Twenty-five years ago: the reunification of Germany

german anniversary reunification.preview

5 October 2015

On October 3, 1990 the German Democratic Republic (East Germany, known as the GDR), a state with 17 million inhabitants, was disbanded 41 years after its founding and incorporated into the Federal Republic of Germany.

In both East and West Germany, only a few of those affected were aware of the consequences of this step. There was no public debate and no referendum. Instead, there was a propaganda campaign by every political party and the media, which proclaimed that the liquidation of the GDR, the privatization of nationalized property and the introduction of capitalism were synonymous with freedom, democracy, prosperity and peace. Chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU) spoke at mass rallies in the GDR and promised to transform the region into “flourishing landscapes where it pays to live and work.”

The GDR state party, the Stalinist Socialist Unity Party (SED), supported this campaign as well. “In my opinion, the path to unity was unavoidable and had to be followed with determination,” wrote the last SED prime minister, Hans Modrow, in his memoirs.

Gregor Gysi, who took over the chairmanship of the SED in late 1989 and is still playing a leading role in the Left Party, said this week in an interview that he had undertaken the task of leading “the eastern elites—including middle ranking functionaries—into the united Germany.”

Gysi has aptly summed up the role of the SED. Far from representing the interests of working people, the party spoke for the “Eastern elites,” the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracy, which regarded nationalized property primarily as the source of its own privileges. Facing mass protests, the bureaucracy concluded that its privileges could be defended better on the basis of capitalist property and under the protection of the West German state than by maintaining the GDR.

For the working class, the consequences of capitalist restoration were disastrous. Already prior to October 3, western corporations and banks swooped like vultures upon the GDR’s nationalized property. East German industry, which played a leading role in Eastern Europe, guaranteeing full employment and social security, was razed to the ground in a brief period of time.

The Treuhand agency, established by the Modrow government to privatize the state property of the GDR, oversaw the dismantling of no less than 14,000 state owned enterprises. Some were sold, while most were mothballed. Within the space of three years, 71 percent of all employees lost their jobs. The well-developed education and social system, and the dense network of cultural institutions, were broken up as well.

The eastern part of Germany has never recovered from this devastation. Unemployment in the east, at 9.8 percent, is well above the 5.8 percent in the west. The total population in the east has declined by two million due to emigration and a declining birth rate. Many young jobseekers have quit the east, and the region now has a disproportionately elderly population.

The social devastation was not confined to the former GDR. German big business used the low wages in Eastern Germany and Eastern Europe as a lever to drive down wages in the west. Ten years after German unification, the Social Democratic-Green Party coalition headed by Gerhard Schröder introduced the Hartz laws, which created the basis for an extensive low-wage sector, currently embracing more than a quarter of all employees.

Even more devastating than the social consequences are the political results of German unification. Following the crimes committed by the Hitler regime and its defeat in the Second World War, Germany was forced to adopt a policy of military restraint. However, the unification of Germany has changed all that. The German ruling class confronts the same dilemma as it did in the early 20th century. Too big for Europe and too small for the world, Germany is seeking to dominate Europe in order to assume the role of a world player.

German imperialism is once again spouting its former arrogance and aggressiveness. It has raised its claims to be the hegemon and disciplinarian of Europe, dictated austerity programs to Greece and other countries, recalling the brutality of the Nazi occupation, and is rapidly upgrading its military capacities.

Two years ago, President Joachim Gauck used the Day of German Unity to issue a call for Germany to play a role in foreign and military affairs, “commensurate with the importance of our country.” His demand was rapidly taken up by the government and the media. Berlin played a leading role in the coup in Ukraine, which helped bring a pro-Western regime to power, and in the military buildup of NATO at the Russian border.

Now Germany is also preparing an intervention in Syria, where two nuclear powers, the US and Russia, are in direct military confrontation. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung insists that “Germany has fundamental interests in the Syrian conflict.” Germany cannot count on Putin or rely on its American and French allies, the paper wrote this week. “Therefore Germany itself has to become more involved.” A nuclear world war, which was always on the horizon during the Cold War but never took place, is now again a real danger.

The return of militarism has in turn stripped away the democratic facade of the Federal Republic. Even conservative jurists are forced to admit this. “A quarter of a century after reunification this constitutionally bound country faces an existential crisis, the rule of law is eroding, democracy is weakening, the system of separation of powers has further shifted in favour of the executive branch,” wrote Peter M. Huber, a judge at the Federal Constitutional Court, in a commentary for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

To counter the support and solidarity of broad layers towards war refugees from the Middle East, the ruling elites are once again erecting border fences and walls in Europe, strengthening xenophobic, right-wing tendencies. The Bavarian CSU, a member of the federal government, has gone so far as to line up with the far-right Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban.

For three days the ruling elites are celebrating German unification in Frankfurt and Berlin, with pious speeches and triumphalism. For working people, the anniversary should be an occasion to draw their own balance sheet.

Many now look back at the unification with bitterness. According to one survey, “an anti-capitalist attitude” prevails in eastern Germany today. Eight out of ten East Germans associate the market economy with exploitation, and 50 percent associate the former planned economy with security. In the west, the response would not be fundamentally different.

What is missing from popular consciousness, however, is an understanding of the causes of the end of the GDR and an alternative political perspective. In particular, the role of Stalinism is not broadly understood. Stalin emerged in the 1920s in the Soviet Union as the representative of a conservative bureaucracy, which removed and then murdered the leaders of the October Revolution. This culminated in the assassination 75 years ago of Leon Trotsky, co-leader of the Russian Revolution and founder of the Fourth International.

After the Second World War, the Stalinist bureaucracy extended its control, along with the property relations created by the October Revolution, to Eastern Europe and Germany, while simultaneously suppressing the revolutionary aspirations of the working class in France, Italy and many other countries. In the GDR, Hungary and Poland, the ruling bureaucracy violently suppressed workers’ uprisings. It contributed significantly to the stabilization of capitalism after the catastrophe of the Second World War.

The nationalist program of Stalinism, expressing the interests of the counter-revolutionary state apparatus, was diametrically opposed to the internationalist program of socialism advanced by the Fourth International. The globalization of production rendered the Stalinist program of “socialism in one country” increasingly untenable. The bureaucracy, led by the CPSU under Gorbachev responded, as Trotsky had predicted as long ago as 1936, with the restoration of capitalism.

In a statement on German reunification, the Socialist Workers League (BSA), the predecessor of the Socialist Equality Party, warned in October 1990: “The international balance of forces, within which the imperialists have regulated their rule with the assistance of the Stalinists and social democrats and defended their global interests, has broken apart. The old conflicts between the imperialist powers for the re-division of the world, which have thrown humanity into the horror of world war twice this century, are re-emerging.”

Peter Schwarz

Empire or Humanity? What the Classroom Didn’t Teach Me About the American Empire

By Howard Zinn

With an occupying army waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan, with military bases and corporate bullying in every part of the world, there is hardly a question any more of the existence of an American Empire. Indeed, the once fervent denials have turned into a boastful, unashamed embrace of the idea.

However, the very idea that the United States was an empire did not occur to me until after I finished my work as a bombardier with the Eighth Air Force in the Second World War, and came home. Even as I began to have second thoughts about the purity of the “Good War,” even after being horrified by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even after rethinking my own bombing of towns in Europe, I still did not put all that together in the context of an American “Empire.”

I was conscious, like everyone, of the British Empire and the other imperial powers of Europe, but the United States was not seen in the same way. When, after the war, I went to college under the G.I. Bill of Rights and took courses in U.S. history, I usually found a chapter in the history texts called “The Age of Imperialism.” It invariably referred to the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the conquest of the Philippines that followed. It seemed that American imperialism lasted only a relatively few years. There was no overarching view of U.S. expansion that might lead to the idea of a more far-ranging empire — or period of “imperialism.”

I recall the classroom map (labeled “Western Expansion”) which presented the march across the continent as a natural, almost biological phenomenon. That huge acquisition of land called “The Louisiana Purchase” hinted at nothing but vacant land acquired. There was no sense that this territory had been occupied by hundreds of Indian tribes which would have to be annihilated or forced from their homes — what we now call “ethnic cleansing” — so that whites could settle the land, and later railroads could crisscross it, presaging “civilization” and its brutal discontents.I recall the classroom map (labeled “Western Expansion”) which presented the march across the continent as a natural, almost biological phenomenon. That huge acquisition of land called “The Louisiana Purchase” hinted at nothing but vacant land acquired. There was no sense that this territory had been occupied by hundreds of Indian tribes which would have to be annihilated or forced from their homes — what we now call “ethnic cleansing” — so that whites could settle the land, and later railroads could crisscross it, presaging “civilization” and its brutal discontents.

Neither the discussions of “Jacksonian democracy” in history courses, nor the popular book by Arthur Schlesinger Jr., The Age of Jackson, told me about the “Trail of Tears,” the deadly forced march of “the five civilized tribes” westward from Georgia and Alabama across the Mississippi, leaving 4,000 dead in their wake. No treatment of the Civil War mentioned the Sand Creek massacre of hundreds of Indian villagers in Colorado just as “emancipation” was proclaimed for black people by Lincoln’s administration.

That classroom map also had a section to the south and west labeled “Mexican Cession.” This was a handy euphemism for the aggressive war against Mexico in 1846 in which the United States seized half of that country’s land, giving us California and the great Southwest. The term “Manifest Destiny,” used at that time, soon of course became more universal. On the eve of the Spanish-American War in 1898, theWashington Post saw beyond Cuba: “We are face to face with a strange destiny. The taste of Empire is in the mouth of the people even as the taste of blood in the jungle.”

The violent march across the continent, and even the invasion of Cuba, appeared to be within a natural sphere of U.S. interest. After all, hadn’t the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 declared the Western Hemisphere to be under our protection? But with hardly a pause after Cuba came the invasion of the Philippines, halfway around the world. The word “imperialism” now seemed a fitting one for U.S. actions. Indeed, that long, cruel war — treated quickly and superficially in the history books — gave rise to an Anti-Imperialist League, in which William James and Mark Twain were leading figures. But this was not something I learned in university either.

The “Sole Superpower” Comes into View

Reading outside the classroom, however, I began to fit the pieces of history into a larger mosaic. What at first had seemed like a purely passive foreign policy in the decade leading up to the First World War now appeared as a succession of violent interventions: the seizure of the Panama Canal zone from Colombia, a naval bombardment of the Mexican coast, the dispatch of the Marines to almost every country in Central America, occupying armies sent to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. As the much-decorated General Smedley Butler, who participated in many of those interventions, wrote later: “I was an errand boy for Wall Street.”

At the very time I was learning this history — the years after World War II — the United States was becoming not just another imperial power, but the world’s leading superpower. Determined to maintain and expand its monopoly on nuclear weapons, it was taking over remote islands in the Pacific, forcing the inhabitants to leave, and turning the islands into deadly playgrounds for more atomic tests.

In his memoir, No Place to Hide, Dr. David Bradley, who monitored radiation in those tests, described what was left behind as the testing teams went home: “[R]adioactivity, contamination, the wrecked island of Bikini and its sad-eyed patient exiles.” The tests in the Pacific were followed, over the years, by more tests in the deserts of Utah and Nevada, more than a thousand tests in all.

When the war in Korea began in 1950, I was still studying history as a graduate student at Columbia University. Nothing in my classes prepared me to understand American policy in Asia. But I was reading I. F. Stone’s Weekly. Stone was among the very few journalists who questioned the official justification for sending an army to Korea. It seemed clear to me then that it was not the invasion of South Korea by the North that prompted U.S. intervention, but the desire of the United States to have a firm foothold on the continent of Asia, especially now that the Communists were in power in China.

Years later, as the covert intervention in Vietnam grew into a massive and brutal military operation, the imperial designs of the United States became yet clearer to me. In 1967, I wrote a little book called Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal. By that time I was heavily involved in the movement against the war.

When I read the hundreds of pages of the Pentagon Papers entrusted to me by Daniel Ellsberg, what jumped out at me were the secret memos from the National Security Council. Explaining the U.S. interest in Southeast Asia, they spoke bluntly of the country’s motives as a quest for “tin, rubber, oil.”

Neither the desertions of soldiers in the Mexican War, nor the draft riots of the Civil War, not the anti-imperialist groups at the turn of the century, nor the strong opposition to World War I — indeed no antiwar movement in the history of the nation reached the scale of the opposition to the war in Vietnam. At least part of that opposition rested on an understanding that more than Vietnam was at stake, that the brutal war in that tiny country was part of a grander imperial design.

Various interventions following the U.S. defeat in Vietnam seemed to reflect the desperate need of the still-reigning superpower — even after the fall of its powerful rival, the Soviet Union — to establish its dominance everywhere. Hence the invasion of Grenada in 1982, the bombing assault on Panama in 1989, the first Gulf war of 1991. Was George Bush Sr. heartsick over Saddam Hussein’s seizure of Kuwait, or was he using that event as an opportunity to move U.S. power firmly into the coveted oil region of the Middle East? Given the history of the United States, given its obsession with Middle Eastern oil dating from Franklin Roosevelt’s 1945 deal with King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, and the CIA’s overthrow of the democratic Mossadeq government in Iran in 1953, it is not hard to decide that question.

Justifying Empire

The ruthless attacks of September 11th (as the official 9/11 Commission acknowledged) derived from fierce hatred of U.S. expansion in the Middle East and elsewhere. Even before that event, the Defense Department acknowledged, according to Chalmers Johnson’s book The Sorrows of Empire, the existence of more than 700 American military bases outside of the United States.

Since that date, with the initiation of a “war on terrorism,” many more bases have been established or expanded: in Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, the desert of Qatar, the Gulf of Oman, the Horn of Africa, and wherever else a compliant nation could be bribed or coerced.

When I was bombing cities in Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and France in the Second World War, the moral justification was so simple and clear as to be beyond discussion: We were saving the world from the evil of fascism. I was therefore startled to hear from a gunner on another crew — what we had in common was that we both read books — that he considered this “an imperialist war.” Both sides, he said, were motivated by ambitions of control and conquest. We argued without resolving the issue. Ironically, tragically, not long after our discussion, this fellow was shot down and killed on a mission.

In wars, there is always a difference between the motives of the soldiers and the motives of the political leaders who send them into battle. My motive, like that of so many, was innocent of imperial ambition. It was to help defeat fascism and create a more decent world, free of aggression, militarism, and racism.

The motive of the U.S. establishment, understood by the aerial gunner I knew, was of a different nature. It was described early in 1941 by Henry Luce, multi-millionaire owner of Time, Life, and Fortune magazines, as the coming of “The American Century.” The time had arrived, he said, for the United States “to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit, and by such means as we see fit.”

We can hardly ask for a more candid, blunter declaration of imperial design. It has been echoed in recent years by the intellectual handmaidens of the Bush administration, but with assurances that the motive of this “influence” is benign, that the “purposes” — whether in Luce’s formulation or more recent ones — are noble, that this is an “imperialism lite.” As George Bush said in his second inaugural address: “Spreading liberty around the world is the calling of our time.” The New York Times called that speech “striking for its idealism.”

The American Empire has always been a bipartisan project — Democrats and Republicans have taken turns extending it, extolling it, justifying it. President Woodrow Wilson told graduates of the Naval Academy in 1914 (the year he bombarded Mexico) that the U.S. used “her navy and her army… as the instruments of civilization, not as the instruments of aggression.” And Bill Clinton, in 1992, told West Point graduates: “The values you learned here will be able to spread throughout the country and throughout the world.”

For the people of the United States, and indeed for people all over the world, those claims sooner or later are revealed to be false. The rhetoric, often persuasive on first hearing, soon becomes overwhelmed by horrors that can no longer be concealed: the bloody corpses of Iraq, the torn limbs of American GIs, the millions of families driven from their homes — in the Middle East and in the Mississippi Delta.

Have not the justifications for empire, embedded in our culture, assaulting our good sense — that war is necessary for security, that expansion is fundamental to civilization — begun to lose their hold on our minds? Have we reached a point in history where we are ready to embrace a new way of living in the world, expanding not our military power, but our humanity?

Howard Zinn (1922–2010) was a historian, playwright, and activist. He wrote the classic A People’s History of the United States and A People’s History of American Empire, told in comics form, with Mike Konopacki and Paul Buhle. He taught at Spelman College, a black women’s college in Atlanta, where he became active in the civil rights movement. After being fired by Spelman for his support of student protesters, Zinn became a professor of political science at Boston University. He was the author of many books, including an autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train. He received the Lannan Foundation Literary Award for Nonfiction and the Eugene V. Debs award for his writing and political activism.


Copyright 2008 Howard Zinn

The US-Russian clash in Syria


1 October 2015

The initiation of air strikes by Russian warplanes against Islamist militia targets inside Syria, followed by Washington’s bellicose denunciations, threatens not only to escalate the slaughter in Syria, but create the conditions for a far more dangerous military confrontation between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

Both the Obama administration and the Putin government claim that their militaries have been sent into Syria to wage war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as part of a broader fight against terrorism. Both are lying.

Washington, which spawned ISIS, has intervened in Syria to further the aims of US imperialism and its key regional allies–Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Persian Gulf oil monarchies and Israel. They seek to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and replace him with a puppet government subordinated to their interests.

Moscow’s main aim in Syria is not to eliminate terrorism, but to keep the Assad regime in power—with or without Assad as its president—and thereby maintain its sole ally and foothold in the Middle East. Syria is the site of Russia’s one naval port outside the former Soviet Union.

Two major foreign military forces, each claiming to be combating the same enemy, are, in fact, fighting for diametrically opposed aims. Scores of warplanes of hostile powers are carrying out military operations in a country barely larger than the US state of Missouri. The potential for armed clashes between them is undeniable.

The reasons for the Putin government’s intervention in Syria are clear. It fears that if Washington succeeds in its campaign to overthrow Assad, that will serve only to escalate the US drive to encircle, weaken and ultimately dismember Russia itself. Thousands of Islamist fighters who have poured into Syria from Chechnya and other parts of the Caucasus will be sent home to lead separatist uprisings against Moscow, undoubtedly with backing from the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc. Moscow’s brutal suppression of the Chechen population in the course of two wars has created fertile soil for such an operation.

The ouster of the Assad regime, moreover, would further Washington’s drive to assert US hegemony over the entire oil-rich Middle East, while clearing the way for a new gas pipeline route that would provide Qatar with more direct access to the Western European market, undermining the interests of the Russian energy conglomerates.

While there is a defensive character to Russia’s military intervention in Syria, it is nonetheless thoroughly reactionary. It is directed not at defending the people of Syria, or, for that matter, protecting working people in Russia itself. Rather, it is aimed at upholding the interests of the Russian ruling elite, which Putin’s regime represents.

This class of criminal oligarchs, who enriched themselves through the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the theft of state property, and the impoverishment of the Soviet working class, is organically incapable of carrying out any progressive action on the world stage. A comprador regime, it is unable to maintain any genuine independence from imperialism.

The reactionary character of Moscow’s intervention was neatly summed up Wednesday by the Russian Orthodox Church, which proclaimed it a “holy battle.”

That being said, Washington’s denunciations of Russia’s actions are beyond hypocritical. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter denounced Russia on Wednesday, charging that its air strikes amounted to “pouring gasoline on a fire.”

The fire was set by Washington, the Saudi monarchy and the other reactionary oil sheikdoms that constitute the principal allies of US imperialism in the region. The Islamist militias the US claims to be fighting are their own creations, armed, funded and supported to serve as proxy ground troops in the war for regime-change in Syria, just as they did in Libya.

Carter and other US officials have indicted Russia for not restricting its air strikes to ISIS targets, but instead hitting other militias fighting against the Assad regime. “They attacked places where (ISIS) is not present,” said Carter. His odd diction was aimed at covering up US concern for who was present—the al-Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. The so-called “vetted” rebels the US military has trained, armed and sent back into Syria have repeatedly turned over their weapons and joined al-Nusra soon after their arrival. So much for the “war on terrorism.”

The US is engaged in a policy of endless war on a global scale that has destroyed one country after another, a fact that was driven home this week with the Taliban’s seizure of the Afghan city of Kunduz and the announcement that some 10,000 US troops will remain there, 14 years after the US first invaded.

The prospect of this policy of global militarism spilling over into a direct confrontation with Russia is real and present. Last April, the Pentagon announced that it had altered the US rules of engagement in Syria to allow military action against any force that attacked US-backed “rebels.” Washington’s allies, meanwhile, have issued similar threats, with the Saudi regime threatening direct military intervention, and France, which began its own bombing campaign this week, declaring that its air strikes would be aimed not just at ISIS, but also at the Syrian regime, alongside which the Russians are fighting.

Meanwhile, the US and NATO have dramatically escalated their military presence and battle readiness across Eastern Europe in the wake of last year’s Western-backed coup in Ukraine. Russia has also beefed up its forces near the country’s western borders.

A quarter century after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the threat of a military confrontation igniting a nuclear war is greater than it has ever been in history.

The international working class must oppose the slaughter in Syria and the threat of world war by its own means. It cannot give the slightest support to the intervention of Russia or any other capitalist power. It is necessary, in the words of Trotsky, to “follow not the war map, but the map of the class struggle.”

Workers must fight for the withdrawal of all foreign military forces from Iraq, Syria and the entire Middle East.

Bill Van Auken

War clouds loom over UN General Assembly


28 September 2015

The United Nations was established in 1945 with proclamations that it would guarantee an era of peace, by serving to regulate and contain the conflicts between the major powers that had resulted in two devastating world wars in the space of a single generation.

Seventy years on, as the UN General Assembly meets this week, it is abundantly clear that the course of events is not proceeding according to the pronouncements that accompanied the organisation’s founding. Rather, they are confirming the analysis of Vladimir Lenin, who insisted in the midst of World War I that it was inherently impossible under capitalism to end war. The contradictions between the major powers meant that any peace between them was but a temporary interlude and preparation for a new war.

Dominating the proceedings at this year’s annual General Assembly are a series of international geo-political flashpoints, any one of which could set off a military conflict between major powers leading rapidly to a new world war, likely involving the use of nuclear weapons.

There is the ongoing and intensifying conflict between the United States and China, as American imperialism seeks to assert geo-political and military domination over East Asia under the banner of its “pivot to Asia.” The US and its allies have stepped up pressure against China over its land reclamation activities in the South China Sea under the fraudulent slogan of “freedom of navigation.” Behind this benign-sounding phrase, the US pursues military operations off the Chinese coast and refines its Air/Sea Battle Plan for massive attacks on the Chinese mainland.

Just last week, US President Obama and Chinese President Xi held a tension-filled meeting at the White House at which the American commander in chief repeated Washington’s demand that China back off from its long-standing claims to islands in the South China Sea. His Chinese counterpart balked at making any such commitment. Both leaders will address the General Assembly.

Also present will be leaders of Japan, which is rapidly moving to remilitarise and reassert its great power ambitions in East Asia and beyond, and the Philippines, which is serving as Washington’s cat’s paw against China in the South China Sea.

On the other side of the Eurasian landmass, NATO, under the leadership of the United States, is building up its forces against Russia. The forthcoming US-NATO Trident Juncture 2015, set to be the largest NATO exercises in the region since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, will prepare Western forces for war operations in the Baltic region and beyond.

For the first time since the liquidation of the USSR, the US is reported to be “reviewing and updating its contingency plans for armed conflict with Russia.”

Starting with the Gulf War in 1990–91, when it seized upon the liquidation of the Soviet Union to attack Iraq and attempted to exert its military domination over the Middle East, American imperialism has been engaged in continuous warfare in the region. Through all the twists and turns of American policy, the various military campaigns and the debacles they have produced, there has been an inherent logic at work—the prospect of a major military conflict involving Russia and possibly other great powers.

As the UN General Assembly got underway, this prospect loomed larger with France’s announcement that it had commenced bombing in Syria, potentially directed against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as ISIS. France’s escalation comes in the midst of Russia’s reinforcement of its military support for Assad.

Last week, the Obama administration said that in view of reports of expanded Russian military aid to the Syrian regime, it would hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the UN assembly to “test” Russia’s intentions in the region. The talks are to take place the same day Putin addresses the General Assembly and advances his plan for a political settlement of the devastating four-year civil war stoked by Washington.

Behind the discussion, there is a real and growing danger of military conflict, given that the aim of the US is to oust the Syrian regime, whereas Russia considers its maintenance, with or without Assad, to be vital for its own security interests in the region and beyond.

While the US is the instigator of the drive against both Russia and China, there is nothing progressive in the response of the Russian and Chinese regimes. Both are the instruments of financial oligarchs and organically incapable of making an appeal to the masses, either in their own countries or internationally. They seek to whip up nationalism at home while vacillating between conciliation and military sabre-rattling to counter US provocations, thereby playing into the hands of the imperialist war-mongers.

More than a quarter century of direct US military intervention in the Middle East—from the first Gulf War to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the regime-change operation against Colonel Gaddafi in Libya in 2011—has created the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War. The flood of refugees now pouring into Europe, as a result of the devastation inflicted upon their societies by the US, has exacerbated the centrifugal forces in the European Union, leading to threats and denunciations among member states and triggering the resurrection of borders across the continent, reinforced by barbed wire, troops and tanks.

The deepening geo-political tensions are being fuelled by the ongoing economic breakdown of the world capitalist economy. Seven years after the eruption of the global financial crisis, there is no recovery in sight. On the contrary, the economic outlook is dominated by growing indications of a new financial crisis set off by the consequences of rampant parasitism, in which profits are accumulated by means of speculation rather than productive activity. Far from there being any return to “normal” conditions, deflation, stagnation and outright depression hover over the world economy.

The central banks, with the US Federal Reserve in the lead role, are in a state of disarray, with no coherent policy to guide their actions, as evidenced by the fears of the Fed that even a rise of just 0.25 percent in its base interest rate risks setting off a new financial meltdown.

Around the world, governments are seeking to devalue their own currencies in order to be better placed in the struggle for global markets, recalling the currency and trade wars of the 1930s that led to the eruption of military conflict in 1939.

The United Nations was never an organisation for the establishment of world peace. It was set up under the leadership of the United States, the dominant imperialist power, as part of its drive to secure its hegemony over the post-war order. That dominance was based on the unrivalled industrial strength of the American economy. That has long since eroded, leading the American ruling class to increasingly rely on its military supremacy to topple insufficiently pliant governments and increase its economic and geo-political leverage against its rivals, including its nominal allies in Europe and Japan.

Germany insists that it can no longer operate simply as a European power, but must advance its interests globally. In Japan, the Abe government has taken major steps towards completely overturning the restrictions imposed on its military activities as it too asserts a global role.

The UN is not an instrument for peace but a “thieves’ kitchen,” as Lenin characterised its predecessor, the League of Nations. It is a body through which the contending powers seek to assert their conflicting interests by means of intrigues and conspiracies. Lenin insisted that the only means of ending war was the overthrow of the profit system that produced it, a conclusion that is once again being verified by global events.

Nick Beams

Pope Francis on arms sales and war


“Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.”

~Pope Francis~

The US is the world’s largest exporter of arms.