Published the 23 November 2015 in War and Imperialism
In the following we publish the recent analysis by the Internationalist Communist Tendency of the changing imperialist coalitions in the so called "war against the ’Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria", following the rapid deployment of the Russian military presence in Syria, and its military operations against the "Caliphate".
It dates from the beginning of last October, more than a month before the abominable terrorist bloodbaths in Paris of November 13, as a reprisal against the entry of France in the military operations of the US led coalition in Iraq and Syria.
We consider it as an important contribution to laying bare
of the real and irreconcilable stakes for the most important rivaling powers in the so called "war against Islamist terrorism".
Putin’s Latest Move in Syria
We can now add "Tsar" Putin’s Russia to the already tragically overcrowded number of participants in the war around the shaky regime of Bashar al Assad. It officially claims to be entering the fray against the infamous Islamic State.
In an era of “mutual suspicion”, when the fake socialism or more accurately state capitalism of the USSR crumbled under the weight of its own contradictions, almost all international analysts joined in the chorus to sing the “De Profundis” of a “communist” utopia, writing epitaphs on the failure of a much-feared political and ideological opponent. At the same time we were treated to enthusiastic panegyrics on the superiority of the capitalist system, claiming that the fall of the “evil empire” would open up horizons of peace and prosperity for all humanity. It was claimed that with the Cold War over thanks to the collapse of one of the two contenders, “the baddie” in the Western bourgeois clichés, there would be no more episodes of open warfare and, finally, the huge resources spent on wars would be used for economic development, care of the environment, for the prosperity of the people, creating a kind of earthly capitalist paradise that only the “evil” of the regime in Moscow had, for decades, prevented.
Even in the era of “mutual suspicion” we allowed ourselves to reply to these learned analysts that
1) the collapse of the USSR did not represent the failure of the communist project, but the fall of an economic and political regime which was entirely capitalist after the failure of the October Revolution in the twenties;
2) that the historical event was nothing less than the collapse of one front of international imperialism; that
3) the contradictions of capitalism would continue to operate, the exploitation of the international proletariat would be further intensified and that
4) the war would follow the rhythm of the economic crisis, becoming ever wider and increasingly devastating.
Today we can say that the facts have shown up the litany of the praise-singers of capitalism for the stupidity that it was. Crises have dramatically re-appeared one after another bringing greater hunger and despair. Wars have never ended, reaping death wherever the interests of capital have clashed in all their virulence. The "cold war", after a break of a few years, has resumed its course even if in a broader and more complex imperialist scenario, characterised by a series of wars for oil, for its routes and marketing, with the rise and the disappearance of imperialist pawns whose moves have never ended.
And within this scenario lies the current tragic events in Syria, the rise of Isis, the role of the USA and the entry into the field of the other imperialist antagonist: Putin’s Russia.
Against his will the small-time Syrian dictator found himself in the middle of an imperialist conflict involving the most powerful forces on the international stage. For US imperialism, backed by Europe, the elimination of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, like that of Ghaddafi, has meant and means removing any obstacle to the manoeuvres of its Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. It means removing any residual support in the small sea for the resurgent imperialism of Moscow and forcefully retaking the leadership of the West from Europe, at the same time undermining the Russian "monopoly" of energy supplies to Europe itself. The theatres of this "new Cold War" are the Eastern European countries, from the former Yugoslavia to Ukraine via Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary. The usual means are being employed: the use of NATO, its expansion to the east, fomenting civil wars, the "colour" revolutions and economic sanctions. The important thing was not to allow the old Russian bear to growl again on the strength of its barrels of oil and cubic metres of natural gas.
For a renewed Russian imperialism it is just the opposite. First, it needed to break the organised encirclement along its borders. Then it had to try to resume in the East the imperialist role that was once the USSR’s. Finally, it had to prevent the same old opponent from shutting down its access to the Mediterranean Sea. When the events of the war in which the Assad government found itself reached the height of military, and even greater social, tension, Putin saw fit to call a referendum on Crimea that would allow Moscow to have the access that it otherwise risked losing with the demise of its ally in Damascus. The “recaptured” Crimea is better than nothing, but the path that separates Sevastopol from the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus is still precarious and operationally dependent on the shifting alliances with Ankara and its hegemonic ambitions in the Black Sea. Today the agreement on the Turkish Stream seems to pave the way for Russian “ships” but, any day a re-established relationship with the US could overturn this. And, regardless of this situation, Putin cannot afford the luxury of losing two Syrian ports such as Latakia and Tartus. The first is important as a commercial and possible oil and gas terminal favouring Russia. The second a military port that has "always" allowed the Russian ships to be an opponent of the American Sixth Fleet’s military presence in the Mediterranean.
This explains the recent decision by Putin to begin an assault against the IS and militarily enter Syria alongside the Coalition. Putin actually kicked off a series of air strikes in the northwest of Syria by bombing some military positions of the Caliphate, but also focussed on the areas controlled by Assad’s opponents. So the picture is complete. The Islamic state has become, for all the military actors in Syria, the screen behind which to hide their imperialist designs as much as possible. For the US the "campaign against the Islamic State, once nurtured, financed and armed, by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, then ditched when it became a burden and politically inconvenient", it is in fact an excuse to support the jihadist galaxy against the Assad regime. For Turkey, which has done a u-turn on its original position, joining the Coalition means bombing the positions of the Caliphate’s militias, but, above all, it is a great excuse to fight Kurdish fighters on Syrian and Iraqi territory, and the PKK on the domestic front, as well as the home-grown leftist opposition. Putin is doing otherwise. Officially Russia is not in the Coalition but is at its side to fight the terrorism of al-Baghdadi. In fact it also operates, if not mainly, against the enemies of its ally in Damascus.
No wonder the Russian raids immediately opened a polemic between Putin and Obama, who has denounced Russia’s presence in Syria as not so much to operate against the Islamic State, as against the forces fighting the regime in Damascus. Imperialism is capable of these absurd arguments in a childish game to justify criminal wrongdoing. Obama accuses Putin of defending the dictator Assad. Putin accuses Obama of arming and financing the jihadists who are fighting against the regime in Damascus, as if the vested interests of both were not sufficiently clear to even the most inattentive observer. For reasons already noted, the first fights Assad through the galaxy of jihadists present in Syria, the second fights to defend its strategic ally. Nevertheless, Turkey continues with its ambiguous programme to fit as many shoes possible on the same foot. After the Russian raid inside Syria it sided with American criticism to mend old wounds, but not very loudly to safeguard its Turkish Stream project with Moscow. To complete the picture, inside the coalition, including Arab countries, only Saudi Arabia seem to follow the bellicose input from Washington, while Qatar continues its course of asymmetrical action like Kuwait and Yemen, who are, however, otherwise engaged.
Within the schemes of the small and large imperialisms which decide world history in their interests, move the dispossessed masses. With no alternative social project, nor a revolutionary point of reference, they become the tools of these objectives. At the mercy of the ideologies of their ruling classes, these dispossessed masses of workers on the edge of survival, end up falling into the clutches of this or that jihadism, either Sunni or Shiite, but always serving the interests of the enemy class. These networks can also be those of secular or religious nationalism, but are always on the side of our class political opponents. They make use of it in every way they can to produce so-called "collateral damage". This means destroying entire villages, cities, perpetrating horrendous crimes including the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, leading to a biblical exodus of millions of refugees who flee from the hunger, death and war that imperialist relations endlessly produce.
It’s time to break these relations, to give political meaning to the only possible alternative to capitalism, to its imperialist essence, its crisis and its ever more devastating wars. It’s time to build the international revolutionary party, the political condition towards the only possible alternative: communism.
October 5th, 2015