Class struggle brewing in the Middle East

We publish a summarised version of an introductory speech on the Middle East given by Fred Weston at a recent meeting of the International Marxist Tendency. In answering some of the pessimists on the left he points out how imperialism is facing defeat in the region and highlights the enormous potential for class struggle.

The following is an edited version of the speech given to a meeting of the International Executive of the IMT that met in January 2007.

The contradictions of world capitalism are expressed very sharply in the Middle East. And the war in Iraq has further exacerbated all these contradictions. When we speak of socialism or barbarism, we can see it on a huge scale already, today, in the Middle East.

What is happening in the Middle East cannot be understood unless we understand the real condition of the people on the ground, of the people of Iraq, or the Palestinian masses who effectively live in giant open prisons. In Gaza, people are at times on the edge of starvation, while in Israel, right across the border, there is a much higher standard of living. It would be difficult to find a starker contradiction.

Lebanon has now been added to this. After rebuilding the country and establishing some degree of stability, Israeli imperialism bombed them back 20 years or more during last year's war.

The terrible conditions that exist in the Middle East are a direct consequence of capitalism and imperialism. At the same time we see the limits of this system. In spite of all its economic and military might it is incapable of stabilising the region. The main goal of US imperialism in launching the Iraqi War was to get control of the enormous oil reserves of the country. But in spite of all their efforts they have failed miserably in this objective due to the present chaos which they themselves are responsible for.

A wider, more global goal, beyond Iraq itself, was to control the whole of the Middle East. US imperialism can see many threats to its interests in the region, with many of the despotic regimes that are loyal to it facing internal unrest and even the risk of being overthrown. Thus the idea was to police the region from their base in Iraq. They were concerned in particular about instability in Saudi Arabia, and had the idea that from Iraq they could occupy the oil fields in case of a collapse of the regime. The same applies to Iran, which they felt could be more easily dealt with from a strong base in Iraq.

In fact, they planned to build a corridor of military bases across the whole region. All these plans are now up in the air, as the war in Iraq has created the opposite of what it was intended to do. Rather than greater stability we have greater instability. Instead of strengthening the regimes that are loyal to imperialism these face growing unrest from below.

The war in Iraq

There was a wider message the US imperialists wanted to get across to the other so-called "rogue regimes" such as Iran and Syria: "either you pull into line or you are next". They also wanted to send a message to the colonial world, to those regimes and peoples that dare step out of line. The idea was that the US could run rampant all over the peoples of the world, establishing this strange form of "democracy" - not the rule of the people, but rule over the people by a foreign power.

This has all failed now and they are now staring defeat in the face in Iraq. The message that this sends around the world is that imperialism is not as powerful as it seemed, it can be defeated. Thus they have achieved the opposite of what they worked for. In that sense the war in Iraq is a total failure from the point of view of the fundamental interest of the US ruling class.

How things have change in just a few years. After their initial rapid advance into Iraq and the taking of Baghdad, all the petty bourgeois "lefts" were weeping in their tea about the almighty power of imperialism, decades of black reaction ahead, and so on. This reflects their total lack of understanding of the real underlying processes taking place in the world. These people can only see the power of the ruling class, and cannot see the contradictions that run through society at all levels.

Now the scenario is the complete opposite of what it seemed to be. People can see the real effects of the war. They see that even the most powerful military in the world cannot hold down a people that does not want them there. The memory of Vietnam has been revived. The Vietnam War had a big effect on American workers' consciousness. It also taught the US ruling class an important lesson. Apparently Bush has forgotten this lesson (or never learned it in the first place).

This is all a logical consequence of the end of Stalinism. A sector of the US bourgeois let it go to their heads - thinking that they were all-powerful. The decades-ling conflict between the two superpowers, the USA and the Soviet Union, had been won by the US. A new ear was thus ushered in, that of the New World Order, with the USA as the sole superpower dominating the planet. Now they are learning the hard way that that was really a fairy tale. It is one thing to be an economic and military superpower, it is another thing to hold down the peoples of the world.

And yet, in spite of the lessons of Iraq, Bush is determined to go after Syria and Iran. But in this he is facing the opposition of an important wing of the US ruling class that wants to make a deal with Syria and Iran (as indicated by the Baker Commission report)! It reflects the real state of the US ruling class. They are in a desperate position on a world scale - it is a generalized crisis of the system. The divisions within the US ruling class are a reflection of the crisis their system is in.

We predicted all of this in our publications and discussions in the past. As Trotsky explained, Marxism gives us the benefit of foresight over astonishment. Marxists do not allow themselves to be pushed hither and thither by this or that event in world affairs. We base ourselves on the real, concrete, underlying processes. We base ourselves on the fact that capitalism is a system riven with internal contradictions that sooner or later must come to the surface.

Initially Bush was convinced that he could use 9/11 to justify the war in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere if necessary. Now the mess in Iraq is having an effect at home in the US. The recent midterm elections reflected a rejection of Bush's policy. It is also having an effect within the US military and their families. There is now a mass anti-war sentiment in the United States. And yet Bush prefers to ignore this and continue on regardless as if nothing has changed. He decided to send another 22,000 troops to Iraq. He is like a gambler making his last big bet - trying to win it all back. He is removed a million light years from the world of the US workers and people. He has no understanding of the real mood in the US.

The cost of the war is a colossal drain on the United States, both in terms of soldiers lost and billions of dollars spent. It has not been a good investment at all. The number of Iraqis who have died because of the war, directly and indirectly, has been calculated to be as high as 600,000! The effect of the growing number of US soldiers killed and the terrible devastation unleashed on the Iraqi people is one of radicalising the mood in the United States itself.

In spite of its huge army and military hardware, the US has effectively lost control of Baghdad, and of the West of Iraq. Entire zones are under de facto control of the militias. The weakness of the US is reflected in the fact that they have come up with the idea of, yes, keeping their soldiers there - but locked in their bases, the only "safe" place for them.

The situation of the Maliki government is symptomatic. It is based on US military power, and in that sense is a "puppet". But the United States does not fully control the puppet. Maliki has been seeking his own base of support and that explains why he has leaned on the Shia militias, hence the hanging of Saddam to appease them. But while this may have appeased the Shias, it enraged the Sunnis. Meanwhile, the Kurds are treated as pawns - so much for their right to self-determination.

There are now rumours of a coup to remove Maliki. This reminds us of the position of US imperialism in Vietnam towards the end of that war in the 1970s. There too they could not get the puppet to do what they wanted and decided that it was better to step in and do the job themselves. We also remember how it ended up. So bad is the situation in Iraq now, that there are even rumours that they want to install another dictator - perhaps someone like Saddam!

The US, because of its inability to hold the country purely by military means, has been trying to use the old "divide and rule" technique. But by so doing they are simply increasing tensions between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds. The end result of all this is that we are now facing the real danger of total civil war and even the break-up of the country. This was not how it was supposed to be.

Therefore, far from solving any of the problems of US imperialism, the war in Iraq has simply exacerbated them, bringing to the surface the real underlying contradictions, accelerating the pace of the class struggle in the USA and destabilising the whole of the Middle East even further.

Lebanon after the war

Last summer Israel received a very harsh lesson. It has the best equipped and trained army in the Middle East, and yet the most powerful imperialist force in the region, was defeated by Hezbollah. This has had a massive impact on the psychology of the peoples of the region. As in the case of the USA in Iraq, the defeat of Israel has sent out a message that it is not all-powerful and invincible - it can be defeated. This also had a profound psychological impact on the Israeli population itself. In the North, the cities were bombed and the Israeli military failed to protect the population of these areas. This raised serious doubts about the ability of the Israeli army to defend its people.

Israel was built on the psychological basis that this was the only "safe place" in the world for the Jews. In past wars, Israel had always come out on top. Despite being surrounded by many enemies, it could deal with them militarily. This was the idea that had been established.

Now the population is realizing that despite its power on paper, the Israeli military is not invincible. It could not defeat the people's resistance in the South of Lebanon. We should remember that Hezbollah originally emerged, not as some outside backed force. It was not transplanted in Lebanon by Iran, but came into existence as the resistance during the last occupation by Israeli forces.

Hezbollah is an expression of Islamic fundamentalism, but it came into existence because of a specific need of the local population. Therefore it would be wrong to have a one-sided mechanical approach to this phenomenon.

If one were to apply such a one-sided approach to Islamic fundamentalism one would indeed have to paint a very black picture of reaction dominating the Middle East and would lose site of the real situation. One would have to explain why it is that the present world crisis of capitalism provokes revolution in Latin America, where we have revolutionary wave after revolutionary wave, but in another part of the world the opposite would seem to be happening.

A closer and more rounded out approach to the situation in the Middle East reveals that class contradictions exist there also. They simply express themselves in a different manner and tempo. It would be very superficial to draw the conclusion that class struggle is off the agenda in the Middle East. It would also mean ignoring the very facts themselves.

We have just witnessed a massive general strike in Lebanon [January 2007]. There have been demonstrations of 2 million - in a country of 4 million. Yes, it is true that Hezbollah has filled the gap, but this is due to a lack of a genuine left alternative, not because of lack of willingness of the masses to struggle.

Hezbollah raises social questions, the question of poverty, lack of housing, etc. In this way they connect with the poor, the Shia above all. What we have in Lebanon is tremendous revolutionary potential, not black reaction. The current government is pro-Western, as they put it pro-"reforms" - in reality they are for cuts, privatisation, etc. This government's aim is to get Lebanon into the WTO, with all that that entails. Lebanon has a massive debt, which the imperialists are demanding be cut. Those who have to pay are the workers and poor, and this is having a social effect inside the country, a radicalising effect.

The result of last year's war in the Lebanon was: 1200 civilians killed, one million displaced, 30,000 homes destroyed, and the infrastructure severely damaged. Lebanese GDP was growing, but now a drop of at least 3 percent is expected. And the only thing the government can offer is more of the same.

The movement against Siniora, despite what Hezbollah says at the top, has to do with the masses' discontent, with social and economic issues. Hezbollah is in a tough spot: they supported the general strike, as did the TU confederation, but they wanted a quiet, stay-at-home general strike.

Hezbollah wishes to exploit the movement to demand a greater part of the power for itself within a capitalist framework, a greater say in parliament. They do not directly want to bring down the Siniora government. They do not have a real alternative to Siniora's economic programme But the masses do want to bring down this anti-worker government, and they want a solution to their pressing problems.

Therefore, over time, Hezbollah's leaders will be exposed as bourgeois politicians that cannot offer any fundamental changes. For the moment of course, they have huge prestige: they are the ones that "defeated Israel". But the masses, and the rank and file Hezbollah fighters are fighting for more than just a change in face at the top.

Hezbollah is based on the mass movement. It is not an easy phenomenon to understand, because it is fundamentally populism, and this phenomenon can express itself as a very far right tendency or as an anti-imperialist force that puts up the appearance that it "cares for the masses". Some go to the extreme of trying to characterize Hezbollah as a revolutionary formation, others as a semi-fascist phenomenon. But the essence is that it is populist, with a bourgeois leadership that leans on the mass movement. In our orientation towards the masses that look to these movements - in the case of Hezbollah for example - we must neither be sectarian nor opportunist. We have to understand what the masses want and what the leaders of these movements want, which are not at all the same thing.

We cannot understand the rise of forces like Hezbollah without understanding the question of the leadership of the working class, or rather the lack of leadership. The Trade Union leadership in Lebanon is totally rotten and has no real answer to the problems of the Lebanese workers.

There is the Lebanese Communist Party, which is in an alliance with Hezbollah. According to information we have, prior to the war they had a few hundred members. Now they have thousands. We must not forget that the Lebanese Communists also took part in the resistance. This shows the potential for a left force to emerge within the Arab world. A layer of workers and youth in the Lebanon has turned to the Communist Party, seeking a left alternative. It is unfortunate, however, that the leadership of this party long ago adopted the theory of stages to the revolution, first the democratic stage and only much later the socialist. This leads it to seek "progressive forces" among the bourgeoisie and to play down the role of the working class. Presumably, Hezbollah is such a "progressive" force. But the fact that the Communist Party exists and has grown shows that among the workers and youth of Lebanon there are elements seeking something beyond Hezbollah and they are looking for a socialist and working class alternative. Given the conditions that exist in this small country, this should not surprise us.

Israel - internal turmoil

In Israel, the impact of the war has created a deep crisis in the whole of society. Working conditions have been getting worse for some time. Meanwhile the government is pressing ahead with privatisations and cuts in social spending. The government is carrying out the same policy as Siniora in Lebanon across the border. In this they are united - against their own people. Now they are demanding more cuts to pay for the cost of the war. The workers and ordinary people of Israel are feeling the pressure, while political scandals erupt daily and inequality is growing all the time.

Faced with growing internal problems, the Israeli ruling class had the idea that the war in Lebanon would be a good way of redirecting the attention of the masses away from these problems and against the "external enemy". They have achieved the opposite. They have merely highlighted further the internal contradictions in Israeli society.

The masses are now being made to pay for the war. An example of the situation Israeli workers face is that of the firefighters. Some of them have not been paid for a year! Yet they were the ones called out to put out the fires provoked by the missile strikes in the North during the war. And while ordinary workers have to struggle to survive, parallel to all this there is a spate of corruption scandals at the top lifting the lid on the stench, revealing to ordinary workers how the rich really live.

A reflection of the mood is the fact that many Israelis with dual citizenship are getting their non-Israeli passports ready to leave. In the long and distant past some people even thought that Israel with its kibbutzim, etc., had "elements of socialism" within it. They honestly believed that some kind of new society could be built, a more equal society. There was full employment and a high standard of living. Now they want to leave, they want their children to settle elsewhere. There is a generalized mood of pessimism: "this is not what Israel was supposed to be", for the Jews at least. (For the Palestinians this was never the case, of course.)

The Israeli military are now in a mess. This is reflected in the fact that the army chief-of-staff Dan Halutz was forced to resign, an admission of failure in Lebanon. Shortly after the war in Lebanon last year, some top-ranking Israeli officers were promising another war very soon. But they are in no state to do this.

We predicted that after the war, the class issues would resurface in Israel. It didn't take long for this to happen. In December a general strike of the public sector was called. (There have been other strikes: dockworkers, etc.) The labour courts intervened, and declared the strike illegal - to the relief of the TU leaders, who were counting on this. But for one day we had a glimpse of the real state of affairs of Israeli society. There was massive participation, and if it had not been for the courts - and the leaders of the unions - it could have developed into something bigger.

Once again, the problem is one of leadership and the state of the left in general. There is the Israeli Labour Party. A couple of years ago we had an indication of what could happen in this party, which after all is still fundamentally a Zionist party, as all the main parties are. Peretz became leader of the party after having previously been the leader of the Histradut trade union federation.

Peretz's modest programme of increasing wages, pensions, etc., scared the bourgeois. The Israeli media immediately went into a frenzy and enormous pressure was brought to bear on Peretz and he shifted very quickly to the right. Now he is the Minister of Defence, grovelling before the Israeli ruling class! But for a short period, this opening raised the hope, especially among some layers of the youth, that things could be different. But that ended quickly.

All the main parties are in reality discredited, and on the left no one is offering the way forward. That does not deny the fact that the potential for building a viable socialist tendency within Israel does exist. Sooner or later all the options will have been tried and the more thinking elements among the Israeli working class and youth will start to draw conclusions. The class struggle cannot be held back indefinitely.

Iran: class divisions and a split in ruling elite

In Iran we have seen a shift within the regime. Ahmedinejad did badly in the recent elections, and the Reformists that seemed finished in the past, made a comeback. The ruling elite in Iran is clearly divided. There is a wing that would like to make a deal with the United States. This has its counterpart in a wing of the US ruling class that wants to leave Iran alone for now. The reasoning of this wing of the US ruling class is that Iran's internal divisions will cause a crisis in the regime without the need for external intervention. They also understand that of some kind of "exit strategy" is to be developed in Iraq, they need the help of the Iranian regime with its influence among the Shia population.

There is growing social discontent within the country. The media focuses on this or that latest speech of Ahmedinejad, or on Iran's nuclear programme. We, on the other hand, need to underline the movement of the working class. There have been several important struggles of workers and youth in recent years. An example of the mood among the youth was what happened on Iranian "Student Day" Ahmedinejad went to speak to the students in Tehran University, but he was very surprised by the reception. The students protested and tore up posters of him, called him a fascist to his face, and told him to get out. He was shocked to say the least - he is used to the more stage-managed friendly crowds that usually turn up for him.

Although hated by the students, Ahmedinejad is in good company when it comes to intellect, on a par with that of Bush. He recently organised a so-called "objective" conference on the Holocaust, with the aim of finding "conclusive" evidence that millions of Jews were not killed by the Nazis during the Second World War! He has accompanied this with periodic threats to destroy Israel, and so on.

What more could the reactionary Zionist ruling class of Israel ask for? All this plays right into hands of the Israeli ruling class. Just when the class issues are becoming sharper in Israel, Ahmedinejad provides the Zionists with a convenient diversion. The gap between rich and poor in Israel has never been greater, but by threatening the very existence of Israel - combined with its nuclear programme - the Islamic regime in Iran is providing the Israeli government with what it needs to "unite the nation", rich and poor: an external threat.

Iran's nuclear research programme is worrying the Israeli ruling class, as also the American imperialists. Israel is now seriously raising the possibility of air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. The US is preparing to do the same. This is causing grave concern within the US military. Top US army officers are not convinced that an attack would be the correct thing to do. The Israeli military also are not in a healthy state after the Lebanese debacle. And, as we have already seen, an important section of the US bourgeoisie has also drawn the conclusion that what is needed is a gradual withdrawal from Iraq, not an expansion of its operations in the region.

This does not rule out the possibility that Iran will be bombed. The degree of instability in the region is highlighted by the real threat to bomb, both on the part of Israel and the US. The problem they face is that Iran also has a powerful military apparatus. It is not such an easy equation. [Note: we will deal with this question soon in a later article].

The state of politics in Palestine

In Palestine, Fatah and Abu Mazen are being pushed by Israel to attack Hamas. This has exposed Fatah before the Palestinian masses. The problem is that the Israeli ruling class is not giving much to Fatah to work with. Marxists cannot and do not support Hamas. We are fully aware of the reactionary nature of this group. But we also understand that they came to the fore due to the failure of Fatah and because of the desperate situation the masses are facing and because of the lack of a credible class alternative. It is similar to the position of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Fatah was responsible first for decades of individual terrorism which utterly failed to achieve anything. Years of a bombing campaign did not bring the Palestinian people one step closer to achieving their demands. In fact, the first Intifada achieved far more than any bombs did in the past. Instead of individual terrorism here we had the mass of Palestinian people rising up and challenging Israeli rule.

In a radical about turn the leaders of Fatah then made big efforts to reach accords with imperialism, de facto selling out many of the aspirations of the Palestinian people. While all this was going on, the conditions of the Palestinian masses continued to get worse.

It was in this context that Hamas started out, as a kind of social charity service, but then it assumed a greater and greater role in politics. The Hamas leaders are essentially bourgeois politicians, who would like to be accepted as legitimate by the US and Israel. The problem they face is that the imperialists won't accept them as such, for they fear the poor and downtrodden that are amassed behind Hamas.

This is all creating a vacuum within Palestinian society. Fatah exposed itself in the past; Hamas is exposing itself today in government. Once again, the problem is a lack of an alternative on the left. And yet the Palestinian people have a long tradition of secular and left politics. It is a tragedy that even among this people the reactionary ideas of Islamic fundamentalism have managed to get a foothold. But this will not last for ever.

Egypt - huge polarisation between rich and poor

The population of Egypt is 80 million. It is a key country with a strong working class. The paradox is the following. Its GDP is growing by 7 percent; the budget deficit is 1 percent of GDP; Foreign Direct Investment is six times the 2003 level; its foreign reserves stand at $18 billion. Therefore, on the surface, everything should be fine.

But ordinary Egyptians by and large are not happy at all. This wealth is not "trickling down". Society is heavily divided with a big section living in utter poverty. Now there is big pressure on the government to speed up privatisation. Of the 22-million workforce, one third are currently employed by the state. But their jobs are seriously at risk. By the end of this year, if they carry out their plans, 80% of the economy will be in private hands, so a lot of these jobs will be cut.

44% of the population live on less than $2 a day. In recent weeks, they removed food subsidies on basic foods, the food eaten by the poor. Prices have doubled over the last two years. Egypt is the second recipient of US foreign aid after Israel, but two thirds of it is military aid, so has little or no effect on the conditions of the masses. In fact, the US is trying to bolster Egypt as an ally in a very unstable region. It needs a strong military apparatus to police its own workers and those of the surrounding countries, if needs be.

Just over a year and a half ago, there were elections in Egypt. There was a 77 percent abstention level, which in itself is a reflection of the mood of the masses. They do not feel represented by any of the candidates. In those elections we saw the "kaffayah" movement emerge, a movement mostly based on middle class layers. "Kaffayah" translates as "enough"! This reflected the fact that the middle classes in Egypt have also been seriously affected by the economic situation, and is an indication of a much deeper radicalisation taking place within Egyptian society.

Egypt has a very repressive anti-union regime and the lid is being kept firmly down on working class struggle. The Trade Unions are state-controlled and strike action must first be authorised by the state. And yet, recently we witnessed a mass strike of textile workers against privatisation. The most significant thing is that the strike was actually authorised. This reflects the enormous pressure on the regime itself. But even more important is the fact that the workers won - the regime gave in. This reflects the real mood beneath the surface. Especially where strikes are illegal and the workers have no channel through which to express their anger, it can seem that society is calm. But these few points help to underline the real process taking place in Egypt. The Egyptian working class is one of the biggest in Africa and the Middle East. Once it moves it will shake the whole region, with effects going well beyond the borders of Egypt.

And recent movements in Morocco

One country which highlights the points we have been making is Morocco. Here we see a major reawakening of the working class and youth. In Morocco there has been a constant movement since September 2006 of workers, youth, peasants and housewives against high prices. There have been simultaneous movements in all the main cities. This has been accompanied by an increasing number of strikes. There has been an almost permanent student protest over the last few years, against cuts, against non-admission to the universities.

The government is dominated by the Socialist Party - a pro-Western social democratic party, and now it is being exposed as this movement brings out all the contradictions. This exposure of the Socialist Party, thanks to the lack of a credible mass left alternative, is opening up room for the fundamentalists, who could well make gains in the elections.

The state of the left is unfortunately not good, but the recent developments reveal the enormous potential for class struggle and a left alternative. It is a question of building it.

The general pattern

We see the same pattern in all these countries: imperialism demands that they privatise, cut pensions, cut food subsidies (while prices are rising dramatically), and so on. What we also see everywhere is a vacuum on the left. This situation is tailor-made for a left force to emerge. The situation of the Lebanese Communist Party is an example. It is a Stalinist party, with no real perspective for socialism. It is allied with Hezbollah - and yet it is growing. That is because it is the only viable option on the left.

Throughout the Middle East a significant layer of workers and youth are looking for an alternative. We are on the verge of a change in the situation. The class struggle is back on the agenda in the Arab world. And this rise of the class struggle will clarify many issues.

Further anecdotal evidence of layers looking to the left is seen in the fact that pictures of Chavez are now appearing on demonstrations across the Middle East. Yes, they also carry images of Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon. But in the minds of many Arabs, Nasrallah is seen as having defended the country against hated Israeli imperialism. But on the same rallies where we see pictures of Nasrallah, we also see pictures of Chavez and even of Che Guevara.

The position Chavez adopted during Lebanon war had an effect. Comrades, does this not reflect what the masses are looking for? They instinctively understand what is happening in Venezuela. They can see that Venezuela is in conflict with US imperialism; they see the reforms being carried out. That is what they are really looking for!

So, far from a situation of black reaction we have a contradictory process of revolutionary aspirations of the masses, distorted by the lack of a credible, mass working class based socialist alternative. In this gap the fundamentalists step in. But the fundamentalists have no answer to the pressing problems of the Arab masses. The problems of the workers in the Middle East flow from the same root cause: capitalism. That is why we can connect with the most advanced layers among the workers and youth in these countries.

A class approach is needed

A central aspect of the crisis in the Middle East is the position of the Palestinians. For decades it has focussed attention on the injustices perpetrated by imperialism. In opposition to all the other tendencies, we have always maintained a principled class position on this question. We have always explained that the solution lies in the class struggle and not in any kind of deal that the United Nations can come up with. We have systematically defended the idea that the class struggle will eventually cut across national divisions.

For years the various sectarian left groups have derided us for our position on Israel/Palestine, (and also on Ireland) and on the national question in general. The common reason is that deep down, they have no real faith in the working class, and no idea of how the class moves. They cannot see how Arab and Jewish workers, Catholic and Protestant workers, can unite.

However, the class struggle is coming back with a vengeance. This is most clearly evident in Latin America, but it will affect the whole world sooner or later. The events that will unfold in the coming period will confirm our position and allow us to connect with the best elements. If we maintain a principled stand on all questions, sooner or later this will give results. Our ideas will be tested by events and the most advanced workers and youth will begin to see that the Marxists have the ideas that can take society forward.

To give one example: back in 1969 we opposed the sending of British troops to Northern Ireland, while everyone else on the left fell into the trap of supporting the sending of troops on the ground of "humanitarian" help to the Catholics! It didn't take long before the real role of the British Army became evident. We can now proudly stand on that correct position and talk to Irish socialists without having to explain our past. In fact it is because of our past that we can speak today.

The same is coming in the Middle East. We do not look for shortcuts - we do not bend to circumstances opportunistically. Ours is not an easy position to maintain at times - that the Israeli working class will move against their rulers. But this is a fact. The defeat of the Army in Lebanon is having an effect, like the US defeat in Iraq - a little different for Israelis, for they cannot retreat safely across the ocean like the US. They need to solve their problems there and find a way out - the class struggle is the only solution.

In analysing events and working out perspectives for the Middle East we must also look at the international situation as a whole. The development of the revolution on a world scale will have a massive impact in the Middle East. A successful revolution in Latin America will cut right across all the confusion. We must not ignore the general process; we must not look at any part of the world in isolation. We can see the clear signs of the class struggle erupting everywhere. It is in the here and now - not a long-term perspective.

For the Marxists, after years of going against the stream - for example on the question of Israel and Palestine - of defending the basic ideas and principles of revolutionary socialism, a new period has opened up. Our ideas will be the only ones that correspond to the real situation. We must provide the analysis, the ideas, and the perspectives. On that basis we can build a Marxist tendency in all these countries. We will prove to all the cynics that we can build a Marxist force as we have done in Pakistan. If the ideas of Marxism can get an important foothold in Pakistan, a country with a strong Islamic fundamentalist influence, then we can do it in the Middle East also.

January 2007

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