the crust is the weakest, but it will not stop the world from convulsing beneath our feet just because the workers of one country stand up to it — a response is needed that goes beyond the borders of a single country. Today we are told that there is no point in fighting if the company does not make a profit. But it is the impossibility of maintaining the global profits of capital that drives the war. And war is the most radical denial of our needs–denial of the lives of thousands, of millions. The only thing that can stop it is to deny the submission of human need to the result of capital, to profit… and that is in our hand, and only in our hand, to affirm it as workers, in every place and now.
Furthermore, the tendency towards war is not localised or punctual, but general and global. Just yesterday Greece, Israel and Cyprus signed the agreement to monopolise the eastern Mediterranean gas pipeline to the exclusion of Turkey, which voted in its parliament to send troops to Libya. Italy disappeared from the gas agreement while, together with Turkey, it supports the Tripoli government against Haftar, supported by Russia, France, the Emirates and Egypt. The fronts are ready and all the ingredients for a general war in the Mediterranean are already in place.
It is not the only region that is “warming up”, although the signs these days are still at disturbing but not worrying levels. In North Korea Kim announced the end of the nuclear moratorium and promised “shocking action” against the US; China is finding increasing resistance among ASEAN countries to its control of the South China Sea, and even in Ulster it is very likely that the negotiations to set up the regional government will already give occasion to the first outbreaks of nationalist political violence.
In America, the main “problem” in the development of the conflict is that the main regional antagonists can only fit into the great global imperialist game in a similar and indirect way, by offsetting the economic power of the U.S. with China. Strategically, Brazil, Argentina and even Mexico are competing with each other to ally with China and escape the increasingly coercive U.S. control, not with China against the U.S. or vice versa… which does not reduce the regional contradictions between them one iota.
Thus, internal and international battles continually intersect and weave together, sometimes in contradictory ways. While Lula reorganizes the PT’s bloc of alliances in Brazil, Alberto Fernandez and AMLO reclaim CELAC to dissolve the Lima group – and Brazil – into a regional institutionality designed to translate – in the style of the late UnaSur – ideological lines into “bloc” lines in South America.
But if there is one visible example in this short week of the role and future that lies ahead for workers around the world if they do not assert themselves as a class, it is China. As the government militarized and expropriated thousands of peasants in Xinjiang to proletarianize them and put them to work in manufacturing, the revolt of the Hong Kong petty bourgeoisie began in the new year with a show of force in the streets and calls for outside imperialist intervention. But even to lead a city to a credible threat of war, the petty bourgeoisie’s movements are powerless without first framing the workers. So the slogan of the week has been “入工會!” (“join a union”). The students created 40 new unions and called on the workers to join them. To fight for workers’ own demands? Of course not. The fact that retired people need to pick up cardboard in the city in order to survive never worried or moved them in the least. The new unions are already being born with a “democratic” programme, that is, a programme that puts the needs of the workers in the background by subordinating them to the claims of the local middle classes for representation in political power.
No respite for workers
In just three days, this week has given us the clues not only to the year that is beginning, but to the historical period in which we are living. Where the workers accept to follow the democratic revolt of the petty bourgeoisie, the latter, unable to assert itself, will end up framing them for the imperialist conflict and war. And yet, be it in Iran, Turkey, China, America or Europe, where the workers are affirming themselves through their own struggles and slogans, the infernal machinery of war grinds to a halt.