Another Military Adventure

Editorial, ASR 63 (2015)

Once again the U.S. government has begun a military campaign in a middle eastern country to end “terrorism.” Thousands will be killed with explosives, made homeless and destitute, and the region left in turmoil and even more deeply in the hands of religious fanatics.

This time the battlefield is Syria, but it is a long war, begun sixty years ago when the CIA toppled the elected leader of Iran and installed the Shah. The Shah’s secret police murdered and tortured for a quarter century, until finally his dictatorship was overthrown by a revolution usurped by religious factions before democracy could be restored. The U.S. has been involved in wars throughout the middle east ever since, first supporting Saddam Hussein in Iraq and encouraging him to attack Iran, then toppling him a decade later by invading Iraq.

The U.S. supported Al-Qaeda when it fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, then had to hunt down its own Frankenstein’s Monster after that monster turned on its creator with the World Trade Center attack. Reagan invaded Lebanon supposedly to bring stability, but had to pull out after the Marine barracks was destroyed by a suicide bomber. Obama helped Libyan rebels overthrow Qadafi with weapons and air attacks, not unlike what he proposes to do in Syria, but it would be foolish to expect any other outcome than what happened in Libya. Assad may fall, some ISIS leaders will be killed, but another country will be left in a state of permanent civil war.

Anarcho-syndicalists have no sympathy for Assad, a hereditary dictator who is only too willing to kill those who oppose his regime. Neither do we see the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS) as anything more than a violent criminal enterprise, playing on religion to gain followers and extort money from people living in that region. However, this new military adventure is not about ending terrorism, it is about protecting the oil fields of Iraq for U.S. corporate interests and creating another economic windfall for the military contractors and arms dealers.

President Obama wanted to attack Syria over a year ago to help overthrow Assad, but anti-war sentiment was too great. It was not until Syrian rebels calling themselves ISIS began attacks in Iraq, and threatened the oil fields there, that the corporate media discovered a “terrorist threat” and began running atrocity stories and the Obama regime finally got its war.

Whatever progress liberals and the left hoped to see from President Obama will be sacrificed to a renewed war on terror. President Obama has been compared by some to President Franklin Roosevelt, who had to change course from being “Dr. New Deal to Dr. Win the War” to defeat the Nazis. Unfortunately, Obama has been more “Dr. No Deal” than “Dr. New Deal.” This Syrian military adventure will only make matters worse. Under Presidents Bush and Obama, working families saw almost $5 trillion of their savings and assets transferred to the wealthy Wall Street swindlers who caused the largest financial meltdown in history.

Nothing has changed by trading Obama for Bush: No reinstatement of New Deal banking rules that would have prevented this disaster. No bailout for home-owners who were left to pick up the tab. By launching this military adventure, it is assured that as long as it continues we will hear the sad refrain whenever we demand something from the government, “We Are Too Broke!”

The only way to stop these oil wars is to ignore the claims of the war mongers and continue fighting to improve the lot of working people in our own country, and do everything we can to keep our children and fellow workers from joining the imperial armies of the energy barons.

Editorial: The Scourge of Nationalism

from LLR 14

Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all others. The inhabitants of the other spots reason in like manner…

— Emma Goldman, Patriotism

As we go to press, Croatians, Serbians and Bosnians are engaged in full-scale war. Russia is threatening action against Estonia unless it stops discriminating against ethnic Russians. Border disputes are flaring throughout the former Soviet empire as nationalists try to carve out their own, ethnically-pure nation states.

Thus, we see the “national independence” movements move from the Third World to eastern Europe. Nationalism is not, of course, a new phenomena. But today “civilized” warfare has advanced to the point where entire cities can be levelled in a matter of hours, and tens of thousands slaughtered in mere minutes.

War is tragic enough even when necessitated (as, for example, during the Spanish Revolution) by workers’ self-defense. But its devastation is all the more tragic resulting from the empty chimera of nationalism. There is, at root, no such thing as a nation — nationalism is an empty construct that serves both to conceal internal oppression and to define the vast majority of the world’s population as outside the realm of human solidarity.

As Jose Marti noted, “To change the master is not to be free.” Throughout the Third World, nationalism has served as the vehicle for a new set of masters to take control — but there is no evidence that the majority of the population has benefitted thereby. Nor have the nationalist revolutions in the Soviet Bloc benefitted most workers (as evidenced most recently in Lithuania where voters have ousted the nationalists and returned the former communists to power — not that there is any reason to believe their oppressive yoke will be any lighter).

The nation-state is not a natural community. Rather, nationalism is the political theology of the state — a doctrine evolved to justify all manner of outrages against external and internal threats to the state’s (or the aspiring state’s) interests. Self-determination has nothing to do with it.

Thus, Serbian nationalists relocate Croatian and Moslem populations to concentration camps (when they don’t execute them outright) in order to create ethnically homogenous territories in which to construct their new nation-state.

Indonesian generals massacre residents of East Timor who wish to set up their own nation-state, in the name of preserving the unity of the Indonesian nation (itself a colonial construct devised to simplify administration of far-flung islands).

In the name of nationalism, the U.S. and its allies felt no compunction about massacring Iraqis. In turn, Iraq’s leaders appeal to nationalism to mobilize support for their attacks against the Kurds (whose nationalist “leaders” in turn use their armed forces to suppress efforts by workers to take control of their workplaces).

The anarchist alternative to nationalism, as Sam Dolgoff notes in “Third World Nationalism and the State” (available from LLR), is a libertarian, stateless federation of various peoples with all other peoples of the world. We reject the artificial national boundaries imposed by capitalism and the state to segregate and divide the workers into hostile camps.

Our freedom, our ability to realize our capacities and pursue our desires, can only be realized when we reject nationalist efforts to paint our fellow workers in different parts of the world as “other” — as people whose aspirations and needs are less important or less legitimate than our own. It is time to more beyond international solidarity, with its implicit notion that national boundaries retain some meaning or legitimacy, towards a global solidarity of people struggling to realize our common humanity, and the freedom that we can truly enjoy only when it is extended to all.