Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Stand by Evo Morales!

Last weekend’s coup that overthrew the government of Evo Morales in Bolivia has been condemned by communists and progressives all around the world. The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), which represents some 97 million workers across the five continents, has condemned the coup along with the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation  (ITUC).
Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, whose Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) policies lifted nearly a fourth of the country’s population out of poverty, was forced to resign by army leaders that many believe are in the pocket of US imperialism.
Venal opposition politicians, in the pocket of US imperialism, refused to accept the result of the election held on 20th October and launched a wave of terror across the country.
Reactionary gangs made death threats to ministers and their children, and fire-bombed the houses of Morales’s supporters. They attacked MAS leaders and Bolivian communists who have consistently supported the MAS government and its progressive policies. Last weekend they even burned the Wiphala flag that represents Indigenous peoples of the Andes and is a symbol of Indigenous resistance after centuries of colonisation.
Their leader is Luis Fernando Camacho, an immensely rich bible-puncher who rose from the fascist movements in the Santa Cruz region where the USA has encouraged separatism in the past. Known as ‘El Macho’, the opposition leader is an openly racist misogynist who unapologetically represents the interests of the elites in his department and the country. An evangelical Christian, Camacho talks with a Bible in his hand and pulls on the Bolivians religious beliefs to argue that Morales is against them.
His chief henchman is former president Carlos Mesa, a veteran right-wing politician and ‘pro-business’ privatiser with extensive ties to Washington.
Morales and some of his supporters have now fled to safety in Mexico. But attacks on MAS activists continue in the country that for 14 years had defied the might of US imperialism to take the path of independence and social justice.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel called it a violent and cowardly coup d'├ętat that attacks democracy in Bolivia. The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “To see Evo Morales who, along with a powerful movement, has brought so much social progress forced from office by the military is appalling. I condemn this coup against the Bolivian people and stand with them for democracy, social justice and independence”. But this was condemned by Tory foreign minister, Dominic Raab, who accused Jeremy Corbyn of putting “Marxist solidarity ahead of democracy” in condemning the coup.
It was, however, welcome news for the big mining companies of the USA, Canada and south Korea that have long had their greedy eyes on Bolivia’s largely untapped lithium reserves – a key ingredient for the batteries of mobile phones and electric cars.
It was also good news for the ruling circles in the USA, which is not surprising as they’ve long been working to rid themselves of this challenge to American hegemony on what they consider to be their own doorstep.
Evo Morales has vowed to return with “more strength and energy” to serve his people. All communists should support his efforts and those of the mass movements of Bolivia to end US interference and restore democracy in the country.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Oil lords of the Middle East

by Ben Soton
Lords of the Desert: The Battle Between the United States and Great Britain for Supremacy in the Modern Middle East by James Barr. Simon & Schuster UK (2019). Hardback: 416pp; £20; ISBN-10: 1471139794; ISBN-13: 978-1471139796 Paperback: 416pp; £9.99; ISBN-10: 1471139808; ISBN-13: 978-1471139802 Kindle Edition: 416pp; £5.99; ASIN: B077DHWWRG

This book describes the Anglo-US rivalry in the Middle East from 1942 to 1967 that undermined the notion of the ‘special relationship’ between the two imperialist powers.
James Barr’s Lords of the Desert is divided into four parts focusing on: the formation of the state of Israel; the events in Iran in 1951; the Suez crisis of 1956; and the final part ending with the British withdrawal from South Yemen in 1967. Barr goes into considerable detail about various diplomatic meetings and those involved. He also discusses differences within the British and US ruling classes as well as between the two powers, such as the disagreements between the pro-Zionist Winston Churchill and his ‘Arabist’ Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden. Meanwhile in the USA, domestic oil companies were not keen on US development of the Saudi oil industry because this would lower the price of the ‘black gold’.
Barr sees the region’s history in terms of rivalry between imperialist powers, making little mention of popular movements in the region – Communist, Arab Nationalist and even Islamic.
Progressive movements in the Middle East were aided by that great anti-imperialist power the Soviet Union, which gets little mention. The only movement Barr mentions, in an over sympathetic way, is Zionism. Originally an instrument of the European big Jewish bourgeoisie, Zionism eventually become a tool of US imperialism. On occasion Zionism was at odds with British imperialism, which for much of the period favoured the Hashemite monarchies of Jordan and Iraq. Meanwhile US imperialism was able to trade its pro-Zionist position in the Arab world by promoting the House of Saud, which was often at odds with Britain’s Hashemite clients.
At the beginning of the period British imperialism was the dominant power in the region, holding key strategic assets such the Suez Canal and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the fore-runner of British Petroleum (BP). The changing role of US imperialism was shown when these assets were threatened.
In 1951 the Iranian Government nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company; the US Government sided with Britain and orchestrated the overthrown of the Iranian government two years later. The CIA paid Islamic mobs to riot, believing their government would close down the mosques. One of the rioters was the late Ayatollah Khomeini.
The same British government believed the USA would back them in 1956, when they along with France and Israel invaded Egypt after the Nasser government nationalised the Suez Canal. The Prime Minister Anthony Eden, who was Foreign Secretary at the time of the Iranian crisis, made a serious error of judgement when the USA not only refused to support them but threatened to sell off reserves of sterling.
This was the point when US imperialism replaced Britain as the dominant power in the region. Washington’s long-term aim in the region was to ease out their British counter parts, replacing them as the dominant power in the region whilst fooling the region’s people and some governments that it was not an imperialist power.
Barr paints a rosy view of two of the region’s worst curses: imperialism and Zionism; not questioning their right to interfere, exploit and treat the Arabs with contempt. Lords of the Desert is, however, a useful source of information for anyone interested in Middle East history. He inadvertently provides anti-imperialists with ammunition by making little mention of the Soviet Union. If it was such an evil empire, why does it feature so little in a book on inter-imperialist rivalry in the region?

Chinese firm rescues British Steel

By New Worker correspondent

A Chinese firm has stepped in to save British Steel and the job of thousands of workers in Scunthorpe and Teesside. When it was publicly-owned the British Steel Corporation was the country’s major steel producer. It was sold-off in 1988 during the Thatcher era and it’s been downhill ever since. British Steel went into liquidation in May but it’s been kept running by the Official Receiver in the hope of a rescue buy-out. The company employs 5,000 workers directly with a further 20,000 workers in the supply chain.
            This week the giant Chinese Jingye group announced that it had reached an agreement in principle to take over the company in a deal which will lead to an investment of £1.2 billion into the British steelmaker and "preserve thousands of jobs in a key foundation industry for the UK".
Jingye Group chair Li Ganpo said it would spend £1.2bn over the next decade in upgrading plant and machinery, "improving the company's environmental performance... and boosting energy efficiency to place the operations on a more competitive and sustainable footing".
The Jingye Group is located in an old Chinese revolutionary area called Pingshan Town and adjacent to Xibaipo, where Chairman Mao had his headquarters in the 1930s during the civil war.
Unite the union has cautiously welcomed the news of the takeover bid. Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Unite welcomes news that it appears we are close to a deal being concluded that ends the anxiety felt by thousands of workers, their families and communities and finally brings desperately needed stability to a world class business.
“However, there have been a series of false dawns in finding a buyer for British Steel and Unite will not be raising any false hopes without seeing detailed plans for the entire business and the ink is dry on the contracts.
“If and when a formal announcement is made, the workforce will begin to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
"Unite is seeking a further urgent meeting with Jingye to understand exactly what commitments will be made to the workforce and its proposals for long term investment in the company.
“Similarly we continue to seek meetings with government to secure a firm commitment that it will now finally ensure that previous empty promises to act to defend the steel industry in respect of tariffs, energy prices and business rates in particular, are finally delivered and aren’t simply a further example of opportunist electioneering”.