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Views in brief

January 19, 2007 | Page 19

VIEWS BELOW:
A voice for prisoners
Is Iraqi unity impossible?
Real analysis of Oaxaca

A voice for prisoners

IF IT weren't for Socialist Worker newspaper, I wouldn't have learned about or heard about the brothers' situation and struggle on Texas' death row ("Suffering on Texas' death row," November 17).

I guess to the civilized world, inhumane conditions for death row prisoners is not news or their problem. I guess starving yourself to bring awareness to your cause isn't news that the people of Texas want to hear. So thanks, SW, for giving a voice to those of us who have been made mute.
Ronnie Kitchen, Menard, Ill.

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Is Iraqi unity impossible?

I REALLY enjoyed the interview with Nir Rosen ("This is a U.S. crime," December 8, 2006). He does such a great job explaining the evolution of this ugly business gripping Iraq today.

It is remarkable how he boldly pins the blame on the occupation, saying that the divide-and-rule method we have seen there has created the conditions from which the civil war has grown.

It is difficult to challenge someone with as much firsthand knowledge as Rosen has, but I hope he is wrong when he says that things have gone so far that there is no possibility of a united Sunni and Shiite resistance. This also seems to be the conclusion Ashley Smith draws in his recent article ("Bitter fruit of occupation," December 15).

I can understand that it's probably not likely that someone would want to fight side by side with the same people who just blew up a car bomb in their neighborhood, but it seems to me that under the right circumstances, that might not have to matter too much.

There's a lot of talk about a "surge" and "cleaning up Baghdad"--in other words, attacking the Mahdi Army led by Moktada al-Sadr, recently named the biggest threat in Iraq by the Pentagon. Maybe this is why it is taking Bush so long to make up his mind about the Iraq strategy.

The U.S. ruling class knows that it has to start extracting itself from Iraq in some visible way, but they also realize that if they do they will be leaving behind a very powerful, anti-U.S. cleric in charge of half of the country, and Baathists and jihadists in other big chunks. Will they give it "one last hurrah?" Indications are yes; they just assassinated the Sadrist leader in Najaf, and have been conducting provocative raids in Baghdad.

It's questionable whether the U.S. could even defeat the Mahdi Army in a large-scale conflict. It might end up looking like what Hezbollah dealt Israel this summer. A new offensive could also be unpopular at home, with a public that just voted essentially to draw the war to a close. It might even mean the collapse of the Iraqi puppet government.

But we should never underestimate the arrogance of our ruling class--and besides, they probably don't have much of a choice.

If Sunnis and Shiites were being attacked simultaneously, they could resist simultaneously, and the civil war operations could fall more into the background. Sadr would do his usual maneuver and appeal to all patriotic Iraqis. Even shaky, strategic agreements could be a conceivable beginning to a future unity.

It can be a tough thing for opponents of this wretched war to see a resistance so crippled by reactionary politics and falling for the divisiveness of the occupation. But the resistance is what it is. Their motivations may sometimes not be things that make socialists very happy, but they must be seen as people struggling to find a way to end their continual victimhood at the hands of outside powers.

The Iraqis have been thrown into a maelstrom and have had to form a resistance under the most unfavorable conditions. But for all of their failings, we have to recognize that they are apparently doing enough to tie up U.S. imperialism.

What our government has done in Iraq is disgusting, but we should not despair. The Iraqi resistance and the war weariness of the American population have created the possibility to deliver a huge setback to the empire--an opportunity we need to seize on.
Chuck Stemke, San Diego

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Real analysis of Oaxaca

I MUST comment on Avery Wear's response ("The stakes in Oaxaca," January 5) to Todd Chretien's excellent letter ("What's next in Oaxaca," December 8) on the struggle in Oaxaca. Calling what happened there a "temporary, small" socialist revolution is extremely misleading.

When Lenin commented that in every strike is the hydra of social revolution, he did not consider every strike a social revolution. We know that in Russia the soviets (workers' councils) sprang up out of elected strike committees. Nevertheless, that should not lead us to declare that every strike committee is a soviet.

Nor should we necessarily consider the formation of a popular assembly to guide a popular struggle a "social revolution"--big, medium or small.

As revolutionaries, we hold an important responsibility of analyzing and learning from struggle, not simply cheerleading, but learning. The struggles in Bolivia, Venezuela and Argentina have gone far further (so far) than the struggles in Mexico, yet none of these have been social revolutions--that is, have involved the overturning of capitalist social relations and their replacement by workers' power.

In Argentina, the popular assemblies were more widespread. Yet they were never able to involve the big battalions of the working class and never developed beyond local organs of struggle and debate.

Real analysis is what we need, not superficial observation. Such analysis would have to take into account such factors as the degree to which the people of Oaxaca actually see the assembly as an alternative government and the extent to which the assembly is representative of major workplaces and communities in the region.

Even from a distance, it is possible to see that the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca is not in a position to pose itself as the Oaxacan "commune," let alone challenge for state power nationally.

Such an analysis, moreover, would have to take into account the fact that, first, the teachers have gone back to work; and second, the movement has stalled without achieving its main demand, the removal of Oaxaca's PRI governor from power.

In Argentina, on the other hand, the movement succeeded in replacing several presidents--though it was never able to pose itself as a political alternative. And in Paris and Petrograd, workers actually held power!
Paul D'Amato, Chicago

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