Tag Archives: Imperialism

The Egyptian Uprising

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-Chris Shortsleeve

The uprising in Egypt is escalating. Imperialists who have said that ‘stability’ is what makes for good democracy, racists who have said that Arabs do not want their freedom, patriarchs who have said that women do not attend, much less lead, protests, and the Western middle classes who have wanted to paint the Egyptian uprising as a Twitter and Facebook-happy ‘Cedar Revolution’ of doctors and lawyers, have all in the last two weeks seen their pseudo-sociological assumptions about the Egyptian people collapse.

On Tuesday, one of the largest pro-democracy demonstrations yet went down in Cairo – this after days of the US media reporting, and the Mubarak regime requesting, a return to “normalcy” in Egypt – and perhaps even more significantly, new and militant strikes are now emerging throughout Egypt: six thousand Suez Canal workers have gone on strike in Suez, Port-Said, and Ismailia. They are being joined by railway technicians and oil workers, by government, sanitation, and court employees, and by factory workers both in Suez and historic, militant Mahalla. Independent trade unions are forming, and calls are being circulated for both single-day and more sustained General Strikes. The working class is moving in Egypt.

And while the Mubarak regime unleashes both direct and extra-parliamentary repression against the pro-democracy forces, while Torturer-in-Chief Omar Suleiman issues a mixture of pleas, threats, and mild economic ‘reforms’, and while both the Obama administration and the Egyptian opposition itself cannot coherently say whether they are for dictatorship or democracy, cannot unequivocally call for the Mubarak regime to be dismantled and for Mubarak and Suleiman to step down, the Egyptian people are showing no signs of giving up, and are continuing to call for the entire government’s dismissal.
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Park51 Raises Urgent Questions for Muslims

The struggle over the Park51 project — the Islamic center that will be known as the Cordoba House — in New York has presented a series of challenges to both Muslim organizers and the broader Left, but these challenges need to be understood as the culmination of deeper political and strategic questions that have so far gone unresolved.

Responding to white populism

In a period of growing white populism, it’s important to ask what strategies are necessary for the defense of our communities, and the defeat of both white supremacy and US imperialism.

The murder of Oscar Grant is only one of the most recent and better known cases of the ongoing police campaign to control and repress the Black community.  Since the death of Oscar Grant, at least seven more young Black men have been murdered in northern California alone.  Bloodshed at the hands of white violence — whether by slave drivers, lynch mobs, or the police — has been a consistent feature of the Black experience in the U.S.

In Arizona, Latin@ and undocumented peoples have been on the front lines of the fight against draconian forms of immigration control.  Sheriff Arpaio — who openly associates with neo-fascists — has become a national figure of the anti-immigrant movement conducting raids on immigrant neighborhoods, and holding many immigrant and undocumented people in tent cities that differ little from concentration camps.  This struggle, of course, has deeper roots in NAFTA and other imperial incursions by the U.S. in Latin America.

The passage of SB 1070 in Arizona needs to be understood as part of the success of a resurgent Right, that has been circling around the Tea Party, to capture state power in AZ.  While the ideological make-up around the Tea Party nation-wide is still being contested, fascist elements have entered the fray, and are attempting to both win individuals to their program, and influence the political direction of this milieu.

In this context, Park51 takes on new meaning and greater urgency.  Deepa Kumar has argued that anti-Muslim racism in the U.S. is in the process of changing.  While in the past, the U.S. ruling class treated the “Muslim terrorist threat” as a task to be tackled in the international arena, we have seen an increase in attacks on Muslim peoples inside the U.S.

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Israel’s Attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla: New Escalation, New Desperation

As with the general crisis, it seems everything is magnified at a higher level.

What follows are a few brief notes on last week’s assault of the aid convoy to Gaza. It certainly isn’t the only death squad operation going on against aid convoys as events in southern Mexico shows.

The attack on the Free Gaza flotilla, with the killing of 9 solidarity organizers and wounding of 30 or more, is not an isolated incident. It instead reveals a number of interlocking tensions that need to be pulled apart.

This premeditated assault and murder is part of a general shift in the Israeli government’s policy toward international anti-apartheid organizing, where the regime itself is taking on an increasingly direct role in attacking solidarity efforts. The regime understands that a more pro-Palestinian viewpoint has steadily gained ground in the Left and progressive circles. Further, it understands that the tactic of BDS has gained significant ground in the last ten years. While Palestinians, and more broadly Arabs and Muslims, have been constant targets of U.S, European and Israeli agents and police, the net is now being cast wider to include international solidarity as a whole.

In less than 24 hours after the attack on the Free Gaza flotilla, the Israeli government, along with the vast majority of newspapers and news channels in the U.S. and Europe began their typical intensive propaganda campaign. This certainly creates a kind of firewall, with the vast majority of people suffering from lack of knowledge about Israeli apartheid and the role of U.S. imperialism.

However, even this propaganda and the immense interest U.S. and other Western elites have invested in the apartheid project is coming up against reality. They have not been able to solve the political impasse represented by the Palestinian struggle. As a result, Zionism, as a form of white supremacy, is perhaps more in crisis today than it ever has been in its history.
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Crisis of the Occupation in Afghanistan

From 2001-2007 the occupation of Afghanistan and a growing low-intensity war in Pakistan proceeded with little notice in the U.S. Dominated by the uprising in Iraq, the U.S. ruling class–the principle force guaranteeing the occupation and the most to lose from its failure–equally treated developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan with relative neglect. For the last two years this course has been slowly reversed, and the U.S. has not only attempted to deal with the growing resistance in Afghanistan, but has dramatically deepened its involvement inside Pakistan. Richard Holbrooke, one of the architects of Clinton’s Yugoslavia policy and now playing a similar role in Afghanistan and Pakistan under Obama, indicated this conceptual shift when he said U.S. imperialism is not facing an Afghanistan problem, but a AfPak problem.

With Iraq secured, the Bush administration put General David Petraeus in charge of Central Command who turned to Afghanistan and Pakistan, which was completely out of control. The neo-Taliban now functioned as a shadow state throughout the south and east of the country, advancing to the edges of Kabul that confined a collapsing and illegitimate U.S.-backed regime. More recently, the resistance has emerged in pockets around the north of the country. The promotion of Petraeus signaled the intention to replicate the Iraq strategy which involved destabilizing the resistance by incorporating its bourgeois elements into the state and, at the same time, carrying out total war against its popular bases of support–what Don Rumsfeld had called the El Salvador option. Further, the U.S. depended on sharpening divisions in Iraqi society and capitalizing on the decisive ideological failures within the resistance.

Obama appointed General Stanley McChrystal, chief Special Forces commander in Iraq, to implement a similar strategy in Afghanistan. As commander of JSOC, McChrystal was one of the central players in the “El Salvador option” inside Iraq. McChrystal was highly critical of military policy in Afghanistan and gave a grim assessment of the state of the occupation, which was subsequently made public. Faced with a classic guerrilla campaign, the historical problems of state building in Afghanistan, and increased inter-state and regional competition in central Asia, for example the recent expansion of the Shanghai Cooperative Organization, U.S. imperialism has endangered its own strategic positions throughout the region.
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Notes on Afghanistan and Pakistan

by Will

Historical Features of Afghanistan

A) Afghanis have fought the British in three separate wars and Russians once and defeated them or held them at stalemate.  This is military dimensions of this war is something the American brass and political establishment are aware of.  This is reflected in the uneasiness of sending more troops although the new fiscal realities of the U.S. government are probably playing a role as well.

B) Afghanistan is one of the few places on the Earth where bourgeois-capitalist development has had little if any impact.  While many newly independent countries in the post-colonial era were taking stabs at state-led development, Afghanistan was largely left out of this dynamic.  This has meant a centralized state with a national ideology, which reaches into the pores of Afghanistan, has never existed.  There is a huge gulf between the cities and the rural sectors of society.  It also means that the presence of a working class is minimal.

C) The Communists following the overthrow of Daoud did not have a base in the countryside.  90% of the Afghani population lived here at the time.  To push for change they had to rely on a top-down strategy which alienated the villagers. This meant force and violence had to be used by the Communists fuelling an insurgency.  The pitfalls of revolution from above laid the gravestone of the Afghani Communists. So when Afghanis hate Communism, it is not because they are backwards, it is because Communists first became their jailers and tortures and later with the Soviets sided with those who jailed and tortured them.

Most Communists made another fatal mistake in supporting the Soviet invasion.  Socialism/Communism cannot be brought by the barrel of a gun.  Furthermore, the Soviet army found itself playing the role of occupier instead of some progressive force.  This was the inherent logic from the beginning.

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The Labor Movement in Egypt

written with mlove


Over the past three years the energy of Egyptian workers has created exciting  possibilities for the working class across the Middle East. In December of 2006 over 24,000 workers at Misr Spinning and Weaving company in Ghazl el-Mahalla initiated a wave of strikes and industrial actions that has extended well beyond the Mahalla al-Kubra industrial center challenging the foundations of the Egyptian state.  As this rank-and-file activity grew into a movement, it increasingly came into direct confrontation with the state, with well over 200 major strikes in 2007. When Mahalla workers again struck in April of 2008, the dictatorship looked to crush the movement. As soldiers and police tried to occupy the factory, clashes broke-out and spread, with live ammunition being fired on strikers and protesters.

The April 6 movement, as it became identified, was an important catalyst for grievances against the regime as striking workers were joined in the street by the mass outcries against the rising cost of bread. It is no accident that since 2008 there has been an attempt to crush the movement by arresting rank-and-file leadership, student activists, and opposition intellectuals, many of whom have been tortured, taking a place next to hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood organizers sitting in jail. What has been striking about the movement are the political dimensions of the protest.  In addition to fighting privatization and demanding back payment of bonuses, demanding for the raising of the minimum wage, people are singling out Mubarak and his American-backed dictatorship.
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The Ecology Movement, Climate Change & US Empire

There has been a lot of excitement by the left and the ecology movement lately, particularly around the G20 protests in Pittsburgh, the climate bill proposed by the House and recently amended by the Senate, and finally around the upcoming UN climate talks in Copenhagen.  But it’s worth noting how the broader political terrain today forms the hot topics of the ecology movement if we’re to effectively plan our campaigns and strategies.

This past spring, despite the hopes of environmentalists that lined up behind Obama’s presidential campaign, the EPA okayed over 40 mountain-top removal coal-mining projects without scrutiny. This form of coal mining is one of the more the ecologically destructive methods of coal mining.  The process dumps tons of chemicals and unwanted material down the sides of the mountain. burying wildlife and vegetation on the sides, and contaminating local water supplies.  It also allows mining companies to lay-off workers and cut labor costs because less people are needed than traditional forms of mining.

But just before labor day the EPA released a letter that indicates that the Obama administration and the EPA are seeking to block one of the largest mountain top mining permits issued, citing violations of the Clean Water Act.

Around the same time, the NYTimes began a series on water pollution noting violations of the Clean Water Act by coal mining companies.  The piece sites the lack of oversight and enforcement as a major problem, with companies dumping as much as 1000% of the allowed chemical concentration into local water systems in W Virginia.

So why the about-face?  Is Obama finally fulfilling his campaign promises to the environmental movement?

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What next for US Empire in Afghanistan and Pakistan



There are a lot of dimensions to the Af-Pak situation. Here are some of the key ones:

Most immediately are the tensions and “knife fighting” going on in administration over whether to send more troops to Afghanistan and what strategy to pursue.  It is definitely worth discussing what this debate says about Obama’s administration and at the same time the challenges and concerns facing US Empire.

Second there is the issue of what strategy to pursue. During the spring Obama went with a padded counter-terrorism strategy meaning the general thrust was to go after the Taliban and Al-Queda with some aid and development tacked on. It looks like McChrystal is calling for a full-blown counterinsurgency stategy which is civilian-centric and closer to nation-building.

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Iran: Charting Unknown Territory

by Will


This has been a huge couple of weeks for developments regarding Iran.  While Gathering Forces has not had a chance to discuss the massive protests which erupted in Iran over the summer, the urgency of what has taken place with Iran declaring basic civilian nuclear capabilities, Israel hawkish stance towards Iran, and Obama’s multi-lateralism put on trial raises important questions of where US Empire is headed and the general fate of the Middle East.

I will lay out a few concerns or points which I think every anti-imperialist has to take up.

1. What is Israel’s role in all of this? Netanyahu’s government is hawkish as ever, begging for an airstrike on Iran.  Only the US could give the green light for Israeli jets to fly over Iraqi airspace so this could happen. How does Israel’s foreign policy interests relate to US Empire in this case? What discussions happened between Obama and Netanyahu when the latter visited the White House?

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What is the meaning of Honduras for Latin America?

honduras_coup-2009With Zelaya’s return to Honduras, for now safely placed in the Brazilian embassy, the coup government have implemented a 45-day curfew, suspending constitutional rights and shutting down all anti-coup media. The situation is coming to a head, with repression by the oligarchy increasing in an attempt to crush the mass resistance and delay until the upcoming election.

Here are two essays that get at some of the dimensions of the meaning and impact of the coup in Honduras.

Coup in Honduras: the return of the gorillas or the tactics of attrition?

José Antonio Gutiérrez D. writes:

“Even when the protesters to call for little more than the defense of Zelaya, and with it, the defense of a rather lukewarm proposed reform it is in mobilizing that people learn to fight and learn to make their own project. Any mobilization contains the potential radicalization of the masses, especially when you consider that this protest was a spontaneous act of defiance to an oligarchy so stubborn and backward as to be criminal. On this mobilization depends the thwarting of the oligarchy’s plan to deter “soften” the political project of Zelaya: on whether it will radicalize the masses and thus driving the process towards the left. This is the factor with which the oligarchy(nor reformism) does not count on . And this is the factor that weighs more in the balance.”

Read the essay at Anarkismo.

Latin America’s future is being played out in Honduras

Roberto Sáenz writes:

“In the context of the region’s political cycle, and the current global economic crisis, the introduction of the military factory contains elements of polarisation of the situation not only towards the right, but eventually also to the left.

Exactly for this reason, this situation has its own flip-side, a concrete danger for those in power: in recent decades the privileged form of capitalist politics has been “mediation” via bourgeois democracy, avoiding extremism like the plague: not only the far right, but also leftists. A year ago we wrote: “The conjuncture of these factors is taking place under conditions of a growing global economic crisis as well as a crisis of hegemony for US imperialism. These global factors tend to the creation of an international situation with more ‘classic’ features, in the sense that perhaps in the near future we will see more conflicts between states and bourgeoisies than we have been accustomed to in the last two or three decades. That is to say, hints of crises, wars and revolutions”[12].

The reactionary course weakens the mediation of bourgeois democracy and introduces an element of unpredictability: the eventuality that among the polarisation will be opened a way forward for the left, a revolutionary opportunity, a factor which has been absent in all these years.”

Read the essay at The Commune.