3RD EURO-MEDITERRANEAN CONFERENCE: STATEMENT ON THE MIDDLE EAST
Fight imperialism, Zionism, national oppression and sectarian Sunni-Shia war in the Middle East! For the Socialist Federation of the Middle East!
The situation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a major source of violence of a barbaric nature, threatening an all-out and all-consuming war that would leave hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dead, combatant or civilian. Given the ever-shifting character of the forces on the field, it is difficult even to understand right from wrong, let alone offer solutions to the manifold problems faced by the peoples of the whole region. Only in the course of the last year or so, two developments of epoch-making significance have come about: on the one hand, the establishment of the so-called “Islamic State”, ruled by a self-appointed Caliph (religious leader of all Muslims), and, on the other, the very recent nuclear deal between Iran and the 5 + 1, clearly implying a thaw between the West and this country. Any political orientation that aspires to a new setup in the MENA region that works for the benefit of the working masses should avoid fleeting twists and turns in the situation and fix its attention on the major trends and contradictions, whose solution is the only way forward for the region.
1) Imperialist exploitation and aggression: The Middle East has been a prize coveted by imperialism since the early years of the previous centuries. However, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the rise of China have sharpened worldwide contradictions and led Western imperialism, headed by the US, to attempt bringing the Middle East, the Caucus and Central Asia, a contiguous region rich in fossil fuels, under its monopolistic control. Hence the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, aggravated by the more recent war on Libya and the proxy war on Syria, not to mention the approval given to Israel in its many forays into Gaza and Lebanon. Resulting in an immense number of lives lost, the devastation of whole countries and the trampling of the dignity of the peoples in question, the imperialist urge to dominate and exploit is the root cause of all evil in the region.
2) The rise of the Takfiri movement: ISIL represents a reactionary trend in Islamic politics that goes beyond any in the past. It aspires to exterminate any group that it itself characterises as outside of Islam. Hence the label “Takfiri”, implying a force that accuses all except those who comply with its own precepts of apostasy. The other distinctive trait presented by ISIL is that it does not grow out of any particular national soil, but feeds itself on the ideal of the “umma”, the community of Muslims. This is why it has been home to youth from so many different nations, including Muslims from Western countries. The ISIL has proven resilient. Not only has it survived air bombardment from the coalition led by the US, it has also increased its area of activities, striking at geographies as distant as Yemen, Egypt and Algeria at different times and receiving the proclamation of loyalty from other equally barbaric organisations in other countries, most notably of Boko Haram in Nigeria.
3) Sunni-Shia sectarian war: The ISIL is also the cutting edge of a dynamic of sectarian war in the Middle East, between the majority Sunnis, on the one hand, and the minority Shia allied with the Alawi, on the other. The threat of an all-out sectarian war in the Middle East has been present since the civil war between the Sunni and the Shia that erupted under the American occupation in Iraq reaching its peak in 2006-2007. Since then the war has spread to Syria and Yemen and has recently come back, through the labours of ISIL, to Iraq. However, these are all proxy wars, since the real protagonists are Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey under Tayyip Erdogan, on the Sunni side, and Iran, on the Shia side.
4) Oppression of the Palestinian people by Zionism: The aggressive nationalist and fundamentalist Zionist state, established in the heart of historic Palestine some six decades ago, not only continues to deny the Palestinian people its rights, but also has recurrently attacked Gaza and Lebanon and pillaged and immured the West Bank.
5) The denial of the national rights of the Kurdish people: Having seen their historic fatherland partitioned into four different parts in the aftermath of World War I, the Kurdish people have been subjected to severe repression anywhere they have had the temerity to revolt for their rights. Being a US (and secondarily a Turkish) protégé, The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq enjoys now a somewhat more privileged status, while Rojava, the autonomous Kurdish region in Syria, suffers attacks at the hands of the ISIL and is constantly threatened by Turkey, which also has tried to quash the Kurdish revolt on its own soil for the last 30 years.
6) The repulsion of the Arab revolutions: The hurricane that blew across the Arab world in the year 2011, bringing down dictators who ruled over their countries for decades, caused great alarm in all the major seats of power in the region and beyond. And the emblematic country in this context was Syria. Having applied the strategy of “orderly transition” in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, at once bribing and terrorising the masses in Saudi Arabia, the fanning of tribal warfare and its articulation with imperialist war in Libya, governmental reshuffling in Jordan, constitutional reform in Morocco, and outright military occupation by the armed forces of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Bahrein, the counter-revolutionary alliance resorted to the strategy of converting a people’s uprising into a sectarian war in Syria. Whereas the Syrian explosion started on 15 March 2011 as still another revolution by the destitute and the downtrodden against the despotic regime of the Alawi Assad family supported by the Sunni bourgeoisie of Damascus and Aleppo, from September of the same year the reactionary coalition of the Gulf states and neighbouring Turkey under Erdogan turned it, step by step, into a sectarian war of Sunni armies against what they alleged was Alawi oppression of their faith. There is no longer a revolution in Syria. The regime is being attacked frontally by reactionary forces. If there are any serious organised revolutionary forces, they are insignificant in terms of the outcome of the struggle.
Looking at this complex situation, it is easy to get carried away by what seems to be the decisive questions of ideology (Islam vs. secularism), religion (Islam vs. Judaism and Christian minorities or Sunni vs. Shia), or ethnicity (the Kurd vs. the Turk, the Arab or the Persian). In effect, the rising power in the MENA region, the ISIL, seems to confirm this view of things, since it is the cutting edge of a dynamic of sectarian war in the Middle East, between the majority Sunnis, on the one hand, and the minority Shia allied with the Alawi, on the other. This is civil war within the Islamic world and not a war against imperialism. This civil war threatens to transform the Middle East into a slaughterhouse, bombs exploding in market places, suicides bombers killing hundreds of civilians, holy places and mosques being destroyed and burnt down, tens or even hundreds of thousands being massacred as a result of a prospective war.
However, notwithstanding appearances, the decisive factor in all these conflicts is naked self-interest. The dynamics of war and internecine strife in the Middle East are embedded in the power struggles between the competing ruling classes of the various countries active in the region, finding ideological expression in age-old religious feuds. The interests of imperialism, both US and EU imperialisms, the rapacious appetite for oil rent on the part of the regional powers, and the strategic calculations of the ever-present Zionist vulture in the background all interlace to create an explosive situation in the near future.
To the greed of imperialism with its unbounded drive for pillaging the riches of the region is now added the competition over the ground rent from oil and gas between the reactionary Sunni states of the Gulf and the reactionary regime of the mullahs in Iran, threatening to become a reciprocal massacre of the workers and the fellaheen (poor peasants) of the Middle East! For his part, Erdogan is hoping to rise to the position of the new “Rais” of the Islamic world of MENA (a title once held by Nasser of Egypt in the hearts and minds of the Arab masses) and has for that reason adopted a policy of provoking Sunni interests against Shia and Alevi combined. Hence it is neither the US, nor Saudi Arabia and Qatar, nor the Iran of the mullahs or its subordinate allies, nor Turkey under Erdogan that one should look to for salvation. They are all part of the problem because the interests they represent, although different in each case, nonetheless make each and every one of them the source of the problem rather than a solution.
Only the workers and the fellaheen (poor peasants) of the Middle East can lead the region out of this predicament. It is the working class, the poor peasants and the destitute urban poor of the region whose interests counter these dynamics. It is only the labouring classes that can put a halt to this slide into barbarism. The oppressed nations and faiths of the Middle East, first and foremost the Palestinians and the Kurds, promise to be the major allies of the working masses in this struggle. The proletariat, as elsewhere, also has to gather around it all the oppressed sectors of society, starting with women in dire need of emancipation and the youth suffering from immense unemployment and poverty.
In this struggle, the movements that represent the workers, the peasants and the oppressed nations or religious groups should beware of allying themselves strategically with imperialism. Imperialism is the root cause of the exploitation to which the workers and peasants of the region are subjected. It also can change its orientation in line with it shifting interests and abandon any oppressed nation to the whims of its oppressors, as it has repeatedly done in the past, from the Armenians through the Palestinians to the Kurds in 1975.
We call on all the socialist movements and the labour movement in the Middle Eastern countries, irrespective of faith, nation and race, Arabs and Farsi and Turks and Kurds, to start preparing an internationalist movement to counter this race to make the Middle East a slaughterhouse. Internationalism, for which our revolutionary Marxist movement has fought for decades and is still fighting relentlessly, will be needed now more than ever by large masses as the nightmare descends more and more on our part of the world.
The oppressed and the exploited of the Middle East have no interest in taking sides in the sectarian war between Sunni and Shia that is speedily approaching. Their salvation lies in internationalist refusal of this butchery. To those who think this is utopian, that the forces of internationalism are too weak to have an impact, we remind of the existence of a long list of “unrealistic” initiatives of the same kind, from the Bolsheviks’ “revolutionary defeatism” at the beginning of World War I to the unifying stance of the Yugoslav communists in the face of the butchery between the different nationalities with Nazi provocation during World War II. If those struggles, whose chances for success seemed so slight at the beginning won, that is because they had discovered that what was at play was the barbaric tendencies of capitalism and this had to be countered at any price. We are now face to face with a similar situation.
And we have behind us mass revolts of the peoples, from the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions of 2011-2013 to the people’s rebellion in Turkey triggered by Gezi in 2013, from the revolt of the Iranian people fighting for their democratic rights in 2009 to the defence of Rojava militarily and politically by the heroic Kurdish people.
The only real alternative to the prospect of sectarian civil war on the scale of the Middle East is the Socialist Federation of the Middle East. In this difficult struggle, the international working class and in particular the proletariat of Southern Europe struggling against the inhuman austerity imposed on the masses by EU imperialism will be the main international ally of the peoples of the Middle East.
Fight imperialism, the real source of all barbarisms!
Down with Zionist Israel! For a united, secular, socialist Palestine bringing peace to both Jews and Arabs on the entire historic territory of Palestine!
For the right of self-determination for the Kurds, long subjugated under four different oppressor states, and for the defence of Rojava in the face of attacks from the ISIL and threats from Turkey!
For a united, independent, socialist Cyprus!
Fight Takfiri barbarism! For a secular Middle East that guarantees the coexistence of people of all creeds!
For the emancipation of women all over the Middle East and North Africa!
Unswerving opposition to the rising threat of sectarian Sunni-Shia war in the Middle East! No opportunistic involvement in this butchery!
For a united anti-imperialist front of all the forces that represent the working class, the toiling masses, the oppressed nationalities and religious groups!
For a common struggle with the working class of Mediterranean Europe and first and foremost the Greek working class, currently at the vanguard of the struggle against rapacious capitalism!
Rekindle the light of revolution and revolt in the Mediterranean!
For the Socialist Federation of the Middle East and North Africa!