One bloody conflict after another
Steve Kay looks back on a year when imperialism, using its Nato and UN surrogates, continued to impose its New World Order
Mexico: A peasant rebellion broke out in the poverty-stricken southern state of Chiapas on New Year’s Day. The Mexican authorities used first repression and later negotiations to deal with the insurgency. It has not sent the red flag flying exactly, but it reminded a few bourgeois pundits that popular insurgency is not a museum exhibit.
Afghanistan: At least 1,000 Afghans were killed during faction fighting between rival bands of anti-communist ‘freedom fighters’. Hekmatyar, one of the muslim fundamentalist leaders involved, called on Saudi Arabia to stop interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. You need a long spoon to sup with the obscurantist devil.
Ukraine: A leaked CIA report this month warned that economic chaos and tension between Ukrainians and ethnic Russians could cause civil war in this ex-Soviet republic. Perhaps an agreement by Ukraine to have its nuclear weapons removed came just in time.
Vietnam: The US trade embargo was finally lifted.
Indonesia: A“rare eruption of labour unrest” occurred. The rarity is explained by this Western ally’s habit of killing people who go on strike.
Russia: President Boris Yeltsin declared an amnesty for opponents detained after the October 1993 violence in Moscow, when the world learned that in a democracy it is actually possible to fire tank shells at your own parliament building.
Georgia: A commission established that the former president of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was indeed dead. He had been ousted in January 1992 not too long after pulling Georgia out of the Soviet Union. His death may or may not have been suicide.
West Bank: The Hebron massacre took place when as many as 48 Arabs were killed in a mosque by a single Israeli settler armed with an automatic rifle. The PLO suspended its involvement in peace negotiations - but not for long.
Cuba: Armed forces spending was reduced by half because of the country’s economic crisis, resulting from US imperialist blockade.
North Korea: The dispute between North Korea and the International Atomic Energy Agency ground on over the North’s refusal to allow full inspection of its nuclear facilities. The USA and South Korea decided to deploy Patriot missiles. Note how the USA never does this kind of thing to Pakistan or Israel, which are less than totally open about their nuclear programmes.
Italy: a rightwing coalition including fascists won the Italian elections. Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Rupert Murdoch, became prime minister in April. The bourgeois media decided that the fascists in his government could not possibly be fascists, as ministerial power itself is proof of respectability.
Rwanda: The death of the president, Juvenal Habyarimana, triggered off a massive wave of killings. They were partly ethnic, but also political - supporters of a military regime sought to end all opposition by slaughtering all opponents. By the end of the month, aid agencies estimated that 200,000 had been killed.
Bosnia-Hercegovina: The Gorazde enclave in the east was attacked by Serbs. US Nato planes dropped bombs on them. Later a British Harrier jet was shot down. The UN approved the sending of extra troops to Bosnia.
Iraq: The Gulf War looked like restarting for half an hour when a US military helicopter was shot down. Then it became clear that it was, in football terms, an own goal. You can lead a warhead to a target but you can’t make it think.
South Africa: The ANC won the South African elections, with 252 seats out of 400. However, bourgeois democratic reform is one thing, and a transformation of class relationships quite another.
Hungary: The very ex-communist Hungarian Socialist Party won a majority in the parliamentary elections in spite of hostility in much of the state media. The party announced its willingness to work with liberals for full market restoration.
Israel-Palestine: An agreement was reached by the PLO and Israel on Palestinian self-rule in Gaza and Jericho. A Palestine National Authority was set up with very limited powers. The muslim group Hamas opposed the deal.
Rwanda: The killing continued. The Tutsi-dominated Rwanda Patriotic Front made gains in fighting. A French ‘humanitarian’ force was deployed, even though France had supported the people responsible for most of the killing.
USA: A White House reshuffle took place as a result of President Clinton’s long-running Whitewater financial scandal. Democrat or Republican, they sure like the colour of them greenbacks...
Europe: European parliament elections. In general, the right did better than the left, but the elections were characterised by voting against the governments in power. A noticeable amount of anti-Maastricht sentiment showed in some countries.
Turkey: The pro-Kurdish DEP party was banned and its parliamentary deputies were expelled, with some of them being arrested. A European Union official expressed concern among “Turkey’s friends” about the “deterioration” of certain freedoms there.
North Korea: Death of Kim Il Sung, the ‘Great Leader’, at the age of 82. The country’s news reported that even “the birds were crying”. His son, Kim Jong Il, took over.
China: A new labour law was approved which created a minimum wage but also moved away from guaranteeing a job for life to the country’s workers.
Russia: The country’s best-known investment company MMM came close to collapse, triggering off a political crisis - the new Russian capitalism stretched its legs and then ran off with the dinner money.
Cuba: Castro indicated in a speech that Cubans could leave if they wanted to. Thousands did, straining the freedom-loving nature of Uncle Sam’s immigration officials to breaking point. From encouraging illegal departures the USA swung round to detaining Cubans who went off in search of ‘freedom’.
Afghanistan: One of the most under-reported conflicts in the world raged on during August, as ‘freedom fighters’ killed each other and anyone who got in the way. Sandy Gall, why no more up-to-the-minute reports from “just outside Kabul”?
Haiti: US troops entered the country. A formula was worked out for the resignation of the military junta which had been in control of Haiti after overthrowing the elected president, Jean-Baptiste Aristide. There was some violence in the streets, especially when US soldiers killed Haitian military police under rather obscure circumstances.
France: President François Mitterrand, ill with cancer, made details available of his early life, before and during the war. These showed that this pillar of the Socialist International had more to do with the collaborationist Vichy regime than he had admitted earlier. Perhaps he only gave them critical support.
Middle East: US President Clinton came to the region this month to broker deals in support of the ‘peace process’, with talks between Israel and Syria. Israel and Jordan concluded a peace treaty, ending 46 years in which the two countries were officially at war. The Palestinian muslim group Hamas rejected peace overtures which left the Palestinians second-class citizens in their own country. A Hamas suicide bomber killed more than 20 people in the centre of Tel Aviv.
Momentarily it looked like the Gulf War might start yet again when Iraq was accused of moving troops close to the Kuwait border. However, Kuwait’s ruling al-Sabah dynasty did not have to flee into luxurious exile again.
Russia: A member of the Russian parliament came down with diphtheria this month. Hundreds have died from this and other such illnesses in the former Soviet Union, as the health services continue to crumble under market conditions. I believe processes like these are known in some leftwing quarters as the political revolution.
China: State radio reported that in an 18 month period ending this June, 140,000 members of the 40 million-strong Chinese Communist Party were found to have broken party rules, and 20,000 became the subject of court proceedings.
Cuba: On a more edifying note, a founder member and leading activist in the Cuban Communist Party died this month at the age of 89. Fabio Grobart was born in Poland and emigrated to Cuba at the age of 19. At his funeral, it was said that “his homeland was the workers of humanity”, and “the struggle continues”.
France: Two anarchists were arrested after the killing of policemen. Material about the film Natural born killers was found in their flat, thereby raising the spectre of violent films inducing violence. This cannot be ruled out. For example, I only became fond of cats after watching TV advertisements for Whiskas.
Bosnia-Hercegovina: Bosnian army and Bosnian Croat forces took the town of Kupres in the south west from the Serbs. Later in the month a Serb offensive made ground against the UN ‘safe haven’ of Bihac amid grave doubts about the role of Nato and the UN in the area. Cracks emerged in the fragile imperialist alliance.
Nepal: The local ‘communists’ won the parliamentary elections, though without capitalism’s position being dented to any perceptible degree.
Russia: Tension rose as Yeltsin tried to bring the rebel republic of Chechnya back into line inside the Russian Federation. The capital, Grozny, was bombed by Russian planes and Russian troops were killed in a half-hearted and abortive attack on the city.
Israel-Palestine: Palestinian militants opposed to the deal with Israel were killed in Gaza by Palestinian police loyal to Yasser Arafat.
Europe: At a session of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, Russian President Boris Yeltsin expressed concern at the idea of Nato recruiting countries on Russia’s border. Polish president Lech Walesa, the workers’ champion, decided Nato was even more wonderful after hearing of Yeltsin’s worries, and he said Poland definitely had to become a Nato member.
Russian Federation:In Chechnya, a Caucasian stand-off was in force at the time of going to print. Yeltsin was stuck between the rock of possible war and the hard place of the Russian Federation’s break-up.
South Africa: State action against workers continued with the brutal eviction of homeless squatters from a vacant building in Johannesburg. Disaffection with the ANC government from poor workers is increasingly reported.
Nobel Peace Prize: Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres were awarded this prize. Extreme Zionists demonstrated outside complaining that Yasser Arafat had ‘blood on his hands’. Generally the prize goes to those who have fought wars for imperialism, like Henry Kissinger; or to those, once reviled as ‘terrorists’, who are being promoted for a pro-capitalist role, like Nelson Mandela.