Notes from the front – of the week 15/9/2015

After Jeremy Corbyn’s victory – the responsibilities of the British left
An historic moment in British politics

Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader is without exaggeration historic. It represents an unprecedented situation in British politics. The Labour government of 1945 passed progressive domestic reforms but it was a supine tool of the US internationally – Ernest Bevin and Attlee played a key role in setting up NATO. At that time both the British capitalist class and the US perfectly understood that the shattering effect of World War II and its outcomes necessarily required partial concessions – acceptance of the temporary building of a welfare state which therefore the first post-war Tory governments initially made no attempt to reverse. At that time the US and West European economies were also undergoing rapid growth which gave them economic room for manoeuvre.

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Coalition of reaction against Sinn Féin

An unprincipled bloc has formed between the Tory government, the Unionist parties in the North of Ireland and the Dublin government parties in a campaign against Sinn Féin. Their reckless and reactionary campaign is threatening to bring down the Stormont Assembly and other institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, which has achieved peace and abolished the sectarian exclusion of nationalists and republicans from political representation.

The arrest of Bobby Storey amid great media fanfare ‘in connection with’ the murder of two men was the excuse for the DUP power-sharing co-leadership of the Assembly to quit all but one of its ministerial posts. The subsequent unconditional release of Storey, the Sinn Féin chairperson in the North, without charge received barely a mention. His solicitor reports that he was not questioned once in two days’ detention and no evidence was put to him, demonstrating that the arrest was got up for purely political purposes.

Unionist rivalries are a key factor in the grandstanding ahead of Assembly elections scheduled next year. Outdoing each other in their attacks on republicans is their substitute for politics. But this clownish posturing is only possible because they are sanctioned end encouraged by the stance of both the Westminster and Dublin governments.

The role of the Westminster government is a pernicious one- arguing that, in response to a fake political/security crisis, its answer was to threaten the imposition of ‘welfare reform’, deep cuts in social security. Under Sinn Féin’s leadership the North has so far largely resisted the imposition of the austerity measures seen in Britain. The new Tory government is determined to make up for lost time. But this is a reckless move, not only on the economic front. Imposing changes to welfare from Westminster blatantly contravenes the establishment of the Assembly, which was allocated powers over welfare and underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement. This would be direct rule a la carte.

The role of the Dublin government of Fine Gael and Labour is, if anything, even worse. Facing a general election in a matter of months, it has openly declared it will be a negative campaign against its principal enemy, Sinn Féin. The Taoiseach met with the SDLP in attempt to persuade them to follow the Unionists out of the Assembly and thereby bring it down. The SDLP rejected this role as mudguard for Unionist reaction as this would have been political suicide. The Dublin government parties are desperate to prevent Sinn Féin becoming the main opposition or even more after the elections in the south. Their entire campaign is to portray Sinn Féin as militarists, when in reality they are leading the anti-austerity forces.

The Tory government is willing to override institutions established by solemn and binding international Treaties for purely venal reasons in attempt to impose austerity. The Dublin government is prepared to bring them down for party political advantage. It is they who have caused this crisis.

Syria – imperialism’s priority is to defeat Assad not ISIS

Refusing to accept any solution other than regime change in Syria is forcing the U.S. administration into more tortured justifications for its position. On Friday 11 September, President Obama addressed an audience of troops in Fort Meade. He blamed the Russian government for the Syrian impasse, because of its refusal to join the US led coalition for overthrowing Assad. He also expressed concern at a supposed Russian military build-up in Syria. This followed a report in the Israeli news site Ynet which claimed that a Russian “expeditionary force” had arrived in Syria, and claiming that “… thousands of Russian military personnel are set to touch down in Syria”. Secretary of State, John Kerry, contacted the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, stating that Russia was intensifying the war.

The USSR, and subsequently the Russian government, has been the main supplier of arms to the Syrian government since 1971. Lavrov stated that there has been no change in policy, supplying “only military goods in accordance with existing contracts and humanitarian aid”.

Yet the U.S. government successfully pressured the Greek and Bulgarian governments to deny overflight rights to Russian planes flying to Syria. Subsequently the flights resumed via the Caspian Sea and Iran. But this incident demonstrates that for US imperialism the overthrow of Assad is more important than the defeat of ISIS. The Syrian army under Assad is engaged in a ferocious ground war against ISIS, and al-Qaeda affiliates Al-Nusrah and Al-Sham. The US government wants the Syrian army weakened regardless of the benefit this yields to ISIS and allies.

Obama may boast of having a coalition of over 60 countries in fighting ISIS, but the project is failing. Over 50 Central Command intelligence analysts have lodged a formal complaint that senior officers have been rewriting their reports to give a more optimistic assessment of US military action against ISIS.

Equally, the contribution of US allied governments in the region is further spreading chaos. The Turkish government is promoting levels of violence against the Kurdish people not witnessed since the 1990’s war with the PKK. Turkish war planes bombed Kurdish areas of Iraq for five successive nights last week. Hundreds of Kurds have been killed since the collapse of the peace process in July. Over 100 Turkish security forces have been killed. In the city of Cizre in South East Turkey, 30 Kurds were killed in just over a week of curfew, while the population were denied electricity and potable water. Since the Turkish government agreed to allow U.S. planes access to its airport, there has only been one token air-strike by the Turkish government against ISIS.

In these conditions, the U.S. is pressing the UK and French governments for military action inside Syria. Both Cameron and Hollande have made it clear their support for such a move. Should this happen it will merely add to the suffering of the Syrian people, with further numbers being forcibly displaced.

Meanwhile, U.S. government policy on Syrian refugees mirrors the official hypocrisy of the other belligerent governments in Europe. In 2014, the US accepted only 132 Syrian refugees. In 2015, just 1,500 are to be allowed entry.