Letters to the Editor

Socialist Viewpoint
on Syria

By Stansfield Smith

Dear Editor,

You print an article on Syria by Corey Oakley that says, “Imperialism, in the sense of Western neo-colonialism, is not the main threat facing the masses of Syria, or [the masses] of the Arab world as a whole.” Imperialism is not the main enemy of the people, the 99 percent of the world? When did this happen? Oakley adds, “The Arab revolution is a revolution against imperialism, but it is more fundamentally a class struggle against the Arab regimes.” Not only is Lenin’s and Trotsky’s understanding of imperialism being cast aside by Oakley, but the class struggle is being redefined. Not workers and peasants against capitalists, instead the class struggle is now protesters vs. regimes.  And now Arab regimes are a new class.  And that new class is a greater threat to humanity, at least in some parts of the world, than imperialism.

That imperialism is the great enemy of humanity is certainly a dividing line between those who have a class understanding of how the world works and those who don’t, like Corey Oakley.

Hillary Clinton just approved $45 million more for the Syrian rebels to be used in what she calls “Free Syria.”  Other big funders of the “revolution” against the “Arab regimes” are Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Even Time Magazine acknowledges what you don’t:

“Syria’s Secular and Islamist Rebels: Who Are the Saudis and the Qataris Arming?” (September 18, 2012)

And Saudi Fundraising Campaign Gets $72 Million to Syrians—Saudi Arabia, along with their allies in the Gulf states and Western countries, have supported Syria’s opposition from the beginning.”

I would feel much more comfortable advocating the Popular Front in Spain against Franco than I would this new Popular Front with imperialism and its Arab puppet states against the Assad government.

Editors note: We have no basic disagreement with the author’s criticism of the Corey Oakley article, “The Left, Imperialism and the Syrian Revolution,” that appeared in the September/October 2012 issue of Socialist Viewpoint, Vol. 12, No. 51. We certainly do agree that world capitalism—with U.S. capital at its commanding heights—is the main enemy of the world’s working class and of the planet itself.


Chicago Teachers Strike a Blow

By Joe Johnson

Dear Editor:  

When you are the anvil bear it, when you are the hammer strike. When you strike, do so at your enemy’s weak spots. We are the hammer. What are the ruling class weak spots?  One, now in the U.S., is education. We know this because we can see the fear in their eyes when they speak of education and the teachers.

Teachers educate for the future, education is about the future and the ruling class knows they have no future. So they must lash out at education and teachers and try to destroy their gravediggers. So we must direct the muscles and bones of our fist at their weak part, education.

Chicago, where May Day started, is once again where the fight is started—a fight that will be taken to every city—for teachers are everywhere. This fight may be bloody but it will not be long. We know what needs to be done—a teacher’s strike on a mass level; a new type of teachers’ strike that includes teachers, students and the whole community—a Paris commune.  

In Chicago 90 percent of the students live in poverty. They will have to fight as a group the Mayor, the Democratic and Republican political parties, the courts, the militarized police, and finally the federal troops sent in by Obama. The teacher’s strike will need to become a general strike of all the people.

Just as you aim your fist to hit in back of your target we shall aim the teachers strikes for the future that is in back of the now. We shall destroy the now, the poverty and injustice. We shall build for the future; new schools, better schools, new education, new community, a new society built on prosperity and justice for all. We shall smash the old society of poverty and injustice. We will do it and we will do it now or it will not be done.

America Is Under Attack!

By William T. Hathaway

Vicious fanatics are trying to kill us and destroy our country. They’re blowing up our soldiers overseas. They’ve infiltrated our country. We must defend ourselves against these mad-dog berserkers before it’s too late.

This litany has been repeated by corporate-controlled media and politicians for years now, pumping fear into us. It is used to justify a massive ongoing war that has killed hundreds-of-thousands of our fellow human beings and almost bankrupted the USA.

But is it really true? Who started this war? When did it begin? The history of this conflict reveals a different story than the one continually beamed at us. The Romans were the first Westerners to try to dominate and plunder the Middle East; the Christian crusaders followed, then nineteenth-century imperialists. From the Arabs’ perspective, the barbarians keep descending on them from the north, and they keep throwing them out. In the past hundred years the attacks have intensified as new treasure has been discovered: vast reserves of black, liquid gold under the desert sands.

During World War One, the British persuaded the Arabs to fight on their side by promising them independence. Thousands of them died in battle for the Brits because of this promise of freedom. But after the victory Britain refused to leave. It maintained control by installing puppet kings—Faisal in Iraq and Ibn Saud in Saudi Arabia—to rule in its interest.

After World War Two, Britain and the USA pressured the United Nations into confiscating Arab land to form the state of Israel, making the Arabs pay for the crimes of the Germans. In addition to providing a nation for the Jews, Israel would be a forward base for Western economic and military power in the Middle East. To the Arabs it was another European invasion of their territory.

In the early 1950s, the USA and Britain overthrew the government of Iran because it tried to nationalize its oil industry, which was under Western control. We installed the Shah as dictator, and he promptly gave the oil back to us. Then he began a twenty-five year reign of terror against his own people. His secret police jailed, tortured, or killed hundreds-of-thousands of Iranians who opposed him. Since they knew he was kept in power only by American military aid, they began hating the USA. They finally ousted the Shah, but then the CIA started subverting the new government, trying to bring it down. At that point the Iranians fought back by holding U.S. Embassy officials hostage, which was a mild response, considering what we had done to their country.

In the mid 1950s, Egypt decided to nationalize the Suez Canal and use the income from it to help their people out of poverty. They were willing to pay its British and French owners the full market value for their shares, but Western governments and Israel responded violently, invading and bombing Egypt into submission.

Countries have the right to nationalize their resources, so what Iran and Egypt wanted to do was legal. The Western response, though, was illegal aggression in violation of international law and the United Nations charter. It roused in its victims a deep resolve for revenge.

The USA and Britain committed similar atrocities in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Indonesia, and Afghanistan. We overthrew their governments, installed dictators, undermined their economies—all to strengthen our business interests. In every nation where we now have terrorism, we had first assaulted them. America is under attack only because it is on the attack. It’s no wonder they hate us. Imagine how we would feel if a foreign country were doing this to us. We’d be fighting back any way we could.

Since they don’t have our military power, they’re resisting with the only weapons they have: guerrilla warfare. As Mike Davis wrote, “The car bomb is the poor man’s air force.” The rich have Stealth bombers, the poor have Toyota Corollas, both filled with explosives. The bombers are much bigger and kill many more people. Since 9/11 the USA has killed over three hundred thousand—a hundred times more than died in the World Trade Center. The overwhelming majority have been civilians. We are the top terrorists, armed to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction. As Martin Luther King stated with simple eloquence: “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.”

Our politicians and media have created an image of fiendish terrorists who “hate us for our freedom.” But they really hate us for subjugating them. Since we started the aggression, the attacks won’t end until we leave their countries.

Even fanatics like al-Qaeda aren’t really aggressors. They’re fighting a defensive war, trying to force us out. The Western media never publish their demands because they are so reasonable. They basically come down to, “Go home and leave us alone. Pull your soldiers, your CIA agents, your missionaries, your corporations out of Muslim territory. If you do that, we’ll stop attacking you.” Nothing about destroying the West or forcing it to become Islamic. Just that the West should stay in the West.

If people knew this—knew how easy it would be to stop terrorism—they wouldn’t want to fight this war. That’s why the media ignore al-Qaeda’s demands. Western leaders don’t want people to see that the war’s real purpose isn’t to stop terrorism but to control the resources of this region. They actually want the terrorism because that gives them the excuse they need—the threat of an evil enemy.

As Hermann Goering, Hitler’s assistant, declared: “Naturally the common people don’t want war.... is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.... All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

Goering was right about the democracies that existed both then and now. In these, the people’s influence in politics is regulated to ensure that only pro-capitalist parties have a chance. Corporate financing, winner-take-all elections, ballot-access laws, and slanted media coverage effectively exclude alternatives. Democracy means power is in the hands of the people. But the real power in our society—economic power—remains firmly in the hands of the rich elite, enabling them to control politics—and us—to a large degree.

Capitalism is always at war. The violence, though, is often abstract: forcing us either to accept low-paying, exhausting jobs or starve; denying us adequate healthcare, education, and economic security; convincing us that human beings are basically isolated, autonomous units seeking self gratification. But when this doesn’t suffice to keep their profits growing, the violence becomes physical, the cannons roar, and the elite rally us to war to defend “our” country and destroy the fiendish enemy. Motivating us to kill and die for them requires a massive propaganda campaign—America is under attack!—which we confront whenever we turn on their media.

Why do they do this? Are they monsters?

No, they’re not. They’re just human beings serving an inhuman system. Capitalism is inherently predatory. It demands aggressive growth. It’s either dominate or go under.

This drive for domination is the root cause of war, and until we eliminate it, we’re going to continue killing one another. Eliminating it requires a global struggle to bring down oligarchic capitalism and replace it with democratic socialism. Political democracy must be expanded and extended into the economic sphere. We, the people of the world, have to take control of the forces that shape our lives. This is the basis for building a society in which we can all fully develop as human beings. Once we achieve this, we’ll have a real chance at lasting peace.

—May 9, 2012

Competition or Cooperation?

By George Damasevitz

Dear Editor,

With the summer Olympics in the rear view mirror, Americans will continue to look forward to many forms of competition throughout the remainder of the year. On the national scene, there is football and basketball, the World Series and NASCAR races. Locally, we will be preparing for marching band competitions, running races and Winter Guard. Perhaps you or someone you know will be preparing for a competition soon.

Competitions are not limited to sports. There are singing and dance contests and piano and chess competitions. We even have teams competing against one another in workplaces. So why is it that when someone loves to do something enough to get good at it, it has to end up as a competition? Do we really need to have awards such as Pulitzers and Grammys to recognize the achievements of writers and musicians? Can the Dairy Princess still be poised and pretty without a trophy to affirm it? Is it not sufficient to love what one does without seeking external recognition for doing it? If Beethoven was vying for a Grammy would he have been a better composer?

Competition is thought to inspire achievement. But there is a downside to it. For one, it is not a necessary component of any achievement. It also brings out some less than admirable qualities in some.  How many competitors would cheat to win a competition? And what of those who don’t win the contest—are they just as happy as the winners? Did anyone tell Tonya Harding or Barry Bonds that they were supposed to be happy just to compete? Will anyone ever really know if Lance Armstrong was the best bicyclist in the world, unassisted by pharmaceuticals?

In reality, the downside of unfettered competition is far worse than bruised egos and the use of illegal substances. Many contestants are plagued by insecurity and need validation of their existence by some external reward system. Those who chase wealth seem to have fallen into this trap—their worth somehow needs to be measurable and therefore monetized. These people make a contest game out of accumulating wealth and force everyone else to play by their rules. We, as spectators, foolishly worship these winners and their ability to amass sums well beyond what is needed for a comfortable life. We are happy for and envious of those who are living the dream while the rest of society lives out its nightmare. Most pathetically, we fail to realize that we have lost a zero-sum game we didn’t even know we were playing. Perhaps it’s just human nature that people are so competitive in so many endeavors. But that is not an excuse for encouraging immoral and illegal behavior.

Replacing competition with cooperation can result in dramatic benefits. Truly beneficial projects don’t require competition for their success. Cooperation has resulted in unraveling the human genome, construction of our nation’s roadways and cathedrals as well as cures for smallpox and tuberculosis to name a few. Our obsession with competition only shunts scarce resources away from more beneficial endeavors and this is most evident in our national foreign policy in which we “compete,” however unfairly, in wars of convenience, for natural resources that belong to all citizens of the world.

 When the downside of competition results in removal of others’ rights and abasement of their dignity as fellow humans, it is time to replace our competitive urge with one of cooperation. Many more of the world’s citizens will benefit and a foundation for a more peaceful world will be built.    

—September 6, 2012