Colour Revolution Stalks Lebanon

Protestors in Lebanon block roads, preventing traffic from passing. Image from The Daily Item.

Colour Revolution Stalks Lebanon

10-11-2019 – Lebanon has the distinction of being one state where almost all domestic issues are automatically international. Any political movement which arises there is automatically intertwined with the Middle East and further afield. The protests sweeping through Lebanon over the past four weeks are no exception. While the catalyst was ostensibly a “WhatsAppTax” – a tax applied to phone app communication technology which is widely used, the demonstrations occurring have much more to do with the US Empire losing its footing after the (not at all total) pullout of troops from Syria. There is no denying that Lebanon suffers from an economic malaise similar to the decline of capitalist economies in the West. Lebanon has no potable water supply, functioning public transport, and sporadic garbage collection.[1] Nevertheless, the current protests display disturbing signs of being co-ordinated from abroad.

Veiled move against Hezbollah

Lebanon’s Islamic based national resistance movement Hezbollah played an undeniably heroic role in the US/Saudi led war for regime change on Syria. Hezbollah’s military wing actively assisted Syrian, Iranian and Russian forces in the defeat and expulsion of imperialist funded ISIS and Al Qaeda mercenaries. It is primarily for this reason that foreign forces – the prime suspect being Washington – have organised the current demonstrations in Lebanon which are effectively calling for regime change. In practice, it is a regime change operation aimed at Hezbollah, even though Hezbollah is not actually the regime!  While Hezbollah’s political wing does retain some seats in the national parliament, its primary political power does not reside there. Its popularity also stems from its role in the military defeat of the Zionist Israeli state’s attacks on Lebanon in 2006. This is of course another reason why the Pentagon would like to see them sidelined.

Hezbollah’s leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah initially voiced support for the protests, even at the same time as warning that they could be used to “create a political vacuum”. He warned rally participants that their efforts could well be hijacked by certain political actors and/or foreign forces.[2] This soon came to pass, and subsequently Nasrallah signalled that Hezbollah was withdrawing its support for the protests. Reportedly at one recent rally in Lebanon, fist fights broke out against some who were chanting against Hezbollah Leader Nasrallah, after he warned that (unspecified foreign forces) were exploiting the protests to plunge the country back into civil war.[3] Few other conclusions can be drawn from the nature of the demonstrations, when, for example, roadblocks with eerie overtones of road blocks set up by the right-wing pro-US Hong Kong separatists emerge.[4] Not only roadblocks, but human chains have also been set up by Lebanese protestors[5] – a classical colour revolution tactic, from Hong Kong to the countries of the former Soviet bloc. Needless to say, colour revolutions – “internal” regime change efforts organised and funded by imperialism – are often the last resort of Western capital, especially after its defeat in Syria.

Linked to moves against Iran, via Iraq

The staged protests in Lebanon are not only aimed at Hezbollah, but also against the Islamic Republic of Iran – and similarly for its heroic role in the defeat of US/UK/FRA/AUST imperialism in Syria. The Iranian state has supported Hezbollah for some time, although the extent to which it does remains unclear. Simply for regional security against the ongoing threat of US imperialism, Iran is justified in cultivating allies in the region. Likewise in Iraq, Iran’s security can only be guaranteed by good relations with the government of Iraq, which came about as an unintended consequence of the US led invasion and overthrow of Iraq from 2003. Given that recent demonstrations in Iraq featured the protestors banging their shoes against posters of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the formidable leader of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard elite Quds Force Qassim Soleimani, Iran’s fears appear to be confirmed.

The Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) appears to have played a treacherous role, in defiance of anything “communist” or even progressive. Despite some moves to target the banks for the declining economic situation[6], the LCP has given overall backing to the contrived movement[7], despite its rather obvious links to imperialist efforts to destabilise and even reverse the result of the war on Syria. It is extremely dangerous for any self-described party of the left to come behind the political manoeuvres of imperialist forces, even inadvertently. By doing so, the LCP demonstrate that the hammer and sickle they brandish as a party symbol is, at the least, misappropriated.

Irrespective of its defeat in Syria, US imperialism has not scaled down, but scaled up, its regime change operations in the Middle East and elsewhere. This time it is using internal (political destabilisation) rather than external (arming of barbaric mercenaries) methods. This must be opposed by working people in Lebanon, Iraq and internationally. Despite the governments of Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Syria not approaching workers’ states, the left should call for the military defence of them against US imperialism. This includes Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard, despite the socialist view of the role of religion in history. Marxists need to continue to recruit to their own banner, while striving to derail US backed colour revolutions, and to undermine international political support for them, wherever they appear.

WORKERS   LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO  Box   66    NUNDAH   QLD    4012

 

[1] https://www.globalresearch.ca/lebanon-revolution-without-revolutionary-ideology/5693597 (10-11-2019)

[2] https://www.globalresearch.ca/color-revolution-lebanon/5693606 (10-11-2019)

[3] https://www.timesofisrael.com/protests-in-iraq-and-lebanon-pose-a-challenge-to-iran/ (10-11-2019)

[4] https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Lebanon-Protesters-Step-up-Roadblocks-to-Keep-Pressure-on-Govt-20191028-0003.html (10-11-2019)

[5] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/lebanon-s-protesters-keep-anti-government-revolt-alive-by-blocking-roads (10-11-2019)

[6] https://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2019/Oct-13/493420-communist-party-protests-economic-situation.ashx (10-11-2019)

[7] https://peoplesdispatch.org/2019/10/21/in-lebanons-streets-there-is-no-longer-any-fear/ (10-11-2019)

For Public Ownership of All Aged Care Facilities!

For Public Ownership of All Aged Care Facilities!

04-11-2019 – Another year, another damning report into the critical failings of Australia’s Aged Care system. An interim report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has again found that the Aged Care system displayed shocking levels of treatment of elderly residents, including excessive use of chemical restraints.[1]  The aged people of a supposedly advanced industrialised country, after a lifetime of contribution to the community through work and other areas, are being treated with cruel inhumanity. A related problem is that young people with a disability are being funnelled into Aged Care homes, because there are no other facilities available for them. An estimated 3500 people with a disability under the age of 60 live in aged care nursing homes, which are not suited to their needs.[2]

Profit system failure

It is no mystery why the appalling treatment of aged care residents has gone on for years. It has effectively been privatised, and is now run by big business for private profit. In these circumstances, the physical and mental health of Aged Care residents is at the bottom of the list of priorities, if at all. At the top of their list is the extraction of cash, usually from Aged Care residents who are pensioners, and their families who are mostly working class people with little accumulated wealth. For over a decade, doctors and nurses have warned the federal government about the critical level of understaffing in nursing homes across the country, but have been met with no response. The New South Wales Nurses and Midwives Association released a statement stressing the fact that Aged Care needs to be affordable and accessible, and provided by professional and accredited staff who are remunerated accordingly.[3] Instead, what transpires are Aged Care centres that are chronically understaffed, with a shortage of qualified nurses, which leads to long waiting lists, unmet expectations and unnecessary pain and suffering.

Two years ago, for profit “health care provider” Bupa actually issued a directive to their staff to conserve continence pads in their Aged Care facilities because they were allegedly running “over budget”.[4] Unless the pads were 75% wet, Bupa staff were told not to change them. Cost cutting on essential items includes food for the residents. In recent times, the amount many Aged Care homes had been spending on food for residents had dropped to $6 per day. Some who raised the alarm over this critical underfunding commented that both prisoners and guinea pigs receive more fresh food than those in Aged Care.[5] The lack of fresh food in at least adequate proportions, apart from the base inhumanity of private profit margins, leads in turn to more health problems for residents in terms of wounds, falls, and hospital readmissions. To say this is a false economy is a vast understatement.

Public health care a basic need

As with other multiple crises affecting society, the plummeting standards of Aged Care in Australia mirror the declining state of the capitalist economy. Since 2008, the “global” financial crisis hit the West hard, and it has barely recovered. The previous sectors of the economy where capital had been making what they consider an adequate rate of return – manufacturing, industry, agriculture – have long since ceased to do so. In turn, the capitalist class demanded that the public relinquish parts of the public economy which had previously been denied them – such as Aged Care. Capital moved into Aged Care not to take care of the elderly people in their final years, but to make a quick buck. Providing the smallest amount of “care” while extracting the most amount of money, for them, is “good business”.  For working people who have worked their whole lives, raised children, built communities – this is insanity. For this issue, as for many others, working people and private capital have utterly irreconcilable interests.

At the very least, all aged care should be taken back into public ownership, and treated as part of a public health care system. For profit “providers” should be expelled from the Aged Care system without compensation. Qualified and specialist nurses, doctors and Aged Care workers should be employed until there are adequate ratios of residents to care workers and medical staff. This campaign should be led by the Unions, who should both organise and mobilise the overworked and underpaid staff currently employed. There would be more than enough public sympathy for such a militant campaign, given the horror stories that have emerged from numerous enquiries.

Standing in the way of this much needed effort are the conservative and self-serving Union officials, who have either restricted themselves to silence, or the occasional press release. Unfortunately under capitalism the labour bureaucracy has a material interest in maintaining the status quo – even an unbearable one. The top officials live the life of riley off the funds provided by Union members and their numerous connections to regional and national Union bodies, the Australian Labor Party, and state and federal parliaments. It is the parents and grandparents of current Union members and unorganised workers who languish in below standard for-profit nursing homes, not those of well-off officials.

Careerist Union officials must be positioned by workers into taking a stand for basic justice for the elderly. Even just to win decent Aged Care, let alone other public services, the working class will have to jettison the current Union misleaders, and replace them with those committed to a class struggle against the capitalist system. This is bound up with efforts to forge a Marxist vanguard party, which could provide the desperately needed leadership workers are crying out for. Such a party would stop at nothing to build a socialist world, where the health and well-being of working people would come before all else.

WORKERS  LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO  Box  66    NUNDAH   QLD  4012

[1] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-31/aged-care-royal-commission-report-finds-unsafe-industry/11658328 (03-11-2019)

[2] https://synapse.org.au/information-services/young-people-in-nursing-homes.aspx (03-11-2019)

[3] https://www.nswnma.asn.au/chronic-understaffing-in-aged-care-is-causing-enormous-pain-and-suffering-for-residents-and-families/ (03-11-2019)

[4] https://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace/cost-cutting-and-understaffing-of-aged-care-homes-leads-to-rationing-and-neglect-20171010-gyxn7b.html (03-11-2019)

[5] https://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/news/my-guinea-pigs-eat-better-ama (03-11-2019)

 

Chile: Nationalism No Answer to Austerity

26 public buses were torched by protestors. Image from SkyNews.

Chile: Nationalism No Answer to Austerity

02-11-2019 – During the last week of October, deadly riots swept Chile, ostensibly in response to the government’s increase of 30 pesos to public transport fares. While the Chilean government quickly suspended the 4% increase, it did not prevent thousands of demonstrators from flooding into the streets. Initially, the actions began by commuters jumping turnstiles and avoiding paying the increased ticket fares to ride the Metro railway in the capital Santiago – an entirely legitimate form of protest against an increase to the cost of living. However, these actions were soon eclipsed by the torching of these same railway stations by protestors, causing some trains to be burnt to shells. Reportedly, 49 subway stations were set alight, and 26 public buses were destroyed by fire.[1]

Worse was to come. Some non-public buildings were set ablaze, along with some 200 supermarkets.[2] In one of the supermarkets, three people lost their lives.[3] This was after it had been looted, along with many others. This was followed by the firebombing of a garment factory in the capital, where five people perished.[4] At one stage the subway station entrances had to be closed off, to prevent more arson. This led to commuters being stranded, unable to get home from working that day. While it is true that thousands of people also attended rallies which contained no violence, the taking of innocent lives by any movement can never be justified.

“Neoliberalism”
Working people in Chile have endured decades of extreme privatisation in many areas, from water to education. Hence the current slogan “It is not about 30 pesos, but about 30 years”. A political movement with the ability to combat this assault must be assembled – of this there is no doubt. Yet the current movement has dramatic overtones of populism – an attempt to build a cross-class movement for “all people”. Yet class realities can be brushed over so easily. A movement which obliterates class distinctions inevitably moves to the right, and inevitably becomes nationalist. For working people, nationalism is crippling, and often prevents even the first steps forward.

What became known as “neoliberalism” (or “austerity”), has been applied more extensively in Chile than elsewhere in Latin America, and perhaps the world. Yet neoliberalism is a misnomer. Neoliberalism implies that there can be a nicer, softer, even social-democratic, version of capitalism. It is spoken of as if it is a choice that governments choose to enact. Yet “neoliberalism” is not a policy, but the current phase of the capitalist system. There is no going back to the “welfare-state” capitalism of the post World War II period – in Australia or Chile. There can only be moves forward to socialism. This requires the overthrow of capitalism via the construction of a workers’ state, administered by a workers’ government.

This central conclusion, however, is one which the forces behind the current Chilean protests are yet to learn or accept. Rather, they have turned in the direction of populism, while some have committed criminal arson ending in murderous violence. Obviously workers cannot condone the needless elimination of human life, and nor can workers tolerate the destruction of vital public infrastructure such as buses and trains. Instead, workers could organise the occupation of public transport and public infrastructure, as this would immediately pose the question of just who it belongs to. Attempts to organise the operation of public transport by workers would necessitate some form of workers’ committees, which could form the basis of workers’ councils.  From here a workers government would NOT be a bridge too far.

All Chileans together?

Worlds away from this perspective is the “all for Chile” approach. While a rejection of all capitalist politicians can be a healthy development, the #ChileDesperto (Chile Awake) movement attempts to simply change politicians, without confronting capitalism. This can be seen with their demand for the resignation of President Sebastian Pinera. Yet why did this movement not arise during the Presidency of the “Socialist” Party’s Michele Bachelet? The Bachelet government maintained and even accelerated the same “neoliberalism”, regardless of the fake veneer of being politically “left”. Moreover, the #ChileDesperto movement’s other demands are eerily reminiscent of the US backed Blackshirt thugs in Hong Kong, which aims (in vain) to uphold capitalism rather than be re-integrated into socialist China. Indeed, the following demands could have been written by the right-wing pro-US Hong Kong elements:

1. The withdrawal of armed forces from all Chilean Streets

  1. Lifting of all curfews
  2. The resignation of Sebastian Pinera
  3. Legal accountability of all politicians, armed forces and police members responsible for the violation of human rights.

Note there are no class demands here. All are within the framework of the existing state – which is the guarantor of the “neoliberalism” they claim to oppose. In addition, the wanton vandalism and criminal violence against public and private property, endangering human life, has been used as a rationale by the Pinera government to deploy the armed forces. This is also the reason given for the curfews – and not entirely without justification. The ruling class will skilfully use any pretext to paint their use of military force as being to “serve and protect” or to “keep the peace”. The Chile Desperto movement, and the violent and life-threatening vandalism they do not condemn, has given them just that.

“Left” betrayal

To some extent, the seeming agnosticism towards politics of the Chile Desperto movement may be somewhat understandable – but not excusable. The Chilean government of Michele Bachelet from the misnamed Socialist Party (actually barely social-democratic) preceded the government of Sebastian Pinera. If “left” at all, perhaps no one noticed it, as the Bachelet government barely changed the policies of extreme capitalism (“neoliberalism”). A lack of political awareness – not by any means restricted to Chile – often gives social-democratic capitalist politicians the benefit of the doubt. Some can wait longer for a party supposedly more progressive to deliver. This is always a recipe for disappointment and demoralisation of the hopes that a more humane face can emerge from the horrors of “the market”. So it was with Bachelet, who turned out to be barely left at all.

The “left” had been in governmental power in Chile for much of the previous twenty years. The centrist Party for Democracy and then the (misnamed) Socialists, depite a left veneer, continued the capitalist austerity of the dark days of the Pinochet dictatorship, while not moving to substantially change it. The last Bachelet government was termed a “New Majority” and included the Communist Party of Chile (PCC). The PCC’s most visible member was Camilla Vallejo, a leader of the student movement of 2010, and dubbed “the world’s most glamorous revolutionary” by the New York Times.[5] Yet the “Communist” party of Chile betrayed the very notion of socialist principle by horse trading with Bachelet’s “Socialists” to get Vallejo elected into the parliament of a bourgeois state – the same one which was the basis for the Pinochet apparatus. In return for PCC backing, Bachelet’s “Socialists” did not challenge Vallejo’s run for Congress, which led to the PCC gaining ten seats.[6]

In parliament, Vallejo and the “Communist” Party of Chile betrayed not only the student movement, but the entire working class, by covering for the austerity of the Bachelet government. This was yet another let down by yet another “left” party which entered a capitalist government. The “Communists” came to be seen as just another set of self-interested politicians set against everyone else. Worse, the “Communists” sat in parliament and negotiated with parties of the fascistic right-wing, some containing the same personnel from the days of Pinochet. This is another example of the nationalism of so-called “Marxism-Leninism”. Under nationalist logic, all national parties are part of the nation – even fascists. Needless to say, such perfidy is the very opposite of the basic tenets of Marxism and Leninism.

There is also the “New” left in Chile in the form of the Frente Amplio, or “Broad Left”. It includes Revolucion Democratica, a centrist party modelled on the Spanish Podemos, feminists, humanists and others.[7] They have 20 seats in parliament, but as a political formation which does not claim or seek to represent the working class, their politics are one of insufferable compromise. Even on the issue of the recent demonstrations, the Frente Amplio has reportedly temporised between taking part in parliamentary votes on the reduction of public transport fares, and abstaining until the military is withdrawn from the streets. This form of populism cannot see outside of a capitalist parliament, and thus only has the “weapon” of voting, or not casting a vote, inside it. This is hardly a solution.

Break the impasse

Inequality in Chile is at staggering levels. Pensions are set below the minimum wage. Private health insurance companies reek in profits while placing tight restrictions on coverage. The public health system is short of resources, with extremely long waiting lists for operations. The public transport costs are some of the most expensive in Latin America. Water, electricity, gas and telecommunications have been privatised, which leads to ongoing and arbitrary price rises.[8] Working people in Chile have suffered for decades, and there needs to be a political break through. However, populism, nationalism and liberalism have no solutions. Given the betrayal of the parties which have claimed some form of leftism, from the social-democratic “Socialists”, to the ultimately conservative “Communists”, to the populist “Broad Left”, it will be difficult, but not impossible, to convince Chilean workers that there can be a genuine left.

Some Australian left parties have uncritically endorsed the Chilean protests. Socialist Alternative recognise the significant loss of credibility the left has endured, particularly the betrayals of the Communist Party of Chile. However, so far they omit any mention of the life-taking criminal arson, and the trashing of public transport.[9] The Socialist Alliance manage to channel liberalism, anti-communism and Russophobia at the same time by comparing the neoliberalism in Chile to the reversal of Gough Whitlam’s “legacy” by the Labor Party in Australia, “sweatshops” in China, and “oligarchy” in Russia !! [10] Already, the Socialist Alliance is attempting to steer any solidarity movement with the Chilean protests behind the anti-China and anti-Russia New Cold War of US imperialism.

A significant problem with the Chile Desperto movement in Australia has been the overt nationalism of the solidarity actions. At one action, participants to a solidarity rally were warned that only national flags of all countries would be permitted (!), and that any flag representing any political party were disallowed.[11] The Chile Desperto organisers claimed this was to show a “united front” which comes from the “people” and not from any political party. This is astonishing. A political rally where political parties are banned!  Such “neither left nor right” movements are invariably dangerous, as they tend towards the right-wing. The banning of party symbols is primarily a move against left-wing and workers’ parties, despite claims to be “for all”. The result was a sea of Chilean national flags, alongside the Mapuche indigenous people’s flag. An exception must have been made here, for the Mapuche people are not a nation.

There will be no breaking of the political impasse in Chile, or internationally, if a movement does not break with nationalism and/or populism. There is no Marxist category which is the “people”.  In Chile, as in Australia, the super wealthy rich elite all claim to be a part of the “people”. Any political alliance with them is a flagrant betrayal of the interests of the working class. The Chile Desperto movement, perhaps despite its intentions, displays the same nationalism of those they claim to stand against. What is needed is movement which proclaims that it defends the interests of the workers ONLY, in Chile, Latin America, and internationally. Opposing classes have opposing interests, in Chile as elsewhere. A workers party which fights for a workers government – not seats in parliament – is a critical pre-requisite. A genuine move towards socialism can then begin.

WORKERS  LEAGUE

www.redfireonline.com

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO Box 66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

 

[1] https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/20-killed-in-chile-protests-against-rise-in-metro-fares/1630338 (30-10-2019)

[2] https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/10/chile-protest-santiago-metro-public-transit-fare-inequality/600874/ (30-10-2019)

[3] https://www.scmp.com/news/world/americas/article/3033742/chiles-president-reverses-subway-fare-hike-triggered-worst (30-10-2019)

[4] https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/world/401476/chile-protests-five-dead-after-looters-set-fire-to-factory (30-10-2019)

[5] https://ontd-political.livejournal.com/9528154.html (02-11-2019)

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/28/chile-bachelet-communists-election (02-11-2019)

[7] https://jacobinmag.com/2019/10/chile-protests-fare-hike-pinera-demands (02-11-2019)

[8] https://www.globalresearch.ca/battle-chile/5693735 (02-11-2019)

[9] https://redflag.org.au/node/6931?fbclid=IwAR1Q7rj54ogArFN9n8lJ-l5AYTpikGjNQZiLD3iIeQznH4F3S7lGcsAeVok (02-11-2019)

[10] https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/popular-revolt-drowning-chile-neoliberal-oasis (02-11-2019)

[11] https://www.facebook.com/events/2450583998597954/2453534684969552/?notif_t=admin_plan_mall_activity&notif_id=1572139302001897 (02-11-2019)