Down with imperialist aggression against Syria! USA, hands off Syria!

[The following is a recent statement from revolutionary Maoists in Brazil, detailing their analysis of the ever-growing civil war in Syria as a proxy war by contending imperialist powers for control of the Middle East.  It is an important contribution to the international debate among revolutionaries, over the shifting relations and aggressions, direct and indirect, by leading powers in the world imperialist system. — Frontlines ed.]

Proletarians and oppressed people of the world, unite!

Declaration of the Revolutionary Front for the Defence of the People’s Rights – Brazil

About the recent situation in Syria

In the last months, the imperialist Yankee has intensified its manipulations and provocations to justify its military invasion in Syria. The US propaganda machine is once again creating smokescreens to justify to the world public yet another predatory war. “To defend democracy,” “human rights”, stop use of chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction;” these are the new smokescreens of the Yankee imperialism in its counter-revolutionary offensive, reviving the “War on Terror”. These were also the same pretexts used to justify the aggression towards Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Libya, and many other countries. by the very forces  who are the most responsible for countless massacres and use of weapons of mass destruction in human history; imperialism, mainly Yankee.

Since 2011, the people in Syria are subjected to imperialist predatory war that currently is conducted in the form of a civil war. The armed forces of Assad’s regime (sustained politically, economically, and militarily by Russian imperialism) and the self-proclaimed ‘Free Syrian Army’ (mercenary forces directly controlled by the USA through their intelligence services and regional allies) are the contenders of this inter-imperialist dispute on the Syrian territory. In this war all kinds of horrors against the masses have been practised, without this having motivated attention or outcry from the well know”international institutions”. Continue reading

Why Does a Revolt Fail? On Reexamining “Who are you fighting? Is your force and vision capable of victory?”

[If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles. – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

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Jordan – a failed uprising and a re-emerging regime

“Up to now, the regime has been successful in absorbing the movement and fragmenting it”

by Hisham Bustani, Your Middle East, January 8, 2013

There is no doubt that the November 2012 events in Jordan dubbed Habbet Tishreen by many activists in recollection of its 1989 counterpart, the April Uprising, or Habbet Neesan, are unprecedented. Although both were triggered by an increase in the prices of oil derivatives, the 2012 version seems to have been much more radicalized in its approach to the ruling regime, especially the Hashemite monarchs/family and the king himself.

Before 2012, it was the virtue of the ultra-brave to publicly criticize the king and the royal family: they usually spoke with evident hints and innuendo, but without going the full route to directly uttering the name of the king. Criticizing the king and the royal family was simply not tolerated under Jordanian law, and it is still punishable by one to three years in prison. The law incriminating this sort of criticism has perhaps the world’s most absurd name for any legislation: literally, the ‘Law on elongating one’s tongue about the monarch’!

I was not one of the brave ones, but while others directed their criticism to ‘the government’, I have always referred to “the political authority” in my articles, making a point that governments do not rule in Jordan, they are mere executives, and the decision-making lies somewhere else, in spaces on a higher level: The Royal Court and the General Intelligence Agency (Mukhabarat).

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Why Jordan’s Protests Could Not Be Sustained

Jordan Protests: Shock Absorbed, the Regime Will Not Fall

[Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) speaks with Jordan’s King Abdullah upon his arrival in the West Bank city of Ramallah 6 December 2012.(Photo: Reuters – Yousef Allan/ Handout)]

By: Hisham Bustani, writing in  http://english.al-akhbar.com, December 6, 2012

There is no doubt that the November protests in Jordan were unprecedented. They were a first in terms of mass, explicit slogans directed against the King and the Hashemite monarchy, with some demonstrations even calling for the establishment of a republic in Jordan.

While this is clearly a watershed in the development of the opposition movement in Jordan, the regime has successfully been able to absorb the shock of the protests and will not fall in the foreseeable future.

King Abdullah II: Weak and Vulnerable

In contrast to his father – the powerful and politically savvy King Hussein – Jordan’s current king has proved a weak monarch. Upon taking the throne, King Abdullah II introduced his own advisors and high-ranking officials into the regime. In many important respects, the new king’s men were no different from their predecessors: both were corrupt and willing to implement neoliberal economic policies. But there was one key difference. The new Western-educated, business-oriented elite lacked the support of important social structures: the tribes.

During their time in power, King Hussein’s old guard maintained extensive social connections with their tribes, ensuring that a small part of the proceeds of their corruption trickled down to tribe members in different forms such as jobs, university scholarships, and cash benefits. The notorious Single Non-Transferable Vote electoral system introduced in 1993 (and still in place today in thinly-disguised form) further strengthened the tribes, turning them from a social unit into a political one.

One dead in Jordan riots, more protests planned

Thu Nov 15, 2012

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Reuters

AMMAN, Nov 15 (Reuters) – Rioting in Jordan after the government raised fuel prices left one protester dead, the first fatality of violence sweeping impoverished towns in the kingdom, and Islamists called for more protests on Friday.

Hundreds took to the streets this week after the government decided to raise gasoline, cooking gas and heating fuel prices. They blocked roads, set government buildings alight and trashed shops in the towns of Maan, Tafila, Salt and Karak.

The protester was killed and scores were injured during an attack on a police station overnight in Jordan’s second-largest city of Irbid, witnesses said. Police said they used tear gas to disperse masked youths who attacked government property.

Some protesters torched part of Irbid’s municipal headquarters later on Thursday to vent their anger at officials who said the dead young man had been armed, the witnesses said.

“The country has risen up from north to south and this state of popular tension is unprecedented,” said Murad Adailah, a senior member of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Front called for more protests after Friday prayers in the centre of the capital Amman and in mosques across the country. Continue reading

Frantz Fanon and the Arab Uprisings: An Interview with Nigel Gibson

from Thinking Africa: Fanon 50 years later
Nigel Gibson was interviewed by Yasser Munif in Jadaliyya:  “The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon’s magnum opus, was published in 1961, a few days after his death. The book was not only influential for several generations of grassroots movements and activists in Africa, the United States, and Latin America; it was also discussed and debated extensively in intellectual circles across the globe. The reception of the book was more mitigated in the Arab world. This might be due to Fanon’s sweeping criticism of national bourgeoisie, which seized power after decolonization and became an intermediary class between Western powers and local populations. The Martiniquan intellectual was skeptical of revolutions from above, as was the case with several anti-colonialist movements in the Arab World. Interestingly, while the Arabic translation of the The Wretched of the Earth came out shortly after its publication in French, it omitted many passages because they were critical of the national bourgeoisie. Fifty years later, Fanon is almost absent in public discourses in the Middle East and is still marginal in the Maghreb. The uprisings should have been an excellent opportunity for Arab intellectuals and activists to engage with Fanon’s work on the revolution and the subaltern in the new conjuncture. However, despite the significance of his political philosophy for the current revolts, his books are either out of print or conspicuously absent from many bookstores in the Arab world.
“In this interview with Nigel Gibson, one of the most prominent experts on Fanon’s work, he explains the significance of the Fanonian theoretical framework and its relevance for the Arab uprisings. Nigel Gibson has written a number of articles and books on the Martiniquan intellectual and deployed a Fanonian perspective to examine many contemporary revolts. His numerous books include Fanon: The Postcolonial Imagination (2003) and Fanonian Practices in South Africa: From Steve Biko to Abahlali baseMjondolo (2011). He teaches postcolonial theory at Emerson College. The interview was conducted in Boston in July 2012.”
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Though the “Arab Spring” opened things up in many countries, it was not all the same, nor is the struggle of the people complete on any front, so attempts to classify or categorize will inherently fail. Nonetheless, this map represents one view of how things have gone (so far).

Yasser Munif (YM): Ongoing protests have swept the Arab world since the toppling of the Tunisian dictator. They changed the political and cultural landscape of the region. The mot d’ordre of the protesters is clear: “The people want the fall of the regime.” Western powers tried to co-opt the protests because real democracy in the Arab World can threaten their domination of the region. They want to maintain their hegemony in the oil rich gulf. The region is also important geopolitically because of the United States’ close ties to Israel and its wars in the Middle East. The interest of the West in the region is not new. In Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said argues that while formal colonization ended in the mid-twentieth century, Arab countries became the political satellites of the West since then. He writes, “for two generations the United States has sided in the Middle East mostly with tyranny and injustice… one administration after another has propped up compliant and unpopular clients, and turned away from the efforts of small peoples to liberate themselves from military occupation. In a way, Said is suggesting that real independence was never achieved; the present politico-economic condition of Arab countries is a continuation of the colonial period by new means. In this context, the work of Frantz Fanon is very relevant to understanding the current Arab uprisings. Yet, as you explain in a recent essay, one should refrain from the temptation of extrapolating old concepts into new situations. Referring to Fanon’s work ,you write, “The task for radicals is to avoid applying pre-formed cookie-cutter theory to new situations and jamming a new event or movement into old categories, but, instead, to begin to open up space for dialogue and reflection on action.” Do you think that Frantz Fanon’s analysis about colonialism, imperialism, and independence movements can have any relevance today for Arab protesters who are challenging despotic regimes?

Nigel Gibson (NG): I do think that Fanon has relevance, and so the question is how do you approach Fanon? Are there categories in Fanon’s thought that can simply be applied to new situations, and if so what new thinking would emerge? Applying Fanon’s categories to new situations is valuable to a degree, but the question I am asking is what does Fanon offer us methodologically? In other words, how does he actually get us to rethink our concepts? I think Fanon is basically an open thinker and a radically humanist thinker. If you look at the first pages of Black Skin White Masks, where he is critical of scientific methods, to the final pages of the Wretched of the Earth, where he talks about working out new concepts, the question is how and on what basis do you work on new concepts with the goal of human freedom? For Fanon, becoming actional is connected to his idea of a new humanism, which is explicitly critical of European humanism so intimately connected with colonialism. So, it is not simply about finding new concepts from anywhere, but being both critical and self-critical and also being very open to what is happening on the ground. So, in other words, a critic could have said, last January in 2011 in Tahrir Square, that if you read Fanon, you know that the liberatory moment is going to be closed down by the military or the state, and therefore end up with a kind of ontological pessimism. We are defeated before we begin. The critic might add, Fanon tells us that all these revolutions in the end will fail, and look: they have. But, for me, that is not how one engages Fanon. If Fanon is alive he is in the revolts because the revolts themselves open up something very new. One has to be aware, or listen, or open one’s mind to what are the new beginnings.
Now, you could look at the situation and say, Fanon tells us to be very wary of the nationalist elite and all the other social forces we could talk about: religious elite, nationalist elite, military elite, regional elites, and the comprador nature of some of these elites and all the repressive ideologies that justify them. So, in other words, the question then becomes how do you employ Fanon productively? You do not want to close down possibilities, but at the same time, you want to be wary of Fanon’s warnings. So, in a certain sense, it is what I would consider a dialectical approach. It is not simply good enough—and one could do it with any thinker, one could do it with Marx—to have a series of categories to say, well, this revolt will fail because it does not correspond with the categories or fulfill certain expectations in a Marx or in a Fanon, and therefore it is doomed to do this and that. Even if in the end it does this and that, we have to be open about what is new in the Arab revolts. What do they tell us? How do they come about? Why have they come about now? In what way can one see them as new beginnings, a turning of a page, and the creation of a new historical moment, rather than a repetition of a neocolonial situation that you mention in Said’s quote in the beginning? If Fanon’s thought is alive, it cannot be simply applied.
YM: As I mentioned above, Said thinks that the process of decolonization was aborted by local social forces or international policies, and that what we are experiencing in the Middle East today is a continuation of old fashioned colonialism, as in the case of Iraq, or a form of neocolonialism /imperialism, as is the case of most Arab countries. In that sense, Fanon is extremely relevant and we have to reread him. And yet, Fanon has been extremely absent in the Arab public spheres, public discussions, and the media in general. Some intellectuals have either consciously avoided him or are ignorant about his work and its implications on contemporary Arab societies. Others, for ideological reasons, denied these connections between “metropole” and “colony,” to use Fanon’s categories and the relationship between the two. Many Arabs and Western liberals have argued that the revolts are about democracy and anti-authoritarianism and we should not conflate these new categories with the older ones such as imperialism or colonialism. Hazem Saghieh, one of the influential Lebanese journalists who writes for the London-based and Gulf-funded al-Hayat newspaper, wrote in one of his articles that protesters in Tahrir Square were not holding signs about imperialism or Zionism, and these revolts are therefore about internal /local issues and regional concerns. So, how can one make an argument for the relevance of Fanon when he is so absent in public discourses?
NG: It is almost like different levels of abstractions. There is not a one-to-one correspondence; fifty years is the long time to think about a thinker’s relevance or to think of the relevance of their work to a contemporary period. However, in the same way, you could say that there were not very many banners about democracy in the way that liberal democracy or the western kind of democracy understands it and that the pundits have said the revolts were about. Therefore, the signs and slogans in Tahrir may have not been about imperialism, and they may have not reflected the kind of things that the liberal critics wanted to talk about either. But the issue then becomes not to judge things by an a priori anti-imperial discourse. Rather, the first thing is to find out what is being talked about. What are people saying? It was certainly about getting rid of Mubarak. But it was more than that, even if it was not explicit; the point is to trace through the contradictions and developments. Someone who has not read Fanon and who lived through that period, and now reads Fanon, will find out how quickly he or she identifies with his analysis of how the new rulers behave like the old rulers; it is a revolution, yes, but in the old sense of revolving and repeating what was happening before. In one sense, it is how we understand neo-colonialism, but Fanon is not only talking about the threat from imperialism, which is always there, but how the threats are manifested internally. He speaks about a great threat to the decolonial movement being the lack of liberatory ideologies. What does he mean by ideology? Certainly, there are many ideologies around. There are Islamic ideologies; there are nationalist ideologies, neoliberal ideologies, and so forth. He is talking about something else. He has a vision for something else. The subject of the Wretched of the Earth is the wretched of the earth, that majority of the people of the world, who are not only poor, but are actively denied agency and are constantly reminded that politics is above them. How do the wretched of the earth become actional, become political, and become social individuals? Fanon calls his ideology a new humanism, not only in contrast to the elite humanism of the West, but also on the axiom that the wretched of the earth, understood socially, think and thus must be a basis of a new politics. This, of course, is not achieved immediately, but it must become an explicit element of the struggle for liberation. Then there is the question of the role of the intellectual committed to social change. What can the intellectuals do in these periods? So, again we are back to Fanon’s relevance and the difficulty of talking about it in an applied way. First, it is interesting to look at the history of why Fanon is not considered relevant and the fact that postcolonial states have suppressed his thought in one way or another.   Second, the only way we can prove the relevance of Fanon in a certain way outside of some academic circles is to ask, do people involved in social struggles engage with Fanonian concepts and find something relevant for them, even if they have never heard of Fanon because Fanon is implicitly in the struggles? In other words, the idea of a new generation; he has a phrase at the beginning of “On National Consciousness, where he talks about how “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.”[1] So, a new generation makes something of him and brings that into the discussion. To me, that would be the only proof of relevance of Fanon. I can make an argument for it, but in the end that would be the test. Now the question is: how would that happen? How do you get Fanon into the public discourse, especially when a lot of the public discourse is limited, and Fanon is considered irrelevant? You face liberal pundits like Hazem Saghieh, who might say that Fanon represents a fifty-year-old politics of violence and imperialism, or other politicians, who might emphasize that Fanon is not a Muslim and is therefore irrelevant to a Muslim society. These are some of the problems with discussing Fanon. Continue reading

Arab Uprisings: Progress, But Not Yet a Revolution

[Article 2 of the series “One Year After the Arab Uprisings.”  Part One, “The Failure of the Arab ‘State’ and Its Opposition” originally appeared at  http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/failure-arab-state-and-its-opposition and was posted on revolutionary frontlines at https://revolutionaryfrontlines.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/the-failure-of-the-arab-state-and-its-opposition … Part 3 of the series is expected soon. — Frontlines ed.]

 ….a revolution is fueled by class interest or the ideology of a revolutionary party while an uprising is fueled by anger and frustration. A revolution presents a comprehensive social, economic, and political program for change that was pre-meditated and based on philosophical discourses. An uprising has no such program and has no philosophical discourse. A revolution has a leading class or a leading party, whereas an uprising has no clear leadership.

A protester, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, stands in front of Egyptian military police standing guard near the Ministry of Defense in the Abbassiya district of Cairo 30 April 2012. (Photo: REUTERS – Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

By: Hisham Bustani–Saturday, May 5, 2012

Arab Uprisings: Progress, But Not Yet a Revolution

There is no real class formation in modern Arab societies. The post-colonial Arab “state” is a political and economic disaster area that has yet to advance into the industrialized era. Its social fabric was deformed by imposing and/or magnifying divisions and fragmentation. It transformed the collaborative self-sufficient gatherings – based economically on farming and grazing in rural areas; pillaging and grazing in desert areas; and commerce, crafts, and some manufacturing in cities, with each social group having its own traditions and rules that applied to all members – into malformed consumerist social formations. These formations come in the shape of family, clan, sect or ethnicity for identity, solidarity and protection.

These formations live on the periphery of a globalized service sector, and are governed by regimes that largely destroyed local economies in exchange for a model based on foreign aid. This is a corporate-dependant, commoditized, service-based model, where the ruling class is the representative of global corporations: a comprador formation with interests opposed to local industrialization and production. In countries where natural resources are abundant, the governments opted for exporting raw materials rather than investing in and manufacturing goods with them. Instead, the money was sucked away in a cycle of corruption and parts of it were redistributed down to the people as a form of a “grant” from the benefactor ruler..

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The Failure of the Arab “State” and Its Opposition

Tribal fighters loyal to Sadiq al-Ahmar, the leader of the Hashed tribe, walk in front of a bullet-riddled building in Sanaa 10 April 2012. (Photo: REUTERS – Mohamed al-Sayaghi)

By: Hisham Bustani, writing in al Akhbar English

Thursday, April 19, 2012

After one year of the Arab uprisings that initially exploded in Tunisia and swept like wildfire throughout the Arab world, it became very clear that the spark, which has resulted in the removal of three oppressors so far, was spontaneous. That does not mean that the explosion had no preludes. On the contrary, the people were squeezed with each passing day, but those uprisings clearly showed that even in the absence of an organized catalyzing formation (revolutionary party, revolutionary class), an explosion takes place when a certain threshold is reached, a critical mass.

Uprisings in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet-bloc states came about through the work of organized opposition groups and parties (like Solidarity in Poland), and by decades of calm covert undermining, infiltration, and propaganda undertaken by the West. By contrast, the Arab uprising was not led by an organized opposition. Instead, it came as a surprise to the imperialist circles that historically backed their client oppressor regimes.

The Failure of the Post-Colonial Arab “State”

Following the British-French-Italian colonialism of the Arab region, the Europeans left behind an area that they deliberately divided into “states”. These were designed so as to leave no possibility for their becoming truly independent and sovereign. They also left a watchdog and an easy solution to assuage their anti-Semitic-burdened consciousness: “Israel,” a colonial-settler state that would maintain the imperialist design in the wake of the physical withdrawal of its patrons.

The post-colonial states were subordinate by design, by their innate nature of being divided and incomplete, and by the ruling class that followed colonialism. Continue reading