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The Conflict in the Middle East

Another Middle East storm has developed. This time it is the Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq that occupy the centre of the stage, with Kuwait also stirring. Again oil is the mainspring of the eruptions and clashing interests. The struggles concern the rich oil lands and the routes to those areas, with other economic advantages for the privileged seeping in.

The revenues from oil are in the region of the fabulous. They are cherished by the privileged possessors, and sought after by privileged non-possessors who want a larger share of the plunder. The toilers who make these revenues possible have no share in them. They only receive the customary payment for the work they do; some of the Arab workers receive hardly enough to buy the necessities of life.

In spite of the numberless pronouncements on peace, with which we have been deluged for decades from all quarters, armed force, or the threat of it, is always the final resource when capitalist sections feel that their sources of revenue are threatened.

Reality and Hypocrisy
The present flare-up, just as the recent Suez dispute, concerns oil and the interests of the mammoth oil companies. There is no secret about this. Reports, articles, and pronouncements concentrate on this aspect.

As usual, the designs of those responsible for the moves in this turbulent quarrel are surrounded with a cloud of hypocrisy. The Western Powers claim to be concerned to defeat the pernicious intrigues of Russia; the Eastern Powers to put a limit to the imperialist designs of the West; the Middle East revolutionists to secure the freedom of oppressed nationals.

But each group of participants has internal antagonisms, and the members view each other with suspicion. They are uneasy unions in which each participant mistrusts the others and intrigues for the best vantage ground to press forward the economic interests of the privileged groups it represents. Hence they are always likely to fall apart and change sides.

It is an old oft-repeated story; littered with indecision, broken pacts, duplicity, intrigues and wars. In the final chapter the privileged always occupy the seat of power and the mass of people remain in subjection. It will be the same in the Middle East after the present turmoil has come to an end. At best the most the mass of the people  there can obtain is a standard of wage slavery that is equivalent to what obtains in the so-called advanced countries.

When there is plenty to spend
When Western workers put forward wage claims recently they were fobbed off with the excuse that industry could not afford the outlay involved. Where they persisted in pressing their claims the employers entered into long and protracted negotiations. But when sectional capitalist interests are threatened thousands of miles away, then the might of the State goes into instant action, regardless of the outlay involved. The American State has transported munitions and men to the Lebanon at enormous cost, and the British State has done likewise to Jordan. This makes a mockery of the appeals to freeze wage claims in spite of rising living costs.

There is no excuse this time about helping oppressed people-Armed assistance has been sent to help tottering semi-feudal monarchies —in defence of oil interests.

When black becomes white
When the Russian Government sent troops to suppress the revolt against the Hungarian Communist Government, American and British statesmen and spokesmen could hardly find words strong enough to express their indignation at such an abominable action. But when the semi-feudal governments of Jordan and the Lebanon were threatened by revolting subjects the Western States lost no time in answering the call for help with men and munitions of war. Russia and China are now able to reciprocate the phoney righteous indignation. But then hypocrisy has always been one of the hall-marks of capitalism.

Those who only suffer
One of the tragic sides of the Middle East armed adventure is that soldiers are being sent there to risk their lives in a quarrel that does not concern them, and from which they will gain nothing, except the possibility of a grave or mutilation. In the Middle East itself masses of people are worked up to fury against the present groups that are oppressing them, but their struggles will only result in fastening other groups of oppressors on their backs in place of the present ones. They have not yet discovered the way to abolish all oppression.

U.N.O takes a back seat
Once again the futility and sham of the United Nations Organisation has been exposed. When the principal Powers deem the time has come to take armed action they treat this expensive Tower of Babel with contempt. Likewise, when the heads of State consider the issue important enough and they decide to meet their opponents in the game of political manoeuvring, the so-called united organs of peace take a back seat.

The present flare-up also throws light on the British Government's determination to hold Cyprus at any cost. It is a strategic base for action in the Middle East in defence of capitalist interests there.

Futile “hands off” processions
As usual in this country there has been an eruption of "Hands off" movements. Although these emotional demonstrations, in which dupes of the Russian Government always take a hand, have never accomplished anything, and never can, the supporters continue their bedraggled slogan-shouting processions. Instead of spending time and thought grappling with the cause of social disharmony, they waste their time and energy in useless protests.

Economic interests determine policies
In the Middle East external governments are solely concerned with the interests of their capitalist controllers and will fight against, or acquiesce in, internal changes according to their bearing on these interests. The internal States are torn with strife over which section of the privileged can occupy the seats of power and reap the harvest produced by the workers' labour. In both instances the unprivileged do 'the fighting and reap the misery of victory or defeat.

The only solution
So it will continue until those who do the work of the world realize that only when privilege in all forms, and class ownership of the means of living, have been abolished will it be possible for the people of the world to live in harmony.

When this is achieved exploitation and the hunger for profit will disappear and there will no longer be tragedies like Hungary, Suez, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE 29th July 1958

(Socialist Standard, September 1958)