Afghanistan: US Strategy in Conflict with Indian Interests

Indian interests in Afghanistan and the region as a whole do not find importance in the US strategy in this part of the world. As a matter of fact the strategy not only ignores but also does not conform to those interests. For all its pronouncements to the contrary, the essential objective of the Obama Administration in Washington is to strike a deal with the ISI and its strategic assets, the Taliban and Haqqani network.

The New Silk Route concept disclosed by the US Secretary of State in Chennai last July is the central point of the deal. Islamabad should pacify the Pathans. In the bargain, Central Asian minerals, hydrocarbons, and other resources and goods will flow to Pakistani ports as well as a diverse range of machinery, electronics and garments in the reverse direction. Pakistan is to get huge invest-ments in its communications and infrastructure thereby helping it to flourish enormously.

As for New Delhi, it will be a mute spectator, just a bystander. The US is quite voluble in claiming that it is eager to help India and Pakistan normalise mutual trade and at the same time assist in opening the land routes to Central Asia for the benefit of the Indian business community. In reality Washington will be more than satisfied if the current tragi-comedy of granting or not granting MFN status to India continues interminably in Islamabad.

That is not all. With American backing the ISI is bound to get the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project. In this scenario what is most likely to happen is the following: whenever New Delhi seeks to press Islamabad to call a halt to the unending waves of terror from across the border, the Pakistani Generals would stop the delivery of gas under one technical reason or another. No international consortium would be in a position to take punitive financial measures against them. However, in the process all Indian industries and power stations utilising Turkmen gas would remain almost perm-anently dysfunctional. Such an apprehension is not a mere figment of imagination in the present setting.

The ulterior motive of Washington becomes increasingly transparent if one takes note of the fact that the US meanwhile is effectively blocking India’s only reliable route to Afghanistan and the former Soviet Union—the one through Iran. This is how the US aims to further its nefarious designs to the detriment of the interests of India in particular as well as those of other friendly states in this country’s neighbourhood.

Militants attack NATO oil tankers in Pak, 5 killed

Militants attack NATO oil tankers in Pak, 5 killed

PTI

ISLAMABAD: Militants in Pakistan on Friday carried out two separate attacks on vehicles carrying fuel for NATO and US forces inAfghanistan, killing five persons and injuring several others.

In the first attack, a group of about 20 militants fired rockets at nearly 40 oil tankers parked at two petrol stations in Shikarpur, a city in southern Sindh province, officials said.

Many tankers caught fire during the attack. Police sources said at least three people died due of burn injuries while three others were injured.

The dead and injured were sleeping in the tankers. Drivers and police officials said 28 tankers and two roadside petrol stations were destroyed in the attack early this morning.

A truck driver and his assistant were burned alive in the second attack on an oil tanker in the parking lot of a restaurant at Khuzdar in southeastern Balochistan province, police said.

The tanker caught fire after it was attacked by several armed militants.

No group claimed responsibility for both attacks. In both incidents, the attackers managed to escape. Police briefly exchanged fire with the attackers in Shikarpur, officials said.

Taliban militants regularly attack NATO supply trucks and oil tankers in parts of Pakistan, particularly the troubled Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in the northwest and southwestern Balochistan, both bordering Afghanistan.

This was the first time that such an attack was carried out in the interior of Sindh province.

In June, around 60 NATO supply trucks were destroyed and eight drivers were killed in a major attack near the federal capital Islamabad.

In April, four policemen were killed as 12 NATO trucks were burnt in eastern Punjab province.

Officials say nearly 70 per cent of NATO supplies and 40 per cent of its fuel requirements are shipped via Pakistan for some 160,000 US-led troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistani authorities yesterday blocked oil tankers and trucks carrying NATO supplies at a check point bordering Afghanistan.

The blockade came shortly after NATO helicopters attacked a Pakistani border check post in Kurram tribal region and killed three Pakistani soldiers and injured three others, sources said.

No reason was given for the blockade in Khyber Agency. However, sources said it was a reaction to the NATO air strikes in Pakistani territory.

NATO helicopters have launched four attacks in Pakistan this week, sparking strong condemnation by Islamabad.

NATO has defended the attacks and a spokesman in Kabul said the action was taken in self-defence as militants had attacked a post in Afghanistan.

The Twilight Zone of Afghanistan’s Borders

[If it is true that Afghan forces called in the lethal airstrikes, to get them out of a jam on the ground, then is it also true that they were either in hot pursuit of attacking militants, or their firing positions from near Army outposts, when they came under heavy fire?  The only available evidence comes from military supplied reports, so there is no reliable reporting for us to know what really happened.  One source claimed that the Pakistani outposts are new installations, located there after the recent wave of cross-border raids in Mohmand by the Pakistani Taliban who had moved into Afghanistan to escape Pak Army attacks.  From the apparent safety of Afghanistan, the TTP have launched a series of mass-attacks, and cross-border firing, which has invited Pakistani forces to fire into Afghanistan on occasion.  With the near universal ignorance of the specific location of the Durand Line, a Pakistani move to the edge of the actual border might have provoked the other side to scream, “violation.” 

If the militants really did fire on the Afghan forces from close proximity to Pakistani forces, then they were studiously overlooked by the soldiers.  It would not be the first time that this tactic has been used.  One well-known instance of this tactic being used was preceding the “Battle of Wanat,” another was in the “Gora Prai” border post assault.  In conflicting news reports at the time, it is reported as an ISAF incursion, but it too, was a report of militants being pursued near border posts.  In the video you can see the individual militants being killed (Video below). 

We have no way of knowing what has happened in these isolated border incidents.  This uncertainty applies to events on all Afghan borders (SEE: Uzbekistan: November 17 railway line near the border with Afghanistan explosion ).  We have no way of knowing anything more than that we have these short reports of a terrorist attack on the Northern Distribution Network.  Did it even happen, or is it all just propaganda intended to reinforce some psyop, or an effort to stop train traffic into Tajikistan?  

Why was this attack upon Pakistani forces ordered?  What has CENTCOM to gain at this time, by exploding the military arrangements with Pakistan?  No matter how much spin the militarists manage to put on this latest tragedy of poor American judgment, we shall still be left with the same question that we are always left pondering in America’s terror war–Why did the geniuses at the Pentagon let it happen?]

Afghan soldiers called in deadly NATO airstrike

Mohammad ZubairA Pakistani border security guard stands alert as authorities close border down the Torkham border for NATO vehicles in Pakistan on Sunday, Nov 27, 2011. Pakistan on Saturday accused NATO helicopters and fighter jets of firing on two army checkpoints in the country’s northwest and killing 24 soldiers. Islamabad retaliated by closing the border crossings used by the international coalition to supply its troops in neighboring Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Mohammad Zubair)

Afghan troops who came under fire while operating near the Pakistan border called in the NATO airstrikes that allegedly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at two posts along the frontier, Afghan officials said Sunday.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said it’s unclear who attacked the Afghan troops before dawn Saturday, but that the soldiers were fired upon from the direction of the Pakistani border posts that were hit in the strikes. The border area where the soldiers were operating contains a mix of Pakistani forces and Islamist militants.

The incident has driven to new lows the United States’ already tattered alliance with Pakistan, a relationship that is vital to winding down the 10-year-old Afghan war. The Pakistan army has said the alleged NATO attack was unprovoked and has insisted there wasn’t militant activity near the border posts in the Mohmand tribal area.

The Arab League’s Hypocrisy

The Arab League’s Hypocrisy – OpEd

by: 

After the Arab League hypocritically suspended the membership of Syria amid the mounting pressures of NATO and the United States, the resurgence of violence in Egypt, the increasing use of excessive force in Bahrain and Yemen, and the unrelenting massacre of innocent civilians by the barbaric regime of Al Khalifa and Ali Abdullah Saleh have once again attracted the attention of conscientious observers in the international community.

According to official figures released by the “Bahrain Center for Human Rights” website, so far 44 Bahraini citizens are killed at the hands of the mercenaries of the Al Khalifa regime. The 6-year-old Mohammed Farhan, 14-year-old Ali Jawad Alshaikh and 15-year-old Sayed Ahmad Saeed Shams are among the martyrs. The Bahraini organization reported that many of these martyrs have been killed while in custody. The Center also published documents indicating that more than 1,500 Bahrainis, 100 of whom were women, have been incarcerated since the eruption of turmoil in the Persian Gulf country on February 14, 2011 and that more than 90 journalists have faced life threat during the same interval.

It’s also said that the Bahraini government has blocked access to more than 1000 opposition websites, which are mainly used to organize and plan protests and mass demonstrations in the country.

The Bahraini regime commits all of these aggressive and brutal actions with the direct involvement of the Saudi Arabia and the implicit support and backing of the NATO and the United States. The author of the “Hidden Harmonies China” blog in his post on March 14, 2011, referring to recent human rights violation in Bahrain with the flagrant, duplicitous support of the White House, wrote that “the entry of Saudi security forces to crack down on the protesters with deadly force is a complication for US policies, to say the least, since the US is reluctant to criticize its oil ally dictators in the region.”

He also called Bahrain the “Las Vegas” of the Middle East, host to the US 5th Fleet and a haunt for the rich Saudis who are forbidden by Islamic laws to indulge in alcohol and other immoral enjoyments at home, “but who often vacation in Bahrain for these reasons.”

Bahraini citizens have uploaded several videos on the internet, showing the cruel and ruthless torturing and persecuting of the protesters by the Al Khalifa lackeys. These videos depict Bahraini forces using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters and killing many of them. Some of these videos also show the Saudi and Bahraini cars nonchalantly running over Bahraini children and women, killing them at once.

The US-Saudi project of crackdown on the Bahraini people was also empowered by many of the European cronies of Washington. In July 2011, Germany sold a set of 200 62-ton Leopard tanks to Saudi Arabia, an act which sparked a huge controversy among the German parliamentarians and anti-war activists. According to Daily Telegraph, Wolfgang Gerhardt, former leader of the Free Democrats and junior collation member to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats also considered the act as “unacceptable.” Despite all this, the USD 1,252 million-agreement was signed and the Saudi government dispatched many of these newly-bought tanks to Bahrain to accelerate and facilitate the bloody clampdown on the protesters.

The situation in Yemen, however, is far more deplorable and appalling. Allvoices.com has reported that as of September 25, 1,870 Yemenis had been killed in the revolution; the majority of the martyrs were reported to be unarmed civilians taking part in anti-government demonstrations.

The Yemeni dictator, who has remained defiant in the face of frequent calls by the tribal leaders, opposition groups and demonstrators to step down and give up power, has turned his country into a bloodbath, making the Yemeni uprising the longest and most devastative revolution in the wave of protests in the Middle East. The protests in Yemen started on February 3, 2011 and have continued so far. The only reaction of the international community to the brutality in this country has been an indecisive and faltering resolution by the UNSC which has called for “an end to violence” and asked President Ali Abdullah Saleh to accept a peace deal brokered by the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council. However, Abdullah Saleh, who is tacitly supported by the US, has kept up with the brutalities and according to Yemen Times, 94 protesters have been killed after the Security Council adopted the resolution 2014.

A report published in Yemen Times on November 17 revealed that “ninety-four Yemenis were killed and over 800 injured since UN Resolution 2014 was issued on October 21.”

“Tentative reports show that over the last three weeks in Yemen, 124 homes, seven mosques, six public institutions including one hospital, two community wells, and 17 vehicles were effectively destroyed,” Yemen Times reported.

In the days leading to the detainment and death of Muammar Gaddafi, the Western mainstream media were only talking about the Libyan civil war, and the reason was clear, NATO had secured a UNSC resolution to enact a no-fly zone over Libya and it was in the interest of the US and its European partners to cover the tumultuous situation in the North African country. However, the reports and news regarding the carnage in Bahrain and Yemen were predominantly shunned and boycotted, simply because these two despotic regimes were the close allies of the US in the Middle East.

In a report published in Independent Australia, Zaid Jiani alluded to the violent crackdown on the protesters in Bahrain and Yemen and posed the question that “is the media downplaying these events because the two dictatorships are firm allies of the West?”

“A Think Progress analysis of press coverage by the three major US cable news networks -CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News – from March 14 to March 18 finds that Bahrain received only slightly more than ten percent as many mentions as Libya and that Yemen received only six percent as many mentions as Libya.”

Now what concerns the independent thinkers, scholars, university professors, journalists and peace activists is that Syria has become the target of international pressure, simply because it has strong ties with Iran and resistant groups in Lebanon and Palestine, while the reactionary regimes of Bahrain and Yemen are getting away with the felonies they had commit by the virtue of their alliance with the United States.

Arab League has hypnotically suspended the participation of Syria while it has taken no practical step to normalize the situation in the turbulent and chaotic Yemen and Bahrain in which innocent people are being killed on a daily basis by their tyrannical rulers and their loyalists

All that can be said is that the performance of the Arab League in neglecting the situation in Yemen and Bahrain and exaggerating the unrest in Syria which is mainly caused by the foreign intervention and the West’s indifference toward the plight of the suppressed nations in Yemen and Bahrain is an all-out hypocrisy and a clear, undeniable exercise of double standards. Who can really devise a clear-cut solution for this unsolvable dilemma?

About the author:

Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian media correspondent, freelance journalist and interviewer. He is a contributing writer of Finland’s Award-winning Ovi Magazine and the the Foreign Policy Journal. He is a member of Tlaxcala Translators Network for Linguistic Diversity (Spain). He is also a member of World Student Community for Sustainable Development (WSC-SD). Kourosh Ziabari’s articles have appeared in a number of Canadian, Belgian, Italian, French and German websites. He can be reached at kziabari@gmail.co

The Failure of Liberal Democracy

The Failure of Liberal Democracy

Gaspar Miklos Tamas

Gáspár Miklós Tamás interviewed by Matthew Brett

Freedom, equality and participation in the democratic process are cornerstones of liberal democracy. Yet these principles are unravelling across the world as states become increasingly authoritarian and unequal. On a speaking tour of North America, Hungarian dissident intellectual Gáspár Miklós Tamás speaks with political science graduate student Matthew Brett about the failure of liberal democracy. Tamás is a significant voice of the Hungarian democratic opposition. He co-founded in 1988 the Network of Free Initiatives, a dissident movement under the communist regime of Janos Kadar, and subsequently served as Member of Parliament between 1989 and 1994 under the banner of the Free Democratic Alliance.

He is currently Research Professor at the Institute of Philosophy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and lectures regularly in political philosophy and social theory in universities around the world. Professor Tamás is the author of ten books in Hungarian and several of his essays have appeared in English translation in publications such as The Times Literary SupplementThe SpectatorBoston ReviewPublic Affairs Quarterly and Socialist Register. Professor Tamás spoke with Matthew at Concordia University in Montreal on Sept. 22, 2011 following his lecture, “The Failure of Liberal Democracy in Eastern Europe…and Everywhere Else.”

How would you define yourself politically?

Well I think I’m a man on the left and I would call myself a Marxist.

Your lecture is titled, “The Failure of Liberal Democracy in Eastern Europe…and Everywhere Else.” For this interview, I’d really like to focus on the nature and content of that lecture, perhaps just beginning with your understanding of what liberal democracy is and what that means.

Well of course I’m trying to keep close to the generally accepted definition in order to be able to talk reasonably. Liberal democracy is a combination of elements, mostly of liberal elements of individual rights and legal guarantees for autonomous self-activity, personal sovereignty, and guarantees against state power. And democracy which means, well, not simply peoples’ rule, but most certainly peoples’ participation in decision making – one man one vote, or one person one vote nowadays. And of course political participation is still far from being complete. We cannot say that every citizen is a lawmaker and a lawgiver. We are mostly passive recipients of law, and obedient or disobedient subjects to the legal system.

Professor Tamas argues that liberal democracy was unravelling as early as the 1980s but that things have become very evident after the recession, and it’s become particularly severe today. One of the central arguments he makes is that an increasing percentage of the global population falls completely outside of our dominant social order. Technology has made labour redundant for many in the world, and so they exist outside of the typical capital-labour relationship.

It seems to me that nowadays we are not only failing to fulfill the moral and theoretical conditions of what would constitute a liberal democracy, but even our faith in the fundamental principles is dwindling as a result of some changes. These changes consist mostly of technological and economic developments that partly through globalization (i.e. the flight of capital to lower wage regions of the world; therefore, the demolition of traditional North American and European manufacturing industries and other economic assets have been stripped and just exported to where there is technology on the one hand, and on the other hand, cheap labour). But most importantly, these technological developments make it so that every human activity is so mechanized – to use the old expression – digitalized, and miniaturized, and robotized, and automated and so on, that the old dispensation according to which most people worked in manufacturing or in services and commerce, it’s not true of today. There won’t be again full employment. Most people will be outside of productive work – productive meaning producing commodities that can be sold on the market. And that means that the previous modals of social organization, which were mostly work, will be lacking. They will be characteristic of only a minority of the populations, and the rest of us will be dependent upon the community itself to survive.

So partly there will be people who work in the public interest, but not productive, like schoolteachers and doctors and so on. And the rest, if society remains as it is, will be in dire need of social assistance, social assistance that must be available based on resources that governments insist they are lacking. Of course this is a system that I do not recognize or let alone like, but if you accept the basic facts about it – which I don’t – then it’s quite obvious that the resources are not there, and governments will have to choose between various groups – whom to assist, whom to help, and who will be left behind, neglected, excluded, condemned to very precarious life or to death by starvation. And therefore the political community is split along the lines of legitimacy of income – what I mean by this is that, still in all our societies there are two main legitimate sources of income: capital and labour. As for the rest, that comes to us through state redistribution – tax monies that are redistributed by government – that are subject to political decisions. And an increasing number of people are dependent on resources that are available to them through redistribution and government channels. And the government has the immense power nowadays, although it has been depleted institutionally, to decide who will get what, and since not everybody can receive these goodies, there’s a great fight about legitimizing or delegitimizing social groups.

So nowadays you will say that people with some illnesses, people above a certain age, immigrants, racial groups, lifestyle groups designated as being of a criminal behaviour and the undeserving poor – to use the 19th century expression – those people are not only ill-served by their government, but also excluded from the core of society, and real active citizenship is re-becoming a privileged instead of a general condition of human beings. And that is something new. After all, liberal democracies aspired to universalize civic rights, to extend the privileges and securities and pride of citizenship to virtually all human beings. Well this trend has been reversed, and this is what I call the failure of liberal democracy.

One of the examples that you’ve given along those lines is the Hungarian Constitution. Can you describe briefly what happened there?

Well the whole Hungarian political development over the last-year-and-a-half has been very much worrying. The new government has installed a new regime. This is not just a change of government; it’s a very deep transformation of the whole country with hundreds of new laws changing the whole legal makeup of the country – changing back from a very flawed but still existent liberal democratic order into a very modern, very contemporary authoritarianism, which is very carefully thought out and very coherent. It consists of a number of measures that I can’t list in a short interview, which is curtailing people’s freedoms from press, freedom of assembly, right to strike and all that stuff, while slashing most institutions that enjoyed some kind of autonomy, from media outlets, to universities, to schools, to art institutions, to unions, to whatever.

But all this is based on a very intellectually interesting development in constitutional law that also has some symbolic changes – for example, Hungary is no longer designated a republic as of the January 1. It’s just Hungary. And where there are articles from the old constitution disappearing, such as equal pay for equal work – that’s not any longer in the constitution. Old welfare statist prescriptions are not there any longer. But what is most important is that rights are not defined as they are normally – like in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the beginning of your Constitution – but they are made dependent on the satisfactory delivery of duties – delivery of public functions and observance of duties. And there are other articles of the Constitution wherein its partially hidden, partially declared openly, that only citizens with a community spirit, and honest work, and appropriate makeup of a citizen can really count on the plenitude of all rights. The state is not obliging itself any longer to the performance of obligations on the side of the state toward citizens. So, for example, whenever the old constitution said that the government must guarantee housing or health or whatever, it said now that the government must do its best to insure fairness, health, housing, welfare, et cetera. So both the welfare state remnants in the old constitution are wiped out completely, and also the absoluteness of rights on which liberal democracies are based in most places have disappeared, which of course enables the authorities to deny various things to citizens in need.

That seems to be a trend that we’re witnessing, as you say, not only in Eastern Europe, but everywhere else – these increasing trends of authoritarianism, particularly on the legislative side, very particular invasive laws. It raises, to me, interesting questions about the role of the state. Particularly in Canada, there’s a strong base of anarchist organizing. That is a strong impulse here on the left. I was wondering if you could speak to your thoughts on anarchism, particularly as somebody who has often worked with political parties.

Well, I was myself an anarchist as a young man, and most of that I haven’t reneged on. I published in some illegal publication called the Eye and the Hand, and it actually has been translated into French, and appeared in a small anarchist publishing house in Switzerland in 1985. “Louis la main” it’s called. It’s a short tract of anarchist political libertarian philosophy. The problem of the state is very perverse nowadays, because the state is the only hope of many needy abandoned people – the same oppressive people that causes most of the problems. And people cling to the state, still hoping that the state, according to the old principles, is still representing fairness, and help, and redistribution, and a soothing hand. Well needless to say that this is a vain hope.

But we always have to take into account that we are speaking within the frameworks of the existing capitalist system, which I’ve done up until now in this interview, accepting experimentally that this is the framework in which we live. And of course I’m not at all opposed to reformistically trying to improve our lot if possible, although in the past time we haven’t witnessed the most progressive performance. And when I’m taking a step back to look more carefully at things, of course I know that there is no substantial hope of the state improving.

You can see that in such countries like Canada, which, compared to others, has been a pretty mild proposition. It’s becoming ever more brutal, although nothing on the scale of the French or the Italian state. Nevertheless, I can see, even though I have no large knowledge of Canada, that privacy, treatment of prison populations, police powers, there’s a progress backwards. It’s called regress.

So of course I don’t think that, if indeed the possibility of oppression is enshrined in the basic tenets of any given society, then you can expect the oppressors to convince them that in the goodness of their heart that they should dispense with all this. Of course they wouldn’t. What has been the only thing, and what will always be, is to mount pressure and to build up counter-powers.

And if you’re talking to anarchists, the question is how to build up counter-powers, when counter-powers by their very nature are also hierarchical? You use coercion, which may be much more dispersed and less toxic than other kinds of coercion. Nevertheless, if you have leadership, if you have organizational blueprints, then coercion of one kind or another will always materialize. These are almost eternal problems. Nevertheless, I think we should turn – as well as doing everything else – to considering again the old problem of how to pre-empt a future – peaceful, and equal, and non-oppressive and non-alienating society – within our own circles. How to live in exploitative, and oppressive, and repressive and in all senses fucked up society, sorry, in a way in which we can at least try to realize in our own lives the principles according to which we would like to live. This is extremely, extremely difficult, given that we have to earn our living, and fit in, and avoid jail, and all those kinds of things, while compromising, and ducking, and hiding ourselves, and lying about who we are. I know very well how tactical life rots your teeth. There’s no one solution to this. This means that you have to build up milieus in which there’s some kind of confidence in which you can get moral help on all these difficulties, and this has all the usual problems of sect building, and cult building. There are many pathologies that beset freedom loving people who want to get outside these really intolerable societies.

Speaking very much to that – the attempt within existing social orders to create alternatives – there’s definitely a strong impulse, particularly after the latest crisis of capitalism, or in the midst of the latest crisis of capitalism, a strong socialist impulse. And I’d like to speak about a piece that you wrote, “Communism on the Ruins of Socialism.” At a time when vast segments of the left are calling for a revived socialism, that article very much says that if anything, socialism has helped sustain capitalism. So can you speak to that, perhaps?

Right, so this was initially a speech that I gave last year [2010] in Berlin together with Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek and Antonio Negri. I’m proud of it, yes – great men. So the main thing about it is that socialism, which is my common name for the social democratic and the Bolshevik branches of the former international workers movement, that in their own separate ways, what they have realized, which in terms of civilization is enormous – state based egalitarianism – real egalitarianism. I mean transformation of life in which, to use the language of the epoch, the common man for the first time could enjoy a roof over his and his families head, indoor plumbing, hot water, some sanitation, guaranteed pensions, paid holidays, all that stuff, which of course is an enormous advance compared to what the situation had been in the 19th century, and of course for millennia.

So for the first time, working people had a modicum of counter-power in the workers movement, in whatever forms – democratic or dictatorial forms – and gave a kind of counter-hegemony in working class culture. And what I’m always saying to make it comprehensible, is that all subordinate classes in history before, what was their culture? It was folklore, complaint, rage – but mostly complaint. And then the working class was the first subordinate class in history that had its own science, its own theory, its own philosophy, its own political organization, its own separate corporate pride, and its own attempt to gain power, and build up its own state, and to kick its adversaries in the teeth. And this is a tremendous historical development, a huge achievement…which failed.

Because of course it could not, and did not, create a society in which the fundamental characteristics of exploitation and hierarchy disappeared. These were, even in the social democratic variant, pretty hierarchical and oppressive societies, in spite of the undeniable great merits of the 20th century – I mean real heroism, so this is a respectable thing that will be remembered as Ancient Greece is remembered. Nevertheless, it is the past, and in many ways a very unsavoury past. I have no illusions about its tragic greatness, if you wish. Now, the characteristics of socialism in this sense – I mean real socialism in a social democratic and Bolshevik way – of course these were productivists and tried to accumulate and produce a lot and construct newer enterprises and plants and factories based on a very limited and naive faith in technology and the natural sciences, and in growth, which of course they shared with capitalism.

These were societies in which it was not the suppression of wage labour that was aimed at but wage raises; not the abolition of commodity production was aimed at, but more commodities (i.e. more consumption); wealth, abundance if possible. So therefore I feel that, as people have felt before, that there’s no time to try the detour through étatiste, welfarist, egalitarian systems to get humankind out of their contemporary shit. I don’t think that we can, or we should, try the social democratic solution, which is of course superior to the present order, but reconstructing it will be very onerous, people don’t really like it, and it could not address the bio-political problem that I alluded to earlier [the bio-political problem of climate change, which Tamas argues, is immensely difficult to tackle in a liberal democratic manner].

Now stimulating production wouldn’t solve the problems of the majority. Work has to be changed, production has to be changed, consumption has to be changed, social hierarchy has to be changed, the whole rationality of public administration and law has to be change – in short, the system must be changed, because it cannot survive in this way.

I very much would like humankind to survive. And I very much would like this to happen without supreme sacrifice – in destroying our livelihood, our culture, our nature, our towns and so on. A lot of valuable and fun things are going on, and it would be a pity if we had to hunker down in some igloos to survive the global storm provoked by capitalism. So it’s an urgent task, and I know it sounds absurd, but given what we see around us, it’s extremely urgent to turn toward the original ideas of communism, which of course, I must emphasize, has nothing to do with 20th century dictatorships.

The idea of a society in which the artificial separations between producers and the means of production, between classes, between races, between persons in authority and persons who obey et cetera, should be dispensed with, and in which indeed human activity based on personal aspirations and non-hierarchical relations should decide about directions to be taken, and which sacrifices in the favour of an imagined supreme common good are not any longer expected.

I’ll give you a shamefully simple example. What are we spending on the military, which is of course especially in North America is something really obscene, and which contributes to death by being shot, and death by the terrible environmental damage that military activities [inflict]. I just read a very good article in Canadian Dimension about the environmental damage that the military is inflicting on all our societies. And we are supposed to pay for this in taxes, and to suffer the terrible consequences in the name of a supposed superior common good un-debated by the citizens. These things have to stop. People should really take over, and triumph over the automatisms, and the mechanisms and the impersonal building blocks of capital in which what looks as spontaneity is just anonymity and impersonality of capitalist power. And it is urgent I say because we are of course in great trouble.

This has happened before, and in that respect we are very much like people in the 1920s – there’s a great bitterness, and unhappiness, and callousness everywhere – and this is nothing that cannot be stopped. We are no worse than we’ve been before, nor better, but there’s no really intrinsic reasons why things should be like this. And I think the radical solutions will do, because the moderate solutions have been tried, are being tried, without any result.

I mean quite seriously who would really believe that, for example in your country, Mr. Harper’s Conservative government gets voted down in one moment and then comes who? You know, Mr. Topp [NDP leadership candidate] or somebody, more humane – a slower version. And everybody knows, of course even small advances aren’t to be spurned, but they won’t really help. But what is the obstacle between us and this noble goal is a great deficiency of which I share, unfortunately. We don’t have the innovative and imaginative way of people in the 19th century to invent new political forms. I think we all should furiously think about what kind of guaranteed free forms of political struggle to invent, because we seem to be clueless, myself included.

Matthew Brett is a political science graduate student at Concordia University and is on the organizing committee for the Montreal-based Forum to Resist the Conservatives. This interview was conducted for CKUT 90.3 FM, Montreal.

BRICS warns against Syria intervention

BRICS warns against Syria intervention

Russia and China along with their three partners in the BRICS group of emerging economies have warned against foreign intervention in Syria without UN approval.

In a statement issued after consultations on Thursday in Moscow, the five nations called for immediate talks between the government and opposition in Syria, Reuters reported.

The Russian representative at the meeting said Moscow rejects pressure from the Syrian opposition groups and accuses Western nations of trying to set the stage for armed intervention.

“Any external intervention that does not correspond with the United Nations Charter must be ruled out,” the Russian Foreign Ministry statement said.

The Russian statement added that, “The only acceptable scenario for resolving the internal crisis in Syria is the immediate start of peaceful talks with the participation of all sides,”

The BRICS final communiqué said nations “placed a special accent on the role of (the UN Security Council), which holds primary responsibility for the support of international peace and security.”

Referring to the recent events in the Middle East and North Africa, BRICS nations noted “the need for the complete adherence to human rights by all sides, in particular the authorities, in regard to protecting unarmed civilians.”

The consultations of the BRICS countries brought together deputy foreign ministers of Russia and China as well as Brazil, India and South Africa.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March, with demonstrations held both in favor and against President Bashar al-Assad.

France became the first country to call for international intervention in Syria this week citing humanitarian grounds.

Syria insists that the unrest in the country has been largely promoted by foreign-linked armed elements that have been trying to incite violence by targeting security forces as well as ordinary protesters and blaming the government for their armed efforts.

Countless Syrian civilians and military personnel have lost their lives in the unrest.

TNP/JR/HGH

Pakistanis protest at U.S. consulate after NATO attack

Pakistanis protest at U.S. consulate after NATO attack

Protestors, who are demonstrating against a NATO cross-border attack, burn an effigy representing the U.S. in Karachi November 27, 2011.   REUTERS-Athar Hussain
An army soldier stands guard near caskets of soldiers killed in a cross-border attack along Pakistan and Afghan during their funeral prayers in Peshawar November 27, 2011. Pakistan on Sunday buried 24 troops killed in a NATO cross-border air raid that has pushed a crisis in relations with the United States towards rupture.  REUTERS-Stringer
Cargo trucks, including those carrying supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan, are seen halted along the Pakistan-Torkham border, after it was shut down to traffic November 26, 2011.   REUTERS-Shahid Shinwari

By Imtiaz Shah

KARACHI, Pakistan

(Reuters) – Thousands gathered outside the American consulate in the city of Karachi on Sunday to protest against a NATO cross-border air attack that killed 24 Pakistani troops and is threatening a strategic alliance between the countries.

A Reuters reporter at the scene said the angry crowd shouted “Down with America.” One young man climbed on the wall surrounding the heavily fortified compound and attached a Pakistani flag to barbed wire.

The NATO attack was the latest perceived provocation by the United States, which infuriated Pakistan’s powerful military with a unilateral U.S. special forces raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May.

NATO helicopters and fighter jets based in Afghanistan attacked two Pakistan military outposts on Saturday, killing the soldiers in what Pakistan said was an unprovoked assault.

“America is attacking our borders. The government should immediately break ties with it,” said Naseema Baluch, a housewife attending the Karachi demonstration.

“America wants to occupy our country but we will not let it do that.”

U.S. and NATO officials are trying to defuse tensions but the soldiers’ deaths are testing a bad marriage of convenience between Washington and Islamabad.

“This was a tragic unintended incident,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement, adding that he fully supported a NATO investigation that was under way.

“We will determine what happened, and draw the right lessons.”

That is unlikely to cool tempers. Many Pakistanis believe their army is fighting a war against militants that only serves Western interests and hurts their country.

“U.S. stabs Pakistan in the back, again,” said a headline in the Daily Times, reflecting fury over the attack in Pakistan, a regional power seen as critical to U.S. efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistan on Sunday buried the troops killed in the attack.

Television stations showed the coffins draped in green and white Pakistani flags in a prayer ceremony at the headquarters of the regional command in Peshawar attended by army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by telephone early on Sunday to convey “the deep sense of rage felt across Pakistan.”

“This negates the progress made by the two countries on improving relations and forces Pakistan to revisit the terms of engagement,” a Foreign Ministry statement quoted Khar as telling her U.S. counterpart.

Khar also informed Clinton that Pakistan wants the United States to vacate a drone aircraft base in the country.

Pakistan shut down NATO supply routes into Afghanistan — used for sending in nearly half of the alliance’s land shipments — in retaliation for the worst such attack since Islamabad uneasily allied itself with Washington following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

About 500 members of Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s most influential religious party, staged a protest in Mohmand tribal area, where the NATO attack took place.

“Jihad is The Only Answer to America,” they yelled.

Pakistan is reviewing whether it will go ahead with plans to attend a major international conference in Bonn next month on the future of Afghanistan in light of the NATO attack.

Around 40 troops were stationed at the outposts at the time of the attack, military sources said.

“They without any reasons attacked on our post and killed soldiers asleep,” said a senior Pakistani officer.

BLUNT STATEMENTS

Pakistan responded with unusually strong condemnations and said it reserved the right to retaliate.

Pakistan is a vital land route for nearly half of NATO supplies shipped overland to its troops in Afghanistan. Land shipments account for about two thirds of the alliance’s cargo into Afghanistan.

A similar incident on Sept 30, 2010, which killed two Pakistani service personnel, led to the closure of one of NATO’s supply routes through Pakistan for 10 days.

U.S. ties with Pakistan have suffered several big setbacks starting with the unilateral U.S. special forces raid in May that killed bin Laden in a Pakistani town where he had apparently been living for years.

Pakistan condemned the secret operation as a flagrant violation of its sovereignty, while suspicions arose in Washington that members of Pakistan’s military intelligence had harboured the al Qaeda leader.

The military came under unprecedented criticism from both Pakistanis who said it failed to protect the country and American officials who said bin Laden’s presence was proof the country was an unreliable ally in the war on militancy.

Pakistan’s army, one of the world’s largest, may see the NATO incursion from Afghanistan as a chance to reassert itself, especially since the deaths of the soldiers are likely to unite generals and politicians, whose ties are normally uneasy.

Pakistan’s jailing of a CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, and U.S. accusations that Pakistan backed a militant attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul have added to the tensions.

“From Raymond Davis and his gun slinging in the streets of Lahore to the Osama bin Laden incident, and now to the firing on Pakistani soldiers on the volatile Pakistan-Afghan border, things hardly seem able to get any worse,” said the Daily Times.

Islamabad depends on billions in U.S. aid and Washington believes Pakistan can help it bring about peace in Afghanistan ahead of a combat troop withdrawal at the end of 2014.

But it is constantly battling Anti-American sentiment over everything from U.S. drone aircraft strikes to Washington’s calls for economic reforms.

“We should end our friendship with America. It’s better to have animosity with America than friendship. It’s nobody’s friend,” said laborer Sameer Baluch.

In Karachi, dozens of truck drivers who should have been transporting supplies to Afghanistan were idle.

Taj Malli braves the threat of Taliban attacks to deliver supplies to Afghanistan so that he can support his children. But he thinks it is time to block the route permanently in protest.

“Pakistan is more important than money. The government must stop all supplies to NATO so that they realize the importance of Pakistan,” he said.

But some Pakistanis doubt their leaders have the resolve to challenge the United States.

“This government is cowardly. It will do nothing,” said Peshawar shopkeeper Sabir Khan. “Similar attacks happened in the past, but what have they done?”

(Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider in Islamabad, Izaz Mohmand and Aftab Ahmed in Peshawar and David Brunnstrom in Brussels; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Nick Macfie)