Workers Vanguard No. 934
10 April 2009
For a Socialist United States of Europe!
Down With NATO!
U.S./NATO Troops Out of Afghanistan Now!
Statement of the International Communist League
The following statement was issued on March 27 by the International Executive Committee of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist). The statement was distributed by our comrades of the Ligue Trotskyste de France and the Spartakist Workers Party of Germany, sections of the ICL, at anti-NATO protests in Strasbourg, France. It was also distributed by the Spartacist League/Britain at the London G-20 protests on April 1 and 2. To protect NATO’s bloody imperialist rulers from justified outrage, the city center of Strasbourg was placed in a state of armed siege days before the summit, while in the suburbs thousands of anti-NATO demonstrators from across Europe were met with brutal cop terror. On April 4, an estimated 50 people were injured by France’s notorious CRS riot cops. The French cops had taken their cue from the London cops, who had brutally suppressed the earlier G-20 protests. The police rampage in London led to the death of Ian Tomlinson, a 47-year-old man. Three witnesses told the London Guardian (7 April) that Tomlinson was struck with a police baton and thrown to the ground by a cop, his head hitting against the pavement. Over 300 people were arrested during the anti-NATO protests. At least six demonstrators have already been sentenced to three to six months in jail by a Strasbourg court. Such state repression targets the entire workers movement. Free all the protesters! Drop all charges! For working-class protests against state repression!
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At their April meeting in Strasbourg, France, new U.S. president Barack Obama and the leaders of Germany, France and other NATO member states will celebrate the 60th anniversary of this imperialist alliance. The meeting will be held against the backdrop of the ongoing, brutal neocolonial occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the recent slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, and a growing world economic crisis that threatens the livelihoods of hundreds of millions. Almost 18 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the incessant bourgeois mantras about the superiority of capitalism notwithstanding, this deeply irrational system is itself proving once again that Karl Marx was right.
The only way out of the blind alley into which capitalism has led humanity is international proletarian revolution to rip the productive forces from the hands of an exploiting minority and organize society on a rational basis. International workers rule is needed to clean up the mess that decaying capitalist imperialism has made and to lay the basis for a classless, communist society in which economic scarcity, exploitation, oppression and war are relics of a benighted past. The starting point is the Marxist understanding that the working class cannot wield the capitalist state for its own interests; rather that state must be smashed and replaced by a workers state, the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Tens of thousands are expected to demonstrate against the NATO anniversary summit, and the bourgeois state is preparing to meet them with the jackboot of police repression. But the aim of the protest organizers—who reject the aims of communism and the proletarian, revolutionary and internationalist strategy needed to realize them—is to lobby the imperialists for a little “change” to better sell their system of exploitation to workers and the oppressed. The social democrats, liberal “anti-globalization” types and bourgeois-pacifists peddle hoary phrases about a “policy of peace” and “international cooperation” in order to deceive the masses and advance the interests of their own bourgeoisies. The anarchists mobilizing for the demos—with the call, for example, “Smash, we can!”—have nothing to offer but the illusion of “forcing” disarmament under capitalism.
The drive toward war is as inextricably rooted in the capitalist system as the drive to increase profit. Imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism, marked by the domination of the globe by a small exclusive club of capitalist great powers that lord it over the weaker, dependent nations. Twice in the past century, interimperialist competition for resources, markets and spheres of exploitation erupted in cataclysmic world wars. In 1915, in the midst of the first interimperialist war, the outstanding Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin attacked those who spread illusions in capitalism by preaching “peace in general”:
“Nothing throws more dust in the eyes of the workers, nothing imbues them with a more deceptive idea about the absence of deep contradictions between capitalism and socialism, nothing embellishes capitalist slavery more than this deception does. No, we must make use of the desire for peace so as to explain to the masses that the benefits they expect from peace cannot be obtained without a series of revolutions.”
—“The Question of Peace” (1915)
Guided by this revolutionary program, Lenin and the Bolsheviks led the 1917 October Revolution, which overthrew capitalism and ripped Russia out of the First World War.
The NATO war alliance was forged after World War II—and the Soviet Red Army’s victory over Hitler’s Third Reich—as part of the imperialists’ drive to “roll back Communism.” From the Korean War in the 1950s to the military coup in the NATO outpost Turkey in 1980, the U.S.-led anti-Soviet crusade was sealed with the blood of millions of workers, leftists and oppressed nationalities. The imperialist world order of today is shaped by the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92. This was a historic defeat for the working masses internationally, especially for the populations of the former Soviet Union, East Europe and the ex-DDR [East Germany] who have faced mass poverty. Capitalist restoration was accompanied by and further fueled communalist slaughter and fratricidal bloodletting, as seen most recently in the war between Russia and the U.S. client state of Georgia. The collapse of the USSR fueled the imperialists’ appetites to stomp all over the world with impunity. The catastrophic results of counterrevolution underline the vital importance today of the unconditional military defense of China, the most powerful of the remaining bureaucratically deformed workers states, and the other countries where capitalist rule has been overthrown: Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam. We call for proletarian political revolution to replace the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracies with regimes based on workers democracy and Bolshevik internationalism.
Barack Obama: Commander-in-Chief of Racist U.S. Imperialism
Today, it’s necessary to reassert the elementary understanding that the president of the American capitalist state is the class enemy of the world’s workers and oppressed, especially of the U.S. proletariat, immigrants and the specially oppressed black population. While the decision to close Guantánamo (within a year) and review the release of some detainees was much-hyped, Obama has endorsed indefinite detention, reminiscent of police-state dictatorships, and he is more generally dedicated to continuing Bush’s “war on terror.” In this, he is in full agreement with the European rulers, who merely wished to give a little “humanitarian” window-dressing for this crusade, which has been used by every imperialist government to strengthen state repression against oppressed minorities and the working class and to ideologically justify imperialist depredations. The U.S., UN and EU [European Union] have applied sanctions against Iran and continue to threaten it over its nuclear program. It could not be clearer that Iran needs nuclear weapons to deter an imperialist attack.
As U.S. imperialism seeks an “exit strategy” from the quagmire in devastated Iraq, the focus under Obama has shifted to Afghanistan, where a NATO occupation force of 68,000 troops, including a non-U.S. contingent of 32,000, continues in its eighth year of ravaging the country. Obama campaigned and took office pledging to draw down U.S. troop levels in Iraq in order to pursue what a significant section of the U.S. bourgeoisie sees as more strategic aims. Now he is doing just that, sending an additional 17,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan and escalating murderous U.S. bombing attacks on villages in neighboring Pakistan. For years, the U.S. propped up one dictatorial regime after another in Islamabad, simultaneously fostering the growth of Islamic fundamentalist forces favored by the Pakistani military. Now this unstable, nuclear-armed country could well start coming apart at the seams under the impact of Obama’s extension of the Afghan war and U.S. pressure on the Pakistani military to clear the Taliban and its allies out of the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
The military escalation takes place as the economic base of U.S. imperialism is undergoing a meltdown that has taken on international proportions. The contradiction between U.S. imperialism’s overwhelming military might and its weakened economic position is the cause of the heightened irrationality and aggressiveness of the U.S. rulers. They see the Obama presidency as their best bet in this situation for asserting their dominant position. Doing its bit, the reformist left in the U.S. embraced a perspective of “Anybody but Bush.” They were over the moon about Obama’s victory, as exemplified by the Workers World Party, which gushed in the 20 November 2008 issue of its paper: “As communists and revolutionaries we take joy with the oppressed and other progressives as they gather in jubilation from Harlem to Colombia to Japan to Kenya with the election of Obama.”
In sharp counterposition to such grotesque enthusing over the new Commander-in-Chief of blood-drenched U.S. imperialism, the Spartacist League/U.S., section of the International Communist League, opposed on principle any support to Obama and all other bourgeois politicians, fighting to break workers, youth and oppressed from illusions in the capitalist Democratic Party and to forge the revolutionary multiracial workers party needed to sweep away U.S. imperialism. Our U.S. section told the truth about what the Obama presidency will mean, writing directly after the elections:
“From the standpoint of the international working class and oppressed there is nothing to celebrate in Obama’s victory and much to fear. Enthusiasm among large sections of the bourgeoisie, on the other hand, is justified. After nearly eight years of one of the most incompetent and widely despised regimes in recent U.S. history, they now have in Obama a more rational face for their brutal, irrational system. Obama has also inspired illusions in the trappings of bourgeois democracy, the means by which the capitalists disguise their rule with the appearance of a popular mandate. Abroad, Obama provides an invaluable facelift for U.S. imperialism, the main enemy of the world’s working people.”
—Workers Vanguard No. 925,
21 November 2008
European Reformists Back Their Own Imperialist Rulers
For their part, the European reformists also hail Obama’s victory in the name of bourgeois “lesser evil” politics. They view the Obama administration, through the lens of their own capitalist exploiters, as more reasonable and “multilateralist” than its predecessor. Thus Gregor Gysi, Oskar Lafontaine and Lothar Bisky, leaders of the social-democratic Die Linke (The Left party) in Germany, sent Obama their “most heartfelt congratulations”: “The worldwide fight to eliminate poverty, for a peaceful resolution of conflicts, against the environmental catastrophe and currently against the most severe international financial crisis in 80 years, require closer cooperation and collaboration by the community of states on the basis of the rule of international law” (5 November 2008) [www.die-linke.de].
Chiming in from the “far left” was Alain Krivine, leader of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR), the French section of the fake-Trotskyist “United Secretariat,” which has since liquidated into its own creation, the openly social-democratic New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA). While acknowledging that Obama is a “defender of capitalism,” Krivine enthused in the 22 January issue of the LCR’s newspaper Rouge: “His popularity and the hopes that it raises are on a scale with the discredit, the disgust even, that Bush’s policies left behind. So, let’s not sulkily refuse to show our pleasure in finally seeing a total condemnation of what was one of the most reactionary presidencies of the United States. Better late than never.”
As these tributes to the new top cop of U.S. imperialism underline, the reformists’ opposition to certain U.S./NATO policies, like the invasion of Iraq in 2003 or sending more troops to Afghanistan today, has nothing to do with opposition to the imperialist system. Rather, they see these policies as going against the “national interests” of their own capitalist countries, which they feel would be better served through more independence from the U.S.-dominated NATO, for example through a capitalist French-German-Russian axis as Lafontaine advocates. In mobilizing for the Strasbourg demonstrations, the French NPA demands centrally that “France should renounce its integration in the military command of NATO,” while reformist groups in Germany, especially the Communist Party (DKP), Junge Welt and the Stalinist remnants around the Communist Platform of Die Linke, campaign for German imperialism to “leave NATO.”
In late 2002, the LCR, Rifondazione Comunista of Italy and the Socialist Workers Party and Workers Power of Britain joined in signing an appeal “To All Citizens of Europe and to All Their Representatives”: “Those who show solidarity with the people of Iraq have no hearing in the White House. But we do have the chance to influence European governments—many of whom have opposed the war. We call on all the European heads of state to publicly stand against this war, whether it has UN backing or not, and to demand that George Bush abandon his war plans.” What a whitewash of the German bourgeoisie of Auschwitz, of the French imperialists who soaked Algeria in blood, of the British occupiers of Northern Ireland and the Italian butchers of Ethiopia. The only reason the European imperialists are currently more reserved about embarking on their own imperialist adventures abroad is because their military power is vastly inferior to that of the U.S.
This groveling appeal amnestied the European governments that were up to their necks in the “war on terror” and the occupations of Afghanistan and the Balkans. It objectively aided the massive racist and anti-working-class attacks carried out domestically by these very same capitalist governments. Now that Obama is president, the European reformists seem to think their rulers will have a “hearing in the White House”—if only enough “mass pressure” is applied.
In the lead-up to the 1999 air war against Serbia and the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, we of the ICL stood for the military defense of those countries against imperialist attack without giving any political support to the reactionary, woman-hating Taliban cutthroats or the bloody capitalist dictatorships of Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic. We opposed the United Nations’ starvation blockade of Iraq and other imperialist UN sanctions. We underlined that every victory for the imperialists in their military adventures encourages more predatory wars; every setback serves to assist the struggles of working people and the oppressed the world over. We call for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S., NATO, EU and UN forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Near East, Central Asia and the Balkans. The chief means of defending the victims of neocolonial oppression against the overwhelming military might of American imperialism and its NATO allies is international working-class struggle, especially by the multiracial U.S. proletariat and its class brothers and sisters in Europe, Japan and elsewhere.
The reformists’ social-chauvinism and prostration to the imperialist rulers in foreign policy is matched “at home” by their support for class collaboration and protectionism. The global economic crisis is shredding the illusion that there can be ongoing imperialist unity, either within Europe or between Europe and the U.S. Meanwhile, the West European imperialists have told their East European client bourgeoisies to go to hell. And, as always, the labor lieutenants of capitalism stand at the side of their “own” exploiters. In Germany, the SPD [Social Democratic Party], Die Linke and the trade-union bureaucracy campaign for the car manufacturer Opel, currently owned by General Motors, to “become German again.” In Britain, the UNITE and GMB trade-union bureaucracies backed strikes in February of construction workers demanding “British jobs for British workers,” a slogan long associated with the fascists (who joined in strike rallies) and recently affirmed by Labour prime minister Gordon Brown. Scandalously, the British section of the pseudo-Trotskyist Committee for a Workers’ International, led by Peter Taaffe, apologized for and helped lead these reactionary strikes.
The workers movement has a vital interest in defending foreign workers, fighting for full citizenship rights for all immigrants and mobilizing against racist terror and attacks on democratic rights. The logic of reformism is inherently nationalist, splitting the working class along national, ethnic and racial lines in a scramble for the few crumbs the capitalists are willing to toss their wage slaves. To break through this losing game requires a program of international class struggle against the common capitalist enemy. As Leon Trotsky, co-leader with V.I. Lenin of the October Revolution, wrote in 1934:
“Not to bind itself to the national state in time of war, to follow not the war map but the map of the class struggle, is possible only for that party that has already declared irreconcilable war on the national state in time of peace. Only by realizing fully the objectively reactionary role of the imperialist state can the proletarian vanguard become invulnerable to all types of social patriotism. This means that a real break with the ideology and policy of ‘national defence’ is possible only from the standpoint of the international proletarian revolution.”
—“War and the Fourth International”
We fight in this spirit to make the working class conscious of the need to bring down racist Fortress Europe and the capitalist European Union through workers revolution. The EU is a reactionary anti-working-class alliance centered on the main European imperialist powers, which seek to improve their competitive position against their American and Japanese rivals. For a Socialist United States of Europe and an international socialist planned economy!
For New October Revolutions Worldwide!
In the 1980s, Afghanistan was also in the center of the NATO imperialists’ war drive. In late 1979, the Soviet Red Army intervened in Afghanistan after repeated requests from the modernizing nationalist PDPA regime, which sought to introduce minimal social reforms and faced a U.S.-backed jihad (holy war) led by reactionary landlords, tribal chiefs and mullahs. The U.S. imperialists seized on the Soviet intervention as a pretext for a renewed anti-Soviet crusade, massively training and funding the reactionary mujahedin—mainly through the agency of the Pakistani military and its Inter-Services Intelligence—to kill Soviet soldiers. The Taliban and Al Qaeda are Frankenstein’s monsters turned on their former imperialist masters.
The Soviet intervention was unambiguously progressive, underlining the Trotskyist understanding that despite its degeneration under a Stalinist bureaucratic caste, the Soviet Union remained a workers state embodying historic gains of the October Revolution, centrally the planned economy and collectivized property. These were enormous gains, not least for women and the historically Muslim peoples of Soviet Central Asia. During the Soviet intervention, Afghan women militia volunteers fought with arms in hand against the CIA-backed mujahedin cutthroats for the basic right to not wear the burqa and not be sold like cattle. The international Spartacist tendency, now the ICL, said “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!” and called to extend the social gains of October to the Afghan peoples.
On the other side, the mujahedin and the imperialists were joined by the bulk of the reformist left internationally, who joined with their masters in howling for the withdrawal of Soviet forces. We Trotskyists of the ICL uniquely fought down the line against counterrevolution, from East Berlin to Moscow, seeking on this basis to mobilize the working masses to sweep away the sellout Stalinist bureaucrats and establish the rule of workers councils. In this, we were guided by the same revolutionary internationalist program with which we fight today to forge revolutionary workers parties as sections of a reforged Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution. The road of international proletarian revolution offers the only alternative to the destruction of humanity by imperialism. Down with imperialism! For new October Revolutions worldwide!