Spain: call it a dictatorship and they throw you in prison
The Patience Stone – An Afghan woman’s awakening
16 September 2013. A World to Win News Service. By Fatemah Hosseini. The film The Patience Stone opens a window to some forgotten aspects of women’s oppression in Afghanistan, revealing the internal and external forms of ruthless suffering for women. It discloses the depth and shocking aspects of the brutality of backward relations and the chains that crush women’s spirit.
Atiq Rahimi, director of the film as well as author of the best-selling novel on which it is based, left Afghanistan in the 1980’s during the Soviet invasion and has been living in Paris since then. The film opened in Paris last February and has been travelling to various European cities and recently opened in the U.S.
The Patience Stone is the story of a nameless woman (memorably played by Golshifteh Farahani) in her late 20s. Her much older husband (Hamidreza Javdan), lying in a coma, is a nameless ex-Mujahadeen with a bullet in his neck. He was not wounded in a war but in a fight for honour: someone said to him, “I spit in your mother’s pussy.” He has been abandoned by his whole family and fellow fighters. The couple live in an unspecified location in Afghanistan during an unspecified war, a constant and continuously threatening presence in their lives. Knowing the war is coming to the village, her in-laws depart for a safer place, leaving her with no income, two children and a comatose husband to care for.
The film is a long monologue in which this nameless woman unburdens all her suffering in front of a “patience stone”, in this case her husband. In Persian mythology, a “patience stone” is a magic stone that absorbs all the confessions and secrets that you don’t dare tell anyone. When the stone crumbles, we are told in the film, “You are set free from all your pains, all your suffering.”
In the beginning the woman is doing her best to nurse her paralysed, mute husband. She buys liquid nourishment to insert in his feeding tube, cleans him, pays a Mullah to pray for him, moistens his eyes – all to do her duty to a man she never loved. When her money runs out, the pharmacy no longer gives her the serum, the water-delivery man stops bringing drinking water and the war is getting closer and closer as the roar of cannons and tanks becomes dangerously louder. She is torn between helping or abandoning him. Her patience comes to an end, her complaints begin to pour out and she begins talking to her husband.
She has no relative or friends to help except an aunt whom she is finally able to locate after a few unsuccessful attempts. The aunt (Hassina Burgan) gives her advice, agrees to take care of her children and sometimes gives her a little money.
As the monologue continues, the woman reveals her shocking life story to the husband who is her “patience stone”. We see that the immediate suffering of this young woman is only the surface layer over a deep-rooted suffering.
We learn about her now ten-year-old arranged marriage. Her husband was too busy fighting to come to the wedding ceremony, so she wedded his picture. During all those years he only occasionally appeared. She hardly lived with him and never felt loved, or even allowed to express her feelings. In their sexual relations her desires never counted. Now she can kiss him and touch him as much as she wants. Now she talks without fear. Her simple but sharp words issue forth sometimes in whispers, sometimes in cries, but from a mountain of untold secrets all formerly locked in her heart.
Sometimes she feels that someone – Allah – is present to punish her for the “sin” she is committing in speaking freely, and rushes to the Koran to demand forgiveness. But she cannot stop the flow of locked-up feelings. In fact, she enjoys the freedom to liberate herself from secrets accumulated over the years.
The only person she can consult is her aunt, who was also a victim of a strong and brutal patriarchal relationship. The aunt tells her own story. After marriage she was rejected by her husband because she was sterile and was sent to her in-laws, in fact to be their servant. When her father-in-law realised she was sterile, he would rape her every night. Finally one night she decided to kill him and run away. Having nowhere to go she became a prostitute. The aunt’s advice to her niece encourages her to go home and continue with her confessions.
She tells her husband how his brothers cast a lascivious eye on her. They would watch her naked body through the holes whenever she was taking a bath.
The war gets closer and closer and finally enters the home. A group of Mujahadeen break in, loot the house, and kill a neighbour. She survives by hiding in a shelter. But later an armed commander enters, seeking to use it as a fighting post. When he is informed of a ceasefire, he turns on the woman. Trying to escape being raped, she tells him she is a prostitute. “They never rape a whore, you know why? Because that kind of man doesn’t put his dirty thing in a hole that’s been used thousands of times. But raping a virgin makes them proud, it shows their virility,” her aunt later explains to her. The commander makes a gesture as if to kill her, but then leaves.
A young fighter who was with the commander and overheard the conversation secretly returns with money in hand to buy her body. She tries to resist but he overpowers her. Although a rape has occurred, this turns out to be the start of a relationship between them, because the young fighter keeps coming back. When she learns that he has been abused by the commander she feels closer to him. Furious, she goes to her husband and calls him a dirty bastard because he was also a Jihadi commander. “The commander who spate on me and wanted to kill me, by day he puts a Kalashnikov in his (the young fighter’s) hands and, at night, puts bells on his feet. The boy’s body is covered with burns….”
Her most shocking and difficult confession is about her children. It brings out all the shameful nastiness of a patriarchal relationship. She says not only did she not want her first baby, but she even wanted “to suffocate her” between her legs.
She continues with her confession to the “patience stone”: ‘Do you want to know why I didn’t want that child?… She wasn’t yours… I wasn’t sterile. You were!… Nobody knew it. Your mother didn’t want to know. Remember? She wanted you to take another wife. What would have happened to me?” Her aunt found a solution at that time.
All the confessions and secrets in dealing with a patriarchal system by this nameless Afghan woman are somewhat universal. They could be those of any woman.
Women’s situation in Afghanistan is nothing new. Even the imperialist occupiers, who created a big share of women’s suffering in this country, have admitted this and use the issue as an excuse to justify their invasion and occupation, while in reality they are pursuing their own global imperialist interests.
But the film goes well beyond the common exposures about beatings and domestic violence against women and tries to show some of the invisible aspects of suffering that women endure and more deeply explore the relations between the sexes and the dominant influence of patriarchy over every aspect of these relations. It shows the loneliness of women in a hostile environment fed by class antagonisms and how they are sometimes forced to take dangerous and painful decisions to survive. The film gives us an opportunity to see and understand more of these internal secrets. The monologue skilfully exposes how traditions poison the relations between the sexes.
Brought up under the Islamic Republic of Iran and now having difficulty with the regime because of her other performances, Farahani’s own life experience prepared her well to superbly bring out the depth of the character she portrays.
However the film has important shortcomings artistically and politically. It fails to combine the hardship and suffering with happiness and joy, the sadness with the hope of the people. It tries to picture the contradictions of life through her confessions and daily life, but it does not give enough attention to the hope of the people. No doubt, in a country that has been dealing with successive destructive wars and foreign interventions and has suffered so much pain, there is little room for happiness, but this is not all there is to life. There is no sadness without joy, the masses are more dynamic and can find hope even under the worst kind of misery. The oppressed often find beauty in life in spite of their conditions. They look for the smallest sign of hope and happiness in the depth of darkness. The absence of this aspect in the life of the people lessens the dynamism and liveliness of the film and reduces it to a story of pain and suffering.
It is true that the weight of the war increasingly overshadows the daily life of the people, but all we hear or see is sirens, cannon and the tank fire of the Afghan Jihadi commanders and fighters and their brutalities. There is no indication as to where the war is coming from or how and why it has been imposed on the people. There is a tendency to oppose war in general as if it were an abstract question, without taking into account that this particular war is the result of an invasion and occupation. At some points there is an attempt to show the antagonism between the war and love. The aunt says, “Those who cannot make love, make war.” This is a wrong explanation for this war and wars in general. Further, it is important to distinguish between reactionary wars and wars through which the people resist and seek their liberation.
As the cause of this nameless war is unclear, one may conclude that the cause of the war and the misery it unleashes is all internal, arising from the culture and tradition – “our own behaviour” and “our own backwardness”. This idea is reinforced by the fact that all the fighters are Afghan. However, the Jihadi warlords and Taliban were encouraged, trained and financed by foreign reactionaries. Without the role of the U.S. and its ally Pakistan, things might have developed differently. It is extremely misleading to talk about Afghanistan and the wars and all the suffering they have caused without mentioning the brutal invasions and occupations that have made life hell for the people in this region especially over the last three decades.
The reality of the relationship between the sexes in Afghanistan and similar countries imprisoned by backward relations is intolerable, but these relations are not only deformed by tradition and culture, but also because of the role that the big powers’ political and military intervention has played throughout their history.
Despite these shortcomings, Rahimi’s film powerfully depicts all the ugliness of the relations between the sexes and goes well beyond the usual exposures. The film succeeds in making you want to break all the chains that oppress women.
On the 25th Anniversary of the Massacre of the Political Prisoners in Iran
23 September 2013. A World to Win News Service. Following is a statement put out by the 8March Women’s Organisation (Iran-Afghanistan) .
In honour of the martyrs of the 1980s we are not going to observe even a single minute of silence!
A quarter of a century has gone by since the massacre of thousands of political prisoners in June 1988. But in June 2013, the “responsibility” for the post of Ministry of Justice in the government of “action and hope” is being given to Pour Mohammadi. Mohammadi was the representative of the Ministry of Intelligence in a trio (together with Nayyeri and Eshraghi) in June 1988. This notorious group was known as the “trio of death”. Mohammadi’s posts were head of the Ministry of Justice in western Iran, then Revolutionary judge in Bandar Abbas in southern Iran with special authority to suppress protests and issue the death penalty against the political prisoners being held in Mashhad. Mohammadi was head of a group who executed women political prisoners for the first time and supervised the execution of virgin women who were raped before their execution in order to “prevent them from going to paradise”. He supervised the execution of pregnant women and women who had just given birth. He was assistant to Fallahian (President Rafsanjani’s minister of intelligence) and responsible for operations outside Iran. During his reign, numerous political figures were murdered: Dr Ghasemlouv in Vienna; Hossein Naghadi in Rome; Kazem Rajavi in Geneva; Fereidoon Farrokhzad in Bonn; Sadegh Sharafkandi and Nouri Dehkardi in Berlin; and many many more. The reality is that if people such as Rouhani and Pour Mohammadi had not performed their responsibilities successfully, how could the new rulers have resisted and confronted the waves of revolutionary and rebellious masses who were determined to change the world?
With the mass murder, imprisonment and annihilation of a revolutionary generation who were determined to change the existing order, these reactionaries wanted to suppress the revolutionary spirit throughout society in order to thwart any real change. They committed their cowardly massacre of the prisoners because they were frightened of the unity between them and their comrades in the bigger prison – the whole of society – which was preparing the ground for the overthrow of the backward regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The new IRI President Rouhani and their clique think that they can hang or execute the truth. This is impossible. That’s why, in honour of the martyrs of the 1980s, we cannot halt even for a moment in proclaiming the truth. We will have no minute of silence!
For many years, relatives of the martyrs, those who escaped their fate, together with other revolutionary and progressive opponents of the regime, have worked to expose the crimes of the Islamic Republic in the 1980s and to establish the truth. They have talked about the courage of those militants who persisted right to the end, who gave up their lives, but not their secrets. Today the slogan “We neither forgive, nor forget!” emphasises the just struggle of that generation and exposes the crimes of the Islamic Republic. This takes on particular importance at a time when those responsible for such horrific crimes are trying to hide their blood-soaked hands amidst talk of justice and tolerance, while a section of the so-called “opposition” activists are siding with them and actively throwing dust in the eyes of the masses, so as to blind them to the reality of what was, and what is. For the purpose of a search for the truth is not merely to expose the crimes of the past, but to show how to progress, how to forge the future. Indeed, the struggle in the prisons has a political and a class character, which itself is the continuation and concentrated expression of the class struggle outside prison. The massacre of the revolutionaries in the 1980s did not therefore just represent the murder of a large number of political activists, it was also the concentrated expression of the relationship between revolutionary struggle and the consolidation of the new reactionary regime of the Islamic Republic.
One of the distinguishing features of the prisons in the Islamic Republic is that, in addition to conducting medieval physical torture, the IRI also carried out a systematic ideological attack on the thinking and outlook of the prisoners. The purpose of the rulers was not only to destroy a generation of revolutionary people, but through this to attack the most sensitive nerve in the society, with the aim of crippling society as a whole.
This kind of torture and destruction took on more complex and broader dimensions. A government whose most important pillar was the subordination of women was forced to attack those who dared to break through the boundaries of the rotten social order, as they attacked these high-flying eagles and demonstrated that they are ready to break their wings and force them to accept a lower position than in the past. One typical example was rape. Rape as physical, moral and psychological torture was, and is, the norm of the patriarchal class formation of the Islamic regime, at every level. And in addition, in prison this also took on a religious character, as women were forced to submit their will to the rule of god. In Islam, the existence of women amounts to being merely a vagina, who surrender to the will of god and his representatives on Earth, meaning men. Breaking the spirit of these women who took up arms and fought for their liberation and who were ready to lay down their lives for the revolutionary cause was no easy task. But they had to be tamed and punished, made to obey the will of god and his representatives, as a threat to all women – and this took many forms, from forcing the hejab on communist and secular women, forced prayers, rape and punishment and torture in many different forms. This ideological discipline had to be conveyed into society as a whole. Women political prisoners had to be controlled and humiliated as wives and mothers, to re-affirm the honour and property of men.
Today, although the rage we felt at the massacre of a generation of revolutionaries is an invincible motive force driving the search for truth, in order for a new revolutionary wave to rise again, we need a deep scientific summation of the reasons for the defeat of the revolution in Iran and around the world. Our rage and determination to get justice can be a driving force for lifting that wave. We will never forget the memory of the unconquerable resistance of the political prisoners massacred in the 1980s, and especially in the summer of 1988. They are and will be an important element in our struggle to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is true especially now, when a quarter of a century has gone by since that massacre behind the prison walls, yet the torture and murder within or outside the prison walls goes on – as does the resistance and struggle and the demand for change, for the emancipation of humanity as a whole, for building a world where no one will be imprisoned or executed for having an opposing opinion or ideas!
“Protest against the president of the criminal Islamic Republic of Iran”
23 September 2013. a World to Win News Service. Hassan Rouhani, the new president of Iran, was due to address the United Nations General Assembly opening in New York on 24 September. Following is a statement and leaflet put out by “Activists of the Communist Party of Iran (MLM) in North America”, which planned to hold protests outside the UN during Rouhani’s appearance.
On 24 September, Iran’s recently elected president, Hassan Rouhani, will give a speech at the United Nations. His trip to New York coincidentally falls on the same day on which Iranian political refugees all over the world are grieving the mass murder and execution of political prisoners in Iran in the summer and autumn of 1988.
Rouhani’s cabinet members such as Mostafa Pour Mohammadi, Ali Rabii and Hamid Chiyan were directly involved in that particular mass murder. They are known to be cold-blooded murderers and some of the worst among the Islamic regime of Iran. Pour Mohammadi is often referred to as the “president of death”. He was directly and actively involved in the executions of political prisoners in the 1980s in Iran. He, along with many other members of Rouhani’s ministerial cabinet were responsible for thousands of death penalties which were delivered in less than a couple of minutes to the political prisoners of Iran in the 1980s.
Iran’s new president introduces himself as the people’s “hope”! But in fact he represents a new alliance among different factions of the Islamic Republic regime. He has climbed to the seat of power with the support of the Sepah-e-Pasdaran (the Revolutionary Guards, the main body of the regime’s military forces), the notorious security establishment of the regime and the “leader” (Ayatollah Khamenii) himself.
Rouhani was essentially chosen as president to perform several tasks essential for the survival of the Islamic Republic system. He must initially provide a false hope about “reforming the system” – a false hope to those who are suffering from expanding poverty and are fed up with political and social suppression and religious obscurantism. He should also assure the imperialists that the contradiction between the Islamic Republic system and the imperialists is not of an antagonistic nature and in fact the relations should be healed and Iran should be looked at by them as a reliable partner in controlling and exploiting the masses of Iran as well as in carrying out the imperialists’ regional plans – given that those powers also ensure the survival of this regime.
Iran’s regime and the Islamic Republic system is an integrated part of the world capitalist system which is controlled by the imperialist powers. The feud between the Islamic Republic and the imperialist powers is in fact the fight and contradiction between two “rotten poles” within this system and there is no element of “anti-imperialism” on the part of the Islamic regime of Iran.
In Iran, like the whole world, the majority of the people produce the wealth which is appropriated by a minority of parasitic capitalists. Like all other countries dominated by imperialism in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the Iranian economy is totally dependent on the world capitalist system. The more it gets integrated into the world capitalist system the wider becomes the class chasm and political suppression of the masses. The regime in Iran is a theocratic regime which constantly attacks people’s mind and body – especially women’s. Political suppression is one of the pillars of this regime. In fact, its very existence depends on trampling upon the most basic political, cultural and social rights of the majority of the people of Iran.
National oppression is another touchstone of this regime. In sum, the contradiction, between the Islamic Republic regime and the people of Iran is of an antagonistic nature. This reality brings about the necessity and possibility of a revolutionary overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran. We, the revolutionary communists of Iran, know too well that if we do not mobilise and organise people in a movement for revolution, the reactionary, corrupt and crisis-ridden ruling classes of Iran will be able to survive through suppressing and deceiving people in different ways and manners, and therefore will get a new lease on life, and their rotten rule will last longer and destroy more generations. We are well aware that if the masses of Iran do not become conscious of and take up a revolutionary communist vision and programme which can enable them to really and radically change their conditions, then even if they rise up against this hated regime, without taking up that vision they will fall into the trap of some other reactionary forces or be wooed by the alternatives that U.S. imperialism has in pocket for the future of Iran. This would definitely turn Iran into another tragedy like the ones we are witnessing in Syria and Egypt, where people have become captives of warring rival reactionary forces, each of which have the backing of this or that imperialist power.
There is only one solution: to overthrow the Islamic Republic system through a revolutionary struggle with the goal of destroying all of its reactionary class and religious relations and values and instead establish a new state which would be really by the people and for the people and would pursue the goal of organising a new society based on a new economy, new politics and new social relations – a kind of society that we communists call a socialist society and which we consider a road to achieve a kind of world without any sort of oppression and exploitation, a communist world.
Afghanistan: Negotiations with the Taliban
9 September 2013. A World to Win News Service. Developments in Afghanistan in recent months show that moves toward negotiations with the Taliban are getting more serious. This was publicly underlined on 7 September, when Pakistan unconditionally released at least seven Taliban prisoners, including some captured leaders. The previous day Afghanistan released 11 such prisoners, who were likewise free to go where they wish. This was explicitly called a move to facilitate a new round of talks.
During the same days, however, the U.S. launched a drone strike against a truck travelling through Afghanistan’s Kunar Province, killing 16 people, many of them ordinary passengers, according to local authorities. American officials made no comment on this extraordinary prisoner release, and may have been behind it, but they also seem determined to demonstrate their lethal power and determination, combining violence and diplomacy until they get an outcome they can accept.
Even more dramatically than the prisoner release, in June the Taliban were allowed to open an office in Doha (Qatar) under the signboard of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, the name used by the Taliban government during its rule, and fly that government’s white flag.
This move gave rise to acute differences between the Karzai government and its U.S. backers. Karzai exhibited his anger by protesting this move, which apparently led to the failure of that initial round of talks. Karzai and other Afghan senior officials labelled the process a conspiracy, accusing the parties involved – the U.S., Pakistan, Qatar and the Taliban – of seeking to divide Afghanistan. In protest he suspended negotiations with the U.S. on the strategic agreement that is supposed to lay out the terms for long-term American involvement after the announced pull-out of some or all of its troops next year
The Afghanistan government complained that its preconditions for talks were ignored. Karzai, in a letter to Obama on 19 June, wrote, “Our agreement to open an office in Qatar was to achieve peace but not to lose our sovereignty and national unity and lose the achievements of more than a decade. The peace process should be led by Afghans.” Karzai also insisted that a halt to Taliban military activities should be a precondition for the start of negotiations, and that such negotiations should take place in Afghanistan. (BBC, 27 June 2013)
But while denouncing the Qatar process, in the same statement he once again called the Taliban his brothers and demanded they should take part in the construction of Afghanistan and not kill their own brothers. (BBC, 28 June)
The occupiers have found the situation in Afghanistan very hard and complex, even though they seem to have decided to seek a negotiated settlement to the war against the Taliban. To a large extent these complexities have emerged as a result of the occupation itself.
Why the sudden rush for negotiation: the evolving U.S. position
It is not difficult to see why so many forces involved in the Afghanistan war in the last decade and beyond have suddenly become “peace-loving”.
For a long time, the U.S., the leader in occupying Afghanistan, continued to say, “We don’t talk to terrorists.” It was desperate to come out victorious from this war so as to move forward with its global ambitions. But the war has taken far longer than the U.S. expected, and, despite adapting one after another new strategy, a clear victory has become less possible.
The U.S. announced its intention to withdraw its main forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. However, this would still be far from withdrawing completely from Afghanistan. As of now, the U.S. says that around 10,000 of its soldiers will remain there for the indeterminate future. That means the U.S. would still overall lead the war from behind the scenes and even take part in more sophisticated operations, along with training Afghan government forces. As of now, the U.S. plans to keep military bases in Afghanistan indefinitely.
This is a continuation of its original goals in invading Afghanistan, to secure its dominance in a region that is the gateway to South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East, and strategically placed in relation to Russia and China.
At the same time it seems that the U.S. has come to the conclusion that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable without giving a share of power to the Taliban. When they launched the war in 2001 American political and military leaders needed to win a quick and impressive victory, in part to regain some of their lost power of intimidation after the defeat of their invasion of Vietnam. Their strategists believed that with the development of hi-tech and sophisticated weapons, they now had the capability of waging short and victorious wars against third world countries with small forces. Afghanistan was supposed to be an example of that.
In fact the quick collapse of the Taliban government only two months after the start of the invasion was considered evidence of the validity of that strategy. Drunk with apparent victory in Afghanistan, they planned the occupation of Iraq and even other countries. But it was too soon to conclude that hi-tech weaponry had become the deciding factor in the war.
The Taliban took advantage of the discontent of the masses against the occupiers and started to make a comeback, and the U.S. found itself to some extent pinned down in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some U.S. allies or at least some of their generals concluded that with the resources they had and the way they were fighting they could not defeat the Taliban. They argued that their interests would be best served by starting to talk with the Taliban with a view to including them in some way in the ruling power. The U.S. imperialists seemed opposed to that idea for a long time. Under pressure from some European allies and especially due to the deterioration of the war situation for the occupiers, Washington retreated from its previous position, but a condition for the start of negotiations was a prior achievement of a position of strength. The purpose of the “surge'” of more than 30,000 American troops in 2009 was to either finally defeat the Taliban and/or strengthen the U.S. position if bargaining proved necessary. But contrary to the claims of the U.S. military at the time, the “surge” did not help much to change the situation.
The U.S. has been seeking to talk to the Taliban since 2011. According to Karzai spokesperson Aimal Faizi, “the opening of an office for the Taliban in Doha was the result of negotiations between the Taliban and the US in 2011.” He said that the Afghanistan government was informed only days before the second Bonn conference” in June 2011.
The Taliban position
The U.S.’s failure to defeat the Taliban should not obscure their reactionary nature, nor that of the other Islamist groups allied with them.
In the absence of a revolutionary force (an alternative to both reactionary sides, the occupiers and the reactionary Islamists), the masses who hated the occupiers and their installed government for their atrocities could see only one option: the Taliban. Some stayed away from both sides but some joined the Taliban.
However the Taliban’s reactionary nature brought them some serious limitations in this war. They did not stop with the extreme oppression of women, half the population. They also bitterly suppressed the poor masses of all nationalities and religions and increased their suffering, while siding with feudals and other well-off reactionaries. This increased the hatred of many of the masses during years of their rule all over the country including the Pashtun areas.
The Taliban’s Pashtun base is both a strength and a problem for them. Their oppression of people of other religions, even other branches of Islam, and also the country’s smaller, non-Pashtun nationalities that overall make the majority of the population, means that altogether about 60 percent of the population of Afghanistan have not been very susceptible to their influence, and countrywide support has always been out of the question. The fact that the Pashtun masses have felt driven to the Taliban by the atrocities of other warlords, commanders and the imperialist occupiers, especially against Pashtun people, does not mean deep support. According to some polls and estimates, at least one third of the people in the Pashtun areas such as Southern and Eastern Afghanistan do not support the Taliban at all.
The Taliban suffer from another disadvantage that works against their popularity: most people in Afghanistan know about their dependence on Pakistan which uses them as a tool for its own regional interests and its rivalry with India. Pakistan, despite its disobedience on the Afghanistan issue and its not-very-hidden support for Taliban, at the end of the day it is a strong ally of the U.S. in the region.
These factors have brought the Taliban obstacles that their reactionary nature doesn’t allow them to eliminate. They might be investing in the discontent of the masses but their strategy and tactics are far from relying on the masses. They might fight the occupiers but they are far from being an independent force, and may finally allow the foreign forces in, if not through the front gate then through the back door. Further, time is not necessarily on their side – they cannot continue the war forever. It is perhaps because they are aware of the consequences of this situation that they agreed to negotiate with the occupiers over the last two years, a change in their initial position of refusing any talks until the occupiers leave the country. So far, including at the Qatar talks, they have refused to talk to the Afghan government directly, but recent statements signal that they may change this position.
Pakistan is another player in the Afghanistan war that is not happy with developments since the occupation began in 2001 and is strongly against Karzai and any non-Pashtun based regime that would be inclined toward India and Iran. Despite pressure from the U.S., they have refused to reduce their support for the Taliban. The Afghan government believes the only reason the Taliban can continue to fight is Pakistan.
During a visit to Afghanistan, Sartaj Aziz, senior national security adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister, admitted that, because of previous relations, Pakistan’s security agency (ISI) “has some contacts with the Taliban but doesn’t control them.” (BBC 21 July.) In referring to the Qatar talks, he added that Pakistan helped arrange the meeting with the Taliban when asked to do so.
Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist who has authored several books on the Taliban and regional politics, recently wrote an article about the talks, which was published by the BBC. He believes that Pakistan is genuinely helping and supporting the talks. “Having long been accused of meddling in Afghan affairs for its own ends, Islamabad is desperately keen to make sure that the talks do not collapse, because successful talks could not only lead to an end to the destabilising war in Afghanistan, but to a reduction of Pakistani Taliban militancy. The ISI did play a positive role in initially getting the Taliban to return to Doha after a break of 16 months and it is doing so again.” (www.ahmedrashid.com )
But there might be more than that, as Western governments are increasing their pressure on Pakistan and warning of the possible cost to that country if it does not cooperate. This pressure might also be accompanied by promises for a Taliban role in a future Afghan government and an increasing role for Pakistan in Afghanistan and the region as a whole.
In fact, that was one of Karzai’s main fears leading to his protest against the Doha talks. He had suspicions, or perhaps even indisputable evidence, that the main points to be negotiated had already been agreed upon between the U.S. and Pakistan and probably the Taliban, in the absence of Afghan government representatives. That is why Karzai called it a conspiracy to divide the country.
Possible negotiation points
In fact, it now seems impossible that the Taliban will agree to negotiate for anything less than their inclusion in the ruling power system. The question for the U.S. and other major players is how. They are reviewing three main alternatives at the moment. (1) To incorporate the Taliban into the existing power structure and give them some ministerial position or “elect” them to some governmental positions. (2) To rewrite the constitution to include the Taliban’s views on Sharia (religious) law. This could be a problem, since the Islamists advocate Sharia as the exclusive legal system and have opposed any other constitution. (3) To hand some provinces, mainly the Pashtun provinces, to the Taliban and let them control and make the law in those regions. There has been much talk about the latter option, and it seems it is the favoured solution among imperialist and Pakistani circles.
The idea was raised by Conservative British parliament member Tobias Ellwood in 2012. Known as “Plan C”, it would divide Afghanistan into eight zones and hand a few over to Taliban control. While explicitly rejected at the time, in some aspects it still represents the imperialists’ view for power-sharing in Afghanistan. An Afghan government official also claimed that Pakistan’s adviser to the prime minister Sartaj Aziz raised a similar plan with the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan.
In the end, all the forces involved are entering into negotiations for their own interests. Karzai’s protest is that he should not be left out and no decision should be made behind his back, but he is not opposed to negotiations in principle, or even necessarily to some of these possible points of agreement.
The Taliban might retreat from their position on not talking to the Afghan government. The tone of Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s message on the occasion of the Islamic holiday Eid al-Fitr was more conciliatory than previous statements. In his message he said that the Taliban is not seeking to monopolise power and will allow others to “serve their country”. He also signalled that he will not allow the country to be used to attack other countries, a possible reference to breaking with or restricting Al-Qaeda. It also seems that he is retreating in terms of Taliban opposition to NGO activities, women’s education to some extent, and so on. He noted a change in military activities and asked his followers to be cautious about civilian lives.
In sum, there are pressures on the various forces involved to come to some kind of agreement – of course at the expense of the people’s interests. They can easily agree on trampling on the people’s interests and rights. After all the rhetoric about democracy and women’s rights that the Western occupiers used as an excuse to invade, these issues have disappeared from their discourse and from that of Karzai, who has repeatedly (and truthfully) called the Taliban his “brothers”. There is no doubt that whatever the agreement, the people and especially women will suffer as usual, and maybe even worse than now.
It may be that this negotiation process will continue. It also may happen that the differences and the clash of interests among the reactionary forces involved will prevent a settlement. In either case, this situation will go against the people’s interest and is not likely to bring the kind of regional stability the imperialists seek either. Once again, despite all their crimes, the imperialists may not achieve their goals.
Brazil: Huge protests and illusions of capitalist development
19 August 2013. A World to Win News Service. By AWTWNS correspondents in Latin America.
Like a welcome fresh gust of wind, Brazilians took to the streets in large numbers during the month of June in a way that hadn’t been seen in twenty years. The protests came to a peak on 22 June when in Rio alone 100,000 people joined the upsurge, while more than a million total were counted in about one hundred different cities and towns across the country.
Youth from the Movimento Passe Livre (movement for free public transport) accelerated protests back in March in various parts of the country to demand a reduction of public transport fares, at times with the slogan “Tarifa Zero” (Zero Fare). São Paulo, the country’s economic hub of 11 million people, was the site of the first large protest on 6 June, in the elegant central bank district of Avenida Paulista. Police tried to stop the demonstrations with repression, using rubber bullets, gas, clubs and detaining some of the participants. The frustration of many people over the 20 cent hike for both bus and metro transport quickly moved towards a questioning of the billions of dollars being spent on the upcoming soccer World Cup in 2014 while large numbers of people struggle just to survive. The movement grew rapidly and the thousands turned into hundreds of thousands, broadening to resentment over police violence and government corruption.
In the beginning mainly youth demonstrated, but as the protests grew in size, they drew in older people as well. The majority who participated in the marches and meetings were from the middle classes, but more oppressed sections of the people also joined in. This social mix of people from different classes made clear to the youth the connection between police brutality in the demonstrations and the systematic repression by the military police that has been intensified for years against the oppressed in the favelas (shantytowns in Brazilian cities). Although the fare increase kicked off the June protest movement – people earning minimum wage already had to pay a big chunk of their 700 RS$ salary (about $340) to get to and from work – other problems such as access to good health care and public services, as well as the violent response of the police who killed several demonstrators during the month, and the widening gap between rich and poor became part of their demands and some began to question on some level the whole system they had lost faith in.
The protests ruptured the apparent social harmony and the supposed agreement of the people with the government, putting on the table that in Brazil, as in so many other countries dominated by imperialism, the masses carry the weight on their shoulders of keeping a parasitic minority that feeds on their blood and sweat, a tiny group that appropriates the general wealth of the labour of millions. Many people in Brazil consider that the demonstrations showed that the time had come to say Basta! and to express their discontent with the current order of things.
Over the past months leading up to the upsurge of mass protest the ruling class had unleashed repressive attacks, detaining, beating and torturing hundreds of demonstrators and charging them with crimes. The “disappearance” of Amarildo de Souza one month ago is very telling. He was a construction worker living in the Rocinha favela in Rio who has not been heard from since he was seen entering the station of the Pacification Police Unit (Unidade Policial de Pacificacao, UPP). Since June, several smaller protests have been organized under the banner, “Where is Amarildo?”, denouncing state repression, including the targeting of black and indigenous people in particular. The state created these special forces a few years ago in order to take back control of the favelas from drug dealers, yet in reality they have systematically criminalised the poorest masses living there. (Human Rights Watch has denounced what they say are more than 11,000 homicides carried out by police between 2003-2009 alone.) The violence, the deaths and the disappearances have generated a growing hatred of the different police forces and have unmasked to a certain extent the nature of the state and the government.
Some people report that there are thousands of “Amarildos” and so have shouted, “the police who repress in the streets are the same ones killing the youth in the favelas!” Mainly it is the lowest section of society condemned to live in ghettos that regularly faces the repression. Some among the people came to recognise that the police repression in the favelas is not fundamentally for combatting organised drug crime, but rather is part of the containment of a potentially rebellious sector that could destabilise the state. And from the initial resistance among the oppressed, the rulers may have some reason to worry.
Long before the protests had broken out the state had already scheduled and paid big money for administering a mass dose of sleeping medicine to young Catholics who came from all over Latin America (and the world) to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day and see the new pope last month. This display was meant to bolster the church as well as the state and to brighten and “purify” the face of a society known worldwide to be violent, in preparation for the coming world sport events. The pope spent a week in Rio, blessing the poor in the favelas and staging a gigantic rally on Copacabana Beach. Although the huge June demonstrations had wound down significantly by that time, various feminist groups, LGBT and intellectuals protested against the intervention of the church in a secular state, as well as against the pope’s opposition to abortion and homosexuality. They also targeted recent reactionary laws making abortion illegal and the “bolsa estupro”, a fund to compensate rape victims so that they won’t abort.
The role of the PT in the government
In January 2003 the Worker’s Party – Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) – took control of the government when Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva was elected president, coming to power on a reformist and social democratic platform. The PT had pulled together back in the early 1980s various professional associations and trade unions that had moved away from Marxism and communist ideas while maintaining a socialist face. Appealing to the people on the basis of a socialist and seemingly racial equality “socialist” discourse, the PT tried to bring the whole left under its wing, including the Partido Comunista do Brasil. The PC do B of today arose out of a split within the original Partido Comunista do Brasil in 1962 during the struggle in the international communist movement between the Soviet Union and China, taking a position opposing Khrushchev. They launched a guerrilla war in 1971 and after heavy losses in the leadership in 1975 stopped the armed struggle and abandoned any pretence of Maoism in favour of a more openly reformist approach. Today the PCdoB occupies positions in the PT government and continues to refer to itself as Marxist-Leninist. Thus in 2003 leaders of different “people’s” political organisations joined the government and began to occupy important positions, with the effect of attenuating the struggle of the people against the state. Lula’s rise to stardom came about thanks to his party absorbing the people’s demands for more democracy and the questioning of the social order, while building itself as a force capable of taking the lead in meeting the needs of the ruling class and of imperialism.
In this framework the promises for a more democratic and egalitarian society by the government have been welcomed by a section of the people, especially by the middle classes, whose numbers and standard of living have both increased over the past decade.
The language of social democracy goes hand in hand with the deepening of imperialist domination and with the fuller integration of Brazil into the capitalist-imperialist system. For example, vast stretches of Brazilian land have been turned over to export production, while basic food crops are grown less and less often. The Brazilian government has been stepping up efforts to attract foreign investment as a good destination for capitalist-imperialist capital. To the extent that capitalism tightens and transforms its grip over various sectors of the economy, the suffering of poorer sections of the people worsens, while social policies have served as a palliative. However, this process has limits and the illusions of the petty bourgeoisie are disappearing as their social and economic ascent has slowed down. This situation has led to the disgruntlement and mobilization of these strata, mostly around the demand that the government fulfil its promises.
Accelerating urbanisation in a wide range of oppressed countries has been pushed forward by the workings of capital itself. Rural land use has changed to prioritise crops for the production of biofuels in Brazil. Such crops often require a smaller labour force and peasants are displaced towards the cities. On the one hand this change in land use generates the shrinking capacity for food production, raising the price of basic foodstuffs and, on the other hand, it results in a larger number of urban consumers.
At the same time as it carried out a repressive rampage against the protesters, in the face of growing anger the state rescinded the transport fare increase and promised to take into account their demands. In addition, the reformist left in power argued that the demonstrations were only playing into the hands of the rightist parties, in an effort to destabilise and de-legitimise the revolutionary process it says the PT is leading. Using twisted logic, they tried to show that the demonstrations were basically fuelled by the right and by Yankee imperialism. This facilitates the reformists’ aims of stopping more people, including from among their base, from joining the protest movement. While spreading these rumours and arguments, the PT and PCdoB parties try to channel and co-opt the struggles in such a way as to incorporate them into their structures, recognising that some of the demands are just. As if that weren’t enough, in the height of cynicism they proclaim that these demonstrations are really the result of the democratic process begun when Lula took power, since he is seen to have educated the people politically and to have broadened democratic freedoms.
This type of strategy is frequently used by other reformist and social democratic governments in the region such as Venezuela, Ecuador or Argentina in order to justify repression and control popular discontent that threatens to spread.
The de-legitimisation of the PT government and traditional and reformist parties
In rejecting the harmful role that organisations calling themselves socialist, communist and “people’s parties” have played for decades, but in fact have been vehicles for imperialism and serve its interests, a section of the people have promoted the idea of a movement without parties, without leadership or a leading structure.
This idea has been accepted by many youth who are trying to break away from the control of the reformist parties and to build an independent people’s movement. This righteous intention has led to arguments for a different, “horizontal” form of organisation without leadership, in which the collective consensus determines everything. While many within the popular movement in Brazil are not aiming to totally transform the capitalist system, some people within are asking how it is possible to fight a highly structured social system without organisation, leadership and a clear programme. Bitter experiences of the people have shown that there is a material need for organising themselves, for taking in political and ideological nourishment both from the struggle of the people and from the synthesis of communism.
What is certain is that the people can never free themselves and break away from the chains of imperialism under the leadership of the PT and the PCdoB or any other reformist party. Because of their nature and the class interests they defend, these parties promote illusions in bourgeois democracy and orient the people’s struggle towards electoral ends. These kinds of strategies do little more than make minor changes so that things remain the same (or sometimes get worse). At no time and in no country has a reformist conception such as this succeeded in radically transforming society, but has served simply to maintain the bourgeoisie’s control, containing popular uprisings and sowing confusion by putting up a social and democratic facade.
The current movement is encountering the effects of illusions about democracy and the state. For example, some people demanded the demilitarisation of the police and demanded that it defend the interests of the people. This case makes plain the confusion that exists over the class character of the state that fundamentally protects the interests of the ruling class.
Other sections of the movement are trying to focus the struggle on getting rid of individual authorities such as the state governors of Rio and Sao Paulo. In accordance with the wrong idea that the people’s problems are due to corruption of certain individuals, the demand to sack them has become popular and the focus of several smaller demonstrations since June, particularly in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Corruption is in fact a sharp problem in Brazil and there are more than a few individuals and economic sectors that are profiting from public money. But this doesn’t mean that the people’s problems stop there. Some sections of the ruling class and its communication structures are encouraging the struggle against corruption, sending the message that it gets in the way of the normal functioning of the system. They argue that to the degree that the system works well, it is capable of improving the living conditions of the people.
As can be seen in all this, the path for the masses of people who have awakened in Brazil is presenting opportunities to fully grasp the link between their situation and the imperialist system. It will be decisive for a group of people to come to see in this upsurge the broader horizons of the struggle and direct its aims towards a communist revolution striving for the emancipation of all humanity.
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The article “From Hiroshima and Nagasaki to today: reporting American crimes against humanity” in AWTWNS130729 erroneously stated that children were killed in the 12 June, 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad shown in military footage leaked by Bradley Manning. Two children were in a family van that stopped to help one of the men who had just been shot by the helicopter. The American crew then returned and blasted the van but the children, although wounded, were not among the 11 people known to have been killed in that incident. Also, the correct title of the Wikileaks film made from this footage is Collateral Murder, not Collateral Damage.
Egypt: What’s the answer to today’s bloodbath?
19 August 2013. A World to Win News Service. By Samuel Albert. The Egyptian armed forces are slaughtering people on a mass scale, and they are doing it with the backing of the U.S. This is the time not only to oppose this terrorism, but expose the American hand behind them.
If some regime the U.S. perceived as standing in its way were doing what the Egyptian military is doing – massacring unarmed demonstrators and even prisoners, like for instance Assad in Syria, the U.S. and its allies would not be “reviewing” aid, sending diplomats, making phone calls and cancelling joint military manoeuvres that the Egyptian army is too busy to bother with right now. They would be howling at the UN, screaming about “red lines” and threatening air strikes or other armed intervention. The imperialist politicians expressing second thoughts about the green light Washington gave this coup are not just hypocrites. They are also rightly concerned that it might not work out in favour of American interests.
The armed forces could not have stepped in so easily if they had not received the mass support organized by the liberals and “leftists”, including the youth organisations who mobilized demonstrations in Tahrir and other squares to beckon the generals to save them from Islamist rule and then gave the coup legitimacy. Just a few weeks ago, some of those now trying trying to disassociate themselves from the army’s crimes were chanting “The people and the army are one hand.”
This slogan, which arose in January 2011 when the army deserted Mubarak, all but faded out later that year when the army shot down Christians, youth and others demonstrating against it. At the time the Islamists courted the army instead of opposing that violent repression. The military later gave them their consent to form a government, although it never gave up the key ministries and other positions and its veto power. Now that chant represents more than an illusion. In the face of today’s difficult and frightening disorder, it is a programme for restoring the old order and worse.
But it is not true that any of those who now dominate the political stage, the military, leading liberal politicians or Islamists, have suddenly “betrayed the revolution”. These events show that there has been no revolution, and that they are all reactionaries who never changed their nature and goals as they manoeuvred amid complex and changing situations. Any genuine revolutionary movement should not only understand these things itself but do its best to bring that understanding to as many people as possible. Instead of exposing both the liberals and Islamists, too many people who call themselves revolutionaries have sought refuge under the wing of one or another of these powerful enemies and tailed the pro-Western and religious illusions that both sides have propagated and the masses of people have suffered from all along.
The situation now is different than when the spontaneous revolt against Mubarak seemed to unite the people, or at least the most active people. Now the people are divided, pulled and sometimes going back and forth between two reactionary gangs under the warring banners of political Islam and worship of Western-sponsored illusions.
On one side stand the liberal proponents of the Western values marketed as “freedom,” especially the “free market” that has crushed the vast majority of people in every country, and the corresponding belief in Western-style capitalist democracy and its system of elections that have never brought basic change anywhere. They have nothing but contempt and repression to offer the impoverished urban masses and most of the half of the population that lives in rural areas.
When these imperialists’ chosen local representatives saw their chance, the liberals dropped their rhetoric about majority rule, political rights and the rule of law and reached out to the “the nation’s armed forces” that have never been the armed forces of the people and the nation as many so-called Marxists in Egypt claim. The military has always belonged to the imperialist-dependent Egyptian ruling exploiter classes, and spoon-fed and led by the nose by the U.S. for the last four decades.
On the other side stand the Islamists, who claim to represent “freedom” from Western domination, hypocrisy and humiliation while institutionalizing the backward economic and social relations and thinking that have helped keep Egypt weak and vulnerable to the domination of foreign capital. Their project is to combine exploitation, oppression and inequality with the false solace of religion, the hypocritical charity of the mosque and the suffocating solidarity of “the community of the faithful” that abolishes critical thinking.
They do not seek to liberate the nation, let alone make possible the flourishing of the people’s creativity and the positive aspects of national culture as a liberated part of the whole of humanity, able to draw on all human achievements. Their most central principle – “Islam is the solution” – precludes uniting the vast majority of people. Instead they want to rally those willing to submit to them out of a particular religious belief and force acceptance on the rest. This excludes Christians, followers of other varieties of Islam (such as Sufis), practising Sunni Muslims who reject theocracy, agnostics and atheists, or in other words, a large percentage of the population. Their solution to Western-induced ”disorder” is state enforcement of religious authority and the relations between people dictated by patriarchy, which is the keystone of their sought-for social and moral order. No wonder so many people are terrified by the prospect of their rule.
Both sides are representatives of a reactionary order and enemies of the best aspirations people fought and died for chanting “Dignity” and “Bread, freedom and social justice”, and neither has a programme for an Egypt that is not subordinated to the world imperialist system. While the Islamists have scared many people into the arms of the generals, the army’s murderous rampage is likely to strengthen the appeal of political Islam.
Many people are trying to stop this vicious spiral. What’s needed is a game changer, a core of men and women united around and struggling – in the streets and in the minds of the people – for real revolutionary goals, a real alternative to the world as it is, the political, economic and social transformation of Egypt to become a base area for a world free of all forms of oppression and exploitation.
This scientifically-based vision could start to become a material force, mobilising growing numbers of people – the downtrodden excluded from political life and others throughout society – to oppose the generals and the non-solutions represented by the liberals and Islamists and build toward the goal of revolutionary political power. This is the only way that the people can begin to throw off their mental shackles, overcome the divisions among them as they unite for the emancipation of humanity from all forms of exploitation and oppression.
As hard as that certainly is, any other solution is an illusion. That’s the solution to today’s bloodbath that revolutionary-minded people everywhere need to work for and support.
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