Asian Marxist Review, Winter 2009-2010 Editor's note

The Editor of the Asian Marxist Review comments on the growing turmoil in South Asia, the Iranian revolution, the tensions in Israel/Palestine and highlights how all this is inevitably preparing the ground for a resurgence of class struggle.

All the illusions created by Obama’s “historic” speech in Cairo, in the summer of 2009 have been dashed. Despair, distress, misery and a burning vengeance prevail amongst the masses in Palestine and the Middle East. If it had not been for the Arab rulers from Saudi Arabia to Egypt and from Jordan to the monarchies in the Gulf States, the stranglehold of imperialism and its Middle Eastern proxy state of Israel would have been broken long ago. At the time of the massacre of more than 7000 Palestinians in Amman, Jordan during the revolutionary insurrection of 1970, the Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Dayan commented, “Hussein has killed more Palestinians than Israel has in the last twenty years”. The character and role of these Arab rulers have not changed in the last forty years. If anything they have capitulated more and more to imperialism and played a pernicious role to repressing the workers of all nationalities and religions in the Middle East. This makes even more essential the unity of the class struggle of these working masses of the region including those of Israel.

In Iran the ferment that gave rise to the revolutionary outburst of July 2009 refuses to die down. Repression has miserably failed to silence dissent. The protests and resistance have become permanent features of Iranian society today. The infighting between the different sections of the mullah oligarchy is exacerbated as the social and economic crisis worsens. The external threats and conflicts fabricated by this theocratic regime have been exhausted as a tool to deviate the attention of the masses and whip up religious and nationalist chauvinism. The workers and the youth have conquered the fear of the brutalities and repression of this autocratic regime.

The imperialist surge ordered by the Nobel laureate commander in chief of the US forces will fail to avert defeat. Even some of the Democrats in America have started describing Obama’s presidency as Bush’s third term. Not only will the induction of these troops further aggravate the bloodshed and mayhem but it will intensify the instability in Pakistan and the whole region.

Apart from the terrible suffering and devastation caused by this war for the impoverished masses of the region it has become a highly lucrative and profitable enterprise. The narco-economy of Afghanistan is a source of bounty much more for the NATO allies than for the Taliban. According to the latest report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), a decade ago the Taliban earned $85 million per year from drugs but since 2005 this figure has jumped to $125 million. The report estimates that only 10-15% of Taliban funding is drawn from drugs and 85% comes from “non-opium sources”. The total revenue generated by opiates within Afghanistan is about $3.4billion per year. Of this figure, according to UNODC, the Taliban get only 4% of the sum. Cultivators meanwhile get 21%. The remaining 75% is pocketed by government officials, the police, local and regional power brokers and traffickers - in short, many of the groups now supported by the United States and NATO are important actors in the drug trade. Impunity for drug lords and warlords continues. UNODC’s chief, Antonio Maria Costa was quoted as saying that drug money may have recently rescued some failing banks. Of the $65 billion turnover of the global market for opiates, more than 90% is laundered through legal trade activities and the banking system. The report also indicates that the supply precursors like acetic anhydride used to make the deadliest of drugs, heroine, had a retail value of $450 million this year. Important NATO states like France, Germany and Turkey are said to be involved in this trade. Apart from the profits of US mercenary corporations like the defunct Black Water, now Xe securities, Halliburton, DynCorp and others, this “war against terror” is generating huge sums of criminal capital for the elites perpetrating this war. Under crisis ridden capitalism this crime, bloodshed and destruction are inevitable.

The outlook for the Asian economies is bleak even according to the bourgeois analysts. “A multitude of political, security and operational risks converge in Asia,” said Michael Denison, research director at London based Control Risks consultancy. “The causes of the global recession are now well understood. The contours of the recovery, by contrast, are far from clear.” Pressure on China to allow the Yuan to appreciate will become ever more intense in 2010. But Beijing will not want to jeopardize economic growth by letting the currency fall too quickly. A fall in the growth rate below around 5% would cause havoc in China with unemployment soaring, and a fall in the growth rate would be a recipe for a new explosion of class struggle that would shake to the foundations the already beleaguered elite.

Apart from some minor reforms, the Chinese elite also uses national chauvinism to perpetuate its rule. In its foreign policy the danger is that Beijing’s backing of regimes that Washington finds unpalatable, from Pyongyang to Yangon to Tehran, could explode into a political confrontation. This would create enormous instability in the Pacific basin. The two countries have yet to find a way of communicating comfortably as partners. The risk of a sudden chill in relations is real. Obama’s recent diplomatic failure in his visit to China is an indication of this.

The key political risk for Asia is dealing with the hangover from stimulus measures of the last two years. If governments withdraw the stimulus too soon, they jeopardize growth. But keeping policy too loose for too long would risk not just inflation but also catastrophic asset price bubbles. “Mass social unrest due to economic hardship was the dog that failed to bark in 2009. That could change in 2010. A structural rise in unemployment; will represent a key political and security risk in 2010,” Said Denison.

The risk of a confrontation between nuclear armed India and Pakistan, perhaps sparked by another terrorist atrocity in India, is ticking upwards again. India is in the throes of severe turmoil. The economic indicators don’t reflect the extreme misery, poverty and deprivation. Maoist insurgency is now spiraling into a wider conflict and testing the Indian state as never before. There are renewed rumblings of class struggle. The Congress and the BJP are two sides of the same coin. The covert religious bigotry of Congress is being revealed. The BJP is in a crisis and further moving into Hindu fundamentalism. Meanwhile, the left leadership is in a severe crisis. After a long period, the mass upsurge of the Indian proletariat will begin to transform the Communist and left parties.

The economic, social, diplomatic and political crisis of these rotting ruling elites is creating a level of instability that is tearing apart the social fabric in these countries. Capitalism has brought disaster and ruin for the teeming millions. A new surge of class struggle is not only desperately needed but its first sparks are already beginning to appear on the horizon. A successful socialist revolution in any of these major countries would transform the whole situation. It will inevitably bring to the surface the simmering revolt in the form of an explosion in one country after another. The possibility of a socialist federation of South Asia and its expansion across the rest of the continent and across the planet would not be a far fetched fantasy. After all this is the only way forward for the survival of the human race.