Defeat U.S. Imperialism! Defend Iraq!
“Death Mile” on the highway from Kuwait City to Iraq after massacre by U.S.
forces, 25 February 1991. U.S. war planes and helicopters circled over the road
for hours, destroying every vehicle, including ambulances, and killing thousands
of fleeing Iraqis. (Photo: E. Adams/Corbis Sygma)
“First Strike” Strategy:
The following statement by the Internationalist Group, U.S. section of the League for the Fourth International, was issued on October 17.
Imperialist war criminals are about to launch an Armageddon on the Tigris and Euphrates.
In the early morning hours of October 11, the United States Senate joined the House of Representatives in voting war powers for President George W. Bush to launch the full weight of the imperialist war machine, “as he deems appropriate and necessary,” against Iraq. The Pentagon now has a “bipartisan” green light to carry out the wanton slaughter that the White House had long since ordered. After the ritual debate and rubber-stamp approval from Congress, there will be a similar charade in the United Nations. There will then be some haggling among the “Great Powers” in this imperialist den of thieves – as Lenin called its predecessor, the League of Nations – over if and how much provocative “inspection” of Iraq to require, or whether to have a one-stage or two-stage resolution to trigger the attack. Most likely, Saddam Hussein will be presented with an ultimatum he can’t accept (as the UN did earlier with Yugoslavia’s Milosevic), demanding unhindered movement for “UN” forces inside Iraq – an invasion without war. And then, sooner rather than later, the “preemptive” U.S. invasion will be launched, the terror bombing of Baghdad will begin, and Iraqi blood will run like rivers over the sands.
The League for the Fourth International and its U.S. section, the Internationalist Group, call on the international working class to defend Iraq and fight to defeat the imperialist war, “at home” and abroad. The U.S. “superpower” has decided to show off its military prowess by carrying out mass murder on a vast scale, hoping to intimidate the rest of the world (including its “allies”) and grab direct control of the world’s second-largest oil reserves. The war on Iraq is also a war on the workers, on black and Latino minorities, on immigrants and all those in the U.S. who produce the wealth while stock market speculators and corporate criminals rake off billions and the economy goes to hell. It is a war to regiment the population for more war. This is capitalist carnage, the product of a boom-bust system which endlessly spawns war, racism and poverty. Today, U.S. rulers use endless incantations of “September 11,” hoping to befuddle the population and whip up bloodlust. The “free but responsible” media marches in lockstep to war. But no matter how much they censor the news from Baghdad, as the cruise missile show on TV is replaced by images of soldiers’ body bags, opposition to the war will increase. Many will see that the “glory” of an empire that sucks the lifeblood of the peoples of the world while keeping total control over the oil spigot means misery for the Iraqi masses, and wholesale attacks on the working class in the U.S.
It is urgently necessary to mobilize opposition to this impending slaughter. But on what program? Already 400,000 marched in London and a million and a half demonstrated around Italy against the war on Iraq. On October 26, a protest has been called in Washington, D.C. to “stop the war before it begins” (as if it ever ended). In the coming weeks, tens and hundreds of thousands will join in antiwar demonstrations where they will hear moral appeals from clergymen, slippery speeches by bourgeois “dove” politicians politely dissenting from their “hawk” colleagues, empty rhetoric from union bureaucrats who will do nothing that could endanger the capitalist system which they support. There will be a sprinkling of would-be socialists on the podium – often in the guise of one or another “campaign,” “coalition” or “mobilization” – to piece off the left and keep impatient youth in line. What they will not say is that the bloodbath won’t be stopped with peace parades and appeals to “conscience.” Calls for a more “humane” foreign policy or a multilateral approach are hogwash: the warmongers in Washington will not be swayed by appeals or opinion polls, they must be defeated. As opposed to bourgeois pacifism, we communists call instead for class war against the imperialist war.
U.S. Plans to Nuke Iraqi “Bunkers”
The invasion of this impoverished, semi-colonial country is as blatant an imperialist aggression as there has been since Mussolini attacked Ethiopia in 1935. The murderous rampages of a tin-pot strongman like Saddam Hussein are nothing compared to the devastation that is about to be unleashed by the real “Butcher of Baghdad,” who is sitting in the White /House. Washington is carrying out this carnage not because of a mythical Iraqi “threat” but because U.S. imperialism needs this war to enforce its world hegemony. In 1999, Democrat Clinton bombed hospitals in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in the name of “human rights” for Kosovo. Last year Republican Bush conquered Afghanistan, using the indiscriminate September 11 attack on the World Trade Center as an excuse. Today Bush II is preparing a new “Desert Slaughter” against Iraq, to “finish the job” that Bush I left undone in the first Gulf War. And tomorrow? The endless “war on terror” proclaimed by the U.S. will be a prelude to a third imperialist world war – in which the ultimate targets are its Japanese and European allies and rivals, who are naturally less than enthusiastic about the impending Iraq attack.
In the diplomatic horse-trading, the Europeans, Russians and Chinese in the UN Security Council want to dispatch “inspectors” to Iraq to look for “weapons of mass destruction.” (The Bush administration has gone into “thwart mode” to block this, since all its scare talk of “WMD” in Hussein’s hands is purely a pretext – sucker-bait for “lily-livered liberals” and the like – and it doesn’t want anything to delay its planned attack.) It should be clear that such inspections are nothing but spying on the victim of the upcoming imperialist attack. The U.S. now claims that Iraq “expelled” UN inspectors in November 1998, whereas the reality is that the UN withdrew them in order to make way for the U.S. bombing of Baghdad that December, code-named “Desert Fox” after the nickname for World War II German general Rommel. Iraq complained at the time that the inspectors were secretly funneling information for the U.S. It was later revealed that this is exactly what happened, as CIA and NSA agents disguised as “UNSCOM” inspectors placed an elaborate electronic eavesdropping system in key sites which was then used to guide U.S. bombers.
The claims of “legality” for the various “sanctions,” “inspections” and other measures against Iraq are ludicrous. The so-called “no-fly zones,” prohibiting Iraqi aircraft and allowing NATO warplanes over two-thirds of the country, were simply decreed by the U.S. and Britain. The UN “sanctions” cut off and then severely limited Iraqi oil exports, while prohibiting the importation of medical supplies and vitally needed machinery to restore electrical plants and waterworks systematically bombed by the U.S.-led “coalition” in the first Gulf War. The resulting toll has been more than 1.5 million Iraqi dead from preventable diseases, among them a million children, in addition to the 200,000 killed in the U.S. attacks on Baghdad, Basra and other cities. For the past dozen years, Iraq, once the most prosperous and literate country in the Near East, has been driven into dire poverty by the UN sanctions regime. Now Bush and his poodle, British prime minister Tony Blair, are getting ready to blast the country again, deepening the misery and taking untold lives. And the U.S. war planners expect the Iraqis to stand on their rooftops and welcome the “Allied” bombers as “liberators”!
Opponents of imperialism must reject demands for “inspection” and oppose all UN “sanctions” against Iraq, which are nothing but punishment of the Hussein regime and the Iraqi people for losing the 1990-91 Gulf War. U.S. imperialism has huge quantities of nuclear weapons (which it used on Japan) as well as of chemical and biological weapons (used in carpet-bombing Vietnam) – not to mention the radioactive “depleted uranium” shells it has rained on Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. So does its ally Israel. The fact is that if Iraq really had nuclear weapons, which it has every right to, this would serve as a deterrent to a U.S. invasion. Bush charges that Hussein has “used chemical weapons on its own people.” What the U.S. war propaganda leaves out is that Iraq used mustard gas, VX and other C-weapons during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war with the full knowledge of the United States, which armed Iraq, supplied it with satellite photos of Iranian positions and had on-site battlefield observers. While the existence of this clandestine program was reported by the New York Times (18 August) in a dispatch that was quickly forgotten, the Times neglected to mention that the United States also supplied Iraq with “seed chemicals” to jump-start its chemical weapons program.
The cynicism of the U.S. rulers knows no limit. While endlessly proclaiming that it is “advancing democracy,” after imposing an imperialist protectorate on Afghanistan, whose puppet “president” Karzai is guarded by U.S.-contracted mercenaries, the White House is preparing to impose a U.S. military occupation government on Iraq that will be in place for years. General Tommy Franks “would assume the role that Gen. McArthur served in Japan after its surrender in 1945” (New York Times, 11 October) – that is, he would be an all-powerful dictator over the Iraqis’ destinies. This is what is euphemistically known as “regime change” in the Orwellian language of Bush-speak. Meanwhile, amid all the talk of Hussein’s hypothetical “weapons of mass destruction,” the fact is that the Pentagon is preparing to use “tactical” nuclear weapons on Iraq. The U.S. News & World Report (22 July) revealed:
“The Pentagon’s nuclear priesthood believes an earth-penetrating nuclear bomb might be used to destroy underground bunkers…. This dramatic shift in nuclear policy is the most recent evidence of a new Bush administration military strategy that contemplates pre-emptive first strikes – and even the remote possibility of using nuclear weapons – against outlaw states such as Iraq.”Just as the German Nazis used the Spanish Civil War to try out their Messerschmidt and Junker warplanes by dive-bombing Republican columns and obliterating Guernica, the Yankee imperialists want to test-drive their nukes in the Iraqi desert…and on Iraqi cities. Don’t forget the more than 400 women and children killed in the U.S. “surgical” bombing of the Al Amiriya air raid shelter with a U.S. GBU-27 “bunker buster” in 1991.
Absolutely nobody among the movers and shakers in Washington believes the government’s stated reason for the war. Even the CIA admitted, in declassified sections of a report to the Senate Intelligence Committee, that the Iraqi regime is “drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks” against the U.S., that the chances of Hussein initiating an attack with weapons of mass destruction were “low” if unprovoked but “high” if Iraq is invaded (New York Times, 9 October). The forces that have most actively pushed for a war on Iraq are practically a caricature of “Daddy Warbucks” weapons manufacturers, military construction firms and oil millionaires extending into the White House. They think war will be great for business, and may even pull the Dow Jones stock index out of its downward spiral. Spokesmen for the Bush administration assure journalists that the fighting will all be over in a matter of two weeks to two months. The Congressional Budget Office estimates three months, at a cost of $44 billion (Wall Street Journal, 1 October).
Those who are counting on a cakewalk and getting war on the cheap may
be sorely surprised, but even if the U.S. military force is able to overwhelm
all resistance, an imperialist occupation of the country would drag on
The fight to defeat the imperialist war drive must be waged not only in Iraq but internationally, in particular in the imperialist countries, notably the United States. Asked why the administration’s drive for war suddenly went into high gear in September, coinciding with the kick-off of the fall election campaign, the White House chief of staff cynically replied: “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” The White House took the measure of the Democratic leaders, who predictably roll over and play dead when accused of being soft on Saddam. But those who think that marketing war is just like selling toothpaste could get a rude awakening from the very people they think they are hoodwinking. Popular support for this war is very thin and can be broken.
Attack on Iraq: Trigger for New World War
The Internationalist Group and League for the Fourth International (IG/LFI) warned last year, in calling to defeat the U.S. assault on Afghanistan, that Bush’s “war on terror” is a prelude to a new inter-imperialist war:
“Just as the Balkan wars of 1908-1913 fed into and touched off World War I, just as the Spanish Civil War, Japan’s invasion of China and Italian imperialism’s war on Ethiopia (Abysinnia) prepared World War II, the U.S.-led imperialist wars over the last decade against Iraq, Yugoslavia and now Afghanistan point to a third imperialist world conflagration growing out of the heightened rivalries between the major capitalist powers.”The second war on Iraq sharply escalates this drive to world war, particularly over the Bush Doctrine of “pre-emptive strikes.” Combined with growing inter-imperialist economic tensions it could trigger spiraling clashes between the “great powers,” in which erstwhile allies from the anti-Soviet war drive increasingly become enemies. While various reformist left papers – People’s Weekly World (CPUSA), Socialist Worker (ISO), and Workers World (WWP) – have reported the horrors of the Gulf War and the martyrdom of the Iraqi people under a dozen years of UN sanctions (while conveniently leaving out their own treacherous role in blocking with the Democratic liberals who first called for sanctions), they pass over lightly the wider dimensions of the new war on Iraq.
The U.S. imperialists’ war aims go far beyond seizing the Mesopotamian “cradle of civilization” and its oil riches. Last year, U.S. vice president Cheney declared that the open-ended “war on terror” would last the lifetime of most adults. Now the U.S. administration has unveiled a new military doctrine calling for “pre-emptive strikes” against perceived enemies of U.S. imperialism. “America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed,” Bush’s National Security Strategy announced in September. Proclaiming a “single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise,” the strategy talks of “the possible renewal of old patterns of great power competition” and “aggression from other great powers,” declaring “that the president has no intention of allowing any foreign power to catch up with the huge lead the United States has opened since the fall of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago” (quoted in the New York Times, 21 September). Written at Bush’s insistence in macho language so it could be understood by “the boys in Lubbock” (Texas), the document states: “Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military buildup in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.”
This is clearly not referring to Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, the Afghan Taliban, the conglomeration of Islamic “holy warriors” Washington has dubbed “Al Qaeda,” or any of the other countries currently listed on Bush’s “axis of evil.” Rather, it is aimed at the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state, the capitalist Russia that emerged from the collapse of the USSR, and the European NATO imperialists who bridle at Washington’s arrogant behavior. In a thinly veiled call for counterrevolution, the national security strategy document declares that “China’s leaders have not yet made the next series of fundamental choices about the character of their state” and warns Beijing against pursuing “advanced military capabilities that can threaten its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region.” We have repeatedly warned that the U.S. imperialists are hell-bent on destroying the remaining deformed workers states (China, Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam) along the road to a third imperialist world war. Ultimately, Washington fears the economic powerhouse of West Europe united with a resurgent Russia with its military/nuclear capabilities and tremendous oil and gas resources.
This is not a new obsession. For decades during the anti-Soviet Cold War, the U.S. was able to keep the other imperialist powers in line by emphasizing the need for a common front against the “threat of Communism.” The Soviet workers state, born of the October 1917 Revolution led by Lenin and Trotsky, was a conquest of the world proletariat which Trotskyists tenaciously defended, even after its bureaucratic degeneration under Stalin and his heirs with their conservative nationalist dogma of “socialism in one country.” The very existence of the USSR also made it difficult for Washington to simply sweep away various Soviet-allied “Third World” nationalist regimes. No more. As the Soviet-bloc regimes were crumbling under the relentless economic and military pressure of imperialism, a collapse that was prepared by the treacherous policies of “peaceful coexistence” pursued by the sell-out Stalinist bureaucracies, George Bush Sr. proclaimed the “death of Communism” and the birth of a New World Order at the time of the first Gulf War. But while the United States emerged as the “sole superpower,” a U.S.-dominated New Order has not been nailed down. Instead, the post-Soviet world has been marked by rampant disorder, with raging nationalist bloodletting and repeated imperialist wars.
Bush Jr. is the front man for the team of Cold Warriors who led the assault on the Soviet Union under Bush Sr. and who now vow to establish a global American Reich. U.S. military forces are now stationed in more than 130 countries around the world. Their purpose was summed up in a document (“Defense Strategy for the 1990’s”) written in January 1993 by Dick Cheney, then U.S. secretary of war, which is the precursor to the Bush strategy doctrine. The central focus of the Cheney document was “to preclude any hostile power from dominating a region critical to our interests” (defined as Europe, East Asia, the Middle East/Persian Gulf and Latin America) and to “strengthen the barriers against the reemergence of a global threat to the interests of the United States and our allies.” The “unilateralism” of the second government of the Bush dynasty was already laid out in this document, which declares that the U.S. must not “allow our critical interests to depend solely on international mechanisms.” Earlier drafts of the Cheney document were developed by a team led by Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby and Eric Edelman, who are once again the “defense” ideologues of Bush II.
This strategic orientation of U.S. imperialism is behind Washington’s supreme indifference to whether it has the support of the UN or an international “coalition” for its war on Iraq. The Bush gang want to demonstrate to one and all that they can go it alone, the rest of the world be damned. The United States doesn’t need Persian Gulf oil, which supplies barely 12 percent of American consumption; Europe and Japan do, and U.S. rulers want to make it clear that they can turn off Near Eastern energy supplies at will. At the same time, the Bush administration proclaims the virtue of “free trade” while slapping protectionist tariffs on steel imports and maintaining huge subsidies to American agribusiness. This has caused consternation among its NATO allies. French president Jacques Chirac has dug in his heels over Washington’s demand for a one-shot UN Security Council resolution authorizing war on Iraq. German chancellor Gerhard Schr?der just won re-election by loudly declaring he would not join an Iraq invasion, whether or not it is authorized by the United Nations. This is simply posturing, for in the end they will go along with the action demanded by the U.S. But the European imperialists are not just worried about being frozen out of a post-invasion Iraqi oil bonanza. They understand that the Bush doctrine is aimed at them.
In the United States, West Europe and other imperialist countries, the “war on terrorism” has been accompanied by a dramatic escalation of police-state repression, as we warned immediately following last year’s September 11 attack (see the IG statement, “U.S. Whips Up Imperialist War Frenzy, Drives Toward Police State” [14 September 2001] reprinted in The Internationalist No. 12, Fall 2001). The Bush regime wants to use this war as a wedge to attack trade-union rights while establishing military tribunals for “aliens” and even U.S. citizens it labels enemies, ordering indefinite detention without charge, hundreds of thousands of deportations and blatant racial profiling for immigrants, carrying out massive electronic spying, introducing pervasive “security” measures and establishing a “unified military command” with the authority to deploy the armed forces against the domestic population. The government – with the full participation of the Democrats, who first called for a “Homeland (Fatherland) Security” department – is consciously laying the basis for rule by state of siege. To defeat the drive for a police state and endless imperialist war requires a break from the twin capitalist parties of war and racism, the Democrats and Republicans, as well as minor bourgeois parties such as the Greens, and the building of a revolutionary workers party in the fight to reforge the Fourth International.
Class War Against Imperialist War – For International Socialist Revolution!
The Marxist approach to the fight against imperialist war was developed during the First World War by V. I. Lenin and the Russian Bolsheviks, in the face of the ignominious capitulation by the “Socialist” Second International, whose main parties lined up behind the respective capitalist classes in the imperialist slaughter. Lenin stressed in fighting against both open reformists and vacillating centrists that it was necessary for revolutionary socialists to stand for the defeat of “their own” bourgeoisie in the inter-imperialist war, while taking the side of colonial and semi-colonial peoples in their wars for independence from the colonial powers. In his essay “Socialism and War” (September 1915), which has been republished as a pamphlet by the Internationalist Group, Lenin wrote:
“Both the advocates of victory for their governments in the present war and advocates of the slogan ‘neither victory nor defeat,’ equally take the standpoint of social-chauvinism. A revolutionary class cannot but wish for the defeat of its government in a reactionary war, and cannot fail to see that the latter’s military reverses must facilitate its overthrow.”Lenin noted that “the sentiments of the masses in favor of peace often express incipient protest, anger and consciousness of the reactionary character of the war.” But, he said, while socialists intervene in demonstrations and protests seeking to intersect these sentiments, “they will not deceive the people by conceding the idea that peace without annexations, without the oppression of nations, without plunder, without the germs of new wars among the present governments and ruling classes is possible in the absence of a revolutionary movement.” Calling to “turn the imperialist war into civil war,” Lenin stressed that it would take international socialist revolution to achieve genuine peace. And that is the program on which the Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky carried out the October Revolution.
The policy of the organizers of the various “peace movements” around the world is diametrically opposed to this revolutionary program. Placing themselves on the political terrain of bourgeois democracy, they all implicitly or openly call on capitalist and pro-capitalist forces to put a stop to the war. In the United States, the October 26 antiwar march is sponsored by the International A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition, led by the International Action Center founded by Ramsey Clark together with the Workers World Party. This is the same Ramsey Clark who as U.S. attorney general under Lyndon Johnson presided over the murderous COINTELPRO war on the Black Panther Party. In a July 29 letter to members of the UN Security Council, Clark called on them to “denounce the continuing threats by the United States against Iraq, to demand immediate cessation of the threats and to warn the United States that an attack by it on Iraq would violate the Charter of the United Nations.”
The idea that the United Nations can bring the U.S. dogs of war to heel is just the kind of deception of the people that Lenin warned against. This feeds into the call of Democratic Party politicians who want more UN “inspections,” counterposing the “war on terror” to Bush’s war on Saddam Hussein. There is no counterposition, the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq are part of the same war and the task of UN “inspectors” will be to set it off. UN sanctions set the stage for the first Gulf War and have continued to impoverish and murder the Iraqi people ever since. From the Korean War to the war on Yugoslavia, the United Nations has served as a cover for aggression by U.S. imperialism. Now, whatever its outcome, a new UN “debate” will again lead to untold death and destruction in the Near East, not only in Iraq but also in Palestine. Israeli rulers led by the butcher Ariel Sharon are chomping at the bit to carry out mass expulsions of the Arab population from their lands in the West Bank and Gaza (euphemistically called “transfer” by the Zionists) the minute the first U.S. bomb drops on Baghdad. Revolutionaries demand an end to all sanctions and inspections of Iraq and that all U.S. and UN forces get out of the Near East, now!
If it is grotesque to ask the UN to bring the U.S. to order, it is no less absurd to call on the European imperialists to rein in the American “cowboys,” as many liberals and reformists on the Old Continent do. Ignacio Ramonet, the leader of ATTAC, the French bourgeois “anti-globalization” umbrella organization, wrote recently in Le Monde Diplomatique (October 2002):
“An empire doesn’t have allies, it only has vassals. Most of the states of the European Union seem to have forgotten this historical reality. Before our eyes, under pressure from Washington, which has obliged them to enroll in its war on Iraq, countries which are in principle sovereign have allowed themselves to be reduced to the sorry condition of satellites.”Ramonet goes on to explicitly appeal to NATO to block “this first war of the new imperial era.” He calls on “Europe” to “block the military instrument, NATO, which Washington is counting on for its imperial expansion and whose use is subject to the vote of the European states.” But these fellow imperialists already have their hands covered with blood from the wars on Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, wars that Ramonet neglects to mention because they were largely supported, to one degree or another, by the “anti-globalizers,” and they are not about to become a force for “peace.” By joining with such forces and appeals, various European pseudo-Trotskyists such as the French Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) are lining up with their own bourgeoisies, as the social democrats did in World War I.
Authentic Trotskyists call to defeat the imperialists not only on the battlefield, where Iraqi forces face massive U.S. firepower, but through mobilizing the power of the working class worldwide, independent of all bourgeois forces, against the war. U.S. seizure of Iraq could set off roiling unrest threatening decrepit “old regimes” that have a tenuous grip on power in many predominantly Muslim countries. While reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces will seek to profit from this, they do not have a monopoly on opposition to these deeply corrupt regimes. Where the war sparks broad social unrest, proletarian internationalist forces would seek to intervene with a program to pose the struggle along class lines. In Algeria, the revolt of secular youth and minority populations that swept Berber regions last year has been quieted but not eliminated – witness the recent mass boycott of the regime’s phony elections in Kabylia. In Pakistan, trade-union opposition to the U.S.-allied military dictatorship of General Musharraf has frequently clashed with Islamist jihadis (“holy warriors”). In Turkey there are sizeable leftist-led unions and numerous self-proclaimed socialist groups. In Indonesia, where shadowy military cliques allied with Muslim fundamentalists are trying to destabilize the shaky Megawati government with terrorist provocations, the opposition labor movement that helped bring down the Suharto dictatorship is restive. The question is not whether mass opposition to the imperialist war is possible, but rather on what class program it is built.
In the United States, Britain and all countries involved in the war Trotskyists call for workers actions against the war drive. This includes blocking the transport of war materiel by union pickets, demanding the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, and undertaking workers strike action against the imperialist war. Communists should vigorously protest the presence of bourgeois politicians and spokesmen at “antiwar” rallies, pointing out that the “doves” as well as the “hawks” among the capitalist politicians are all warmongers, strikebreakers and enemies of the exploited and oppressed. In the U.S., the use of the Taft-Hartley slave labor law against West Coast ILWU dock workers locked out by the maritime bosses directly posed the link between the class struggle and the fight against the imperialist war. In a series of leaflets distributed on the picket lines, the Internationalist Group called to shut the ports down tight with strike action, and to block any movement of military goods.
While IG members were present on the dock workers’ picket lines in Oakland daily during the lockout, a number of left groups showed up for a solidarity rally on October 5. The reformist International Socialist Organization and Workers World Party and Socialist Action pushed their respective popular-front “peace” events. For its part, the Spartacist League failed to mention the issue of war materiel, much less call to boycott it, in an article on the ILWU lockout. Nor did the front-page article in Workers Vanguard (4 October) utter a word of criticism of union leader of Jim Spinosa, who tried to introduce flag-waving “anti-terrorist” slogans into the strike; nor, for that matter, did it call on dock workers to defy the Taft-Hartley injunction which was clearly in the works, or urge that the rest of the working class undertake strike action against the slave labor law. Not a word about the need for international dock workers’ solidarity actions either.
The SL for many years stood for the politics of revolutionary Trotskyism, and still claims to do so. However, amid the “anti-terrorist” hysteria whipped up by the government last fall, it hesitated for weeks before calling to defend Afghanistan, and obstinately refused to call for the defeat of U.S. imperialism in the war, calling the IG and the League for the Fourth International “revolutionary phrasemongers” and supposedly pandering to “anti-Americanism” for insisting on this Leninist policy. (At the same time, the SL hailed quintessential Democratic dove Barbara Lee for dissenting from the vote of war powers for Bush, while keeping silent for weeks about the fact that she voted for the $40 billion war budget.) The SL claimed that their internationalist duties were fulfilled by calling for “class struggle at home” in war time. The ILWU lockout presented a golden opportunity to show what this meant, yet the SL was barely present at the picket lines and its propaganda ducked every single issue in which the dock workers’ struggle intersected the war!
In contrast to the early years of the Vietnam War, there is already widespread unease in the labor movement over the war on Iraq. In August, the Washington State AFL-CIO convention passed a “Resolution Against the War, Attacks on Civil Liberties and Cuts in Public Services” that sharply criticized “the national AFL-CIO’s uncritical support for this profit-driven war,” calling to “campaign for the repeal of the USA Patriot Act and defeat of similar ‘anti-terrorism’ measures,” to “refuse to cooperate with FBI spying on political, union, and anti-globalism activists or comply with INS harassment of Arabs and other immigrants and people of color in the U.S.,” to “demand the immediate release of the hundreds of Middle Eastern, Arab and other immigrants who are still being detained” and to “oppose the U.S. government’s open-ended ‘war on terrorism’.” Lest anyone think that labor officialdom had suddenly turned into a hotbed of “reds,” the resolution ended with a call to “pressure President Bush and Congress to stop the war and redirect money from corporate handouts and the military budget to assist laid-off workers.”
This is the classic “butter instead of guns” rhetoric of social-chauvinists whose real concern is the domestic costs of the war – which hinder their class-collaborationist schemes – and who would not dare to take a stand on the side of the working people of Iraq, who are once again to be the victims of monstrous war crimes that the U.S. is gearing up to commit. Moreover, this motion (and a similar one by the San Francisco Labor Council) would never have been passed but for the fact that the local Democratic Party had come out against the war. The fact that Democrats in the House of Representatives voted 126-81 against the war powers resolution is indicative of the divided opinion in the country. (Recent polls show barely 51 percent for the war, falling to 33 percent if there are 5,000 casualties – so much for the premature announcement of the death of the “Vietnam Syndrome.”) But the House Democrats “took pains to describe their vote as not simply a pacifist protest against all military action, but rather a difference of opinion on the need for an international force versus unilateral action” (New York Times, 11 October). Rather than an “open-ended ‘war on terrorism’,” they want a more “focused” war arguing that the main enemy is Bin Laden, not Hussein. We say the enemy is U.S. imperialism, which is by far the most murderous terrorist force around.
The fight against the renewed war on Iraq and the U.S.-dominated “New World Order” must be a fight against the imperialist system, which can only be swept away through international socialist revolution. It means a fight against all brands of bourgeois nationalism and religious reaction and in favor of proletarian internationalism. In the Near East, Trotskyists defend the besieged Palestinian population against the Zionist occupation in fighting for an Arab-Hebrew workers state, opposing any religious-based state (whether the “Jewish state” of Israel or an “Islamic republic”) and recognizing the national rights of both peoples crowded together in this tiny land.
In Iraq as well, we fight for workers revolution to throw out the bloody dictator Saddam Hussein, who was installed with U.S. help, supplied by the CIA with lists of Communists to kill, and armed by the Pentagon to fight against Khomeini’s Iran. This revolution would bring together workers and peasants from the Shi’ite Muslim majority and Sunni Muslim minority, as well as Kurds, Turkomens and other national minorities. Recognizing that the current national boundaries were established in the imperialist carve-up of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, communists call for a socialist republic of united Kurdistan.
A successful workers revolution anywhere in the region would sound the death knell for tottering monarchies such as Saudi Arabia and Morocco, nationalist military-dominated regimes (Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Algeria) and imperialist protected oil sheikdoms (Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, etc.), while offering the prospect of liberation for Iranian working people who have smarted under the dictatorship of the shah and the mullahs. As in the case of Israel/Palestine and other countries (such as Lebanon) with intractable national and communal divisions, disputes over conflicting democratic rights and scarce resources such as oil and water can only be resolved in the framework of a socialist federation of the Near East, which would make possible all-sided social emancipation, in particular for women. While the imperialists inflame national hostilities with their talk of a “clash of civilizations,” the communist program alone can overcome the colonial heritage of “divide and rule” and bring together all the nations, peoples and fragments of peoples who are scattered through the region precisely because it has always been a crossro+ads of civilizations.
Defeat U.S. Imperialism – Defend Iraq! For International Socialist
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