Imperialists Collide: War and Refugees in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. The dangerous role of the EU and NATO.
Remarks of Kostas Papadakis, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and member of the CC of KKE, at the panel organised by the site Marxism-Leninism Today, at the Left Forum John Jay College, City University of New York, May 21, 2016.
We would like to thank Marxism-Leninism Today for the opportunity afforded to us to hold a discussion today, here in New York, on serious issues related to the struggle of the KKE (Communist Party of Greece), specifically our internationalist struggle. Greece and the USA may be separated by thousands of miles, but our goal and ambition is for communists and radical militants to form unified criteria in terms of examining the developments and organizing the struggle for the interests of the working class.
Our tool for this must be our worldview, Marxism-Leninism, which provides us with the capacity to draw the necessary conclusions regarding the causes and development of complex issues that mark the era of the highest stage of capitalism, imperialism. Above all, communists at an international level must form a unified revolutionary strategy against a ruthless and powerful enemy, the capitalist system. This is not a task for a distant and undefined future. It is something absolutely necessary in today's conditions. Its absence leaves its mark on the developments, makes it difficult for the workers and the poor popular strata on both sides of the Atlantic to understand that the capitalist system is their real enemy, to recognize its objective laws and the methods it uses to achieve its goal, which is none other than the safeguarding of the maximum profitability possible and its own perpetuation as a system.
This absence impedes the development of the ideological-political confrontation and dynamic struggles with an anti-capitalist anti-monopoly direction, which will contribute to a rupture with the system and the concentration of forces for the overthrow of capitalist barbarity, for socialism.
We would like to refer to some examples so that our party's approach to current international developments can be better understood.
For example, we can examine the case of Britain, whose economy has the highest level of capitalist development in the EU at the moment, and in particular the referendum it will hold regarding a possible "Brexit".
This is a struggle between sections of Britain's bourgeois class, between the section that gains more from being in the EU and the section that has a better position in the markets, for example, of the USA or the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) . One section of capital is in a strong position and demonstrates its stamina in the framework of the EU. It is banking on being in a position to respond to the tough competition, by setting out its own terms and conditions that promote its maximum profitability in the major transatlantic agreements that are being formed and decided on in this period.
The other section is making other calculations. It chooses a Brexit (British exit from EU) , because it evaluates that the EU is a "minefield" for its profitability and has other priorities that are not served by remaining in the EU. Whichever side prevails in the referendum, the day afterwards power will still be in the hands of the bourgeois class, the workers and poor popular strata will once again be the losers as their rights will be crushed by capitalist exploitation in both scenarios, as the levers of the economy will continue to be owned by the capitalists.
The working class, the people as a whole will either be the victims of capitalist aggressiveness supported by the anti-people apparatus and directions of the EU or of a similar capitalist aggressiveness that in the name of being able to compete with monopolies of the EU countries will ransack the rights of the working class and people in an equally savage way.
The problems caused by assimilation into imperialist organizations like the EU or NATO and also BRICS can only be eradicated if their root-cause is eliminated, if the capitalist organization of the economy and society is overthrown, if the question of power and the ownership of the means of production is resolved.And consequently the daily struggles, the everyday class struggles will gain in strength and effectiveness to the extent they operate in this direction.
It is no accident that the referendum in Great Britain is being held in a period when the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the USA is being negotiated, an agreement which aims to create a single Euro-Atlantic market for the capitalist economies on both sides of the Atlantic, increasing the profits of the large monopoly groups. It will be an "economic NATO", just as barbaric for the peoples as the military one.
The consequences of the TTIP will be dramatic for the working class and the poor popular strata, as it will mean the intensification of their exploitation, the drastic reduction of the price of labour power, the demolition of whatever rights have been left standing, the sharp deterioration of all aspects of their living conditions.
The TTIP will seek to strengthen the position of the monopolies in the global capitalist market, to constitute the Euro-Atlantic response to the rise of powerful capitalist economies like China and India in Asia, as well as the BRICS countries as a whole.At the same time, we must not overlook the fact that these negotiations are being held in conditions of the sharpening of the EU's contradictions both with the USA and also internally. And indeed inside each of its member-states. It is forming a long-term strategy to create new mechanisms, in the framework of the antagonisms in the EU and eurozone over which power will have the upper hand in the recovery phase, mechanisms that will facilitate the monopolies to reinforce their competitiveness and will concentrate capital to fund these monopolies in a systematic way.
The EU is not a supra-national organization but an inter-state imperialist union. That is to say, a union of capitalist states, in which the bourgeois class and its parties unite their forces against the peoples. In this direction, they create permanent mechanisms that aim to constantly push forward the anti-worker political line and that will automatically take anti-people measures in the name of any possible budget-spending deviations and deficits.These mechanisms existed before today, but now they are being enhanced, strengthened and are taking on an automatic character.
Inside an inter-state union like the EU and more generally in the imperialist system, we can witness the existence of unequal relations among the capitalist states due to their historical differences, development potential, geographic advantages, their economic and military-political strength. This is a basic feature that shows us the reality of the situation and answers the mistaken analyses that refer to “occupations”, “colonies”, “centre-periphery” or the “rich North/poor South”.
This is not just a confrontation between the bourgeois classes of Germany, France or Italy. The US bourgeoisie also participates in this confrontation as it knows full well that the recovery of the past few years is fragile and unstable and seeks to avoid developments that could exacerbate its problems and disturb the delicate balance between the Dollar and Euro, its capacity to export to the EU, which is something that is not guaranteed, even if the gradual rise of oil prices again will put the USA in a strong position.
In the face of these complex developments, each bourgeois class makes its calculations. It competes but also forms alliances with other powers and tries to bargain. The working class and people have no interests in these aims of the bourgeois classes, nothing to gain from identifying with them, whether we are talking about the strongest capitalist power in the world, the USA, or Greece that is in a subordinate, weakened position in the imperialist system.
This is a snapshot of the economic background of these antagonisms which have never in the history of exploitative societies been solved at the negotiating table. When the differences are not resolved by compromise, they are resolved by war.
The KKE consistently highlights the imperialist plans in their entirety, the flaring up of war flashpoints and confrontations in Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen. The negative experience of the peoples has demonstrated that the murderous attacks two months ago in Brussels that left many people dead and the attacks in other places are utilized to escalate these imperialist interventions and wars, to strengthen the repressive measures and xenophobia and to intimidate the people.
They are used as an excuse in order to push forwards the anti-people plans. We should bear in mind that the aerial bombardments and the concentration of military forces with the deeper involvement of the USA and NATO in Syria, the involvement of France, Britain, Germany and their competition with Russia (which is also involved) escalated immediately after the murderous attacks in Paris.
These attacks are directly connected to the imperialist interventions and wars, they are integral to them. They are directly connected to the antagonisms and plans that instigate these imperialist wars. The "Islamic State" emerges as the culprit.
This is not a new story, however. The people should not forget that such "organizations" have been utilized for many decades by the imperialists in order to advance the interests of their monopolies in the Middle East and elsewhere, using the mantle of religion. Sometimes as "saviours" and "liberators" and then later as "enemies". In both instances, they were used and are used to justify the new imperialist interventions of the USA, the EU and their allies. The "jihadists" are the monsters that the USA, NATO and their allies armed and trained with the assistance of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and the support of Turkey.
These are forces that emerged from within the ranks of the so-called Syrian opposition and which were hailed by the USA and the EU as "a force for progress and liberation". All the systems of exploitation, and capitalism even more so, have frequently demonstrated that religious and national differences and contradictions, existing and fomented, were and are always utilized to advance the interests of the ruling classes. Such contradictions are the form through which often essentially class contradictions are expressed. The EU indeed attempts to mislead the people by provocatively claiming that poverty causes the murderous attacks, in essence incriminating the working class and setting up a propaganda campaign against so-called "radicalization". They are deliberately trying to lump the struggle for the abolition of exploitation with the reactionary mechanisms of capital.
We have already seen the declarations of the bourgeois, the USA, EU, NATO and their competitors and the capitalist system they serve about freedom and democracy in the imperialist wars, such as those in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Syria. Wars that lead to poverty, destitution and to millions of refugees and immigrants who have been uprooted from their homes.
The more generalized involvement - with an entire of Armada- of the predatory alliance of NATO in the Aegean sea under the pretext of managing the refugee flows is directly connected to the wider imperialist plans of NATO and its competition against Russia in the whole region extending from Ukraine, the Black Sea, the Balkans to the Middle East and it is also linked to its open support for the Turkish bourgeoisie.
NATO is encircling Russia and the upcoming NATO summit in Poland is integrated into these efforts through the establishment of an anti-missile shield in Poland and also in the Baltic states. NATO's presence legitimizes the increase of Turkey's aggressiveness, its graying of the Aegean Sea and the intensification of its provocativeness, specifically its violations of airspace and territorial waters in the Aegean Sea and Cyprus. Turkey does this because it enjoys support for its provocative demands regarding the Cyprus and Kurdish questions and in the Middle East in general.
It has been demonstrated in the most dramatic way that the timely and well-substantiated warnings of the communists that claims that "The borders of Greece because they are identified with the borders of the EU will mean guaranteed security for the country" and that the country would become a "sheltered harbour" because of its EU membership were false and empty. These lies and illusions are now collapsing due to the repeated de facto disputing of sovereign rights not only by Turkey under the aegis of NATO in the Aegean but also by the EU that imposes unacceptable and dangerous terms and conditions in the name of border protection.
As the clouds of imperialist war gather, the nationalist sermons will intensify and they will call on the workers, the people to mobilize at their side ideologically and politically in the beginning and to be at any given moment ready to shed their blood for the interests of capital.The people must acquire the ability to draw conclusions and reject such calls and to organize their struggle for their rights and needs in conflict with the EU, capital and its power, which are the real enemy.And as regards this crucial issue, the communists have serious responsibilities in order to inform the people and organize the struggle.
The wars and imperialist plans are what cause people to become refugees. The refugees are coming to Europe, driven from their homes by the bloodshed being carried out by the monopolies and the states that represent their interests over the division of the markets, territories, energy transport routes. The bourgeois forces, amongst them fascist forces, deliberately target the refugees, concealing the root-cause and those responsible, i.e. their masters, the monopolies.
The tragic situation is highlighted by the statistic that in 2015 3,700 people went missing in the Mediterranean, 700 of this number in the Aegean. Entire families have been wiped out. Now the flows to Greece have been reduced by the inhuman mechanisms of the EU that condemn the refugees to be trapped in a life of endless tragedies in wretched conditions, in detention, with the constant threat of deportation. But the problems are very sharp.
Of the 1 million refugees and immigrants who reached the EU last year, 2015, 851,000 passed through Greece.
The EU's decisions make permanent the closed borders and entrapment of thousands of desperate refugees in Greece, while in practice they violate the Geneva Convention, the international law on refugees that was formed with the contribution of communists and due to the influence of the Soviet Union after the 2nd World War.
The refugees are presented as being irregular immigrants, face discrimination, are held in detention, are deported and return to the hell of war.
With fast track procedures, they are turning asylum applications into a process that aims to deny asylum to the majority.
All this was ratified and lauded by the decisions of the EU Summit that closes the borders. All the member-states of this imperialist alliance bear responsibilities.They are even attempting to create a more painful version of the Dublin Regulations and Schengen, with more profiling of passenger lists on airplanes, workers and their beliefs. They will process and exchange this information via enormous data bases.
This is the barbarity of the capitalist system that creates the wretched conditions at Idomeni, the barbarism at the hot spots and sorting centres, the savage confiscation of the few possessions of the refugees in the name of covering the costs of their stay in countries such as Denmark or in various German states. This is class exploitation, an element of which is capital’s quest for cheap labour power amongst the armies of refugees and immigrants, on the basis of its needs and requirements in any given period.
Just as the imperialists bomb for the interests of their monopolies, so they treat the victims of their bombs as refugees.
The SYRIZA-ANEL government in Greece continues the political line of previous bourgeois governments (ND-PASOK) and bears enormous responsibilities for advancing the barbaric policies of the EU against the refugees and for NATO's involvement in the Aegean, because it invited NATO to take more action, offering the base of Suda on the Greek island of Crete as a launching pad.
The alleged "left-wing government" is eager to provide new military bases in order to serve the imperialist interventions and plans.
While Greece, with SYRIZA in government, is one of the 5 countries in the world that implemented NATO's goal for military spending, i.e. 2% of GDP, at a time when the Greek people are being hammered by barbaric measures, savage taxation and the massacre of their salaries, pensions and rights. Despite the hot air before the elections about supporting the Palestinians, in practice the SYRIZA-ANEL government has in this brief period strengthened the military-political and economic relations with Israel, while Israel is massacring the Palestinian people. Indeed, Tsipras even stated that Jerusalem is the historic capital of Israel.
Today, on the basis of this information every communist and also everyone who considers themselves leftwing, radical can consider what problems the KKE would have gone through had it followed those who had been misled by SYRIZA and called on the party to side with the lesser evil and abandon it solid and well-based criteria: chiefly, that a government of bourgeois management, like the one formed by SYRIZA together with the nationalists of ANEL, operates within the framework of capitalism, the capitalist market, inside the EU , i.e., that regardless of its declarations and slogans it will be based on serving the interests of capital, something recognized by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEB) which supported this government from the beginning and continues to do so, assessing that it can do even more dirty work.
We believe that the same criteria are valid for the USA. And here it is true that choosing the lesser evil brought even greater torments for the people. We need to remind ourselves what was said when G. Bush was replaced by Obama, the chatter about olive branches and illusions about a peaceful foreign policy, an end to US aggression etc.
The strategy of the US monopoly interests that rushed to support Obama was a different management formula that would serve them effectively. We had a "change in management", but in essence it was another way of serving the monopolies and massacring the people.
We only need to count the imperialist interventions, where the USA actively participated during the period of the Obama administration, and those others that it prepared or was directly or indirectly involved in with its allies in Syria, Ukraine, Libya, Yemen, Africa, the provocativeness in Latin America, the sharpening of the competition is South East Asia etc. or the US military units that are always in the process of withdrawing, but in reality remaining present in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the coups like that in Honduras.
This list should convince even the most distrustful of what we say. The competition with China, where capitalist relations of production are dominant, and with capitalist Russia has intensified. As aggressive as the anti-worker policies implemented by the Obama administration are domestically, its foreign policy is equally dangerous. Apart from the stick that we have just described, it has also skillfully used the carrot in order to open new vistas for US capital in rough or trackless terrain, for example in the Middle East, Iran and Cuba.
It is no accident that it seeks at a symbolic level to foster illusions and put the people off their guard, a good example of this is Obama's upcoming visit to Hiroshima. This is not just a matter of implementing the anti-people goals of the Obama administration, but a matter of implementing the aims of the US ruling class.
The KKE studies the developments on the basis of class criteria, of the interests of the working class and popular strata, its internationalist obligations. At the same time our party develops multi-faceted activity with militant mobilizations, demonstrations against imperialist war and interventions, against NATO’s involvement in the Aegean.
It organizes solidarity initiatives with the refugees, collecting food, clothing and other essential items for the refugees and immigrants, mobilizing trade unions, struggle committees and mass organizations against the wretched living conditions in the so-called reception centres. It also plays a leading role at an international, European and Balkan level in coordinating CPs in order to empower the struggle against monopolies and capitalism.
Because as long as the monopolies and their power remain in place, the imperialist wars will continue and there can be no real way our or solution for the peoples. This is why the experience and the conclusion that a pro-people management of capitalism cannot exist means that the only way for the Greek people is to struggle to overthrow capitalist power.
The people themselves in each country with their struggle to regroup the labour movement, constructing a robust alliance of the working class, the self-employed, the small and medium farmers, the women and youth from the popular strata to take the power and economy into their hands, by socializing the wealth they produce, imposing disengagement in the people's interests from the EU and NATO, from every imperialist organization.