“Anti-Terror” Law Targets Labor, Minorities

No to Bosses’ “National Unity”! For Class Struggle at Home!

Correction Appended

The following article was published in Workers Vanguard No. 768, 9 November 2001. WV is the biweekly newspaper of the Spartacist League/U.S., American section of the ICL.

NOVEMBER 6—The weeks of relentless pounding of Afghanistan by thousands of bombs and missiles have produced the intended result. Villages have been reduced to rubble and then reduced to an even finer rubble, with hospitals destroyed, Red Cross facilities obliterated, entire families blown to smithereens. “Humanitarian aid,” i.e., peanut butter, is dropped wrapped in yellow, the color of cluster bombs, the only purpose of the latter being to randomly maim and slaughter. With the Taliban virtually unscathed, the seemingly aimless character of the war has sowed dissension in the ranks of imperialist America’s bloc partners, primarily those in the Arab/Muslim world and in Europe. These are disturbed by any number of “what ifs.” What if the war destabilizes Pakistan, putting its nuclear capability up for grabs? What if it triggers a further war between India and Pakistan, plunging the region into chaos? What if access to oil is disrupted? What if these powers are inexorably drawn from their current status as cheerleaders into a shooting war in which they have no direct interest?

The destruction of the World Trade Center was a criminal act that incinerated thousands of ordinary, innocent people. But it is not the death of ordinary people that moves America’s rulers. After all, bin Laden is a Frankenstein’s monster that turned on his creator, American imperialism, which unleashed him and other Islamic reactionaries, like the Taliban, against the Red Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s as part of its decades-long drive to smash the Soviet Union. In its crusade against “godless Communism,” Washington readily accepted the re-enslavement of Afghan women as “collateral damage.” A few years ago, Madeleine Albright also made clear that the death by starvation and disease of over a million Iraqis in the defense of U.S. imperial interests in the Near East was acceptable collateral damage. Using that brutal calculus, it is fair to ask if the thousands killed in the World Trade Center were also “acceptable collateral damage” for U.S. imperialism’s victory in the Cold War.

The U.S. rulers seize on the real horror of the American people over the attack on the World Trade Center. But from the imperialists’ standpoint, the “crime” of September 11 is the insult to their appetites for world domination represented by the attack on the nerve center of U.S. military power, the Pentagon. The Bush administration’s response to the attacks was to proclaim that the world had to decide: either for “us” or against “us” in a war scheduled to last, perhaps, a lifetime, against any and every challenge to American imperialism. This is the response of a swaggering bully. America’s rulers seek to assure that their drive for profits, based on the exploitation of the working class here and abroad, will encounter no obstacles.

The jobs that are, in the short run, sometimes available as a result of imperialist ventures and wars are today, in the context of a worldwide depression, not to be found. While many workers from around the country have poured into New York City to donate their time and labor in the aftermath of the WTC disaster, the powers that be are satisfied to allow the small businessmen closed down by the devastation to go under. Over 600,000 jobs have been slashed nationwide just since September, and those unemployed will join the ranks of millions of others in the midst of a deepening recession.

Postal workers are ordered to work, the threat of anthrax notwithstanding, while the Senators, Congressmen and Supreme Court justices are carefully insulated from any possible exposure. On Friday, firemen in New York City fought through police barricades to protest against being pulled off the search for the bodies of their own as well as other victims of the attack. One fireman hit the nail right on the head when he pointed out that the dead were being left as garbage for the power shovels now that the gold caches stored in the subbasement of the WTC had been found and secured.

It has only been a few weeks since the air war against Afghanistan began, and it is becoming increasingly clear to many poor and working people that they have everything to lose by supporting Bush’s crusade for “Enduring Freedom,” including such scant freedoms as are now accessible to them. As we said in our initial statement on the World Trade Center attack (WV No. 764, 14 September): “The ruling parties—Democrats and Republicans—are all too eager to be able to wield the bodies of those who were killed and wounded in order to reinforce capitalist class rule. It’s an opportunity for the exploiters to peddle ‘one nation indivisible’ patriotism to try to direct the burgeoning anger at the bottom of this society away from themselves and toward an indefinable foreign ‘enemy,’ as well as immigrants in the U.S., and to reinforce their arsenal of domestic state repression against all the working people.”

Over 1,100 non-citizens have been rounded up and held, most deprived of access to lawyers or their families. The cynically labeled “USA-Patriot Act 2001” authorizes preventive detention of non-citizens for seven days without charges and effectively indefinitely once they are charged, legalizes FBI break-ins and authorizes the CIA to engage in domestic spying. It also defines “terrorist” to include anyone who is deemed an opponent of the government. The sinister nature of this is already apparent to many black Americans. Reflecting such apprehensions, Chicago-area Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. pointed out: “The terrorists didn’t attack the Statue of Liberty, the Constitution or the Bill of Rights or the Declaration of Independence. They attacked the symbols of our economic and military power in the world. It’s the supporters of this bill who are really attacking American liberties that are contained in our most sacred historical documents.”

The federal “anti-terror” law is accompanied by a series of other proposed measures targeting port and maritime workers, airline workers and others for increased surveillance and victimization. Lest workers forget that labor militancy is not a right in the eyes of our bourgeois rulers, South Carolina’s attorney general recently issued a chilling reminder. Referring to the Charleston Five, longshoremen who face prison terms for defending their union against the use of scab labor, he intoned, “I’m against forcing people to join unions in order to get a job. And so this whole idea of ends justifying the means, as we know these terrorists that killed so many people, that’s exactly their argument.”

The “terror” that concerns the U.S. imperialists is any resistance to their prerogatives and class rule. The defense of Afghanistan against imperialist attack is integrally linked to the defense of the working masses here against increasing exploitation and oppression, which requires the overturn of the imperialist order through workers revolution. The task is to educate and mobilize the proletariat to that end. And that requires breaking the allegiance of the workers to their class-collaborationist, social-chauvinist leaders.

Centrists and Renegades

Reformist groups like the International Socialist Organization and Workers World Party, who busy themselves attempting to enlist dissident Democratic Party politicians (currently with scant success) in building “peace” coalitions, offer up the pipe dream of an imperialist system cleansed of war and injustice. We Marxists say that only workers revolution can end imperialist war, and as part of that task we seek to break the proletariat from the chauvinist “national front” and to mobilize class-struggle opposition to the war. And while such a perspective may seem remote in the U.S. today, in Italy the COBAS (Rank and File committees) unions have called for a political general strike on November 9 in opposition to the imperialist war against Afghanistan and to the Italian government’s assault on social benefits. Similarly in 1999, the COBAS launched a one-day general strike in opposition to the U.S.-led NATO air war against Serbia. Such labor actions against the war in this country would challenge the jingoist “national unity” used to cement the workers behind the war aims of their capitalist exploiters.

Our perspective is based on the experience of the October Revolution of 1917, which triumphed amid the slaughter of World War I because of the Bolshevik program of turning the imperialist war into a civil war. Proletarian opposition to the imperialist depredations of the exploiters can, in the words of Leon Trotsky, be pursued “only through the revolutionary mobilization of the masses, that is, by widening, deepening, and sharpening those revolutionary methods which constitute the content of class struggle in ‘peacetime’” (“Learn to Think,” May 1938).

This is the understanding we have propagated in our sales at work locations, in the ghettos and in all our interventions at antiwar protests and meetings. Nevertheless, the Internationalist Group (IG), a handful of centrist renegades who fled our organization in the mid-1990s under the pressures of imperialist “death of communism” triumphalism, have recently taken us to task for having “flinched” in the face of the jingoist warmongering now rampant in this country. In an Internet manifesto dated October 2001, the IG excoriates us for our supposed “opposition to calling for the defeat of ‘their own’ bourgeoisie in an imperialist war. All talk of socialist revolution comes down to ‘pie in the sky in the sweet bye-and-bye’ if you don’t come out four-square for the defeat of ‘your own’ bourgeoisie in an imperialist war.”

At bottom, the IG deliberately muddles the question of a military defeat in a particular war with the proletarian defeat of one’s bourgeoisie through socialist revolution. The latter is the program animating any truly revolutionary party in peacetime as in wartime. The slogans used to proceed toward that end—to lead the working masses from their current level of consciousness to the seizure of state power—are, however, necessarily conjunctural. Thus, upon returning to Russia after the overthrow of the tsar in early 1917, Lenin had to fight against those in the Bolshevik Party who wished to lend support to the bourgeois Provisional Government. Having won this battle, he then had to caution left proletarian elements of the party who wanted to immediately call for the overthrow of the Provisional Government. On 5 May 1917, the Central Committee passed the following motion authored by Lenin: “The slogan ‘Down with the Provisional Government!’ is an incorrect one at the present moment because, in the absence of a solid (i.e., a class-conscious and organised) majority of the people on the side of the revolutionary proletariat, such a slogan is either an empty phrase, or, objectively, amounts to attempts of an adventurist character.”

The IG, in an effort to back up its empty phrasemongering, offers the following example: “The French defeat at the hands of the Algerian independence fighters culminating in 1962 demoralized the French bourgeoisie and helped lead to the worker-student revolt of 1968, which posed the first potentially revolutionary crisis in Europe in years.” In reality, the eight-year-long colonial war in Algeria bears no resemblance to what is happening in Afghanistan today.

It is interesting to examine our position of defense of Afghanistan against the U.S. onslaught as compared to a situation which was, in some ways, similar: the 1935 invasion of Ethiopia by imperialist Italy. Ethiopia under Emperor Haile Selassie was a cruelly oppressive society—one of the world’s last bastions of chattel slavery—characterized by tribal backwardness, subjugation of minority peoples and unremitting exploitation of the peasant masses. Revolutionaries defended Ethiopia against Mussolini’s Italy because the latter was an imperialist power, regardless of the fact that the form of imperialist rule was fascist rather than democratic.

In calling on the working class to defend Afghanistan against U.S. imperialism, we apply the same Leninist principle of siding with backward countries against imperialist attack. That said, the U.S. war against Afghanistan is in important ways different from the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, which was aimed at realizing Italy’s longstanding intention to colonize that country. The U.S. does not aim at an occupation of Afghanistan—at least not at this point—although now that they’re in Central Asia the imperialists will grab what they can. In attacking Afghanistan, the U.S. seeks vengeance for the insult to its imperial might.

Such is not always easily available even to the mightiest imperialist power. In the 19th century, when Britain was the world’s leading imperialist state, its ambassador to Bolivia disdainfully declined a cup of Bolivian beer. Bolivian officials were so offended by his condescending attitude that they dragged him through the streets of La Paz tied across the back of a donkey, then forced him to drink a whole barrel of the brew. Infuriated by this act of lèse majesté, Queen Victoria insisted that the Royal Navy bombard Bolivia in retaliation. When one of her advisers finally summoned up the courage to inform her that Bolivia was landlocked, the queen demanded a map and, dipping her pen in an inkwell, marked a bold X across the country, declaring “Bolivia does not exist!”

The IG’s spurious analogy with colonial wars notwithstanding, it seems currently unlikely that the U.S. will launch a significant land invasion of Afghanistan. Indeed, its maiden efforts in this regard, a commando raid in October, led to results that must have induced nightmares of the humiliating American defeat in Vietnam among the Pentagon brass. The London Independent (30 October) reported: “The raid was a purely cosmetic one for the benefit of the media and the public on a target, which intelligence had claimed, would be poorly defended. The tenacity of the Taliban in fighting back has so alarmed the Pentagon that no further raids have taken place since.”

Washington’s most likely variant at this time is for continued, incessant and purposeless bombing for which the Taliban has no possible military redress. Again, this was not the case in the 1935 Italo-Ethiopian war. Italy was a second-rate imperialist power riven by sharp class contradictions and constrained in its intentions by its bigger imperialist rivals. Although in the upshot Italy was victorious after a seven-month-long ground war, it was not unreasonable for the then-Trotskyist U.S. Socialist Workers Party to project a possible military victory by Ethiopia:

“It can be said without exaggeration that a defeat of Italy and a revolution on the Apennine peninsula can have unforeseeable results. The whole European system of alliances and states would fall apart. The proletariat in Germany, Austria, Spain, on the Balkans, and not least of all in France, would receive an enormous impulsion; the face of Europe would be altered. That lies in the direct class interests of the international proletariat. But still more. A defeat of Italy in Africa, a victory of Ethiopia, might deliver the imperialist bandits a terrific blow in Africa.”

— “Questions of the Italo-Ethiopian War,” New International (October 1935)

None of these factors currently constrain the U.S., although, to be sure, the war will exacerbate tensions among the imperialist powers, and its price in misery at home may awaken class combativity in the American proletariat. Thus, the call for a U.S. military defeat is, at this time, illusory and the purest hot air and “revolutionary” phrasemongering—and one which derives from forsaking the mobilization of the U.S. proletariat with the aim of the conquest of state power.

Unlike the IG, the SL is committed to breaking the American working class and the oppressed from their class-collaborationist bondage to the Democratic Party and to forging a revolutionary workers party to overthrow American imperialism through socialist revolution. While the IG waxes oh-so-revolutionary in the ether of cyberspace, we actually fight for a proletarian, revolutionary, internationalist perspective on the ground. In a recent intervention at a rally at the ILWU Local 10 longshore union hall in San Francisco in defense of the Charleston Five (see WV No. 767, 26 October), an SL supporter called for class struggle at home and for defense of Afghanistan against the imperialist attack. “Both ruling parties,” she declared, “are fanning the flames of patriotic fervor to line up the population behind their military aims abroad and to further chain the working class to the interests of the bosses at home.” She concluded as follows:

“For decades, the pro-capitalist AFL-CIO leadership has tied workers to their class enemy through support to the Democrats....

“For that reason, we believe it is necessary to wage a political struggle within the unions to forge a revolutionary workers party that will fight for black freedom, for immigrant rights and for our class brothers and sisters abroad against U.S. imperialism. Such a party will lead the fight to get rid of the capitalist order and create a workers government and a new society without exploitation. This is the only road to end racism and war forever. Those who labor must rule!”

In order to tell the truth about this imperialist war, our comrade had to battle the disruptions of one Jack Heyman, a left-talking ILWU local bureaucrat styled by the IG as a “workers leader,” who was thwarted in his efforts by longshoremen in the audience.

We Said: Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!

The IG’s r-r-revolutionary phrasemongering is shared by another clot of centrists, as exemplified by a 9 October joint statement signed by the League for a Revolutionary Communist International (LRCI, centered on the British Workers Power group), the Morenoite Fraccíon Trotskysta in Mexico and the Communist League-Workers Power in Greece. They, too, are enamored with the call for “defeat of the imperialist forces.” Where the IG attacks us for focusing on the indefensible nature of the indiscriminate attack on the World Trade Center, their centrist counterparts omit altogether any condemnation of the slaughter of thousands of ordinary working people and minorities in that attack, indicating a congruence with the worldview shared by U.S. imperialism’s leaders and Islamic fundamentalists inspired by bin Laden—that entire peoples are responsible for the crimes of their rulers.

In the case of the LRCI et al., anti-Americanism is intermingled with preposterous slogans and some very red rhetoric to appeal to any and all who might read it, from the psychiatrically challenged to youth in search of an alternative to pacifism and reformism. The red rhetoric is unserious bombast, as captured in the call on “soldiers to organise resistance in the armed forces...to rebel against the imperialists and their mass-murdering Generals” and on “workers in the munitions factories to boycott and sabotage imperialist war production.” For these opportunists, words are meant not for the class struggle but for Greek tavernas, English pubs and Latin American cantinas. In Britain, the real substance of Workers Power’s “revolutionary defeatism” is captured in their organizing to “LOBBY PARLIAMENT as it debates the war.”

Indeed, voting Labour is just about the only “principle” the British Workers Power group adheres to. In 1997 as well as this year Workers Power voted for “Bomber Blair” and his Labour Party. In the 1999 NATO war against Serbia, the LRCI was marching in demonstrations shot through with placards reading “NATO Good Luck,” championing the Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, which was then a pawn for NATO. Their current left posturing over Afghanistan is a function both of the growing unpopularity of the U.S. bombing among Europeans and the peripheral nature of Afghanistan from the standpoint of the European imperialists.

As to the preposterous, there is the call for “united action of all Afghan forces—including Islamist forces—to repel the imperialist assault,” a task of interest to those who believe in alchemy. The notion that there can be any but the most ephemeral unity among the various tribes within Afghanistan’s borders is belied by a history of constant internecine conflict. These peoples have no coherent national interest because Afghanistan is not a nation. The “Afghan forces” are today, as in the past, engaged in shooting at each other, with the Taliban, based on the dominant Pashtun people, arrayed against the largely Tajik and Uzbek Northern Alliance, which currently acts as a puppet of U.S. imperialism.

Declaring “Afghanistan has suffered over 20 years of war,” the LRCI joint statement lumps together the CIA-backed mujahedin war against the Red Army intervention in Afghanistan with the later war among the rival mujahedin groups, the Taliban and the components of the Northern Alliance. In other words, the LRCI and its current bloc partners are united in hoping that no one will look too closely at where they stood on the U.S. proxy war in Afghanistan at the time! We hailed the Red Army in Afghanistan and fervently desired that Soviet commandos would take out the Islamic fanatics who threw acid in the faces of unveiled women and murdered those who dared teach young girls. Not so Workers Power, which condemned the Soviet presence while stopping short of echoing the imperialist cry for a Red Army withdrawal. The Morenoites openly backed the mujahedin. In France, they called for the Soviet Army to pull out of Afghanistan and leave its arms with the anti-Communist Islamic guerrillas. In Italy, the Morenoite group looked forward to “the possibility of extending the Iranian revolution within the borders of the USSR” (Avanzata Proletaria, 12 January 1980)!

As a left cover for its opposition to the Soviet military presence, Workers Power at the time concocted an Afghan proletariat as an independent “revolutionary force.” The current LRCI joint statement raises the demand for a “workers’ and peasants’ government” in Afghanistan, where there are no workers and not much of a peasantry. This idiocy is now echoed by the IG in its call for “socialist revolution” in Afghanistan. It was only the intervention of the Soviet Union that opened the possibility of bringing the Afghan peoples into the 20th century. That’s why we raised the call, “Extend social gains of the October Revolution to Afghan peoples!” Today, social revolution can come to Afghanistan only through socialist overturns in those countries in the area with significant proletarian concentrations, from Iran to Pakistan and India. Central to a revolutionary perspective in such countries is the fight against the age-old subjugation of women. Indeed, the Afghan conflict in the 1980s was the only war in modern history fought centrally over the status of women.

In reality, the IG has little taste for the proletariat—whether in the U.S. or in the “Third World.” Instead the IG peddles its wares to a variety of petty-bourgeois nationalist audiences. In its latest Web posting, the IG sneers that “the SL presents itself as the vanguard fighter against Islamic fundamentalism.” Its contempt for our unqualified opposition to Islamic reaction is a tacit rejection of our call for a Red Army victory against the mullahs in Afghanistan in the 1980s (which the IG feigns to stand on). It is also a promissory note to nationalists from those parts of the planet where Islam is dominant, in the name of a “united front” against American imperialism, to forswear the struggle for proletarian power in those countries. It is, in embryo, an abandonment of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, which holds that the proletariat in the backward countries is the only force capable of leading the struggle for social and national justice. As Trotsky stressed, only proletarian revolution can break the imperialist yoke over such countries and, with its extension to advanced capitalist countries, end imperialism forever.

The growth of Islamic and other religious fundamentalism in backward countries is a measure of the bankruptcy of the post-independence bourgeois-nationalist regimes, which enforce imperialist starvation dictates while themselves promoting obscurantist backwardness. Take, for example, predominantly Hindu India, where the caste system and such hideous practices as suttee (the burning of widows) flourish after more than five decades of “democracy.” The weight of social backwardness is evident in all aspects of the society. Some 70 million Indians are afflicted with goiter and 200 million are at risk of iodine deficiency, which is the single most preventable cause of mental retardation. Iodized salt is a cheap, ready means for combatting such medical disorders. Yet in the wake of a clamor by small-scale salt producers, Gandhians and fascist groups tied to the ruling BJP, last year Hindu-chauvinist prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee overturned a ban on the sale of non-iodized salt.

For Socialist Revolution in the Bastion of World Imperialism!

In Europe no less than in America, the working class has been subjected to a continuous attack on jobs, wages and benefits. In large measure these attacks have been carried out by governments led by social-democratic parties. In addition to the COBAS strike called in Italy, there is evidence of popular discontent throughout Europe. At the end of October, the giant IG Metall union in Germany called for a halt to the bombing, only to be reprimanded by “their” Social Democratic chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, who lectured: “Concern yourself with the living conditions of your members, but keep your fingers out of foreign policy, because you understand nothing about it” (Spiegel Online, 31 October). An IG Metall spokesman replied, “We’re not about to let even Schröder shut us up.”

While workers throughout Europe are no doubt suspicious that the war against Afghanistan may redound to their detriment, the union tops also seek to voice the interests of their own bourgeoisies through appeals to anti-Americanism. Thus, the vice chairman of IG Metall warns against “blindly following orders from America.” Such anti-American nationalism is also promoted by centrists like the LRCI, whose occasionally left-sounding rhetoric is mere window-dressing that serves to reinforce working-class illusions in the social-democratic labor lieutenants of capital. Only the Leninist commitment to drive the social-chauvinist misleaders out of the labor movement, to split the masses of workers from their social-democratic betrayers, can prepare the way for the long overdue and increasingly urgent socialist overturns necessary in Europe and elsewhere.

While in the U.S. the working class remains largely in support of the war, tears are beginning to appear in the fabric of jingoist “national unity.” For many postal workers facing the threat of potentially deadly anthrax infection, Osama bin Laden likely appears as less of an enemy than their own bosses. The arrest of four firemen’s union officials following last Friday’s protest near the ruins of the World Trade Center will justly be taken as a warning by many workers that the bosses will crack down on any labor unrest. Beginning with the strikes last month by Minnesota state workers and at three General Dynamics tank plants, it is evident that many workers resent the losses to their living standards sustained during the recent nine-year boom and are dismayed by the prospects of further losses—including the loss of any paycheck at all—as a result of the recession and the war effort. The Republicans’ plan to grant even further massive tax breaks to the rich will doubtless add kindling to these smoldering resentments.

Evidence of such dissatisfaction can be found in the fact that a layer of local trade-union bureaucrats is voicing opposition to the U.S. bombing. This also finds its echo among black Democrats. In September, Oakland Democrat Barbara Lee cast the sole vote against the Congressional war resolution; subsequently 66 Congressmen and one Senator voted against the “anti-terror” law. And Lee, who received death threats after her vote, was feted by a rally of several thousand hosted by local liberal Democrats and the ILWU tops.

Both the ILWU on the West Coast and a lash-up of more than 400 New York City trade unionists, including 12 local presidents, have come out in opposition to the war. A statement issued by “New York City Labor Against the War” declares that war “will redirect billions to the military and corporate executives, while draining such essential domestic programs as education, health care and the social security trust. In New York City and elsewhere, it will be a pretext for imposing ‘austerity’ on labor and poor people under the guise of ‘national unity’.”

The black Democrats and oppositional trade-union tops are positioning themselves to get ahead of and contain the increasing discontents that the capitalist rulers’ war at home and abroad, coming amid a deepening recession and the enduring character of racist oppression, will generate among working people and minorities. Selling themselves as the friends of labor and blacks is the longstanding card played by the Democrats, which is why they are historically the preferred party of the bourgeoisie when it comes to mobilizing the population for war. Jesse Jackson Sr. offers such services to his capitalist masters in an article in the Chicago Defender (15 October) headlined “Victory at Home, Victory Abroad!”—the NAACP’s slogan during World War II. Trying to stoke support for the war among the black population, Jackson holds out the promise of a better future if they rally ’round the flag: “In many ways, we are two nations under one flag. We want to be one nation under one flag.”

Black columnist Mary Mitchell captured some of the mistrust of the black population for the government’s “war against terrorism,” writing in the Chicago Sun-Times (9 October): “When black people think of terrorists, they don’t immediately think of the Taliban or Osama bin Laden. They think of the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nation, Southern slaveholders.” Mitchell went on to complain that the same government that gutted welfare is now dropping “millions of dollars of food into the mouths of a people who live in the country ruled by a sworn enemy.” Such anti-foreigner prejudices have their domestic reflection in anti-immigrant chauvinism, which is fanned by the likes of the black Democrats and Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, who seek to channel the anger of the ghetto poor into hatred for Arab, Korean and other immigrant shopkeepers. This is deadly poison which only serves the divide-and-rule schemes of the American bourgeoisie, whose rule is fundamentally premised on the subjugation of black people at the bottom of this society.

While the Republicans unabashedly enforce the interests of big business, the Democrats lie and do the same thing. As we note in the Programmatic Statement of the SL/U.S., “For Socialist Revolution in the Bastion of World Imperialism!”:

“The shell game through which the Democratic Party—the historic party of the Confederate slavocracy—is portrayed as the ‘friend’ of blacks and labor has been essential to preserving the rule of racist American capitalism. Our principal task in the U.S. is to break the power of the pro-capitalist trade-union bureaucracy over the labor movement. It is this bureaucracy—itself a component part of the Democratic Party—which politically chains the proletariat to the bourgeoisie and is the major obstacle to revolutionary class consciousness, to the forging of a revolutionary workers party.”

While the Sweeney leadership of the AFL-CIO openly supports the imperialist war, the antiwar union officials offer consoling words of opposition, but no deeds. A strike by the heavily black postal unions—in defense of the very lives of their members—to shut down anthrax-contaminated worksites would resonate widely among working people and minorities. But that would mean defying federal anti-strike legislation, challenging the government’s proscription of strikes that it deems threatening to “national interests.” In thrall to the bosses’ laws, the postal union tops instead push fruitless court suits.

For America’s capitalist rulers, workers are mere fodder for profit at home and war abroad. The callous indifference of the bosses and their government to the lives of postal workers only underscores that the interests of capital and labor are fundamentally counterposed. Such an understanding is the beginning of wisdom if the working people are to struggle successfully against this system of exploitation and war.American “democracy” has been purchased through the brutal exploitation of the colonial and semicolonial masses around the world, generally through imposition of murderous anti-labor dictatorial regimes. Our task in the bastion of world imperialism is to build the multiracial revolutionary workers party, section of a reforged Fourth International, that will lead the proletariat in the overthrow of the American capitalist order, the expropriation of the bourgeoisie as a class and the establishment of a planned socialist economy. For class struggle against capitalist rulers at home! Defend Afghanistan against imperialist attack!


In our article "No to Bosses' 'National Unity'! For Class Struggle at Home!" (WV No. 768, 9 November), we incorrectly reported that "both the ILWU [International Longshore and Warehouse Union] on the West Coast and a lash-up of more than 400 New York City trade unionists, including 12 local presidents, have come out in opposition to the war" against Afghanistan. In fact, the ILWU has not to our knowledge publicly opposed the war. (Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 770, 7 December 2001.)

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